02 June 2023

How we will utilize the empty barrels we use to ship stuff

I ended a recent post stating that I would describe in a future post what we were going to do with some of the heavy duty plastic shipping barrels we have accumulated over the years.  This is the future post but I'm not going do the describing after all.  The video below can do that much better than I can.  

False Bluff sits on the very edge of one side of Nicaragua.  Anything east of us is an island.  We are located on a 26 mile stretch of Caribbean beach and except for the communities at each end of this stretch of beach our only 'neighbors,' often hours of walking away, are a small number of subsistence farmers.  

There's no infrastructure to speak of except the fairly recent addition of electric lines running behind us carrying electricity to Bluefields.  What we thought would be a tremendous boon to our lives turned out not to be any kind of boon at all...except to the view and whether that's a benefit is questionable.  Our first effort at 'official' electricity failed in less than 2 years because the salt in those lovely Caribbean breezes ate our transformer.  

What the barrels will solve deals with plumbing, not electricity.  We now have solar systems to take care of electricity and we can wash the salt off of solar panels.  The guy who actually shows how he uses the same kind of barrels at his off grid cabin tells that story here:

Note: The man who did the video posted an update some years later describing how the installation in the video is doing now...and he had nothing but praise.  The circumstances under which we will be using this system are very similar to his and we expect the same results.  

26 May 2023

From here to there...

The last few weeks have been interesting and busy in a curious way.  I ordered three 55-gallon plastic barrels from the person I deal with who ships mostly houseware from places along the east coast of the United States to the east coast of Nicaragua. 

The area for which he provides this service is a bit more limited than the description above and so to be a more specific his business route includes from Miami to somewhere in New York state in the US to the southern autonomous region on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.  A lot of territory for a single person.

I placed an order with him for the barrels, two of which I would fill in the short amount of time his schedule provides for turnaround.  I had accumulated a big pile of stuff both new and old.  And so in anticipation of the arrival of the empties, I began to divide my collection into two smaller piles - anticipating by guesstimate what would fit in barrel one and what would fit in barrel two.  Or at least what i thought would fit in each of these barrels before they even got delivered to my house based on my recollection of previous barrel fills.

Then each item had to be secured if not already secured - for instance wrapping and taping if loose and just taping if boxed or otherwise packaged...and labeled per barrel.  

Then each item for each barrel was photographed and fit into a two column list which contained the item's description and use in one column with the photo in the other.  A separate list for each barrel.

I made two of copies of each list.  One copy goes in the barrel, right on top of what's packed...for customs; and I keep the second copy.  This is a system that's worked well for me in the past and I wasn't about to change that.  If it ain't broke etc...

The man I deal with travels most of the way up the east coast dropping off empty barrels along the way.  Then he turns around and picks up full barrels on his return to Florida.  

I've never gotten the details about how it all works because his schedule is so tight there's never been time to discuss the process; but everything he collects on his south bound trip (mostly, but not all, barrels) is loaded on a ship for the trip to Nicaragua's east coast city of Bluefields which is on a bay.  

He's got a lot of experience at this and adds careful scheduling and a huge amount of hard work to make the process seem easy to his customers.

This time in anticipation of his usual quick return to pick up the empties, I asked for family help to actually pack the barrels.  There was a lot of stuff waiting to go and some of it was heavy and awkward.  Actually I knew there was more stuff than two barrels would accomodate but probably not enough for three.  And so the curating was not only which items went into which of the two barrels I was sending...but which items would go into a barrel at all.  

The help I had solicited - and I - got the packing done quicker than I thought we'd manage to do; but we didn't seal the barrels.  Actually we couldn't seal the barrels.  I decided to count on the expert for that; and when he arrived to pick them up he sealed them quickly and easily without having to remove anything.  Surprised the hell out of me but that's why he's an expert.  

Any empty spaces in the barrels are filled with used paperback books.  One of the buildings under construction at False Bluff is simply a small reading and game room for those who tire of the beach or the sea.  Three walls of the building will be lined with shelves full of books.  There will also be reading chairs and one or two small tables for board games.  One of the things that I managed to get into one of these recently departed barrels is an old chinese checkers game, with marbles.  A set of checkers went down a couple of years ago.

The barrels left here a week or so ago at about 10pm, heading for Florida, a boat, and then Bluefields.  They - and I - should get there at about the same time.

