Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bringing New Cacti Home to Chacala

This is a piece of thread art created by a Huitchol Indian, who live in Nayarit and Jalisco.
They were being sold at the market today.

I left Chacala early this morning. I went to the street market in the neighboring town, La Penita, this morning. It's about 12 miles away, but it's a two-taxi/collectivo ride each way. I wanted to be home by 10:30am because I was expecting some company.

So I left home at 7:15am and caught the collectivo that takes the private school kids to Las Varas. And got out at the highway. And stood there for about two minutes, when another taxi that does the Las Varas-La Penita run, came by. It took 22 minutes to get from Chacala to La Penita, for 25mx/2.25us.
I was shopping mainly for plants and for a couple of new shirts and some shorts. I don't have a lot of clothes. So they get worn and washed a lot and only last a year or two. Found a couple of shirts I liked, tropical cotton shirts, and a pair of shorts. All recognizable brands from the US. But the price has risen because gringo season has started around here. Instead of being 40 pesos a piece, they were 50 pesos each (formerly 3.60us, now 4.50us). Still pretty good.

Then I moved on the plaza where there are vendors who come especially for the gringo season. About late November thru late March. I was looking for plants, maybe succulents. And my neighbors from last summer, Juan and Zule.

Found two of the three vendors right off. My favorite plant seller, a middle-aged woman, was nowhere in sight. She has her own little plant nursery and I really enjoy being around here. But the two guys who buy plants from wholesalers were there. They don't know the names, but they do know the prices. This time they were all 10-12 pesos. 90 cents to 1.10us each.
They had the strangest looking succulents I have seen.
Peculiar blossoms. Very odd.

Finally a nasty mouthed woman, said to her friend, in English, "Those idiots (the vendors) put fake blossoms on those cactus." In a very loud voice. So I put my glasses on, and sure enough, there were fake blossoms.After the lovely ladies left, the vendor told me the decorated plants were for Christmas and were very popular.Then we removed the "blossoms" from my plants so he would use them on some other plants.I found Zule and Juan hanging out with their musician and jewelry making friends. They lived downstairs from me for a couple of months this past summer. That was their "vacation". Meaning they sold pineapple "salads" from 10am to 7pm on the beach. From a rolling cart.When they are not on vacation, they sell pineapples at a beach closer to home. About 7 miles from Chacala. At the Playa de Naranjo. The beach area was just sold off to the highest bidder and all the restaurants and cuestos (shops in shacks) were bulldozed.So Zule and Juan are looking for another location. Right now they are back in Chacala on weekends.

I looked around for a few other things. Some coloring books and crayons for visiting kids. And some bright colored handtowels, and headed home. was home by 10:15am. Not a bad trip. I got 15 new little succulents,. some of them cacti for 15omx/$15us. No more spending money this month. Th spending spree is over for now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Planting my New Plants in My Chacala Garden

Here is one of a about 8 Kalanchoe plants, from last spring. I guess these are blossoms. The little gobules are empty, mostly. A few seem to have seeds.
When I woke up this morning, I wasn't the least bit surprised to see another sunny, blue sky, day in Chacala. I got busy doing anything but gardening. Like taking photos of a newly painted house, to send to the homeowner, as requested by the painter. And cooking a big double chicken breast, and a pan of cornbread. And eating up half of everything.These photos are the plants I got yesterday, waiting to hit the dirt.
But, finally, by 3pm, the hottest and sunniest time of day, I decided it was time to plant my nurseries purchases from yesterday. It very hot, but not terribly humid. But I worked as fast as I could. I made new planting spots for the Kalanchoes. It turned out by the six pots held 16 plants. So I dug out more little nests in the rocky hillside. I watered the hose every three minutes, hoping to keep the scorpions at bay. They don't like wet, so I made thee whole are very wet. I planted all the little plants, and then planted three of the bougainvilleas.

One of the bougainvilleas is tucked into the hillside bed that I never got planted last spring. Then I cleaned off the rest of the bed and added gravel to fill in the holes between the rock. I got the gravel off the paved road. Well., next to the road, where there is a lot of gravel for some reason. And then added some topsoil. Tomorrow (as in "manana", as in "sometime in the future") I will plant the last two bougainvilleas in that bed. They are the long branched variety, and I hope they will covered the hillside with blossoms. That leaves the two Desert Roses. I am planning to harvest a bunch of cuttings off them in a couple of weeks, so I don't know if I will plant them right now, or where. I am feeling sort of satisfied with the planting stuff. Nothing like having sacks of nice topsoil to inspire me to get to work. I am hoping to go to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden next week, and to a few nurseries in PV, just to look around, and maybe spend what's left of my life savings, ($35us) on plants. Hopefully succulents.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday Morning, at the Vivero, Near Chacala

I woke up this morning, to another glorious Chacala day. It ended up the high was in the mid-80'sF. Clear and sunny with a light breeze. Cloudy in the late afternoon.
I decided it was a good day for a trip to the plant nurseries, located about 10 miles down the highway from Las Varas. That's the big city (12,000 pop.) where Chacala folks go to medical care, bank, ATM, paint, high school, the dentist, cell phones, long-distance buses, 3rd class buses and so on.

