Tag Archives: water

Post-bagel labor

MOST WORK around here gets done in the morning, and that would be after the bagels and cream cheese.

The labor this Good Friday morning included the yearly cleaning of the underground cistern.

Child bride descends to mop after I had descended to sweep.

Our concrete cistern holds 9,000 liters of water.

The reason you don’t want to drink tap water in Mexico is less because the water didn’t come from a clean source at the get-go. It may have. For instance, our municipal water comes from an underground spring. It is quite clear.

What happens is that almost everyone stores water in an underground cistern. From that cistern, water is delivered, one way or another, to a roof tank, and from there it’s dropped into the house faucets via gravity.

There are variations, but basically that’s how it works.

I have no statistics, but I’d bet a pocket of pesos that few homeowners ever clean their cisterns. I’ve peered into cisterns that you could use for a horror-movie scene.

But we are better than that.

Here’s how we clean ours. First, we turn off the incoming water. After that, it takes almost two weeks to empty as we use the water in the house. Finally, the cistern is empty, and we switch to a small backup tank for a day or two.

We leave the lid open overnight, and the cistern’s dry in the morning. I go down and sweep. She goes down and mops. We turn the water back on, and toss in half a liter of bleach.

Here comes fresh water into the clean tank! Yipee!

It takes three or four days to refill. The municipal water runs six days a week for six to eight hours daily.

* * * *

Other labor

Having finished that work, it was time to reassign cacti.

You’d think that after what happened with the monster nopal that I would have learned my lesson regarding prickly plants.

But I’m stupid that way.

I love deserts and the things that live in them. I used to plant cacti in my yard in Houston, and they never did squat.

The tall ones.

Next to the verandah, there’s this stand of pole cacti that I started years ago with one small one. The tallest now is six and a half feet high.

Another shorter — but not by much — stand nearby provided a cutting about 15 inches tall. It has been planted out by the property wall, and I anticipate a nice stand of pole cacti there in a few years —  if I live so long.

The little bugger.

Being a newbie, it needs a little support from string and a stick.

Following these two chores, I only had to water the potted plants on the verandah, dust the shelves and sweep the floor.

The only other labor for the day will be cooking pasta and broiling salmon. After that, it’s a café Americano negro on the downtown plaza, watching the beautiful tourist babes.

It will be a Good Friday. Even if I’m not a Christian.

The water gatherer

barrow
Ready for the ride up the sidewalk.

DON’T DRINK the water.

That’s what they say about Mexico, and it’s wise advice. Tap water, that is. It’s been so long since I last drank tap water that seeing it done on Gringo TV now seems strange.

I began thinking of this matter yesterday while I was driving back from a small store down the street with two big bottles of purified water beside me.

We use a brand called Santorini, which is part of the Pepsi Corp. A large truck drives our streets regularly with these huge jugs, which are called garrafones in Spanish.

It’s like the five-gallon bottle used for water coolers in the United States, though I don’t know if our garrafones hold exactly five gallons. And they are plastic, not glass.

The driver and helper bellow agua in the street and also ring doorbells. I’m sure they earn commissions. If you respond to their yelling, they’ll bring the bottles right into your kitchen, and you hand over the empties.

A full bottle costs 25 pesos, which is about $1.30 U.S. these days. If you don’t hand over an empty, the price is way higher. I forget how much higher. I always have empties.

We once got door delivery, but you have to be home, and I found that doing it myself when we need it is more convenient. The store is just four blocks up the street.

And it’s exercise. Weight-lifting.

Arriving home with the two blue bottles, I heave them into a wheelbarrow for the brief trip around the Romance Sidewalk to the Hacienda’s front door.

This routine is not very difficult, but I wonder how many more years will pass before it will be physically beyond me. Then I’ll have the guys bring it into the kitchen for a sweet tip.

People drink bottled water in America because it’s stylish. We do it here because it’s the smart thing to do.

And it’s darn cheap.

car
Just in from the store up the street.

Agua! agua! agua!

taller
Pastry kitchen’s water supply, added last year.

SHORTLY AFTER purchasing the double lot where now stands the Hacienda, I mentioned our future location to an old Gringo of my acquaintance.

But there’s no water out there, he said, referring to the hardscrabble neighborhood on the edge of town.

Knowing there were hundreds of people in the neighborhood, I scratched my head and wondered, so how are so many people living there if there’s no water?

