Monday, 13 September 2010

Bits and Pieces

     Time has come to start packing up for another trip down to our little mud house.   There were some questions about things in previous posts that I need to answer.....along with a couple of points that needed to be fleshed-out a bit.
My comadre (once again, she is the mother of my son-in-law) in her excellent reportage of the stunning rainfall event that hit Central Texas last week made some reference to her mother and father's place....quite a high end retirement area not far from all concerned.     She lives about 14 miles from her parents and about 12 miles from my son-in-law & daughter & granddaughters.    Her father is nearing 90, and like her mother, is quite active and alert.   I would like to point out that her father was one of the "young guns" so to speak of World War II .... piloting  a B-17 over Europe....Germany in deliver preliminary foreign aid to the human race by helping in the eradication of a particularly objectionable type of socialism. 
An unlikely bunch hiding out on the patio of my
compadre's balcony-patio, overlooking a magnificent
view of the Texas Hill Country.    We are (l to r) my
compadre, my son, my son-in-law, and the Old Gringo.

      Because of his efforts, along with 59,000 pilots and crewmembers of American bombers who died trying, the German Workers' National Socialist Party came to an end in 1945....and the world (along with Germany) has been better off .   My compadre (his son is my son-in-law) could not serve in the real military, so he was honorably discharged from the Navy....I am honorably discharged from the real military, so I was in the Army.   My son is honorably discharged from USCoast Guard....which I guess is good enough because they are the only service that is at war at all times....(He was in Baltimore during the 11 September 2001 situation...imagine).

     Anyway....all levity aside....we are a pretty dull, reasonably militarist bunch of people....and we look forward to the future while checking the rear-view mirror frequently.    I am blessed by their existence and incorporation into my orbit.
     Now, we have events coming up at the Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre, so time has come to start buying dogandcat food and a few provisions that will be better obtained "here"  as opposed to "there".     Among other things that might pertain to "there",   I shall have to find a muffler for my old chariot.   That will be done down in the area...not far from the Quinta.   Oddly, one of the little industries in the "community" is the fabrication of mufflers and tailpipes.   They are quite good and are bought by "city people" from Victoria and even the Monterrey area.  Installation usually takes about 20 minutes and the cost is...let me say...reasonable.
     Beyond that,  these are the times to prepare for folks who will be coming out to see the literal fog of Monarch Butterflies which will begin next week and continue on through early December.    The peak will be early October through mid-November.   If it stays warm, then the flights will extend into the December dates.   I have had a lot of folks from the Monterrey area in years past....and there are several people requesting reservations down there for use of the Quinta.   Alvaro always becomes huffy and exasperated when people call and want the impossible...."We only have 17 people..." "We have to have our tacos made a certain my mommy did..." "It really doesn't matter just two cigarettes before we go to sleep....We can leave the window open"...."No,no...our children are different...yes, I know they broke everything the last time...but they are totally different now...I promise they won't stuff towels into the toilet this time".....
     For some reason when I say..."No smoking children.....two people at a time....a third person is permitted if related....we serve what we serve, please advise in advance  if you have medical, dietary conditions.....Three nights is a minimum stay".....Then there is no problem.  
       Even after owning and operating an excursion company for many, many is admitted that for the first couple of years with the Quinta,  we had a bit of a problem enforcing our rules...But not now.   It occurred to me that we built the place....we paid for it, we did all the legal work....we should also defend it and require what is required to ensure its defence and maintenance.  
       Perhaps it is because this is more "something to do" than something that has to make money.   Perhaps it is because I am just a cranky old codger who has a bit of hermit's blood.    But....the people who stay with us always seem to think that we are very generous and kind....perhaps they just do not know the  "Real( inner) Old Gringo" .
     We shall make a few further comments in the next couple of days, so readers might want to check back....or forward questions....because I should be out for a couple of weeks or more before a brief return in October....
15 September 2010

(This will link you all to the tropical involvement referenced in this blog addenda.)

