Sunday, January 24, 2021

7 Unexpected Benefits of Sweeping the Street in México

 Five Years After Moving to México, Jon Discovered This

Jon Sweeps the Cobblestone in Front of Our Casita
     It’s customary in México to sweep in front of your home or place of business regularly, typically each morning. Some people who have a tile or stone entry even damp mop the public sidewalk in front of their gate or front door. For five years, our housecleaner has swept the cobblestone street in front of our gate as part of her weekly cleaning duties. We thought that was often enough.
Our Tropical Almond Tree Viewed from the Second Floor

     But apparently, it wasn’t, and the reason revolved around an important tree, one that we have a love-hate relationship with. We have a large tropical almond tree, a variety that is valued in this area for the shade they provide, that overhangs the cobblestone street, our yard, and the exterior stairway to our second floor. We sometimes cuss the tree for the mess it creates—dropping huge amounts of leaves and plum-like almonds daily and providing a roost for the chickens that poop on our stairs and garden wall. 
Leaves and Tropical Almonds on Our Exterior Stairway

     But the neighbors valued the shade of that tree for their gatherings on warm afternoons where they relaxed and chatted just outside our garden wall. And we liked it for the privacy screen it provided between homes. We could never cut this important shared tree down, but we could have it severely topped, reducing the debris that fell by half. So, once every two years we hire a guy to climb up and remove the fast-growing upper tree limbs, sometimes with a machete and sometimes with a chainsaw.

     We noticed that the neighbors often swept our side of the street, sometimes daily during the season when the purple, fruit fly-covered almonds were dropping into the cobblestone area where chairs were lined up ready for family gatherings. Some days the briskness of the sweeping outside our gate sounded furiously fast—were they angry with us for not sweeping our side of the street? So, occasionally Jon or I would sweep the cobblestone when the leaves and almonds were accumulating, hoping the neighbors appreciated it.
Sweeping Leaves and Almonds on Our Stairway

     About a month ago, Jon started sweeping the cobblestone street in front of our casita every other morning. Our house is on a corner lot, so that means he sweeps two streets, a strip of about 200 feet (60 meters) long. He sweeps well past the center of the street but not quite to the neighbors’ houses on the other side, a width of 15 feet (4.5 meters). That’s 3000 square feet (270 square meters)! In addition to leaves and almonds, the amount of dust and sand that accumulates daily is amazing—a product of the many cars and trucks that drive in and out of the dirt lot kitty-corner from our house.

     In addition to increasing our pride in our home and neighborhood, there have been 7 unexpected benefits of Jon’s sweeping. Who would have thought sweeping was so valuable?

1.   Smiles and Friendlier Greetings from our Neighbors—It has dramatically changed our relationship with our Mexican neighbors for the better! When we leave home and return, the neighbors outside smile and greet us with more friendliness. Several neighbors have had discussions with Jon comparing brooms. Jon has five types of brooms now and is becoming an expert on which works on cobblestone and what is best for the tile steps.

Jon's Broom Collection is Growing

     2.     Health Benefits—Jon gets 5000 to 8000 steps recorded on his Fitbit by the time he’s finished sweeping, depending on how dirty the street is. Yesterday he had 7200 steps, 2.49 miles, 125 aerobic minutes by noon! The steps are smaller when he sweeps than when he walks, so he probably didn’t actually walk 2.49 miles, but the health benefits are in the steps and the arm motions which raise his heart rate into the cardio range. Since Jon has Parkinson’s disease, this has added to his exercise regime to slow the progress of his symptoms.

     3.     Safety, Especially on the Exterior Stairway—Jon imagines me walking down those outside stairs in flip-flops and stepping on one of those almonds, my foot rolling over the nut like I was wearing a rollerskate, and me landing on my butt. He cares about my safety, so he sweeps the stairs every other day, too. I don’t even want to think about Jon losing his balance after stepping on one of those hard little balls—balance is already an issue for him as a result of Parkinson’s.

     4.     Less Dust in Our House—Beach towns are sandy and dusty. We live on a dusty street in a dusty town with the windows and doors open most days, so dust filters in with traffic from motos, cars, delivery trucks, bicycles, and animals. Jon’s sweeping has lessened the frequency of my knick-knack dusting.

