Monday, May 30, 2011

Mixed Feelings

The old meat packing plant next door to my house had been long abandoned when I moved here in July 2007.  Perfect neighbors, I must say.  The property is huge. It practically surrounds my property and opens out on another street. The owner of the meat plant has been trying to sell the place. Unfortunately for the past years he's been storing tons of junk in there. Miles of bags of confetti, just weird stuff.  The big 'batfruit' tree had grown in and through one of the buildings on the property. 

For the animals, the property had been a haven. There were all kinds of trees and plants and fun things there. The cats loved adventuring to 'the other side' of our wall.  The giant iguanas that inhabit the property were fat and healthy.  The birds that visited the trees sang, performed mating calls, and chirped bird news to the neighborhood, and I'll miss them.

The owner is now serious about selling the meat plant.  He has guys over there cutting down all the trees and cleaning all the garbage out of the property.  I think he wisened up about showing a trashed place to perspective buyers .  People cannot have their own visions if there is too much crap around to have to see through. So, does anyone want to lend me a hundred fifty grand to buy that house and save the animals?  I didn't think so, but I thought I'd ask. 

The iguanas and the cats have been visibly shaken by the changes next door.  I throw fruits and vegetable material up on the roof above the pool for the iguanas, and they still come looking for it.  They spend more time on the roof and on my walls, uncomfortable about heading to the other side where those workers just might have a taste for iguana.

The change in cat behavior is astonishing.  My cats venture to the other side late in the day to see what damage has been done to their paradise.  The feral cats have moved in to our house, have been studying the behavior of our cats, and have actually been trying to behave like domestic cats.  Gemelo, the ghost of Buster I saw in the window four years ago while Buster was MIA, now lets me pet him and brush him.  He responds pretty well to 'NO'. I think Gemelo is getting old and just wants some peace at the end of his life. I've seen this cat behavior once before.  Little Weasel just stays out of the way and keeps real quiet, as if no one will notice he's moved in full time.  Buster is also spending his days at the house, which is a wonderful thing.  Finally he is himself again, and I find him exploring more and more of this big old house. 

The guys next door were told to cut down all the trees.  This is where my mixed feelings really come to play.  I agree with cleaning up the property. I also agree some trees are better than others.  That batfruit tree made a big mess in our patio all the time. If it wasn't batfruit all over the ground, it was batshit all over the property, and when it lost its leaves it sent them all down to our patio. As trees go, it was just one mess after another with that bugger.  As far as yard trash goes, I accept it as part of the deal in having such great shade trees.  Our mamey tree is messy too, and dangerous when it's dropping mamey bombs.  But I have no intention of getting rid of it.

Some of those trees next door sent so many little leaves and flying seeds into the pool it nearly drove me crazy. I am happy to see the silver oak and the fuzzy seed tree go.  This change will definitely make it easier to keep our patio clean.  The plants in my new tacky little nursery, on the other hand, are suffering this week.  They took some dive bombed branches and their shade disappeared. We haven't had a drop of rain in months, just a few passing clouds, fingers crossed the meteorologists are right in predicting rain this week.  Today the plants on the western wall of the patio look like they've been through a hurricane and need some serious attention.

Photo of SW corner of patio taken April 8, 2011.

Photo of same corner taken 27 May, 2011. No more shade :{

Center shot before.

Center shot after.

The NW corner before.

NW corner after. No mo' shade  :(

During. This is the 'hurricane' that damaged the plants. Dive bombed by giant tree branches.

Yeah, it was a mess. But the guys were real nice and cleaned it all up.

The removal of the neighbor trees lets much more sun into our entire patio.  That is good for the swimming pool and its users.  It's a little devastating to the 'shade' plants that no longer have any shade. The patio will be easier to maintain.  The cats stay closer to home.  There will be fewer mosquitos generating from that property when all the dead leaves and other jetsom are removed.

I like trees. One of the things that endeared me to Mérida is the magic of the insides of each of these large blocks.  There are big fruit trees and lots of green to help balance our CO2 and oxygen, since after all we live in a dusty oven.  It makes me sad to see that tradition go by the wayside in favor of more concrete.  I hope that's not what happens next door.

I'm glad they cleaned the property up, and I'm sad they cut down ALL the trees.  Life goes on and we adapt. Sometimes we just end up with mixed feelings.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cat Commando Update: Checkin In

Busmo chillin'. Front paws left, back paws right, good stretch for his giant body.
Moka relaxes in clean kitchen cupboard after completing her full inspection of the changes. She approved.

