Monday, June 26, 2006

Gardening under the Coco-palms in Chacala

Looking up from my hammock on the beach in Chacala

This past winter I camped for six months on the beach in Chacala, right on the beach within a few feet of the high tide line. I was surrounded by coco-palms. I don't know anything about the names of different palms yet, but that's what people here call them.
Looking out from my table, at my beach camp.

I lived under a ramada made of palm fronds, hung my hammock between two palms, and loved the shade of the palms. And used dried fronds for fire starter, and trimmed fronds for lumber. I also had to watch for falling fronds. They are self-pruning, and when a 30 foot long palm frond falls off a tree, you better be out of the way. Also, the coconuts are always falling. One day one came right down thru my ramada (palm front flat-roofed shelter), and thru the rain fly on my tent, then the roof of my tent, and landed on my pillow. Luckily my head was conventiently located elsewhere at that moment.

Another time my two-year-old neighbor was standing in my camp, fooling with crayons. A large coconut fell thru the ramada and missed his head by two inches. Luckily his Dad was right there, and saw the coconut and Markito's tiny sandal prints inches away. Within minutes he was up the palm, barefoot, and hacking clumps of old coconuts off the tree.

The biggest learning experience for me about gardening on the beach is the impact of the salt water and the intensity of the sun reflecting off the water. I brought about 10 pots of plants from the other house. Some quickly didn't do well, and I gave them away.

After a few experiments I stuck to succulent-type plants, which seemed to best tolerant being 10 feet from the ocean half the day. I kept all the plant pots under the front edge of the palapa, facing west, so the plants only go a little direct sun each day. I even hung mosquito netting on that side of the ramada, mostly to protect me from the heat of the late afternoon sun, setting over the ocean. Also for the poor plants, which really took a beating.
Palm trees on the beach at Chacala

One day while I was living on the beach my landlady came over, and said "Venga", "come". So I grabbed by umbrella and she grabbed a little trowel and a wheelbarrow and off we went. To the shady damp area near her place. It used to be a stream bed, and usually is for awhile during the rainy season. Other times we have come here for wheelbarrows of dirt.

But today Esparanza had a new project in mind, transplanting coconut palm seedlings. I had noticed that occasionally on the beach there would be coconuts with foot-tall plants growing out of their shell. But when we got to the streambed I realized the ground was covered with sprouted coconuts, sitting on the damp earth. We picked up about 20, and then dug up some other plants. One looked like "Elephant Ear", but who knows. Whenever I ask for plants around here people are amazed I don't know, and then usually give me some name like "boy's bottom" or "dangling toe" or something. At least that's what it sounds like to me.

Anyway, we wheelbarrowed our treasures back to camp. Esparanza's house is on the beach road, and my camp was under a ramada between her house and the beach. When I first moved to the beach one of the family members told me that the family had planted all the 7o or 80 palms around their house about 20 years ago. I was amazed they were so big. Maybe 30 feet or more. Anyway, it turned out our project for the day to to re-plant palms where the Easter crowd (thousands of people camp on Playa Chacala for the two weeks of Easter/Semana Santa) killed about 10 of the smaller (two feet or so) palms she had planted last year during the rainy season. So we planted the sprouted coco's in the sand. No dirt. And my job was to water them everyday, with sweet (not ocean) water. Which I did. I haven't been back to check on them for a couple of weeks, and I hope they are doing okay.

1 comment:

Russ said...

Thanks for the link! Great to read about this side of your life in Mexico. Can we forward it to TIEG? It was 90F here today but it's still only zone 6.