Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sad News about Andee Carlsson

Hi I am Erik Ordway, Andee's son. This Sunday Andee passed away, most likely from a stroke. There, the easy part is over.

I sent this out as an email this on Monday after I personally notified the people that I could. I will try to find others to send this too but I would ask you to send it on to anyone that you think I missed.

We should not feel to much sadness at this ending. We should fell happiness that Andee got to spend extra years, that she did not expect to be living, in what was to her a little paradise. She had many friends in the town, Chacala, and meet and gained friends for all over the world. Over the years Andee has touched and helped many of us in our lives. As I said to her more that once "I am who I am because of you and I am pretty happy with that." She tried to do good things to the world whether that was the glorious plants, the work she did with those that needed help, and just the people around her.

Andee was a private person about her difficulties but I think that at this point she would want it known why she moved down to Mexico, if she did not well I am sure she would have forgiven me. For a few years before she left, to Mexico, she was having issues with her memory and this drove her find a place that she could live and not be to burdened by this. Chacala provided this place for her and allowed her to live her last years as had she wanted. We should all be so lucky.

I will be traveling down to Mexico tomorrow (Tuesday) to take care of things. Tom my father and her ex-husband will be traveling with me. Andee largely left it up to me with what to do with her remains and I had discussed my plans with her on my trips down there. She will be cremated and we will spread some of the ashes there in Chacala. I also plan to spread some in a few locations in eastern Washington in the spring, some time around late June.

As to celebrations we all know Andee would not want a big fuss to be made, we had to sneak birthdays parties on her after all. I do hope to arrange something for June when I spread the last of her ashes. I do not know what this will be or where but I will let people know. In the mean time I would ask you all to do something good for the kid, cat or plant closest to you and have Coke. I think that she would like that.

To all of her blogger friends I will be updating her blogs in the next few days to let every one know. I plan to leave most of them online.

I can be reached at

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bamboo Right in Front of Me

A few weeks ago I took the collectivo from Chacala out to the Crucero de Chacala. The Crucero is the place where the Chacala road meets the main north/south highway to Tepic and to Guadalajara. It consists of about 40 fruit stands along the highway, a nice motel, and few places to each and a couple of basic restaurants.

At the Crucero I caught another collectivo to my favorite nursery, just north of La Penita. The total ride is about 20 minutes. Maybe a little longer.Rancho Las Palmas is the vivero managed by Benjamin. He’s been at the nursery for almost 15 years and is very friendly and helpful. They don’t have many fru-fru plants (flowering annuals) at Benjamin’s. But there are some, and the other plants are very healthy and about 25/30% cheaper than the other local Nursery, near the Pemex station.Anyway. I was there looking for bamboo and whatever, and hoping for succulents (only some lovely white and some rose colored Desert Rose/Rosa del Desertio/Adenium Obesium plants), and some smaller leafy type palms. The Desert Roses were large size-$20mx ($2us) for the pink and $70mx for the white. I guess because they are new here I guess. Or maybe new everyway. Don’t know. No palms in my price range. Under $40mx. ($4us).But I got some bougainvilleas for $15mx and $20 and a beautiful deep maroon geranium, like the one I got the other trip. And some portulacas and a small palm. Don’t know what kind.

No bamboo of any kind. I would have been nervous planting some anyway because of not having labels on the plants and not knowing how invasive a particular bamboo might be.

Then I bought my eight plants and I walked out to the highway and waited in the shade for the next collectivo. If they aren’t packed to the gills the driver will usually let you take almost anything on the collectivos. Including 5 big and three littler plants.
It took me a few minutes of standing in the shade to realize the shade was being provided by a giant stand of medium diameter bamboo. I couldn’t believe I hasn’t noticed the bamboo stand before. I have stood under the shade of this plant a dozen times, at least. And driven by in on the bus maybe 100 times.I have this maybe genetic longing for bamboo. My mom loved it too, and so did my Swedish granddad on my father’s side. I think the stalks are so graceful and lovely, swaying in the wind. And the leaves rustle so sweetly, and the colors of the stalks are so beautiful. I think Bamboo is my favorite group of plants. Maybe even more favorite than succulents.

