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Archive for the ‘Science & Nature’ Category

I’m a California girl.  I grew up in earthquake country —  the San Francisco Bay Area to be exact.  I was raised on my grandparents’ stories of the day the Earth Shook, The Sky Burned in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.  A favorite was of my 8-year old grandmother bringing jugs of water to refugees, whose homes had either collapsed from the violent shaking or burned in the fires that broke out.  They were camped out under tents and tarps in the Masonic Cemetery, where her stepfather was the manager — and the thought of the living, living with the dead was captivating to my 8-year old self.  Perhaps another reason why Oaxaca feels like home.

The first earthquake I remember was in first grade.  I gripped my desk, as it rocked back and forth and watched, wide-eyed, as the massive row of windows that lined one wall of my classroom moved in and out, distorting the trees and pink house across the street.  I’m not sure if we were directed to get under our desks, but I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Chase (one of the best teachers ever!), in her comforting, calm, and very competent way, conveying a sense of safety.  Our 1938 wood-frame house, on the side of Mt. Tamalpais was fine, save for several cracks in the lath and plaster walls.  Years later, I learned that it was built on bedrock — a good thing!

Several more earthquakes ensued as I grew up and raised my family in the Bay Area — and I learned to be prepared.  We kept earthquake supplies in the basement — enough water and food to last three days, flashlights, battery-powered radio, etc.  My car was always stocked with bottles of water and protein bars, a sleeping bag and flashlight, sweatshirt and old gym shoes, and a first aid kit.  Luckily, we didn’t have to use any of them following the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.   However, our eyes were glued to the television.  Before the earthquake hit, we had been about to gather in the living room to watch the “Bay Bridge” World Series — the San Francisco Giants versus their across the San Francisco Bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.  Instead, we watched part of the Bay Bridge collapse and houses built on landfill in the Marina of San Francisco collapse.  We were fine, but nerves were shattered and for days after, every aftershock had me ready to bolt.

During my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007, I awoke to an earthquake — that dreaded, but familiar, feeling flooded my body but it was small and all was okay.  Thankfully, I was in the USA for the 8.2 earthquake that devastated parts of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas almost two weeks ago.  However, I have experienced several smaller ones since moving here, including the March 20, 2012, 7.4 earthquake.  Walking up Macedonio Alcalá, I didn’t feel that one, but heard windows rattle and people cry, “terremoto” as they streamed out into the street.  There have been many aftershocks from the Sept. 7th earthquake since I’ve been back, a couple at 5.6 on the Richter scale, but I haven’t felt them either.  Giving thanks to Roberta French and her degree in structural engineering from MIT for building such a sturdy, well designed apartment complex on bedrock!

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It was the same yesterday.  Blogger buddy Chris and I were walking up the Alcalá on our way to Las Quince Letras for the traditional Mes de la Patria (celebrating independence from Spain) dish, chiles en nogada.  We were talking — catching up after my six-week trip.  As we turned onto Abasolo, we noticed cars stopped at all intersections and people milling around on the streets.  A blockade was our first thought.  After all, this is Oaxaca!  We soon discovered, it was a 7.1 earthquake (epicenter near the Puebla/Morelos border) that brought traffic to a halt and people out of buildings.  This latest earthquake has taken lives (currently more than 200 people, in 6 states) and destroyed buildings, especially in Mexico City — but we didn’t feel a thing!  Apparently, the shaking was felt all over Oaxaca city, just not by us walking along the cantera (stone) roadbed of the Alcalá.  I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon and evening glued to the news out of Mexico City — and I continue watching and reading in horror as the destruction unfolds.

I’m fine, my friends in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Chiapas are fine, my apartment is fine.  So, why am I writing this?  A catharsis, perhaps….  But also to say to those who are new to or have no experience with the earth violently shaking:  You never get used to it — you never take it in stride, as you never know when that stride will be broken as the ground begins shifting beneath your feet.  And, you always anticipate — it’s one of the reasons, I keep my cell phone and keys with an emergency buzzer in my pocket and a bottle of water and a protein bar in my purse.  In addition, like hurricanes, people and their governments must pay close attention to, and strictly regulate, where and how buildings are constructed — greed and corruption should not trump lives — and a priority should be placed on early warning systems in earthquake countries around the world.

