Saturday, April 30, 2011

McAllen, San Antonio, San Antonio, San Antonio . . .

We seem to have bogged down here in San Antonio.  The original plan was to spend a couple of days with friends in McAllen and then on to San Antonio for a couple of very special birthdays, an extremely special wedding and then Easter Sunday with family.  After that it was to be Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Flagstaff, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, Anchorage, and a return trip to Texas. 

By the time we got to McAllen, I knew I had troubles.  After a couple of days hobbling around, I went to the chiropractor and let him work his magic on my right leg.  Unfortunately, five minutes after I left his office, the pain was back.  Determined to be in San Antonio for all the pre-Easter events, we headed north. 

Well, I wasn't able to celebrate either birthday, but I did hobble to the wedding.  It was lovely.  The bride and groom were beaming, the children were all well behaved, and everyone was in a high good humor. 

Good luck, Katie!  We wish you and Andrew a life time of happiness!

The next day was Easter.

I went outside long enough to make a picture of the wreath on my mom's door, her magnolia tree and the neighbor's lily pot.  By that time I was exhausted.  I came inside and rested for a while and then tried to help with Easter Dinner for Stanley, Mom, Marge and myself.  I had reduced the menu to salad, steak,  and grilled vegetables.  Stanley was all set to do the steaks and vegetables.  I had nothing to do but make the salad.  Before it was done I was in tears. 

In the last few weeks, I have learned a thing or two about pain.  However, thanks to an MRI, we know now what the problem is.  I have a ruptured disc with a fragment of the disc lodged against the sciatic nerve.  There is little chance of complete recovery without removing the fragment so I have made a date with the surgeon for Monday morning at 6:00AM.   Hopefully, he will be able to clean out the fragment and send me away a new woman.  That is certainly my hope.

Look for another post when the surgery is over.

Thanks to all those who have already sent me warm messages of encouragement.

This is also a good place to acknowledge all the support and love of my sweet husband who has fetched and carried, cooked and cleaned, played chauffeur endlessly, and listened to my whimpering without complaint.  To my mother who once again has opened her home to us so very graciously.  And to my two kids who live in San Antonio who have helped pass away some time that would otherwise have been miserable.  Mil gracias!  Thank you so very, very much! 


Friday, April 22, 2011

April 17, 2011

There's nothing that will get your week started any faster than a little horsin' around on Sunday afternoon.
The stud in our herd of stray horses came ambling up to the bodega to find a lovely little palomino mare staked out in front.
What was he to think?  She must be there for his entertainment!  Well, she didn't think so.  She kicked him; she called him ugly horse names.  Well, a stud can only take so much abuse.  Finally he walked off in disgust.  Oh, her feelings were hurt.  She tossed her mane and snorted around for five minutes.  Typical female!

We love this restaurant.  Casa Vieja is our favorite spot for lunch in Parras.  The picture to the right is part of the decor.  It's a rather interesting image of the Pope and the Virgin.

I was on my way to town one morning when I was met by a huge group of kids on bikes.
A Mexican Bike Rodeo!
The kids were all smiles, and I was so glad I had my camera.

Politics in Mexico are always a wonder to me.  The PRI party is currently in control of Coahuila state government and they would like very much to maintain that position.  One of their tactics is La Feria. 

Seemingly dropped out of the sky, the main square filled with tents, trailers, food carts, and medical equipment.  Doctors, nurses, technicians, vision specialists, and dentists were there for everything from family planning to obesity counseling; dental exams to pregnancy tests; blood work; and general physicals.  Mexicans could register to vote, pick up some conservation information, and choose a free tree.  There was an extra long line at the tent with the free food samples.  The kids could attend one of several workshops. All in all, it was quite a party.  Of course, we didn't get an invitation, but no one seemed to mind me wandering around taking pictures.   

Two days later, the square was transformed into another kind of fair.  Semana Santa Feria de los Ninos. 

Two beautiful sunsets . . .

. . .  and a stunning moon!

This bunny thinks he's hidden.

Solo Vino is on his track!
The garden is finally big enough to photograph.
We've sampled broccoli rabbi, Swiss chard, radishes,
squash, green beans, arugula, and lettuce.
Hopefully, when we return in June, we will have a little more of all that
plus corn, pole beans, beets, carrots and lots of tomatoes. 

One afternoon, two truck loads of soldiers had a picnic in
our front yard.
I wasn't sure about taking their photo so I shot this picture
through the window screen.

