As I've first traveled in Mexico the landscape often seems a bit alien, the cactus along the highway unusual, especially when adorned with the ubiquitous wind-driven plastic shopping bags. Plastic bags get hooked on trees in Central Park, no reason why Texas and Mexico should be any different. Still, the flora is different and the landscape alien to my eye. The experience reminds me of one years ago when I went out to Edwards Air Force Base on the Mojave Desert in California to cover the landing of Space Shuttle Mission 54. Then, as now, at first my eye was indifferent, even put off by the landscape, but within a few days my eye adjusted and Iwas able to recognize and appreciate the beauty of the light and the form of the plants set upon the desert floor.
So it is in Mexico. Today I went to el Charco del Ingenio, a botanical garden and conservatory of Mexican plants set atop a splendid canyon overlooking a 19th century reservoir in which artificial islands have been created to attract and provide habitat for native wildlife and migrating birds—some 130 species have been recognized.
Across the small lagoon, known as Las Colonias reservoir, stands a colonial aquaduct and the ruins of an ancient watermill. Near-in, lies a restored wetland area recreated using native and introduced species of plants to create an unusual (for this semi-arid chaparral area) wetland eco-system supporting some unique life forms.
Above the reservoir is a cleverly designed windmill, a simple machine modified from a design invented in the 1922 by Finnish designer S.J. Savonius, The Savonius wind mill is a vertical axis wind machine the impeller of which often utilizes 55 gallon oil drums split lengthwise to form an S shape, each half-drum catching the wind to draw water or grind grain. Savonius turbines are not the most efficient wind-driven machines, but they are frequently used in areas whenever cost or reliability is much more important than efficiency.