Sunday, 17 June 2012

Around the Quinta and the Area...a few bits of news

    The issues surrounding the Quinta....our little mud hut situated up against the front of the Sierra Madre Oriental....continue to be quite mundane.   Repairs, cleaning, refreshing, and feeding the beasts take up a lot of time, especially for someone as lazy as the Gringo Viejo.   A little new news is that the HEB-Plus Grocery Store that had been scheduled for opening on the 1st of June of this year, actually opened on the 1st of June.   This created a lot of confusion in Cd. Victoria, because folks were getting ready, perhaps, to do a bit of "back to school" shopping at the ribbon cutting.    That is not actually true, because private works especially and even government projects frequently finish at or around the scheducled time.
      The opening was, however, not without the normal monster-flood of traffic and congestion.   HEB stores are very popular.    Another thing that is nice about the ones in Mexico.....Nobody pays with food stamps....all cash, credit card, and debit card.   Imagine.
     Most OROGs are not Texans, we have following in places that are still not part of the Imperium Texanus.   The HEB chain of grocery stores was founded by Herbert E. Butt in the San Antonio - Corpus Christi - McAllen area.   It wasn't all that long ago, back in the middle of the previous century.   During the past 20 years, HEB stores have held on to their Mayberry RFD places and improved them, while penetrating the up-scale market with phenomenal success.   Part of the expansion included going into Mexico where they would face stiff competition with a rapidly improving "supermercado" situation, primarily presented by the Soriana chain, and of course, WalMart.   Other local and neighbourhood type operators have also stepped up in terms of quality and presentation, so the business picture is challenging.
      My store is the Gran-D (grande) which is quite pleasant, clean, and very professional.   There are three of these locally branded stores in Victoria.   The Soriana is only about a mile on into the centre of town, and there is a huge WalMart out to the west end of the in-town area.   All-in-all, Cd. Victoria is well-equipped to sell good grub and grocery product to a smallish, but fairly well-to-do universe of customers.

      Of further interest is that El Gringo Viejo is constantly asked about security issues in Mexico and most people are comfortable with the idea that he is insane for even looking on a 180 degree vector, much less driving back and forth between the Texas - Mexico frontier, and much lesser yet having a sizable lot and mud hut situated in the middle of nowhere in Mexico.   El Gringo Viejo points out that sometimes it is not a good idea to visit Fort Hood, Texas when a Muslim nutter decides to do the bidding of Allah and slaughters twenty or thirty people.   He also points out that, if one remains outside of the the drug-trafficking industry, the actuarials for hanging around in Mexico are something like living in a small town in terms of mortality rates.   Not Detroit, or reasonable facsimili, but like Lamapasas....or reasonable facsimile, for instance.
     The twenty or thirty HEB-Plus stores later, especially those recently openned in Monterrey, Victoria, and Reynosa speak to the issue.   They say...El Gringo Viejo wins the issue.    I will only add that it is prudent to be prudent.   Actuarials are actuarials, and prudence is prudence.

      At the Quinta, our growies have been putting on quite a show.    For the first time in my adult life, I am finally proud of my land this year.   One morning, a bit less than a week ago, El Gringo Viejo walked out in that first pre-dawn light and was greeted with a remarkable roaring buzz.   It seemed at first to be coming from an old ear problem that almost always winds up being a 36 hours dizzy spell.    So, grumpiness set in, dizziness.  A few seconds later, a huge horse fly shot past the field of view, quite close.   Then...with lightning like mental began to dawn on me that there was no dizziness, the horse fly was actually a bee, and that there were lots and lots of bees.   Looking up, one could readily see that the ebony trees had finished a full-tree blossoming during the night and that there were literally hundreds upon thousands of honey bees (somewhat Africanised) having a flash-mob party in the Ebony Saloon.  In any regard, the buzzing sound was the loudest ever heard by this set of ears.  Both of our "upper" ebonies were totally covered by blossoms and bees.
     The bees have always been very tolerant of El Gringo Viejo.   Wasps, not so much.   But, around the Quinta, almost all of the stinging beasts, especially the bees and a certain type of small hornet have been very passive with my presence.   It has been possible to work inside of flowering plants, pruning or tying them up or whatever, and not be bothered by them.   This time as well, although the bees were being very aggressive towards the birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and moths, they exhibited aggression towards El Gringo Viejo.  It should be pointed out that in recent weeks the return of the American hives has taken place.   That is something that has been taking place for several score years, but that stopped about three years ago, and now is beginning again.   Several thousand have appeared in the various meadows, forest areas, and citrus orchards.   Many are owned by companies like Duncan Hines and Pillsbury.
     Then, we had the return of Bob White quail, and quite a number of them.    Also, a "pijuey" (pi - whey, named for their call) came down while I was filling the large water tray.   He seemed nonplussed by my interference with his bath and watering.   Pijueys are called ani's in English....they look like a black combination of a parakeet and a parrot in a way.   There is a smooth billed sub-specie and a groove billed sub-specie, both found in our area (Sometimes I think they are just an individual variant).