I got a ride with a taxi driver who had just dropped someone off in Chacala. He offered to take me to the two nurseries and wait while I chose my plants. For $150mx ($13.50us). since that included hauling 4 burlap sacks of nice soil, I accepted the offer. Taking the collectivo's etc would have been about $60mx ($5.40us), and I couldn't have brought home the dirt. So it seemed like a fair deal.

Besides, when I was getting dressed this morning, I found 2 -$ 200 peso bills folded in a tight little square in the pocket of some shorts I had washed last week. I can't imagine me folding money into a little square, so I don't know where it came from. Those bills are about $36US.
So I convinced myself it was okay to spend the money. And I did. On plants, dirt and the taxi.
The bags of dirt were $75 mx, ($6.25) and the plants were 260mx ($23.40). Plus a tip for the driver. Who kept me company while I selected the plants, and carried them out to the taxi.
First we went to Benjamin's vivero, just north of a row of fruit stands, on the east side of the highway just north of La Penita. I got 4 vine-type bouganvilleas and one bush type, 2 large Rosas del Desertio/Adenium Obesum/Desert Rose plants, and 6 Kalanchoe plants (in three colors). For about $19us. Actually I got a discount. I heard Benjamin telling the young guy who helped me say "discounto". My guess is I got the Mexican/locals prices. The plants are cheap anyway, but it's nice to get a deal. I took a bunch of photos of the place to have printed up for him, for a little thank you.
I actually prefer to go with the nurseries without a taxi guy waiting for me. Because then I can hang around and visit and watch how Benjamin's workers take cuttings, pot, and transplant things. He always has some guys doing that kind of work, and I love sitting there watching them. But when I am hauling dirt, I need some help. I can't seem to load big sacks of dirt into the collectivos very efficiently. Although I have done it before.
Then we went down the road a mile or so to the "Pemex" vivero. "Pemex" is the name for all the gas stations in Mexico. State-owned. And this vivero next door to "Pemex" station on the north side of La Penita.
I was hoping for some Portulaca's or some other succulents, but the lady said "Manana" and we laughed and laughed. She always says that, and they are never there on any of the mananas in the last year or so.
They did have these Kalanchoes. 25 pesos instead of the 12 pesos I paid at Benjamin's. Slightly bigger, but otherwise the same colors, etc. The woman on the right, the red hat, is the main customer service person at this nursery. And she's really fun to walk around the place with. She sometimes looks for some really ugly, half dead plant and offers it to me for a bargain price. Like 1 peso off. It's a joke. And she has given me cuttings from some plants. So that's nice.

We headed home. The taxi guy played a great CD and sang along with it. He was a much better singer than the CD singer. When we got back to Chacala, we put the plants on the stairway up to the garden at home. Along with the sacks of dirt.

Nice trip. Quick and easy. No waiting by the side of the highway for a taxi-van to come by. Some of the drivers have no interest in picking up a woman with 13 (some very large) plants surrounding her. Especially thorny bouganvilleas. Whatever.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chacala: Tree Roots Entwined in Rock Columns

For a short time Chacala was one of the earliest port on the central Pacific coast of Mexico to be used for unloading freight from ships arriving from Spain and the East. The freight was hauled to the Guadalajara area. And the ores and agricultural products being shipped back to Spain were hauled back to Chacala. Or on to Vera Cruz. It is a very protected little cove and a safe harbor for boats.Quickly, however, the ships began landing at San Blas, and later in Mazatlan. Both were closer to Guadalajara and had less mountainous routes.

There are a couple of structures in Chacala from those days. I think in the late 1500's or early 1600's, but I am not sure of that.There is a tobacco barn, which has been modernized repeatedly over the years, right above the dingy beach, and the little fishing boat docking area.Then next to that building are a set of stone columns from the same period (or earlier). Recently the owner had a lovely building constructed on the site. The structure leaves the columns mostly untouched, surrounding a lovely open patio.These photos of tree roots entwined in the rocks columns always catch visitors' eyes. They are very striking and unusual.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aurora's Garden in Chacala

Aurora is my next-door neighbor in Chacala. She was my first landlady, and is wonderful friend. This is a photo of one of her rentals, the one over her home.She and her wonderful husband, Beto, (above) have three kids, ages 13,15, and 20. All doing very well. Aurora has 4 very popular and affordable rental units, three built with an interest-free construction loan from Chacala's Techos de Mexico program. The fourth unit was built with a high intersst personal loan.In the past three years Aurora and Beto's garden has really taken off. It's very beautiful on the patios, and in front on the rental units.These house plants are about 20 feet long and tall. Lush and lovely.
The rental units have patios, and kitchens, and are only a little more than a block to the beach.

