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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

… from my rooftop garden in the city.

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Opuntia – April 2017

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Lizard on the terraza – June 2017

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A feathered friend watching from a distance – June 2017

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Hibiscus flower this morning – June 2017

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Along with much-needed rain and sparkling green cantera, tropical storm Beatriz also brought the one-day-a-year appearance of chicatanas (aka, tzicatana, tzicatl).

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What, you might ask are chicatanas?  They are giant flying ants that emerge with the first rains of the season — and by giant, I mean about 4 cm from the head to the tip of the wings for the females.  (As in much of the insect world, males are smaller and wingless.)  Known by the Nahuatl long before the arrival of the Spanish, they were mentioned in the 16th-century Florentine Codex which talked about the tzicatana living below ground and cultivating fungus to eat.

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By this morning, the rain had stopped and when I returned from an early errand, I found chicatanas — queens (wings) and soldiers (wingless with vicious front pincers) — crawling around on my terrace and balcony.  There were probably many more earlier, but I had been in a hurry and hadn’t noticed.  By 10:30 AM they were gone.

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Oh, and have I mentioned that they are a delicacy and a great source of protein?  I’ve had chicatana salsa and chicatana mole several times.  Below is Mole de Chicatanas I sampled during the Mole Festival in 2014.  It’s from the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca and made with chicatanas, pork ribs or loin, chile costeño, peanuts, and much more.  It was yummy (and I was a picky eater as a child!), so I had it again at last year’s festival.

If you won’t take my word, check out this Bizarre Foods episode set in Oaxaca.  (Chicatanas start at 1 min. 40 sec.)  By the way, these are the dreaded leaf-cutter ants.  However, it is the much smaller workers who can strip a tree overnight and are the bane of gardeners here.  At least their queens and soldiers are good for something!

Post script:  On a somber note, tropical storm Beatriz also brought flooding, mudslides, more downed trees, collapsed roads, and a current death toll of three.

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I have to chuckle every morning when I turn on the fountain — within seconds the birds begin arriving.  Apparently, there is a pecking order for bathing.  The chain link fence provides an open-air waiting room — a perfect perch for keeping an eye on the bathers below.

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Some, like this little guy, are more patient than others.

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Yesterday, as my BFF and I sat outside drinking our morning coffee…

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…we were joined on the terrace.  Nothing like that first sip of the day!

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Yellow is the color of winter in Oaxaca, be it flora, fauna, or nature-inspired human intervention…

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Primavera amarilla (Tabebuia chrysantha) on Calle Porfirio Díaz.

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Corner of Calle Porfirio Díaz and Calle de M. Bravo.

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Great Kiskadee sitting in the tree next door surveying the scene.

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Emiliano Zapata looks out from above the entrance to Espacio Zapata and Atila del Sur restaurant.

A. M. A. R. I. L. L. O.
by Edward Kofi Louis

Aim high in life and, always seek for peace!
Making it possible to share with others;
As the sun always rises from the east! !
Resting down west to respect the muse of nature.
In the light of Life,
Lights in the sight of the truth! !

Living with positive morals,
Onward with the joy of life.

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Last week, a friend of mine in California challenged me to post a nature photo every day for seven days on Facebook.  I had participated in one of these challenges nine months before, posting mostly photos from the countryside.  This time, I decided to acknowledge the gifts that Mother Nature keeps surprising me with in my rooftop terrace garden.

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African tulip tree seen from my terrace, July 6, 2016

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Neoscona Oaxacensis orb weaver spider, Sept. 9, 2016

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Night Blooming Cereus early morning, July 21, 2016

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Lesser Goldfinch (I think) on the terrace chain link fence, Nov. 12, 2016

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Io moth caterpillar munching on plumeria leaf, Oct. 31, 2016

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Hibiscus flower taken Oct. 19, 2016

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Agave and Stapelia gigantia early evening, Oct. 24, 2016

And, in the spirit of the season, they are my gifts to you.  Hope you like!

 

 

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When you sit down to your turkey dinner tomorrow, you will be following in the footsteps of the original inhabitants of the valley of Oaxaca.

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Guajolotes on the doorstep. San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of turkey domestication 1,500 years ago in the in the valley of Oaxaca’s Mitla Fortress.  And, according to Gary Feinman, Field Museum curator of Mesoamerican anthropology, “It’s a bird very, very similar to what a lot of people are going to eat on Thursday.”

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Guajolotes waiting for a ride, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.

Turkeys, or as they are commonly known in Oaxaca, guajolotes, continue to play a special role in many of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities.  Turkey mole is prepared and served during religious festivals and weddings, among other special occasions.  They are also given as gifts and the downy feathers under the wings are dyed and used to make penachos (headdresses) for the danzantes of the Danza de la Pluma.

So, to those in el norte, while you are enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey, give a little thanks to the Zapotecs of the valley of Oaxaca.  ¡Buen provecho!

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The view from Casita Colibrí after the election in el norte…

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What are you looking at?

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Not liking what I’m seeing.

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Contemplating the future…

Bird On The Wire
by Leonard Cohen

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”

Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Rest in peace, Leonard Cohen.  Thank you for your poetry, your music, your voice, and your grace.