Note:  When emptied, some of the barrels will have another life which I will describe another time.


19 May 2023

How to grow coconut trees

Learning how to grow coconut trees was a very important lesson for us because of our commitment to replacing the scrub brush we were removing with something as good as or better.  The very hardy brush we took out is nearly inpenetrable without a machete to clear a path; and it blocked much of the breezes off, and the view of, the sea.

Our main landscape ingredients at False Bluff continue to be palm trees, sea grapes, swamp lilies, and zoysia grass.  We've written about all of these things a lot here.  Breeze, view, a comfortable walk, and flowers everywhere are now a part of the experience.  Besides, the salt in those lovely breezes off the Caribbean kills most everything else.

So far we've planted hundreds - if not thousands - of coconut palms and the planting continues.  When we began planting baby coconut trees we bought them in Bluefields and boated them to False Bluff.  Little did we know how simple it would turn out to be to grow our own.  Waiting for the seed to sprout is the hardest part.  

Here's what's involved in the process:  

  • Wait until a ripe coconut falls to the ground - but be sure you're not under the tree when that happens.
  • Pick the coconut up off the ground and carry it to another piece of ground of your choice.
  • Put the coconut down in this spot you've selected.  Place it either at random or in a line as shown below.  Over the years we've gone all out in the effort to grow lots of baby coconut trees and "orderly" has proven to be our best solution.
  • Wait until the coconut sprouts.  It's just a seed after all.  Waiting is the hard part.  You can tell when the coconut has sprouted when it looks like what's shown in the second photo.  Truthfully you can tell as soon as the leaf appears but we've found that waiting until the sprout is about four feet tall is a better indication the young plant will survive.
  • Pick the sprouted coconut up off the ground.  Just kidding.  Actually you can't just pick it up because at this point it's put down roots - so you have to dig  to get the baby tree to release its hold on the earth.
  • Using the sprouted part as a handle, carry the now-a-tree coconut to another piece of ground...again, a place of your choice.  This time choose a spot where you want it to continue growing for a long long time so it can make more coconuts and so it can keep this process going.  Plant it either by itself or as part of a clump...in which you'll need more than one baby tree.  I'm partial to clumps of coconut trees myself.  They're lovely to look at and create really nice hammock homes.
Since the coconut has stiff roots sticking out of the bottom you can't just drop it like you did before it had roots.  So dig a hole deep enough to bury the roots and a bit more so that most of the seed is also buried.  

Once the coconut is secure in the hole, its new home, fill the hole around the seed with the sandy dirt which is prevalent where most coconuts grow...and simply walk away.  

Nature will take care of the rest of the process almost every time.

PS...The sprouted coconut shown immediately above is not planted deep enough; but most of the coconuts in the first photo are now trees that are producing their own coconuts.

12 May 2023

Not quite rotisserie chicken

You might think relaxing on a Caribbean beach...or in Bluefields...wouldn't work up an appetite.  Not so.  If you're in Bluefields there are several places where chicken is grilled if that might be your choice for taking care of the hunger.  

As far as I can tell, all of these place are open air - as though you were grilling outdoors at home.  These places and this type of cooking are pretty new to Bluefields and but several of the outdoor grills look like they'll last.   

The one shown below happens to be in the center of the business district.  It's right across the street from city hall and next to another street that abuts the city's central park....all in all a busy intersection with a lot of foot traffic.  

The street beside the grill is the usual venue of street fairs so there are frequent crowds even when the government work week is over.

If you like grilled chicken, this is good stuff.  It's all take away and there are no sides offered when I was last in Bluefields - but that might have changed.  However, there are plenty of nearby places to at least find a drink; and, with the park next door, lots of places to sit.

05 May 2023

Well it's sugar...but I've got no idea how it identifies. Life is so tricky these days.....

Most of the world's sugar is made from sugar cane...specifically from the juices that are in the cane itself.  We don't grow a lot of sugar cane but we have clumps here and there at False Bluff for casual use...for instance, as a snack.  Also a clump of sugar cane makes for an interesting landscape accent.

A piece of cane is cut and then peeled and chewed. The stuff is very fibrous so the cut piece of cane is chewed to release the juice...and it is its own handle.

Some years ago we built a rudimentary press for extracting the juice.  Reducing small quantities provides a really nice syrup.  (A photo of our press is below.)

