Monthly Archives: September 2016

Just Another Irrigation Day

Chris suggested I translate some words, so I did. Good suggestion.


It was one of those awful, good days – a little bit of everything! It was cloudy and warmish when I got up before 6. We got an early start and got to El Joconoistle at 7 a.m.( All the fields around us have old, official names you can read on the deeds, and there are maps of them. I’d love to put a copy of the old, fragile map right here – one day I will.) We own a field in El Joconoistle, named for some cacti that used to grow there. Another field in El Joconoistle is rented from a friend. In La Tabla Grande, the big board, we own two fields that lie next to each other, purchased from two of Chon’s uncles.  El Melonár, named for the melons grown there many years ago and La Tierra Blanca, or white dirt, named for its light-colored earth, are also rented, from Chon’s godfather.

Chon is irrigating a section of a parcela we farm so as not to pay a peón to work. (Parcela is the word used here for a parcel of land.) Irrigating is the most highly paid job here, because the irrigator is supposed to be there 24 hours for each turn. The section we were watering had flooded a little bit in the night, and we went there (in the night) forgetting to take a shovel, but Chon had closed the boquilla with his hands and mud, and it was OK in the morning. (A boquilla is a sort of notch in the side of a ditch where the water is managed. To open it and let the water into the field, you shovel away the wet dirt. To stop the water, you just build it back up again. Or use a costál, a large , woven plastic bag that can hold about 100 pounds of fertilizer, or sand, or dirt.)

Boquilla - little mouth. And a costál.

Boquilla – little mouth. And a costál.

Then we went to La Tierra Blanca to make sure that one of our father/son teams were taking care of the water there. The night before we listened to extremely upsetting stories of how the water was taken from us by a well-known peón of the most well-known farmeraround, who removed the boards we had put in the compuerta to divert the water to our ditch. We heard more details of that story.

This is a compuerta with a valve wheel in the main ditch. No boquillas here!

This is a compuerta with a valve wheel in the main ditch. No boquillas here!

The sky got darker and darker, and then it began to sprinkle, and by 8 a.m. to was raining. The sound of rain on tall corn plants is something to remember. And this time it was particularly wonderful, as the plants really really needed water. By 8:30 it was still raining. The ground there gets gummy right away, and I managed to get the pickup stuck. Both front tires were over the edge of the ditch.

One of our workers drove his decrepit red pickup over and after jockeying it around, and nearly getting it stuck, all the peónes together, and the red pickup pulled us backwards out of danger. By this time Chon was chilled to the bone, and his shirt was dripping water from the hem. I gave him my merely-damp flannel shirt to wear, and a bandana, because I nearly always wear a t-shirt underneath flannel in the mornings, and I wasn’t cold. And by that time the sun was out!

This is a small compuerta with a valve, where we divert water into one of our fields.

This is a small compuerta with a valve, where we divert water into La Tabla Grande

We went then to open the water in La Tabla Grande, and were there an hour or so, and then traveled back to El Joco. While we were there, a bump in the road that had been becoming more and more of a driving problem had turned out to be (I knew it! I knew it!) a broken pipe that crosses under the road, and Porfirio and his son started digging, and they uncovered most of the smashed part, and the water began to flow out of it, and then it inexplicably got stopped up, and Chon pulled one, two, three costales out of it. They had been used on the other side of the road at the compuerta to divert the water from the canal into our irrigation ditch. In the US they most likely would have been filled with sand, but these had been filled with mud, maybe a year or two ago. The mud had partly oozed out through the mesh fabric, and the no-longer-full costales had made their way into the 10-inch pipe. Chon also pulled a dinky little mud turtle out of the pipe, and we all laughed at that, and I took it back to the canal.

The pipe just kept getting plugged up over and over, and we finally drove to the house to get a very, very long piece of rebar (12 meters long!) which eventually was used to clean out the long piece of pipe after Chon had a brilliant idea to open one of the boquillas into the field to get the water moving better.


We didn’t get back from the fields until after four p.m., and it was nearly all work and/or frustration!

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We Drove To La Presa Nueva de Jalpa


We drove El Esqueleto to the reservoir at the end of summer. I had thought it would be a miserable drive, but it wasn’t. Anyone who has walked up that road knows about the uneven, rocky road. It’s built of rocks, and there are speed bumps (speed bumps on a rock road, you say? Indeed.) But it was fun!

The reservoir is about 120 years old, and the old presa is much older. Chon’s ancestors moved to this area to get work building it. It’s important now because it’s owned by the water industry, and all of us farmers use it for irrigation. When the water level gets up to about 26 meters, they sometimes can begin to release it to use to water crops.



So we got there, and walked out on the dam. There are millions of water lilies there, choking it up. There must be a way to harvest them.

Here are some photos of the area. It was a gorgeous day.



There’s a college there, too. If this is it, it’s quite beautiful.


Farm Vehicles

I thought I’d write something to give a snapshot of the working vehicles here on our farm, just for your amusement. 

