Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arbustivas Nativas de Uso Múltiple 101

Yesterday the San Miguel de Allende "Down to Earth" Garden Club had a field trip to the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agricolas y Pecuarias (INIFAP) to hear a lecture by the Directora Rosario Terrones Rincón.


The lecture commenced in the auditorium and covered the history of INIFAP and the native plants of Guanajuato. During this lecture we learned:

  • INIFAP was a research project that was originally funded by the Rockefeller family and was later turned over to the Mexican government.
  • In Mexico 100 percent (yes I said that) of the water is somewhat polluted.
  • The desertification of Guanajuato was commenced by the occupation of Mexico by the Spanish. Guanajuato use to have extensive forests of Mesquite and other trees, that were all cut down for use by the Spaniards to build the silver mines, churches and haciendas.
  • The desertification of Guanajuato has been expanded also due to the local agriculture and livestock industries that focus on mono-culture farming and ranching.
  • Rosario's program is focused on education of the rural community on properly caring for their lands, plants and trees while trying to reforest the lands of Guanajuato with native plants and trees.
  • Her methods are 100 percent organic and there are no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
  • All of these native trees and shrubs have multiple benefits for the rural communities, including medicinal, fire wood for cooking and heat, artisanal, fencing and construction.
  • These trees and plants can also help remove both air and water pollution, create barriers for wind and water erosion and provide improvements to the micro climate.
  • Currently her funding has had significant reductions and she is in need of additional funding.

After this informative lecture, the DTE Garden Group boarded a bus to visit the nurseries of INIFAP and to see excellent specimens of these native trees and shrubs.


Here Rosario is leading a discussion of one of the many native plants that are grown in the INIFAP nursery.


The flower of the Fraile plant is a beautiful yellow and blooms twice a year. Also the fruits are used in the costumes of Mexican folklore dancers.


Here we have Rosario with one of her top assistants, Miguel, who is leaving INIFAP this December to pursue his Masters. It is a shame that she will lose such a talented engineer but hopefully he will return after continuing his education. Also the lady behind Rosario is Santa Ana Ríos Ruíz, who was the editor of the book "Arbustivas Nativas de Uso Múltiple en Guanajuato".


While we proceeded on the tour, we found this wonderful plant which has a flower like nothing I have seen before. Jo Ann said it looked like something that a fly fisherman would create, it was most beautiful. However this plant is almost extinct and they are trying to repopulate it again. It was interesting to hear that when the seed pods are ready to expend their seeds, that the pods burst open and capturing the seeds can be very difficult.


There are also many shrubs that have interesting berries, some edible and some not. Here is an example of such an interesting plant.


We also saw many wonderful Mexican wild flowers while we toured the nursery. This one is called Torretois/


There were so many interesting trees that we saw. Here is one that can be trained to grow straight up and has a wonderful trunk with green and red leaves, very interesting.


Then we came to this tree that was probably 20 feet tall with these beautiful white and pink flowers. I don't recall the name of the tree but it also was very interesting.


Finally we came to a section of trees were called Tepozan Blanco, which provide such a thick canopy that nothing will grow below the tree, not weeds nor grass. Also Rosario told us that the trees contain a natural and organic integrated pest management system that will keep all unwanted pests away.


Finally on our way back to the bus we came across this wonderful plant with these beautiful yellow flowers. I don't recall the name but as the photo below shows, it has a bright yellow color and a very interesting shape.


After the lecture and tour, I talked with many people of the DTE group. Everyone seemed very impressed with the research and work being done by INIFAP and were very concerned that the group has been losing so much funding. I am very hopeful that the DTE Garden Group will be able to think of a way that we can help INIFAP and especially Rosario with raising some additional funding as the group is doing such important research and social work.

If you are interested in looking at more photos about reforestation in Guanajuato or more specifically on our rancho in San Miguel de Allende, please continue to follow my flickr photo set call Reforestation.

Another Beautiful Sun Rise in San Miguel

This morning as I went to walk the dogs, I was just stunned by the beautiful sun rise. Just spectacular!

