Sunday, July 31, 2011

7/31/11 Here's the Question: Will you follow me?

I have said repeatedly that the blog "Day by Day" is more for Stanley and me than for any of you, but the truth is writers love an audience.  I know from looking at the blog stats that I have readers in both the United States  and Mexico, and I would love to know who some of you are. 

Following the blog is really quite simple.  All you have to do is hit the button on the right that says Followers - JOIN THIS SITE.

I'm not selling anything, and I promise that the subject matter of the blog will not change.  That is, I promise not to swamp you with my religious views or to drown you in my 'bleeding heart liberal' politics.  I may have to sprinkle in a few drops of my philosophy from time to time, but just a very few drops.  Not enough to hurt. 


Now, to the business of wonders I witnessed this week.  It is hard to believe how much of this year has flown by.  Where did it go?   A trip to Florida, a trip to Alaska via California, a significant surgical procedure, and a thriving vegetable garden, herb garden and 300 grape vines.  And, I have to admit, I spend a lot of time watching birds, clouds, ants, and other natural wonders.
This is a perfect example of an 'isolated thunderstorms,'  a common sight in the summer.  This one was compliments of Hurricane Dora.  We didn't get a lot of rain from this hurricane, but we did have some cooler days and a couple of nights that were actually chilly.

 During the week, we had a series of subtle soft sunsets compliments of the same storm.

There is nothing quite like realizing your grapes have disappeared.  Our friend Antonio came to us with that very tale.  The birds had eaten almost all his grapes.  We went the very next morning to help harvest the few remaining grapes.  In all, we were only able to salvage 55 pounds of grapes.  As you can see in the photo above, they don't leave anything when they drop by for a visit.
As we were harvesting the grapes, the birds sat in the trees scolding us.  I have provided you with a sample of the bird silhouette.  See how many birds you can find in the tree.  I know there are at least five and I'm thinking I can see a couple of additional tails.  The trees were full of birds.  As soon as we left the vineyard, they swooped down to see if we had left anything.  What a disaster. 

Preoccupied with birds and insects, I've haven't had much to say about Solo Vino lately. He has insisted we follow the doctor's orders about walking everyday with a few conditions.

1.  He has to dance and jump and carry on for at least two minutes when I walk out the door and ask him if he's ready to walk. 
2.  He has to be in front for the first half of the walk.  Security, don't you know?
3.  If I lag too far behind, he comes back to check on me. 
4.  He insists on encouraging alternate routes.
The good news is that we have reached an agreement about the second half of the walk.  He actually heels.  It's amazing!
About the insects:
First the ants.  The two pictures above are of the exact same kind of ant.  Their respective nests are within a few yards of each other.  They are both in the middle of the road.  The hole in the first nest was dug under the rock and I could see the sense in that:  shade, shelter, camouflage.  The nest in the second picture was dug about two inches away from the rock and I couldn't see the sense in that at all. 
One thing is for sure . . . they have a plan and they are working together to bring the plan to fruition. Wouldn't it be nice if the US Congress could work together as well as a bunch of insects?

Leaf Cutter Ants are much more like our Congress.  Sometimes the plan is very difficult to determine.  In the pictures above, you can see a line of green going across some plowed land and on across the road.  The green is a strip of cut leaves.  It ran about two inches wide and twenty feet long.  Obviously the leaves were being transported somewhere, but there was no nest at either end of the strip, and even more interesting, there was not an ant in sight.  Go figure!  *****I just had an idea - perhaps they had arranged the leaves as a finish line for a fantastic ant race scheduled for the next day.
Now, this bug had a different kind of story.  We found him in the grapes and Stanley plucked off the grape he was latched onto and put him on the table.  He was so determined to suck every drop of juice out of that grape, he stayed attached at the mouth for a full five minutes . . . even when I turned him upside down.  Finally, satiated, he spread his wings and flew away.  What a sight he was! 
And speaking of grapes, we have now harvested all the Zinfandel/Durif.  This is one of the last boxes to go into the fermentation tank.  In all, we harvested about 450 pounds.  Within a few days we will begin harvesting the Cabernet and Merlot.  All offers of help will be accepted!
We had two groups of visitors at the Hacienda this week that were worthy of note.  The first was a family reunion with cousins, aunts, and uncles, parents and grandparents coming from all over Mexico, the United States, Canada, and Italy.  Most of them were here for three days, and they had a ball. 
Every two or three years, the family meets here in Parras to reconnect and to celebrate the First Communion of any children who are eligible.  The First Communion tradition provides a framework for the reunion and makes it more substantive than just visiting with relatives.  I thought it was a neat idea.
The second noteworthy group was Carlos and Ile.  What a cute couple.  So young!  So full of energy and hope and enthusiasm and plans!  Definitely two people I would like to stay in contact with.
 From the Bird World, I couldn't resist these photos of the hummingbirds feeding at sunset.  They have to get in that last sip before going off to bed.
When Solo Vino and I walk in the pecan grove, there is very little to see except pecan trees.  One notable exception is this excellent view of the church tower.  It isn't very far to the church from where I was standing, but the terrain is pretty rough.