     5.     Construction Debris is Being Swept Up by the Mexican Laborers—Jon has set an example for the guys on the crew who are doing construction next door. In addition to sweeping the street, Jon has been sweeping our shed roof where construction debris fell from the removal of an old palapa roof next door. He’s shown them that sweeping isn’t just “women’s work” and they have begun sweeping up their mess at the end of the workday.
Jon Sweeping Construction Debris Off of Our Roof

     6.     Social Time for the Men on the Block—Other men who live near us are beginning to sweep the street on days when Jon doesn’t, and sometimes while Jon is out sweeping. It has become a social time when Jon can practice speaking Spanish and learning more about our town. Maybe the women have suggested that if Jon can sweep, so can their husbands. Or maybe the men want to show Jon how well their brooms work.

     7.     Broom Sharing and Discussion About the Best Brooms Improves Relationships with Neighbors—One morning while Jon was sweeping, the lady next door came out to greet Jon with a smile, showed him her broom, and demonstrated how well it worked for sweeping the cobblestone. Jon told her in Spanish that it was better than his brooms and so she let him borrow it. Now they greet each other on the street like old friends, and he’s on a quest to find a broom just like hers.

If You Enjoyed This Story, I Invite You to 
Check Out This “Healthy Living in México” Book

Living in Mexico Lessons Learned: Healthy Living in México #3

Book Description

     In this continuation of Terry and Jon's story about moving to Mexico they learn that, while their new lifestyle is everything they had hoped for (relaxing, full of adventures, and less expensive), some surprises and unexpected adjustments are also part of living there. Now residents of México, they find it is not quite the same as taking a vacation to this beautiful country. Read more at Living in Mexico Lessons Learned

          Are you interested in learning more about Parkinson’s Disease? Take a look at my novel, “Pickle Jar Test”, available on Amazon worldwide.

          I invite you to SIGN UP for my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Monthly Newsletter, with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books.

     Thank you for reading my articles and books. Follow me on Facebook at "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" for more information about life in Mexico and my Amazon Author Page for updates on my books and blogs.
Terry L Turrell

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

ATTACK TURKEY! Or is He a Guard Turkey? Another Lesson Learned Living in Mexico

 Living in a Mexican Barrio Can Be Dangerous!

When This Monstrous Turkey Decides to Attack!

Living in a Mexican barrio in a small town, we’re comfortable with the chickens and dogs wandering along the street and flowerbeds in front of our house. But then the three mature turkeys showed up, two hens and a tom, and we soon learned that turkeys are not as brainless as we thought—or as harmless. These new fowl were free to wander with the chickens, eat cracked corn when the poultry was fed, and roost in the trees at sunset.

The male began to strut back and forth in the street as though he was the guardian of the block and we laughed at how funny his performances were. When he had an audience, he would fluff out his feathers, stretch out his neck, and suddenly quiver all over while making a thumping noise. For months, he was a harmless addition to the "farm".

But, this tom, a big, homely male turkey, soon developed a hatred for golf carts—any golf cart that drove through his territory. When we would drive into our cul-de-sac, that crazy turkey came out of nowhere and ran at high speed along the passenger side of our golf cart. Was he chasing us, racing us, or trying to attack?

His long, scrawny neck would stretch out, reaching into the footwell where my legs were tucked as far away as possible. Of course, I was screaming. I’ve never lost my reflexive screaming response in the face of a feared creature. I’m sure the neighbors were laughing at the crazy gringos who were afraid of their turkey. When Jon stopped the golf cart to see what would happen, the tom ran to the front of the cart and started jumping in the air and pecking wildly at the tire and fiberglass body.

Bella, our dachshund who loves to ride in the golf cart, caused her share of commotion by barking ferociously at the turkey, pulling at the two leashes that tethered her to the center of the front seat. As she is naturally a hunter, she would like to have attacked that turkey, but I’m pretty sure he would have shredded her with those talons and his beak. I wondered if the turkey was actually trying to attack Bella rather than me.

Jon hopped out of the golf cart, grabbed a hand towel, and ran at the gobbler, whipping the rag around as he had seen the Mexican family members do, to get him to retreat. Tom turned on Jon, charged, and threw himself, talons first, at him. Fortunately, Jon jumped back in time to avoid having his legs shredded by those wicked-looking claws. Could it be mating season and Tom viewed Jon as his rival? (A look in Wikipedia confirmed that the “birds become aggressive which can develop into intense sparring where opponents leap at each other with the large, sharp talons, and try to peck or grasp the head of each other. Aggression increases in frequency and severity as the birds mature”.)

With all of my screaming and Bella’s furious barking, Jon was trying to talk over us, telling us to be quiet but in reality, he was adding to all the noise we were creating. The commotion brought one of the neighbor ladies out of the house. She frowned at the turkey, marched right up to him, stomped her foot, waved her arm, and made a hissing sound. That turkey folded his feathers down tight to his body, turned tail, and headed for the jungle. Now, why is he afraid of her but attacks us?

