Change of seasons, Creatures changing places

While many countries have 4 seasons – Summer, Autumn (or Fall), Winter and Spring, we here in Colima have two official seasons; we have the rainy season, which lasts from the middle of June through October, and the dry season, which lasts from November through the middle of June. This year, the rainy season fought the good fight, raining for a day or two, followed by several days with no rain, followed by another few days of rain and so on. Eventually the final rains were very light and brief, and now we are definitely into the dry season.

With the change of seasons and various plants alternately blooming and remaining relatively dormant, you can see various little creatures coming and going if you know where to look. During the rainy season, the sapos/cane toads come out at night. Especially when it is raining, they sit outside, not moving, apparently enjoying the rain as if taking a shower. During the day, they sit among the foliage waiting for a tasty insect to pass by. The dry season has now begun, yet I did see one lone sapo the other night sitting on my cobblestones. I wonder why he didn’t follow his fellow toads to wherever they go when the ground dries up.

They also seem to like cat food, or even just sitting in the cats’ food dish, whether there is food in there or not, so I have learned to take the dishes in at night. And, for the first time in the 5 years that I have lived in my house, I saw a baby sapo. It was so tiny, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but a close look told me it was a baby toad sitting by my cats’ food dish.

For scale, each tile is roughly one square foot.

Also for the very first time, I saw a little green frog on my patio. I know the cats avoid the sapos because they secrete poison through their skin, and if the cats should ingest any of it, they will get sick and probably die. However, I didn’t know what they would do with the frog, so I tried to shoo it away to safety. When I approached, it jumped up onto my 8-foot ladder. I managed to snap a photo of it before it jumped in spurts all the way to the top and settled in on a brush that was lying against the top of the ladder. The cats didn’t seem to notice, so I assume it got away with its life.

The frog isn’t in the photo. I just wanted to show where it hid the night before.

Speaking of cats, they are really good hunters and when they seem to be staring intently at something, I have learned to investigate. One day I found one of them staring intently behind a small table in my living room. I found she was staring at a gecko that had entered my house, so I shooed her away, got a paper towel and brought the gecko to safety.

Another day, I saw one of them staring at an oregano leaf in the garden. I looked under the leaf and saw a praying mantis eating a dragonfly.

Originally, I had not thought of having pets on my property, but a neighbor’s cat had just had kittens and her brother did not want to keep them, so I adopted two of the kittens and am glad I did. In the beginning, they killed 3 rats and 2 snakes, and I have not had that problem since.

The end of the rainy season also brings spiders and butterflies, though not the monarchs that travel between Canada, U.S. and Mexico migrating back and forth. As I said in a previous post, when I leave my house, I bring a stick and wave it up and down, so I don’t get a face full of spider web since you can’t always see the web.

Still during the rainy season, I saw a creature on my coffee plants that I had not seen before. At first glance, I thought it was flowering again, but looking closer I thought I was looking at a caterpillar. I asked around and was told it was a mealy bug. My gardener said to spray soapy water on it. A neighbor whose parents grow coffee came over with some kind of spray and sprayed my plants. Haven’t seen the creature since. And yes, I hired a gardener. Living my whole life in New York, I had no idea about caring for a garden here in the middle of Mexico. There is so much I did not know, but I am learning little by little.

One thing I also never saw before was this 4″ caterpillar in my ficus tree. There were two of them actually, and I didn’t know if they were good or bad, so I called a local farmer. She told me they were bad and to kill them, so I did.

To diverge a little bit, I love to experiment with all varieties of plants, trees and herbs that I would never have a chance with in New York, such as banana trees. About a year or two ago, I bought pitted dates and decided to plant the seeds. Out of all the seeds I planted, one sprouted, so now I have the beginning of a date palm tree in a flower pot on my porch. I read that it takes about 8-10 years for it to grow and bear fruit, or maybe it won’t. It might be a case of planting something under whose shade I will never sit, but it is fun to live among nature and imagine people in the future owning my house and enjoying what I have planted. Anyway……….

Currently it is cool enough at night and early morning for a sweater, but sunny, hot and dry during the day. And that means I am now watching out for scorpions. And wasps. I opened my mailbox yesterday, and out flew a wasp. It had not begun to build a nest yet, fortunately, so I got out my can of Raid and sprayed the inside of my mailbox. I get mail maybe once per year, but still diligently check the mailbox to see what might have decided to build a home there.

As for the alacránes – a tiny but more venemous type of scorpion – they like to hide to keep warm when the temperatures vacillate between hot and cool. My friend from whom I bought my house told me that the hollow in my gate, where you grab to close it, had an alacrán hiding inside one day and she got stung when she went to close the gate, so I usually grab the edge of the door and just quickly slam it shut now.

