Tag Archives: aloe vera

Separate summers

Datura outside our bedroom window yesterday. There’s also aloe vera.

MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.

He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.

He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.

I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.

And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.

Gotta be the latitude.

Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.

It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.

My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.

Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.

And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.

I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.

That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.

There were no flowers at all. Nothing.

In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.

Summers separated by half a century of time.

Happy Ville

out
Happy Ville this very morning! Peach tree in foreground, winter foliage.

A FULL MOON hung over Happy Ville last night, but that’s not its lingering display through the peach branches at the top. That’s a new WiFi antenna.

Here at the Hacienda we woke in high spirits today, so we’ve temporarily — perhaps permanently — renamed our home Happy Ville or, if you prefer español, Villa Felíz.

But there was work to be done, as ever, and I’ve been doing it for days. It’s cutting back summer yard growth. If this is not done, things fly out of control.

I’ve whacked one of the two daturas back to the nub. Same for the roses, and reducing the towering nopal horizontally* is an ongoing chore. And I’ve removed a goodly number of fronds from the big, malicious maguey.

pile
Growing cull pile.

I’m dumping my culls out back in the Garden Patio. Already included are lots of aloe vera, the aforementioned maguey and assorted odds and ends. The pile will grow.

When I’m finished, I’ll hire Abel the Deadpan Yardman to wheelbarrow it down to the ravine out back.

* * * *

Morning Walk

It was such a lovely morning, I decided to take the longer route for my morning exercise walk. This took me to the far end of the barrio where, oddly, a snazzy, four-lane boulevard of cobblestone is being constructed.

One can enter our hardscrabble barrio principally from two directions. This is the direction we rarely use, mostly because it was a potholed nightmare.

This renovation is welcomed, but I wonder why it’s being done so elegantly. I mean, really, four lanes? This stretch is only about a quarter of a mile and funnels into another narrow, two-lane, cobblestone street.

second
Another two lanes planned for the left side. New sidewalks too!

It would have been sweet if they’d made this short boulevard just two lanes instead of four and used the leftover money to build a bicycle lane from here to downtown. We’ve written the mayor about that. He’s ignored us.

No matter. It’s another fine day at Happy Ville.

* * * *

* Trimming it vertically is out of the question now.

The Middle Ages

AROUND  6 P.M. yesterday, I was watering the yard with a hose. Six months a year, this is not necessary. The other six months, it surely is. Just plants. I don’t water the grass.

If grass grows, it needs mowing.

I started with the Alamo Wall, spraying the ivy that covers the far side. Had you told me when I was middle-aged that I would spend my waning years behind an ivy-covered wall, I would have thought you daft or worse.

I went on to water things on the wall’s other side, where the yard sits. I only water plants I like. I do not like the loquat tree or the peach either. Not too fond of the pear.

They are trash-tossers.

I do water the sole remaining banana stand, the four rose bushes and the two daturas. I water the towering nopal cactus because I don’t want it to die and thunder down.

I do not water the huge maguey, but I do soak the two beefy aloe veras and the surrounding greenery. I douse the pole cacti, which are over my head now.

I water no bougainvillea. Damn things are on their own.

While watering I was thinking about history.

I have a bachelor’s degree in history. There are few degrees more useless than history. I almost topped myself, however, because when I first attended a university right out of high school, I majored in philosophy.

That was at Vanderbilt in 1962. But I soon dropped out and dropped philosophy too. What was I thinking?

I read lots of history these days. Recently, I’ve been focusing on the Middle Ages, the Dark Ages, but it’s unfashionable to say that now. Maybe it’s a race thing.

There was lots of fun stuff in the Middle Ages. There was Charlemagne; his daddy, Pepin the Short; Vikings; Dual Papacies; tribes with names like Lombards, Franks and Jutes; and women named Gerberga and Himiltrude.

Nobody is named Himiltrude anymore.

lady
Gerberga

About a thousand years passed between the Roman Empire’s demise and the Renaissance. That time in between was the Dark Ages. We’re about 200 years shy of another millennium passing.

We’ll enter another Dark Age because people never learn. When baby girls once more have names like Gerberga and Himiltrude, you’ll know it’s time to dig caves and stockpile canned goods and hand grenades.

In the meantime, I wake every morning in the king bed next to my child bride, feeling fine and looking ahead to another day of blue skies, cool breezes and flocks of snowy egrets flying between here and the green mountains.

My Middle Ages were Dark Ages, but now my Old Age is a Grand Age even though I gotta water the yard.

Night lights

light

WHEN WE built the Hacienda 14 years ago, we installed a motion-activated light out in the carport. When we drive in at night, it illuminates a nice section of the yard.

It goes out after three minutes.

Alas, that light only exists when we arrive from the street. When we walk out of the house toward the carport at night, there is total blackness on moonless evenings.

