Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mexico... then Texas

Our last week in Lo de Marcos was crammed full of last minutes things. Most we didn't have much control over...  like the new sewer line....

When we arrived here early October, 2016, the work laying the new sewer line began almost immediately.  We applied for the permits, paid the fees and jumped through all the hoops.  But all that did not make the connection from our property to the main sewer line at the street happen an faster.  Finally, the week before we headed back to the States, the city worker came and dug this trench...  and then laid the pipe from our line (just in front of our gate) to the city line...  in the lower middle of the photo.  So it's done... right?  Wrong....  But when we get back this October we will hire the man who laid the line in our yard to come back and do whatever needs to be done to get us off the septic tank system and actually hooked into the city system.  Yes, things take time here.

At least the worker didn't use a barricade like this when the street was torn up...
Wouldn't OSHA have a fit if they saw something like this?

We made several trips to the water office in Bucerias (that's where you apply for the permit) and that's where I saw this cat asleep just inside the door...
I've seen a lot of beat-up, bedraggled tom cats in my day, but this guy topped them all!  Both ears were nearly gone...  he had only one eye....  he had scars and patches of hair gone all over his body.  His hair was dirty and matted in places.  Of course I had to squat down and pet him.  He was ecstatic...  kept purring and rolling over.  He may be rag-tag and tougher than nails, but he still likes a little attention.

We waited until the last day to disconnect our fountain and store it in the bodega.  And I'm glad we did...
We had this pair of Streaked-back Orioles and the male Painted Bunting come to it at the same time.  What gorgeous colors!

We managed to get in a few last-minute walks along the river.  The bridge isn't finished yet...  maybe by the time we return.  We weren't disappointed with the birds...
A Wood Stork...  kind of flopping around at the edge of the Lagoon

A little Green Heron along the bank of the river.
It will be months before I see these birds again....

One evening, just before leaving, Santos brought over a real treat...
Here he is... shucking oysters fresh from the sea!
We slurped them down nearly as fast he he shucked them.  He even brought over some limes to squeeze the juice on them.  They sure didn't need anything else...  they were delicious!

We worked the Sterilization Clinic one last time last Sunday.  Thirty dogs and cats were spayed or neutered.  It was a long day, but everything went well...  two dogs did not have surgery due to poor health, but hopefully they'll be better soon.  Don, who is in charge of the clinic, might be able to arrange a summer clinic.  Mostly they are held when the winter folks are there as they need volunteers.  My job is to heat buddy bags in the microwave to use around the critters as they are in recovery.  The surgery tech didn't show...  so I learned how to secure a dog to the table, clean the area being cut, hold "body parts" in forceps for the Vet and all manner of things.  Just a few things I never dreamed I'd ever be doing...  at least I'm not squeamish over blood and guts.

Like I said, the last few days just seemed to pass faster and faster...
And it was time to go...
I had to say goodbye to Pirate.
He's been my favorite dog for the past 2 years.  This year he's had some hard time as he was hit by a car in November and nearly died.  After finally getting his health back he'd gained weight and energy.  But he's never been to the Sterilization Clinic...  he got in a dog fight and his ear was badly torn and got infected.  With care from the local vet he got better.  Then about a week later he was limping...  but this time recovered quickly.  Here he looks good.  Hopefully he'll get through the summer without anything major and I'll see him again.  Yes, he does have an owner and is fed and cared about....  but Mexican culture is different in how dogs and cats are viewed.

Bill & I decided to take the bus to Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday.  Relax a little, 
go to the Mariana area (very touristy and up-scale)...  look at all the expensive boats in the harbor...

have a beer at the Beer Barn
(Bill likes a really dark, hoppy beer)

and even find a Geocache in a phone booth.
We ate out, went back to our hotel, and Wednesday morning headed to the airport to fly back to Texas.

Our daughter and son-in-law picked us up at DFW...
Nice direct flight...  no problems getting through customs or immigration... 
collected our bags and we all headed down the road.

Our daughter lives about 5 miles out of town (about 60 miles south of Ft Worth), and there's plenty of wildlife to see here, too.
This big Tom Turkey has a whole harem he herds along...

