LAS TORTUGAS

Check our False Bluff facebook page for some of the posts here - plus a whole lot more that's not just about False Bluff but about Nicaragua's Caribbean coast near Bluefields. We have a limited number of building lots available (email us at lastortugasatfalsebluff@gmail.com for information).

16 August 2016

The changing scenery, 2


     Photos in a recent post showed how the fast-growing palm trees are changing the scenery we see when we sit upstairs at the house.  Along with these highly visible changes in the front yard - between the house and the Caribbean - are the equally highly visible changes along the walkway.  
     When a boat comes up our canal, docks, and offloads its passengers...they either take the public pathway we've provided that goes directly to the beach....
     Or, if they're coming to visit us, they walk along the non-public pathway that's lined on both sides with palm trees that we've planted...and on one side, the house side, with a very low visibility 'fence' that serves as a guide rather than as a prohibition.
     This series of photos begin with the two immediately below, one of which is the view from upstairs, looking toward the sea, before we put up the fence...and the other of which was taken at ground level -  also before the fence.  


     These next photos, however, were taken after construction of the fence. The unobtrusive waist high fence outlines the walkway that goes pretty much from our main dock all the way to the north section of False Bluff....and it's really easy to see from these photos, taken walking toward the house and also in the other direction toward the dock, just how the growth of the trees is defining the walkway.





09 August 2016

Posting a post

     Don't know that I've done this before - posted a post from somebody else, but I've included the link here to a story entitled "Nicaraguan Cities and Their American Counterparts" (and my thanks goes to HD for sending this to me...see July 11, 2016 about HD).
     But Nicaragua's east coast is rarely mentioned, ever, by people writing about Nicaragua.  And when people writing about Nicaragua do mention the east coast what's mentioned are the two Corn Islands which really aren't part of the coast since they sit forty miles off shore smack in the Caribbean Sea.
     So sometimes it seems that Nicaragua's right side (and there's even a site devoted to the right side - http://rightsideguide.com/) doesn't exist or isn't on anybody's radar.  
     In some ways that's good because the right side will manage to keep its 'purity' a while longer -  although really and truly and slowly, Nicaragua's right side's being 'discovered.'
     But the story's fun and is about various Nicaragua cities and what might be their United States' counterparts.  However my real surprise was not so much that Bluefields = New Orleans but that Bluefields is the writer's favorite city in Nicaragua! I'm on board with that for sure.

     Bluefields
(Bluefields' Moravian Church)

https://thenicadventure.com/2016/06/08/nicaraguan-cities-and-their-american-counterparts/

03 August 2016

Win some, lose some

     ...and Richmond's losing this time.

     Friends for more than twenty years, residents of Richmond's east end, these two are moving to Nicaragua to build a home on the edge of Bluefields Bay.  
   Here they are, there they go - part of the wedding party at the cathedral in Bluefields a couple of years ago:





     No more snow to shovel and a lot of fish waiting right outside the front door! 
        Vaya con dios, bienvenido (and I'll see you in a week or so)!


     
  


   

29 July 2016

The changing scenery

     My last post touted the benefits of pruning all the palm trees we've planted in order to make the trees grow faster.  Here are a few shots, all from pretty much the same perspective, that show how the tree growth is changing the view from upstairs in the house.  (Note that at least one of these shots was taken before there was a house that had an upstairs...)
     The first thing we did was clear all the breeze-stifling low stuff...small knee- or head-high shrubs that grew so prolifically and tightly that the breeze off the Caribbean literally couldn't get through.  And we sure couldn't walk through the stuff without long pants and boots.  We left any palm tree that was already growing and all the sea grapes. Cayman Roca is visible in the distance in the photo below, 2.5 miles offshore.
     

     
     Clearing the undergrowth made space for an impromptu volley ball game at the end of a day.



     But the "volleyball court" got filled up pretty quickly as the trees were planted and began to grow. It's easy to orient yourself by checking out the adult palm trees closer to the sea.



          And now, of course, this is the view from upstairs with trees and shade and lots of my favorite zoysia grass covering the ground like an emerald green carpet. Sure, we can't see Cayman Roca from upstairs anymore....but a few more years of growth and pruning will take care of that and give us back the view of that tiny island.


