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.

The painted earth


DECEMBER BRINGS orange-colored tangerines, and April produces rosy, yellow mangoes.

Purple jacaranda comes in April too. You cannot eat jacaranda. You cannot peel it like a tangerine, or stir it with onion, cilantro and oil for a nice salad, as you can with a sliced mango. What jacarandas do is paint the earth. Bougainvillea is a Picasso too, but let’s stick to jacaranda now.

When we moved into the Hacienda 11 years back, I planted a jacaranda in the yard. I wanted a purple lawn now and then, and I wanted to look overhead to see an amethyst sky because jacarandas grow tall and grand.

It wasted no time in dying, the defeatist little bugger.

Just as well because the ground in which I planted that little jacaranda is now solid concrete, a floor of the garden patio that hides behind a wall that had not even been considered when I planted the jacaranda.

But I still see amethyst skies and purple earth because jacarandas are all around. There’s a tall one about two blocks away that I see right now through the window over this computer screen. Another stands high behind the 500-year-old church steeple on the neighborhood plaza. I see that mornings as we do our power walk.

On the far side of that same plaza, behind the red tile roofs of the portal, rises a jacaranda resplendent in mauve. I saw that one and smiled just moments ago when I returned from downtown in the Honda.

It’s okay that there’s no jacaranda in my yard. I don’t have to deal with a sea of purple leaves that at some point must be dealt with. I already have enough work raking reams of defeated bougainvillea blooms.

I have the best vantage point in this purple world of April — all see, no work.

I wish I could say the same of bougainvillea.