Friday, December 30, 2011

Hurricane Jova Video

This video was made by a Storm Chaser and was taken in Emiliano Zapata which is about 50 kilometers north of Melaque. The winds there were much stronger than I experienced in Melaque. Good video


From Footage from the violent inner core of Hurricane Jova as it raked Emiliano Zapata, Jalisco, Mexico on 11-12 October 2011. The wind starts to really pick up at 2:29, steadily building to a ferocious climax at 4:26.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Tamales

My sister emailed that she was listening to an NPR program on Christmas posadas in Mexico so I visited their site.    Didn't find anything on posadas but did find this tamales article on their food blog.   Got my mouth watering for tamales tonight.

NPR article by Maria Godoy

It's Christmas Eve, and many Latinos will celebrate the holiday tonight by unwrapping a delicious little present: tamales.

At its essence, a tamale consists of masa (a type of starchy corn dough) that's been wrapped in leaves, then steamed or boiled. Some come bundled in corn husks, others in plantain, banana or mashan leaves. Some are sweetened with molasses, others spiced with mole. Some are plain, others filled with meats or vegetables.

Indeed, Latin America has hundreds of interpretations of the tamale — these vary not just by country but often by region. In Mexico alone, "we have over 200 tamales," says Iliana de la Vega, a chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, who is documenting Latin American foodways.

So whose version is best? That's a question likely to elicit a fiercely partisan response.

Full NPR article

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Night of our neighborhood posada

Tonight is the night for our neighborhood posada and altho it may start a little earlier, the pinatas are scheduled for around 7pm. It's getting dark here by 7 so I took these fotos of the two pinatas I bought in case I get none of the party. There should be two more, possibly hand made by neighbors.

I bought these two in a little shop across from Cruz Roja in Cihuatlan, $130 pesos for the star and $110 pesos for the horse. The horse was filled with newspaper and no space for candy so I had to cut his back open and stuff the best I could. The star has a ceramic pot that was easy to fill.  Hopefully will add a few more fotos tomorrow if there is a little light tonight.

Pinatas for neighborhood posada in Pinal Villa, Melaque

Ava just brought over her hand made pinata and I filled it with candy. They then took it over to the party site and hung it ready to be beaten to death. I guess hers is going to be first. I'm empessed with the quality.

Well it was too dark to get any pinata breaking fotos but it was lots of fun. This is an IPhone foto of the line up for 'ponche' (punch). My old Sony camera was not working in low light at all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stove made of clay or barro

One of the benefits of hurricane Jova (I guess) was all the mud like clay it brought down from the hills. Eventually the mud must break down and become decent soil because this is a very fertile valley. I wasn't nearly so happy with the mud/clay that filled every space in my car.

However my neighbor knew the value when he built this stove of brick covered with clay. The clay hardens like in a kiln near the fire and the rest hardens in the sun. I was over looking at his hammocks and thought the stove very ingenious

Clay stove in Pinal Villa near Melaque Mexico

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trying my IPhone camera

Tried my IPhone camera yesterday while at the open mic at Sirenitas. There are no adjustments so you get pretty much what you see. This one is a little darker than reality and a different angle might have helped. Keeping it steady is the most difficult part .... practice and more practice. You can switch from still foto to video and my few video trys looked pretty good. Still not ready to edit videos or uploading to YouTube over Telcel WiFi.   The fotos are quite large so have been reduced a lot for the web.

IPhone foto of Melaque beach

This IPhone has GPS and uses Google Maps. I was wondering if fotos from the camera were automatically embedded with the location GPS data. I found this site GPS Visualizer that allows you to upload a foto and it will create a map if the foto contains GPS info. The map above shows what I got when I uploaded the beach foto on top and it's right on. So far this is just interesting as I haven't found a way to easily connect a map to a foto. Right now the location maps for Blogger are not working and it doesn't seem to be a Google priority.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Escape raft seen off the south Jalisco coast

At least that's what we surmise. Almost 3 weeks ago prisoners from the Penal Coloney on Islas Marias were picked up by the Mexican Navy on a raft off the coast from Puerto Vallarta (a bit of the story below). This foto was taken by a fisherman off the southern coast of Jalisco near Bahia de Navidad.   The raft had the name "Liberti" written on the front.

Raft called "Liberti"

Six inmates from the last island penal colony in the Americas were recaptured at sea after using buoyant containers and planks of wood in an attempt to float and swim to freedom.

The Mexican navy said the inmates used empty plastic gas or water tanks to help them stay afloat as they swam about 60 miles south of the Islas Marias, a Mexican penal colony in which prisoners live in small houses and are normally not locked up. Inmates are allowed to tend small gardens and grow food.

