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Archive for the ‘Science & Nature’ Category

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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In Mexico, the hummingbird (colibrí) is known as the protector of warriors and messenger of the gods — two of the most revered roles in indigenous cosmology. How lucky I am that several of the varieties seen on the poster below continue to capture my attention and fill my heart with joy as they flit from tree to fence to fountain for a bath and zigzag across my terrace playing their version of tag and king of the hill.

Hummingbirds of Mexico and North America poster

Muchisimas gracias to my friend K for the link to this poster from CONABIO (National Commission for Biodiversity). In addition, if these tiny creatures also captivate you, a PDF of the CONABIO book, Colibríes de México y Norte América / Hummingbirds of México and North America is available online with text in both Spanish and English (click title link).

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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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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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We have just had a hint at the rainy season to come.  Monday night brought an hours-long torrential downpour with major flooding, trees and telephone lines down, and power outages.  The electricity at Casita Colibrí stayed on and all plants in the garden remained upright and intact.  However, my street turned into a raging river and water was cascading off the terrace like a waterfall.

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Rooftop rain pipes/spouts in Tlacolula de Matamoros

This herd of elephants might have come in handy!  Looking up at this scene, I couldn’t help remembering one of my children’s favorite books, “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” — and couldn’t help laughing.

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Let us all raise a glass to the hummingbirds and bats of Oaxaca.

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Without the work they do pollinating the flowers on the quiotes (stalks) that shoot up from the agave,

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there would be no maguey piñas to harvest and cook…

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and no mezcal to drink!

*Mural by Lapiztola on the side of the Palenque Mal de Amor (makers of Ilegal mezcal) 2+ miles north of Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca.  Check out their other mural at the palenque HERE.

 

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X currently marks the spot in OaXaca — be it for HOT weather, blockades, or orb weaving spiders.  Regarding the latter, another, in a long line of Argiopes, has chosen to take up residence on my terrace.

Argiope spider in middle of web with stabilimentum

Fun fact:  The purpose of the white zigzag of silk, known as a stabilimentum, is disputed. It reflects UV light and may act as camouflage, attract insect prey, or prevent larger creatures from accidentally destroying the web.  Whatever the function, this gal’s (yes, it is a female) is one of the best I’ve seen!

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While scientists were in the process of identifying four new species of agave, an agave on my terrace…

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June 28, 2017

… had a surprise of its own.

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July 23, 2017

Seemingly overnight, from its center, a stalk (aka, quiote) began reaching toward the sky.

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July 23, 2017

After awhile, buds began appearing along the sides of the stalk.

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September 18, 2017

And from the buds, the rainy season brought blossoms.

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September 27, 2017

The flowers opened from bottom to top.

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October 21, 2017

Eventually, all the flowers browned and seed pods began forming.

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November 19, 2017

Who knows what I will find when I return to Casita Colibrí next week.  What I do know is that this agave is now dying — but there are plantlets waiting to replace it!  By the way, quiotes have traditionally been used for firewood (Maybe for my chiminea?) and even to make a didgeridoo-like musical instrument.  (Hmmm… I don’t think I’ll try the latter.)

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After yesterday’s beginning of Guadalupe festivities in Teotitlán del Valle, a day and evening filled with hundreds of wonderful people, music, dancing, parading and the accompanying ear-splitting rockets (more about the festivities to come), a solitary morning walk was in order.  Bundled up against bordering-on-freezing temperatures, I set off for the village presa (dam).

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There is always something in bloom, no matter the time of year.

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The reservoir is full and flowing over the dam.

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Ahhh…  My favorite way to start the day in Teotitlán.

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There may be a population explosion of Casita Colibrí’s namesake…

Hummingbird nest under construction on the far spindle branch of a tree near my balcony.

Mama waiting until the coast is clear — in front of a Guaje tree reflection on my neighbor’s window.

She comes, she sits briefly to test its strength and expansion potential, then is off again in search of more materials.

Next up, she and we await the show male colibríes will put on — hoping to strike her fancy.

The librarian in me can’t help but offer a few references:

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It’s been two months since a lethal 8.2 earthquake devastated the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.  For a brief time, this oft-neglected state had captured the attention and relief efforts of Mexico and the world.  Aware that relief supplies were desperately needed, I was informed that my friend and manager of Casa Colonial B&B, Amado Bolaños, with the blessings of the Casa’s owner Jane Robison, was driving supplies to villages in the Isthmus.  Within 24 hours of returning to Oaxaca on September 16, I filled three large trash bags with clothing, sandals, sheets, and towels for him to take.

