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Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category

To continue the grocery shopping theme…

Why is it that of the almost 1000 varieties of bananas grown in the world, grocery stores here in el norte mostly only sell the Cavendish?  Sheesh, even the smallest mercados in Oaxaca often have at least four varieties and sometimes more (depending on the season).  After all, there are eight types of bananas cultivated in Mexico.  The states of Chiapas (35%), Tabasco (25%), and Veracruz (13%), are the major producers, followed by Michoacán (6.5%) and Jalisco (4.5%), with Guerrero (3%) and Oaxaca (3%) bringing up the rear.

A variety of bananas at a market

Bananas outside of the mercado in San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca – November 2016

Did you know that banana plants are not trees?  They are an herb and their “trunks” are made of overlapping leaves.  As for the origin of the word “banana,” it comes from the Arabic, banan, which means finger.  Thus, it makes perfect sense that the cluster of bananas growing on “tree” is called a hand.  (For more banana facts, check out All about bananas.)

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Banana “tree” outside Las Huamuches restaurant — between Santo Tomás Jalieza & San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca – February 2017

Now we come to the “heart” of the matter — the astonishing flower of the banana.  Given its resemblance in color and shape, it’s also known as a heart and is a show-stopper for anyone who has never before seen one.  It is often used in South Asian and Southeast Asian cooking, especially in curries, and a friend from El Salvador told me in his home country, the flowers are baked in the oven and eaten.  Apparently, according to this website, banana hearts are good for most everything that ails you.  Alas, while Mexico exports la flor de plátano, Moisés Molina, representative of Mexico’s Regional Association of Independent Producers and Banana Traders, lamented in 2000 that it was a pity they were consumed in China but not Mexico.

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Banana flower in San Andrés Huayapam, Oaxaca – December 2016

For those in the USA, enjoy your bananas while you can — according to Geo-Mexico, “The USA is the world’s largest importer of bananas and Mexico’s main foreign market, receiving 80% of all exports of Mexican bananas.”  Hmmm…  I wonder how long before the toxic, twittering human smokestack of polluted right-wing demagoguery wreaks havoc on that?

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… and shadows in Oaxaca in March.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.  — Abraham Lincoln

Shadow owes its birth to light.  — John Gay

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Sunday afternoon at Casa Colonial in Oaxaca:  Sun filtering through the trees of a lush tropical garden, the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs grilling on a barbecue, a friendly bartender, and a great jazz combo.  What more could anyone want?

Thank you to the Casa’s owner Jane Robison and manager Amado Bolaños.  It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

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A plumeria (aka, frangipani) blossoms on the terrace…

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During this, the middle of a very dry, dry season, a perfumed promise of primavera.

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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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‘Tis Nochebuena in Oaxaca and all is well.  The sun is shining and goodwill is felt on the streets and in the mercados.  Casita Colibrí is festooned with seasonal decorations both outside and in.

Tonight, posadas from throughout the city will converge on the zócalo with Josés, Marías holding baby Jesús, and angels on flatbed trucks; pinwheels, sparklers, and fireworks will light the night sky; brass bands will play; and China Oaxaqueñas will dance.  I can’t wait!  In the meantime, may Ernie Villarreal’s version of Pancho Claus by Chicano music legend, Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero, bring the gift of joy to those near and far.

Pancho Claus

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through la casa
Not a creature was stirring, Caramba! ¿Que pasa?

Los ninos were all tucked away in their camas,
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked late in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.

The stockings were hanging con mucho cuidado,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children, both buenos y malos,
A Nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard, there arouse such a grito,
That I jumped to my feet, like a frightened cabrito.

I went to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world, do you think que era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!

And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.

I watched as they came, and this little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre.

¡Ay, Pancho! ¡Ay, Pepe! ¡Ay, Cuca! ¡Ay, Beto!
¡Ay, Chato! ¡¡Ay, Chopo! ¡Maruca and ¡Nieto!

Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo.
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea.

Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala.

He filled the stockings with lovely regalos,
For none of the children had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud and seeming contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like the viento.

And I heard him exclaim and this is VERDAD,
Merry Christmas to all, And to All ¡Feliz Navidad!

May you all find peace and joy every day of the year.

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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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Despite 2000 miles between here and there, similarities abound between the two places I call home.

Art on walls.  (Left) A massive new mural in Mill Valley, above the side wall of the Sequoia Theater, by Zio Ziegler.  (Right)  One of the many murals by Sanez (Fabián Calderón Sánchez) in Oaxaca.  By the way, I’ve previously posted murals by both artists:  click Sanez and/or Zio Ziegler.

Agave.  (Left) Of course in Mill Valley (California), it’s solely ornamental for those meticulously landscaped gardens.   (R) Whereas in Oaxaca, it’s vital crop — land without agave means life without mezcal!

Fluttering swags of flags.  (Left) Cloth Tibetan prayer flags flying outside the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley welcome patrons to the Mountainfilm festival.  (Right) Ubiquitous papel picado found inside and out in Oaxaca, in paper or plastic, for events special or just because.