The six men were around 58 miles off the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta when they were seen by people on a passing boat early on Thursday.

Complete article

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Back in the connected world

I've been trying to get back into the connected world since I moved to my house outside of Melaque where there is no telephone or Internet. Two weeks ago I got my first cel phone, the Nokia 1616 below. That's the cheapest phone and for $350 pesos you get the phone and $100 pesos of airtime.

First cel phone in this day and age ... yes I know, I should have had one before. Had to have a neighbor teach me how to use it. Pretty easy really and things went well for the first week.

In the mean time I was evaluating my Internet options including a radio type transmission from a nearby community. That would have involved building a tower and buying sending and receiving dishes. Quite a bit of money for only a shared signal that may not be around next year.

Everyone said Iusacell was cheaper but the signal was weak in our area so I finally went into Telcel last week to see what was available. What a surprise to find they had an unlimited Internet service with a USB modem and an IPhone for $700 pesos a month. That package does require an 18 month contract and a credit check ... but I was approved and it's not much more than a 2meg service from Telmex.   And no I didn't have to pay extra for the Iphone or USB .... it's included in the contract price.

I'm now using the USB modem with my desktop and was quite excited to start using the Iphone to browse the web and check email. Sadly Telcel messed up the activation and neither one of the phones work even tho I had $100 peso credit on the Nokia. The messages say my SIM cards are not registered. I can guess at the problem but this will require another trip to Telcel in Manzanillo.

Oh well, at least I have Internet on this computer and will report what the mis-configuration problem was later this week.

Seems the SIM cards were reversed so problem solved. Another correction is that the USB connection thru this computer has a 10 gig limit. Only the Iphone has unlimited Internet time and gigabites.

I added the Speed Test image which is from a server in Guadalajara. The servers in the US gave me .85 megs and 1.2 megs. The service is rated at 2.5 megs.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting back in the saddle

Still using Internet Cafes while trying to figure out if I want a short or long term contract with Telcel.   Hear you need to go to Manzanillo for a contract with more options.  Still haven´t found if Iusacel is going to work in Melaque.   All these little booths that sell Telcel and Iusacel "minutes" seem to be full of misinformation.

Hope to get back to more frequent posting soon

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I survived Jova

Not literally ... but early the morning after neighbors were waving to each other from their second floors just like you see in the flood disaster videos.

The wind woke me about 4am, I checked my car and there was only about 6 inches of water around it. I went to the unfinished upstairs to watch the storm for about an hour and a half and when I came downstairs I noticed water in the patio. I thought the pool had over flowed but then noticed the water was brown. Took another look at my car on the street and water was up on the hood ... too late to move it. Headed back to the bedroom and noticed water coming in from the garage. Since I had not prepared my pile of sandbags I had to sit and watch the house fill with a foot and a half of water and mud. I spent the rest of the night upstairs waiting for daylight. Closest thing to a flash flood I can imagine without a wall of water. Only took two hours for water to overflow the canal by 5-6 feet.

About 9am a few families started to walk out when the water had reached waist height and the bridge was passable. I waited till noon and headed for Vern and Elke's where I am to this day. My car got towed to a auto cleaning place yesterday and will head to a mechanic Monday. The neighbors are cleaning the house I was "sitting" and most of the houses in the area have cleaning crews in them.

So I'm actually quite lucky but many home owners NOT. My house in Pinal Villa was not affected except the access road is pretty bad. Lots of road closures in Jalisco and Colima. The Marabasco river overflowed and flooded Cihuatlan ... and actually cut a channel to the Barra lagoon which became a river mouth.
Cleanup efforts are massive here and emergency food is being brought in by the military. Spirits are surprisingly high and the sun is out

Families walk out as water receded

What the area looked like about 9am

Hurricane Jova experience in Melaque

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Living on the cheap in Mexico

This is where my neighbors live. You might say: 'well they have an RV' but it's very small for two people. Especially during the rainy season when the whole yard is mud. Truck is broken with no money to fix and had to use a tractor to move the RV in. Next door is a little out building where they cook to keep the heat out of the trailer.

Things are looking up now since we haven't had rain for almost two weeks and it's drying out ... but it's still hot as hell and humid.

No these neighbors are not Mexican ... but a 50 something American woman and her 20 year old kid.