Bamboo is sooooo useful. Bamboo grows all around Chacala. And is used everywhere in Chacala. Used in construction and decoration and making furniture, fences, and for all kinds of things. I walk the beach most days. Especially after storms. There are often some bamboo poles thrown up on the sand after storms. I drag them home. I keep thinking I will make something with them. But mostly I pass them on to people who remember seeing them on my staircase and who need a piece for something or other.I always keep my eyes open for stands of bamboo around here. But most clumps are owned, or at least claimed, by someone so I haven’t has a chance to collect a big stash yet. Or to transplant some into pots. But soon maybe. An almost empty collectivo came by after and few minutes, and took me to Las Varas. And then I caught another one for home. To Chacala. And I got home before dark. And the moon was out.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Walking Thru the "Jungle" in Chacala

I don't know why the areas of deep vegetation around Chacala are called the "jungle".
Well, it doesn't seem like "the woods", or the "forest", so maybe it's a good name. Chacala is surrounded by jungle, cattle range, fruit orchards, wild animals, birds, little monkeys (sometimes). The animals that I have seer are mostly smaller animals, similar to raccoons, possums, armadillos, and various cats. Some of which are pretty big. Bigger than I would want to me up face to face. The only time i was close to a wild cat there was a steel house door and heavily grated windows. He was very long and blank and tall. With huge claws and a long, thick tail. And big big glowing eyes. He was leaping about 12 feet into the air, trying to bat down the plastic garbage bag that was hanging from a beam over the patio. Scary.Anyway. Christmas Day I went for a nice walk up into the hillside above the south end of Chacala. Via path and dirt road. I was up there looking at three construction projects (ugh) and just looking around.There are orchards on that hillside. The guy who is trying to develop a 40 acre plot into rich people vacation homes has totally blocked off access to orchards (which are not on his land). Using stone walls. Very strange.
These three photos are of one of the fruits growing in the orchards. Another popular orchard fruit here is mango, and bananas. And there are papayas everywhere. Anyway. There are some very tall trees on that hillside, aside from the palms. I love this one, called a Limbo Gumbo. It looks like a peeling Madrone. If I sit quietly near these big trees, and be still, the natural sounds start up again. Bird songs and other sounds. And usually I end up seeing animals sleepings on tree branches, kind of hanging over the branches. And sometimes snakes wrapped arund the bigger branches. I have the feeling that when I am walking along and make noise, all the wild things hold their breathes, and stop moving, until they thing I have gone on by. But if I sit still and wait, they seem to forget about me and go about there business. I love that.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Catching Up in My Chacala Garden

I have hardly been blogging about my Chacala garden. Mainly because I was waiting for my replacement computer. Without it I have been spending time there. I am really pleased with how things are growing. also bought a really pretty deep purple geranium. I can't remember what's a geranium and what's a Cranebill (is that the correct name? Can't remember). Anywhere I love the color. $1us.
I have two sets of plants I grew from seed. I can't remember the names of the plants. Marta, from Mars Tres restaurant gave me the seeds for both. I think they are everday plants, even in the U.S. but I don't know either the Spanish or the English names.I bought a new little vine yesterday with kind of tubar yellow blossoms. I haven't looked for it in my book yet. Or planted it. It was 20 pesos, about $2us.The succulent has very similar blossoms to another plant that is growing all over my garden, but I think the leaves look pretty different. I love the blossoms. I have also been starting lots of plants from seed and cutting. I'll save that for another day.
MCM commented about this plant as follows:

"The succulent at the end of your post is Kalanchoe pinnata, sometimes called Mexican love plant -- according to Robert Lee Riffle (The Tropical Look), its probably originally from India, but now widespread throughout the tropics.

The other succulent plant with the similar flowers that you mention is a close relative (Kalanchoe grandiflora).

