Festival Internacional del Xolo – Celebrating our Colima Dog

As the title suggests, this weekend concluded our first international festival of our Xoloscuintle – otherwise know as the Colima Dog. The xolo is thought to be the oldest dog in mesoamerica and you can’t go anywhere in Colima without seeing it depicted, usually in red pottery, and even in a traffic circle in Colima City:

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To find out more about the history of this wonderful dog that was worshipped, used as food, used as protection and also sometimes buried with their owners to provide guidance in the next world, you can click on the link here:

http://www.mexonline.com/history-hairlessdog.htm

 

In the meantime, welcome to the Festival:

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When I arrived at the Jardín Libertad in Colima, I noticed an explosion of paper flowers, giant posters and photos and a proliferation of giant statues of the Xolo.    Flower-covered archways lead to the fountains and the gazebo.

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The plaque states: Colima Dogs. The figure is emblematic of the State of Colima. Significance: The transmission of knowledge from an older dog to a young dog. Generational struggle. 

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On Saturday, I did not make it in time for any events, but did see families walking with their dogs. Many breeds of dogs, but mostly the xolo, for whom this festival was named. I had never seen one in real life, only the pottery one and statues, so I was amazed at the fact that they truly are hairless, some only having wisps of hair on top of their heads or at the end of their tails.

Upon reading about them, I find that their body temperatures are higher than other breeds of dogs, perhaps as compensation for not having hair to protect them from the cold. They also make good pets for people with allergies; since they have no hair, they have no fleas or other vermin, nor, I imagine, dander.

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In addition to the displays, there was a small kitchen set up with chairs and tables where you could buy something to eat and drink, decorated with Catrinas, of course.

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One of the things I missed was the running of the obstacle course,  but it was still set up from earlier in the day, with obstacles of various sizes to accommodate the dogs who are also of various sizes.

IMG_5433   The next day, I left Cofradía at 6:30am to make sure I had plenty of time to find a place to park and then catch a taxi to the Jardín.

The first order of the day was a 3K race. You could race with any breed of dog that you liked, and after the race, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners were presented with ceramic statues of the Colima Dog.

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IMG_5366And then photos were taken of all the participants, human and canine…It was certainly a job trying to get all the dogs to pose at the same time…..

IMG_5391IMG_5390IMG_5387After everyone had an hour to rest and have some breakfast, the xolos were exhibited and judged according to their behavior and body type. It was amazing to me, how they could hold a pose…

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And then they all posed for a final group photo…

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IMG_5425And –  group photo time!

So this concludes my experience at the Internation Festival of the Xolo.

Until next time, you all have yourselves a great week!   ¡Adiós!

Halloween and Día de los Muertos in Mexico

There have been a few celebrations one after another recently, so first I will focus on the most recent, well-known festivities – Halloween and Día de los Muertos. Yes, Halloween is celebrated here, with costumes appearing in stores way before Halloween (as a matter of fact, Christmas merchandise – such as artificial trees and decorations – have also appeared way before Halloween, too), but it is not as important as the Day of the Dead.

On the evening of October 31st. several young children came to my gate. Instead of ringing the doorbell, they were chanting something out loud, but I couldn’t quite understand the words. Candy was handed out, and a while later some older children appeared. It seems that witch costumes with pointy hats are very popular, at least for this year.

Then that was the end of it. I had bought 4 bags of candy, and only used maybe one bag, so a few days later, I donated the remainder to Project Amigo to be used during the Christmas Fiesta week.

The Day of the Dead was celebrated on November 2nd. Ahead of that date, the cemetery was cleaned up. During the actual day, people come to the cemetery, a mass is held there and people put wreaths and the deceased’s favorite food or drink on the graves. I was unable to attend the ceremony in Cofradía, as I had to help out a friend, but I was able to celebrate in Colima that night. There is a narrative and photos of the Cofradía celebration from last year in my blog posts for November 2016 if you wish to see photos and read about it.

Currently, there are 6 nursing students and a nursing instructor from Canada at the University of Colima participating in an exchange program. My friend Magda and I went with them and some of the Mexican nursing students to Colima, where the Día de los Muertos was being celebrated at a local cemetery and sponsored by the local funeral home.

 

There was singing outside of the funeral home and bottles of water were handed out. There was a couple dressed as skeletons and many people were taking photos with them. Beyond that was the cemetery.

