Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Honey forecast: Lousy, reasons unknown

All outward signs pointed toward a bumper harvest of honey—good rains; nice cover of flowers, both wild and planted; mild temperatures—but for some reason we got only a fraction of the usual production this year.

The number of monarch butterflies and their more exotic cousins also seemed to be sharply down. The only bumper crop this year was a late-summer invasion of thousands of ravenous grasshoppers eating everything in sight.

Three years ago we harvested three five-gallon buckets of honey; last year two and this year only three-quarters of one bucket, or three gallons. That's pretty sad.
Much mess about very little honey. 

About a month ago, Félix and Stew checked the three hives and were alarmed to find one full, one half-full and the third completely dead. In the spring they had introduced new queens to two of the hives and one of those turned up completely empty.

Ours being a stand-alone and fairly primitive operation, it's going to be tough to determine what's caused the downturn.

We don't have universities nearby with agricultural extension services buzzing with experts as they do in the States, but there are commercial honey operations around here and maybe they'll know.

The only source of information that comes to mind now is the supplier of honey paraphernalia in Morelia, Michoacán, so we need to get Félix to call them to get the information chain going.

As to what happened to the butterflies, that's anyone's guess. Maybe nothing except our anecdotal reports.

I had read some alarmist articles from the U.S. that blamed a sharp decline in honey production and bee populations on the use some fertilizers containing nicotinic acid. The European Union had banned the use of that fertilizer.

Immediately surrounding our ranch the level of agricultural sophistication or the use of any type of chemicals has to be close to zilch. We are talking subsistence farming at its worst.

But farther afield, maybe five miles or more from here there are vast irrigated fields of all sorts of leaf vegetables, and caravans of trucks hauling them to the U.S. So maybe some bad stuff could be blowing our way and knocking out our bees.

There's not much to be done until the spring, particularly the introduction of new queens to our hives, but to start asking questions. For now all we can do is hoard the new honey for ourselves and maybe close friends—but only if they beg.

###

Thursday, November 23, 2017

On Thanksgiving morning

Gratitude comes easily when everything in our lives is hunky-dory which, unfortunately, doesn't happen very often and when it does, it is usually but for a fleeting moment.

Rather, we reflexively tend to look forward or backward, or right or left, and get distracted by the reality of a sick friend, a sore back, something we forgot to do or fix.

That's why gratitude has to be enjoyed on the fly, so to speak, when the good fortune of the moment flashes before our eyes like a beautiful, unexpected snapshot.

Early morning show. 


This morning, Stew and I went for our daily morning walk with our dogs Lucy, Domino, Felisa, Roxy and Ellie, plus a small orange stray with a corkscrew tail whom we've named Malcolm, and who's decided that food and company are far better at our place than at wherever he came from. He lives under a bush outside our gate, ever ready to give us a twenty-one-gun salute whenever we go by, and considers himself a member of our canine gang. 

We took a rutted road, whose destination we have yet to discover, through corn fields that by now have been picked clean, the dried stalks and leaves neatly bundled in symmetrical conical bundles that look like teepees. 

The angled early morning sun highlighted both the golden autumnal colors and the dramatic shadows. A nip in the air—the water in our birdbath awakened with a thin topping of ice—gave our jaunt an extra snap.

But not before we paused to enjoy the gorgeous scenery of this place where we live. An impressionist painting authored by nature just for us. How privileged we are to live here!

This afternoon we'll go over to Don and Richard's, a couple from Chicago who are among our best friends, for Thanksgiving dinner, to enjoy the food and their company. 

Today is one for daylong gratitude—not just a moment—when good and beautiful things confront us, unsolicited and free of charge.

Tomorrow may be different but I hope I find at least a few minutes to be grateful. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Water Lady will see you now

Looking like a piece that had broken off the International Space Station, a decrepit well-digging rig landed about a kilometer away from our ranch a month ago, launching yet another episode of the tragicomic novela about our community's water supply.

