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25 June 2017

Above it all, part 4

     The work on K and L's house is ongoing and what a great place it will be to spend time in...especially the days spent sitting on the deep porch overlooking the Caribbean. Keep in mind all of this is 8' above the ground!
     Two ways to get to the porch from inside the house...the south side of the house to a walkway heading east toward the sea (with a hint of the Caribbean seen through the trees)...

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     And from the east facing, or sea facing, part of the house where the porch is nice and deep and runs the full width (north to south) of the house but will look directly out to the sea...

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21 June 2017

It's nearly noon

     Right in the front yard, our very own live sun dial giving us not only the time of day but coconuts as well.

17 June 2017

What we watch...

     Years and years ago when I first began to contemplate what is now False Bluff, I read and read and read whatever I could find.  And one of the things I found was an ongoing interactive conversation among people either already in Nicaragua or people like me - thinking about it.
     But there was almost nothing at the time about the east coast, the Caribbean side, which is where my interest lay from the beginning of this adventure...except for Big and Little Corn Islands. That situation hasn't changed too much over time. Some, but not much.
     But one guy from the United States routinely wrote about the Caribbean side where he was living in Puerto Cabezas (or Bilwi). His name was Allen and he is remembered still by a statement he made often enough that it has outlived him - a statement in response to a question he had apparently been asked a lot about what he did there: "Watch the zinc rust." Zinc is what metal roofs down here are called...almost always...and rust they do, almost fast enough to see.

     At False Bluff we watch something different, and not just because our roof isn't zinc:  We watch the sun come up over the Caribbean.

     Of course, once the sun's up we just get busy with whatever else we want to do with our day at the beach. 
     From this vantage point you, dear reader, can't see the sea but come on down and sit in one of our chairs and it's in your face!

13 June 2017

Baby coconuts

     ...that won't ever get the chance to grow up.

08 June 2017

Above it all, part 3

     As I've recounted here in several previous posts, our remote section of Nicaragua is now electricity-enabled for the first time in history. 
     The national electric company ENEL (Empresa Nicaraguense de Electricidad) cleared a right-of-way, installed poles, and ran the wire along 26 miles of coast primarily to help Bluefields and "communities" along the way between Kukra Hill and El Bluff before the lines jumped across the bay to Bluefields.
     Since we at False Bluff are neither Bluefields nor a "community" along the way, in order to take advantage of the power running through the lines over our property, we were required to buy and have installed our own transformer...the story of our transformer's arrival and installation has been told here earlier.
     But don't forget the new kids on the block who are building their own house at False Bluff: K and L. Rather than tap into the already existing transformer and run hundreds of meters of wire beneath countless coconut palms that routinely drop really heavy litter they've opted to install their own transformer. 
     Here a crew from ENEL is carrying the transformer by hand ("by hand" is the way almost everything gets done in Nicaragua and particularly here at False Bluff) to their nearby building site where work on K and L's house is ongoing:

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     Once on site K and L's transformer is lifted into place by ropes and pulleys and attached to a pole very near their new house, ready to provide running water, ceiling fans, lights, music, etc.

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03 June 2017

Above it all, part 2

     Although much of the living area of K and L's new house at False Bluff will be elevated about eight feet above the ground, when you're going to have a house at the edge of the Caribbean, the entire outdoors usually ends up being living space. 
     The only enclosed space at ground level will house a staircase and the well and probably some storage space, all of which can be secured in the owners' absence. The remaining ground level "house" space, the part that's under roof but otherwise open, can include whatever outdoor amenities K and L decide they just have to have: hammocks, outdoor barbecue sets, tables, chairs...
     The columns supporting the upper floor (and a well) were the earliest parts of the house to be constructed, as shown in the previous post. The first photo below shows the enclosed space (which is at the rear or south-western edge of the house) at ground level - and the exhaustive support structure...

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...for what is now the poured floor of the enclosed - or upper - part of the house. Cespar Fox, the builder, takes a break up there with the Caribbean at his back.

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28 May 2017

Above it all...

As recounted in previous posts, former Virginia neighbors visited False Bluff and decided they'd become neighbors again.