Tough way to go but they seem to keep spirits up pretty well

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Surprising what you can get done in this heat

Looking at each day I don't think I get much done but looking back at the last two weeks ... actually quite a bit. Just like today, my battery died for the second time and this time it was fatal. After working in the sun with the help of neighbors we decided it was dead. What are you going to do on a Sunday in our area ... so after a jump I drove to Cihuatlan and Bodega Aurrera. They had the battery I needed so I changed it in the parking lot SUN. While I was there I noticed they had the matrimonial (double) sized mattresses they were not supposed to have for two more weeks ... I got one.

Then my Canadian neighbors arrived for their six month stay and welcoming them back took the rest of the afternoon.

Yesterday I finished painting the kitchen. Only white primer but that's the way it will stay for quite awhile. That is the last of the house painting for awhile. I also delivered my unwanted agave plants to a fellow in Barra de Navidad. I just don't have room for very many spiny plants.

Friday morning I flagged down a gas tank truck to fill my new stationary tank on the roof. Spent the rest of the afternoon getting my stove and hot water heater working. It was a combination of figuring out if valves were open or closed, all the stove parts had to be installed for the burners to work .... and gas was surprisingly slow coming thru the pipes.

The week before I had a plumber make the connections to the water heater, the stove and install the first bathroom. I also bought all the identical fixtures for the second bathroom.

The heat makes me feel like not working ... but somehow things get done. It may be because I have no real deadline and time means less when you are retired ... and in Mexico

Kitchen is painted

First bedroon that looks like a bedroom

Friday, September 16, 2011

Corn and the unhappy iguana

Picked my first two ears of corn a few days ago and realized growing corn really does work. Also learned that the earth/dirt has to be better than most of my yard. Not sure if some areas have too many rocks, sand or maybe construction debris. Anyway the next crop will be better planned.

Asked my neighbor when they were ready to pick and he said now before they become 'cow food'. Not sure he is familiar with northern sweet corn which I think has a longer season and still be tender and sweet.

These were pretty small but very tasty and bugs had munched on the tops a bit so glad I didn't wait much longer. Decided to ad them to a tuna fish mix for sandwiches.

This guy has a habit of falling out of the palapa roof where I live. Today with a large thud ... and then the head-bobbing meaning he is mad.  I think he was unhappy enough to stand his ground while I took the foto

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My first crop of corn

Some friends brought down some Peaches and Cream sweet corn seeds from up north and I was given a few. I really didn't expect much as I've never grown corn before. I usually grow green veggies, fruit or flowers.

So I was surprised to suddenly see the male tassels pop out on top of some of the larger stalks and the very begining of ears forming off the large leafs. The male seeds/pollen will drop onto the silk of the ear below and growth will begin. These fotos are at a little over 4 weeks and if I'm lucky like the article below I may have the first ear by week 9 or 10.  I planted in other places around the garden and they are all moving slower.   I assume the soil condition makes the difference but we'll see.

The male seed tassels that will pollenate the ear below

Ear starting to form off the large leaf

Foto from another article on Peaches and Cream corn

Due to the hot and muggy weather this summer, my corn was ready to harvest 9 weeks after I planted it. I originally estimated my corn would be ready on Tuesday, September 5th, but I picked my first ear on Thursday, August 12th. The ears did not get as big as others I have seen, but the corn is fully developed inside. The signs of corn being ready, is that the silk turns brown, and when you push on a kernel with your finger, a watery white substance comes out. If it’s more chunky, than it’s too early, if it’s clear then you waited too long.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


The weather has been good, a little too hot actually. It has allowed the guys to stucco the inside of the roof wall an build two marquesinas (awnings) over windows and doors. The large awning below on the side of the house and a smaller one over two windows in front. I just finished painting them this last weekend.

Besides providing a little bit of shade the marquesina stops water from running down the wall and in the doors and windows. Typical Mexican construction usually the roof is extended for the overhang. Eventually I'm hoping to cover the walkway with a lamina roof tucked under the marquesina so I won't have to seal the lamina against the house.

The storm windows I made a few weeks ago work well and I guess I could have taken the plastic tarp off the door for the foto ... but what the heck. The tarp is to stop wind blown rain

Marquesina and storm windows

Stuccoed roof wall

Yard and pump house from above

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Mexican Ivy

This is my favorite plant but I still don't know the name. A friend had this almost covering his house and he said it's part of the Boston Ivy family. Why Boston I have no idea but it does look similar with more delicate leaves.

I had it half way around my property in Villa Obregon supported by a chain-link fence. The landlord cut it back to almost nothing and his wife was furious. I was pulling out the dead branches for weeks but within six months it was all back. I have another on my chain-link fence and am thinking of one in the back corner of the garden. It will eventually cover those bare brick walls. I don't plan to let it near the house because I've seen what ivy can do to a house up north.