To satisfy my inner-librarian, I recommend to you a few articles to begin to understand the whys and hows:

 

 

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Late on the night of September 7, 2017, in the mountains of Telluride, Colorado, my phone dinged — a message from a friend in Oaxaca concerned about my 91 year old neighbor.  That was my first news of the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century last week.  Needless to say, I spent half the night monitoring news sites, emailing, messaging, and checking status updates by friends and neighbors on Facebook.  Thankfully, all friends and neighbors came away relatively unscathed — save for severely frayed nerves.

The epicenter of the 8.1 (8.2 according to Mexican authorities) earthquake was off the coast of Chiapas.  Given its geography, the state of Oaxaca has been hard hit.  The red bullets on the map below show some of areas in the state most severely affected.

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As of yesterday, the death toll was up to 91.  According to reports from Oaxaca’s governor, more than 800,000 people in the state potentially lost everything and in Juchitán de Zaragoza, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, 5,000 homes were destroyed.  The earthquake also devastated the mountain communities of the Mixe.

Oaxaca and Chiapas are two of the poorest states in Mexico and help is urgently needed.  Maestro Francisco Toledo, who is from Juchitán, is collecting funds through his non-profit, Amigos del Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca y del Centro Fotográfico.  For details see below:

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Oaxaca earthquake relief is also being solicited by the following organizations and individuals:

CADENA (Comite de Ayuda a Desastres y Emergencias Nacionales A.C.)
BANAMEX
Sucursal: 7009
CUENTA: 189458
CLABE: 002180700901894588
https://cadena.ngo/dona

The Harp Helu Foundation will match 1 X 1 for any contributions directly to:
Citibanamex
Cuenta 23, Sucursal 100
CLABE: 002 180 010 000 000 235
Formento Social Banamex, A.C.

The government agency, DIF Oaxaca is taking donations:
• Voluntariado DIF Oaxaca, Avenida Juarez 914, Col. Centro
• Hangar del Gobierno de Oaxaca, Aeropuerto Internacional, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan
• Gimnasio Ricardo Flores Magon, Derechos Humanos s/n Col. America Sur
• Oficianas Centrales DIF Oaxaca, Vicente Guerrero 114, Col. Miguel Aleman

Casa de Esperanza House of Hope Anabaptist Community Church is receiving donations in any form (groceries, baby food, money, etc.) to be sent to the coast where many have lost their homes or family members. Please bring your donations to: Casa de Esperanza— Camino Nacional 929-3 Ixcotel Oaxaca Oax Te l 9 5 1 1 7 6 3 1 5 3

Omar Alonso of Oaxacking has set up a YouCaring crowd funding site to aid in relief efforts in Juchitan.

Flor Cervantes, who founded, Mujeres de 8 de Marzo in Juchitan, is collecting funds for the refuge.  For more information call her in Oaxaca at:  951 125 02 48

And, the Oaxaca Lending Library is working on collecting and sending supplies and money to the areas in Oaxaca most affected.

If you aren’t dealing with hurricanes Harvey and Irma destruction, PLEASE HELP Oaxaca!!!

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Late yesterday afternoon, it looked like a night blooming cereus blossom would burst open for it’s one night only orgy with the pollinators of darkness.  I’m guessing the hours-long torrential tormenta that thundered over Oaxaca put a damper on the action.  This morning found only an ever-so-slightly opened blossom.  So here, in black and white, I bring to you, up close and personal, cereus reproductive organs in waiting.

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If you slept through the birds and the bees unit of high school biology (or it was too long ago to remember) and now you can’t tell a pistil from a stamen or the stigma from the anther, check out this cool little graphic  (also in black and white) from the American Museum of Natural History.