     Our flamboyan trees (Royal Poincianas) have really begun to set up for a real show, but they will not be in full bloom until August, it appears.   That is late, but nowhere near out of order.   The avocado tree at the the south end of the "long, west-facing corridor" surprised us a bit because it seems to have a setting finally of about 225 avocados, about half-way on their journey to the guacamole factory in our kitchen.    It was nip and tuck last week when a couple of thunderstorms produced strong winds, perhaps as much as 60 mph, for a brief period on two different days, but there was no ill effect upon the avocados or much of anything else.   Another pleasant thing was that there were no power failures with the storms, winds, or heavy on-call power production/delivery during this very hot and stormy time.

     As far as cooling, we did use the air conditioner one night.  But the rest of the time it was pleasant at night, with the temperature heading down into the 58 to 62 degree area for the early morning hours.   We  have learnt to use the fans during the day by pointing them out, thereby exhausting the house, while keeping everything except for the aperture being used for the fan, closed, and the curtains drawn closed.   This keeps the house around 80 degrees inside, while the temperature outside is hovering right at 100 degrees F.   Visitors are astounded, sometimes, to learn that we are not running air conditioning.   Because the practise of exhausting the house with the small fans, there is a concurrent effect of reducing the humidity inside the house, as well as removing atmospheric particulate that might normally be found.  Frankly, sometimes, during the daily "wipe-down" of furnishings and fixtures, the dust rags and even dampish paper towels show no dust or settling on the surfaces.   Cats even seem not to shed as much.   These are things that we have learnt over the years which have enhanced further the advantage of having an adobe home.

     This note:    During the nighttime hours, we run the fans pointing into the house so as to conduct the "cold" air from outside to inside.   This reduces the interior temperature into the low to mid 70s normally, which is very pleasant for a place not far from the Tropic of Cancer. 
The main reason for most of this monologue is to demonstrate that we really can avoid monster electricity bills....ours being something in the neighbourhood of 60 dollars every two months.   Remember though, we have a medium sized refrigerator, a television, a radio, a water pump, a few fans, and a few lights and a couple of electric clocks....all of which are used judiciously, (very judiciously).

     The animals continue to be problems and pleasant company.   The cats somehow manage to always be both predictable and unpredictable, as cats must be.   They are clean, quiet, and like to "check into things", which is good for the house.   The dogs are stinky, beset with ticks right after the rain, and lazy although they remain alert at night.   All of them like to eat.   Bibi, the Labrador, has made good friends with the Rhodesian Lion Hounds, a mother, daughter, and two sons who live at the next-door Hacienda de La Vega.   There is a pleasant, almost childish back and forth between them all whenever El Gringo Viejo goes over to exchange visits or deliver messages.   When our neighbour comes over, his dogs actually do not cause much if any damage in spite of their huge size and clumsiness.   Bibi, and his other friend Payaso (clown, because of his colouration), delight in going down to the river.   Bibi in particular needs only hear the word "river" or "Rio", and he is at the gate, with his tail wagging to the breaking point.   His favourite thing is to run full-speed and jump into the river with his version of a belly flop.   He also has taken to standing over the sprinkler and "flossing" his teeth with the pressure streams and generally getting thoroughly drenched.

  More stories from the Quinta later.  Thanks for your time and interest.
El Gringo Viejo