The tower view

View

ATOP THE LAVATORY of the kitchen/storefront under construction out near the street is a space enclosed by brick that will house the water tank. We have dubbed that high spot la torre, the tower.

I ascended by ladder yesterday, camera in hand, and was pleased by perspectives I’d never seen before. Above, you see the Hacienda house. Long-time passersby know that I’m inordinately fond of bragging on this place that we designed ourselves on graph paper in 2002. We hired no architect.

We’ve had fun decorating it over the years (I am an artiste!) and I was amused when John Calypso once commented that the living room looks like the lobby of a Turkish hotel.

That ivy-covered wall is stone. Its top is formed in the shape of the Alamo, and it was my idea to build it there to block the view toward the house from Nosy Parkers in the street when the main gate is open.

The orange edifice at the far right is the third story of the sex motel next door, its laundry room. If you click on the photo, it should get larger. That smoke at the rear is from the kiln of a family business that makes clay roof tiles. It’s farther away than it appears here. They made the tiles of our house way back when.

The yellow paint around the upstairs terraza is fresh, part of the work the construction crew has already done unrelated to the kitchen/storefront. Our second story is basically one huge room though it also has a walk-in closet and a bathroom with shower. The left-most window is where my desk and computer sit.

Downstairs, the window nearest you, is the bedroom. It’s the only actual bedroom in the house. We also have a bed upstairs for emergencies, but that big space is more than a bedroom. It houses my “office” in the corner, a gym set, two recliners and a nice Samsung TV for watching Netflix. The room isn’t cramped, due to its size.

At the right side of the archway entrance downstairs, a sharp eye will detect a stalk growing out of a tequila maguey. That stalk ascends higher than the second story of the house. I see it directly outside the window above my computer screen, and it’s a favored sitting spot in the mornings for a couple of black-vented orioles.

Things grow like mad here at 7,200 feet ASL. That fan palm behind the ceramic swan atop the wall is huge, and I planted it years ago when it was a tyke in a plastic pot. Same goes for the nopal tree at the far right and the yellow-green maguey to the left and the monster aloe vera a bit more to the left.

I planted them all when they were about the size of my hand. Stuff never grew like this back in Houston even though the climate is not all that different if you don’t count that Houston summers are far hotter.

That red wall you see extending to the orange property wall at the left, rear, is just a barrier I had built a few years after we moved in. It simply hides what I now call the Garden Patio. It has a concrete floor beneath which is a 9,000-liter cistern, another large above-ground water tank, and it’s where I keep yard gear.

It appears to have a tile roof, but that’s actually a neighbor’s house across the street back there.

The tower also provides an interesting view of the street out front. I should have photographed that too. I was going to shoot it this morning, but there’s too much fog. Maybe mañana. I want to get this item into the mail.

Hacienda facelift

2014IT’S NOT ALL about the storefront here at the Hacienda these days. Part of it is about changing color, a new look, a new frock design. An old girl desires change. Above, you see a fresh yellow around the upstairs terraza exterior. Previously, for 12 years, that area was green. See below, a photo from almost a decade ago.

beforeThe painter is also going to refurbish those windows. They are dry and flaked. He’s scraping them down to the bone and will repaint with some product that’s used on basketball court floors. The sun is brutal in the mornings, unkind to wood, and drastic measures are required.

You see that maguey in the top photo, the one with the stalk that shoots up over 20 feet? It’s visible in the second photo, just barely, at the bottom, off-center a tad to the right, tiny. Not the bigger, dark green maguey, which is long gone, but a smaller, lighter green one, below, muy chiquita.

And the walls are going up today on the storefront.

This morning there was frost on the lawn, so winter is on its way. We sit 7,200 feet above sea level where the air is clear, the sky is blue, and black vultures and ravens circle overhead at this moment.

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.

Maguey boner

tall

IT’S AUGUST, and an old man’s fancy turns to stuff of the earth.

Sometimes that stuff gets directly in our faces. When we came back from Mexico City last week, gone just four days, this tequila maguey had quite the stiffie.

That entire stalk appeared over those four days. For perspective, know that the regular spiked fronds circling below are over six feet from the ground.

This baby means business. The pole in the middle must rise about 14 feet or so.

Alas, it spells death for the plant, which I stuck into the dirt years ago when it was about eight inches tall. After poling up, so to speak, the plant has done its work, whatever that is, here on Earth. It dies.

This is the second time we’ve had a tequila maguey do this, so I have experience. I had heard that the plant dies after sporting its woodie, but I did not know it took so long to die. Mostly, it just sits there, looking woebegone. Finally, after a year or two, I had the first one uprooted, which is amazingly easy, and toted away. Before uprooting, it’s best to saw off the boner. Ouch!

That will be this plant’s fate too. There is one more in the yard, younger, and it will do the same one day, and that will be the end of it. I will plant no more. They are a hassle anyway, with those constantly sprouting swords.

August heads toward its finale. When September arrives, the end of the rainy season will be in sight. Normally, it dribbles a bit into October and then stops. November is our most beautiful month. It’s when you should visit.