Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Canadian Plantation worker

My Mexican family that has adopted me live across the street from me and some other family members around me as well. 1 or 2 days a week they head out very early in the morning to spend the morning working on their plantation (farm) and I got invited one day, I was so excited. We left at 5:45 am, yup, that’s 5:45 am, just before sunrise. We rattled over the bumpy road, three of us stuffed in a little Ford Ranger, happy as can be we were. It was only about a 15 minute drive but because the road is crap it seems longer. We pulled into the cutest little plantation, Mrs Cardenas says it a ½ a hectare but Mr said it wasn’t, she rolled her eyes and said “he always says that, just because he doesn’t know how much it really is”. Whatever it is, it is full of life, lush green life, cocos, mangos, lemons, oranges, papaya, avocado and nopales. Of course it is still winter here and so the only fruit out there was the occasional lemon and a few oranges, and cocos, ,the mango trees are flowering now but the mango won’t be ready until late May, I of course never get to see mangos here. I would love to be here during mango season some time, I’ve been told that you can buy a whole wooden crate full of mangos for 10 pesos (that’s less than a dollar), I can’t imagine. With the amount of mango trees on this Island the ground, the road, the roof top of houses must just be covered with mangos, wow.
Our job today was to tend to the nopales and the young palms, Mr and Mrs have a son who either works at or owns a meat stand in Mazatlan and he sells their nopales there for them. They told me that the money the nopales bring in pays for the meat that they consume and for the gas to run their little truck, it’s a good little income they say. Every once in awhile they sell young little palm trees as well and in the summer a few buckets of limes and oranges, the mangos you pretty much have to give away as almost everyone has their own mangos to eat.
Mr set up a pump at the water well and Mrs and I rolled out the hoses and we started watering the nopales and the young palms, my job was to follow her and make sure the hose didn’t get kinked and to walk and lift it around and over little palms making sure it didn’t get dragged over top of the nopales. I was eying their whole watering system up and had already figured out how I would be able to improve this but I was there to help, not to tell them how to do something that they have been doing for 40 years. Soon as Mr had his end watered he started weeding with a hoe. After the watering was done I was handed a hoe too and I spent most of the rest of the morning hoeing weeds. As we were hoeing Mr suggested I call him “Tio” (uncle), he laughed and said to tell my friends at home that I have a crazy uncle in Mexico. After hoeing I was given the job of picking off the flower blossoms that were just starting to form on the nopales, it was a bit sad to pick them off because I know how beautiful they can be but I understand the need, if you leave the flower the plant doesn’t produce as many Mickey Mouse ears anymore.

Little house where Tio & Tia lived for 2 years in the plantation

Nopales and cocos

The big pocky

The bano...toilet

narly old cactus

look....I found my heart, I knew I left it here in Mexico 12 years ago and here it is

flower buds plucked off

pail of nopales

My pail of oranges and limes

hoe hoe hoe off to work I go every Monday

Another shot of my heart, I'm a geek so I took only about 10 shots

Stick an ear in the ground and it grows

My crazy Mexican Tio

Then we walked around and picked nopales ears, there is a technique to this so that you don’t get your fingers all pricked to shreds, I did really good at avoiding the big prickles but didn’t do so good at avoiding the tiny little hair like pricks, you can hardy see them on the nopale or on your hand but you can sure feel them. Nopale plants are so interesting, they grow these Mickey Mouse ears on them in all kinds of formations, and no two are alike. To propagate a plant you just pick an ear and put it in the ground and it starts to grows, it’s that easy.
Then we had a lunch break as about 10 am, I was starved by then and was so happy for my chicken sandwich and baggie of cut up fruit and vegetables. At lunch Tio said to me “now, you’ve worked for 4 hours and if you were a Mexican I would pay you 5 pesos”. I said “but Tio that shorts me 3 pesos for a ½ a kilo of tortillas”. If you go to the tortillaria here they are 7.50 a kilo but if you buy them off the guy that drives around on quad selling them they are 8 pesos. He laughs and says I am not done yet, after lunch I can pick some lemons and maybe a few oranges which I can take home to supplement my meagre supper of tortillas. We had such a great time at lunch chatting, Tio told me how adventurous he has been as a young 19 year old, going to Arizona to work on a construction crew, he said he had been so strong and full of energy then, and handsome...he laughed, oh how handsome he had been, Mrs hadn’t been able to resist him, she blushed and told him to stop telling foolish stories. He played with his parrot....oh yeah, their pet parrot come along too, he doesn’t like staying home funny. He showed me all his little funny tricks, it was so cute watching them interact with their little pet.
They told me how they had lived out here for 2 years, how cozy it must have been, so quiet and peaceful.....oh and the ocean, oh yeah, the ocean is ever present, have you ever weeded all afternoon with the sound of the ocean in the background, so soothing. I love that ocean.
After lunch Mr started rolling up his hoes, he hollers at me to go get my camera, he wanted me take his picture as he flips and uses the hose as a lasso like a cowboy. He says I have to show my friends my crazy cowboy uncle. He is such a ham, so funny. Mrs told him to stop with his “tonteria” (foolishness) before he hurts himself. Hilarious. 
Tio wanted to burn some brush (Mexicans love burning brush) but the wind was coming from the wrong direction and since we weren’t going to stay and watch it burn he didn’t want to risk it, so we just piled it and left it for next time.
We loaded all our hoes, the pump, the nopales, my bucket of lemons and oranges and off we were. At the entrance to the gate Mr got out to close the gate, Mrs laughed and said he always gets out to check the gate because he thinks she might not do it right so he always gets out of the truck and checks to make sure she has closed it properly, as he did this he grabbed her and tried to kiss her, she was so embarrassed and pulled away real quick, he almost ended up kissing the fence post....hillarious.
All the way home I picked prickles out of my hands, their turn to laugh at me. Next time I’m bringing gloves. It took me about three days to get all the prickles out.
I’ve agreed to help every Monday, apparently you only need to water about every 7 days or so, most likely more in the summer, it’s still winter here you know. 

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