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Archive for the ‘Flora’ Category

Sunday mornings have always been my favorite time to wander through the neighborhoods of Oaxaca. Traffic is light, sidewalks are mostly empty, and the city seems nestled under a blanket of tranquility. Thus, in these days of an abundance of alone-at-home time, a long peaceful walk with my neighbor (maintaining sana distancia/social distancing, of course) was just what the doctor ordered.

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Out the door and up the hill, we went.

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“Hola, buenos días” greetings were exchanged with the few people we encountered — many walking their dogs.

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Though we weren’t planning to eat, we stumbled on a lovely garden restaurant – Ancestral Cocina Tradicional — and couldn’t resist sitting down in their sun-dappled courtyard for a quesillo and huitlacoche quesadilla, washed down with a healthy jugo verde. Everything about the restaurant was done with care and attention — including being mindful of COVID-19 concerns.

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Emerging from the restaurant, we continued our ramble, admiring architecture, street art, and the beauty of dry season flowers.

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This Dama de Noche (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) stopped us in our tracks!

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After three hours, we returned to our homes feeling refreshed, appreciative of Oaxaca’s many gifts, and feeling like we can get through this — despite the puppet masters.

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Are we having fun yet? As much as I hate it, I’ve been glued to TV news (BBC and CNN International) since last night’s nationalistic, confusing, and not even accurate pronouncements by the US president. As I began writing this post, I finally made myself turn it off and began listening to Yo-Yo Ma’s, Obrigado Brazil. Ahhh… much better.

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Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifloia)

A best friend (since age twelve) and I are having to cancel a long-planned trip to Barcelona and Paris in April. Besides being incredibly disappointed, I’m not looking forward to trying to get refunds on flights, etc.

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Clavellina (Bombax palmeri)

As for COVID-19 (aka, Coronavirus), Mexico’s low coronavirus cases draws skepticism — should travellers worry? In addition, there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward canceling large gatherings or educating the public to refrain from the ubiquitous handshaking and cheek kissing. Perhaps someone in the Secretary of Health’s office should read this data-driven article, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, and then take action. It’s one of the most informative I have read. However, this video from 2016 of three Oaxaca nurses teaching proper hand washing technique has been making the rounds and adding a little levity to these anxiety producing days.

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Primavera rosa / Amapa rosa / Palo de rosa (Tabebuia rosea)

On the other hand, if one has to forego foreign travel, Oaxaca isn’t a bad place to be. And, looking up at the clear blue skies and the explosion of flowering trees that marks this time of year, I give thanks to Mother Nature for the beauty she brings to this world filled with war, poverty, and pestilence.

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What a difference two months make.

The Pochote pods on the previously blogged Kapok (aka, Ceiba) tree have opened.

And, cottony fluff occasionally floats in the air…

… even from the Ceiba that soars above the courtyard of La Biznaga.

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It was only recently that I learned that Oaxaca’s ubiquitous and beloved Ceiba tree was also known as the Kapok tree. Yikes, kapok was the stuff that stuffed the overstuffed furniture in my grandparents’ living room.

Those avocado-like pods (also known as pochote) contain a fluffy cotton-like fiber that is difficult to spin but is light and-water resistant — thus its use in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, stuffed animals, and life jackets. All hail and much respect to the “the mother tree of humankind.

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Who knew that there was an amazing garden, built on a former garbage dump, and open to the public in Xoxocotlán? Not me, until a friend mentioned it and invited me on a field trip to visit.

Thus, a few days ago, I found myself at Vives Verdes — a delightful labor of love — a marriage of plants, recycling, art, education, and the environment.

Nine years ago architect, Francisco Martínez began a project of landscaping a healing, artistic, and environmental garden — not only utilizing plants, but also converting found objects into planters and whimsical art.

Vives Verdes incorporates more than 200 species and 2000 plants — mostly from Oaxaca, but also from other arid climates throughout the world.

A water catchment system utilizing paths, beds, and ponds irrigate the garden and no chemicals are used.

Vives Verde is open to the public and school groups. It is located in the Las Culturas neighborhood of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Oaxaca.

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Sunday, I headed up into the clouds for the 19th Feria Regional de Hongos Silvestres (Regional Wild Mushroom Fair) in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas. Friends had hired a van and driver to take us on the steep winding climb into the Sierra Norte. An hour and a half after we left the city, we arrived at our destination, 10,433 feet above sea level. Cuajimoloyas has an ethereal feel and seems like a world apart from the valley below.
       
Baskets of fresh mushrooms with shiny orange caps and mushrooms resembling coral, trumpets, cauliflower, and flower petals beckoned. And the aroma of grilled mushrooms, mushroom tamales, mushroom empanadas, and chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms stimulated the appetite.
There were dried mushrooms in bulk and in little cellophane baggies for purchase.
Mushrooms aren’t the only produce the region is known for — delicious apples and new potatoes are grown in these chilly mountains.
And, there there were local crafts for sale and a couple of kinds of mezcal to taste (and buy).
I came home with apples, potatoes, a bottle of the lovely A Medios Chiles mezcal made from the wild Jabalí agave, and 30 grams of dried mushrooms. While the mushrooms weren’t of the “magic” variety, the experience certainly was!
“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world, because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

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Yesterday, friends from California invited me to accompany them on one of their favorite pastimes — going to the source for artisanal mezcal. At our first stop, the palenque of Félix Ángeles Arellanes, Mezcal El Minerito, we were just in time to watch the beginning of the process of cooking the agave piñas.

The art of making mezcal at the palenque, Mezcal El Minerito.