Mexican Ivy (cissus)

The Villa Obregon house - Mia 2 year birthday

The rest of the garden - as it is

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Charles Bowden on Mexico

On June 30, 2011 Bowden sat down for a video interview while in San Francisco for a speaking engagement. In his responses he argues the extreme violence seen in Mexico is a sign of a deeper societal disintegration resulting from governmental corruption, failed economic policies, and the War on Drugs.

Truthout article - The Real War on Drugs: Veteran Border Journalist Charles Bowden Speaks

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm trying bamboo

There's a large clump of bamboo in the vacant lot next door that I've admired for the last couple of years. A month ago it looked like it was dead. With our month long rains it suddenly sprang back to life, all the brown turned green and a few side shoots were popping out.

I've been warned about bamboo that "runs" rather than staying around a central clump. This bamboo has not moved from it's center more than a couple of feet in four years. A few of the new sprouts were relatively easy to separate with what looked to me like a good root ball. We'll see and I actually have three started to cover losses.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mystery Clock

Or what time is it really?

This five foot pedestal clock came with the house I am sitting here in Melaque. One of the last things the owner said as she walked out the door was - "you get the puzzle of setting this clock".

Since I really don't care what time it is the challenge means very little except I keep seeing this not inexpensive time piece sitting around waiting for 'day light savings time' to either come or go.

This is neither a plug-in or solar clock .. so I assume batteries. How will we ever re-start time if those batteries go. Why do people buy things they have no idea how they work

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gardenia and Coffee

Fresh brewed coffee that is ... both have great aromas, are in the same family ... but luckily smell nothing alike.

Gardenia is a genus of 142 species of flowering plants in the coffee family
People have been giving me plants over the last year and I've had no idea what some of them are. Some died of natural causes, some the dog dug up and some were just plain ugly and I pulled them up. When the rain and humidity starts here they all begin to do what they are supposed to do.

My best survivor is this Gardenia bush ... at least I think Gardenia. The one flower smells wonderful. It just bloomed today but has about 20 more blossoms on it. My sixth year in Mexico but the first where I get to watch my plants do what they do over the whole year. I'll be able to make more educated choices next year

Gardenia the flower

Gardenia the plant

Another flower/plant

This plant/flower came along with a vine that I really like. Actually there were three plants in the same pot but the third faded when I tranplanted it. The red centers are part of the leaves but it does look like there may be blossoms coming in the middle. This is another that I have no idea what it is.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Adios Ryobi

I bought a Ryobi weed wacker just like this about three years ago to clear my lots. It has a metal blade to cut bigger stuff but soon found out it wasn't strong enough for anything but small stuff. Shortly after the pull start froze up. In the last year two tuneups were required including a carburetor rebuild.

Last week after the rebuild I was ready to cut my out of control grass and after 5 pulls the start cable jambed in the out position. I took it back to the rental/rebuild guys and asked if they wanted to buy it. I got 500 pesos and a free rental of one of theirs. One less headache for me and I'll continue to rent ... but not that Ryobi!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Monsoon Trough

Mainly this is just new terminology for me, never heard of it before. Does this happen every year, is it different this year, I don't know. I ran into the term and the map on a message board in a weather conversation. It looks ominous for the west coast of Mexico but this could be a yearly occurrence? Will it move next week? Sorry but you'll have to Google the subject if you want to learn more about this phenomenon

The Monsoon Trough is a favored place for tropical cyclones to develop, while this generally does not occur with the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) due to its proximity to the equator where the Coriolis effect is zero, and thus rotary motion around a low-pressure center cannot be supported. Thus people should be aware that a tropical depression or tropical storm could form in the vicinity of the Monsoon trough.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Two washers, no dryer and no sun

I have two of these nice little Whirlpool washers at the house but no dryer. In Mexico hardly anyone has dryers except the laundry's (lavanderias). I've done my own laundry for the last three years but what are you going to do when it rains for two weeks. Indoor clotheslines kinda work but they get in the way and the clothes take forever to dry. A perfect time to have my laundry done and a pillow case full only cost 35 pesos (about $3)

Local lavanderia

Speaking of rain, I have a hose running to the street to keep the pool from overflowing into the patio, the palapa leaks, the roof leaks and crabs find their way into the house regularly. That's just the house that I am house sitting. The roof leaks on my house as well so am waiting for a dry spell, that by the looks of it will never come.   This rain is from the remnants of tropical storm Arlene that crossed Mexico from the Gulf.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dog fences for my garden

Never expected this to be an issue but suddenly in the last month with the heat my dog likes to excavate anywhere moist and lay in her hole. First she started with the new grass ripping it up to reach dirt. That required a cyclone fence to keep her out of half the yard.

