We went down to our place very close to the Tropic of Cancer so as to relieve our caretaker and manager who had been "under house arrest" for three weeks. He never really complains about the longish stays, and there is plenty to do around the adobe house, the grounds, and the surrounding area. It is said with a bit of humility on the part of your humble servant that our"Man Everyday" has considerable status in the greater area because of his position as the "Encargado (Man in Charge)". He is remarkably talented in the blue-collar skills as well as being, although slightly presumptuous, a polished social engineer. He is very courtly and polished in manners and compliance, as well as just arrogant enough to draw the line when he finds any untoward conduct or activity at our place or the neighbours' places.
This particular stay proved to be a bit challenging due to the cold (temperatures ranging between 38F to 58F for the 9 - day duration). When mixed with the almost continuous foggy, drizzly, and solid cloud deck even our thick adobe walls could not keep out the dank, chilly invasion into the interior of our abode. True enough, I was too cheap to burn a lot of fire-wood or run a medium-sized electric heater or turn on a kitchen burner under a kettle of water continuously as a warming measure. But now, think of the money that was saved. Now, if I can only get out of this Sasquatch suit.
Suffice to say, I did dress in three or four layers deep of winter-type garb, turning my image into something like a 490-pound Sasquatch…especially when I had my (mainly bald) head covered by both a wool pull-on hood and the hood of my Sasquatch coat. It is somewhat humiliating, to be sure, to note that the workers at the Hacienda de La Vega worked every day with a light windbreaker or even in short sleeves, without complaint or even mention during this whole episode.
|This outpouring of real-live, native, wild garlic|
vine blooming a few feet from the South end
of our long, west-facing corridor.
During a brief period of a bit of filtering light from "above", El Gringo Viejo happened to make a fairly nice capture of the tropical "garlic vine" putting on its show.
The plant gains its name among the locals due to the pronounced scent one can detect by handling the leaves of the plant. The flowers themselves do not seem to attract bees or butterflies to any level beyond the occasional, almost accidental encounter, or so it seems to me. The flowers also have a hint of garlic on them…nice for the living room.
Black-tailed squirrels seem to enjoy the scent, or perhaps they use some ingredient in the plant that keeps the squirrels' blood pressures in check. Small birds and, of course, the ubiquitous swarms of hummingbirds revel in any display.
|This is my photo, which I consider to be excellent, mainly|
because any photo that has any focus at all is a success
We managed to take three or four pictures that came out perhaps half-way decently. It was not really all that humiliating for my boss-lady to show me pictures that my daughter took up in Extreme Central Texas that were better by a wide margin. Those two women…actually all the people in the world, apparently, can take and trade out photographs in seconds…any of which can humiliate anything this writer can produce. All of the pictures on this page, however, are made under auspices of this writer (except for the one below the Monarch).
To the reader's left, one can see an interesting phenomena. This is a Monarch queen, on a very cool day, fluttering around for literally hours. Sometimes she had friends and family around, sometimes she was alone. Several times there were a score or so dancing around the several scores of Butterfly Weed, bringing to mind the scenes around Angangeo (aha gahn GAY oh), Michoacan, in central Mexico during the depths of Winter, one of several places where billions, literally, of Monarchs pass their time waiting for the northward return in late January through mid-March. They would latch on to one another, forming long, long beards made entirely of slumbering Monarch Butterflies.
|An example of Monarch "beards" near Angangeo, at|
around 8,500 feet above sea level, and only about 80
miles west of Mexico City
When we put the adobe Quinta in place, those first years were replete with massive flights of Monarchs and Sulphurs. Then we had a gradual decline, until finally, around 2006 - 2009 one could not count on seeing a Monarch during the entire day. Sulphurs arrived in great numbers as usual but not the Monarchs.
Your writer conducted several excursions back in the 1980s to the preserves in the Angangeo area. It was not an easy excursion, but the people seemed to really enjoy it. One of the problems with it was the fact that in order to reach the centre point of the congregation of Monarchs…(and only Monarchs), the people had to walk at high elevation for about 2.5 miles each way. We would brief them about medical issues and about being certain that they were capable of such exertion. Luckily we did not have a significant medical incident in any of the excursions.
During the period from 1995 through 2010 there was, increasingly, considerable "timber poaching" by illegal "forest workers" in areas that abounded in oaks, firs, spruce, and other noble trees that are both huge and old. That, as well as several super-cold episodes, had a deleterious effect upon the Monarchs. As usual, the "climate experts" and the other "environmental experts" assembled to repeat the truth, combined with comments about the newest murders of The Environment being committed by George Bush and the fascist Republicans and Rich people…and Evangelical Religious Nuts. Most of the experts announced that the Monarch was finished, and that global warming and the impending Ice Age would combine to kill off any remaining stragglers. And the Polar Bears, too.
The Tree Huggers Association were about half-right and about half-wrong. Continue reading.
However, on the way to the dance, a strange sociological thing happened. Mexico's rural folk seemed to start being a little more committed to eleminating litter and such, and the timber poachers and buyers began to convert to becoming lower-case members of the burgeoning cartel rackets. That meant many of those involved in the poaching would be abundantly killing each other, leaving fewer timber poachers every year, especially since around 2006 or so. Currently, it is my understanding, that there has been significant improvement of forestry techniques.