     We are really back into watching the weather again.   The Rio Grande dams are releasing again.....just in case....and Tropical Cyclone Karl is taking aim at somewhere around Tampico and points north.    The fear is that there is considerable possibility that the storm remnants might move up to the northwest and rain itself out  in the Rio Grande watershed.   Tomorrow, I will be driving a day or two ahead of landfall closer to the belly of the beast, so I should have some interesting stories upon my return.    We have already been through a couple of these storms so far this season, so whatever was going to have been damaged, has been damaged.   Therefore, I am not expecting much out of this even if it goes over us.   The real problem will be if, in fact, it does move up along the face of the Sierra Madre Oriental.   The rainfall totals of these systems can be staggering, as we have seen this season and several times over the period of recorded history here.
      More later.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wow! Rain, Rain...are you here to stay?

     So, while I was worrying about me, myself, and I...suddenly  the little tropical storm...almost a category I hurricane....slices in from the Gulf, moves due north...against all predictions..including mine .....deluges San Antonio, then Austin....including all the other usual suspects....San Marcos, Round Rock, and essentially the entire Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, DFW Interstate 35 corridor with rains over two days approaching 20 inches in many places.    Flooding of major creeks and even some middle-sized rivers is well underway and the Interstate was shut down overnight at more than one of them being in downtown Austin....which is, for those who are unaware, the Capital of the Republic of Texas. 
      I think it should still be at Washington-on-the-Brazos....but that's an argument for another time.    All my children and grandchildren live along the IH35 it has been an interesting say the least.

UPDATE:    This was sent towards late morning from my comadre (which actually means that her son is my son-in-law).   It speaks to the issues in and around Central Texas
 At present, it's still raining cats and dogs! We have received about nine inches of rain so far. At 1:45 this morning, the heavy rain was producing a full fledge water fall down the stairs from the patio on top of the hill. I could not begin to see the rock stairs, as the water was tumbling so fast and deep. All drainage systems worked perfectly, a tribute to Joe, our gifted rock man.
Talked to Dad, in Sun City Georgetown, his rain gauge registered thirteen inches this morning!
The creek beyond the field, beyond their back yard, was so high that dad could see large tree limbs and logs floating by at a fast clip, and much of the field was under water.
Schools are closed, as is the collage, due to two feet of water on campus. I 35 was closed down also, due to water over the freeway. It's probably open now. And it continues to rain, with the down pour due to start around eleven, this morning!

Give my soggy best to the family, glad the hut didn't, have to endure more heavy rain.
This above-entered cut/paste is to give an idea to those of you who have written or called about what was/is going on in the Trans-San Antonio/DFW area.
As a bit of additional information, my son took this picture from his place of residence in San Marcos earlier on the morning of this day.  This is being written at around 18:30 hours, and I believe this picture was taken during the mid-morning.   It has continued to rain here and there, and on and off during the day in most of Central Texas and Northcentral Texas.   Wowsers!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Freshening-up of the Webpage...Quinta Tesoro de la Sierra Madre, Welcome! You have arrived at the end of the road.

It took a bit of a struggle, but I have succeeded in doing a bit of revamping of our website.   It is terribly homespun....but it gives me a bit of pleasure to fiddle with it.   It seems that something can be learned with each conquering of some apparently insurmountable obstacle.
     I have finally decided to firmly enforce the rule of the three night minimum stay.   We are a rural bed & brunch facility and not a motel.  As a tourism operator for two or three hundred years, it is just not in my blood or bearing to just give people a place to sleep and shower out.   It is not rewarding and it is terribly cost-prohibitive.   Plus, since we guard reservations, I have had to refuse my week-long guests because I had made a commitment to someone who had asked for a stay of one or two nights.   It is not fair to the folks who abide by the house rules to be punished by my own failure to enforce my own well-founded rules. 
     So....considering the fact that my people who are coming are wading through all kinds of bad (and frequently misleading) news....I shall renew and deepen my bond with them.
      We are still more than happy to answer the questions that come our way.   We continue to long for the moment when we can establish real-time computer response down at the Quinta.   Until then, Diana will continue to respond to those who have questions that need answering or who have news that needs to be shared.
Once again and as always, thanks for your time and interest.
The Old Gringo