Piling river rocks onto the red and white hot coals in the earthen pit that functions as the horno (oven).

Covering the rocks with bagaso (recycled crushed agave fibers).

Putting the long tobasiche agave piñas into the oven.

Adding the more rounded jabalí and tobalá piñas.

Topping it off with more tobasiche piñas.

Covering the piñas with more bagaso.

Félix’s sons worked nonstop — an hour and fifteen minutes from the time of the first photo, they covered the mound with tarps to enclose the oven. Though we didn’t see it, I suspect this was then sealed with soil.

Félix pours the “Nectar of the Gods” — a multilayered and complex artisanal mezcal.

Nothing like being at the right place at the right time. And, yes, we not only watched, we tasted and we bought!

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Summer showers bring more flowers.

Night blooming cereus on the terrace of Casita Colibrí

Flamboyán at Tierra Antigua, Teotitlán del Valle

Hibiscus at the home of Edmundo Montaño and Alicia Lorenzo, Teotitlán del Valle

Beauty and blessings brought to the land and people of Oaxaca by Cocijo.

 

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I returned to Casita Colibrí early Friday morning, weary from Aeromexico’s red eye from San Francisco.  After emptying the suitcases, bed beckoned!  No need to drag myself to the market, as neighbor and gal pal, K, welcomed me home with a delicious dinner.  Saturday, was spent putting things away, tending to the garden, and raiding the freezer for a tamal to go along with leftover salad from the night before.  However by Sunday I was recovered enough to accompany K on her weekly pilgrimage to market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Doña Aurelia, cocinera at her Puesto de Barbacoa. A yummy way to begin the day!

A stop in the Capilla del Señor de Tlacolula of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asunción for a reminder from Señor de la Paciencia (Lord of Patience).

The bell tower of the Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asuncón, Tlacolula de Matamoros.  It always pays to look up.

“The sense of responsibility is latent in the human being, with sensitivity we should look for it from childhood, channel it in adolescence, perfect it in the youth to understand and better serve society.”

Far from the madding crowd in search of a baño.

Aprons on and baskets in hand: Marketing on market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

What better way to get back into the swing of things in Oaxaca.  Chicken soup for this soul!  Gracias a mi amiga.

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As previously mentioned, I am currently in el norte.  Visiting my family and friends has taken me from Oaxaca to New York, across the country to California, followed by Colorado, and then back to California.  I have been on multiple airplanes, traversed through multiple airports, and been complimented multiple times on my earrings.  We are not talking gold or silver filigree, we are talking about earrings made from jícara — the fruit of the Crescentia cujete (aka, Calabash tree).  [Click on images to enlarge.]

 

Earrings are not the only things made from the dried fruit of these humble trees that grow in less-than-ideal environments.  The Tacuate women of Santa María Zacatepec (Oaxaca) use them as hats.

The gourds are cut in half, washed, and with seeds removed, set out in the sun.  Once dry, throughout southern Mexico, they frequently are lacquered, decoratively painted, and used as cups for tejate and other traditional beverages.

 

As youi can see, in Villa de Zaachila, in the valley of Oaxaca, this use is even celebrated in a Día de Muertos mural.

Larger jícaras, known as jicalpextles, are a specialty of Chiapa de Corzo (Chiapas).  However, they have assumed a special role in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca), where they are filled with handmade sugar flowers and carried during weddings, religious celebrations, and other important fiestas.

 

And, recently there was an exhibition of carved jícaras by Salomón Huerta and José Cruz Sánchez from Pinotepa de Don Luis (Oaxaca) at the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO).  At last, the talent of the artisans who create these pieces is being given the recognition it deserves and their creations are being appreciated as works of art.

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IMG_2285So, hurray for the not-so-humble jícara and the ingenuity and creativity of the indigenous peoples of the world whose traditions teach them to honor and not waste the gifts of planet earth.

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Stepping outside my front door, sometimes the play of light and shadow in Oaxaca takes my breath away.

Black and white photo of Crown of thorns plant

Crown of thorns (aka, Corona de Cristo, Euphorbia milii) taken November 2018.

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The thermometer hovers in the low 90’s (F), a very occasional late afternoon thunderstorm clears the air and cleans the sidewalks, and the high-pitched song of the cicadas (aka, cigarras and chicharras) add to Oaxaca’s soundtrack.

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In addition, “shaving brushes” are seen springing from the branches of the Pseudobombax ellipticum trees — commonly known here as Cabellos de Ángel (angel hair).

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In my garden, the night blooming cereus (Epiphyllum hookeri) have been greeting me early in the morning.

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And, my pistachio tree, which the leaf cutter ants stripped of all its leaves eight months ago, has rebounded and produced its first nut.  Such is spring in Oaxaca!

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Happy International Workers Day!

Food vendors at the mercado in Teotitlán del Valle

Fireworks castillo builders in Oaxaca de Juárez

Flower vendor in the Villa de Zaachila market

Teamsters unloading maguey piñas near Santiago Matatlán

Snack vendor on market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros

Construction worker preparing a new roof, Oaxaca de Juárez

Life… brought to you by the workers of the world.

 

 

 

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Tonight, the clocks in most of Mexico spring ahead.

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However, the flowers are on their own time and the Flor de Mayo (aka, Plumeria, Frangipani) have already begun to bloom.

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After a few nights of a drop or two, we had an real rainstorm last night.

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The sound of rain lulled me to sleep last night.

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This morning I awoke to clear a clear sky and a glistening garden.

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While no one believes this is the start of the rainy season, it is much welcome evidence that Cocijo hasn’t forsaken the valley of Oaxaca.

Cee’s Flower of the Day

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