You can’t even see the sidewalk.

Now, after all these years of stumbling around in the dark out there, I hired an electrician who installed another motion-activated light just where you see it in the photo.

I am a slow learner. Perhaps a bit stupid.

Now, when we exit the downstairs veranda heading thataway, the light flicks on, and the path ahead is unmistakable.

¡Qué bueno!

There to the rear where you see a raised stone-and-concrete semicircle is where there was a humongous stand of banana trees. I had them removed two years ago.

Hanging on the wall is a big ceramic frog. That’s aloe vera to the left, and a towering nopal tree to the right with a big maguey in the nearer, right, foreground.

Looks a little spooky at night.

I’m really proud of the new light and wonder why the Devil I didn’t install it over a decade ago.

There’s another motion-activated light in the Garden Patio out back if you’re ever thinking of sneaking in here.

Afternoon relax

yard

EARLIER THIS week, I was on the Jesus Patio relaxing, a talent I have possessed in spades for most of my life.

That’s my foot you see there in a Crocs shoe, the footwear designed for semi-professional relaxers.

My child bride and I are polar opposites in this regard. Although she is very fond of her own Crocs, she does not use them to relax because she’s mostly incapable of relaxing.

She’s always full throttle.

I don’t understand those people.

It was about noon, and the neighborhood was uncommonly quiet, possibly because it was Christmas Eve.

I was reading a book on my Kindle, Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis. It’s an excellent followup to Ernie Pyle’s Brave Men, which I finished about a month ago.

Both were correspondents during the Second World War, a profession that baffles me because you stand a good chance of getting killed unnecessarily.

Tregaskis was not killed in the war, but he came very close. Pyle was less fortunate, shot dead in the war’s final months.

Both books are excellent though Pyle’s is the better of the two. They provide a good idea of what war is like, or rather what World War II was like.

It was one of America’s greatest moments.

Occasionally, I would quit the Kindle to look at the scene above. That’s aloe vera on the left and the other is philodendron. They were quite little when I planted them.

One of the many good things about reading is that it can transport you to another world.

I was jumping from chilling on the Jesus Patio to dodging grenades and machine-gun fire in the Pacific.

You don’t get to do that every day.

I hope Santa was kind to you. This has been an exceptionally fine year.* If you read books like Tregaskis’ and Pyle’s you know that better than most. History matters.

* * *  *

* Trump!

Jack Daniels woman

Duo

WHILE MY  child bride peddles her pastries from her straw basket Saturday afternoons on the principal plaza, I sit with her and watch people.

And sometimes I photograph them. More photos can be found here, of course.

* * * *

Springtime stuff!

Standing in my bedroom yesterday, I saw a hummingbird sitting on a tip of the huge aloe vera outside the window.

Later, I admired a flower blooming from one of the orchids that live on the peach tree by the Jesus Patio.orchid

Last night, we slept with earplugs due to the raucous concert on the neighborhood plaza just over a block away. It was the San Isidro Fest. San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers.

I just call it the annual rain festival, and it will bring results fairly soon, usually in early June.

San Isidro always comes through.

Concrete mesas

banana

MESA MEANS table in Spanish. I now have two mesas in the yard where damnable bananas long held sway.

The photo above was taken on a nice summer day. You see two stands of banana. One is just this side of the black-rock Alamo Wall, and the other one, higher, is beyond. A third, which abuts the house itself, is not visible.

More on it below.

As recently noted in the post dubbed The winter scalp, banana trees, which I stupidly planted years back when they were cute little babies, had become the curse of my life.

I have taken concrete action against two of the three. The ground in which they grew has been covered with concrete and stone, which is raised to form two mesas.

I could have simply covered them with concrete and stone at ground level, but the two mesas give me places to set things, maybe artsy-fartsy stuff to give drama to the yard.

Below are photos of the work:

No. 1
Removing banana remnants with machete and pickax.
No. 2
Early stages of mesa No. 1.
head
Work done. No more freaking banana trees here! It’s 60 centimeters tall.

Now I need to find a stone or metal sculpture to dress it up.

DSCF0399

Long, long ago, I planted a little banana tree in this corner against the house. It grew high and multiplied. I snapped this photo one dark night many years back.

It grew and grew and grew until it was impossible to walk into this corner or even see the corner, so it had to be eliminated.

To wit:

shot 1
Workman with pickax uprooting banana bases and roots.

That big aloe vera bush, left side of photo just above, was not even planted when I took the night photo.

two
Second mesa just lacking fill at this point.
rubble
Interior is filled with rubble from God knows where.
casa
All done. This one is larger than the other. Also needs a sculpture.

And that concludes another construction caper. The toil spanned four six-hour days, and the total price for material and labor was 2,450 pesos, about 135 bucks. I tossed in a 200-peso tip because that’s the kind of guy I am.