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Unwanted Brilliance

     Among my many shortcomings is the ability to gloat about being right.    Hooting and tooting about "shovel ready projects" and budget shortfalls of one administration when compared to the budget Niagara-falls of the next are my specialty.   But analyzing weather developments ahead of the public and private services is my real downfall.   Saint Peter will leave me, at best, in Purgatory.
     In any regard, we are awaiting the further development of a weather system that might or might not have something to do with that which concerns us most at these hours.     All the reservoirs in the Rio Grande's watershed are either full or well beyond capacity.   A tropical low is getting its act together, after crossing over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, from the Pacific Basin into the Atlantic Basin.   As it crossed it entered into a massive aggregate of moisture at all levels that began as Tropical Depression V almost two weeks ago.   This little system was supposed to further destroy the northcentral Gulf Coast and aggravate the "oil spill problem".    Of course, since George Bush did not have time enough to do nothing about it, both the system and almost all the damage left the area or dissipated.   The remnant of the system has dwelt and/or circulated through Dixie and the Gulf until now encountering a provocateur.....which is this little low from Tehuantepec.
     We literally must be and are awaiting its development and direction of movement.   The winds will not be the problem....but rather its slow movement and amount of potential precipitation.    Rainfall could be torrential.    You all can read about the effects of the last round we had with one Category II hurricane (Alex), and one tropical depression (#4) back in July and August. 
      Before anyone says anything about Glacial Melting and Al Gore...please be aware that many a Spanish galleon was sunk because the captains said.."You know, since that hurricane went by, we're not going to see another let's get this gold and silver to Huelva and head for the saloons in Madrid!".     The period in the 19'teens and the 1890' well as the episode of 4 storms landing within 60 miles of the mouth of the Rio Grande in 1933 will disallow any notion that failure to ratify the Kyoto treaty lead to where we are to-day.
Thank you, once again, for your time and interest.
The Old Gringo 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's an Adventure

     During the past few days things have become increasingly interesting at our place.   As those of you who follow our ramblings know, we are situated in the Municipio de Hidalgo, Tamaulipas.   To review a bit, a municipio in Mexico is equivalent to what we call a county.   It comes complete with boundaries, definition of legal and constitutional responsibilities, and so forth.  It also has officers, elected and appointed.   The head of the municipio is elected and holds the title and office of Presidente Municipal.    Our presidente municipal was assassinated three days ago, probably by Zetas...not far from his home in the county seat in Hidalgo....his ten year old daughter was wounded...but not critically.   

A Bit of Background and Orientation 
     So that the reader will not assume that my area is consumed and totally dedicated to illicit and violent activity, I shall try to give a little better orientation concerning our social and cultural and economic environment. 