They purchased two of our building lots at Las Tortugas, the section of False Bluff set aside for those who want to be part of this adventure. They are taking the ‘raised house’ concept of the small place I’ve begun (see January 8, 2017 post) to a whole new level.
My structure is a room; their structure is a house - what we share is elevation.
K and L's house is raised to take advantage of both the view of the Caribbean and its constant breezes. Their front yard stretches almost to the beach tho they decided to build a bit back from the often temperamental sea.
Here's a slice of their view with just a glimpse of Cayman Roca showing on the distant horizon.

     And here's the beginning of their house...

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K and L won't be on site full time and so a feature of their design includes an internal staircase which empties into their elevated living space. The man who's making the house happen is shown here, standing on the living room floor...or maybe on the front porch.

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More pictures to follow! (And my thanks to L for sharing.)

21 May 2017

Another child is born

     In May 2015 I wrote about the birth of a son to H and H.  
     Well, H and H got another son; G another nephew; and I another grandson.

12 May 2017

Off to finish building a house

     Sitting on the dock at the far right of the picture below, Cesper Fox (about whom I've written a couple of previous posts) is waiting for his crew to sort out themselves and their tools as they climb onto a boatload of building materials headed to Las Tortugas at False Bluff.

07 May 2017

Condiments, pouched

     Just as milk comes in pouches (see earlier post "Milk and cookies"), so too do most condiments. The pouches aren't as subject to breakage and more of them can be packed for shipping than the sort of jars that many of us are accustomed to. 
     Most everything gets to Bluefields (despite a new 'road') is still by plane or boat - whether it's people or hammers or carrots or fire engines or...mustard and mayonnaise.
     Here's mayonnaise and mustard in medium as opposed to single-serving sized pouches. 
      (And no, the brand names are not all so picturesque as Ana Belly, whoever she was.)

     The "45" on the mayo and the "8" on the mustard are prices in cordoba. The exchange rate in Bluefields at the time of these photos was 29.65 cordoba per 1 U.S. dollar.
      One of my favorite pouch buys is tomato paste, which I don't have pictured. Not a condiment, I view tomato paste as a vital part of good cooking.

02 May 2017

In downtown

     ...Bluefields, an early morning delivery.

28 April 2017


     The easiest way to False Bluff is by way of our half-mile, hand-dug canal that bisects our property. The entrance to the canal is from Smokey Lane Lagoon; and the canal - providing an incredible short trip through the jungle where orchids bloom and monkeys travel overhead - obviates the need to travel by the often unfriendly and dangerous Caribbean.
     In the years since the canal was dug, roots from many of the trees that we left along its banks have grown to protect those banks. Nature...pretty amazing!

24 April 2017

A visit to Big Corn

     I haven't made a trip to Big Corn Island in years.

     Why would I when I've got False Bluff? 
     But recently the plane I was in touched down on the island...and I didn't see much in the way of change.
     Actually I didn't see much of anything since I never got off the plane.

20 April 2017

Taking care of business....

     any time, anywhere...a pen in one hand, a cell phone in the other.

     Cell phones have made work possible on land, on sea, and in the air.

15 April 2017

Coconut palms, again

     One thing I started early on with each of the several hundred coconut trees we've planted is pruning. 
     When a young tree has grown its real coconut fronds (see an earlier posting here for the difference) and either the lower fronds begin to 'wilt' or turn brown or I can't walk under them or they're blocking my view in one direction or another...or otherwise just don't look good...I whack those fronds off with a machete - which is what I call pruning coconut trees at False Bluff.
     The most obvious result has been that the trees we've planted have grown upwards really fast. A coconut tree is the ultimate single leader tree and so it has nowhere to go but up, and up they've gone. There are three older, pre-existing trees in the picture below that are much taller than some of our most recently planted baby trees because those tall trees were already at False Bluff when I started this project. (A person in a red shirt close to the sea in the below picture puts distances in perspective.)
     But another seeming benefit of the pruning that other people have begun to notice is the girth of the trunk of the trees we've planted versus the girth of the trunks of those trees that predate our frequent use of a machete.