I just liked this shot of Moka sleeping on the red sheets. The look of luxury.

Buster sleeping in his favorite corner of my bed, it's hot and he's not the only cat who sleeps away the daytime.

Gemelo. He has moved in. He talks to me. He's behaving himself and I think he wants to be  a house cat but he needs his balls cut off.  He did have some squatter's rights since he lived here when I moved in. I understand I don't need a larger commando, but my heart tells me these cats need better lives. 

And then there's Weasel. He weaseled his way in here a long time ago, but not all our cats wanted him around. He has been sweet talking them and being a good cat and they let him curl up on one of the cat pillows.  He's a good boy but he needs his balls cut off.

Lorenza in front of a fan in the heat of the day. Getting maximum air flow.

We got catnip!  Thanks friends, for the gifts! We're lovin' it! (says Busmo, speaking for all)

Busmo continually seeking the coolest place in the house to wait out the hot afternoons.

A more tender shot of Lorenza.

A typical regal shot of Sak Boox.  She has grown into a sweet, intelligent beautiful cat. She is in charge of fresh water for the commando.  Even cats increase their water intake by leaps and bounds during this season.

One cat is not in the photos. I can't find a pic of him at this moment.  It's Cuate, Buster's friend. He's the long haired white cat with gray spots and fluffy gray tail. He did get his balls cut off when I moved in here, and he's still a little mad at me about that.  He hisses at me when I try to talk nice to him, but he's a good boy at the feeding dish. He waits for his friend Buster to finish and then eats his portion.

Teaching these cats some manners finally?  Maybe. But we have a long way to go. Gotta love the commando, tho! They fill my days with company and joy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Projects: Create Plant Nursery

When I moved into this house I didn't have a clue about what to do with such a huge place.  What I liked about this property was it needed mostly superficial repairs to make it functional, and creativity could come later, after I could see how it all worked.  We changed out the electrical system, plumbing, repaired some walls and ceilings,,and I had to pick colors to paint my walls. I was quite overwhelmed with the paint selection. Our small house in Hawaii had ice blue walls, all of them, ice blue. It was a soothing blue but after a while I got fed up with it.  When I got here and they handed me the color palettes with so many bright colors I went wild.  I love my colorful walls but four years later I'm already thinking about some new color schemes.  I thrive on change. 

Before I get too far off track, let me tell you about the corner outside my bedroom.  Next to the cylindrical bathroom is a little corner that started to accummulate junk. I hate to look at junk piling up, especially just outside my bedroom door. There were different sizes of pasta tiles piled up and dirty, leaves jammed in there, and piles of wood pieces that Pablo intends to someday use to make frames for his paintings.  I moved all the stuff out of the way and cleaned the corner.  I liked the tiles, washed them, and I laid them out. They are not secured, but they add a cheeriness.  I decided to make my garden nursery in that corner. I've been noticing that some of my plants just can't handle the full tropical sun, and there are seeds I wanted to try to grow.  I needed a semi-sunny area to put them in. 

I built little shelves out the the wooden pieces and pasta tiles. I brought in a few healthy plants to inspire the new ones we'd be introducing.  Next to this corner, we had a million 'colchones', floor mats left over from swim school.  I piled them up and connected them in such a way that I created a new comfortable three person seat.  I see it doubling as a massage table, but would need a masseuse/eur.  We have already found ourselves drawn to sit in the new space, and it's within sight therefore in mind and I remember to water it with special care.

Naturally immediately after constructing the little nursery, Gemelo decided to claim it as his territory. I have an upside down toilet tank top as a seed starter.  He didn't remove much soil, but I don't know if the seeds appreciated his visit. Time will tell.

In another corner of the lot, there used to be a palm tree. It died.  Nothing wanted to grow in that corner, the soil must be bad. That is the corner that floods when the heavy rains come. There is also a 'pozo', well, that must be the drainage system for the apartment on the next lot.  Since we had replaced a toilet tank, lid and sink, I decided they would make great plant receptacles.  I decided to fill that area with some succulents, with a little pathos mixed in.  I filled the corner in with beach sand and seashells. 