Who's sinking the new well, huh? And does he/she have a permit from the local or state water authority? The People want to know.

Central yet beside the point. 
Will this rickety new well—in addition to a monster well sunk not far away by the former mayor of San Miguel for the benefit of his new vineyard and a rumored new housing subdivision—threaten to deplete the aquifer, three hundred thirty meters below us, that provides our water?

None of these questions rise to the level of rocket science. They could be settled or arbitrated by a government authority. It could determine fees, finance maintenance and generally manage operations for the benefit of all.

Dream on. We're in rural Mexico, where many  communities have their own water committee. Ours is  usually led by woman Stew and I have come to call the Water Lady.

It's not an easy job. One Water Lady was supposedly fired for stealing the water money. In her defense, the rumor went on, her husband was a miserable drunk who stole the family's food money and left her no alternative but to dip into the water fund.

Indeed, "system" is too strong a word to describe our water distribution arrangement which more closely resembles a Rube Goldberg contraption.

Atop a hill, there's an ancient masonry holding tank that is fed by a pipe from a large electric pump located downhill by the wellhead, about a kilometer away.

Gravity then feeds the water in the holding tank to residents through a haphazard maze of galvanized pipes and rubber hoses with cutoff valves here and there.

At our ranch we have a one hundred and thirty-five thousand liter rainwater collection tank that is brimming by the end of the rainy season. It is supplemented, on Saturdays and Sundays, when water arrives via a one and a half inch rubber pipe, for about four or five hours each day.

If there's no water for a couple of weeks, Félix and I, or some other neighbors must track down the Water Lady du jour to find out what happened.

Uncertain as it may sound, this arrangement has kept us in potable water, which we run through a series of filters before using it. We've only had to summon a water truck once, to deliver ten thousand liters for about fifty dollars.

The water fee is one hundred pesos a month, or about six dollars. We pay six months in advance to slyly buy influence with the Water Lady and her committee, which are always short of money because many of the Mexican customers don't pay at all.

I suspect that perennial money shortages have led the water committee to sell more and more hookups, called tomas, to Americans and others building new homes. New tomas go for a princely thousand dollars or more. But the system that was designed to serve thirty households now has twice as many customers.

Yet selling more tomas to cover operating and capital expenses is unsustainable in the long term and puts greater stress on the rickety and overburdened system.

An American who studied the system—and has a personal stake in a reliable water supply because he is trying to sell his ranch—met with engineers of SAPASMA, the local agency theoretically in charge of regulating the water supply in the entire municipality including the rural areas. He was told that the stone reservoir and the cobweb of hoses and pipes are in such disrepair that an estimated two million liters of water are lost yearly.

Logically, the town urgently needs a 1950s-style metal water tank standing on four legs to pressurize the flow and reduce leaks.

Dream on again. Who's going to pay for it? Not SAPASMA, unless the neighbors agree to install water meters and pay for consumption.

Many, if not most, of our neighbors are very poor and live life a day at a time. In addition, mutual trust, community cooperation and civic involvement are not a strong traits of rural Mexicans who one cynic said would have a hard time getting together to watch a fire.

Here's Félix' explanation of why residents in his community of Sosnavar, about a mile from here, opposed water meters. When the water is turned on, he explained, air blows through the pipes first before the water actually reaches the customers. The air makes the meters spin even though there's no water for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of service.

It's not fair. Folks would be charged for water and air. Sigh.

Just as things were getting boring, an American woman who's a bit mercurial and a bit peculiar, and who also wants to sell her ranch, took matters into her own hands by attempting to organize the Mexican residents against the evil person who is sinking the new well.

In a series of increasingly shrill and downright nutty e-mails, she accused the American owners who at one point she called "Aryans", of disrespecting and misunderstanding the Mexican campesinos.

For a minute it looked as if the dispute over water was about to boil over into a class warfare, led by an angry American who can't speak a lick of Spanish.