     Two recent visitors commented on the size difference, pointing out something I hadn't even noticed. So the trees are not only growing taller faster but they're growing bigger around as well. 
     Of course I'm happy the new trees have that girth size benefit because once a coconut tree starts producing coconuts, it doesn't stop: there's no coconut 'season.'      
     A tree can have flowers and two or more different sized clumps of maturing coconuts going all at the same time - year round - so I'm glad of any benefit for a tree that works so hard.
     Below are trees we have planted in the last several years and the difference in the size of the trunk is impossible to miss: the trunk of this recently pruned tree is pretty typical of the trunk size we're seeing on all of the new trees. 

12 April 2017

Yes, but...

     We now have electricity at False Bluff, but past experience with water pumps and having lived from time to time with the frequent electric outages in nearby Bluefields - to say nothing of the outages we expect along the brand new coastal lines for the next few years - I made a trip to a couple of Managua's many solar equipment stores to scope out their water pumping systems.
     Solar powered watering systems have long been a staple in the United States and the reliability of such systems speaks for itself.
     The best selection and service was from Tecnosol from whom I was emailed a 10-page proposal with specifications and prices. Hands-down the place of choice.

     Shown below are a couple of the pumps that Tecnosol offers.

08 April 2017

Milk and cookies

     In much of Nicaragua, but particularly in the autonomous regions that are home to False Bluff and Bluefields, many things are packaged in plastic pouches. Part of the reason for this is because a huge quantity of stuff comes here via air or sea; and more pouches fit into cartons with less breakage. And part of the reason is that when you're shopping you can select the size of pouch you want, from very small to not as small...and when you don't have a refrigerator that's pretty important (and lots of people here don't have refrigerators).
     Until recently there was no reliable cross-country road that connected the country's west with its east, and a lot of non-natives say that given the current condition of the road it might as well be nonexistent. But folks from Bluefields at least are happy with with the new road because it cuts down on the cost and time to get to Managua and because the goods that are traveling into Bluefields are cheaper. But I doubt that even the new road will mean that mayonnaise and mustard will begin arriving in the glass and/or plastic jars we in the U.S. are used to.
     Nor will milk begin showing up that way in the stores although cookies have long been wrapped in plastic or paper: for instance, a package of Oreos on a shelf in Bluefields is almost indistinguishable from a package of Oreos on a shelf in, say, Boston...except for the language, all of which except "Oreos" is Spanish
     On a recent boat trip to False Bluff (I think we were almost in Smokey Lane Lagoon by the time I got this picture), at least one member of the crew heading out there to work on a house that's being built at Las Tortugas for some U.S. neighbors, enjoyed a snack of milk and cookies.
     Washing a cookie down with a sip of milk...

05 April 2017

Toad lemon??

     I'm told by people who live in the area that the fruit of this tree, currently bearing at my place, is called a 'toad lemon' because of its rough skin - but when I Google 'toad lemon' or 'toad lime' I don't come up with anything remotely like what I'm holding in my hand near the tree it came from (but lately Google's been a bad source about a lot of stuff).
     So, taking the word of the locals who surely know more than Google about what's blooming and bearing fruit at False Bluff...I introduce you to the very first 'toad lemon' harvested from a tree in my back yard.
      Almost the size of a tennis ball, the lemon has not only a rough skin but a thick skin. 

     But when this thing was cut and squeezed it easily produced 2 ounces of juice that made a wonderful lemonade...

02 April 2017

Hand carved

     I've done several small stories on this site about the incredible work that comes out of Mr. Julio's studio in Bluefields. I recently met with his son there. The idea for this cane's design was a joint effort but the superlative work was all his.
     Carved from part of a rosewood tree that came down during Hurricane Joan/Joanne in 1988, this piece is a one of a kind treasure.
     In its entirety showing all three fish...

     ...and some detail.

01 April 2017

Morning in Bluefields - no fooling

     There's a new hardware store in Loma Fresca, a neighborhood in Bluefields.
     This is fairly typical early morning traffic on the way to that big green-roofed building on the left - Ferreteria Bendana, a harware store that serves sheetrock, wheelbarrows, cheesecake, nails, Fanta in multiple colors, galvanized nails, etc....

     One of the British Virgin Islands, not too many years ago, frequently had bovines in the road. They grazed or napped pretty much wherever they felt like it but the influx of tourists eventually put an end to that. 
     Bluefields isn't quite at that point yet.