I’ve loved stone and mountains all my life, and now — at last — I’m surrounded by both. Life is good.

The blooming rain

aloe vera

THE INTERMINABLE rain should begin winding down in about a month. It started in June, as it almost always does and should, and it’s continued daily till now and onward. It’s a blessing.

But in September, one starts to think: Enough already.

Every year the yard plants increase in size, which is not good most of the time, especially since I’ve grown weary of controlling them. Take this aloe vera, for instance. When we moved here in 2003, I snipped a twig from an aloe vera in the yard of the rental where we lived before.

I stuck that twig in the soil next to the downstairs veranda. It grew. How nice, I thought, so I yanked off some pieces and stuck one against the property wall between us and the neighbors, not the sex motel, the other way where the grumpy people live with their nasty kids.

Another piece went into the ground next to the bedroom. That’s the “twig” in this photo. Just around the corner, out of the photo, is where I planted the fourth twig. It is the smallest of the quartet. But growing.

Well, here’s what happened: The one next to the veranda had to be removed last year due to its monster size, which reminds me now of what my second ex-wife, an avid gardener, often mentioned. When you plant something in a spot, think about its eventual size.

Neglect this step, and you may be sorry in time.

The one against the property wall grows daily, but it’s still smaller than this baby in the photo. I chop off a limb or two each year in part just to show it who’s boss, that it’s my bitch, not the other way around.

In the 1990s, I planted a little aloe vera next to my house in Houston. It never did a dang thing, just sat there like a wart on a log. I also planted a nopal cactus in a whisky barrel. Never did much either, and my then-wife removed it after she kicked me out because it was unfavorable feng shui, which is not something you want to mess with, she said.

Here at the Hacienda some years back, I planted a little piece of nopal. It’s now about 18 bristling feet high. I know squat about its feng shui, but it is not something you want to mess with either. Wish I had not planted it.

But the rain will end next month, which is the introduction to our most glorious period: November, which kicks off with a long night in the cemetery with candles, marigolds and memories of dead relatives.

Early blackbirds

DSCF1770
Upstairs terraza photographed in some distant springtime.

I CALL THEM blackbirds, but they’re really just soot.

Every springtime the rural folks in these parts burn dry fields, and this produces soot like you wouldn’t believe. Some days it’s like black rain, but with “drops” the size of feathers. And these fall into the yard, drift into the downstairs terraza and, of course, the upstairs terraza.

But it’s not springtime, so I don’t know what the Devil’s going on, plus it’s not falling anywhere near the quantity that drifts down in true springtime. No matter. Here it is. Like shedding blackbirds.

This morning, before 8 a.m., I decided to sweep the upstairs terraza before going downstairs for bagels and Philly cream cheese light. The feathers were plentiful, and I disposed of them.

Speaking of blackbirds, we have real ones, lots. There are ravens and black vultures and grackles. The ravens and black vultures — that sometimes circle high above in scores — I enjoy. The grackles, no. Those big, black blokes land in the birdbath and splash all the water out. It’s not neighborly.

If only I owned a shotgun.

* * *  *

The Angry Corner

Ouch

THIS IS THE angry corner, and I have no one to blame but myself.

Every springtime the yard gets a good going-over. This entails removing lots of stuff. If it’s frozen over the winter — and it often does at night, but not so far this year — the amount of dead stuff to be cut is considerable. I do much of it myself, and then hire someone to haul it off — to somewhere.

But even during this (so far) mild winter, plants must be cut. The lower, drooping, limbs of the fan palm, nopal, lots of banana leaves, maguey fronds, which grow endlessly and cussedly.

I have taken care of most of that this season. The only place that I keep procrastinating about is the Angry Corner. Years back, I planted a sole, small banana tree, about 18 inches high. And then I planted a cute little maguey, the yellow-green one, that we bought in a nearby village. And I clipped a piece of aloe vera and stuck it into the ground one day. And let’s not forget the sole pad of nopal cactus, four or so inches high.

Flash forward a decade. The stand of banana trees simply takes up lots of space, but those other things are armed, huge, and dangerous. It’s a risk even going near. I’m trying to work up the nerve.

* * * *

Mexico City

WE’LL BE HEADING to our nation’s chaotic capitol soon for a few days. It’s a necessity. Pay some bills for our condo. Dust and mop. Air it out. See what’s changed in the neighborhood. Eat some caldo de gallina in a new restaurant just three blocks away.

And we’ll try to make some headway with getting the condo’s deed into our hands, yet again. We paid it off years ago, but it was purchased from a government agency. Many arms of Mexico City’s government have improved immensely over the years, but the agency handling our deed is mired in the inefficient past.

Don’t try any funny stuff here while we’re gone. The two rottweilers, Rolf and Rachel, will be on duty. We don’t leave food, so that keeps them hungry and on edge. It might get ugly.