Also inside the cemetery was a stage, where we were entertained by singing and traditional dancers, plus a live mariachi band providing the music.

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Altar of Griselda Alvarez – former mayor of Colima and the only female mayor of Colima

 

More altars

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A very fancy hearse. I was really impressed with the art work.

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Two women in the cemetery dressed as La Catrina

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The stage in the cemetery

Azteca dancers

The Old Man’s Dance

 

All in all, it was a night full of activity and I am sure the Canadians were very pleased to have been there at this time of year and I was also very happy to accompany them.

 

 

 

The Magic Zone – Zona Magica

For today, I am going to introduce you to a local, mind-bending illusion called the Zona Magica, or Magic Zone in English. This road is on the highway between Nogueras and Comala, and I have heard of this phenomena in other countries, such as Ireland where it is called the Magic Road.

Basically, it is a road where the angle of the road is in the opposite direction from where it appears to be going. It is so enthralling that the government here constructed two side roads parallel to the main road because people were stopping their cars in the road to observe the supposed contradiction to the laws of nature. On my personal videos, you can see a grassy median between the road we are on and the main road.

Before trying my experiment, I watched some videos on YouTube, which explained that the effects of the magic roads are an optical illusion, but even knowing this, my eyes and my sister’s eyes could not discern the true nature of the angle of the road.

My experiment consisted of taking a cup of coffee and a carpenter’s level to the road. We got to a spot where it appeared that we were in a depression, with the road rising both in front of and behind us. When I put the level down on the road in front of the car, the bubble rose in the direction of my car. Since bubbles rise, that meant that the end of the level closest to the car was higher than the opposite end, meaning that the road was actually progressing in a downward direction. (Note: I was nervous and trying hard to make sense of what I was seeing, so I initially misspoke on the video and said the bubble indicated that the road was going up, which it was not. The road only appeared to be so.).

To further enhance our understanding, I poured some coffee onto the road, and the coffee proceeded to travel forward, also indicating that the road was heading down instead of up. But again, even though the coffee and level indicated that the road was going down, our eyes were telling us that the road was going in an upward direction.

Next, I got into the car, put it in neutral, and the car proceeded to roll forward at a rapid rate, but to our eyes, we were rolling UP hill.

In the second video, the situation was the reverse of the first, where the road appeared to be going downhill, but the level indicated that the road was actually rising, a fact that was confirmed when the car rolled backwards and seemed to be rolling uphill to my senses.

So, in conclusion – I guess there are things in this world , whether ghosts or alien space ships, or whatever odd mysterious things you can think of, that are seemingly magical and otherworldly, which can be explained by scientific inquiry, but still boggle the mind.

A Nature-Filled Halloween in Mexico (a post not for the faint-of-heart)

First a reader/viewer advisory. If you are creeped out or scared of spiders, maybe you shouldn’t read this. I joked with Lourdes that she has cotton spider webs and plastic spiders decorating her Casita when she could just come to my house and gather plenty of the real thing.20171009_193632

There are many types of spiders here, from very tiny ones that you can barely see to large, scary-looking ones about 3 inches long – my best estimate as I refuse to get close enough to one to accurately measure it.  There are webs spun all over my property and outside my house and unless they are covered in dew or you see them at just the right angle, they are basically invisible. So – there have been quite a few times that I have walked right into one, and then frantically brushed the web off my face and run my fingers over my face, hair and upper body hoping there is no spider there and hoping if there is one, that it quickly gets brushed off.  So now, before I venture into my property, I carry a rake and probably look a bit unhinged waving it into the air to catch any spider webs that might be there.

The good thing is that the web-spinners come out during the rainy season, so they are not to be found – or at least very few – during the 8 months or so of the dry season. During the dry season I see a different type with no web. If you blow on them they scurry away, and while I would not touch one (large and round), I am not afraid of them.

So first, the least scary one. It is fairly small but very strange-looking. I have never seen a spider that looks quite like this, as if it had some dark crystallized sugar attached to its body – a spiky brown lump that would appear to be the source of its web material.