Reducing large quantities of sugar cane gives the world sugar.  All kinds of sugar including:  turbinado, muscovado, panela, jaggery, and that white stuff you buy at places like Walmart or even Whole Foods (unless you're in San Francisco).  

Regardless of the name of the sugar and regardless of the processing method it's all sucrose - some types more pure than others.  Although it all comes from some degree of reduction, the processing involved in whatever reduction technique is used will determine the name of the type of sugar you end up with.  (Reduction is all about removing the liquid from the juice.)

There's a spectrum - like making white bread in which the flour is bleached, then processed to remove all the good things that nature gave it...and after all this some vitamin and minerals are added to the bread to give it 'natural goodness.'  It's still bread.  Sort of.

During the harvest season I buy molded 'bricks' of locally made sugar to take back to Virginia.  I'm pretty careful about wrapping it before I pack it, usually using a waxy paper and lots of tape.  The stuff makes wonderful gifts...partly because it's unusual but mostly because it's delicious.  Some of the gifts have been used in baking, mostly cookies; but some have simply disappeared a pinch-sized bite at a time.  The stuff seems to last until it's used or consumed - as long as it's kept dry.  

Planting sugar cane could hardly be easier the way we do it.  I'm sure the planting is much more complicated when hundreds of acres is involved.  Canes are cut...removed from the roots by slicing near or at the ground.  The leaves are stripped off and then the canes are cut again...into pieces about 18 inches long.  A shallow trench is dug, the cane pieces are dropped into the trench and then covered.  New canes, looking like stalks of grass, appear in a couple of weeks...and then it grows until it's harvested and the process begins again.

This is our very simple - almost primitive - but very efficient cane press in action. 

In Bluefields some local farmers use all or some of their sugar cane harvest to...make sugar...in bricks or lumps the same size and general shape as bricks as I mentioned above. But I still don't know the official name of the kind of sugar they make, only that it's very good.  People with much more sugar cane than we have press their harvest in some manner probably more sophisticated than ours.  

The juice is then boiled until it has become a thick syrup which will solidify after it's removed from the fire.  This syrup is poured into molds of some sort...the molds in my area producing brick-shaped blocks of pure raw organic cane sugar.  The color of the sugar bricks varies depending on who's making them.  I've brought home both dark and light colored sugar and can't taste much difference:

People who can't buy this sugar in Bluefields can buy something like it online.  In fact an eight ounce cone-shaped product, described as panela (one of the types listed here), can be purchased for just a bit more than $9.  

The bricks I buy at sidewalk markets in Bluefields weigh about a pound each and sell for $2.

What's left of the sugar canes themselves after harvest is called bagasse and can be used for all sorts of other things including fuel for power production - like running a generator; or for making paper and cardboard.  But the part of sugar cane most people are familiar with is the juice that's processed in lots of ways to produce many types of sugar.

29 April 2023

A craftsman family

More than a decade ago I met Mr Julio...Julio Lopez.  And then I met one of his sons who has followed in his father's 'footsteps' tho the work the family does is done by hand, not by foot.  Now there is a third generation, a grandson, who is creating treasures like the two previous generations.

Each of these three men in Mr Julio's family is a craftsman, a word that is defined as "...a person who is skilled in a particular craft."  Mr Julio and his son and his grandson are skilled in the craft of creating lovely and often useful things from wood...quite often 'found' wood.  

In Virginia when rights of way are cleared...for instance along a power line...the wood that is removed is most often oak or pine.  On Nicaragua's east side the wood cleared along a power line is often teak or mahogany...or even rosewood.

When I am in Nicaragua, Bluefields specifically, I always visit with someone in the Lopez family and I almost always return to Virginia wih a new treasure...a walking stick, a kitchen utensil, a bowl, a cup, a tray, a pair of earrings.  If I can name it - or if I can produce a photo for illustration - one of these men can make it.

But when I first began to do business with the family, none of the pieces I purchased was signed; and so I began to ask Mr Julio to sign the pieces I bought...if the size of the piece permitted that.  

I explained why I wanted him to take this extra step, that the pieces he made for me were unique; and if, as I sometimes do, I gave some of the items as gifts...I wanted the people who got each piece to know who made it.  Because Mr Julio and his son and grandson make things almost exclusively by hand - and almost exclusively without electricity - that's how they sign their work. Mr Julio is shown here signing, by hand, a small rosewood tray that sits in my Virginia house about 5 feet from where I am right now.

