Friday, December 16, 2016

Tinne and Change

 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1

"Everything changes, nothing remains without change."
Buddha
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It is impossible to believe that it is 8 years since we bought our house in Banámichi. So little has changed and yet everything has changed.

Beautiful Banámichi backyard

They say time speeds up as you get older. Our time here has passed in a flash. Things that were once easy and even fun have become more challenging.  With time, not only have we aged, but the house has weathered and aged a bit too. Entropy is a basic law of physics. Everything tends toward disorder and every house will require a certain amount of upkeep. And, after 8 years, it was time to re-surface the roof.

It would have been easy to throw money at the task and hire someone. Except that our buddy Ramón (whose crew renovated the house 8 years ago) is now busy administering public works for the town government. And then, pretty  much anyone else who is competent and physically able is working for the Santa Elena mine. There is literally no one to hire to do the work.

This left us to fall back on good old Mexican-style self-reliance.  We have found the Mexican people to be great at improvising alternatives for things they don't have and repairing broken items themselves in unconventional ways.   Unfortunately, there is not much improvisation when it comes to a roof. Either you do it or you don't, and it definitely needed doing. So it was up to us to get'er done.
Pressure washing the roof (or is it the sky?)

Our house partner Dan prefers to use the very best materials. We can see the logic of that. But at our age, we see the changes which are coming, and we know that it is likely that we have maybe 5 more years here at most, so the roof only needs to last that long until we sell the place. Priorities do change. We bought our paint from the local ferreteria ( hardware store) in Banámichi.

This past year I have been watching with sadness as various friends and acquaintances about my age have increasing health problems or even pass on. I never used to dwell on this stuff, but now aging and death are forcing their way into my awareness. Limitations are becoming inescapable as I feel myself having less energy for activities that have been important to me over the years.

One of my great pleasures here in Banámichi has been keeping the vegetable garden. Each year though, digging it over and moving bags of soil amendments and raking and kneeling become a bit harder. Afterwards, the body protests for several days with aches and exhaustion. This year I found myself thinking that this might be the last time I am able to do this.

Veggie garden ready for the winter

I have always valued self-reliance. As a child I had fantasies about growing my own food and not needing anything from anyone. I would have made a great homesteader back in the day.  I have enjoyed  fermenting vegetables, making homemade sourdough bread, and general do-it-myselfing.
But nowadays, even firing up the adobe oven and making pizza feels like more of an all day challenge and less fun than it once was.

So the guys bit the bullet and re-surfaced the roof. It was 4 days of hard work. My Dan detests that kind of project and hated every minute of it. And now, after the fact, it seems that carrying the 60 pound buckets of elastomeric paint up to the roof may have given him a herniated disc. We can no longer assume that it is OK to push our bodies the way we once did.

Those buckets are bone-crunchers!

Then, right after the last of the paint went on the roof, it started to rain. It rained quite hard for several hours and so it took the paint a very long time to dry. Some of the roof needs repair already where walking on it pulled up the still-wet paint. Oh, and now the tinaco (water tank on the roof) has developed a leak and needs to be repaired. It is a never-ending do-it-yourself project having this house. We are not ready to give up just yet, but time is like a thief in the night, and I when I wake in the wee hours of the morning, I can hear him sneaking around.

I feel very sad about the thought of leaving Banámichi and our little house that I love so much. There is so much that I love here...the people, the town, the sunshine, the peace and quiet, the nearby hot springs. This had been such a rich and fulfilling experience.I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet, but I can see coming just over the horizon. Everything is subject to change and nothing remains static.  Such is the poignancy of life.

Everything ends in its time
The only antidote I know for this sadness is to be as fully alive, present and conscious as possible in every moment. Live well, love greatly and laugh a lot. Then when the thief finally strikes, greet him with recognition and cooperation.




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Opossum Karma

What goes around comes around, right? That appears to apply in the world of possums as well as humans.

Peels and poop
When we arrived in Banámichi recently, we found our back porch littered with poop and orange peels. At first, I suspected the hordes of neighborhood feral cats, but they don't tend to eat oranges. Then the memory popped up...when we first started developing the property, the two Dans routed a toothy snarling opossum from its burrow in the shed with a broomstick. Then, I found an orange with telltale tooth marks. This was no cat! Googling images of possum poop, (You've gotta love the internet!) we quickly identified the present culprit.  It was the revenge of the possum!