On Monday, she drove a group of neighbors to the state water commission office in the city of Celaya, about ninety minutes away, to demand it slap a cease-and-desist order on the new well. They were told to go back to San Miguel and take up the issue with SAPASMA.

Though I somewhat respect the American woman's initiative, barking at the offending drilling rig is not going to solve anything. It could be dismantled tomorrow morning and our barely functional water system wouldn't function any more reliably.

After the revolutionary fervor dies down, perhaps the American who spoke with SAPASMA and I could bring one of their engineers to talk with the residents and the Water Lady in charge.

A Water Summit,  if you will.

Meanwhile, the well-digger's distant and rhythmic thumping will go on for at least another month.

Actually we've found that once you get used to it, it becomes a sort of white noise that can help you fall asleep or at least forget the endless squabble over water.

###

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 'winner' of the sex scandal sweepstakes

For the past eighteen months, going back to the final heat of the presidential election, Americans have nearly drowned in a tsunami of sleaze, with perpetrators and victims trading accusations, alibis, explanations, revelations, legal maneuvers and lurid details.

Perhaps the only moment of clarity came yesterday when comedian Louis C.K., actually admitted that the accusations against him—masturbating in front of five women—were true and he almost owned up to the grossness of his acts.
Louis C.K.: Hero among scoundrels?

He stepped up to edge and expressed "regret" and "remorsefulness"—rather than an outright personal apology to the victims—but at least in his rambling, too-long statement he recognized the inappropriateness of what he did.

Compare that to how our current Sleazo-in-Chief, of "grab their pussy" infamy, just walked away from the statements by sixteen women who accused him of sexual harassment, in effect by calling them all liars. Or how Bill Clinton at first denied the sexual assault accusations against him with the astonishing assertion that oral sex by "that woman" wasn't really sex.

And after all this outright lying, both men survived the scandals, at least for the time being in the case of Trump.

Then came Alabama U.S. senatorial candidate Roy Moore, whose public persona rests on a pedestal of Scriptural sanctimoniousness, particularly with regard to gay people. First he denied anything untoward happened with teenage girls, then admitted a weakness for teenage girls but only above a certain age. Yes, Roy, we understand.

A few of his supporters leaped into a logical abyss by arguing that since the Virgin Mary was only fourteen or so when the older Joseph got her pregnant, well you know, what ol' boy Roy did, hmm, wasn't all that weird.

Mercifully, a chorus of ministers and theologians intervened immediately and howled their disagreement with such reading of Scripture, calling it ridiculous and blasphemous.

Most distressing of all is that, just like Trump and Clinton, Moore might still get elected even if his history of shameless hypocrisy makes his acts all the more repugnant.

Moving to the gay corner we find one of my ex-favorite actors Kevin Spacey, who used the booze alibi and then announced he was gay, both of them lame excuses. If anything drunkenness makes you doubly responsible—for your drinking and your acts while drunk.

And as for his "coming out," please, that's like Oprah courageously tweeting that's she's black. Everyone knew Spacey was gay and that doesn't excuse jumping on a fourteen-year-old.

Then there's Harvey, who tried to have his lawyers stifle revelations by the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine. Nice try.

Amid all this miasma of denials, lies and equivocations comes Louis C.K.'s statement. Almost on the first line he does what Trump, Clinton, Weinstein and Moore couldn't bring themselves to do: He admitted the accusations were true. That's progress.

Second, he also admitted that his actions were abusive not only sexually, but because he was in a position of power over these younger women who were trying to get into the comedy business.

"The power that I had over those women is that they admired me," his statement said. "And I wielded that power irresponsibly."

Can't imagine Trump uttering such words; his dictionary doesn't contain the world "apology."

"There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for," C.K.'s statement continued. "And I have to reconcile it with who I am."

C.K.'s current purgatory, though, could be just a tad more redemptive if I heard that he had personally apologized to those women individually rather than through a "group regret."