Most of this week was spent on the telephone and email as we tried to wade our way through the sale of the Alaskan house.  Having made the decision to sell it . . . again . . . it will be very nice to have the sale all signed, sealed, and finalized.  Keep your fingers crossed for us that there are no further complications. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24, 2011 - From Sunrise to Sunset

I think we can file this under "Glorious Sunrise."  We've enjoyed some cool weather and some gentle rains this week courtesy of Hurricane Dora.   

What a week for friends.  Last Saturday night, we celebrated Clara's birthday along with some of her family and our mutual friends, Antonio and Dora.  Clara is the gal standing second from the right. 
On Thursday, I had a great visit with friends from Monterrey and the chance to meet Veva's mom.  From left to right:  Veva's mom, Chela, Veva, Estela. 
And on Saturday, we had late lunch and a long visit with Ferdi and Lucy. 

A couple of puppies and three little girls with a fully equiped home-made Casa de Insectos provided the pre-lunch entertainment.  Never a dull moment. 

Report from the Bird World:

 It was a great week for bird bathing.  We had more bathers this week than we've had all summer.
We've had far fewer birds in the vineyard this week, but this one just wouldn't fly out the door.  Take a  look at the grape juice on this guy's beak.  That's a bird's version of being caught red-handed. 
This was my first opportunity to photograph our resident red-headed woodpecker.  He patiently posed for almost ten minutes.  That's an eternity for birds.

This is a sight I see very seldom - swallows sitting still on a wire.  The more usual sighting is soaring high in the sky or flitting in and out of nests.  Well, they weren't exactly still, but they did allow a few pictures. 

Report from the Insect World:

I have always enjoyed watching ants; they have such a fasinating existence . . . until someone steps on them.  And the diversity is amazing.  Some farm, some ranch. 
 Some play Roman soldier and go around enslaving other ants.
 Some seem to exist for the sheer pleasure of finding me and crawling up my pants to bite me.
And some cut leaves.  I've seen a fair number of leaf-cutters, but this was something new for me.  I had never seen leaves arranged quite like this.  These pictures were made on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning, I could find no trace of any of the mounds.  If anybody knows anything about this, please let me know.  I found some good information about leaf-cutters on the internet, but nothing that looked exactly like this.

One more insect and I'll move on:

For the longest time we thought this moth was black.  Then, one day, we caught him in the sunlight.  Beautiful, huh?
The flash was right on top of him as I took this picture of him drinking from the fountain, but it wasn't enough to make the colors appear as they do in sunlight.
Around the garden:
 This little guy really thought he was hidden.  He almost got it right.
 Tiny little flowers that flourish in the desert.
And a wild flower that makes me think of spring Alaskan tundra blooms. 
The new gate with the horses on the right side of things.
Report from the vineyard:
The harvest continues.  We have processed a total of 376 pounds of Zinfandel/Durif.  Read all the numbers at  It looks great.  Nice color.  Lots of sugar.  Fabulous ripe berries. 
I couldn't resist including this shot.  Beautiful horses in the middle of the road, in the middle of town.  You don't see that every day, do you?  Speaking of town, plans are being laid hard and fast for the annual wine/grape festival.  From August 5th-15th, this town will be all things wine and grape.
And with last night's sunset, I'll close out this week's posting and wish you all a solid sunrise to sunset of joy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17, 2011 - Emergency Harvest

Two weeks ago, we had a rain!  A big rain!  It came and went with an intensity that bordered on violence.  I have already written about the mud and damaged roads it left behind, but it did other damage, also.  For all the farmers who thought it was wonderful, those of us who have Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel grapes didn't see much good in it.  Even as I published the blog post last Sunday, I knew we would be picking grapes the next day.  The rain and the resulting humidity had set the stage for ripe-rot. 

On Monday, we picked all the Sauvignon Blanc, and two days later we started harvesting the Zinfandel.  You can read all the numbers at  All in all, we were fairly satisfied with the grapes we were able to salvage.  As always, the crusher was a bear to clean.  There are a million little places for grape skins and stems to hide.