As in so many things, the truth sat in the middle.

back
Big tank out back, badly painted.

We discovered on moving that there was water, it was simply nasty water. The municipal supply here had a brown cast to it. Good for flushing, not bathing, certainly not drinking, but that’s true most everywhere in Mexico.

So, in addition to the customary underground cistern and the roof tank, we installed an additional, large, above-ground tank out back and a smaller one out by the front gate.

tinaco
Tinaco on the roof.

Water was brought to us in tanker trucks. It cost about 20 bucks a month and was only slightly inconvenient. This went on for about eight years until a neighbor mentioned that the municipal water had improved.

He was correct. It was crystal clear spring water.

We had the small tank out front and the underground cistern out back connected to the municipal supply.

front1
Small tank out front.

No more tanker trucks.

And instead of paying 20 bucks a month, we now pay about three bucks a month for an unlimited supply.

Somewhere along the line we also installed another, larger tank out front about 20 feet from the smaller tank.

cistern
Underground cistern.

I filled that big tank with a hose from the nearby smaller tank, and had a pump attached. We then had a way to water the yard and wash the two cars.

The large above-ground tank out back also was filled with a hose from the small tank out front, a block away. It was a very long hose indeed, a pain in the kazoo to do.

frontbig
Big tank out front.

The inspiration for this post came just this week when I finally had a plumber add pipes that fill the large, above-ground tank out front and the large, above-ground tank out back automatically from the municipal supply.

We are fully automated, water-wise. Our water supply rivals the Mediterranean Sea. Survivalists will envy us. We could float a fleet of Somalian pirates.

That old Gringo who said there was no water in our neighborhood might have been half right 14 years ago, but he’s not right now. In fact, he vanished years ago.

And I remain. With agua galore.

* * * *

(Note: The very top photo shows the tinaco above the new pastry workshop that was built last year. It was immediately hooked to the municipal supply.)

The call of cow

cow

AS A CHILD, I loved milk. I drank gallons of it. My mother tried to control me, but she was rarely successful.

If it was in the house, I was on it like puppies on a bitch tit.

I harbor fond memories of milk with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And there were sandwiches of sliced banana, mayonaise and peanut butter too.

I’m still fruit for peanut butter.

In late adolescence, I found myself in the military. One aspect of military life left me giddy, and it was in the Mess Hall where there were literally faucets of endless milk, and you could drink as much as you pleased. And I surely did.

All through my adult life, I drank milk with most meals.

And then I moved to Mexico where milk is sold differently than anything I had previously encountered.

Ninety-nine percent of milk in supermarkets is not sold refrigerated. It sits on the regular shelves in hermetically sealed cartons, room temperature.

My reaction: Yuck!

This stuff cannot taste right, I told myself, as I placed the first carton in my shopping cart.

But it did taste right — after it was chilled — so my milk habit continued as always in my early Mexican years. Then I got married, acquiring Mexican relatives.

When I had lunch with these people, I would drink milk. They would drink Coca-Cola, water or — quite often — nothing at all. And they would snicker and roll their eyes at my milk.

Especially the kids.

Gradually, I quit drinking milk with lunch and supper, though I still pour it on my morning cereal. It was not so much peer pressure, which I am not very susceptible to, it was simply a different world, a world in which few people drink milk.

Nowadays I drink water with lunch and supper.

I still drink milk on my breakfast cereal and with the occasional waffle and maple syrup, all of which screams out for milk, but that’s the limit of my milk. Habits perish.

This morning, pouring milk on my cereal, I wondered when Mexico first started selling milk at room temperature in hermetically sealed cartons. I asked my wife if that was how her family got milk when she was a child. No, she said.

Her family’s milk came from a street vendor who poured it out of stainless steel containers into the family’s pots, or something like that. That is still common in Mexico.

Straight from the cow. I see these street vendors often.

But I get my much-reduced milk intake from the supermarket in the hermetically sealed cartons. These cartons wait on the kitchen counter until they’re needed in the fridge.

And like so many things here, it seems so normal now.

Sweeping and drinking

wall

WHEN I LIVED in Houston, I did not sweep the street in front of my house, and neither did the city or anybody else. Yet it stayed clean, a phenom I cannot explain.