The irony is that C.K.'s comedy act, which could be very funny and which I enjoyed, was often based on sleazy one-liners and situations that in retrospect qualified as sexual harassment.

Not to worry, I'm not about to excuse his actions. Right now I could not watch his routines without the image of his actions ruining the jokes.

He isn't that funny anymore, but at least he took a stab at being honest.

A small moment of grace

Someone once told me that "grace" is not some dramatic, God-driven event with angels with trumpets marking the occasion, but rather an unexpected moment of joy or revelation.

I had one of those moments last Easter when my friend Anita emerged from her small and chaotic kitchen in San Antonio with a ham and all the fixings for an unexpected, amazing dinner, which Stew, I and her shared on an improvised table in her living room. I told her this was definitely a moment of grace.

Grace in action: The moth is on the right-hand side, clinging to the
hem of the plastic cloth. 
This morning, while sitting on the terrace enjoying the perfect weather and views of the landscape I had a moment of grace: small, private and amazing.

I think I witnessed a white moth clinging to the plastic tablecloth and undergoing the final moments of metamorphosis. The caterpillar and the striped caterpillar were still attached, but it seemed as if the moth was trying to break free.

I got my phone to try to take a photo but I'm afraid it didn't come out very well. Still, after five more minutes of gentle struggle the moth broke free and flew off. I don't know where the striped caterpillar went, or if it just became part of the moth.

Right after breakfast, cup of coffee in hand, I usually sit outside and read a chapter from a book called "Emotional Sobriety", which I recommend to everyone whether they recovering alcoholics or not. A chapter a day starts my day on a calm note no matter how much trivia I might have fluttering inside my head.

But I didn't do my reading this morning: I felt as if witnessing this small miracle was my meditation and moment of grace for today.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tooling about in a slightly odd Italian machine

When we went on a solo driving tour of Italy a couple of weeks ago, Mother Hertz unexpectedly let us borrow a nifty black Alfa Romeo Q4 Giulia Veloce for ten days. 

Before you start having fantasies about Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren vrooming about on the Italian Riviera in a Alfa Romeo convertible, their Gucci silk scarves fluttering in the wind, allow me to dampen your imagination a bit.

No Marcello behind the wheel. 
This was Al and Stew, scarf-less, driving a far more modest Alfa Romeo with a four-cylinder diesel that had decent acceleration with a respectable growl from under the hood. It had oversized wide tires that really grabbed the winding  backroads in the Tuscan countryside.

Except for the day we went to Pisa, when a relentless downpour made it look as if the famous tower was really sinking into the mud, we had glorious fall weather, mild temperatures and landscapes of vineyards turning color as far as we could see. 

The car also had a couple of peculiar features: a lane-changing sensor and an often incomprehensible English-Italian navigation system.

The lane sensor would let out a honking sound through the music system whenever the car strayed onto another lane without the benefit of turn signals. The first time we heard the ominous honk-honk, we didn't know what it was or where it came from. We have no idea how this lane sensor worked.

It took several miles and randomly turning various knobs on the dashboard before we figured it was a uniquely Italian safety feature. Honk-honk. 

Italian wine country.


The navigation system was a study in bilingual confusion. It was set to English, so a female voice with a proper British accent—think Judi Dench—imparted the directions, while the actual street names were mumbled by either Judi trying to speak Italian or Sophia under the influence of something.

"In one hundred mee-tahs, turn right onto Garagiolafettuccinemarzippano!"

"What did she say?" we would ask each other, while we tried to match the Italian directions with street or road signs, often in vain.

At one point, mixed-up directions put us on a dirt road that dead-ended at the front gate of someone's house. We backed up and got on another dirt road for about an hour before the Alfa Romeo led us to a proper highway.

Confusion reached a crescendo, so to speak, as we tried to find our hotel in the medieval walled town of Siena, which one enters through one of several stone gates. We went around at least five times in a big circle a couple of kilo-mee-tahs in circumference, the Athena Hotel nowhere to be found.

