Sunday, June 20, 2010


The full brutalizing heat of summer is here in Banámichi. I can work in the garden from the time I wake up until maybe 8 AM. By 8 AM, the few clothes I am wearing are soaked with sweat and I begin to feel light-headed as I pull the prolific weeds and pick up rotten grapefruit that have fallen from the tree. I seek refuge in the house.

The house is wonderful, with its 21” thick adobe walls, made for a climate like this. When I walked in after being away for several weeks, the inside temperature was 85 degrees – a pleasant miracle in the 100°+ outdoor temperatures.

It is easy for me to become a hermit in this weather, never sticking my head out the door all day. I draw, write, read, knit and meditate. I live in silence. My soul relaxes and my focus is inward. It is a healing and clearing time – as if the heat is burning all the dross from my inner being.

Meanwhile, outside, the sky is blue, and the sun burns relentlessly all day. Dust hangs in the air. The air over the mountains is white with glare. The temperature hits 103°, 107° and sometimes higher. There are no clouds in the sky, and everyone is waiting for the first afternoon buildup of tall gray thunderheads over the mountains that will bring the start of the monsoons. Traditionally this happens around June 24th El Día de San Juan, so we still have a while to go.

The riverbed of the Río Sonora is dry – the farms upstream are pumping and using most of the water. I turn on the kitchen faucet and a small trickle emerges – hardly enough for a shower. The water pressure is insufficient to turn on the on-demand hot water heater. (Dan says it’s inappropriate technology and he is probably right. Still, I love the idea of it – it's so “green,” so politically correct.) The water running out of the cold tap is tepid to the touch and makes a great shower – if it is running at all.

Sometimes the water is off for a day or more at a time. The town system is antiquated and a break in a line anywhere means that everyone must do without until the line is fixed. My garden has really suffered. If the irrigation system comes on when the water is turned off, the plants are out of luck, and will go thirsty for another day. For some of them, their growth is stunted and they begin to turn crispy – their range of adaptation has been exceeded. (How often does this happen to us humans?)

 Some plants have grown well, and others, not so well. For a while there were more zucchini that we could use, and now the production seems to have halted and the plants show the stress – the leaves are brown and attract an enormous biomass of aphids and flies that feed on the aphids. There are still melons on the vine – it will be a race to see which comes first – ripening, or the death of the plant from the heat.

Ahh, but the tomatoes!! The branches hang low with clusters of cherry tomatoes that are all shades of red and orange. I harvest a bowlful – so sweet, so delicious! The other tomato pants hang heavy with fruit as well. They seem to be thriving under their cover of shade cloth.

The early season corn is finished. I waited too long to pick it – should have done it 2 weeks ago. Now what I have are small cobs with dried kernels – seeds for next year. So much for my vision of roasting ears! Anyway – this was some sort of weird mutant hybrid corn - some of the seeds grew without stalks – just an ear of corn sticking out of the ground. Now that's bizarre! I’m glad we didn’t get to eat it – might have been radioactive!

The green beans have given their all, and we were not here to enjoy them – one of the perils of two residences. Eggplant? The plants are brown, wilty, and insect-eaten. The chili plants from Lynn’s ristra may yet do OK. They are children of this climate. And there is still some tender chard left – will those plants ever quit? I have to keep reminding myself that this first year is all an experiment.

On the other side of the garden, there is the gigantic berry tree. This monster tree is in the yard of our neighbor Chuchico, and is so large that half of it hangs over our yard – over my garden to be specific. It is the biggest deciduous tree I’ve ever seen and provides much needed shade for us and for him. It is a magnificent thing but for one tiny fact – it is covered with small, gnarly, seed-filled berries about the size and color of a blueberry. These are not edible by anything except the pesky fruit bats, which chew them up, suck the juice and spit out the rest. Bleahhh!
Last fall, the berries and chewed up mess fell all over my garden, attracting insects and disease to the plants. This year I decided to do battle with the berries. I bought a 12x18 foot piece of shade cloth and hung it at an angle above the garden, with the intention that the berries would be caught by the shade cloth and tumble back over the wall into Chuchico’s yard. Has this been successful? Well, partially. In true Mexican style, I did not have the appropriate materials to do the job properly. I need a few more 10 foot long sections of pipe to prop it up. Instead, I have a wiggly, wobbly piece of sapling cut from Tom’s overgrown property. The shade cloth sags and it bags. I have to go outside and manually flip the berries over the wall. It is better than nothing. Maybe mañana I will get some pipes and fix it up. But then again - it’s hot out there.

Where would I get such a thing as pipe here in the back of beyond anyway? That indeed is part of the problem. We have a small ferreteria (hardware store) here in Banamichi. We jokingly call it the “No hay ferreteria.” (The “Do Not Have” hardware store.)

On occasion, I reluctantly slink in there and self-consciously approach the counter along with the ranchers and cowboys. They look me over and size me up.  I squirm under their gaze and wonder what they are thinking.

Finally, Lupita gets around to asking me what I want. In my best Spanish – which I have practiced all the way to the store – I explain the commonplace object I want -  say a small hook closure. She shakes her head and frowns. “No hay!” she says. “We don’t have it.”

This happens all the time with all manner of items. “No hay!” “No hay!” “No  hay!” So either we get it in the States and bring it through Mexican customs and pay the 15% importation tax, or we drive 2 ½ hours to Hermosillo to look in Home Depot, Rumba, Massa or one of the other hardware stores there before driving
2 ½ hours back. Maybe we get lucky, maybe not. More likely we will wind up improvising – like my wiggly, wobbly sapling. “Muy Mexicano!” – “Very Mexican,” our builder friend Ramón would say.

So you ask, why do I want to live in this land of water shortages, failed crops and “No Hay?” In Tucson, everything is so predictable. In Banámichi, from one day to the next, I never know what will happen, who will come to the door, what I will have to improvise. It’s fun, it’s interesting. It’s a challenge. I love the challenge. So what if something isn’t the way I expect? OK, I learn to adjust my expectations and find a way to cope. It’s an ongoing lesson in the true unpredictability of life. Life is more primal, more in my face, more immediate and vibrant when I constantly have to think on my feet. I have to be more in touch with myself. I feel more alive.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to have that visit with you through your post June. Thanks for the tour of the garden. I want some of those tomatoes! Yum. I know what you mean about the unpredictably making you stay more alive, more alert to life. Our camp host job is getting a bit predictable so we're planning a trip to Big Sur to see where we'll be camp hosting next and to meet some staff people there. We are even talking about getting some parttime jobs at Big Sur Lodge. John and I had a long conversation today about honoring me the writer - both me doing the honoring and me requesting him to do so. It was good. I'm getting there. I'm owning this part of me and making a place to write in the world that does not take a lower priority to everything else. Be cool my dear June. Love you. Can't wait for our next visit! Your readers are invited to stop by my blogs: Levonne's Pretty Pics and A Camp Host Housewife's Meanderings.