But here in my funky Mexican neighborhood — perhaps due to living on the area’s main drag — somebody’s gotta do it, and that somebody is me. I did it this morning.

It is a multi-step process. First, you rake. This collects the stuff that is not biodegradable, like plastic plates and beer bottles. I am not making this up. I live among slobs.

I toss this material into a trash can. Second, you sweep the sidewalk and street near the curb. This collects pure dirt and the occasional plant material. I put this into a bucket and walk past the sex motel next door, cross the street to a wooded area and let it fly. Dirt upon dirt.

What I never do is sprinkle. Those who live here know what I mean. The humorous but widespread practice of sprinkling water on the sidewalk or street. This is to keep the dust down, and it does that for the 10 minutes it takes until the water dries and you’re back to where you started.

Sprinkling accomplishes nothing useful, but everybody does it. Sometimes the sprinkle is allowed to just sit, but sometimes it is followed by a sweep. Of course, sweeping a dry surface is easier than sweeping a damp surface, but no matter. Everybody sprinkles.

You encounter odd doings in Mexico, but it’s not just the Mexicans who are odd. We have odd Gringos too.

DON’T DRINK THE WATER

A Yahoo forum set up by Gringos and that focuses on our area recently had some back-and-forth over full-house, water-purification systems, which are pricey.* Some folks take the old saw about “don’t drink the water” to extremes. This is understandable for newbies, but there are people who’ve lived here years who are still antsy about the water, needlessly.

My second ex-wife and I vacationed in Guanajuato in the early 1980s, and I recall that I showered in the hotel with my mouth clamped shut, and I brushed my teeth with bottled water. No way was I going to let my mouth come near Mexican water, which I knew was pestilential or worse.

I am to be forgiven because I was ignorant.

aguaHere at the Hacienda, our tap water for years was spring water that was delivered in a tanker truck and pumped into our underground cistern. It looked very clear, but we did not drink it or cook with it. We used bottled water for that.

And then about three years ago, the neighborhood’s municipal system was upgraded, and we hooked into it. The water is nice, clear and lovely, but we still do not drink it. Perhaps we could, but I’ll let somebody else test it first.

This is how most Mexicans live. Tap water for most everything except drinking. Bottled water for drinking, and the bottled water is available everywhere, including home delivery from trucks that work the streets daily. I get mine from the Pepsi-Cola Company.

If tap water gets into your mouth while showering or brushing your teeth, just swish it about and spit it out. You will not die. I promise.

* * * *

* Gringos move to Mexico and often cancel the considerable financial savings by insisting on bringing their American lifestyles with them. My advice: adapt. It’s cheaper and morally satisfying.

Water, water, everywhere*

Gray

WHEN WE PURCHASED the double lot in 2002 on which to construct the Hacienda, someone told me, “but there’s no water out there.” He was referring to the outlying neighborhood where we live.

That puzzled me because the neighborhood is full of folks, and I was sure they had water. It was only after we’d moved in that I understood. Sporadic municipal water was available, but it was the color of tea.

Now everybody knows you don’t drink the tap water in Mexico, but I would like to take a shower in it without toweling off to find myself looking like Al Jolson. So we did not connect to the municipal water supply. We dug a 9,000-liter cistern and a tanker truck filled it about once a month for $20. Not bad.

Years passed. About three years ago, a middle-class neighbor mentioned that he receives municipal water, and I asked: “Isn’t it dirty?” “No,” he replied, “not anymore.”

So, we connected, and it’s crystal clear. Seems that the neighborhood system had undergone an upgrade. We connected to the street pipe out back to fill the cistern near that wall, and we also connected out front to the underground pipe on the main thoroughfare.

We already had tanks, tons of tanks. The below-ground cistern out back is next to an above-ground backup tank. Out front, which is what you see above, are two tanks. The smaller is filled automatically from the street, and I fill the bigger one with a hose. Each has its own electric pump.

The municipal water costs about $4 a month. It is not metered. I use what I need.

Now I realize I’ve written about this before, but as we walked out the front gate this morning in the cool sunshine, I had my camera, so I took that photo, and after it was developed, it cried for an accompanying tale.

And you’ve just read it.

Pan to the right and ...
Pan to the right and …

Speaking of water, this is what lots of rain does, especially after a few years when a plant has made itself at home in its personal plot of dirt and staked a claim.

* * * *

* From the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.