Another Kalanchoe, that I think you also have, has bright red flowers -- Kalanchoe blossfieldiana. That one doesn't reproduce quite as easily."

Crinium Blossoms in My Chacala Garden

I just added a couple of photos to this post.
My Chacala garden has three of these plants growing in it. They are growing bigger everyday, and are about 4 feet across and four feet high, not counting the blossom stem. Apparently they are Criniums. They seem to blossom either two or three times a year. I am going back to check my notes later. One just finished blooming, and the other just started.
The stalk seems to just shoot up overnight. After a couple of days they look like this.
Then in takes another few days to burst in huge blooms. The blooms are usually between a foot and 18 inches across. Maybe more. This is a totally new plant for me. The first time I saw this plant, I don't remember seeing it anywhere before, and I didn't notice the blossom until it was fully in bloom.
My plant book for this area, Linda Abbott Tripp's "Ornamental Plants and Flowers of Tropical Mexico" was created by a non-gardener. But has been very helpful for me when I am trying to identify a plant. Unfortunately the author doesn't use the Spanish names, which makes it difficult when searching nurseries. Otherwise it's very helpful.
The author says the Crinium is in the Amaryllidaceae family, and is also called Swamp Lily, and Milk and Wine Lady. It seems to like heavy dampish soil and grows from a giant bulb. I have tried various ways to propagate it without success.

I don't want to dig any of the plants up. They are very large. The strapping leaves are often about 5 feet long. I think they are spectacular looking and am glad my landlady planted them here. She thinks she planted one plant about 5 years ago. She doesn't know how the other plants grew up about 10 feet away. Neither do I, but I sure like them.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Plant on Playa Chacala

Yesterday morning I walked over to the home of one of my favorite landladies in Chacala. I love the new palapa and grass turf at Mirador. The palapa, and two of the unit units overlook the ocean, with a short staircase and a 50 foot walk to the big beach.As I was walking home along the beach, I noticed a plant I didn't recognize, and don't remember seeing before. On a talk stalk, behind a fence, just off the beach.
It was growing just inside the fenced off area of a small home. Actually kind of a dumping area from the beach. The soil seems to be basically sand. I tried taking photos from different distances, and angles. And with the light shining from different directions. I read about doing that in a "Gardener Gone Wild" post a few days ago.
But, of course, my photos didn't look anything like the author's, . But it was fun trying. I looked thru my books, but haven't looked on the internet, to see what this place it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Moving Plants Around in Chacala

Here is a hibiscus cutting and four Kalanchoes and three Aloe Veras are sharing a space.
Probably not a good plan.

I have been gardening in this space where I live in Chacala for about eight or nine months now. It was hard for me to get started here. I had lots of plants from my old place. Still in pots. But I couldn't figure out how to plant them. How to arrange the gardening space.

The space was a strange mess, with no topsoil and several levels plus two small hillsides. It was hard to figure out how to get started.But my gardening consultant(works for frozen lime cheesecake pie), Sherry Merciari, from Oakland, California, came over from next door (she's here for a month each winter), and scoped on the situation in two seconds. She basically said to make planting areas tucked in the five different flat spots. And that's what I did. With the help of her son Freddie, the famous stone worker.

I worked on things for about three months. Making beds with low stone walls to hold the dirt in. And a little bit of terracing off the hillside. Freddie did most of that. You can see from these photos that the different types of plants are all mixed together: succulents and regular flowering plants, shrubs and Criniums, a papaya, a Noni, Desert roses and cacti and Bird of Paradise, a rose, and Gardenia, etc etc. Succulents in soil that was too rich and wet. But they mostly grew anyway. Some rotted.

