Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/216

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
208
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

moniously that you may raise in it the fruits of any two,—of the tropic and temperate. It reminds me of the coffee region of the West Indies in vegetation, climate, scenery, and even in birds. A corner of Mr. Finck's large estate is bounded by a brook, which has hollowed a segment from a round hill, leaving a perpendicular wall of earth adorned with ferns, with interesting carludovicas, antheriums, and tree ferns; the last waving their feathery foliage in the air with a grace inimitable. There are a score of nooks equally charming with this, which I visited in company with the learned botanist, but will not describe, because there is a young man waiting for us whose experience, though short, may prove of greater interest.

For $3500 this young man (who, by the way, came from Illinois) has bought about fifty acres of beautiful land, more than half of it planted with trees, and in good condition. This is about the minimum, if one intends devoting himself to coffee alone, that can well support a family and prove profitable. Even then, this number of acres should be well cultivated, with very little waste land. One hundred acres would be better, in order that fifty or more might be in bearing all the time. With this young man I went out to look at his recent purchase, which lay about a mile from town, near enough to avail of all the conveniences of transportation and markets, and far enough to avoid the depredations of boys and yet get a good taste of the typical Mexican road. As we entered, we found ourselves surrounded by trees four and five years old, about five feet high, every branch loaded with glossy green bunches. The coffee, as every one knows, is not a bush, but a tree, that will grow to a height of twenty feet if permitted, but is nipped in at about six feet from the ground, thus gaining strength for the branches and main stalk, and presenting a surface from which the coffee is easily picked. Though the tree is constantly flowering and developing fruit, the proper harvest season is from November to April,—a little prolonged if carried into the latter month. The green berries turn bright red, are gathered, dried on level floors of stone or plaster in the sun, separated and hulled, and then stored. According to statistics prepared for the State Fair of Vera