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A closeup of the little creature

See? It seems more strange than scary, and not only likes high places such as attaching its web from my roof, but also doesn’t mind starting a web from the back of one of my porch chairs….   Hmmm, guess I definitely have to take a good look at the chairs before I grab them and sit down…

Next, the large, nasty-looking ones. I haven’t gotten close enough to do an accurate measurement, but I would estimate them to be about 3 inches in length and their webs I have seen have been as large as about 3 feet. Definitely don’t want to come into direct contact with this type. So here it is – the current stuff of nightmares and horror movies:

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I do have to admit, as creepy and scary as it looks, it IS fascinating to watch how it spins its web. 

 

So I guess that should be enough about the spiders. On to something a little more palatable now – like pumpkins. A few months ago I planted at least 10 pumpkin seeds in anticipation of a large pumpkin patch from which would grow mounds of pumpkins just waiting to be decorated or turned into pumpkin pie.

It was a good thing that so many were planted, as it turns out there are male and female vines. Eventually the vines grew and decided that they want to have their pumpkins high up in the air, and began climbing the peach tree, and up and over the brick wall alongside the patch. One of the vines wrapped itself around an electric wire before forming a pumpkin. The weight of the pumpkin started putting a strain on the wire, so I bought some shelves and placed the pumpkin on top of the shelf. Days later I was horrified to discover my poor pumpkin covered in larvae busily drilling holes into its skin.

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It literally looked like someone had taken an electric drill to it and created tons of holes. So I hosed it down, washed it with detergent, but the darn things kept coming back. I even wrapped it in a plastic bag, but they still managed to get in.

Finally, I was directed to a local homeowner who told me about a poison that I could mix with water and spray it on. He gave me a capful and I used it as he directed. So far the destructive creatures have not returned, but I no longer think this pitiful looking thing is suitable for eating in any way, shape or form.

However, I DO have a healthy specimen growing and hopefully the pests will not discover it before I can harvest it…

In the meantime, grocery stores are a wonderful thing, and I have purchased two store-bought pumpkins (imported from the U.S.) with which I will make some pies until mine are ready for the kitchen. IMG_5187

In addition to the store-bought pumpkins, my coffee berries are starting to turn red, so hopefully I will have enough to process and make at least one or two cups of coffee, my green chayotes are starting to be ready to pick in numbers greater than one or two at a time, and I found some fabulous pale spiny chayotes that I will plant before very long.

So – all is well here South of the Border, and I wish you all a HAPPY HALLOWEEN and a Happy Pumpkin Season !!!!!

 

 

 

 

Independence Day 2017 – part II

After last night’s festivities and a good night’s rest, there was a parade through the streets of Cofradía – not a very big parade by many standards, but still a chance for the children and social organizations of the village to celebrate and show respect for the independence of the United States of Mexico.

And my battery died at the point that this video ended. In the first video you can see the newly crowned Queen of Cofradía riding on the hood of a car. At the end of the second video, my battery gave out again just as the little Princess of Cofradía came around the corner, riding on the hood of another car.

Changed the battery of my camera and caught the end of the parade

Independence Day – 2017

Once again it is Mexican Independence Day, which starts on the night of September 15th with the Grito – the cry of freedom. We had a wonderful celebration last night and since I am sure I have already posted the history of this celebration in another blog posting on this site,  I will cut the narrative short and mainly post videos and photos.

This is the true Mexican Independence Day – not Cinco de Mayo, which only celebrates the people of Puebla’s victory over Napoleon’s forces. The evening started out with a parade of the flag, speeches, prayers and suggestions to help for the victims of the recent natural disasters in Oaxaca and Chiapas and the toro, an effigy of a bull surrounded by fireworks. The fireworks were lit and a man ran around the village square with it. I still don’t know if or how many times someone was burned from holding it as fireworks shoot off.

There was singing and dancing and between 11pm and midnight fireworks were set off into the sky. So enjoy the videos and  photos (including some taken on more artistic settings) and have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Cofradía version of the Running of the Bulls

Mariachis playing Camino Real Colima

Children watching the performances

The Joys and Pitfalls of Charitable Giving

I have been a volunteer in one capacity or another outside of the United States since 1998, and so I thought I would take the time to offer personal insight into the world of charitable giving. This is by no means an official guide, nor an exhaustive study, but only my personal experiences in the countries of Nepal, Cameroon and Mexico – advice I have been given or lessons learned the hard way, and the rewarding results when things have gone as planned, or at least not been completely derailed.