In full display, he's quite impressive.
We see flocks of turkeys at least twice a day moving across the yard.  And there's a single Tom who travels alone.  I love hearing them gobble and watch the strut!

There's a pair of Roadrunners that live a couple hundred feet across from our motorhome.  Kind of far away to get a good photo, but we see them off and on.

There are cardinals, titmice, mockingbirds, Eastern bluebirds and goldfinch, to name a few species here.  As well as cowbirds, house sparrows and others.

The Blue Bonnets and Indian Paintbrush are in bloom...
The roadsides are lovely with the wildflowers.
Ladybird Johnson, you will always be remembered!

It was quite hot when we got here Wednesday evening, but we got a little rain and it cooled things down.  I think we've made the transition from Mexico to Texas quite well.
We'll be here until late April...  again, we have a lot to catch up on.  It took hours just to sort through 5 1/2 months of mail!  I think we're ready to send out tax stuff to the CPA in Ohio tomorrow.  

And so, another adventure begins!
That's All For Today!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lo de Perla.... A Walk in the Orchid Garden

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a guided tour through Lo de Perla, an orchid jungle just a few miles south of Lo de Marcos, where we live.  My friend, Memo, does a lot of public relations for Galvan Realty, and he often writes about local attractions for their website.  He was asked to do a blog about the Orchid Jungle, and he asked me if I'd be interested in going along as his photographer.  Of course I was more than happy to.  We arrived at the designated "pick-up" area at 9:00 am where we met up with 2 women who were also going along on the tour.

 The entrance to the Lo de Perla...

 Here's Memo, with the founder and owner, Alejandro de Perla.  
This is advertised to be a 2 hour walk through the jungle where you'll see orchids, bromelias and cacti in their natural habitat.  
Alejandro is totally chemical-free, and collects only "pure" species of plants.  

That's Memo, holding a Shelf Fungi (also known as "Artist's Fungi") that grows on a lot of the trees here.  While this is primarily a showcase for orchids, the jungle is just right for many kinds of mushrooms and other fungus.  Alejandro told us how many species of trees and birds have been documented in this area, and he could easily conduct a tour about a lot more than the orchids that he loves.

As you walk along the tour route, you'll see artwork and other artifacts pertaining to the people and the culture here.  

 Many of the orchids and bromelia you see have been attached to the trees with twine.  While the conditions are perfect for their growth, they need some help getting started in places along the trail.

 I know...  this wasn't a bird-watching tour, but of course I'm always on the lookout for bird sounds or movement.  I wasn't disappointed...  saw this Brown Creeper soon into the walk.  There are over 130 species of birds here, so there's a lot more than orchids to see.

I don't know how many of species of plants Alejandro pointed out to us, but most plants in the jungle are not in bloom at this time.  

 Not part of the Gardens, but doesn't this view of the coast look like it should be in a fairy tale?  

Many of these plants won't be in bloom until April...  and again in October, when, we were told, the jungle will be ablaze with color.

 I loved the way the sun high-lighted his huge leaf!

We did see several orchids in bloom.  Most quite small and easy to miss unless you look closely.  Alejandro explained how commercial orchids are often hybrids...  bred for size or other attributes that are not the "natural" state.  His plants are all without modification.

The two women on the tour had a great time taking tons of photos and getting up close and personal with the flowers.

 Another sprig of tiny orchids.

 We saw so many species of plants I couldn't keep track.  I think Alejandro said that there are around 40,000 different species of orchids in the world.  I don't know how many of species he has here, but there are a lot.  (the brochure says he has more than 1,000 species of exotic plants)

And only about an inch across.  It's amazing how much detail can be seen in something so tiny.

 Here's Memo...  standing at the base of a fig tree.  More on this later....

Here's what happens when you give your camera to someone else to take photos.  Alejandro took this one of our group as we're standing on the bridge.  The stream was dry here, but during the rainy season the water will cascade down creating waterfalls and deep pools.

Back to the Fig Tree.
The original (host) tree is in the middle.  That vine is started from the top of the tree... usually because a bird ate the fruit..  passed the seed into the nest... it sprouted... started sending out tendrils...  clear to the ground.  There it took root.  Over time the tendrils and roots criss-cross around the original tree and eventually kill it.

