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Archive for the ‘Science & Nature’ Category

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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Yesterday, the Virgen del Rosario convite beckoned us to Tlacolula (more to come).  After an hour and a half of photographing and relishing in the music, marmotas, monos, impossibly cute kids, and hospitality, we began losing the light as a dark and threatening sky began moving in.  However, Mother Nature put on quite an extravaganza for our drive back to the city — towering clouds, sheets of rain, lightening streaking towards the ground, brilliant sun, and rainbows.

Basílica de La Soledad with red-gray sky

Once home, a weird and wondrous sunset.

 

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From this morning’s walk in Teotitlán del Valle…

Blue flower surrounded by green leaves

White blossom

Yellow flowers

Pomegranate on branch

Splashes of color on a gray, rainy season, Sunday.

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