Monday, May 16, 2016

Hacking Back My Jungle, One Plant At A Time

Hacking Back My Jungle, One Plant At A Time
            I walked around my coffee bush, checking out the blossoms and emerging beans. Actually, although I lust after it, the bush belongs to the neighboring property, now sitting empty. It doesn’t sooth me that this towering bush is dead ahead in my line of vision when I sit at my keyboard, looking out my window at my lilies and geraniums, my view framed by the bougainvillea on my left and the grapefruit on my right, orange trees in the distance.

            About three weeks ago when branches loaded with red beans began turning black, I got excited. What fun to roast coffee beans in my oven. I turned to that mute coffee-bean expert, Google, and discovered I needed green beans for that deep dark full flavor I desire. Roasting, not nature, turns the beans the lovely dark black and brings out the flavor. And, of course, there was not a green bean to be found. So I put my coffee bean project on hold.

            While in Mazatlan last week, I ate breakfast at Looney Beans, my favorite coffee house at the Cerritos beach. My delightful young server showed me a handful of the green coffee beans, ready for the roaster. Now I know what size and color to pick.

While I don’t own the coffee bush, I have use of it for now and plan to plant my own before the rains come. I suppose it would be unethical when prospective buyers show up to talk to them about the infestation of scorpions and rats, a veritable plague. Yeah, I thought so.

            Meanwhile, in my own back yard, to the consternation of Iggy, my personal iguana who lives in my drain pipe, every day I prune back or take out a small portion of the jungle growth.

            The couple who sold me my wee casita wanted privacy. Hence, the jungle. I believe nothing was ever pruned in the twenty-eight years they lived here. I felt like I was in jail. This Montana girl needs open spaces.

I have twenty-to-thirty feet high night jasmine. Bougainvillea the size of cottonwood trees. Birds of every description have lovingly (or not) dropped seeds of amapa, also called primavera, a tree that holds up the sky. I love the purple umbrella which amapa unfurls in the spring. Several of these giants grow outside my brick wall perimeter. I’ve removed dozens from the inside, young sprouts of every length; some required a saw.

            With Leo’s strong-arm help, once we removed the underbrush, dead branches from past years, unwanted trees, and a plethora of weeds, a thousand lilies turned their heads to the sun. Tiny flowers emerged, ready to take their place in the garden, no longer bullied into cowering in the corners.

            Ah, but revealing hidden beauty has consequences. I’ve destroyed one habitat in order to create another.

You think I joke about scorpions. Were that only true! In the last hour one scuttled across my kitchen floor, one challenged me on my doorstep. Stomped them dead, I did. Grabbed the vile scorpion poison and sprayed the perimeter.

            Scorpions scare me. Scorpions, like most things, come in several varieties. The one that stung me the first month I lived in Mazatlan and sent me to the hospital was the size of my cupped hand and coal black. In The dominant scorpion in Etzatlan is the size of a silver dollar, yellow-green in color, and much less visible and more poisonous. Makes me almost nostalgic for the black variety.

            But I’m used to spotting danger. Back on the ranch, I wasn’t the champion rattlesnake finder for nothing.

            Lizards, did I mention lizards? Green lizards, gray lizards, lizards yellowish with a red stripe, all of which drag behind them a tail twice as long as their bodies. Two lizards scurry about my geranium bed outside my window. A squirrel flitted through the flowers and found the lizards of no consequence. I glanced across the yard at Iggy and he seemed to yawn and wink. Well, that’s what it looked like to me.

            Lizards and iguanas, while startling and ugly, aren’t dangerous, at least as far as I know. Except for Iggy, they are more afraid of me than I am of them.

            Meanwhile, a bunny rabbit is climbing a red-berried branch of “my” coffee bush. I don’t mind if the little thief is harvesting the berries I can’t use but she better leave alone the white flowers and tiny, tender green beans. I have plans!

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

April 21, 2016

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