Another Beautiful Sunrise in San Miguel

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And Then the Heavens Opened

Yesterday we were sitting outside for comida and we commented to each other that it looked like we were going to get a little rain.  The previous day the skies looked ominous and the lightening and thunder were down right scary, but alas no rain.

However as we looked at this approaching storm, we thought maybe we would get some rain and so it would be good to get the burros back in their corral and close down all of the out buildings.  Well this storm moved much quicker than we thought and I was just finishing with the burros when the heavens opened.

The rain was not as hard as some that we have had previously but it was steady and a lot.  After about 30 minutes, I was out on the front poach in my rubber boots having to pump the rain water away from the house as it had flooded the entire front patio but was still a ways from entering the front door, thankfully.

Once the rains started to subside, I got my camera out and took a couple of images, here is one of the roads out of our rancho, as you can see it is fairly flooded, so without a four wheel drive, forget it.

The road out is flooded

I also looked down at one of the edges of our property that is a lot lower than the house and you can see the water just ponding where it normally will quickly soak into the ground.

Water ponding from the rain

After the storm and all the necessary clean up, Jo Ann and I were able to enjoy and nice evening outside, the skies were clear and the air smelled so fresh.

However during the evening we were hit with another major storm, it rained for another couple of hours and I had to get up from sleep to unplug all of my computer equipment as it was lightening and thundering again.

But in the morning I was given a major treat, the sun rise was absolutely magnificent.  As you can see from these three images the brilliant oranges contrasting the blue skies.  Absolutely wonderful.

A beautiful sun rise after the hard rain Another sun rise after the hard rain More sun rise after the hard rain

With my camera in hand, Jo Ann and I then headed off to look at the rancho and see if there was any damage from the storms.  Luckily there was not but there was a number of new and beautiful images.

First we found this wonderful tree that we had not noticed before with these beautiful yellow flowers bursting out this morning.

Flowers after the rain

Then we walked down to our arroyo which is always dry.  Well this morning it was anything but dry, as you can see the water falls were running rapidly.

Closer to the Water Fall

Then returning to our house we found these wonderful wild flowers that were just bursting this morning.

Mexican Wild Flowers

It was an amazing 24 hours, with the heavy rains and near flooding, followed by a stunning morning.  Mexico is such a wonderful place and provides ample opportunity to take some stunning photos.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reforestation status

It has been over three weeks since we started our first phase of our reforestation project.  In this phase we are planting over 350 native scrubs and trees and will be planting another 500 or so next year.  The ground that we are planting in is extremely hard and difficult to dig in.

Holes in Very Hard Soil

After cleaning out the old brush and a bunch of garbage that had accumulated on the property over the past who knows how many years, we staged all of the plants.

Plants in the Staging Area

Staging Area

More plants in the staging area

And even more plants awaiting to be planted

Once we had purchased all of the plants that we wanted for this first stage, we started to create a design for the layout of the area.  This included creating some wind blocks, establishing areas that will have plants that will attract birds and butterflies with their flowers and aroma and finally areas that will create depth with the taller Huizaches and Mesquites.

Here we have laid out a number of the plants in one corner of the rancho that will be both a wind block and have flowers and aroma.

Plants a waiting There are still a lot to plant

We have a couple of workers on our rancho that are doing the majority of the digging.  It is hard work, even though we have two gas powered augers and an assortment of other tools and aids.

Thomas trying to get the plants in the ground

As I showed earlier the ground is very hard and a good day is to get 25 plants in the ground.  There is a lot of work to dig the hole (both wide and deep enough), to properly mix composted material with the desert soil and to stake and water.  This is nothing like planting in California but the net result should be wonderful.

Ready to plant

Although the plants are not very tall at this time, we have seen that within four years the plants can be 1 1/2 to 2 meters tall which will provide significant shade and blockage of the wind.  I can't wait to see how they progress.