 The tour winds through the jungle, up to a huge greenhouse.
This is where the color is today...

Most of these flowers are large and quite showy.
Some even had a lovely smell...  not at all like those hot-house orchids you used to get in a corsage for the prom!

 Alejandro has a lot of different plants in his greenhouse area.  He's standing beside a huge Angel-wing Begonia here.

In November, he is planning to have a fund-raiser to help his efforts in saving the habitat and his beloved orchids.  He plans to offer a tour of the gardens, followed by a short drive to this area, where there will be drinks and hors d'oeuvres served.  This is a perfect spot to relax, enjoy the view and meet others who are also interested in his work.

As it happened, we stopped at a couple of spots before heading back to Lo de Marcos, and our "two hour" tour lasted almost 6 hours.

We had a great tour, and I enjoyed every minute of it, and come October, Bill & I plan to go back to see all the glory when the jungle is in bloom!

That's All For Today!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Counting Down and Adding Up....

We'll be flying back to the States in less than 2 weeks.  Our winter here is almost over.  I really should write "season", because winter, as I know it, doesn't really exist here.  It has been cooler here these past couple of months than we've had in the past, but I've had to wear a long sleeve shirt only a few times in the early morning.  And the only reason I wear shoes other than sandals is because I've found that my sneakers are easier to take long walks in.  Seems my sandals just attract little gravels (that feel like boulders) and I'm constantly shaking them out.  I look like a cat that's stepped in rain or snow and is letting the world know she's unhappy.  Enough of that...  let's move on to the house.

Since this was our first season here in our "new" house, I've looked around to see what changes we have made.  The biggest things have been fairly subtle.  Tearing out the concrete and brick planter, along with about 30'-40' of concrete and laying new sewer line took a couple of weeks, but now you'd hardly know it happened.  Same with upgrading the electric.  We now have 2 circuit breaker boxes and several more plug-in outlets.  

The house has a full bath next to the bedroom and a half-bath/laundry room off the main room.  Fernando, a man Bill met last year, works with aluminum.  He custom made new windows (1 each) for those rooms...
This is the one in the shower....
As it turned out, neither window was exactly plumb, so Fernando had to make them fit.  You might think that the shower is big.  It sure is!  It measures around 5'2" X 6'.  I guess a really hefty person could take a shower comfortably there!

I think in a past blog I showed photos of the mirrors Fernando fabricated for this bathroom  They added a lot of light as well.  

One big thing we bought that lives in this bathroom...
A Dehumidifier
It's sitting on a floor drain, so if we leave it on this summer, it doesn't need someone to drain the pan.  See how big it is?  Well...  except for a few of the biggest things, we carried almost everything home from the stores on the bus.  Bill carried this dehumidifier from Home Depot to the bus stop (about 3 city blocks).  It was quite a feat just getting it home.

We bought some other things for the bathroom...  a bathroom scales as well as lots of new bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths.  

On to the bedroom...  
The Air Conditioner was the biggest expense....  costing $500 US dollars...  installed.
The old AC still works...  sort of....  but it groans and clunks all night long, and we figure it's going to crash soon.  So far, we've only needed the AC from our arrival (early October) through mid-December.   We only use it at night in the bedroom...   but those nights can be pretty miserable without one.  

Bill also took down the old, dead ceiling fan and installed a new one he bought at Home Depot.

We bought a few sets of sheets and 2 new pillows.  The existing mattress does not need replaced yet.

The biggest room is just off the bedroom...  a combination Living Room/Dining Room/Kitchen.  I posted photos of the beautiful dining room table with 6 chairs we bought early on.  It's made of a very heavy wood... barcino.  We wanted a book/curio shelf to match and had one made through a furniture store in La Penita.  After it was delivered, we felt it needed more....
The center tall part is the original purchase.  We went back and had the lower shelves (on either side of the tall part) made to match.  They, too, are made of that heavy wood.  Eventually we'll have our special treasures displayed here...  right now there are some photos, a couple of Catrina sculptures and my cameras and binoculars.  The whole bottom sections are filled with games for the neighborhood kids.  