Two additional home improvement projects:
A new seating area to make viewing the arroyo a
little easier . . . and a new gate for the garden.

It started with two holes,and a broken water pipe,
That required a trip to town for supplies and a quick repair . . .

Then, the gate had to be aligned and leveled.
Concrete was mixed and poured.

More aligning, bracing, and concrete . . .

And finally, a good cleaning.
We left before the braces could be removed.
It will be so nice to have this in place when
we return.

Some desert plants have the most delicate of blooms.
I found these examples in the garden this week.

One of the most interesting things about nature is the diversity
we find.
Just think about the tiny, closed bloom of the green bean and exotic, sensual bloom
on this squash.  Amazing, huh?

Finally, a word from the vineyard:
The vines are already reaching for the
bird net and the grapes are set!
Wine can't be far behind.

We left Parras at 7:00AM,
Sunday, April 17.

This has been a wonderful spring!
One for the record books!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10, 2011

Another busy week. 

On Thursday morning, Stanley got a bit of rodeo experience.  As you may know, we have quite a problem keeping the horses out of the garden area.  The biggest offenders are the colts. 

On this particular morning, Stanley got between one of the colts and his parents who seemed to be in the middle of a domestic dispute.  Papa wanted sex and Mama didn't.  Papa had been trying various tactics to change her mind all morning and she was having none of it. 

The colt, understandably, was quite anxious about all the bickering.  He was interpreting Mama's efforts to avoid Papa's attention as possible abandonment, and he was making every effort to reinstate his position right next to her.  Meanwhile, Papa, suffering from Lover Frustration Syndrome, was ramping up his efforts to get Mama's attention. 

In all the resulting confusion, the colt got in the tomato patch, and it was Stanley's effort to move the colt away from the tomatoes that put him in harm's way.

In the end, Stanley took refuge in the arroyo and the horses moved on. 

Some tomato plants were damaged in the rodeo, but they can be replaced.  Stanley came away from the incident unscathed.  Good thing.  He would not be nearly so easy to replace.   

I know some of my readers worry about us living in Mexico, but I'll bet none of you ever thought our biggest troubles might come at the hands (hoofs) of a colt.

Here is a picture of the offender a few days later in a more mellow mood.

We have contracted with a local business to build a fence to keep the horses out of the area behind the house.  Now, we are beginning to think we should have put up a horse fence around the entire area.  Oh, well . . . If we didn't have to worry about the horses, we would only have more time to fret over the insects, birds, possums, and gophers.
After ordering the gate for the front entrance, the horses decided they would just enter the garden from the back.  The picture above is the very Mexican fence we put together to keep them out.
I have discovered Scrabble on my Kindle and it is amazing how much time I can frit away trying to make up new words that might be found in the Scrabble Dictionary.  I am quite disappointed that NONE of my Spanish vocabulary will work.

We spent one entire day cleaning up the winery.  It is almost "company clean."  All we need is a bar and we could have a real tasting room.

I had a good time researching and writing the blog entry about the water in Parras de la Fuente.  It all started with a picture I made of a rose in a wine glass.  When I looked at the photograph, I realized more strongly than ever how important the water is to us and to the community.  Without abundant water, life here would be very, very different.

For one thing, we can have lots of tomatoes.  This one is our first bloomer.

The plants in the garden are not actually big enough to photograph, but we have already harvested lettuce, radishes, and arugula.  The beans are setting blooms and the corn is FINALLY coming up.  Ramon and his family will enjoy most of the produce while we are away, but I'm sure there will be something left for us to enjoy when we return in June.

I promised last week to show you what was under the protective shade.  And here it is:  Five little lavender plants.  They are adjusting quickly to the heat.  I think they're going to make it.

We had a great time at Estela's last night.  She had received a cabrito as a gift and asked us to share it with her.  Delicious! 

The gal in the photo with Stanley is Chela, Estela's cousin.  Chela is deaf and mute, but she has no problem expressing her affection for us.  She is fascinated by Stanley's height and was absolutely tickled when she saw in the photo that his head was in the leaves.  With her own personal sign language, she communicated quite clearly that we needed to hold him down so that he didn't grow any more.  I think it's a little late for that.

This week's color was definitely pink.  First the big pink rose exploded with color and then the pink spineless prickly pear, and then the cholla.  Pink, pink, pink!  Even the clouds got in on the act.

Not everything was pink.  Orange and purple made a good show, also.

Our big news from the vineyard this week:  The grapes are blooming.  Big time!

