A July report

Looking along the Alamo Wall on this drizzly morning.


The Mexican mail system is famous for its pokiness, but today takes the cake. I did my biweekly run to the post office this morning to check my box, and there was a letter from Hearst pensions. It was dated back in January. I’ve had mail take a month or two on rare occasion but never six months. Stamped on the envelope was this message:

Missent to Malaysia.

Now that was quite a detour. I wish I could have gone along for the ride. But I don’t think Mexico did it. I think the Gringos were at fault. Mexico, Malaysia, it all looks the same to them.

Luckily, the Hearst envelope contained nothing of significance. But Social Security sends recipients who live outside the United States a yearly letter we must sign and return to prove we’re still alive.

The Social Security letter was not sent last year because of the Kung Flu. I imagine all those civil servants were at home, smiling, while their salaries were direct-deposited to their banks and they were out back grilling burgers on the barbie. So far the letter has not come this year either. It normally arrives in May or June.

Government employees must be loving the Kung Flu hysteria. Endless paid vacations. There’s a reason that governments almost everywhere are promoting Kung Flu. It’s manna from heaven.

If you work for the government.


An annual appearance.

We’re hard into the rainy season now. The grass is green, and flowers are blooming. This morning, as I raised the curtain in the bedroom, I spotted a black-vented oriole perched on a red-hot poker plant.

And the hummingbirds are happy. This yellow flower comes from a bulb that hides underground most of the year, but it pops up a blooming plant annually about now to greet the rainfall.

Another plus to the daily rains is that it fills the galvanized tub from a rooftop drainpipe, and I just have to dip the watering can in there, easy peasy, as they say. You get your little pleasures where you can.

The watering can delivers drinks to the potted plants that live beneath the roof of the downstairs terraza.

It was drizzling when I drove to the post office around 9 a.m., and I wondered if Abel the Deadpan Yardman would show up today for the weekly mowing. As I write this at almost 11, he’s a no-show, and it’s not drizzling anymore. If he doesn’t come today, he’ll come tomorrow. He’s quite reliable, and he likes money, as we all do.

The ever-full tub of summer with water for the terraza plants.

The snow comes out

Well, not snow, obviously, but it is a pretty white, and it appears every year about now after the start of the summer monsoon, and that has happened. This is the very same bush where mistletoe appeared last April, and you can still see it there at the top middle.

As I write this, Sunday morning, I’m waiting for Abel the Deadpan Yardman to ring the gate bell and mow the shaggy lawn. Normally, he cuts on Saturday morning, but it was raining all day yesterday due to a tropical storm in the nearby Pacific. It’s still overcast this morning, but the rain stopped last night.

Tropical storms and their ugly Big Brothers, hurricanes, are some of the many things I do not miss about my former life above the Rio Bravo, most of which was spent in hurricane zones. In spite of a number of sideswipes — the most memorable being the devastating Camille in 1969 that obliterated the Mississippi Gulf Coast — I only got hammered head-on just once, Betsy in New Orleans in 1965. It was a memorable and scary night.

The arrival of the annual rains has transformed our world from dry and hot-ish to damp and cool, a transformation I embrace, but by September I’ll be sick of it.

While writing the above, the gate bell sounded, and now I’m enjoying the whirr of the Weedeater, which will be followed by the roar of the Frankenstein mower.

All music to my ears.

The grass grows, yup!

The monsoon generally starts here in early June, and that’s what’s happened. The crunchy, dry grass of Springtime morphs very rapidly into a sea of lush green. Why, you could even walk on it. Wear hip waders.

A week ago, I took the Frankenstein mower (Craftsman body, Briggs & Stratton motor) to the shop for its annual makeover, which is to say get it running. It takes its winter siesta very seriously. That took only one day, and when I got home with it, I called Abel the Deadpan Yardman who said he couldn’t make it for another week, i.e. mañana, Sunday.

Oh, dear. The grass was already high. Now it’s higher. I took the photo this morning. This is not a problem for me, but it’s a problem for Abel who has to deal with it.

I did my own yard chores this morning, stuff I’ve ignored for the past few days. I brushed bat crap off the downstairs terraza shelves. I swept it away, carefully, with a facemask. Now there’s an actual use for a facemask. I scrubbed the birdbath and freshened the water. I cleaned the glass-top table and the web chairs on the yard terraza. I swept up a desiccated bird carcass my child bride had brought to my attention.

And now I’m writing this. An old coot’s toil never ends.

I hope Abel shows up mañana. He will because he’s very reliable, and he likes money.

While the wildly growing grass is a bother, another aspect of June and its accompanying rains is that the datura returns to life. Every fall I whack it way back because if I didn’t it would become another of my monster plants. When it returns in June, it’s smaller but still pretty, and it starts growing again.

By September, this will be three times larger or more.

Its current state.

Time to pucker up!

My patch of parasitic mistletoe.

A couple of months ago when we were still in winter and the bush — hibiscus, I think — in which this thing resides was still lacking its leaves, I noticed a patch of something green sitting there alone. Looks like mistletoe, I muttered as I continued on with life.

This morning, I took a photo using a plant-identification app and, sure enough, it’s mistletoe. I mentioned this to my child bride and, after the appropriate smootch below the mistletoe, she said she’d never heard of it. It must not be “a thing” in Mexico.

Hibiscus, I think.

The plant on which the mistletoe lives — mistletoe is a parasite — is, I believe, a form of hibiscus. The plant-ID app was unsure. When we moved into the Hacienda 18 years ago, it was living cheek-to-jowl against a loquat tree where some nincompoop had planted it. I uprooted it and planted it over thataway a bit, giving it space.

The hibiscus — and let’s assume that’s what it is — flowers now and then, kinda pretty, and it does not toss trash all over the place, so I’ve left it in peace. Longtime readers here know that I am a plant predator, quite the killer when it suits me, and it suits me when a plant becomes a nuisance, mostly by tossing trash.

When we moved here, there was a fig bush where one of the carports now sits, so it was removed, which is a shame because I like figs.

The skeletal loquat.

Not far off is the loquat tree which grew like mad, tossing loquats all over the place where they rotted on the ground. Tossed big, ugly leaves too, much like those of a magnolia, which is a yucky tree, I think, in spite of my being a son of the Old South.

Rhett Butler and all that.

Alas, my child bride is excessively fond of loquats and the tree on which they grew maniacally. But she didn’t have to deal with the constant mess and work, so her vote was of less value than mine.

I am a kind husband, however, so I did not remove it. I only cut it back, way, way back, and I maintain it as you see in the photo, a half-alive zombie.

When I die, she can let it go whole hog again and, believe me, it will.

It needs a trellis.

Let us further milk the gardening topic today. While the Hacienda was under construction in 2003, I planted five bougainvillea bushes along the property wall you see in these photos. Two promptly died. Of the remainers, one was very different. It does not go berserk, and at times during the year it’s all flowers. It’s my best bougainvillea buddy.

But the best gardening news of the day is that we have mistletoe, which gives my child bride another reason to kiss me, even though she’d never heard of mistletoe. You get your kisses where you can. That’s always been my philosophy.