But I kind of got discouraged the day I came home and found that my landlady's boyfriend hauled off all the 105 large rocks I had collected from across the road. To finish terracing the hillside. And he used them to make a wall......never mind. it's too annoying to talk about. Anyway.I kind of lost interest for two or three months. Partly because of the trouble I was having protecting my plants. From the malicious anti-plant behavior on the part of the male members of landlady's annoying family.But I am really back in gardening mode. Two trips to buy plants, three sacks of good dirt, and three containers of cuttings from plants I already have or that someone gave me. And lots of little pots of rooted cuttings. And some plants started from seed.
This past year I have been treating my three main (small) gardening beds like places to stash plants, rather than a "garden" with a plan and some thought about how would look. I was trying to figure out what the different plants need for sun/shade, poor soil/rich soil, water/not much water, etc. And being kind of lazy.
My first three years in Chacala I had gardened almost entirely in pots. And you can just drag them to another spot if they don't look happy, or even change to soil. So gardening in the ground in Zone 11 or 12 has been a learning experience.I am starting to move things around. It looks like I am going to have a larger (still very small) bed and some hillside for the succulents, including cacti, And three other area for lush flowering and and non-flowering plants. There is room for both sun lovers and shade lovers I think. For shade and privacy. And because some of them were already planted, from when I lived in this place three years ago.
Those beds are out closer to the road. Then there are two other beds right up near the house. They have been mostly nursery beds. For transplanting cuttings to after they root. And for sticking plants I don't know much about. There are two bouganvilleas, three plumbagos, and an oleander, payapa, rose, another Gardenia and four huge flowering Criniums, and some other flowering plants along one side of that area.

I think I am going to use two smaller bed areas just for young plants from seed and cuttings. I moved most everything out of those two beds today. Except for the oleander, plumbagos, and bougainvilleas, which are kind of big to move. And they look nice from from on the road.
(Above)This is a photo of a bunch of Desert Rose (Adenium Obesum) cuttings I put in a bucket of soil last spring and forgot about. Their roots are so tangled together, I just planted them as one big plant.

So the next time I go out there to garden, I am going to continue shifting plants around. And plant my last large purchase. Another Desert Rose that I am going to use as a cutting plant.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Seeing Chacala

I often sit on the sand of Playa Chacala early in the morning. I love to watch the sunlight move across the water toward me. I usually remember how grateful I am that I live in such a beautiful place. And that I can see something new every day. Well, really, I can see something new every second, if I stop to take the time to look.But this morning I was triply thankful for my good fortune. I was watching three little kids, maybe 5-6 years old. They were into the water as soon as the sunlight crept up onto the beach.
A woman, their mother I assume, sat on a little low bluff about 50 feet from them. Watching over them and smiling.Several times I noticed on of the girls holding the boy's hand. I thought they looked sweet together. It look me a awhile to realize the little boy couldn't see. And that she was guiding him. I never would have guessed until I saw him up close. And then it was obvious.He was running in and out of the water, on the the smooth sand, enjoying the little waves rushing in and receding. They sat in the water, waist deep and dug little holes in the wet sand. These children were so full of life. Enjoying the ocean and the sand and the sunshine.I walked home in a much different space than I was in when I arrived at the beach. I felt overwhelmed with how much there was to see.I kept looking at all the plants in buckets and containers, in front of every house and restaurant. Every one is different. And many are filled what I still think of as houseplants.
But they grow out in the open here, year around. And often under difficult conditions. Sea spray, not enough water, blasting sunshine, and drowning in the rainy season.The containers in front of the yellow wall are set on the little landing to the restrooms at Chico's. The plants on the staircase are on the step's up to Socorro's daughters little home. These plants filled this little empty restaurant. It's only open during Semana Santa and Feliz Navidad/Ano Neuvo, when Chacala is packed to the gills with visitors from the inland states of Mexico.This container was in front of Augustine and Ana's house. And almost every yard has a chili plant. This huge one is also in front of Ana and Augustine's .It was a nice walk home. And I really enjoyed looking at my new plants as I walked up there steps to my place.Somehow I had never noticed this little papaya tree up against a fence. A very usual sight in Chacala. A wooden fence. Wood is rarely used in building in this part of Mexico. Too many voracious wood-eating insects. But here's a little fence section I never noticed before.