Unfortunately, the focus soon shifted.  On September 19, a deadly 7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico and caused severe damage to several neighborhoods in Mexico City.  And then there were the hurricanes….  As a result, the damnificados (victims) of this second poorest state in Mexico continue to suffer the effects of the strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century.  Thus, Amado continues to carry pickup truck loads of needed items to stricken communities.

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Amado Bolaños speaking at the Casa Colonial earthquake relief fundraiser

So, last week I wasn’t surprised to receive the following email from Amado addressed to Casa Colonial friends:

It’s been a while since our last email, many good and bad things [have] been happening all this time. One of the bad things are the earthquakes in different parts of Mexico and of course in our dear Oaxaca state. Although the situation in Oaxaca city in not bad at all, things at the Isthmus of Oaxaca are not so great, many many entire families lost their homes and they are living in a horrible situation.

Personally with the help of many of you,  I have  been taking trips to these places, carrying  food, medicines tarps and other things, that my paisanos are in need of.

This is why CHEAP SEATS AND CASA COLONIAL are putting together a Benefit Concert this coming Sunday the 5th at 4pm

All the money collected would be used to get more tarps and food that the Istmeños are in need. The donation entrance fee would be $200 pesos per person and of course you can also bring the following:

• rice • beans • painkillers • powdered milk • toys • clean clothes (in good condition), for adults and many more for kids and babies • tarps • water • canned food • diapers.

If you think in anything else, bring it over, I`m sure we can figure it out.  Muchas gracias por todo…see you guys this coming Sunday….we´ll have hamburgers, hot dogs and margaritas of course

blessings
Amado Bolaños
Casa Colonial Manager

Of course, I went.  The hamburgers and margaritas were yummy and, as you can see from this brief clip, the music by the Cheap Seats was rousing and had the crowd clapping and cheering.  However, the purpose of the event was not forgotten and during intermission, Amado painted a heartfelt and revealing picture of the conditions people in the Isthmus are still having to endure.  Formal relief efforts and agencies are scarce and aftershocks continue.  One of the medicines, which he didn’t have access to but was much requested was for anxiety.  And, he told the story of a 3-year old coming to get a relief package for his family and, when asked where his mother was, he was led by the boy to what remained of his home and discovered the mom sheltered under a tarp where, with the help of another woman from the village, she had given birth to twins the night before.

If you can made a donation, please contact Amado Bolaños at Casa Colonial B&B.  You can be assured your donation will go directly to the people who are in most need, not into the coffers of some politico and his cronies.

Amado Bolaños
Phone: +52 951 516 5280
Email: oaxaca@casa-colonial.com

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Sometimes you just have to stop and gaze…

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This morning outside Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.

Posted on Cee’s Flower of the Day.

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Lunch coming down out of the mountains in Colorado…

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Tacos at Carniceria Sonora in Clifton, CO

Back in Oaxaca in time for a comida of September’s traditional dish…

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Chiles en Nogada at Las Quince Letras Restaurante in Oaxaca de Juárez

And, not to be left out, Argiope showing off her freshly caught brunch…

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Flies or bees or one of each on the terrace at Casita Colibrí

Gals, be they human or arachnid, have got to eat!

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If you suffer from arachnophobia, you might want to click away from this post.

You were warned, so I will continue…  Two spiders, a Neoscona oaxacensis and an Argiope, have taken up residence on my terrace.  This isn’t the first time I have played hostess to these two kinds of orb weaver spiders.

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Neoscona oaxacensis (back)

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Neoscona oaxacensis (underside)

My latest guests arrived a week ago and have been settling in ever since.  Their webs are strung across neighboring plants, though the Argiope’s also extends across a walkway onto the deck.  Unfortunately, a few days ago, I inadvertently walked through it but, undeterred, she rewove it in the same place.  So I have blocked the route with an extremely spiky cactus, to prevent further human destruction.

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Argiope (top)

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Argiope (underside)

Aren’t my new visitors beautiful?  By the way, they eat insects and are harmless to humans, so nothing to be afraid of!

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