Sunday, October 01, 2006

Slowing Learning About Gardening in Chacala Part 1

San Miguel de Allende has dancers that look like flowers to me.
That's my excuse for including them here.

In a couple of months I will have been living in Chacala for three years. And next month will be the 4th anniversary of the first time I saw Chacala, a couple of weeks after Hurricane Kenna arrived.

I came down with two roll-on suitcases and a little backpack. I had disposed of everything else I owned, and sold or gave away all my plants and garden stuff. I have visited other people who had moved to Mexico, and have seen that they brought lots of their old life with me. Somehow I didn't want all the props of my old life. I guess I wanted a clean start. I didn't know anyone in Chacala, and I think I was hoping to find new ways of relating to people and experiencing everyday life.A procession of indigenious dancers made it's way thru San Miguel this weekend
in celebration of St. Michael, the Archangel, I think.
I knew I wanted to garden in this semi-tropical climate, and I brought a few gardening things with me. Some flower and veggie seeds. A best, favorite hand trowel, my favorite, 22 year old little pruners, and two gardening books: "Tropical Gardening" (?) and "Cacti and Succulents".
That was it. I have added a few things to my gardening tools collection. One item is my big pruners, which my son brought down on his last visit. I think he say how quickly things grow here and thought I needed them. And two new gardening books. About gardening in tropical Mexico. And a bunch of pots, dirt, and plants. And a rake, and occasionally some plant food.

I didn't know how to approach gardening here. I knew I needed to observed how people garden here, and what plants grow here. But I also wanted some quick action. I think I wanted to show people I liked to garden alot. My lovely first landlady, Aurora, let me plant pots on the little patio in front of my room, and we built a big flower beds right in the front of the patio.Berta, the best gardener in Chacala, in my opinion, and I, and her boss, drove down to two plant nurseries near La Penita, and I bought whatever appealed to me. All my gardening spots were shady, but there were a few places on the front of Aurora's property for some sun loving plants. And I bought about 6 sacks of topsoil. The little van was totally loaded down. Berta and I probably should have taken the bus home, to save the weight. But at the time I had no clue we could just stand out on the highway and a collectivo would stop for us.I don't remember the look on Aurora's face when we arrived back at her place. She knew I was going to buy some plants, and almost came with us. But something came up. I was pretty excited. I imaged she thought I was out of my mind. We unloaded the plants, dirt, and pots I had bought. I did notice Aurora seemed a little overwhelmed.

I hadn't learned yet that people in Mexico, at least in rural Mexico, are very very polite. And almost always say whatever they think you want to hear. "Yes, I will be here to work tomorrow". "Your electricity will be hooked up this afternoon". "I will be here tomorrow to fix the leak in your roof". I finally figured out it's better to have them set the date, and time, with no prompting from me. People seem to be more likely to show up is they set the date. Which makes sense. I would never know what other commitments a worker or foreman has. How could I? All I know is I want my problem dealt with first. Usually doesn't work out that way, in my experience.

I spoke about ten works of Spanish, including "Coca Cola", but Aurora and I agreed to think about the plant "manana". "Manana" actually seems to mean anytime in the future. Which works for me too, now that I understand it.The next morning we kind of looked at each other, and all the plants and started laughing together. It was a Saturday and her daughters, about 8 and 11 were home. It turned out Erika was really into plants, and she started potting up some of the plants in some hanging planters. Aurora and I sat on the patio, and she told me which plants needed sun, shade, and so one. Mostly by sign language.

Then, thank goodness, Mishwa showed up. She is from San Francisco, and had been coming down to Chacala, for long visits, with her young son for years. And she spoke some
Spanish. And was willing to help us get going. So we moved plants around Aurora's "yard" and finally came up with a plan. We planted about half the plants and tucked them into their spots.Then, over the next week or so, we, mostly Beto (Aurora's wonderful husband), dug the holes with a pickaxe, and we planted the rest of them. I was anxious to pretty up the area next to the street. We planted more bouganvilleas, plumbagos and hisbiscus, and a few other plants that didn't make it thru the first year. Aurora let me build a small rock retaining wall at the south edge of the lot, and we put four or five plants there that have done very well. In fact almost all those plants did well, and it makes me feel good to walk by, or sit and visit and admire the plants.


Ulla said...

This blog is amazing! I just suscribed on bloglines to it. Love the pictures and the idea of gardening in an arid environment.

Pam/Digging said...

I enjoyed reading about your first gardening experience in Mexico . . . by sign language, no less. Funny and sweet. I also love your photos of dancers in San Miguel. My husband and I visited San Miguel de Allende last March and enjoyed its beauty and its people.

Good luck with your new garden.

LostRoses said...

I'm glad you included all the photos of the feathered dancers. They remind me of flowers too! As for your first adventures gardening in Mexico, you are one intrepid lady!