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Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category

Several weeks ago, at the weekly Friday market on Calle del Refugio, I bought a hibiscus plant in a 6 inch pot. It had a single brilliant yellow with red highlights flower, but was filled with promise from multiple buds. I immediately transplanted it into a larger pot and it has proceeded to put on quite a show. As one flower folds up and falls off, another opens to take its place.

September 10, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 16, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 22, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 26, 2022 hibiscus flower
September 27, 2022 hibiscus flower

Each flower is unique and ready for its close-up!

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Sometimes, you just have to stop and marvel at the artistry of organ cactus planted against a wall.

Calle Pajaritos, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez
Casa Ocho Regiones, Av Benito Juárez, Oaxaca de Juárez
Calle 5 de mayo, Barrio de Jalatlaco, Oaxaca de Juárez

The sculptural effects of organ cactus always seem to create a WOW factor.

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These are the scenes that soothe my soul…

Metates, molcajete, and comal.
Barro rojo and cactus.
Chiles and bean pot.
Black beans.
Cactus and agave.

A long weekend spent with my comadres and compadre at Tierra Antigua.

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend K and I spent the day in the land of red clay, San Marcos Tlapazola, at the home of potter, Valentina Cruz. I have accumulated quite a collection (though not nearly as much as K) of barro rojo and several of my favorite pieces are by Valentina.

Getting there was quite the adventure. Leaving from Teotitlán del Valle (where I was spending a long weekend), the journey entailed taking a 3-wheeled moto (aka, tuk-tuk) to the highway, catching a bus to Tlacolula de Matamoros, multiple times asking for directions re where to find transportation to take us to Tlapazola, a bit of wandering around, ten blocks of walking, followed by waiting and wondering if we were in the right place. After 1/2 hour, a combi (a glorified pickup truck with wooden benches in the truck bed) arrived and took us up towards the mountains. Needless to say, the bouncing caused by the dirt roads and potholes were felt! Unfortunately, because the back of the truck was covered, we couldn’t even enjoy the views — that had to wait until we finally arrived at Valentina’s home/workshop/store.

The red clay soil isn’t just good for making pottery. Agave, cactus, corn, and squash also seem to thrive under the tender loving care of Valentina and her husband, Don Luis.

When we arrived, Valentina was busy at the tortilla press and comal — making tlayudas (large crispy tortillas) to accompany the chicken soup prepared by her daughter. After we all finished eating comida, we watched as Valentina took out a smooth river rock and began to burnish several pieces. This extra step puts a lovely sheen on her pottery and is one of the things that makes her work stand out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying the two horn-playing rabbits (top photo) at the tienda in her home. They join the face with the lid (also in top photo), among my many utilitarian pieces expertly crafted by Valentina. She and her beautiful barro rojo pottery can also be found at the weekly Sunday market in Tlacolula. After this lovely, but long day, we opted for her to call us a taxi to drive back to Teotitlán.

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We read the news today, oh boy. Early last night a violent thunderstorm brought gale force winds and torrential rain. It didn’t last long but it took its toll. The beloved giant Indian laurel that provided shade to the concerts, danzón, and other programs “bajo el laurel” on the zócalo toppled to the ground. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The iconic Indian laurels were planted on Oaxaca’s Zócalo and Alameda de León between 1870 and 1880. However, in the thirteen years that I have lived here, I’ve lost count of the number of laurels that have fallen.

As the late artist and heritage tree advocate Francisco Verástegui once explained to me, the trees suffered from damage caused by an aborted remodel of the Zócalo in 2005, along with improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot.

I wasn’t the only one to come to pay my respects to this magnificent tree. “Muy triste” (very sad) was the morning’s refrain, as people filed by shaking their heads and others stopped to watch as the body of the Indian laurel was prepared for it’s final resting place.

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The 361 year old decidious Coquito de la Iglesia de Jalatlaco trees in the atrium of Templo de San Matías Jalatlaco are beginning to bloom.

El Coquito (aka, Pseudobombax ellipticum, Amapola, Xiloxochitl, Sospó, Clavellina, Shaving brush tree, Cabellos de Ángel, Angel hair) is one of my favorite trees in Oaxaca.

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Our Day in the country’s final destination was San Bernardo Mixtepec. The scenery was spectacular as we drove south from Zimatlán de Álvarez, through the valley, and northeast up into the mountains. It was mid October, nearing Día de Muertos and in the valley there were fields filled with cempasúchitl (marigolds) and cresta de gallo (cockscomb) waiting to be picked for altars. In the meantime, they were being enjoyed by a local grasshopper.

Navigating the narrow, winding, and steep roads, we eventually arrived at the palenque and family home of José Alberto Pablo and his father Mario. Perched on the side of a mountain, it offers stunning views.

Fermentation is done in clay pots in a specially built room, and clay pots are used for distillation. In an eco-friendly feature, he recirculates the condenser water rather than letting it drain into a stream.

At some point in the history of San Bernardo Mixtepc, a persuasive vendor must have introduced the palenqueros to enameled metal condensers. Over time they rust and deposit a small amount of rust into the mezcal — giving it a distinctive yellow-orange color. According to José Alberto, the villagers have become so accustomed to the color, they are reluctant to drink clear mezcal.

