Living fences

February 20, 2015

BLOG: Living fences

There was quite a lot of pure bliss on the drive through Mexico before I came upon the human realities of border crossings. The more tropical the weather and the land, the more I noticed and recognized the crops that grow in these humid and warm climates.

The first big one was sugar cane. I had not known that when it is maturing ready for cutting, it sets up a feathery plume similar to corn but much airier, similar to pampas grass clumps I have seen in more temperate regions.

There were groves of coco palms not so very different from the date palms in the desert regions of the Coachella valley. Papaya was also a surprise: it is an annual plant, sending up a crown of umbrella leaves over the fruit which ripens near the top and then, when they are cut, leaves the clump to be chopped down and composted on the spot for the next crop.

The most fascinating and what became the most ubiquitous were the living fences. Seems that in tropical regions, when the branches of the small trees are cut down to set in the ground in marker rows of fences, they send roots and soon leaves above ground that turn into small trees once again. I am sure there is a wire there somewhere to hold the sticks until they sprout but the wire is not to be seen when they turn into small trees branching over their row. And not every single stick will sprout, so there are some gaps even in the fences that have evidently been there long enough to grow into taller trees.

Soon I noticed that just about everywhere I was traveling there were rows of living fences across the wide hills, bordering the dirt tracks no doubt leading to settlement, houses, plots of ground and gardens. The tropic friendly brahma cows rested under spreading arboles behind mature fences whose growth of trees sometimes reached 30 to 40 feet of spreading long green rows, rectangles and field spaces set apart from one another.

So, what is there to be seen instead of the tired old saw cut chubby posts strung with barbed wire are rows and rows of wonderful, vital green fences, each a living testament to the fecund land and the ingenuity of people used to making solutions with what is at hand without either a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot anywhere in sight. Here in El Salvador, in Guatemala and southern Mexico, frugality and tradition has saved us without a protest from box stores: what a plan!

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