30 August 2013

Sea turtles and 'agua mala'

     Simply meaning 'bad water,'  the phrase 'agua mala' is used locally to describe most any kind of stinging thing that floats along this part of the Caribbean, including jellyfish.     
     For the first time recently I saw several of another kind of agua mala:  Portuguese man o'war.
     There were no live ones visible while I was in the water, I'm glad to say; but several had washed up along the beach to die.  Their stings, leaving red welts that can last for days, rarely cause human death; but the venom causes intense pain.          
     This particular agua mala, the Portuguese man o'war,  is a common part of the diet for loggerhead turtles.  It's said that when you see lots of these around - in or out of the water - the turtle population is down; and we know that turtle populations are down world-wide.  
     The fact that they eat these things is one more reason among many I can think of to not kill sea turtles.  


23 August 2013

How to open a really big seed

     Coconuts are just really big seeds.  People with experience can separate a coconut from its heavy outerwear with three machete strikes and a few pulls - and make doing it look easy.  But that kind of expertise takes a lot of practice.
       Finding coconuts for practice isn't the problem it used to be.  Before there was a constant presence at False Bluff our coconuts disappeared as fast as somebody could knock them off the trees. Now we pick up nearly a dozen a day. 

     But getting at the useful parts of the coconuts can be a whole other story.   Mr. Allen (see a couple of previous posts) has opened a lot of coconuts and he coached.  

16 August 2013


     A common vine that creeps along the sand close to shore creates these seeds, some of which I put in a bronze cup.  Each seed is slightly different....size, thickness, color...

09 August 2013

The gardening challenge, part 2

     My first post about the problems of growing things like cucumbers and tomatoes at False Bluff was in the December 11, 2012 post;  and it took us less than a year to learn that the approach I wrote about then does not work.  The heat, the intense sun, the salt spray, the sometimes-heavy winds, and the sometimes-heavy rains aged the protective structure into uselessness.   Sure, I could have a longer-lasting wood cut for poles and set them in concrete, or paint everything, or buy and install real thatching for the roof of the shade house.
     Or I could have a living, productive defense against the worst of the weather:  banana trees.   
     Banana trees aren't entirely immune to the problems of things that grow near the sea, but so far the worst damage I see to the banana trees we have already have growing close to the sea is some scalding that puts brown patches on the leaves.  I haven't noticed any decrease in fruit production.  
     So, the first line of defense will actually be two lines of defense:  one straight line of banana trees; and about fifteen feet away from these (and to the south) a second straight line of banana trees.  Each tree in the second line will be planted in the spaces between the trees in the first line.   Together, the two staggered lines will present sort of a wall between the Caribbean and vegetable plants.
     Bananas grow and clump up pretty quickly, but it'll be at least a year before we'll start a vegetable garden.   In the meantime we'll probably add a few more rows of banana trees so that we can plant vegetables between rows.  That way when the trees are grown they'll provide some shade from the worst of the overhead sun.
     Here's the process....
From a clump of banana trees choose a tree.
and separate that tree from the clump,
 Prop up any tree that decides to come along.
Plant the tree...
and admire your work.
Voila!  The first row of defense in place.

02 August 2013

Coconut trees...new and old

     We've planted hundreds of coconut trees.   After the clearing began came additional coconut trees to join the ones 'uncovered' by the clearing.   Initially we had to buy these small trees to plant because at that point in time the coconuts on the trees at False Bluff disappeared before we could harvest them for food or for sprouting.

     We used the tallest trees we could purchase to line the avenida, or main roadway...the one that bisects the section that we cleared first.  The rest of the trees we planted in the way we hoped nature might have planted them.   We've lost some of these young trees to one thing or another and have replaced them as needed.   But even with planting replacements, we seem to keep on finding new places to put more coconut trees, like those near the palapa where the sea turtles come to lay and hatch.   And, of course, the trees have grown.
From upstairs, 2011
    From upstairs, 2013
     (definitely not the rainy season)
picture by Andre Shank