Some real-live do-gooders with foundation money and other tax-based resources have had considerable positive effect. Also, the preservation of a common weed, called "milk weed" in the South and Texas has proven to be effective due to the work of local agencies and community folks along the "Monarch Highways."
We mention here that our "neighbour", the owner of the Hacienda de La Vega, worked directly in these matters when he was in charge of four States in the Mexican Union. He was essentially what we would title Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. That particular division, among other things, was tasked with the mission of re-planting, soil and air analysis, formation of ready and competent platoons and companies of men to attack forest fires in the rural areas, and many other improvements.
He also co-ordinated and even flew with American helicopter pilots (many, if not all, of these guys served in Viet Nam and the first Iraq War). Those Americans were part of a private contracting company that provided helicopter fire control throughout the North American Continent, (and yes, they were crazy). The Mexicans loved their performance and skill…our neighbour regarded them as though they were magic, like Angels. The platoons and companies of common Mexican rural workers and the work of the "Pilots Locos" (Crazy Pilots) reduced acreage loss by forest fire by 90% during our neighbour's tenure.
But I digress. There are other portraits of a semi-recluse's gardens and grounds. We urge, for instance, when planting Butterfly Weeds that it is good to cluster them, not too closely, perhaps 18 to 24 inches from one to the other. Plant as many as possible, because the more the offering, the more butterflies and hummingbirds one will have.
One can take note to the left, Butterfly Weeds, blooming fearlessly in the dead of Winter (almost). After investing a bit of a count, it was determined that at various points of the upper property we have about 300 of these plants.
Just behind the "castillo (castle)" is hiding what is revealed in the image just below, a red Shrimp Plant, catching a bit of sun like its neighbours. This is also a grand attractor of hummingbird, and to a lesser degree the butterflies.
|A relatively huge, one-plant only clump of a Shrimp|
Plant, guarding the entrance of the Quinta
We have had people drive by who are very local and asked permission to take pictures of the Shrimp Plant. I offered them some stems that Alvaro and I will root in brackish water (more soluble minerals) which we offer to people. It is necessary to wrap the lower stems with a paper towel that has been dampened for the trip home (usually 3 to 10 minutes), especially if the stem has already rooted.
The receiver of such a gift should place the stems in water for three days, while preparing a bedding or potting place. A good mix of some balance potting soil, or black river silt with about a 25% sand-silt to 75% black soil mixture. The Shrimp Plants are fairly aggressive and sometimes have to be cut back because they sometimes suddenly lurch out and eat the whole house.
We shall go ahead and shorten this ramble, leaving Prieto (Dark One) and his war wounds and his visions of Doggy Bone Treats and Gravy Train and a chance to sleep inside one more night to stay out of the cold, dancing through his head.
He has been a good dog, but it is a bit sad when he looks around for previous visitors who are less frequent during the past three or four years. He knows they will come back and we have had more inquiries as of late, but for now he is glad to have a really nice place to call home…and heck, he has a crystal, spring-water swimming pool (the Rio Corona) just a two-minute slow walk from his front gate.
He has a "back way" as well, but he goes through there when he wants to taunt the squirrels or, as dogs are prone to do, poke around, sniffing, and being disgusting like dogs are. But that's what makes them "Man's Best Friend" I guess.
We have been asked about Prieto's recent declaration about running for the Senate for one of Tamaulipas's three Federal Senators' position in the coming by-elections, but we actually learnt that he may be disqualified because he has too much clandestine American money invested in his campaign fund. He also has been accused of lying about his Cherokee Ancestry. It's a small world.
Enough of the "intimate views" of transitional Seasons in the area of the Haciendas de La Vega and Santa Engracia, and the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre. Remember our address…Somewhere in Rural Mexico, at the base of the high mountains, where once every two or three years it can be pretty darned cold.
To-morrow we have an active day of it…after Mass…we get to go the the "Going Away Party" of our present Priest. He is actually going into retirement…fishing and hanging around, and so forth. He is still relatively young and serviceable, so he will probably be sought out as a "visiting Priest". He has been a hard worker and an excellent officiant.
As always, we appreciate everyone's time and attention, OROG and visitor alike.
EL GRINGO VIEJO
Addenda: A note from two of our best and most loyal friends and clients (always appreciated by El Gringo Viejo.)
Thank you for the updates from your beautiful place in Santa Engrasia and our friend, Alvaro and the wounded, mighty Prieto. Speaking of the monarchs, when I was a youngster living in the mountains of NC, my Dad had a strong pair of binoculars. As the comet Kohoutek was all in the news, binoculars were the things of fashion in 1973. Well, one afternoon as I was glancing at close-ups of all things imaginable, I happened to glance straight up into the sky. To my utter amazement, I saw a butterfly unseen to the naked eye. Then I saw another, then another. It turned out that it was a virtual butterfly highway up there. The only way you could see them was with the aid of the binoculars. We, evidently, were on one of the many routes they take south. Love to all in your home and may your Advent be an adventure towards His perfect light.
With great affection,M and A