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Looking out my Backdoor: In my garden of earthly delights


December 20, 2018

Angels and snakes, metaphorical. Every garden has each. While moving my water sprinkler, I stepped in a nest of fire ants. Stepped out quickly, swiping ants off my legs, onto my arms, off my arms, moving at lightning speed to patio and can of Raid where I drenched my legs, shoes, socks and soaked the ground around me. Back to the garden, barefoot, with a stronger spray and obliterated the newly sprung ant nest. Stings like fire.

Since Jalisco winter is like Montana spring, I figured leafy lettuce would do well. I don’t favor iceberg lettuce. What is there to like? Convenience, maybe. Good leafy lettuce is imported to us and hard to find.

In an available empty flower pot, I planted a test garden. In a short time, I had a goodly little crop of lettuce. Each time I pass by, I munch a handful. Since I constantly renew or change my floral potly residents, it was easy to gather three more empties and plant more lettuce.

Along came Squirrel. Squirrel, the bane of my life. We have a love/hate relationship. This sassy ground squirrel has survived all the salivating dogs on the ranch as well as my ire. Every winter that rodent with a fuzzy tail plants corn in my flower pots, in the lawn, wherever she can dig and plant. Squirrel is industrious.

You guessed it. I planted lettuce seed. Squirrel followed me and planted corn seed, scattering dirt and lettuce seed to the winds. She’s an equal opportunity nuisance — she also dug holes and planted corn in my bamboo, in the amaryllis, canna lilies, geraniums, my lawn.

My avocado tree has dropped its last fruit. I have developed two kinds of avocado bread. Zucchini or banana bread recipes are easy to modify. Reduce shortening, use mashed avocado, adjust spices to taste. Yum.

I also made a quick bread with avocado, jalapeño and onion. Reduce shortening and liquid. I used buttermilk. I threw away my first loaf, heavy as a brick. Further modified my recipe and my second loaf was a delicious success.

My papaya, planted eight months ago, must be related to weeds to grow so quickly. Already I have huge fruits hanging on the center stalk. A friend gifted me a second papaya plant two months later. Both were baby starts, mind you. The second has fruits the size of my thumb. I’ll be giving away papaya by the basketful.

A garden without people is an empty garden. Every morning I spend an hour or two out on the back corner patio, drenched in sun. I feel like I am holding court. Julie comes by, sits a while. We talk. Then Carol shows up. Nancie wanders in. Maybe one or another leaves. Here come’s Kathy. Or Tom and JRae. It’s like a salon in the sun.

There is a perceptible ease that has transformed our rancho friendships. It happened over the last couple weeks, with two parties: the Posada and the Memorial with Pizza. Little tensions have disappeared.

Carol’s birthday was Friday; John’s Saturday. Several of us gathered for cake, a song, best wishes and hugs.

Last night, I went with Kathy and Richard to the Plaza. The tree in the center kiosk is a beauty to behold. When darkness fell and the tree lights were turned on, a sigh of hushed wonder lifted all. We spent three hours, walking, sitting on a bench munching churros, being part of the greater community of Etzatlan.

Last night, Tom and JRae hosted a bonfire for our Rancho community. Tom and JRae, here for a few days to ready their casita before retirement, drove toward home today. We had a simple get-together around the crackling fire, shared snacks, soft conversation.

Then Kathy and Richard joined us after a day in Guadalajara. They brought sparklers, a meter long, yes, sparklers like on the Fourth of July. Giant sparklers that sprinkled light five minutes or longer. You should have seen us, children revitalized, waving dancing sparklers in the dark, magically lighting the next page of our lives.

Merry Christmas to all. I wish you could be here with me to share the wonder. But I am here and you are there, so I wish you all moments of glory and beauty and love.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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