Tag Archives: nopal

Man versus beasts

Photo shot April 12, 2017. Almost high noon.

IT’S SPRINGTIME, and the two banes of my life are muscling up in the yard, threats sans mercy. Monster thorns.

On the left is what I imagine is the world’s biggest nopal tree. Perhaps I should notify Guinness. On the right is the bougainvillea that, of the four in the yard, I let fly out of control.*

It’s hardly the biggest in the world, however. Bigger ones abound in my town. They never, ever stop growing.

I inserted myself into the photo to provide perspective. I planted both the beasts when they were tiny tykes.

Click on the photo for a closer look. Yes, the grass is mostly brown due to our being in the dry season. All is dark and dusty. The sky is not dark. It’s blue and beautiful.

The house is off to the left. The pastry kitchen and Nissan carport are off to the right. The sex motel is behind that wall. It’s what appears to be a white stripe. Actually, it’s yellow.

* * * *

* The other three I keep firmly under my green thumb.

Border wall

This is today, April 5, 2017.

I AM BIG on border walls. We have one here at the Hacienda. It separates us from the sex motel next door.

Walls create happy neighbors.

Stepping out to the terraza this morning — it was 48 degrees! — I snapped this photo to illustrate the difference between the two worlds of Hacienda and, well, you know.

When the motel was constructed almost a decade ago, I had this section of wall raised about a foot so folks in the motel rooms could not peer directly into our yard.

But we still can peer directly into their rooms.

You’re also looking at our two border guards, which are yuge!* The nopal and the bougainvillea, both of which I planted when they were little pups out of pots.

The sex motel manager recently asked if I would mind if they cut the bougainvillea on their side of the wall. I cannot imagine why they would want to do that. It’s quite pretty.

I replied yes. What they do on their side of the wall is their own business, not mine.

What I am particularly pleased about this morning is the temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

It makes me happy to be alive.

That and other factors too, of course. Like the V-formation of white egrets that just flew overhead.

* * * *

* Tip of the sombrero to the Blond Bomber in the Oval Office for adding this spelling variation to the language.

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.

Paddling to heaven

nopal

AND NOW we turn to gardening news.

There’s a rosebush in Tombstone, Arizona, that’s billed as the largest rosebush — tree, actually — in the world.

I have stood beneath it. Zounds!

Little did I know that one day I would be bringing similar fame to my mountaintop town. But in the form of a nopal cactus, that most Mexican of plants.

I have mentioned this monster before, but it just keeps on growing. I attempt to control its horizontal growth with clippers, but its vertical size increases yearly. And now even its horizontal girth is beyond me.

In Springtime, it sprouts red blooms and lots of additional leaves, which are, a reader told me, called paddles. The red blooms will come mostly next month. Sweet.

I planted this big mama about a decade back. There were only two paddles at the time. It was quite small, but it really liked its new location. I planted one in half a whisky barrel in my Houston yard in the 1990s, and it never did squat.

It just sat there lamely.

My wife trashed it after we divorced because she said it was bad feng shui. I do not believe in feng shui because I don’t think the Goddess cares which direction your house faces or if you have cactus in a whisky barrel. Or anything about mirrors.*

The Goddess has larger issues on her plate. She doesn’t care if you eat pork either or clip your baby’s ding-dong. Actually, she greatly prefers that you don’t.

I sat on the ground to take the photo because I thought it would accentuate the nopal’s height, but I think it did just the opposite. This big mama is about 14 or 15 feet high.

No matter. Look at that blue sky.

The cactus below sits in a pot on the edge of the veranda. It’s reveling in Springtime too, as you see.

It’s today’s bonus cactus.

cactus* Mirrors serve only three purposes. 1) Fixing yourself up. 2) Spotting zombies behind you. 3) Lighting fires in the wild.

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.

The summer scene

WE’RE WELL into summer, and every year or two I like to take a photo from the upstairs terraza to show changes in the Hacienda compound.* One shot, years back, showed a place in progress, rather bare.

But this is 2014’s scene, fully developed:

1

And looking down to the left. The nopal tree is at least 13 feet tall, and the bananas are even higher. On the far side of the ochre wall is the sex motel:

3

Now doing a full turn to the right, out toward the back. That angled tile roof behind the red wall is relatively new. That’s where I keep the lawn mower and garden gear:

4

Abel, the deadpan neighbor who cuts the grass every Saturday morning, had done just that about an hour before the photos were taken. I planted 95 percent of what you see with my own grubby fingers.

I like living here. You really can’t beat it.

* * * *

* Yes, compound. I like to think I’m kinda like the Kennedys. Or the Bushes of Kennebunkport.

Going for Guinness

Nopal

I HAD A NOPAL cactus growing in a whiskey barrel planter in my Houston yard in the early 1990s. It only had about four fronds, and it was notable for its lack of enthusiasm, no zest for life whatsoever.

After my wife tossed me out on the street in 1995, she got rid of it because it was “bad feng shui,” she claimed. I don’t believe in feng shui. I can’t imagine that the Goddess cares any more about which direction your door is facing than she does whether you eat fish on Friday or pork on any day whatsoever.

She is not so superficial.

She has more important things on her mind, like what those Mohammedans will do next to make peace on Earth dang near impossible. Mohammedans are a burr in her beautiful backside.

My nopal never did squat in Houston.

Flash forward two decades. A few years ago I planted a small nopal, consisting of only two little fronds, in the yard of our Hacienda. It went berserk, and now it’s just shy of 13 feet tall. Yes, I did measure.

I trim it now and then, with ladder, clippers and much trepidation, mostly to prevent its spreading horizontally, which it hankers to do. It wants to spread in every direction, but I keep it pointed heavenward. It’s height that interests me. In time I want this spikey baby to be in the Guinness Book of Records.

An old coot dreams of fame. I will be very proud.

Cactus