Next was the elevated flower bed in her half of the yard. Tried chicken wire, chicken wire with rope and boards .... and finally new posts with barbed wire, chicken wire and a few strategically placed blocks.

It's been two days now and the blocks will come out if this is a proven remedy. Animals are a responsibility and often a pain

Cyclone protecting the lawn

Barbed and chicken wire for garden

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cleaning those palms

If you would have been watching my web cam a few hours ago you could have seen two late teens up that palm tree cleaning it on their way to a prize of about 10 coconuts ready for harvest. They used a ladder on this one (non-professionals) but another in the back supplied them with 10 more from ground level.

I love these exchanges of work for coco's. In my other house in Melaque I had a prolific and very tall tree that would produce 40+ coco's 3 times a year. A guy would cut the troublesome fronds, clean the dead stuff, clean the yard and haul it all away in exchange for the 40 coco's.

This time it started with a 7 year old neighbor helping me clean the side of the lot and street. I didn't know him, he just wanted to help. Then he spotted the 2 coco trees and said his big brother would clean and cut them. Very nice kids, all went well ... and now there is less garbage to fall into the yard

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The rain brings out everything

I'll just call him a rain toad because I don't know what type of toad this is. After 2 days of rain I found 3 of them in my yard this morning. All were about 5-6 inches long. I also found a small land crab in the house. Small crabs can squeeze into/under very tight openings. I assume they both live under ground and don't appreciate getting soaked so up they pop.

Hugo was over working on my back wall today and during a water break I pointed out these toads who were hunkered down next to my front wall. I was surprised at his reaction of getting rid of them because I have pets. Anything that moves in my yard is a target for both my dog and cat.

Hugo's solution was to pour Clorox over them and throw them in an empty lot with a shovel. He said the Clorox (Cloro) will make them puff up and die ... who knows?

Bufo is both Spanish and the scientific name for a large toad. It seems all toads excrete toxins from their back as a protection mechanism and animals/pets can get sick or die if they ingest it. Some toads are much more toxic than others ... and I assume by Hugo's reaction they are quite toxic in this area.

They are called Sapos here and they eat insects (mostly cockroaches) so now I leave them alone

Beatriz means rain

The hurricane that wasn't ...

And rain is about all we got. Lots of excitment in anticipation because seldom does a storm point directly at us like Beatriz did. It did reach category one just offshore south of us but landfall must have taken all it's strength. It has rained two nights in a row and is still raining this morning. Even found a crab in the house indicating that the ground is pretty well saturated. We needed the rain ... and it's cool!

The remains of Beatriz is just sitting offshore about 220 miles promising rain for another day or two.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New temporary import permit deposit

The Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) has issued a decree which states that beginning on June 11th, 2011 anyone applying for a temporary import permit for vehicles must make a deposit in the amount determined by the following table:

Vehicle Year Model Amount to be paid in Mexican Pesos based on applicable exchange rate

2007 and later USD$ 400
2001 until 2006 USD$ 300
2000 and earlier USD$ 200

This deposit is compulsory and can be paid by credit card, debit card, or cash (in US Dollars only).

Users must keep in mind that if the deposit is charged to a credit card, the charge will be made in Mexican Pesos and will be calculated based on the exchange rate of the day on which the payment is made. This deposit will be refunded to the same credit card on the next banking business day after the vehicle is fully returned and based on the exchange rate of that day.

The vehicle must be returned on time and within the time period stated on the temporary import permit. If the vehicle is returned after the stated time period, the entire deposit amount will be transferred to the Office of the Treasury on the day following the expected return date, as allowed by current law.

Banjercito Web site

Monday, June 13, 2011

Granada China

Was over at a neighbors yesterday and he showed me a vine with fruit he simply called Granada (pomegranate). The fruit was very green like in the first foto and evidently not ripe. This fruit never gets real sweet but is very acidic before it turn yellow. It is in the passion flower/fruit family but a distant cousin.

The bottom foto is often called granada or maracuyá dulce but looks a little different than the one we have. This leaves me confused and still investigating. I'll keep an eye on the fruit as it matures.

Granada China

passiflora edulis

passiflora ligularis

Friday, June 03, 2011

Asador or assador

Definitely Mexicanada
The construction of the house finished in April 2011 and I'm pretty much settled in. As of March 2014 I'm in preparation for rain mode for this coming summer. That includes sealing and painting things and dealing with drainage issues from last year.

Sparks Mexico Web
Manzanillo Information
House building in Pinal Villa

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