21 July 2016

Pruning the palm trees

     I've taken some crap about my habit of pruning the palm trees we've planted at False Bluff but recently I've had some people who previously questioned the habit ask for demonstrations at their own farms to teach their staff how and why.     
     It usually takes only a single swipe with a machete per frond (a frond is what passes for a branch on a palm tree but is essentially just a big leaf); and we have a lot of palm trees - literally hundreds - that are newly planted and young enough to have fronds still low enough to prune. 
     So the job to prune and then clean up is really time consuming but it's worthwhile for the aesthetics alone if nothing else. Pruning gets rid of the broken or yellowing older fronds and of the fronds that block the view of the sea. 
     And often I sacrifice even healthy fronds. This is especially true in the case of palm fronds that overhang the walkways, our pathways that are now really well defined by virtue of being lined with palm trees...or in the case of palm frond that might smack you in the face no matter where you walk. 
     I don't care if it's healthy and green: gone!
     But the most important reason I've found for pruning the trees is that the pruning at False Bluff has proven to make the trees grow faster - noticeably faster. 
     Since coconut trees are the ultimate single leader tree, when they're pruned there's only one way for the tree to grow and that's up. Kind of hard to miss the effects of pruning after a few years.



15 July 2016

Biters

     We've had significant damage done to two clumps of sea grapes close to the house...I'm not sure yet just what these things turn into after they've eaten their fill.


     
     The sea grapes have made a remarkable recovery considering the amount of damage they've incurred

      
     ...and they've even begun producing some fruit, tho not nearly what they've produced in the past.


     
     Next year we're going to use dishwashing liquid.

11 July 2016

HD

     A couple of years ago I "met" Herman Downs via facebook.  He commented on a False Bluff facebook post and we've shot messages about Nicaragua and its Caribbean coast back and forth since then...Herman carrying most of the weight.
     Born in Bluefields, he and his family moved to Florida in the 1970's; and his knowledge of Nicaragua in general and Bluefields in particular is encyclopedic. 
     I described him once in a post somewhere as having the equivalent of a library in his head, a description that was only partly a joke.  He's a gifted researcher and very generous with what he digs up.  I have benefitted - and I thank him.
     Earlier this year Herman returned to Bluefields for the first time in more than thirty years and we met. Three of us - Herman, Herman's close friend Jimmy Lau Downs (they refer to each other as cousins but aren't), and I - hung out briefly in Bluefields and then we all made a trip to False Bluff.
     HD and I sat upstairs talking and listening to the Caribbean... 
     while Jimmy went looking for fresh coconuts which aren't difficult to find at my place.



06 July 2016

BFF

     In Bluefields, my very dear grandson and my very dear friend...life is good.


29 June 2016

You go, girl!

     The best mannequin.....ever.....anywhere.....in Bluefields....





25 June 2016

How we'll dig the grass...

     As mentioned in several earlier posts we continue to plant the bright green spreading zoysia grass at the base of each coconut tree at False Bluff.
     However, in order to plant the grass we have to dig it up first.  The stuff forms a tight mat, kind of like steel wool, so it doesn't come up with just a tug - it has to be cut with a blade and pried out of the ground.  Until now a spade has been involved which makes the job even more intense because the blade's pointy.  
     And since we often dig twenty or so plugs at a time, we don't dig large plugs.  Small plugs don't deplete existing mats of the grass so quickly. And because there's not just the grass but about an inch of soil that comes up with each plug, moving a load of smaller plugs over a distance of some acres from tree to tree as they're planted is easier.  
     Not that doing any of this is easy...just easier.  
     Each plug we've dug and planted in the past has been about 4" square - a lot of digging time. When possible we use the spade to cut a strip 4" wide and about 3' long. Then we slice this 3' long strip (stripe?) into 4" pieces...like cutting up a skinny sheet cake.
     These small plugs - each one planted at the base of a coconut tree - are how all of this grass at False Bluff got started....'cause there sure wasn't any there to begin with. 




     But work is underway to open a plant nursery at False Bluff (more about this later) and so being able to quickly dig plugs of a consistent size is going to be important: the grass won't be put into containers ahead of time but rather dug at the time of order.
     This tool is what we've come up with.  Made to order in Bluefields, it's the big sister to a bulb planter, even with the taper.  This will give us the consistently-sized plug; and when the metal handle's added (what's shown below is a wooden broom handle that wouldn't survive long) we'll be able to stomp the tool down into the grass and lever a plug right out of the ground.  
     This is gonna be a one-stomp process rather than the four-stomp-or-more process that's been required by the spade.