I have already posted photos of the wall hanging and throw pillows we bought to make the place "ours".  

We spend a fair amount of time using our computers...  so a printer was needed...  and...
Bill installed this light over my chair and computer area.
That conduit you see at the left is the common way to run electric here as the walls are concrete.

I think I posted a similar photo before...  but..
This was where the refrigerator used to be.  It took up way too much space and made it impossible to use the counter on either side.  We moved the fridge to another area and bought this utility shelving for the microwave and other uses.  The kitchen was fairly well furnished, but we added a coffeepot, more silverware, plastic keeper bins and other small items.  When our daughter visited in January she brought an oven thermometer and a kitchen timer...  neither of which I could find here.

We are starting to personalize our home and one thing I wanted was some of the dishes from the tile shop in Puerto Vallarta...
Here are some of the dishes we bought to place on the top of the kitchen cupboard.
Eventually we'll repaint the walls so the background is nicer.  Bill took down 2 (useless) lights that were located up there.  The plate holders aren't very sturdy... I'll replace these by next year....  and buy enough to hold a few more dishes.  
Aren't they colorful!

The porch is where we spend the most time.  It's like the dining room, family room, all-purpose hang-out.  There is often a breeze..  it's shady...  and we have a great view of what's going on along the street.  Bill built a bookshelf, using bricks and some plywood and it holds everything from books to jars of dog biscuits (for the dogs next door)

Could you resist these big, brown eyes?

Bill had a permanent brick stand made for the Weber Grill...  we bought a hammock and some additional cushions for the couch.  He installed a new ceiling fan out there as well.  With the big table and about a dozen chairs we can enjoy quite a crowd right on the porch.

A view across the porch...
See my Fish Mobile?  It's not a wind-chime, but just a colorful ornament to enjoy!

Bill found a locksmith in Bucerias and took the innards of each lock down to him.  He changed all the pins and now instead of each door having it's own key, All the "house" locks use the same key...  All the security gates have the same key.... and the utility room and bodega (shed) have the same key.  WoooHooo...  only 3 different keys for about a dozen or more doors!

Speaking of the bodega...  Bill bought shelving and organized that area.  He's got tools hanging neatly on the wall, tools in their place on a shelf...  and a few new tools to make his life easier.  

I've left the best for last!
The fountain and the flowers!
You can barely see the fountain here (on the wall at the right)...  and the flowers don't show up so well either, but that planter along the wall is filled with everything from hibiscus to bird-of-paradise, to at least a dozen species I don't even know the names of.  We're planting to attract birds and butterflies.  In fact...  about 2' out from the wall, a whole row of Lantana was put in just today.  You can just see kind of a shadow where they are.  And about 2' to the left of those is another row...  hydrangea, roses, gardenias and some more hibiscus.  By this fall, when we return, these should be fantastic!

Where we took out that flower planter and concrete to put in the new sewer line is now filled with at least 8 different colors of bougainvillea.  There's also some Mexican petunias, some herbs, a few tomato plants and other things along this wall.  That yellow flower you see about in the middle is growing on our neighbor's side of the wall...  between us, we'll have gorgeous bowers of colorful flowers in time.

In the back yard we've put in 3 new Traveler's Palms, an African Poplar, a Moringa Tree and a few dozen more flowering plants and shrubs.  

We bought everything paying in pesos...  and we never kept exact records of what we spent.  The total for the major items was around $3,000 US dollars.  We probably spent another $1,500 on the stuff like bed linens, kitchen wares, and miscellaneous things.  Mas o menos....

Before the last photo, I'll add that we will have a gardener take care of the yard and flowers while we're gone.  Santos and his wife and son already come a few times each week to water, weed or whatever needs done.  We don't plan to rent the place to others at this time, so it will be good to have someone around to see that all is still okay.

And...  here's the tile we ordered from the World of Tile in Puerto Vallarta...
  This is the photo they sent us when it was finished...  We have since picked it up, but will wait until this coming October to have it set into the wall in front of our house.  
Everyone calls this the "McBride House", as that was the former owner.  We have renamed it "Hummingbird House"....  hopefully it can live up to its new name.

That's All For Today!