Sacred mountains.  (Left) Mt. Tamalpais, the Sleeping Lady and mountain of my childhood dreams, teen driving lessons, and adult peace, joy, and renewal.  (Right) Cerro Picacho (in Zapoteco, Quie Guia Betz), brother/sister mountain — the sacred mountain in Teotitlán del Valle, where, among other times, villagers make a pilgrimage to the top on Día de la Santa Cruz (Day of the Holy Cross).

And, last but not least, colorfully costumed couples.  (Left) Soon after arriving at the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, I ran into this twosome.  Turns out, in the “it’s a small world” universe, they are actually friends of a couple I know in San Miguel de Allende.  (Right) During July’s Guelaguetza in Oaxaca, the delegation from Putla de Guerrero representing their celebration of Carnaval, is garish and gaudy and wild and wacky — in other words, fantastic!

Creativity is a challenge. It requires us to be fully human — autonomous yet engaged, independent yet interdependent. Creativity bridges the conflict between our individualistic and our sociality. It celebrates the commonality of our species while simultaneously setting us apart as unique individuals.  —Greg Graffin

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Yesterday morning, as I made the rounds bidding each of my plants a “muy buenos días,” peeking out from the bottom of one of my garden pots…

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A star looked up and wished me a very good morning.

A Quaqua mammillaris flower for Cee’s photo challenge.

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Rainy season means wind, rain, and fallen Flor de Mayo flower petals.  What to do?

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Nothing like the scent of Plumeria to perfume the room.

My entry in Cee’s photo challenge.

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Today, August 9, is International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, so designated by the United Nations.  This year’s focus is on the right to education — a timely and white-hot issue in Oaxaca and several of the other Mexican states with significant indigenous populations.  I can think of no better way to honor the day and native peoples worldwide, than to share yesterday’s adventure in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle.

As I previously mentioned, in my endeavor to single-handedly boost the local economy, I commissioned the weaving of a tapete (rug) from my friend, Samuel Bautista Lazo’s family business, Dixza Rugs.  The design is a Tree of Life, with a light moss green background.  Thus, yesterday, led by Sam, we (a young Aussie fellow staying at the family’s Airbnb, blogger buddy Chris, and I) ventured out near the far end of the village dam to gather yagshī, the plant to be used to dye wool the desired color.

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Sam is explaining that his mother wants the young bright green shoots for the dye bath, as she wasn’t at all satisfied with the color the older leaves yielded.

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Sam, about to hand off a bundle of yagshī to me to put on our pile.

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Into the cauldron of hot water, it went.  That’s Sam’s tiny powerhouse mother, Leonor Lazo González.  She was making that face because the smoke from the hardwood fire below really stung the eyes.

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Like strands of spaghetti, into the yagshī dye bath, the lana (wool) yarn went.

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Now you see Sam, now you don’t!

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Leonor stirring the pot.

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Leonor measuring the weight of the alum mordant to be used to set the dye.  Yes, she’s using a tortilla press as a table.

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Sam adding the alum (dissolved in water) to the pot.

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Pasta al pesto?  The yarn will marinate in the dye bath overnight.

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Mom knows best and seemed to be pleased with the day’s results!

Sam is a very smart guy and has a Ph.D. in Sustainable Manufacturing from the University of Liverpool.  However, being schooled in the traditions, language, and Zapotec way of knowing by his parents, grandparents, and elders of the community is an education that is just as valuable and should never be lost.

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This year’s “like it used to be” rainy season has brought Morning Glories climbing their way to my doorstep and adding a little color to an otherwise grey morning.

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Obviously, I’m not the only one who enjoys the green of their heart-shaped leaves.

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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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If you’ve been to Oaxaca, you have probably gazed up at the palms along Constitución next to Santo Domingo — an area known as Jardín del Pañuelito.  In early 2012, color changing mood lighting was added to illuminate the trees.

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However, last Thursday, on my way to the Oaxaca Lending Library, I noticed something was amiss; fronds had been removed from the tops of two of the palm trees.

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Saturday, the image was more ominous; one of the denuded palms was missing and crowds were focused on another.

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Most everyone had their cell phone cameras out, aimed aloft.  And then…

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Timberrrr!!!  Down it went, amidst oohs and aahs.  Then the soundtrack turned to the buzz of chainsaws, as workmen began cutting the trunk into manageable pieces.

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Sad…  I know about the where and how, but I’m not sure about the who, what, and why.

 

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Five or six months ago, I took multiple cuttings from my Stapelia gigantia and planted them in six planter boxes on top of my terrace wall.  I used them to fill in around agave that I’d planted in the middle of each box.

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Once the rains came, they began spreading their prehistoric-looking tentacles…

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And, the flowers have exploded in their carrion-smelling bloom, attracting green bottle flies, as designed.

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I think my stinky stapelia like their new homes!

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