     My municipio is a fusion of small towns and ejidos (a description of 'ejido' can be found on our website) and extended properties known as "parcelas".   Almost the entirety of the Municipio, back in the period before 1920, was essentially the property of two Haciendas.    One was the 500,000 acre Hacienda de Santa Engracia and the other was the Hacienda de la Meza, a ranch of some 700,000 acres.   Together, one could say that two families essentially owned about 1,200 square miles.   The aforenamed ejidos were drawn out of those properties during the Agrarian Reform conducted from the mid-1920's up until nearly 1950 in this area.    Although still rural in many ways, the population of about 100,000 appears rustic, but is actually relatively urbane.
     This municipio is reliant upon intensive farming of jalapenos,  tomatoes, garbanzos, corn, squash & pumpkins, and other such crops.   It is famous for the production of citrus, including Valencia and navel oranges, Persian limes (aka-saloon, Italian, or seedless limes), red and ruby red grapefruit, and of course, corn and sorghum.   Another multi-million dollar industry in this municipio is fish farming....once dedicated to a bit of catfish diversified into catfish, tilapia, and crawdad (crayfish) operations.    In the contiguous municipios of Padilla, Hidalgo, Villa Gran, and Guemez (estimated combined  population - 200,000) these productions amount to about 2,000,000,000 (two billion) pesos per year, in recent years.   This would be equivalent to around 140,000,000 (one hundred and forty million) American dollars.
      The Municipio de Hidalgo has a very important religious site....the Basilica of El Chorrito...which is a very pleasant pilgrimage center where Catholics, other Christians, and other observers come in droves...several hundred thousand per pay homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary and honor her apparition at a spring on the face of the Sierra Madre Oriental.   That, coupled with outdoor tourism, huge counts of bird and butterfly species, and other natural attractions fold into the mix of Hidalgo's economic fabric. 
     All of this activity represents a fairly solid base of income and profit for the locale.....something equivalent to a bit more than 700 dollars per every man, woman, and child in the trade area. Other activity, such as transportation, mechanical repair and maintenance, water and irrigation works, education outlays,  retailing, services, government infrastructural outlays & maintenance (Electrical, gasoline and natural gas sales and transmission), and other activity account for another 4,000,000,000 (four billion) pesos of activity.   This would, obviously, be about 1,400 dollars for every man, woman, and the four contiguous municipios.
      About 400 men leave annually and return from the United States....principally to places in North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.....on long-standing labour contracts.  These fellows are provided transportation to and from their homes and their place of work, and paid between 8.50 to 12.50 per hour....on 30 to 44 hour weeks....usually for a period of 3 to 5 months, depending upon the work issue facing the companies which contract them.    During the rebuilding of New spite of a significant available labour pool....there is actually a shortage of people willing to work, even at the rate of 13.00 dollars per hour for basic hand labour.   So some of the workers from this area were "re-recruited" for temporary construction and demolition work in the New Orleans area.   There was not so much call for them in the surrounding parishes or Mississippi....almost exclusively in New Orleans.
    Overall, most of these workers are "repeaters" and all have their work they go and come legally to and from Mexico and the United States.  These fellows send what are called "remesas" which are money orders and bank transfers from their worksites to their homes in the amount of about 2,200,000 American dollars per cycle.  While this income is small compared to the other income generated in the area under concern, it does impact, very significantly, 300 or so families in a profound way.   In this way it also lends to stabilizing the society and allowing for the further sense of a kind of, what I call,  "dull prosperity" in the area.    These fellows who come and go are generally highly regarded in the community.   They are almost always requested by name by the American companies because of their reliability and due to the common characteristic that  mark both Mexican and American....of the social attachment of familiarity and trust which leads to a form of friendship and self-interest bonding. 
      Recruitment is efficiently conducted by the same members of the team who have worked on this contracted basis for various years.     A man is almost always quietly called from "the crowd" a friend or relative...only if it is certain that he (1) will not shame the referring party by degenerate behaviour,  (2) learn quickly and work hard, (3) be punctual to arrive at work and not so punctual to leave (4) that he will not become homesick and, (5) he will not drink too much, or become involved in issues requiring police processes.  
     After 3 to 5 months of absence, these folks return via a fancy bus and are received at the plaza like soldiers returning from Baghdad....and then they can lay around for the rest of the year...or drive a harvest truck for the citrus processing plants....or work on a construction project....fix up the old pick-up, put a new room on the house....or whatever.    It's actually a pretty good life, save for being two or three thousand miles from home for a good part of the year. 

     So, as one might note, 99.999% of our time in the area is boring.   There is a lot of hard work.   Pleasures are fairly simple.   Too many of the men hang around the beer depositos (usually Corona, but Carta Blanca has its share) and drink beer too much, especially on weekends.  Too many of the women gossip too much....but only on weekdays and weekends.    At least they only gossip on Christmas Day when it falls in December, (old local joke).

     And....oddly enough....I have communicated with a few  new Gringos who have moved into the general area in the last two months....semi-retired and retired gentlemen....moving into rural environments with magnificent geographical backdrops, good basic  public services, and inexpensive to reasonable living expenses.     That is after about a year of no such contacts with new people.     So...go figure.
     When Hillary Rodham sends me my new passport (the old one expired), I shall have to be travelling back down...with and other supplies and goodies.... and to deal with my public and clients.   And, yes, I actually look forward to it.   

Once Again...thank you for your time and interest
The Old Gringo