My first overseas volunteer trip was in 1998 to Nepal as part of a nursing delegation. There were 10 of us nurses from the United States traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal to hold discussions with the medical and nursing staff of the neurology and neurosurgery departments of two hospitals there – one a university hospital and one a public hospital.

Our discussions centered on the way each country cared for these patients, comparing and contrasting our methods. During the discussions, charitable donation was also discussed, and one of the first things mentioned was that donors need to know what is perceived by the recipient to be  their needs.

Many facilities or donors might be purchasing new equipment and desire to get rid of their old equipment, or may be looking for tax breaks which will result from their donations. You are only placing a burden on the recipient by sending things they cannot use or do not need.

If you discover that you are able to donate something that actually is useful to them, then you must find a way to deliver the goods. What we were told in Nepal was that the safest way to make sure they actually receive the goods is to ship them to the American Embassy, and then they could be securely delivered.

Nepal was a one-time experience, but for several years I was involved in volunteering in Cameroon and since 2012 in Mexico, where I now live, and I can tell you that there is nothing like “eyes on the ground” to help determine how you can help and the best way to go about it.

Nothing can compare to trustworthy local people to explain the realities of their lives to help guide you, but oftentimes you will need to navigate different personalities and opinions to attempt to  discover the realities.  Having volunteered at a medical clinic I saw the need for living quarters for volunteers and interns, and also the need for a new service vehicle.  While trying to negotiate for a vehicle, I was running into difficulty with the person who took over the clinic after the head doctor became incapacitated with a stroke. This person was demanding a brand-new and very expensive vehicle, much more luxurious than what was actually needed.

In the meantime, the staff and I had worked together to rent a large domicile to house volunteers and interns, and I was paying the rent. The best way to transfer the money at that time was through Western Union, with two trustworthy staff members collecting the money using a password that only we knew.

Unfortunately, the new head of the clinic was stealing from it, abusing the interns and volunteers and being that the clinic was supported by international donors, it collapsed when word got out and the donors pulled the funding.  So one unfortunate lesson here is that sometimes you cannot save the world, even with the best intentions and greatest efforts, but on the other hand, there are many success stories.

Aside from direct monetary donations, it is best to research where the needed “things” might best be obtained. When insulin and syringes were needed at a clinic, with research and discussing it with the locals, it was decided that I would bring in syringes but money would be donated for the insulin. Insulin was available in the country, and purchasing it within the country would alleviate the problem of proper storage and temperature of the medicine in transporting it from one country to another.  So one lesson learned is to discover if what is needed is already available in the host country and maybe just cheaper and more practical to donate money specifically for that purpose (books in the native language is also a good example).

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Distributing medicine against intestinal worms in Cameroon. The medicine was bought in Cameroon with money donated from the United States.

And this leads into another aspect – bringing in donations by hand in your luggage vs. shipping it from one country to another. Many countries will charge the recipient for shipments received, even if they are charitable donations, so this needs to be discussed ahead of time with the recipients.

My first volunteer trip to Mexico was to work in the vision clinic with a Canadian optometry group. They brought their eyeglasses and examination equipment, but I was asked to bring in the dark plastic eye shields to cover the patients’ eyes after their pupils are dilated.

I said “sure” and next thing I knew the post office delivered an immense box to my porch containing 2000 eye shields. Well – I was able to fit 1000 of them into two suitcases and an extra cardboard box to bring with me when I flew down. And – I was stopped at Mexican customs. It took a while to explain to them and have them understand that I was not bringing them down to sell, but they were donations. So that is one thing to keep in mind, and something that I was not expecting. For the next trip on which I did not go, I was able to send the extra 1000 to other volunteers to bring with them, and everything worked out in the end.

Vision clinic – partnership of Project Amigo and Canadian optometrists

These duties were turned over to the local Lions Club after 2013

 

In the case of something that can not practically fit in a suitcase or hand-carry, there is always shipping, and here is where different methods and issues with customs are important considerations, which were my latest lessons learned.

During one trip to Mexico, I visited the school of  nursing at the University of Colima, having already become good friends with Magda,  one of the nurses. As I toured the university, there was a basic life support class going on in one of the open areas, and students were practicing the CPR technique on each other (of course, not actually doing full chest compressions).  Turns out there was a need for CPR mannequins.