There was a positive side to the rain.  Our mountains have a touch of green, the ocotillo has sprouted a new crop of leaves, several of the cacti have bloomed in the last few days, the Mexican prickly poppies have come out of nowhere, and both the vegetable garden and the herb garden have exploded with production.

Report from the Vegetable Garden:  We are in full production!  I have enjoyed adding posts to the Fancy Cooking blog.  The garden has been such a pleasure this year.  All I have to do is cook up some fresh veggies, add a piece of protein, and dinner is on the table.

Report from the Heavens: 

Huge sunset thunderstorms in the distance . . .

A full moon setting behind the mountains . . .

Report from the Bird World:

Life in the bird world can be very cruel.  This picture isn't the best, but the story is pretty plain.  Small mother bird has a nest of babies.  Crow wants babies.  Mother baby is frantically trying to distract crow. 

Report from the hacienda:

Last Monday, a big yellow back-hoe showed up and worked all week eradicating huisache.  You can see a picture at

A report on my health:
I am much improved.  I doubt you will hear much more about this malady until I report to you that the nerve in my foot is completely healed.  I have no idea how much longer that will take, but I do know that I have seen great improvement in the last week.  I only limp twice a day now.  When I first wake up, my foot is very stiff, and at the end of the day, it just doesn't seem to have the strength to actually get off the ground.  The rest of the day, it's pretty close to OK.
Thanks so much for your thoughts, prayers, and concern.

What's ahead? 
1.  Stanley is watching the grapes like a mother hen for more signs of trouble.  We will continue picking on an "as needed" basis.
2.  We are beginning to finalize plans for the European trip in the fall.''
Hoping you have no emergencies in your lives!  Take care!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011- Perote News

Last Sunday afternoon, just as I was publishing last week's post, it started raining.  In less than two hours, we got more than two inches of rain, most of which fell in about 45 minutes.  I just published a separate post trying to explain what happens when we get that much rain locally and in the surrounding mountains that quickly.

For us, the rain came a little too late to do any good, but the local farmers were thrilled.

I don't know if there was any connection between the rain and the local election, but the PRI party carried Sunday's election. 

Stanley spent most of most of the week repairing the berm around our pecan tree.  The rain almost destroyed it.

Aside from that, our week was pretty quiet until Friday.  We were invited to attend a meeting of the local grape growers.  The meeting was held at one of the local vineyards.  I might add we had no idea this vineyard even existed until Friday afternoon. 

Had I seen this place in Napa Valley, it probably wouldn't have impressed me so much, but it was amazing to see a place like this here in northern Mexico.

Forty acres of grapes and that many more of potatoes.  A huge field of alfalfa.  Another of corn.  And a herd of cattle that looked about as fat and happy as cattle can look.  All snuggled up against the mountains.  Not a piece of liter, cigarette butt, plastic bag, empty water bottle or weed in sight. 

The dinner was delicious:  rib eye steak, asparagus, and squash all grilled over charcoal, along with boiled new potatoes and tortillas.  Of course, there was guacamole and three kinds of salsa. And, did I mention wine?

For a few hours, we rubbed shoulders with some of the most interesting people in Parras:  the owner, general manager (an old friend who helped us get our own vineyard started), and wine-maker from Casa Madero; the owner of Rivero-Gonzales along with his son and his wine-maker; the owner of the place we were visiting along with his son; the owners of a brand new vineyard (also my personal bird expert); our very good friend, Antonio, as representative for the new vineyard at Jardin Botanico; and Manuel Rivero Larrea, director of Parras, Pueblo Magico.

The first objective of the group seems to be the establishment of an appellation, Valle de Parras, to define the geographic area of the wine and minimum requirements for the wine which could claim the appellation.
The second objective is to abolish the extremely high tax imposed by the federal government.
The third objective is to work together on issues of pest control - especially Pierce's disease.
The fourth is to increase tourism in Parras.
And the fifth is to increase the national and international markets for quality Mexican wine. 
I'm not sure these are in any particular order, but I'm sure I left out something important.  After all, the entire meeting was conducted in Spanish so I was pretty proud to be able to follow this much.  We were very impressed with the thoughtful consideration these men had given each issue and the high level of articulation.  It was a pleasure to meet with them.

Saturday, we finished up the pergola and rested up from our big day on Friday.

We've had some beautiful sunsets.  This one was the best.

My only real accomplishment was getting the Fancy Cooking blog started.  Check it out.  Hoping you get something good cooking at your house.