A winter shot

window

datura

WHAT A DIFFERENCE a season makes. The top shot is through our bedroom window this week. The lower one is the view through the same window in rainy summer.

A sharp eye will detect the butchered trunk of the golden datura in the topmost photo. Datura, like the banana, takes winter very badly, and must be whacked back yearly.

But it’s an enthusiastic, stubborn plant and swiftly returns in springtime, giving us quite a view from the bedroom on our perfect summertime mornings.

Spring cleaning

before

THAT’S MY CHILD bride, in the old, pink, gym pants, leaning against the stone Olmec head, just so you have a sense of perspective, the size of the trash pile. It’s even bigger than it seems.

Every Springtime I have to whack the yard back and, with every passing year, that work becomes more onerous because the serious plants get bigger and bigger, and I get older. This year I did it over a period of about two months, picking away at it, depending on my morning mood.

What you’ve got in there are thick trunks of banana trees, mostly ones that birthed bunches of bananas, the lousy ones we get here on the mountaintop. And there are dead or dying limbs of the fan palm, which have mean-spirited spines. There are swords of a huge maguey, which is also a sourpuss piece of greenery that growls and bites at each opportunity.

An astute observer will note the cardboard box at the right, rear. It’s one of four, the others being just offstage. Those boxes contain paddles of nopal cactus from my towering nopal tree. Every year I cut parts in an effort to keep it growing just upward, not outward. It’s an easy 12 feet high by now, maybe more. You don’t really pal up to a nopal tree just to measure. You steer clear.

The final addition to the pile, around Wednesday or so, are cuttings from the loquat tree. If you don’t count the banana, it’s the only resident of the pile that does not stab. Its distasteful trait, however, is that it’s full of bird crap. Dunno why, but birds love to dump in the loquat tree.

By Wednesday, the deed was all done, and I walked just past the sex motel to ask Abel the deadpan neighbor if he could haul it all away. I told him he’d need to find a pickup truck, something he does not own. He said he’d come Saturday with a truck and clean it up, which he did. I have no idea where he dumps it, and I do not care. It’s all fruit of the Earth anyway.

fini

The locals have a little routine when it comes to being paid by a Gringo. When you ask them how much for whatever they’ve done, they never have a clue, leaving it up to you to decide. They do this because they know we invariably overpay.

Though I have been preaching against this overpayment for years, I often do it myself. The reason one should not do it, and that includes the scandalous overtipping in restaurants, etc., is that it solidifies the locals’ conviction that we’re all filthy rich, stupid with our money and easily duped.

But I’m a soft touch, a dummkopf.

I paid them $300 pesos, which is about $10 each. A bona fide Mexican would have paid less. The boys departed here with smiles on their faces, and I was pleased to have the pile removed for $20.

Cuttings of November

EVERY YEAR around this time I start to think of butchery.

The yard goes berserk every summer, you see, and as frigid winter arrives — it often freezes — things flip entirely in the other direction, leaving much of the yard dead, brown and butt-ugly.

aloeSome things you can just ignore, like the grass, but others must be dealt with. Topping this list are the three stands of banana trees, which must be whacked back.

The fan palm, which grows taller every year, must be trimmed. I think this season I’ll need a ladder, a first.

The two datura trees get cut back severely, but that’s pretty easy because they are very soft wood. The loquat tree is attacked, and there are two stands of some plant that grows wildly from bulbs.

I just eliminated one of the two this morning. Perhaps the second will fall tomorrow.

I’ll get Abel the deadpan neighbor who cuts the grass all summer to dig up this aloe vera bush you see in the photo. It’s gotten too big for its britches, elbowing way over onto the sidewalk.

We’ll still be prepared for the occasional burn in the kitchen, first-aid-wise, because there are three other stands of aloe vera in the yard. But they’re not butting onto a sidewalk, not bothering anybody at all.

polesWell into our 11th year at the Hacienda, the yard is big and beefy, not like the starter environment of 2003 when I cared for all with little effort.

Now, much has gone totally out of control, and I let it be.

I’ve long been a cactus man and could be happy living in the desert. Cacti did not feel at home at my house in humid Houston, back in the 1990s. That’s not the case here.

Look at these pole cacti. I planted a couple when they were just little tykes. They have multiplied, and are almost as tall as I am.

What you see farther back is a maguey that has shot up its death tree. When it “flowers,” it’s the last gasp, its death rattle. It will die, but it takes quite a long time to do that. In the meantime, it’s a conversation piece.

That’s all for now. It’s time to go downstairs and eat cereal. Then I’ll shave, bath and dress, drive to the market by the train station and buy tangerines. It’s the season. I’m a tangerine man.