It's important in my family to know the history of the unique items we live with, acknowledging and remembering the person who crafts these things.

23 April 2023

Food, edibles, meals...choices in Bluefields

There's a fair amount of fast food available in Bluefields.  Much of the fast food is chicken, compliments of Tip-Top, Nicaragua's answer to KFC in the United States.  And there are at least two real Italian restaurants for pizza or a formal sit-down meal.  

But the best food in Bluefields is cooked while you wait and is usually worth the wait.  Seafood of many sorts - fish both salt and fresh water, shrimp, lobster.  There's very good barbecue.  There are pasta dishes at restaurants with real linen table clothes.  Most of these meals are accompanied by a side of fresh vegetables; and almost always a side dish of rice is at least offered.  

None of these meals is prepackaged or made with processed foods...you know...that stuff that comes out of a box or out of a can and just gets nuked?  

These meals are almost always worth the wait.  I have to say 'almost' because nothing is perfect...anywhere, anytime.

Breakfast is often eggs, cooked how you want them and possibly with fresh home-made cheese and some rice and beans...

At midday you can snack on a sandwich with fresh-squeezed fruit juice...

...or you might choose to have an actual midday meal that includes fresh shrimp...and fresh shrimp in Bluefields most likely means somebody caught the shrimp the same morning they show up on your plate:

or maybe you decide on a midday meal that's all fried...fried chicken, fried banana, and fried rice.  Fried food here is more like wok cooking than deep fry.

Or at the end of the day your choice might be a real dinner treat of asada and southern salad/slaw:

After breakfast and lunch and dinner you can finish the day with a banana split:

14 April 2023

All in the family...the equidae family

Years ago I traveled with family to one of the British Virgin Islands.  When we couldn't get somewhere on foot we went in a rented car...and periodically we would come to a halt because of cows.

The cows would wander across the road in a diagonal pathway...never straight across like the chicken that just wanted to get to the other side.  The cows were on the way somewhere but never seemed to be in a hurry to get there.  

Or they'd get tired of doing whatever they had been up to and simply lie down in the road and take a break which sometimes turned into a nap.  There was never just one cow....whatever they did was a group effort.

And a tourist or even the occasional resident in a car didn't bother them one bit.  If they were resting in the road they'd occasionally glance your way, usually while chewing a cud; but if they were up and moving...on their way somewhere...they wouldn't even bother to look your way.

I learned that years later whoever's in charge of things on the island put a stop to cows in public.  They were banned to fenced areas...away from public rights of way. Sad for them, sad for tourists and maybe even sad for full time residents who'd certainly become accustomed to their presence.

The downtown area of Bluefields doesn't have cows wandering or napping in the streets although small herds of cows routinely graze in yards in residential areas a short way from downtown.  

But Bluefields has members of the equidae family...horses, mules, donkeys...but mostly horses whose work takes them to town.  They are almost always there because they're rightfully employed and town is where they work.  But every now and then there's an outlier just out for a good meal.

This guy's waiting for his owner, tucked safely out of the way of cars and trucks - and in a somewhat shady spot.  

I've seen this girl pulling a cart for years.  Her cart is usually loaded with fresh oranges.  Here she seems to be headed home after a delivery.

The mule doesn't look to be gainfully employed as it grazes along the sidewalk just a couple of blocks from city hall...on the same street.  But who knows...it may just be between jobs.

08 April 2023

Part II: Pointeen house-on-the-bay

Part I showed where False Bluff is located in relation to Bluefields.  This part (II) shows where our new house is located in Bluefields...specifically the Pointeen neighborhood of Bluefields.

From a LaCostena airplane heading east is this pretty good picture over the bay.  It shows the downtown area of Bluefields and  - wonders of wonders - a shot of Pointeen in the distance.  The arrow indicates just about where the new house is: almost on the tip of the neighborhood's point on the south-facing side. 


(There are some previous posts about the house which will undergo a renovation.)

03 April 2023

Blue blue blue...minds, spaces, and zones

The term "blue zone" was formalized in 2004 after a study of an extradinarily long-lived group of people in Italy.  The study prompted publication of an academic paper on longevity - and voila! a new business was formed: Blue Zones LLC.  The term was then trademarked and a business was built to sell a healthy lifestyle.  Oddly enough the business ramped up at about the same time that other groups began touting that being fat can be healthy...go figure.  