Aurora and I were walking on the south end of the beach one day and found some sprouted coconuts. We filled are arms with them and trudged home. Those palms are growing around the place now. And at my place too.
I love to watch how Aurora and Beto take care of their plants. The first time I saw Beto hack a lovely, 12 foot high, bougainvillea back to the ground I was appalled. And three weeks later it was blooming again. I have learned alot from Aurora and Beta, about many facets of life of Chacala.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Garden Blogging in Latin America, and Chacala

When I first started blogging I had just one blog, My Life in Chacala. A few months later I added a Chacala Vacation Rentals blog, and then finally, after a year or so, I added this blog.

At the time I wasn't aware of very many other bloggers-in-English writing from Mexico or Latin America..There may have been more, but the search vehicles weren't very helpful. Even the Google Blog Search, (original version) wasn't very helpful. But I was curious about other people's experiences in Mexico, and always was on the alert for gringas, or gringos. Especially for gardeners blogging in Latin America.

My impression is that blogging about gardening hasn't really taken off down here, in Mexico, or in Central America. At least not compared to expat "my adventure in xxxxx" type blogs, which have really burst on the scene in the last couple of years.
I remember when La Gringa and I first noticed each other's blogs. It was much fun to find a fellow blogger. A blogger friend. Particularly someone who gardened in an unfamiliar climate. In her case it was in La Cieba Honduras.

And I found Neo-tropical Savanna,, in Panama, and another blogger gardening friend.

And since then there have been lots and lots of blogs from people moving to Mexico. And a few gardener type bloggers in Latin America. Diane's blog about gardening in Baja was one of the first I found. Her photographs of cacti just knocked me out. Really lovely.
( I started finding more English language Mexico blogs, and a few Spanish language blogs and websites. And I especially looked for websites by photographers. Very inspiring. Larpman was one. And there are lots more.

I love having an internet connection at home. Now I have time to do all kinds of esoteric things on the computer. Like storing photos off my computer, and studying photography websites, late into the night. Sorting garden and blossom, tree and shrub and other garden photos into some kind of order.But the most fun has been sorting thru all the Bookmarks/Favorites I have been marking for the last year. Cleaning up the Garden websites and garden blogs. Re-visiting them and deciding whether or not to keep them on listed on my computer.

I deleted many that didn't interest me on second glance. And saved some pretty interesting websites. And blogs. A lot of the gardening blogs in English are for zone 2-7 gardeners, which usually are irrelevant for me. My first choice is reading about plants that do well here, in Zone 11. But I also enjoy the garden issues type blogs like Garden Rant and The Blogging Nurseryman. I know there are other also, but I am too tired right now.I love reading the posts where some one has just had an eye-opening experience, an awakening, about their new life. And my very favorite thing to read is about a gardener's small moment of personal, spiritual awakening. Someone having a new moment of awareness of some wonderful facet of their new life. Or a moment of being almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the natural world around them. The satisfaction of successfully negotiating a new hurdle in their new life.I started out this post thinking I would offer specific examples of various blogs where the author touched my heart. That sounds too much like doing research. But those little moments of connection and heart-felt recognition make my day. Reading someone else's story about how much there is to learn in this world, and how hard things are to learn sometimes, feels sort of reassuring to me. Keeps me going back to some blogs, again and again.And, of course, wonderful photos catch my eye too.

Palms Over Chacala

If I think of the one plant that really stands out in the Chacala landscape, it would be the Palm. They are everywhere, and they are used for everything. Except toilet paper, probably. You can eat it, drink the mild, build your house with it, make clothing and mats, and palapa roofs, Whatever you ant you can probably make it out of some part of the Palm.Fishing nets are woven on ropes stretched from palm to palm. The fronds provide shade to work under, and a place to anchor the ropes. Hammocks are hung from palm trunks. They provide shade for RV's, and even a coconut or two if you are quick enough to catch a falling coconut. They provide shade everywhere in Chacala. They shade paths.And are used to cover the roofs for restaurants.And palapa roofs.They provide fruit to eat. There are many different kinds of palms. Men climb up the tall palms to clear the coconuts.The rope you see isn't a safety line. It's to tie around the clump of coconuts. Then the guy on the ground slowly lowers the clump so the coconuts don't get cracked.
Many local people have little coconut plantations. They find sprouted coconuts here and there around town. And the keep then damp while they grow big enough to be transplanted. These plants are used along the beach, to hold the sand, provide shade, mark boundaries, and to replace aging palms. And probably for other things I know nothing about.