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Students “practicing” CPR on each other because of lack of mannequins

A few years later, I became aware of a facility in the U.S.  that was purchasing new mannequins and getting rid of their old ones. While the old ones were not state-of-the-art, they were sufficient for the needs of the U. of Colima, and so I inquired about obtaining them.

I was told that I could have them for free, as they would otherwise just be tossed in the garbage, and so I informed my contacts in Mexico. Over the course of maybe a year I tried to connect the people in Mexico with the person in charge in the U.S., but opportunities kept getting missed and meetings never happened, and so, being very frustrated and discovering that the mannequins were still needed in Mexico and available in the U.S. I decided to collect them and ship them myself during my next visit to the U.S.

First, I looked up shipping costs and found out that it would cost about $400 USD for 50 pounds of freight through FedEx, then I informed the people in Mexico and questioned what they would be willing to pay, as I could not shoulder an exorbitant cost on my own to donate equipment.

Then I went to pick up the mannequins and was shocked to find that, instead of the torso-only mannequins that I was used to as a CPR instructor, these were full-body mannequins – adults and infants, each adult weighing about 42 pounds (mannequin, carrying case and included equipment).

I wasn’t sure what to do and was discussing it with a staff member, when she told me of a service called Shipnex, which ships internationally as a third party – you pay them, print out a label and then your package is shipped through FedEx or DHL, and it costs about 1/3 what FedEx or DHL costs. What a relief!!!

So I took 2 full-body adults, one infant, suitcase carrying cases and miscellaneous equipment, paid Shipnex and sent them on their way with DHL, with an expected arrival a week after shipping. Problem solved, right? Well, it turns out, no.

After about 2 weeks, I was messaged by my Mexican counterpart, asking where the shipment was. I checked online with Shipnex, which said “in transit” and gave them a call. They then gave me a phone number and tracking number for DHL – and then I discovered that the shipment was being held by customs, and suddenly knew what that meant.

I informed the Mexicans, they called customs and argued that it was a charitable donation of  old mannequins to be used for teaching, but it didn’t matter. And so they had to pay customs to release the mannequins. Fortunately, they were able to pay and now possess 1 infant and 2 adult mannequins, but this is something that I hadn’t planned for and needs to be considered for anyone considering donations in the future.

So, finally, while this post contains many cautions and precautions, it is ultimately spiritually satisfying when a donation is successfully received and you know it will make a positive difference in so many lives, from new eyeglasses for the visually impaired, much-needed medicine, funds to purchase books and now mannequins on which the nursing, medical and first-aid students can practice their life-saving skills.

Students practicing on their “new” mannequins.

 

 

It Takes a Village – My Virgin of Guadalupe

One of the joys of working the land is having a vision of what it will look like in the future, much like an artist creating a beautiful picture from a blank canvas. I knew I wanted chayote vines, and so a part of the land was cleared, the chayotes were put into the ground, and from there, the vines grew.

Likewise with my herbs and my moon garden. However, there is a rectangular piece of ground on the outer part of my brick wall, and I had no idea what to do with it. Choked with overgrown weeds, surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire and surrounded at the base with a low cement and rock wall, which had broken apart and had partly fallen into the road, it was ugly to my eyes but I was at a loss as to what to do.

There was no drainage system within it and it had no door with which to access the inside of my property. It wouldn’t be easy to water if I should place a garden there and there are no electrical outlets, either.

A neighbor suggested placing a door there, but I really didn’t want to do that. While discussing the situation with my friend Ted, he suggested I place a Virgin of Guadalupe there, and as soon as he said it, I knew he was right.

The Virgin is the patron saint of Mexico. Her statues are everywhere. Her feast day is December 12th, and other than that, each local village has its own specific week to celebrate, with a week of festivities culminating in the Castillo, a large tower covered in fireworks, set off one stage at a time.

And so began the process of creating a special sanctuary out of this piece of property, and it really did take a village. I liken Cofradía de Suchitlán to Museum Village in Orange County, New York, or my father’s stories of growing up in the Bronx, NY during the depression ( http://www.lepanto.com/ryan/ripple.letters/ ) – a small town where everyone knows everyone else and each person and artisan has their own specialty.

The first order of business was to repair the part of the stone and cement border that had broken off and fallen into the street. For that we hired Rogelio, who was able to break up the part that had fallen away and re-cement it back together.

