25 September 2011


        Bluefields, named for the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt, is Nicaragua's principal Caribbean port.   The city spent part of the 1700-1800's riddled with British and French colonists and today its inhabitants comprise a real melting pot:  asian, black, indian, latino, white, and mixes of all of these.   A sign near the airport claims a population of just about 46,000 people but Bluefields feels a lot bigger than that.   Right now Bluefields is easily accessible by air or water.   A road from the west was recently completed but I'm told it's not for the faint of heart.   
     I'm always surprised when I read things that downplay what Bluefields has to offer to residents and visitors alike:  two universities;  a growing young museum;  a wide array of restaurants ranging from Chinese to an Italian place with linen tablecloths to the ubiquitous fast food chicken place with a kid's playroom; jewelry shops;  street vendors and markets;  a multitude of furniture, appliance, paint, hardware, and building supply stores that claim if they don't have in stock what you want they'll bring it in for you; carpentry and metal working shops;  and more...   Most of the businesses bear the names of their Nicaraguan owners but there are a lot of familiar names, like the Yamaha dealership, and Sherwin Williams and Radio Shack.   In other words Bluefields is a typical city. 
     Below shows a few blocks in the center of the city.   Upcoming posts will outline what's available at the lettered locations...a purely subjective selection I assure you.

21 September 2011

Citrus trees

     After clearing and cleaning a section of land at False Bluff there was room to plant citrus trees.   Late last year we took a boat trip north to a friend's family farm in Kukra Hill to see about ordering some.   One of the things Nicaragua's current administration has done has been to send agricultural technicians into remote areas to teach such things as grafting techniques to anyone who wants to learn.   My friend's sister wanted to learn, and did; and I placed an order with her that she will deliver to Bluefields this year:  several varieties of grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes.   
     The small grafted trees will be planted in an area we began preparing for them this spring.   There are several advantages for me to plant grafted trees:   the grafted tree will bear the same sort of fruit as the tree from which the graft was taken; and the grafted tree will bear fruit at an early age.   Neither of these things is a given with a seedling.   For instance, a citrus seedling might not bear until it is seven years old.
     I ordered several trees grafted from the tree shown here.   Although the fruit in the picture is green, it's ripe and very very sweet.     

16 September 2011

Sea turtle rescue

     My mornings at False Bluff begin with a cup of hot tea.  I sit on the end of the dock and enjoy the small movements of life along the creek and the way morning breezes ripple the water.   It's a good way to start a day.   So my employees knew just where to find me with the news that breakfast had washed up on the beach.
     A sea turtle, not wrapped in a purposeful net but instead trapped in a melange of the garbage that churns around in the sea, had given up its fight for freedom and washed ashore near the outdoor kitchen.   Two of the men had hauled it, wrapped in odd pieces of rope and fishing line, upside down onto a pile of coconuts set aside for sprouting; and then came to get me.   
     I had done other odd things, like using a pontoon boat and caulking cracks in the siding of the small house, so everyone took with grace the news that neither this turtle nor any other that was born on or found its way to my place would be killed for food.   In fact I think they had expected this would be my reaction which is why they came to get me before killing the turtle instead of after.
     We flipped the turtle right-side-up and cut it loose from all the crap in which it was enmeshed.   Really tired, it took awhile to get to the water, but once there swam away with no hesitation.  
     Although sea turtles 'cry' to flush salt from their eyes, the tears this turtle shed may have been the turning point in a lifelong habit of at least one of the men present:  he says he won't eat turtle meat again.   The only live turtles he'd seen before that morning were trussed up at market and ready for slaughter; and I reckon by the time he saw those turtles they were all cried out.   He was also fascinated by the way the turtle moved...he'd never thought about it and certainly had never seen it.  
     The last picture below - of the turtle's tracks on its way into the water - is my desktop background. 
Tea at the dock
Part of the debris that was wrapped around the turtle
Heading for safety

09 September 2011

Volleyball anyone?

     The crew putting up the fence worked hard two days running, and it was hot hot hot.   So to relax at the end of each day they enjoyed a vigorous game of volleyball.   Didn't bother anybody that the volleyball net consisted of three pieces of rope that had washed up on the beach, tied together and strung between two coconut trees.   
     The smallest player switched sides at will and spent most of his time chasing the ball.   His mom brought out a chair and did some needlework and the wife of one of the players joined her for a crochet lesson.   Kind of made me feel like I was at a Little League game (except for the guy wearing a machete).

05 September 2011


     I'd never seen a stick bug except in pictures and I almost missed this one.   Someone had to point him out to me.   The top of the fence post he's on is about six inches across.   He showed up the day we finished the fence and didn't appear upset by our presence at all, even when he was picked up and moved safely away from the water.   

03 September 2011

A fence

     Before bringing in a lot of building materials and tools, we put a fence around the area where the next phase of construction will be.   Fence posts were cut on the property at the creek's edge and off-loaded from the boat.   The posts were then carried to where holes had been dug, starting near the dock.   Because the fence will only be temporary, hopefully no more than a couple of years, we are using barbed wire for its deterrent qualities rather than its long lasting qualities.   
     I've strung my share of fence before but always with the sort of tools and equipment readily available in rural Virginia.   The way this wire was stretched was interesting and reinforced my admiration for the problem-solving capabilities of the people who work with me.   When it came time to attach the wire, two of the wire staples (horse shoe nails) were nailed quite close together to a scrap of wood.   A section of wire between barbs is placed between these two staples and a third staple holds the wire in place against the barb itself.   One person put pressure on the lever/piece of wood with wire attached and a second person nails the wire to a post:  simple and very effective.
     Hell, even a girl can do it!

02 September 2011

A house and a well and some random thoughts on construction

     After some clearing and cleaning there's room for a small house, so up it goes:  a concrete slab, a course of block and then wood construction, caulked and primed and painted inside and out.   The north end of this first structure on False Bluff is open except for a knee-wall on the beach side to break the wind.   Now this space is a small kitchen but it will later serve as a laundry 'room.'   The well is just to the south of the house.
     I get a constant stream of advice to build with block...cement and mortar and rebar and bags upon bags of small rocks.   My brain locks up when I think about hauling large quantities of that stuff to False Bluff so I've decided that except where necessary for slabs and piers, construction will be of wood, most of which will be cut from the property.   
     An interesting bit of local history is that of the buildings in Bluefields that survived Hurricane Joan, many were very old wood houses, most of which are still standing.   Buildings constructed of wood have a certain give and take in heavy winds.   Perhaps I think about these things just to make my decision to build with wood more palatable, but wood is also the only logical choice for houses built on stilts.

01 September 2011

Clearing and cleaning

     The undergrowth at False Bluff prevented comfortable movement, blocked the breezes off the Caribbean, and left no options to plant anything, so while the creek was being cleared to accommodate boat traffic we cleared part of the property to accommodate people.   Big deep holes were dug to burn brush and small trees that were chopped down with machetes.   Trash and debris that has accumulated on the beach were also burned when possible...glass, plastic, old shoes, stuff that's been washing ashore for a long long time.   Cleaning the beach will take another long long time.   After removal of the undergrowth broken glass sparkled everywhere. 

The end result