But one day, we learned that he was becoming more aggressive with anyone who was not part of the family who fed him. Jon was outside our gate, taking the trash to the corner for pickup when that mentally deranged feathered animal came running toward him. Jon saw it coming and, in defense, swung two large trash bags toward the bird. That must have set off the fight instinct in Tom, because he ran straight toward Jon, flew into the air, and hit Jon full force, chest to chest. Luckily, he didn’t use his talons, but I’d hate to find out what a twenty-five-pound turkey feels like when it's thrown into me. 

The funny thing is that we had heard our gringo neighbors shouting about the turkey attacking them, too, but we never saw him attack the local children, the dogs, or the chickens. The patriarch of the family loved that turkey as one of his pets, stroked him, and carried him under his arm like a chicken or a small dog. Does Tom think he’s one of the guard dogs that protect the family home from invaders? At least the dogs in the family’s pack know and like us—Tom has never learned that we are one of the friendly neighbors.

There Goes the Turkey, Chasing Another Golf Cart!

It was time to try the turkey stick trick. Jon cut the mophead off of an old, moldy mop and the handle became our defensive weapon to hold back the turkey when we were driving the golf cart. Jon loaded it behind the front seat of the golf cart, handy in case of an attack. We thought pointing the stick at the turkey would make him back off.

Jon Placed the "Turkey Stick" Behind the Front Golf Cart Seat

On the next trip to town, I pointed the stick while Jon drove. It didn’t faze that loco bird one bit. He just kept attacking the golf cart like a lunatic. We didn’t want to hit the turkey with the stick or the golf cart, so Jon waited until Tom circled around to the side of the cart and then hit the gas! (Well, it’s an electric cart, so I guess he hit the accelerator.) We sped away, the turkey chasing us all the way to the corner of the block. He seemed to understand that his territory ended at the corner. My heart was racing and I secretly hoped that turkey was going into the neighbors’ Christmas pozole in addition to the pork and hominy.

I Pointed the "Turkey Stick" at Tom with No Effect

No such luck. One morning while Jon was sweeping the cobblestone road in front of our casita, he asked the neighbor if el pavo was going to be cooked for Christmas. The patriarch looked hurt by the question and replied firmly, “No.” He also told Jon that the female turkeys had been killed by a wild dog. Maybe Tom had lost his mind when his hens disappeared.

     Before long, a white duck was added to the “farm”. That duck was like a sedative for Tom. They became inseparable friends and Tom stopped attacking people and golf carts. Sadly, the wild dog killed the duck, and Tom became more rabid than ever.

The Turkey and the Duck were Inseparable Friends

One day I planned to go outside our garden wall to water my plants. As always, I poked my head out and looked for Tom but didn’t see him. So, I grabbed my bucket of water and slipped out to water the potted peace lily. I made the mistake of turning my back on the street. Suddenly, I heard shouting and running and turned to look. The turkey was running toward me with the matriarch running after him, shouting and swinging her long-handled dustpan, sending Tom scurrying for the jungle. She saved my backside that day. I thanked her profusely, calling, “Muchas gracias,” one of the few Spanish phrases I’ve learned well.

Jon soon learned the secret to turkey patrol—a broom. The only thing Tom feared was a broom. So, we set an old broom on our front porch to fend off the loco bird, ready as a weapon if needed. We noticed other brooms began appearing across the street, propped against flower pots where they were handy for anyone who needed to usher the turkey away. The children in the family took it upon themselves to herd the turkey with the broom when they saw us walking home, keeping us safe until we got through our gate. I think they enjoyed this game.

Now when I garden outside our wall along the cobblestone road, I keep our broom handy. I’ve found that just laying it between me and the turkey is as good as having an electric fence around me. He doesn’t come near me. He must have been clobbered with a broom by someone at some point. 

Now I Keep My Broom Handy Where Tom Can See It

Recently, the neighbors built a pen for him in the jungle and we haven’t seen him in a week or so, but we still hear his gobble-gobble sound from a distance. I kind of miss Tom.

Thank you for reading my blogs and books. I invite you to SIGN UP for my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Monthly Newsletter, with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books.

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Terry L Turrell, Author

 Check out my other non-fiction books about Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico and In Sickness and in Health novels set in Mexico on my Amazon Author Page. If you enjoy them, please leave a review on Amazon. As an independent, self-published author, I depend on word of mouth and Amazon reviews to help promote my work. Thank you for purchasing and downloading my books, FREE with kindleunlimited.