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This morning I was greeted by several flowers on my night blooming cereus, with one acting as a rich playground and dining room for a guest in the garden — a very welcome honey bee.

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I have no idea how long she had wiggled and wallowed before I saw her.  I stood mesmerized for a minute or two before running into my apartment to get a camera.

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I continued to be intrigued by her industry and pleasure for another five (plus) minutes before returning inside — letting her continue in privacy, while I turned to my morning cup of coffee and bowl of cereal.

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She may have been nourishing her body, but she was also nourishing my soul.

My entry in Cee’s photo challenge.

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The rainy season has come and with it, the emergence of chicatanas (also known as, tzicatanas) — a pre hispanic insect delicacy in this corner of the world.  My first experience with these giant “flying ants” was at the Oaxaca airport five or six years ago, where I was greeted with, what can only be characterized as, an infestation.  They were flying through the terminal, crawling on the floor, and being chased by toddlers to teens, as adults watched in amusement.  Since then, I’ve come to know and even love these little critters — especially in salsas and mole.

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Two years ago, I awoke to my own infestation on the terrace.  However, yesterday morning only a lone female chicatana put in an appearance.  Darn, just when I’d actually considered gathering them up like these children and attempting to make chicatana salsa!

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This morning, up Tinoco y Palacios…

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Inside an open door.

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At the tire repair shop, “My house is your house.”

Down Callejon de Hidalgo…

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Behind the iron gate.

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A June bug in June.

Walking anywhere in Oaxaca, there is always something to see.

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Sitting in the morning sun…

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Watching my feathered friends find my new fountain.

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Have I mentioned most of the potting soil here leaves much to be desired?  As a result, over the past 6+ years, I’ve been experimenting with ways to enhance the soil I’ve been dealt to help my rooftop garden grow.  Besides, freezing (to speed up the fiber break down) and then adding green kitchen scraps, augmenting the soil with sawdust and sand, I’ve added worm farming to my arsenal.

Back in early August, blogger buddy and gardening guru Chris and I, armed with our new red bins, headed out to Sikanda (just outside Santa María del Tule) to purchase and be schooled in earthworm (lombriz, en español) farming.  P1130268

Our goal was to provide a nurturing environment for earthworms to go forth and multiply and to produce worm casting (aka: vermicompost, worm humus, worm manure) to enrich our soil.  Since then, I’ve spent the last five months keeping their home moist and feeding my worms more green kitchen waste, coffee grounds and tea leaves, and garden clippings.  Saturday, I finally harvested my first castings.

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There are several ways to separate the worms from their castings.  I chose the photosensitivity filter method — laying cheesecloth over another bin filled with compost and placing it in the sun, I transferred a thin layer of my worms and their castings onto the cheesecloth.

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Earthworms hate the sun and most quickly started burrowing down through the cheesecloth in search of cool moist darkness..  Once the worms had made their way into the moist compost of their new home (stragglers received hand-picked assistance), I removed the cheesecloth, now filled with worm-free castings, and dumped it onto my sifter, where I sifted the nutrient rich castings into my soil bin.

P1160372It’s rather time-consuming, but what else did I have to do on a Saturday?  It was well worth it and I get to do it all again in three to five months!

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Muchisimas gracias to all my wonderful blog readers — for reading, for commenting, for sharing, for the opportunity to meet some of you, and for inspiring me to continue.  A look back at Oaxaca scenes that never made it into the blog…

January – Although spring was a couple of months away, the Primavera (Tabebuia chrysotricha) was already in bloom.

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February – Cattle car on the carretera outside Tlacolula de Matamoros on Sunday market day.

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March – A quiet morning on Monte Albán.

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April – Decorating with agave flowers on Easter Sunday in Mitla.

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May – Police temporarily remove and replace Sección 22 on the zócalo.

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June – Though we arrived hours early for a festival in San Juan Guelavía, the sacred and profane were already present.

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July – A favorite view from my terrace, the African tulip trees in full bloom.

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August – At Casa Colonial the water lilies and hyacinths were stunning.

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September – Cochineal (the “perfect red” dye) exhibition at Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

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October – Returning from Teotitlán de Valle one morning, a globo was landing near San Mateo Macuilxochitl.

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November – On the way to Mercado Hidalgo in Colonia Reforma to buy Thanksgiving groceries, Our Lady of the Wires (?).

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December – Rooftop still life in El Centro.

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A long, strange, and fascinating trip it continues to be.  As another song says, Próspero año y felicidad!

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When I moved to the new and improved Casita Colibrí two and a half years ago, there was a sorry looking hibiscus in a huge green clay pot (probably from Atzompa) on the balcony.  It was obvious the plant had been water deprived for quite some time.  I made it my mission to bring it back to life and this year it has rewarded my efforts with a continuous procession of peachy pink flowers.

Pink hibiscus flowerHowever, yesterday I noticed it was playing host to a caterpillar having comida.

Yellow with red vertical stripes hairy catepillarI looked in the aforementioned, Butterflies and Moths book, but it doesn’t provide many caterpillar stage photos with which to identify this incredibly decorative guy/gal and, after a couple of pages of Google images, I gave up.  However, I did learn enough to know those flower-like hairs ringing its body probably sting like nettles, so I’ve kept my distance.  Anyone have any ideas as to my fuzzy friend’s identity?

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