The business designated five places in the world where people live longer than usual...often into their 100s; and each of these areas shares a set of common characteristics which seem to contribute to the long and healthy lives of the inhabitants.  Of these five areas, four are on water...oceans, seas, etc.  The fifth is near - but not on - water.

But the set of common characteristics is just that - common.

Before I ever heard the term blue zone, I recall being impressed, as I settled more and more into the daily life of Bluefields, at the number of old people in that small city, both men and women, who are healthy and active as well as old.  

These people usually walk where they want to go. They shop and carry stuff - like their own groceries.  They visit friends.  They go to church.  They care for family members young and old.  Sometimes they take on the care of a friend.  In general they participate in the life of their communities.  They are in control of their own lives and business, like my friend below at her lawyer's office.  They are rarely, if ever, in air conditioned spaces - fans and open windows suffice. 

And they rarely, if ever, eat processed foods....unless they do the processing.

After some recent reading about blue zones in general, not just the trademarked ones, I realized that all of the characteristics of long-lived groups are common to the large group of elderly people Bluefields.  And the characteristices are common to a lot of young people in Bluefields as well - which makes me think that many of the young people there may also live to a ripe old age.  

In Bluefields most people share these characteristics...they:

  • move naturally throughout daily life rather than depend on something like a gym membership for their activity;
  • have purpose (sometimes several, either long or short term;
  • avoid stress (maybe moving naturally thru each day helps with this);
  • don't eat everything they might want to eat but instead they limit their food intake;
  • eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit;
  • drink alcohol sparingly (I doubt many in Bluefields are aware that moderate drinkers usually live longer than people who don't drink any alcohol.  If this was common knowledge the elderly there might live to be 150, not just 90+);
  • belong...to something (usually that "something" is faith based probably because faithful people often form groups that are easily accessible);
  • hang out with other healthy people; and
  • keep family first and close

And then we come to "blue spaces" which are bodies of water and places near them...and not just salt water. In addition to a large number of stories about blue zones, there are stories showing up about, and studies of, the importance of blue spaces to both mental and physical health.  Most of what I've read relates to how blue space is important to these aspects of children's health; but all of the reasons for the importance of blue spaces to children are certainly applicable to non-children, ie to us grown ups.  

The fact that four of the areas in the world where people live longest are quite close to salt water might be no accident.  An increasing amount of scientific information explains the health benefits of water and of living on a coast or an island, though a river or a lake will do.

There's lots of 'scientific' information about the benefits of being near water.  The term "blue mind" is now being used to describe something that closeness to an ocean does to humans.  According to science, it improves our mental state; it's good for oily hair; it reduces stress; and on and on.  

Our belief in "science" has justifiably stretched thin over the past few years; but there is mounting visible evidence that people who live near water, particularly salt water, live longer than a lot of other people.

I'm including a few links to read and none of these will stress your brain.  The most recent, the first in the list below, is dated today and says many of the things I had already written in this post: 

  • tinyurl.com/4hyvxwvj
  • tinyurl.com/5bdke32h
  • tinyurl.com/yc6p67ju
  • tinyurl.com/275zk3e4

Note: I posit we're not seeing a bigger number of studies and stories about the importance of blue space because so many people would, or do, say "Only rich people can afford to live near water."  Fairly typical deflection because you sure don't have to be rich to take advantage of spending time near water.  

31 March 2023

Sea turtles or seed turtles


An artist on Big Corn Island carves these tiny turtles from seeds - about which I know nothing.  Each turtle, a small replica of a sea turtle, has a bail by which it can be attached to a necklace or whatever else you might want to attach it to.  

I purchased enough of these tiny turtles - and one of the seeds that gives them birth - to line a small bowl-like thing which, in turn, stands on a table in my Virginia home.

Not that it matters at all but I have never figured whether the artist releases one turtle or two sea turtles from each seed:

27 March 2023

Norchad Omier (Rojas), Bluefields Nicaragua

There are a lot of basketball fans enjoying what this Miami forward is doing.

Among his biggest supporters are his family and friends in Bluefields where he was born.

22 March 2023

Part I: False Bluff...where is it

We have posted this picture before and False Bluff is still in the same place.  We're just a little bit farther from Bluefields than we are from the port of El Bluff, which is the main and very public gateway between Bluefields Bay and the Caribbean for a huge amount of traffic.  