Finally I suggested that Stew drive into the town, and presto the hotel appeared about fifty mee-tahs on the left. It seems that the Italianesque part of the directions contained a crucial detail: Drive through the gate into Siena, not past it.

A very nice car nevertheless but may I offer a couple of suggestions to the Alfa Romeo engineers.

Please make the navigation system a binational affair with Judi reading the English and Sophia tackling the Italian parts of the script. 

And O mio Dio! do something about that honk-honk safety warning.

###

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A case of puppy love

Each of our five dogs has its own sad-sack story and that's why they joined our household. 

We're buddies. 
Ellie is an orange, short-haired something-or-other with a broad head and face somewhat reminiscent of a pit bull except she is small and weighs only about twenty pounds. Her most distinctive traits are her bowed rear legs and an unnerving tendency to fall over unexpectedly when she loses her balance. In the past few days, we've also discovered she may have epilepsy.

She showed up at our front gate a year ago in bad shape, emaciated and with a nasty infection in her right eye. She acted very submissively, almost pleadingly, whenever Stew or I approached her. So naturally we felt sorry and took her in and after a few hundred dollars worth of antibiotics, spaying and shots, she joined the gang.

Roxy, a hulk of a mutt that weighs about sixty pounds, was found on the streets of San Miguel by someone at a nearby ranch. Someone must have seen in Roxy a way to make pesos, perhaps because she had the looks of a Rottweiler or some such, but she was abandoned at a few months old when it became clear she was not breeding material. 

One thing Roxy and Ellie share, though, is that both are missing their tails. I cringe to think they probably lost them Mexican-style, with a whack of machete when they were a few weeks old. Roxy also had part of her ears cut off. 

Their missing tails make their enthusiastic greetings all the more touching—they wiggle their one-inch stumps and part of their rear ends.

Roxy and Ellie also have become BFFs, or Best Female Friends.  

A couple of days ago during our morning strolls in the fields near our place, Ellie just keeled over on her side, panting frantically. Stew tried to pick her up but she wouldn't respond, until about five or six minutes, she walked a few more steps and fell on her side again. A friend suggested those may have been epileptic seizures. 

Stew asked me to bring the truck so we could bring Ellie home, so I left with the other four dogs. But about fifty feet on the way back, Roxy noticed Ellie was missing and ran back to where Stew and Ellie were waiting. Roxy sat there looking at the two and wouldn't leave. 

When I arrived with the truck, Stew put Ellie in and Roxy jumped up too and kept sniffing Ellie on the way home. 

Was Roxy concerned about Ellie? Did she sense something was wrong? How did these two completely different sorts pair up? 

have no idea how dogs forge their own links to other dogs, except each one has a distinct personality. I don't believe dogs "get upset", "hold grudges" or poop on the carpet to "get back" at their owners. 

Their brain cycles are not that complex and revolve more around unquestioning loyalty and love for their owners, which is why they become part of our families. 

Our big white Lucy is clearly the leader of the pack; where she goes the others follow. 

Domino, the only male, spent the first eighteen months of his life at the local shelter, mostly in a cage. We think he has a case of PKD (Post Kennel Disorder) and has only recently calmed down. He remains a loner whose main trick is to sit and offer one of his paws whenever anyone approaches. His idea of play is not to chase one of the other dogs but to roll on his back, feet in the air, howling merrily, all by himself. 

Felisa, the smallest of the group, is the most attached to Stew and me, wagging her tail in a circular motion at the smallest provocation. She may be the most hyperactive and often gets on Roxy's nerves who communicates her impatience by letting out a basso profundo growl that sounds like the idle on a Harley-Davidson.  

All and all, a happy bunch, complemented on workdays by Félix's own mutts Palomita and Luiso, the latter one of the dumbest and laziest dogs I've ever encountered. It's tough not to like him, though, character defects and all. 