21 June 2016

Richmond's First Presbyterian Church, Bluefields, and the Caribbean Dream Hotel

     A few years ago I was in the Caribbean Dream Hotel arranging with Juanita (see the previous post) for reservations for some family arriving in Bluefields. The office doors and windows were open and I heard the word "Richmond" as part of a conversation going on among a group of people rocking on the front porch.
      Reservations made, I stepped onto the porch and asked...Richmond? Virginia?  And it was indeed Richmond, Virginia that was part of the discussion.  
     It turns out that Richmond's First Presbyterian Church (FPC) has been actively involved in Bluefields since long before I ever heard of the place. Go figure!
   Groups of congregation members visit once or twice nearly every year - and this was part of one such group.  And, of course, Caribbean Dream is where they stay (unless they're at Ms. Freda's house...but that's another story).
     FPC has two ongoing projects in or near Bluefields. One project is their long standing Clean Water Ministry. (I'm one of their customers in Bluefields.)  From the FPC web site: "The Clean Water Ministry team is...an international mission effort of FPC with congregational and pastoral awareness and support with a commitment to...continue developing a network of clean water systems and related education in the community of Bluefields, Nicaragua and other east coast communities."  At the link here you can find a slide show of a water filtration system FPC helped build in Kukra Hill, a small town not too far north of Bluefields: 
http://www.fpcrichmond.org/clean-water.html
     The 'hill' of Kukra Hill is very visible from Smokey Lane Lagoon just short of the entrance to our False Bluff Canal. The photo below was taken as we made our way into the canal.

The other FPC project is the sponsoring of students at the Moravian School, a school on Bluefields' main street which will be celebrating ninety-five years of educational excellence this year. Information on sponsoring students can be found here: http://www.fpcrichmond.org/nicaragua.html
   

18 June 2016

Home away from home

     For years, even before I bought and built at False Buff, the Caribbean Dream Hotel has been the place to stay.  Located right on Bluefields' main drag, it's clean, neat, and close to much of what the town has to offer: parks, municipal offices, hardware stores, markets, the museum, restaurants...



     The hotel is a comfortable and convenient place to stay and often friends and family stay there before or after trips to False Bluff. The newest generation in my family's shown here (again) enjoying a picnic on the hotel's upstairs porch...



     ...and then spending some time in one of the hotel's rocking chairs that are on both the up and downstairs porches.


      The best that Bluefields has to offer is its people and some of them are at the Caribbean Dream.  Over the years we've come to know staff members at the hotel and they are, without exception, kind and accomodating.  We've known Juanita for a decade. One day I stopped to chat with her when she wasn't at the hotel - we were both shopping; and I had the opportunity to meet two more generations of her family, one of whom is just about the same age as the newest member of my own family.


    These two generations later came to visit Juanita at the hotel, the babies barely acknowledging each other.

14 June 2016

Italia y Nicaragua

     More new neighbors.  He's Italian born and, although she's originally from Bluefields, after she finished her college degree in Europe she stayed and worked there for years.
     Which is where they met - on business trips for their separate companies, somewhere in Europe, not home for either of them.  Ain't luck grand?
     They married, he retired, and now they're home, together, in Nicaragua, splitting time between Bluefields and a piece of property they have purchased to the north of us.
     They stopped by our house at False Bluff after a few days' stay at their place on the beach before heading back to Bluefields with a boat load of coconuts.
     Meeting new neighbors is fun - and it's happening more and more often.


11 June 2016

95 to 81

     It's 9:30 p.m. in Richmond on a Friday night and a weather app gives the local temperature as 95 degrees.
     The same weather app gives the local temperature of Bluefields - same night, same time - as 81.
     That means, because we've always got the breeze off the Caribbean, that False Bluff is a degree or two more comfortable even than Bluefields.

     Most everybody knows that it's warmer along the Caribbean in the winter.  That's why thousands of people flee snow and freezing temps for a few days or weeks somewhere in the Caribbean when January rolls around.  
     But I, for one, was surprised as hell to learn it's cooler in the Caribbean in the summer, at least in our part of the Caribbean:  in the 80s almost year round.

10 June 2016

The grass is always greener...