So that’s about all I have to say for now. To those of you in the United States and fellow U.S. expats, have a great Thanksgiving, and for everyone, have a great week !

Nos vemos……….

Halloween and Day of the Dead in Mexico – 2nd year of the Pandemic

Greetings once again from Colima, Mexico. Autumn is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere, the nights and early morning hours are cooler, though we are still very hot during the day. It should have been the end of the rainy season, but it isn’t ready to quit just yet – we’ll have a few days of rain, a few hot and dry days, and then a light rain again. As of today, it’s been 7 days since the last rain, but we have had several nights of heavy mist. It reminds me of scary movies, with waves of heavy mist visible in the night resembling waves such as you see in the ocean.

In the northeast of the United States and in Canada, the leaves on the trees are turning many colors – red, orange, yellow, brown – before they fall onto the ground making a brown carpet covering lawns and forest floors. Here in Colima, everything is staying green, and honestly, I don’t miss the changing of the colors. Before the end of October, before it was Halloween and Day of the Dead, stores here, like stores in the United States, were already displaying their Christmas merchandise – shelves full of toys, artificial Christmas trees, Christmas lights, etc., etc. Unbelievable………..

Because the SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19) pandemic is still with us, our yearly celebrations have once again been muted. I had heard that some children would be in the street Trick-or-Treating, so I went into Colima and bought a bag of candy to be prepared – and not a single child showed up. So – I donated the candy to Project Amigo, our local literacy project and told them they could use the candy for their Christmas Fiesta in December. The candy was composed of “Pop” (caramel popcorn), “Takis” and “Runners.” I was tempted and did eat one mini-bag of the popcorn, but the Takis and Runners were definitely safe from me – they are treats which are Enchiloso, HOT and SPICY…..

Regarding Enchiloso, there are some Mexicans who don’t eat hot and spicy, but I was amazed at even young children who like it. When I began volunteering with Project Amigo, one of the things we did was have a beach day with the primary school kids. For many of them, it was their first time visiting the ocean. At lunch time, I would see these little, little boys and girls opening their bags of chips and pouring on Valentina Sauce – a hot sauce popular here.

I couldn’t believe it, and wondered if they became accustomed to it by exposure before birth or through their mothers’ milk – just a wild guess….. I DO keep a bottle of Valentina sauce in my kitchen for guests and I tell them I won’t be upset if they want to put it on their food, since my cooking seems bland to some of my visitors.

Anyway, as I said, a very muted holiday this year. My only contribution via decorations are these two skulls hanging from my porch ceiling and the marigolds I have planted. My cat Ginger seems to feel that I have made her a nice bed, and loves to nap in the marigolds, and a spider has decided to add to the season with a spider web near the skulls.

Yes, it is also spider season here, as it is every year at the end of the rainy season. When I go out of my house into my garden every morning, or even other times of the day, I take my walking stick and wave it up and down in front of me to move aside any spider webs. You can’t always see them if the sunlight is in the wrong position or if there is no spider immediately visible. It would look to others like I am a crazy person waving a stick at nothing, but a few times I have walked into a face-full of spider web when I did not proceed with caution.

So, Halloween was a bust, and Day of the Dead was celebrated in a muted way. Houses still had altars inside, and a Mass was held at the Catholic church, with people social distancing and wearing masks, and fewer people attending than would normally be there. Some people decided to decorate the gazebo in the village square, and I’m glad I snapped a photo when I did, as the Catrinas were all gone the next morning.

Mexico uses the stoplight system to let the public know the severity of Covid and therefore which precautions will be in place. Currently, there are 29 states in the green (least restrictive), 2 states yellow and one state orange. No red states – YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!! S0 – we still wear masks when out in public, and when entering businesses we get a temperature check, step on a mat with disinfectant and get a squirt of hand gel to disinfect our hands. Three days ago, in-person school began in my village of Cofradía. Eight students per classroom for two hours every day. Every two hours, those students leave and are replaced by eight more students per classroom.
Meanwhile, nature carries on. One of my banana tress is now producing bananas.

My chayote vines are producing so many chayotes that I can’t give them away fast enough and still have plenty for myself. And it’s a good thing that when I plant something new, I spread it around my property to see where the new plant is happiest.. My latest experiment was blue corn, which I planted in 4 different spots around the property. You can see that they didn’t care for being planted along the wall at the side of my house and died

but LOVE the sunny spot next to my car port, where they must be about 10 feet tall at the moment.

When all the ears are harvested, I’m going to buy a molcajete (mortar and pestle) and grind the corn to make blue tortillas from scratch.

Well, I have run out of things to say at the moment, so I wish all my readers a safe and healthy weekend, and until next time –

¡Adios! and ¡Nos vemos!