### 







Monday, November 6, 2017

When Santa Clara came marching in, followed by her cats

The lives of the saints bear 
close scrutiny—or none at all

Hagiographies are tough to fact-check: Religious fervor and the fact most saints lived hundreds if not thousands of years ago conspire against definite answers.

And so it is, I found, with Santa Clara (St. Clare in English), who lived nearly eight hundred years ago in Assisi, Italy, a contemporary of Francis, the town's most famous citizen and one of the most prominent figures in the vast Roman Catholic roster of saints.

Et tu, Clara?

Cynics in fact have suggested that Francisco and Clara were close—really close—but I wouldn't propound such a disrespectful rumor. But who knows?

When we bought our ranch in Mexico we needed a name for it, even though at seven and one-half acres it's more like a ranchito or a ranchette, rather than a hacienda with its name over the main gate.

Stew remembered my hometown in Cuba was Santa Clara, an otherwise forgettable place except for its being a provincial capital and the location of a monumentally ugly mausoleum—even more so than Lenin's in Red Square—that houses the immortal bits and pieces of Ché Guevara recovered after he was killed in Bolivia.

The name Rancho Santa Clara stuck but I had no idea who she was, so some quick and dirty Internet research was in order. I found she is quite an important figure in her own right, credited with an almost impossibly chaste and saintly life, and a number of miracles.

One of the alleged miracles was her relationship with cats. Some have said she trained or sweet-talked some felines to do tricks, such as fetching a skein of knitting yarn when she dropped it on the floor.

Forget raising the dead or curing the lame, I thought. Teaching a cat to do anything must be the most awesome of miracles plus a good bit of yarn in itself.

When we built the house the architect had left a three-foot-wide hole on the eastern wall of the living room so we commissioned a small stained glass window of Santa Clara holding a cat to fill the hole. 

We hired Gustavo, a local ironworker, who had spent a few undocumented years working at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, on the western edge of Chicago, repairing the famous architect's stained glass windows, to make one of Santa Clara. 

We gave him an Internet picture of Santa Clara, sporting a habit and a halo, and holding a fat black cat. Santa Clara has a hint of a smile, almost like the Mona Lisa's, though she seems middle-aged and not a great beauty.

Our Santa Clara and we're standing by her. 
What Gustavo came back with, though, looks more like a twenty-something tart dressed up as a nun, with a white, obese cat in her arms. I guess we underestimated the difficulty of capturing Clara's subtle saintliness in stained glass, but it was a good story to tell people who came to visit.

Stew and I became so smitten with Santa Clara that during a recent trip to Italy we drove up to  Assisi to check out first-hand the story of Francisco, Clara and the cats.

Assisi is a beautiful mountain top town, first settled by Etruscans centuries before Christ, and was the highlight of our trip. We visited the huge two-level church where San Francisco is buried and a smaller church, housing the remains of Santa Clara.

Near Santa Clara's church, at a gift shop with a million tchotchkes honoring her and Francisco, I asked for a mug, ceramic tile or anything showing Santa Clara with a cat. The woman understood some English but not my question. I tried again, using my embryonic command of Italian embellished with some gestures and even cat sounds.

"Santa Chiara? Gatti? Meow?" The sales clerk laughed at me incredulously.

Could our cat story be some Italian baloney?

Puzzled, we went on to the Santa Clara church and found an ancient nun sitting behind a small desk to the right of the main altar, set up as question-and-answer booth about all things Santa Clara.

I tried my Italian again but she didn't have a clue what I was saying so she summoned a young guy who spoke English and transmitted my question about Santa Clara and cats.

The somber nun broke into uproarious, toothless laughter. My inquiry must have been the funniest or most ridiculous one of the day, maybe the week. Standing a few feet away Stew giggled.

We went downstairs to the chapel with Santa Clara's tomb. The chapel was beautiful but dimly lit. I checked every corner for a sign, a picture, an inscription— anything with a cat—but found nothing.

But to people who come to visit our place I'll keep peddling the story about Santa Clara and her cats.  They don't need to know the truth, whatever it is.   