Before I can do new creative projects, I have to take care of the normal gardening.  I spent several days on it since one can only tolerate so much heat at one sitting.  No matter how many glasses of liquid you  consume.  I am pleased that in this dry season, with Pablo and me watering regularly, and my tacky but creative new projects, I'm finding more little tranquil spots to have a relaxing sit, read a book or whatever.  Did I mention that when it's too hot in our bedroom, you can see the tv from outside the on the blue mats and hear the volume perfectly?  That had occurred to me during my creative spurt as well.  Garden, done for now.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Projects: Destroy Kitchen Shelves

The hot season in Mérida usually blasts in toward the end of April or early May.  This year the temperatures hit 100°F almost every day in March.  The evenings cooled down to low 70's; the brisk nights gave us a chance to reacclimate to the daytime heat.  It seems we haven't had a drop of rain in months, but with the heat comes humidity, and 'heat and humidity' is my favorite weather combo.

In mid April the temps rose even higher.  Being more acclimated to and happy to feel the tropical sun and heat, I got into spring cleaning mode. If you read the previous blog you know I repaired and relocated - and replaced - my desk.  That mission accomplished, I decided to work on the kitchen. 

When I moved into this house in July of 2007 the kitchen had cupboards in place.  I had the top(green) cupboards screened in to allow air but dissuade bugs.  The bottom doors were plastic and I should have gotten rid of them at the time.  They survived about two years. 

Over time I have ripped out the plastic doors as they became dysfunctional and started to bug me.  Once the doors were gone, the lower cupboards seemed so much larger.  Still, the supports for the plastic doors stood there blocking access. 

I took everything out and piled it up on the floor.  I removed the rusty old screws and was able to yank out all the fake supports.  They have nothing to do with the functional Mexican style shelves that were hiding behind that phony plastic shield.

Some people think having all your food, pots, pans, plastic containers and such in the open is not aesthetically acceptable.  I don't like closed doors and I guess that feeling extends to kitchen shelves.  Frankly I think it's the 30 years living in the tropics.  I get a bit obsessive about storing items in jars, being able to use all available space, and I don't like sharing my food with bugs. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sawdust Desks: Are They Safe?

A while back I bought a "computer desk" at a popular office supply store.  Sliding tray for ergonomic keyboard comfort. Upper shelf to house the printer.  Room for my speakers.  A side shelf for the hard drive.  Of course it's made of pressboard, evidently the material of choice of Office Minimum.

It's served me well for a couple years but over the past few months its screws started coming loose.  As they'd fall I'd collect them along with several bolts and nuts.  The entire desk began to lean to port and I supported the lowest shelf with a few coke bottles.  I knew I needed to repair it, but I do live in mañana-landia, after all.

It's no wonder I lacked inspiration in the cluttered corner below, too many distractions. The cats enjoy hanging out around me because I'm the one with the air-blasting fan.

When my bro/sister-in-law sent me a new webcam for my bd, the time had come to dive into the project. I carefully unplugged all the computer's components, wires and plugs and safely stowed them to be cleaned before reconnection. I flipped the desk over and around tightening and replacing screws. I even set glue into the former screw holes for a little extra support. The ergonomic shelf had long ago fallen apart and rusted. I poured some Coca Cola on to clean off the rust and was able to reassemble and reattach it. It doesn't slide anymore, but it's still a nice feature. I completed the reconstruction on Thursday. 

On Friday the sturdy new-looking desk was moved into its new location, in another room; to give me a new perspective and inspiration. I' d been sitting at the desk for a couple hours answering emails, when all of a sudden the entire desk collapsed around and on me and broke into several pieces. I sat there in shock as I watched the computer and all its attachments, attached, take off flying onto the cement tiled floor. Naturally a fresh giant glass of ice water was part of the mix.

Upon inpection of the boards that collapsed, the pressboard had returned to its original state of sawdust covered in wood-colored paper. It was completely disintegrated and had the appearance of a piece of wood that had come into contact with a swarm of starving termites. There were no termites, it was just sawdust. Not a very strong item for tropical living.

I couldn't stand looking at the parts just sitting by themselves, so at 3am (not my usual housecleaning hour) I took my dry paintbrush and cleaned the components as if petting a newborn kitten, and dragged my sturdiest wooden table to 'inspiration corner'. The top half of the sawdust desk was salvageable, and it works well sitting on top of the REAL table. The printer took a beating but it seems to want to work, so it'll get some professional attention. What's important is no one was hurt (like me!) and neither was the computer. Everything is working today as usual.  Things always work out, because now I have a larger desk space with room to move and places to write. I may feel empowered here after all.