Monday, November 19, 2007

Episode Two

Hearing from so many of you regarding Episode One was a real pleasure. The main purpose for this blog is to reconnect with some of you and to stay connected with all of you.

One thing I learned from reading your notes is that some of you don’t have a very good picture of where we are. Some of you didn’t even know we were living in Mexico almost full time now.

After spending several winters in Copala, Sinaloa, Mexico, we were struck by some basic truths.

It was too hot in Copala to spend more than a few months there in the winter. Four or five months in the middle of winter in Mexico are just as short a growing season as four or five months of summer in Alaska.
The space we had to work with in Copala was very limited.
We really wanted to grow grapes which were never going to grow in the thorn forest environment of Copala.

After much consideration, we decided to look for another place. We were already familiar with Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico. Traveling back and forth from Texas to the west coast of Mexico, we had passed through the community several times, and always found time to walk through the vineyards and buy wine - probably the very best dry wine produced in Mexico.
The location seemed ideal, but we couldn’t seem to find anything to buy. Then, as luck would have it, we met Nacho Chacon, the owner of Antigua Hacienda de Perote. As he told us, he was transforming the old hacienda into a resort - an adobe a day.

Framed by deep arroyos on the east and west and nestled into mountains in the south, the views are spectacular. Nacho made us a deal we couldn’t refuse. He had no property that he wanted to sell, but he did give us permission to grow as many grapes as we wanted and to do as much gardening as we could do on the entire estate of approximately 500 acres. Needless to say, that was a bit more than we had bargained for, but so far, the deal we made with him more than 18 months ago couldn’t be sweeter.

We have a very small house with a large garden that extends down the side of the western arroyo affording the two of us the very best views on the property. Sheltered by a giant pecan tree, we have shade on the north side of the building almost all day. On week-ends, tourists who come to the resort, mostly from Monterrey, Saltillo, and Torreon, provide plenty of excitement. For the most part, we have the place to ourselves from Sunday evening through Friday afternoon.

On April 1, 2007 we planted 153 grape vines and I am happy to report that they all grew more than we could possibly imagine. We look forward to making a small amount of wine next fall from our own berries. This year we made wine using grapes from the neighboring vineyard.

Parras is located almost exactly half-way between Torreon and Saltillo. Both cities are large enough to support several American-style box stores including Office Depot, Home Depot, Sam’s Club and H.E.B., a huge Texas-based grocery store. With all those shopping opportunities, there is little chance of experiencing any kind of serious deprivation. Parras itself is a community of about 40,000 people; almost all our needs can be met locally. We have three decent sized grocery stores, several clothing stores, a big pharmacy, three banks and video rentals in addition to a raft of small specialty stores and dozens of tiendas, tiny neighborhood stores that sell a little bit of everything.

Using a map which shows both South Texas and Northern Mexico, find Big Bend National Park and go south and slightly east. If your finger is on Monterrey, you've gone too far east. You should find Parras just south of the main road between Torreon and Saltillo.That’s Parras and that’s where we are. You are cordially invited to drop by for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday afternoon about two o’clock. Come across the Rio Grande River and through the Chihuahuan Desert. Turn south at Paila and slow down to enjoy the grapevines at San Lorenzo. You will enter Parras on Calle 16 de septembre; turn west on Ramos Arizpe. Wiggle through the narrow streets of the town. Watch out for the speed bump in front of Tonita’s candy shop. Pause a moment to appreciate the new bridge over the second arroyo. We are especially thankful that it is finished. Pass through the Perote gate and ask for the gringos from Alaska. You will find us at the big table under the pecan tree.

Even if you can’t make it in person, you will be with us in spirit - in our memories, our thoughts, and our best wishes for a beautiful day of thanksgiving for you and your family.

Until next time, I am affectionately yours,


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

November 6, 2007

There have been so many special moments in our lives this year that I wanted to share with all of you, but often I was too involved in the moment to take time for writing about it.

I have thought about starting a blog so many times in the last few months: when we had a house-full of wonderful friends before we even had a house; while Scott was visiting us and transforming our garden area in March and April; when we planted the grapes; when we finally moved into our new casita; when we traveled to Mazatl├ín to visit friends; when my new grandson, Grayson, was born on May 10th; when we went to Alaska for some Blue Poppy Time; when we traveled across the United States on Amtrak TWICE visiting family and friends – we called that experience the Great Granddaughter Tour; when our hearts were so heavy with the news that our good friend John Bondy had passed away; when my mom had hip replacement surgery that appears to have improved her life dramatically; and most recently, when we traveled to Italy for a three week “dream come true” excursion to Toscana, Umbria, Marche, and Roma.

Well, none of that is breaking news anymore, but the result is that I was finally motivated to quit wishing I was better at communicating and to start writing. Welcome to Episode One of Day-by Day! Don’t let the title scare you. Once I get going, my plan is to update this about once a month so as not to bore those of you who may be interested but not passionate about the trivial details of my life. That will allow space for more frequent entries in case of events slightly more spectacular than usual, but not of great enough importance to make the newspaper.

Some news stands up to the passage of time better than others – like the arrival of a new grandchild. Sarah and David are the parents of another wonderful boy. Zac doesn’t really know quite what to think of his little brother yet, but I’m hoping that someday soon he’ll discover that Grayson is quite wonderful! At six months, he is at the “something new every day” stage. An advanced squirm-swim-crawl on dry land and giggle fits are two of his latest. I was there for all the excitement when he was born and to help out for a while after Grayson and Sarah came home. That’s just one more fringe benefit of retirement! To bring you up to speed as quickly as possible, I started off with a photo of Grayson taken on Halloween. No tricks - just treats!
Our trip back and forth across the United States in August and September was wonderful. Although we enjoyed every aspect of the trip, the granddaughters took the spotlight.

Our first stop was in Alpine TX to visit my two granddaughters, Emery and Allyson. It was really Emery’s invitation to help celebrate her 15th birthday that got this whole trip started.

Second stop was in Elizabeth IL where we attended the wedding of Stanley’s older granddaughter, Cassandra. Picture a cornfield in rural Illinois on Labor Day Week-end. Now, picture a lovely bride in a very formal, very full wedding gown walking through that field toward a hand-made, flower-strewn altar under a perfectly blue sky. It was pure romance and we wish Cassie and John a wonderful life together!

Third stop was in Pittsburg PA where we visited Stanley’s younger granddaughter and her parents. Rowan is a spectacular kid. When we saw her in early September she was still less than a year old, but she already had more personality than many folks develop over an entire life-time. Our time in Pittsburg went by way too quickly, but it’s just as well. If I had stayed around much longer, Rowan and I might have gotten into all kinds of trouble.

We also stopped for several days at a resort in Tucson AZ to celebrate Stanley’s birthday; in Los Angeles for a two hour lunch; in Maryland to visit our good friends Walter and Ila. (My favorite memory of that stop – even better than the time in Washington D.C. exploring our favorite museums – was the picnic Ila arranged on the bank of the Patuxent River.) Finally, there was an overnight in New Orleans where we did our annual evaluation of progress since Katrina. I regret to say that although some progress was visible, evidence of the devastation is still overwhelming.

Great trip all the way – cozy little sleepers, comfortable lounge cars, dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer. Training is a much more civilized way to travel than flying and so much easier than driving.

We returned to Mexico the middle of September and were back in San Antonio on October 24th to be with my mom for a couple of weeks before flying off to Italy. Those are stories for another time. This was great fun. Now, if I can just figure out how to get the word to everybody, I’ll be in great shape. Until next time.