José Alberto Pablo, his father Mario, and Craig T. (middle) — a very happy mezcal aficionado.

Yes, we bought! I came away with a lovely rusty tobalá. By the way, they also use stainless and copper condensers to make clear rust-less mezcal — for the less adventurous and to satisfy the mezcal regulatory board.

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Oaxaca-loving mezcal afficionado friends are in town and invited me to spend a day with them exploring pueblos and palenques. They hired a double vaccinated/mask wearing driver for the day, so I jumped at the opportunity escape from the city and hang out with them. First on the itinerary was the Mercado de Artesanías in Santa María Atzompa to peruse and purchase some of their green glazed pottery.

Next up was supposed to be Villa de Zaachila, but since they had never been to the Ex-Convento de Santiago in Cuilapan de Guerrero and even though it is currently closed due to Covid-19 precautions, we pulled into the mostly empty parking lot and gazed through the wrought iron fence at the unfinished basilica and monastery that was begun in 1535 and, due to skyrocketing costs, construction stopped in 1570.

We proceeded to walk almost all the way around the outer walls of this massive structure — enjoying views of the sides and back and the flora that surrounds it — something I previously had never done.

While we were definitely not in Oklahoma, the Rogers and Hammerstein song, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” came to mind.

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye,
An’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky.

Alas, we got trapped on the far side of the ex-convento with no exit and had to retrace our steps back to the car where we turned onto the road and headed southeast to Villa de Zaachila. Stay tuned!

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After a twelve year wait, my Pachypodium lamerei has bloomed! Though not a palm, you may know it as a Madagascar Palm.

First thing every morning, while the coffee is brewing, I go up on the rooftop to wish my plants a “buenos días” and check to see if the water heater pilot is still lit — but I digress.

Two and a half weeks ago my Pachypodium lamerei surprised me with its first ever flower.

And the blooms keep coming. I think it likes its new home!

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Yesterday’s view from my front door…

A late afternoon deluge. This is the rainy season in Oaxaca!

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With storms to the north and storms to the south, Oaxaca is stuck in the middle. And the rain keeps falling. Sometimes, the sun peeks through the clouds…

On the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – early evening.

And, sometimes it doesn’t…

View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday.
View from the terrace – August 25, 2021 – midday
View from the terrace – August 22, 2021 – midday.

Sometimes it rains in the late afternoon, sometimes at night, and sometimes (like today) the rains come on and off throughout the day. ‘Tis the season.

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Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

It’s Friday and I wanted to introduce you to my aforementioned flower vendor. His name is Moises and he also sells sprigs of herbs.

Today I bought two bunches of agapanthus and one of romero (rosemary). And, the Sesame Street song, People in Your Neighborhood, keeps spinning around my brain and singing in my heart.

Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
.

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One of the delights of my new and improved Casita Colibrí home is that it is located in a real neighborhood — one with the feel of a small town. Most everything I need is available within a few blocks. Then there are the vendors! They traverse the cobblestone streets plying their wares — the gas trucks with their distinctive horns, moos, and jingles blasting from loud speakers, the guy shouting “tamalestamalestamales” so fast that it’s hard to understand at first, the paletas (Mexican popsicle-like frozen treat) vendor pushing his cart and calling “palEtas,” and the flower seller who, after I happened to be at the apartment complex entrance and bought agapanthus and a few lilies, doesn’t even yell “flores” when he arrives every Friday in front of the gate, he now just rings my buzzer.

This week, I bought two bunches of alstroemeria.

The previous week, it was two dozen long-stemmed yellow roses.

The quality is excellent — the roses lasted almost an entire week!

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Unsurprisingly, on Monday Oaxaca went back to Covid-19 Semáforo Naranja (orange traffic light) — meaning there is a high risk of contagion of the virus. On Wednesday, it was reported there were 479 new COVID-19 patients, the highest figure of the year.

Unfortunately, having had to run a few errands over the past few days, I haven’t seen any changes in people’s behavior, business/government/museum closings, nor enforcement of the mask wearing mandate — only an announcement by the archbishop that churches would be limited to 25% capacity.

It is demoralizing and infuriating and all I can do is continue to wear a cubreboca (face mask) whenever I’m out and about, practice social distancing, and try to stay sane. As for the latter, I’m choosing to concentrate on and appreciate my favorite things.

People, real and imagined, waiting for the bus on Av. Benito Juárez.
Ensalada de pulpo (Octopus salad) at Barrio de Jalatlaco Restaurante.
A turquoise building, meters, and mural on Calle La Alianza in Barrio de Jalatlaco.
Water lily in the pond of Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum).

We are all tired. However, unless people take this extremely seriously, get vaccinated, and continue to mask up and practice social distancing, “normal” will not return and our fellow humans (including loved ones) will needlessly continue to suffer and die. As a current meme suggests, let us all practice humility, kindness, and community.

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This morning: Four Night Blooming Cereus flowers and one seriously busy bee!

Life in the rooftop garden.

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