The gardener Ángel then dug out all the saplings and weeds from the ground and applied fertile earth which I obtained from the worm farm outside the village. Ángel and Rogelio felt that stairs were needed, since the top of the wall was pretty far above the ground, so bricks were laid down and covered with cement to make stairs – the bricks being obtained from the local brick maker.

The next task was to have the Virgin carved. My neighbor Lourdes stated that she knew someone who carved stone, José who lives in Cofradía and works in the next village of Nogalera. We visited him and decided on a statue made of black volcanic rock, which he would be carving by hand, and so it was arranged.

Now I also needed to plant something in the bare earth, but I wanted ground cover instead of grass, and once again my friend Ted came up with a suggestion. He has on his property Wandering Jew plants, and offered to give me some of them, so Ángel set about bringing them over and planting them.  Their green and purple colors would contrast nicely with the volcanic rock.

And so, the ground was readied, the stairs were constructed and in 3 weeks, the statue was ready. José arrived with 2 other men, and even with the 3 of them and Ángel working together, it was extremely difficult to lift up the statue, and so they had to back up the pickup truck to the lower end of the space (the side opposite from the stairs) and dismantle part of the chain link fence. They also realized that the statue needed a base, or it would sink into the earth, so a suitable rock was found on which to place her.

IMG_4661 (1)     Of course, a more proper base was needed, so Rogelio was asked if he could construct one. In addition to that, a roof was needed to shelter the Virgin from the rain to protect the rock from weather damage, since the rainy season lasts about 5 months out of every year.

For that purpose, we contacted Chencho, who had previously helped me by shaving the bottom of my sliding metal gate, enabling me to open it more easily, and also sharpening my machete, as I had been unaware when I bought it that the blades are sold blunt and needed to be sharpened after purchase.

In any case, he created a metal frame, after which a laminate roof was placed over her head.

So Rogelio made the cement base with Ángel’s help, and 5 flowering plants were purchased and planted around the statue. Two solar floodlights were also placed on either side, and now all we needed to do was to have the dedication, or inauguracíon.

For this, Lourdes gave me a Rosary to place on the statue and I purchased two vases with white roses. Ted also pointed out the ugly cement post in the wall, and sent someone over to cut it down with a saw just one hour before the priest arrived. And so the priest, Father Gamaliel, came and said prayers and applied holy water to the statue.

I had invited all my neighbors,  so there was a crowd of about 25 people. After the prayers and benediction, we retired to my garden and for iced tea, soda, fruit and cheese and pineapple cake to celebrate the culmination of this village project to help beautify a small part of the neighborhood…

And so ends my story for now. Wishing you all a wonderful week, and see you next time…

Poor Audrey

In spite of this area having a fantastic climate for growing things, sometimes there are failures. It might be poor soil, it might be an unfamiliarity with the difference between gardening in Mexico versus gardening in New York, poor sun or too much sun, not enough water or too much. Could also just be bad luck, but this post will discuss my most recent failure.

As you all know, I had wanted a moon garden for years, and set about creating one in the past few months – white flowers more visible in twilight or at night with fragrant perfume. Initially I did not have the malla sombra – a frame with fabric to provide shade – to protect the most delicate ones from the harsh sun, and so about 7 of my plants died.

Once the malla sombra was up, I replaced the dead plants with gray/white succulents and white gardenias. But, the crown jewel for this garden was to be my Queen of the Night (Reina de la Noche) – in my mind, a spectacular flower. Here is what it should have looked like:

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And so I purchased and planted one of them, tended it carefully and checked to see when flowers would appear. And a few weeks ago, three of them appeared.

I was very happy and hopeful, but at the same time taken aback.  The stems of the flowers were actually growing from the edge of the leaves, and were hanging down like snakes. I had never seen anything like it, and the first thought that came to my mine was Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.

For those who don’t know the story, Little Shop of Horrors is about a plant (named Audrey II) in a gardening shop and this plant lives on human blood, or eats whole human beings. In any case, seeing these flower buds, I can never get the image of Audrey II out of my  mind, so I have christened my queen “Audrey.”