New Wind Screen

Part of this project is also to provide additional protection to the newly reforested area.  Even though our property is fully fenced with the aging barbed wire we are providing an additional barrier for the new reforested area as well as moving our burros to a separate area of the rancho so we don't have to worry about them getting lose and eating the new plants.

New Fence Posts

Last week we were visited by the Directora of INIFAP so she could examine our rancho and ensure that we had acquired the right types of plants for our climate and soil conditions.  Luckily we had, but she had a couple of observations, one that we have some wonderful Huizaches Chicos as you can see below:

One of our existing Huizache

However down by our arroyo we also have a couple (not many) Huizaches that have the parasite Paistle in them.  This parasite does not really feed on the tree but blocks the photosynthesis and will starve the tree.

Paistle in a Huizache

So we are half way, maybe two thirds, but the work is slow and tiring.  We also have to find the time to remove the Paistle from the existing trees before they starve the trees, but that is just one of around two hundred projects that I have on my list. 

Next week we also have a field trip for the San Miguel Down To Earth Garden Club to INIFAP.  Right now we have around 45 people signed up to listen to Directora Rosario Terrones Rincon speak about native plants and shrubs and then lead a tour of their nursery and experimental gardens.  The lecture and tour will take around 2 1/2 hours so if anyone is interested in attending on the 29th of August, just send me a note.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Struggling with this Month's Topic

I recently joined a digital photo club down here in San Miguel de Allende, having only attended one previous meeting. During these meetings, there is discussion on photography and using digital photography tools, such as Photoshop. Then there is a portion of the meeting for sharing of photos based upon a suggested topic, the first was People of San Miguel and this month's topic is Food in San Miguel. Finally the meeting convenes for a social hour of appetizers and beverages.

I would classify the group as a social photography group, rather than one focused on evaluating and critiquing photos, but it is a good group with a lot of fun and interesting people.

However, my dilemma today is that I am having a very hard time in selecting some of my photos that I believe are good examples of my techniques that fit within the topic that we are to be presenting. Being married to a trained chef we don't go out to restaurants very often so I have few photos of restaurants and food presentation at restaurants. Thus the best that I can do is to present some images of the local tiendas and tianguis that I have taken while wondering around San Miguel.

So tell me are these worthy of sharing at the upcoming meeting or should I try harder to find something more interesting and a better representation of my work?

Here is what I am looking to present at this meeting of the group.

Beef and more beef Jo Ann on your daily shopping trip Pig Skins Fried Pork Skins Squash Blossoms Chilis and more chilis At the weekly vegetable market Waiting for my juice Our Favorite Ice Cream

Carnitas Tienda

Then there is one image that I really do like but it is not taken down here in San Miguel. This is a photo of Jo Ann working at the Gualala Farmers Market using my lens baby. I really enjoy this photo and am planning to use it even though it does not totally comply with the topic of the month.Jo Ann at the Gualala Farmers Market

So what do you think, try harder or are these good images to share that fit with the topic of Food in San Miguel?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Jo Ann's Garden

As I mentioned last week, Jo Ann is away for another five days and although she has not said anything yet, I know that she is concerned about her garden. When we came to San Miguel de Allende, one of the first things that she wanted to do was to plant a small vegetable garden so that we could start growing our own food again.

The weather here is wonderful for growing most things, but the soils have been very depleted by over farming, so we first spent a lot of time tilling in organic compost (yes that is why we have the four burros and there seems to be a never ending source of this from them). After preparing the soil, we used our old rototiller from California and planted tomatoes, French green beans, basil, carrots, squash and much more.

We are also strong proponents of using drip irrigation and protecting the young plants with a cover cloth that allows about 85 percent of the UV in and most of the rain, but keeps the plants protected from insects and creates a humid greenhouse effect.

So how are things going, well I think pretty good, you be the judge yourself.

We love basel Squash Beans and more beans Bean Blossoms

But of course, Jo Ann made sure that I would be properly supervised. So she made sure that Hershey and Raider would keep an eye on me and make sure I watered everything as needed!

My Supervisors