I also got some good bird photos which I will be posting on the new Birds of Perote site.  Taking pictures of birds is one of the most time consuming things I've done this spring.  Time consuming, but fun!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Water in Parras de la Fuente, Coah. MX

As the desert turns an ever deepening shade of brown, I thought it would be good to reflect on the miraculous water of Parras de la Fuente and particularly Hacienda de Perote.  Its source is wrapped in even more mystique than the Virgin of Guadalupe.

If you ask 50 Parrasians where the water originates, you may get as many as 50 different answers.  Most of them are variations of three themes. 
One:  The water comes from the Atlantic Ocean. 
Two:  An underground river runs straight from Lake Chapala outside Guadalajara to the springs above Parras.  
Three:  The springs are fed from a deep underground lake that no one has ever located.

So .. . there you have the legend(s).

Here is what the scientists say:  Very little that is available to me.

However, since themes one and two violate the first law of water:  WATER FLOWS DOWNHILL - it seems reasonable that the explanation is some variation of the third theme.  There must be an underground aquifer which is recharged by the rain water collected in the mountains to the south of Parras.  The water must be funneled through the formations within the mountains through cracks and fissures, caverns and splits to the many natural springs above the town.

The source of the water may be difficult to visualize, but once it hits the air, it is easy to track.  Years ago, huge tanks - tanques - were built at each of the major springs to capture and store the water to be released as needed.  Then came high volume, shallow-water pumps that bring about 200 gallons a minute to the surface.  With the pumps pulling so much water to the surface, the volume of water naturally flowing into the tanks diminished and many of them have now been abandoned.
Several still survive.  One of the best known is Tanque de la Luz which was built as a reservoir to control the volume of water needed to run the turbines to produce luz - electricity.  Edison came to Parras to help facilitate the production of hydro-electric power supposedly making Parras the first community in all of Mexico to experience a world lit by electricity.

Today, Tanque de la Luz is a multi-purpose facility.  Tourists flock there in the summer to swim, picnic, sunbathe, and hang out with friends and family.  It is also one of several municipal tanques still used for the capture and release of water for agricultural purposes.
As you walk around town, you are never far from water.  In the old days, it was carried in aqueducts, some of which are still standing.
Now, it travels along the streets in narrow canals.  Municipal water wardens open and close gates on these canals to make sure everyone gets a fair share.  It allows almost all property owners to have a small pecan grove, vineyard, or garden. 

Beyond the city limits, you can follow the water as it makes its way in a canal beside the highway to Paila.  Even with careful monitoring, the water will only stretch so far.  Several miles to the north of Parras, the water disappears and the green of the Parras oasis gives way to the brown of the Chihuahuan Desert.

The agricultural focus of the Parras area has shifted many times over the years.  Grapes, wheat, corn, alfalfa, vegetables, melons, cattle, olives, and cotton have dominated the scene from time to time.  Today, the major crop is pecans which require as much as one to two meters of water across the roots of the tree during the course of the growing season.  Since we have very little rainfall, the vast majority of that water comes from the aquifer - either by natural springs or pumping.

Hacienda de Perote, a major pecan growing facility, has its own water source.
Our water seeps out of the ground in a formation which doubles as the Bat Cave.  Home to several hundred Mexican Free-Tail Bats, our water is not only wet, but naturally enriched with bat guano.  That may put a damper on using it as drinking water, but the plants love it.  Seemingly unaffected by the seasons, the water continually runs out of the mouth of the cave;

flows downhill in a natural channel which has been reinforced in places with concrete and rock; slips under a bridge built for the convenience of tourists who come to watch the nightly flight of the bats;
around a bend;
and into a large 40,000 gallon tanque less than 100 yards from our front door.

During the growing season, the water is generally released in the morning.  It follows an intricate maze of channels to the always thirsty pecan trees.  During this period of heavy usage, the natural flow from the bat cave is supplemented with water pumped from a shallow well.  With both the natural flow and the pumped water, the tanque is refilled by the next morning. 

When the trees are not actively growing, the spring water is used in the hacienda gardens and the pumps are turned off.

Water for our personal gardens and vineyards comes through this siphon hose placed in the channel right outside the tanque.  Our water supply is constant, unless of course, someone pulls the hose out of the channel. 

That one-inch piece of tubing allows us to grow almost anything we want:  vegetables, fruit trees, grapes, herbs, and roses. 
The mystical waters of Parras turn a piece of brown desert into lush pecan groves,    
restful gardens,
and productive vineyards.

Those mystical waters have made our time here a time of wine and roses and all things beautiful!