I observed her every day, talked to her waiting for her magnificent flowers to bloom. And it did seem like they would:

However, today – in spite of the rain, the sunshine, the malla sombra so carefully and lovingly constructed, I found dried up buds, brown with the texture of tissue paper. The stems continue to have good turgor, but I fear the buds themselves are a lost cause…

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On a hopeful note, there are still leaves that have not sprouted stems and buds , so I am sure that I will see the beautiful flowers of the Queen eventually.

IMG_4656Just as my bougainvillea appeared to be undeniably dead, yet came back to life with the rain,

IMG_4666I have hopes that Audrey will once again produce buds which will become the flowers that signify her royal name.

The Plant Kingdom and Dress Code for Gardening in the Rainy Season

Greetings again from western Mexico. As the title states, it is now the rainy season, resulting in changes in the way I garden. It does not rain all day every day, but for most days, it will rain off and on.

Normally you will have creatures flitting about, or crawling about, drinking nectar, collecting pollen, eating leaves, etc., etc. – your hummingbirds and an assortment of other types of birds, bees, ants, and so forth. We also now have an overabundance of flies in addition to the normal tiny biting things that you don’t even see half the time. What you do end up seeing are the pin-prick holes and welts on your skin after they bite, which you notice once that area starts to itch.

And so, as a result, this is my gardening outfit:

 

IMG_4659Kerchief on my head to keep those pesky flies out of my hair and ears. Long-sleeved shirt to keep the little biters off my arms. Gloves to protect my hands from spiny plants waiting to impale my fingers, or crawly things hiding at the base of plants or in the dirt. No scorpions during the wet season, but still there are worms, probably an occasional spider and who knows what else.

Long pants to protect against spiny things, creatures and dirt. My beloved Skechers sneakers which are used solely for gardening and my morning walks as they get hopelessly dirty and often wet.

Sometimes, when it becomes unbearably hot, I will wear short sleeves, but the long pants and sleeves do a good job of protecting my skin against the sun. And when it gets too buggy, I put repellent on what little skin is showing.

Since this is the first rainy season I have experienced while living in my house, I am discovering new plants and fruits that I had not seen before with the explosion of growth that comes from the generous supply of rain water falling on my garden.

I woke up one morning to find white lilies when I had no idea that the leaves were part of a lily plant –

IMG_4648       My avocado is now producing its bounty having been pruned and now watered.  It is difficult to see the avocados as they blend in perfectly with the leaves, but I have been able to make out 4 avocados so far.

The guayaba japonesa – Japanese Guava – is producing multitudes of green fruit which turn red when ready for picking:

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The pink lilies and bird of paradise plants continue to bloom as always, but now other pink flowers are also beginning to show themselves:

There is an explosion of green coffee berries on my coffee trees, which will eventually ripen into red berries ready for picking. However, since it takes 8 pounds of berries to make one pound of coffee, I’ll still have to buy 99% of my coffee from the local growers, though it will be fun to try to process what little I have in my own house.

IMG_4619And then there is my pumpkin patch. I planted about 10 seeds, and the vines are taking over that corner of the property, including winding their way around tree trunks. I see quite a few flowers and lots of large green leaves that haven’t been eaten by insects, so I imagine I will have a nice supply of pumpkins from which I can make homemade pumpkin pie, instead of having to use camotes or go all the way to Guadalajara to find store-bought pumpkin pie or cans of pumpkin.

My neighbors can also make jack-o’lanterns from real pumpkins – I do see plastic ones occasionally…..

IMG_4636I still have hope to see chayotes from the vines. They are covering the frame so much so that the grass underneath has plenty of shade, the vines are reaching up into nearby trees, and I see lots of flowers which hopefully will turn into the edible chayotes now that fertile soil has been mixed into the soil at the base of the vines.

And I am still waiting to see the flowers on my banana trees which will indicate that the long-awaited bananas will finally appear, with each tree producing enough to feed my entire street.

And finally, there is my moon garden – the malla sombra is providing much-needed shade while allowing the rain to nourish the plants. The dead plants have been removed with new plants added – 4 grayish-white succulents and 6 gardenia plants which are providing a very nice perfume.

When my Queen of the Night finally blooms, that will be a separate and special posting all to itself, but meanwhile, here is my beautiful moon garden as it is right now:

IMG_4613And finally, a few random pictures of other flowers to finish this off:

IMG_4632And a pleasant good evening from all of us at Casa Paty – me, Peach and Ginger. Hasta luego y buenas noches…..