The skies over San Miguel this time of the year are frequently cloudy, but that’s only a tease. They promise rain but deliver only a couple of timorous sprinkles of little benefit to the plants and trees, except to rinse the dust off the foliage. Last night we had one of those teasers: It came to .05 inches, or basically nothing.
I temper my impatience by occasionally, and perversely, checking the Weather Channel app to reassure myself that San Miguel’s weather could be worse, much worse.
In much of the southwestern United States it’s broiler hot, with temperatures in the upper nineties in San Antonio, Houston, Albuquerque and Miami, along with a stifling humidity that makes the heat feel that much more uncomfortable. Even in Chicago, the forecast high yesterday was 99°F. in addition to the dreaded temperature-humidity index of over 100.
These days the highs in San Miguel are in the mid-70s, usually with a brisk breeze in late afternoon. Night temperatures, in the 60s, and even 50s, call for a light blanket. It’s ideal sleeping weather.
Still. Gloating about the miserable weather elsewhere can’t quite compensate for the dreadful appearance of most vegetation here, including yellowed, possibly dead, evergreens and bushes, along with sickly grass.
|This Michoacán pine looks pretty
even after it died.
Evergreens this year were again afflicted by a lack of rain and probably some sort of insect infestation. I’m betting on the latter, because some evergreens and cedars are nicely green, while similar species, just ten meters away, seem to be dead or close to it.
If the cause were lack of moisture, they would all be in the same condition, or so I figure. We’ve had several tanker trucks of water delivered to douse the sickly trees but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.
Back in the States, agricultural extensions of state universities would be able to diagnose the problem and suggest a cure, but I haven’t found an equivalent resource here.
We’ll just have to wait for the rains to arrive and perhaps revive the sickly trees. Someone on the Civil List, an expat bulletin board, suggested mites might be the problem and so we have sprayed them with a broad-spectrum insecticide, but with little apparent improvement.
I called city hall but the one factotum I spoke with didn’t seem to know or be concerned about the problem. In fact, he said, no one had even noticed that almost a dozen tall evergreens in front of the building were completely dead.
Stew and I went out this morning to more closely check the trees, but swarms of bees chased us away. But there is really not much more we can do except wait until the rains return, and hope they green up the ranch, particularly the struggling trees.
And we’ll have to chop down the ones that don’t make it, a painful chore because some of the evergreens are as tall as 20 feet. Stew argues against planting any replacements. Enough is enough.
|A mash-up of different types of lettuce,
with one carrot plant behind.
On the brighter side, this year’s crop of vegetables seems to be coming along fine, albeit behind schedule. My friend John, whose wife calls him an “inveterate old farmer,” is in his eighties and began planting his tomatoes a month or six weeks before I did and they are enjoying them already.
On the raised beds close to the house, we have about a dozen tomato plants, with exotic names: Black Krim, Bodacious Hybrid, Yellow Cherokee Purple, and Gardener’s Delight. Black Krim and Bodacious are growing far faster than the others. We also have four cucumber plants (Bragger Hybrid); carrots; radishes and beans. I’ve tried to avoid the usual jungle-like crowding of plants in the raised beds so I left out some vegetables I don’t particularly like, such as beets, and limited my planting to avoid the usual late-summer vegetable glut.
|This Bodacious Hybrid tomato
seedling looks bodacious alright.
In the greens area, we have romaine, bib, frisee and mesclun lettuces, plus some arugula. Notable for its absence is spinach, which refuses to grow for me.
In another area of the ranch we are growing peas (can’t have too many peas); bush beans, and corn.
In addition, the one volunteer peach tree near the house gave us a bumper crop of fruit these year. They were small, just a little bigger than golf balls—a far cry from the baseball-sized peaches from Fredericksburg, Texas—but juicy and delicious nevertheless.
But if I may share a secret, I’m growing tired of all this gardening, which quite often seems and feels like a Sisyphean—and in my case self-inflicted—project.
We miss Félix, who worked for us for 12 years and had become a manager of all things around the ranch, from irrigating trees to taking sick animals to the vet. His replacement is an agreeable enough fellow who’s just not nearly as self-motivated.
This all will pass. One night we’ll wake up to the rumble of thunder, and rain pounding on the roof and windows and gurgling down the pipes to the cistern, while the dogs bark in appreciation or protest. A few days later the palette of the landscape will miraculously turn a hundred shades of green.
It’s all coming, I’m sure, but not nearly fast enough.