     I'm a huge fan of a zoysia grass that grows all over Big Corn Island but didn't grow at False Bluff until I managed to find enough in Bluefields to start it here.  A review of earlier posts will give an indication of just how highly I rate the stuff.  
     One of the reasons I like it is that it doesn't need to be cut.  Here, cutting grass involves a machete...time consuming and not good for a body.  Also it spreads fast, it chokes out weeds, it forms an incredibly tight mat (almost like steel wool) that even snakes can't invade - and of course it helps control erosion.
     But a reason that's real obvious can be seen in the photo below. During the dry season, lack of rain coupled with the hot tropical sun cause a lot of damage to plants and most ground covers wither and turn brown, if not die outright. 
     Not this zoysia.  Bright green, emerald green, is its signature regardless of the season.


     We're planting it at the base of each and every coconut tree, whether the tree was here already or is one we planted...hundreds and hundreds of coconut trees.  


     The grass here has proven to have an affinity for coconut trees and it grows in tentacle-y patterns that radiate from and around the base of each tree.  


     Eventually the spaces between tentacles fill in, forming a spreading circle as is the case of the circle around the tree in the first photo here - the photo which shows just how little effect the dry season has had on it and on the other spreading circles visible in the background.  
     And, of course, over time, the circles around the individual trees join up.


     We planted all but the three skinny-trunked coconut trees that are visible in the above photo. And then we planted this grass at the base of almost each of them.

07 June 2016

Municipal market

     The 'main' market, the municipal market, is in the center of town... It's been expanded within the last few years to provide an open second storey for the vendors who sell cooked food - and for the people who eat it.  A meal here is one of Bluefields' best secrets: the food is cooked to order and is extraordinarily well priced.
     But if you're determined to cook for yourself, fresh is the word.  
     You can buy a bowl of fresh-cut fruit at the corner of the street leading down to the market.  The same woman I wrote about in a 2011 post is there still doing her thing, although now she has competition on a few other corners.


     As the photo above shows, you can head north along the sidewalk beyond the fruit bowl lady for fresh fish and sometimes, I'm sorry to say, fresh turtle - despite the fact that killing turtle is now illegal during most of the year.
     Or you can head south past the fruit bowl lady for more fish vendors to choose from (the little plastic bags in this photo hold ice, something you don't find on the fish along the north section of sidewalk).


     And, of course, at the end of this block lined with vendors -  fish on the street side of the sidewalk and mostly vegetables on the building side - is the municipal market where you can load minutes on your phone or buy such things as heavy plastic by the yard in a rainbow of colors, to honey, to three choices of white rice, to dried tobacco by the pound for rolling your own cigarettes, to cookies, to....well, the choices aren't endless - it just seems like that sometimes.


     (By the way, the structure partially visible in the left of the photo above holds a huge water tank, added as part of the renovation to provide fresh water, particularly for all those upstairs vendors who cook and serve food.)

02 June 2016

Shopping for oranges

     Early morning when the boats come in is the best time to be at any of the markets.  These photos are from the municipal market, the big one in the center of town.  Venders are loaded with fresh picked fruit...oranges are what I'm after.
     You can buy them "off the shelf"...


     or directly off the boats.  


     Either way you get to pick the specific oranges you want.  Cost?  They might run you ten for about a dollar.  


31 May 2016

FY

      My thanks to a recent visitor for this panorama video of our house and FY (front yard).  False Bluff extends both north and south of the FY along the Caribbean although not all of what is part of our False Bluff has been cleared of scrub and planted. 
     The day of the video was windy, tossing around the laughter of children; and the sea was rough, churning up sand as the water rushed to the beach. 
     Our house, visible in the distance at both the start and end of the video, sits in the northern third of the property among some of the young coconut trees we've put in, many of which have begun to bear.  
     And the house is close to the canal that provides calm-water access for us and now for most of the other people who own land along this lovely stretch of beach...and, of course, for the increasing number of visitors and prospective owners.




     So far, the area nearest to the house and canal is the part of False Bluff that we use the most and is what we call the front yard - although, of course, the video shows much more than False Bluff and its front yard. 

     It's an incredibly beautiful place to be during any season, dry or green.


26 May 2016

Snack time


     We have two types of papaya trees at False Bluff. The type that produces huge papayas and the type that doesn't produce huge papayas.
     This tree is loaded with the huge papayas, easily larger than a football. The one at the bottom of this scrum has just started to turn from green to gold - a clear sign it's ready to pick.



     Peeled and sliced..... 



     this papaya, about the size of a watermelon, makes its way into bowls for snacks in the middle of a hot day, snacks that are hard to beat.