24 November 2011

The company of dogs is cause for thanksgiving

     There are three dogs at False Bluff, only one of which is there by design;  the other two showed up because somebody told them they could get food.  ND is white with spots (ND stands for Nondescript, which he most certainly is).   The two refugee females, just about as nondescript as ND, are Chinga and Una (it's the eye thing).   They get along better than most siblings and notify us when somebody or something shows up that they don't think should be there, thus earning their food.
The trio

18 November 2011


     The banana trees, planted sometime in late December, 2010, as foot-tall sprouts, are already producing.   The bananas are short and fat with very thin skin which means, of course, they're not grown for commercial production because they sure wouldn't travel well...but oh, boy, they are sweet!

13 November 2011

The house (3)

     After the foundation comes the framework for the first story and the 'floor' on which the second story will sit. Construction is different from what I'm used to.   Each interior corner is a 4" x 4".   There is a lot of diagonal bracing.   Much of the framing is 21" on center rather than 16" on center.   

11 November 2011

Ylang Ylang

     One of many reasons for clearing several acres at False Bluff was to be able to plant things I wanted to live with.  I left all of the coconut trees and planted several hundred more.   I left and pruned selected clusters of sea grapes.  
     And I planted more than a dozen Ylang Ylang trees.   The 'cananga odorata' thrives in lowland tropical areas and was common at one time in this part of Nicaragua.   Two women here, one who grew up in Bluefields and one in Pearl Lagoon, told me that when they were little girls they would pick the tree's star-shaped yellow flowers and soak them in alcohol...and wore the scent that was thus distilled.   We all laughed when I told them that the essential oil of the Ylang Ylang flower is said to be the basis for Channel No. 5 perfume:  they enjoy knowing they'd been so sophisticated so young.
     I've had an Ylang Ylang tree in a pot at home in Virginia for years.   I'm pretty sure it'll never bloom because the tree has a tap root and even in a really large, deep pot there's just so much space for that root;  but I like the plant simply because of the way it looks.   The branches sweep down toward the ground like the skirt on a ballerina and the pointed oval leaves are emerald green.   
     The tree begins blooming young and planted in a place it likes, a young Ylang Ylang can grow as much as five or six feet a season.   When an agricultural technician from a nearby farm saw them he was pleased and surprised because the Ylang Ylang has nearly disappeared from around here.   Propagation can be tricky with fairly low seed germination and almost no success from cuttings.   Recovering from a rough trip across Nicaragua to get to False Bluff, the trees  are babies that so far seem to enjoy having been put into sunny deep soil.

05 November 2011

The house (2)

     Buildings at False Bluff will be constructed of wood.   That's the easy part because the wood for this phase of the project is already at the building site:  cut, stacked, and nearly dry.   And beautiful wood it is, too...reddish-orange with a lovely grain. 
     But even houses built of wood usually sit on block and mortar foundations, so the materials for the foundation and for the concrete slabs (which make up the floors of the rooms and the breezeway on the first story) were taken to False Bluff by boat.   Buying and moving building materials here isn't quite like loading the pickup at Lowe's or Home Depot and driving right to the construction site.   First you go to the block store where you can usually - but not always - also buy rebar and cement and stone and sand (and for floors and foundations you need the black rock, not the red).   Then you hire one of the many public carriers who sit parked along the streets during the day waiting to collect stuff from one place and deliver it to wherever...in this instance to an area near where the boat was docked.   Once delivered by the carrier people, other people pick it up and, in my case, put it on a boat.   These materials were put into a panga rather than onto my pontoon boat by the guy and his crew who were digging the new well and thus heading that way anyhow.   Then the boat travels to False Bluff where the materials are offloaded onto my dock and, finally, carried to the building site.
Bags of materials coming off the blue truck and...
 being stacked, under the crew chief's watchful eye, before being moved into the panga.
The boat load

     I spent a good part of this trip to False Bluff reading a book on my kindle; and the crew shared slices of fresh pineapple with me.

04 November 2011


     Common sense should have told me that dressing for physical labor in a tropical environment would be different than dressing for a vacation, but somehow that concept went right by me the first time I came down to swing an ax or use a shovel.   Simply by accident I discovered how useful scrubs are for working at False Bluff.   I had packed a set because they're light weight and don't take up much suitcase space, particularly with the legs cut off the pants to turn them into shorts.   What I quickly learned is how easy they are to launder and how fast they dry.   Halfway through a sweaty day I can wear the scrubs into the Caribbean and they dry on me before dinner - and while drying they help keep me cool.   After dinner I wash them and about a half hour after the sun comes up the next morning they're ready to wear.   I keep three sets going now....