Monday, February 20, 2017

San Miguel's Fake Spring

While our compatriots back home suffer through daily charges and countercharges of "fake news," in San Miguel we're in the middle of our fake spring, a teaser season that comes about three months before the rains and the real spring arrives. 

Fake spring brings warmer temperatures, mid seventies at midday and mid forties at midnight, and plenty of sun, which prompts some wild bushes to flower and the bees in our three hives to stir and dive-bomb any blooms in sight. But it's really just a ruse by nature to get us to go outside and look around. 

Jarrilla bushes lead our fake springs
"This is the worst time of the year," said Stew last week, as we walked through the landscape of brown weeds and leafless trees that cover most of the yard. The weeds in particular are prime kindling for brush fires that tend to burn uncontrolled. They are also hiding places for rabbits, snakes, mice and other critters.

"Not so!" I heard some bees yell back at Stew, as they merrily attacked a few trees and bushes already flowering. The yellow blossoms that nearly cover the jarrilla bushes almost vibrate from the commotion of the frantic bees. Some small butterflies are also reconnoitering for flowers.

For people, the beautiful jarrillas are a mixed blessing. They have a vaguely putrid smell and can cause an allergic reaction, and if you get too close you risk getting stung by some crazed bee. Still, along with the huizaches, a gnarly, thorny relative of mesquites, I'm thankful for these two wild bushes for providing a much needed shot of color this time of year.

Huizaches, thorny but beautiful
That's not all. Last week Félix noticed that our peach trees also are flowering and our pata de vaca, or cow's foot tree, has a few delicate lavender blossoms. The magnolia is also nurturing some huge buds that will turn into floppy white flowers. In addition, Félix walked into the kitchen yesterday with a four-inch asparagus and news that more are on the way.

This year's fake spring was spurred by a very mild winter—I don't recall a single frost—and a couple of faint drizzles, or chipi-chipis, as I heard one Mexican call them.

A few months back I read that fruit trees need to be pruned to promote fruiting this year and healthier foliage the next. News to me and Félix.

So I checked the internet and pulled out pruning instructions in English and Spanish. We still are not sure what's the proper way to prune, to help rather than disfigure the tree, so we proceeded very gently.

Pruning is a heartless business. One set of instructions said that as much as forty percent of the branches need to go, something Félix and I felt was a bit excessive, even cruel. Except for the lone apricot, our other fruit trees already have flowers and even tiny fuzzy peaches.

The first of this year's peaches
I read too that when the fruits arrive in earnest one should pinch off four out of five babies to ensure production of one large fruit instead of four tiny ones. In past years we've gotten tasty but stunted peaches the size of golf balls. Production wasn't helped when our dogs devised a game of standing on their hind legs and pulling off the low-hanging fruits.

Amid the exuberant peaches we also have one apricot, cherry and plum tree, all about four years old. They have produced zero fruit, despite my consultations of the internet and my gardening books. Maybe this will be the year. An Israeli variety of apple called "Anna," that was supposedly adapted to our harsh soil, died two years ago and its soul went back to Jerusalem. A year-old guava tree is leafing nicely but so far not flowering.

Either way, yesterday Félix and I pruned all the fruit trees the best we could, and fertilized and watered them. Onwards.

Asparagus (asparaguses? asparagi?) are popping up too. Félix discovered the tiny spears, all but the width of a pencil, and Stew ate one of them and pronounced it delicious.

That's a good omen for the next gardening season, three months or so from now when every inch of landscape around will turn kelly green and we will have forgotten the impatience and frustrations of our fake springs.

Palomita, one of Félix' two dogs, already has started working
on her tan. She's one of the world's great mutts. 

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