This is a busy time of year but I still find a few minutes each day to roam the woods surrounding the cabin. I planted Phragmites australis (carrizo) rhizomes around the gray water outlet to help keep the pond area clean as well as provide a steady supply of arrow shafts à la Lipan Apache. We’ll be putting in a second pond after the first of the year expressly for wildlife. The birding has been phenomenal this fall and we spent a few minutes earlier today making a fresh batch of suet for the great kiskadees, green jays and golden fronted woodpeckers as well as a number of sparrow species and titmice that ravage our suet stations daily.
We’re lucky because chile del monte (chile pequin; chile petin), Capsicum annuum, grows wild around the house particularly in the granjeno/brasil/mesquite motts that make up this section of the South Texas desert also known as the Sand Sheet. We live on the very edge of the desert so there’s a mix of classic Texas Brushland flora to the south of us and Sand Sheet flora to the north. This makes for an interesting array of woody plants and herbaceous shrubs as well as a consortium of cacti within a few steps of my home.
I picked a few chiles the other day behind the house. Mind you, chile del monte is hot but the mockingbirds don’t seem to mind. Most plants get raided by the birds long before I spot them. Look for the bright red dots in shaded areas within the motts. Now if you live in town and the climate is sufficiently warm for chile del monte then you can have your own food source within reach. If you’re a birder then you might consider adding chile del monte to your garden. Unfortunately, chile del monte is susceptible to cold temperatures so that rules out planting in temperate climates. Growing chile del monte is difficult unless you’ve got mockingbirds in your area. But here’s how to grow this chile around your yard in abundance. First you need some sort of fence or similar object where mockingbirds can perch. Weed the area directly under your fence on both sides if possible and add a generous amount of potting soil. Chile del monte is drought tolerant but requires shade and moderately moist soil. Second you need a preliminary source of chile del monte. Some grocery stores sell the chile so buy a large bag full and then place most of it in your bird feeders. The mockingbirds will find the chile soon enough and gobble it up. Then they will take a respite on your cedar fence or comparable platform nearby to digest their meal. In order for chile del monte to sprout it must go through the gut of a mockingbird or at least that’s the easiest way to propagate the plant. In no time you’ll have a line of chile plants growing along your fence or the back end of the dog house or behind the monkey bars or anyplace the birds can perch. Now and then if you have a hankering for chile del monte you can go out and pick a couple or three and pop them in your mouth. By the way, ice tea works well for quenching the fire.