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Rain has been falling in the city for over 24 hours, as Tropical Storm Beatriz slowly moves up Oaxaca’s coast and up and over Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.  According to the National Hurricane Center, “over a foot of rain is possible in Mexico’s Oaxaca state through Friday with isolated amounts up to 20 inches possible.”

At various times in her past, because of the native green stone used to construct her buildings and pave her sidewalks, Oaxaca has been known as la Verde Antequera — the Emerald City.Oaxaca letters in front of Santo Domingo

Walking through the streets on a rainy day, it’s easy to see where she got her nickname.

While Beatriz may be causing headaches on the coast, the campesinos (and all who depend on them) in the Valle de Oaxaca, are rejoicing.

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A word to the wise, be careful what you wish for…

After almost two weeks of 90º+(F) temperatures, late this afternoon lightening flashed, thunder rumbled, gusty winds replaced still humid air, and on Tlaloc’s command, torrential rain and hail pounded Oaxaca city.  Water began coming in closed doors and windows, plants and chairs overturned on the terrace, an empty concrete bag flew up and over a ten foot fence and across the forty-five feet of my terrace landing at my doorstep, and power went out for almost two hours. 

This evening, at Casita Colibrí, plants have been righted, chairs have been retrieved and stacked, and flooded floors have been mopped.  However, in other parts of the city, there are reports of trees and power lines down, massive flooding, and a roof collapsed at Central de Abastos.   Initial news reports (en español):

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Friday night, around 9:45, I went out onto the terrace to turn on the security lights.  But, who needs lights when my cereus was glowing in the dark, beckoning bats and other pollinators of the night?

By 9:30 on Saturday morning, the curtain and petals had begun to fall.

Saturday night, oblivious and readying for the dawn of daylight savings time, I turned the motion sensor lights on early and never gave the cereus a first, let alone second, glance.  However, at 7:45 AM on Sunday morning, with coffee in hand, I went out on the terrace and couldn’t miss the show my night blooming cereus had staged while I slept.

Three hours later, the latest extravaganza had drawn to a close — but I see tiny buds waiting in the wings.

[There are] many other small joys, perhaps the especially delightful one of smelling a flower or a piece of fruit, of listening to one’s own or others’ voices, of hearkening to the prattle of children. And a tune being hummed or whistled in the distance, and a thousand other tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life.

My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys, and thriftily save up the larger, more demanding pleasures for holidays and appropriate hours. It is the small joys first of all that are granted us for recreation, for daily relief and disburdenment, not the great ones.
Hermann Hesse on Little Joys

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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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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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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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Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head…

Weather

Two and a half months of 10º F above average temperatures.  This is getting ridiculous!!!

 

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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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… of the night flowering variety.  During the hours of darkness, they brighten the terrace with their brilliant white and perfume the air with their sweet scent.

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Pitaya

Cereus

Cereus

Azucenas

Azucenas

A fleeting gift for the senses, by morning they gone.

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Rows and flows of angel hairP1060825

And ice cream castles in the air

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And feather canyons everywhere

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I’ve looked at clouds that way.

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.

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Yesterday, I walked through an enchanted garden…

Along with about 25+ other people from the Oaxaca Garden Club, I made my way to an orchid garden in San Andrés Huayapam.

What a treasure the privately funded, Orquideario “La Encantada” is!  For owner/gardener/collector, Octavio Gabriel, it is a 40+ year old passion and labor of love — and it shows.

The earthen pathways lead one up and down, through dappled light, along the slopes of a babbling brook.  The orquideario is sanctuary to about 1,200 species of orchids, along with companion epiphytes, ferns, bromeliads, and even a bamboo forest.

Orquideario “La Encantada” is located at the end of a dirt road off to the right, about 1 km beyond the presas (reservoirs), towards the village of San Andrés Huayapam.

The 100 pesos admission fee helps finance the orquideario.  I plan to return!  Octavio Gabriel’s book, Algunas Orquideas de Oaxaca is available to purchase for 350 pesos.

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The calm after the storm.  What a difference 36 hours makes!

Basilica de la Soledad and blue sky

The beginning of the dry season?  Only Mother Nature knows…

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