Thursday, November 2, 2017

When grasshoppers came to dinner

How do you maintain your ecological wits
when Mother Nature turns on you? 
We returned home after a couple of weeks traveling and Félix reported everything was fine, except for a not-so-minor detail: Our ranch is under attack by an overnight blitzkrieg of thousands, hundreds of thousands—millions for I all know—of chapulines or grasshoppers.

I went out this morning and in fact there are grasshoppers on the window screens, rose bushes, the vegetable garden—practically every plant with tender foliage is under attack. Chapulines abruptly ended the tomato and cucumber growing season, along with our parsley, cilantro and basil plants.

Grasshopper through a window pane. 
The only plants left intact seem to be thick-leaved succulents, though I'm sure the grasshoppers are discussing attacking them too when they've finished off everything else.

Worst of all there is nothing much we can do to contain the destruction except for one I idea I have but don't dare implement.
Following our organic mantra, Stew and I have maintained a laissez-faire approach to bugs. We figure ninety percent of them don't cause much damage and, occasionally, are even fascinating to watch.
Hoppers at work. 

That involves far more faire than laissez, considering the number of insect and other little wild visitors we have: Paper wasps, crickets, flies (numerous and annoying especially when you're trying to read in bed), spiders and small tarantulas and even the occasional frog on the bathroom sink, bees (probably our own), beetles, earwigs and a dozens of other species too weird to describe much less name. We're not sure how they all get in.

Oddly, we don't get many mosquitos or cockroaches. A small garden snake, once. Mice are kept at bay by our team of two somnolent cats, one of them sixteen years old.

We have a catch-and-release method consisting of a plastic cottage cheese carton which we put over the uninvited visitor and then we slip a five-by-seven index card under it and deposit the critter outside.

A friendly spider was escorted outside.
A major exception recently were ants, black or red, I can't remember, which got into the bedroom. They came in through a small hole in the windows, single file, and then gathered on the wall forming black blotches as if planning an attack on us. That called for an emergency purchase of inorganic pesticide.

As far as the chapulines, they are going beserko-mundo in the yard as I write this, and I haven't found any non-ridiculous organic control.

What I've found are some purported solutions ranging from ground garlic to spreading flour on the infected plants. The weakest points of these suggestions is that they have to be used before the grasshoppers arrive, not after they've eaten everything in sight. What's the point then?

Crop dusting the property with DDT, which is probably still legal in Mexico, comes to mind.

But if that sounds too draconian, how about eating the little buggers? I tried them in Oaxaca, here in San Miguel and at an excellent restaurant in Mérida. They are salty, almost spicy, and taste best when you focus your mind on Trump, the World Series or anything other than what you're eating.

Grasshoppers don't look or taste like chicken. 
There's even a website and foodie movement of folks who eat bugs.  Insects are high in protein and are more environmentally friendly that cows and pigs who do enough mindless burping and flatulating to raise global temperatures by a couple of degrees, or so I hear.

The insect site is cleverly called Bug Vivant, "Gastronomy on Six Legs." A Gringo Chapulines Recipe provides detailed ingredients and instructions, but cautions that the chapulines must be precooked except that I couldn't find directions for that one essential step.

Do you have to pull the legs and wings off, or just throw the whole grasshopper into a food processor set to "mush beyond recognition." Chopping and dicing? 

Bagging the required load of chapulines in the yard should be no problema right now though cajoling them into the food processor likely will be tricky. They are not called "hoppers" for nothing. 

Crickets anyone?
 When all fails I ask Félix, who when stumped sometimes will offer some folkloric Mexican solution involving the next full moon, the braying of the donkeys, or some such.

But on the chapulines crisis he had no answers, even crazy ones. We just have to wait until the cold weather arrives and kills off the critters, he said. Given that today it's about eighty degrees and partly cloudy, that could take a while.

Until then I'll just have to wear ear plugs to shield me from that relentless crunching sound coming from the outside.