But we are fortunate enough to get to our place by way of a canal that we had hand-dug.  Our canal gets us there from Smokey Lane Lagoon instead of from the Caribbean.  Believe me, the small additional distance is well worth it.  

The Caribbean is known for being calm but in a panga or something even smaller, the sea can kick up dangerous waves really fast.  Of my trips to False Bluff by way of the Caribbean, I've been in boats several times that capsized...usually as we turned and headed to the beach.  

Once is more than enough.  

A neighbor to our north...about an hour by walking...decided to boat-haul materials to her property rather than land at False Bluff and walk the stuff up the beach.  The boat she and her workers was in capsized.  All the materials and the outboard motor were lost.  Every person on the boat made it to shore safely but she later told me it was touch and go for her. 

People pull their boats up to the beach because along our almost deserted section of coast, roughly the 26 miles from El Bluff north to Pearl Lagoon, there's no development of any kind - much less a place suitable for tying up a boat and so the boats are beached.  

In order to avoid all future trips to False Bluff by way of the Caribbean just about the first thing we did was to have our canal dug from the lagoon to a place close...but not too close...to the beach.  We didn't want an angry Caribbean to later dig its own canal...which would cause unbelieavable damage.  

So we leave Bluefields, segue from the bay to the labrynth of back waters, into Smokey Lane Lagoon, and then into our canal.  It goes from a narrow notch in the lagoon east toward the beach and we traverse it in quiet except when the monkeys pass overhead.

Easy peasy - though always better when the tide is high.  Bluefields Bay, like the Chesapeake Bay, is tidal.

Just posted today to a Bluefields news site about a life lost when a panga capsizes:


18 March 2023

Man's best friend...and helper

There doesn't seem to be any official season for hunting in and around Bluefields and False Bluff; and so a fair number of people who live in the area, mostly men, hunt because it puts food on the table during even more harsh than usual financial times.  

All over the world people are hurting financially...even people who live in a really poor country.  There's no escaping that.  And there are a lot of people in the local communities that have no refrigeration and so they hunt often.

Many hunters have found that dogs are often helpful in the hunt.  There aren't packs of dogs as is sometimes familiar in the United States because people here can't afford a pack of dogs...and besides... how do you fit a pack of dogs in a small boat?

13 March 2023

Pangas...the same in some ways and very different in others

Almost all of the eastern side of Bluefields is on the water and so there are boats tied up in lots of places.  And most of the boats in Bluefields are pangas.

As noted in a recent post, all pangas share certain characteristics.  They have to - to be a panga.  But what an owner might do to a panga makes each one different.  Some pangas are given just as much maintenance as needed to keep it seaworthy.  

But the owner of the middle of these three side-by-side pangas used a lot of skill to make the boat a show piece.

As you can see in these three pangas, the backs of the bench seats lift in and out as needed.  The place where the backs fit are molded into the sides of the panga during its construction.

I've ridden in many a panga where the backs of the bench seats lifted out and went somewhere else forever.

08 March 2023


I've written about this zoysia grass at False Bluff before and I'm pretty sure I'll write about it again - because the stuff continues to amaze me.  

However, I admit I have never cared enough about what variety of zoysia grass we have out there so I can't identify this one.  I've only cared about getting the grass started and about having it spread as far and as fast as possible.  

This particular zoysia grows along many beautiful beaches on Big Corn Island, one of the two popular Nicaraguan islands in the Caribbean about 40 miles directly east of False Bluff; but there was none at False Bluff until I snatched - and then planted - some off a sidewalk in Bluefields.

I divvied up the stuff I pulled off the sidewalk into as many starts as I could...tiny things they were from the small amount I 'rescued.'  I wanted the grass for lots of reasons, primarily its beauty that I had fallen in love with on Big Island. And it is wonderful to walk on...kind of like a very thick rug except where it pillows at the base of a tree. 

Other reasons I wanted it include that covering the ground with it would reduce work because the grass: 

  • forces out weeds once it's established - we could stop the hard and time consuming work of chopping down weeds with machetes;
  • thrives in the really harsh and salty environment along the caribbean; and 
  • has an affinity for coconut palms - and we were planting hundreds of those. 