* Our car is a red 2002 PT Cruiser, our most-used vehicle, and it’s what we drive “in public”. It’s got 216,000 miles on it, and rattles, but it runs fine. It’s a bit risky to drive it on the public roads and highways, because it could be confiscated at any time. We would make it legal if it were possible, but it’s stuck in never-never land, mired in Mexican law. When I got my permanent residency I had a month to sell it, I was told, (which would be very difficult, since it’s not “nationalized”), or get it legalized (which would be even more difficult, as there are only certain specified model years that can be legalized – recent years – and ours is not one of those,and it’s expensive! Like, over $1500 expensive). We are driving it, and avoiding, as well as we can, the municipal police, the federales, and the “transito” which is like the Highway Patrol. The car is extremely handy for us, as we can carry small musical equipment in it, for church gigs. We can also carry farming stuff – bottled herbicides and pesticides, and a few 100-lb sacks of urea if we need to (normally that gets delivered to the house by the ton). It’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks at the inside that it’s used for farming because of spilled seeds and salty-looking grains of fertilizer. The undercarriage is covered with caked mud from the field roads.

There is a very slight possibility of getting it legalized through a small organization called the Union Campesina Democratica, the People’s Democratic Union

The sort-of license plate they issue.

The sort-of license plate they issue.

There’s another small possibility that the ex-chief-of-police from a nearby town can arrange for us to get a driving permit for it. He borrowed money from us, and said he’d look into it haha. (That’s a story for another day.)

*Our pickup is a 1985 3/4 ton GMC, called La Paloma. It used to be pretty. We brought it here maybe 10 years ago, not exactly legally. We crossed the border  late at night, because we had had to wait until afternoon to leave the Palmdale area. We we carrying four raw speakers in boxes (very expensive and difficult to find in Mexico), a very good mixer we use for recording, and personal items under a tarp in the bed. We weren’t sleepy, and we just kept driving south. We got our visas from a 24-hour office, and kept driving. The first check point we got to was closed for arranging car permits but we talked the official into letting us go ahead, and we kept driving. We reached another checkpoint very early in the morning,and were immediately questioned by the guards there, and pulled off the road. My husband told me not to worry, and went into the house-trailer-slash-office, and there he stayed for quite a while. It took him probably half an hour, and I should’ve been worried, I suppose, but by that time I was just too tired. When Chon came back to the pickup I said “Can we go now?” He said no, but that the head guy just wanted some money, and he had the right amount. We both went into the trailer/office and paid the man, and we left quickly, as I recall. The guards never looked under the tarp covering our precious load, which certainly would have been confiscated. The man in charge had first told Chon that we must, absolutely must return to the place that gave vehicle permits, but Chon had convinced him that we would take our chances, and after all, we weren’t staying in Mexico.  – we were just visiting his family.

We were not stopped again on the rest of the two-thousand mile trip. We arrived, unloaded the cargo, visited, and left, leaving the pickup. And it’s still here! If we need to get mechanical work done we drive it at night or in the early, early morning.

It is our main, multi-use vehicle, used to carry workers, tons of fertilizer, and large tanks of water; 1000 liters, or 5 barrels plus. Each bag weighs about 100 pounds. Yes, Rod, we know this is too heavy a load.


It’s challenging driving the pickup during the rainy season here. Think February and March in Central and Northern California. Although we’ve improved the worst sections of our field roads, there are spots where it’s nearly impossible to drive without sliding off the roads into the tilled fields, even with mud tires. This is frustrating and costs us time.


And he-e-e-e-re’s Foxy!

*When we finally moved our household to central Mexico we drove our large Ford van, called Foxy because of its previous life as a FOX off-road motorcycle team carrier. I wrote about that border crossing at length in my blog. I say at length because of our prolonged stay in Nogales on the north side of the customs crossing. The reason for this stay was that we were waiting (and waiting and waiting, for days) for a customs officer to process our application to legalize the van, which we use for our large equipment for performances. The van was eventually legalized, (after months) so, yes, if you were wondering, we do have a legal vehicle.

*The least-driven but most valuable star of this crew is a new red Case tractor, purchased in December. There is a disc implement to go with it, a seeder/planter, and a spreader. We used it this season to disc over 70 acres and plant corn, 


New thing. That’s not the end of the story – we’re buying another vehicle! OK, we admit it, yes, we are impulse buyers. On one of the many days our pickup got stuck in the mud, one day after our PT Cruiser’s oil pan got fractured by a rock in a field road, we spotted an odd-looking car in a used car lot next to where we had already  decided to stop to get two-for-the-price-of-one pizzas, and the same day I became an official taxpayer in Mexico.

Checking it out was fun. It was exciting to think about driving a sort of a dune buggy thing, wind-in-the-hair, bugs in the teeth and all. It was newly painted (red!), newly tuned, with Volkswagen body, it’s road legal and well, cool!

We looked, we asked questions, we heard the motor, we made a down payment.


TAHDAH!! El Esqueletisimo!

We’re picking it up tomorrow. By then it should have seats. We’ll have to take a bus trip to Leon, get it licensed (where, I wonder). From there we’ve decided we should drive it home in short trips, since we don’t know it well.

Positive points: it will be legal to drive on the highway if we need to, thus reducing the stress of fear of having our car confiscated, it gets great gas mileage, it probably will not get stuck/drag its oil pan on the speed bumps, and yeah, the fun of it all.

Negative points: just look at it!

Wish us luck.