Check out those teeth!!
Although it was a fun thought, it was unlikely the original possum was exacting revenge now, as the typical lifespan is only a couple of years. It was more of a collective species revenge...perhaps the descendants of that first individual were coming back to eat our oranges and relieve themselves. Actually, I didn't begrudge them a few oranges, it was their toilet habits that were totally unacceptable.
They really clean out those oranges!

Another annoying behavior was taking the oranges up into the space between the porch ceiling and the sheet metal roof to eat them. We now had orange peels hanging from the ocotillo ceiling that randomly dropped from their roost. Yuck!

Peels hanging from the ceiling

As opportunistic omnivores, possums actually have a valuable place in the ecosystem, eating snails, cockroaches, mice and rats...in addition to garbage and fruit. They are the only marsupial in North America, meaning that the babies live in the mother's pouch until they are capable of living on their own. According to the Opossum Society of the United States (Who would have thought it?), opossums roamed the earth at the time of the dinosaurs. Maybe that is why they have a scaly, rat-like tail. These days, they apparently have adapted to thrive in urban and residential areas. In northern Mexico they are known as "tlacuache."

Ultimately we didn't want to harm the possum, just move it along. Aha! Our friend Rafael is known as the "Walmart" of Banamichi, because he has a warehouse full of one of everything anyone could possibly want. I remembered that he had a have-a-heart trap, which we promptly borrowed.

Baiting it with oranges and a few nuts, the first night we didn't catch anything, but there was more poop and hollowed out oranges everywhere. The second night we baited the trap with cat food and chicken scraps. The next morning I was trying to slip quietly out of the bedroom without waking Dan, when, out of a seemingly deep sleep he clearly said, "We got a coon!" Well, not so much a  coon, but after all, the man was asleep! I ran outside to find a cute little guy curled up in the trap, also sound asleep. There was poop on top of the trap.
Isn't it cute?
Starting to "play possum"
Thinking the little guy might be cold, we put the cage out in the sun. The possum responded by "playing possum," the origin of the term. They roll onto one side, open their mouths, close their eyes, and drool. Sometimes they even exude a foul smell. After a while it sat up, and as a parting shot, peed on the patio.

We took it for a 5 mile ride out to the hinterlands in the desert to the east of Las Delicias, a tiny community that is not even on the main road. Only a small sign on the road even signals its existence. When one of the Dans opened the cage, it just stood there for a moment and then very cautiously stuck out its long pointy snout and peered around as if thinking, "Where the heck am I?"  It sniffed a few times and then very slowly emerged from the trap. Once out, it picked up speed and ran with its odd rollicking gait into the brush. Bye, baby!
Venturing out of the trap

For the rest of the day I worried about it...had it found a new burrow? After the easy pickings of the oranges, would it find enough to eat? Poor little thing! It had seemed to be a fairly young possum. When it snarled, we could see its healthy pink gums and 50+ sharp new teeth.

Bye, baby!
Dan and Tracy believed there was more than one midnight marauder. I myself didn't believe the multiple possum hypothesis. They are largely solitary creatures. Anyway, the trap got set again the next night.

After trapping and releasing a feral cat around 10PM, we woke up to find another much larger possum in the trap. But it didn't go into the trap before leaving a large turd right outside our back door. When they have the whole backyard, why do they have to do this on the porch? Revenge?  This one showed more signs of wear and tear... a torn ear, gum problems. Of course it showed us its fully open mouth...snarling and growling. It must have been a full grown adult. Theories were floated that it was the mother of the previous one. Who knows? Could be.

The same scenario ensued...we again drove it out behind Las Delicias. When the cage was opened, it acted in exactly the same manner as the first one, extreme caution, followed by a bolt for the bushes. Good riddance! Neither of them are coming back from that distance.
Hinterlands east of Las Delicias...their new home
The trap was set again last night, but all we caught was a black kitten which must have been hungry. The chicken scraps and cat food were gone. The orange was untouched.

Hopefully we have relocated all the culprits at this point. But we have also changed the ecosystem of the neighborhood. Sooner or later, the possum population will redistribute itself and new ones will come back to exact revenge. What goes around comes around.