Other benefits...benefits that I wasn't aware of when I started propogating it out there...are:

  • when the dry season arrives the stuff just gets greener when most everything gets brown; and 
  • snakes and biting ants hate it...probably because it forms such a tightly woven mat that neither of these pests can travel thru it - and both avoid traveling over it.  

We planted the starts which began to spread faster than I thought they would.  Once we had a good sized patch of grass etablished we began to cut out 4" x 4" plugs which we then planted at the leeward base of as many coconut trees as we had plugs for.  Visible here are the newly rooted plugs moving away from their 'safe spaces' at the bases of coconut trees.

A final thing that I enjoy about this zoysia is the manner in which it spreads, shown above and below.  The small plugs don't look like much when they're first planted.  In fact they fade a bit due to transplant shock; but to the best of my knowledge we've never lost one.  Then all of a sudden the plug turns green and begins its star-like creeping spread, going from the base of one tree to meld with the grass spreading from the base of another tree until all the ground is covered.

After what seems no time at all, the ground of the pathways we outlined with coconut trees is covered with emerald green grass.

03 March 2023

Panga the boat

Even the word has multiple meanings.  It is a weapon or a fish or a boat which is typically powered by an outboard motor.  A panga is easily distinguishable from a "skiff" which is a flat bottomed boat that often has a center console, neither of which a panga has.  

From what I read, the panga (regardless of its origin) was developed as a small fishing boat.  In my experience, a lot of pangas on Nicaragua's Caribbean side are used as taxis...thus a lot of pangas are neither small nor used for fishing.  This is a poor photo of a panga taxi in Bluefields Bay, probably prepped for a ride to Kukra or Pearl Lagoon.

A bit of history:

There is some confusion about the history of where the panga came from although the date of development is pretty much the same regardless of the claim...something that may contribute to the confusion.  

Two California teachers ended up in La Paz, Mexico and in a circuitous way ended up building pangas starting in the late 1960s.  This from the interesting link below:

"The new creation was a molded, modified-vee hull boat, with large, graceful spray rails and small strakes, eliminating the boxy appearance of its plywood predecessors. The new, sleeker Esquibot panga was considered Mexico’s biggest innovation in boat building at the time!"


During pretty much the same time frame, Yamaha was developing a similar boat in Japan: https://www.pangasports.com/post/the-history-of-the-panga-boat

Thus lasting confusion.

Regardless of who did what and where, the panga is very adaptable for heavy seas - which the Caribbean often is; it handles really well in most seas, heavy or otherwise; it pulls up on the beach; and it is easily reparable.  

Somehow the panga made its way from the west to the east, from the Pacific - via Japan or the west side of Mexico - to the Atlantic.  Big or small it is hugely popular along the eastern coast of Central America where it is said by many to sustain the tourism industry.  And over the years the panga has become increasingly popular in the United States.

28 February 2023

How to get there from here

Taking turns seems to come naturally to the people who use this bridge - whether they're on foot or on horseback.  This is the main connection point between a small community some miles away from Bluefields and no community at all.  

People use this bridge to get into 'town' to shop or to sell what they've grown or produced or to get medical treatment or supplies for the house or farm...things that many of us have nearby - or if not nearby at least easily accessible by paved roads and cars.

It had rained heavily the morning of this visit and I'd already slipped in the mud.  

This was a bridge too far.

22 February 2023

Rosewood cups

I've had these cups for several years.  They are another addition to my household crafted by the Lopez family, the same craftsmen who carved the wooden spatulas I wrote about a couple of stories ago.

The cups are about the size of a grown man's fist.  Each one is carved from a chunk of rosewood.  Of all the rosewood things I have brought home from Nicaragua's southern autonomous region, I've never had a piece of rosewood so dark and in which the 'rose' in rosewood is so clearly exhibited.  There's a patch of that rather incredible color in each cup.

Other than a light coating of linseed oil these cups have had no treatment.  Long ago I asked that the Lopez family leave untreated any wood thing they make for me.   I asked for that after I learned that lots of handcrafted wooden items, most everywhere, are routinely stained with shoe polish...including things made of rosewood.

I recently pulled these out of storage and hit them briefly with very fine sandpaper.  I'm getting ready to coat the inside of the cups with clear food grade epoxy and for sure some epoxy will go where it's not supposed to go...so I'll be using the sandpaper again in a couple of weeks.

No problem.