28 December 2014

Bananas as finger food

     Red banana trees may grow taller than yellow banana trees but red bananas themselves are little - they're short and stubby compared to the fruit of most yellow bananas.
     But the fruit of at least one of the varieties of yellow bananas we grow at False Bluff could be considered finger food...it's tiny!  Even the small red bananas are bigger than these babies.

21 December 2014

14 December 2014

Red bananas

      Never ate one of these until my adventures began in Nicaragua...never even knew there were such things as red bananas. Short and stubby, the flesh of the banana isn't what's red, it's the skin. The eating part of the banana is a cream, almost white, colored flesh and the taste is very sweet.  The bananas shown here are not from False Bluff because most of our red banana trees are only recently planted.

     Back in Virginia I found some red bananas offered in a local grocery store and bought a few to enjoy a taste I'd gotten to know in Bluefields...and found that eating these that had landed in Virginia was like eating the bottom of a tennis shoe. This probably had something to do with the fact that it must have taken weeks to get the bananas to Richmond; and that by then they'd kind of lost their freshness...but that's only a guess.
     It took a couple of years for us to find some starter plants since no one in the Bluefields area seemed to grow this type of banana. I think our starters came from one of the Corn Islands. Wherever we got them, I'm glad they're part of our growing collection of fruit trees.
     Here's one of the newly planted trees (with a stick marking its location so we don't walk on the baby).
week one...
week two...
week three...
(you get the idea)

     And here's the oldest one we've got which will probably produce in a few months. A red banana tree grows taller than the trees that produce the more commonly known yellow bananas. Here it's stretching for the sun. We're planting a lot of bananas in the right of way, because even the taller ones won't ever be a threat to the power lines.

     Interestingly, the stalk of the banana tree is red, sort of like  the trunk of a plantain tree.  Here are shots of a red banana tree and a yellow banana tree growing companionably side-by-side at False Bluff.
Red banana tree trunk

Yellow banana tree trunk


04 December 2014

In the sand

     Tracks, shells, and crab house....

28 November 2014

Hibiscus: the collection grows

     The second variety of hibiscus recently added to our False Bluff collection.  The blossom of this one is about eight inches across and the color almost burns!  My camera sure doesn't do this justice.

23 November 2014


     Sometime last year the back yard of my home in Virginia was 'probed.'  
     Nineteenth century bottle diggers seek out old houses (mine's about 1835) whose owners will allow them to probe the back yard with long metal......probes, in an effort to locate the house's original privy, or outhouse. (In nineteenth-century Richmond, bathrooms hadn't come indoors.)
     So 'privy probers' stick long metal spikes into the ground and listen for the sound of glass or pottery garbage, because the privy was usually where both household and human waste ended up. 
     The day those guys were in my back yard I took lots of pictures and sent some pictures and a brief write-up to a local news feed; because I was fascinated at the process and at the bottles and pottery shards that came out of the hole, all of which were given to me.  Some of the people who read and commented on story were appalled that I would actually let these priceless artifacts be harvested from a hundred-year-old outhouse by people who weren't professional archaeologists.  I hope they don't learn about this.  An earlier blog post here tells how to ripen bananas by burying green ones in a hole in the ground and leaving them for a few days.  
     Well, we dug a hole in the ground recently to hasten the ripening of a bunch of bananas, and came up with these three pottery shards.

     According to long-time residents of the area, these are fragments of bowls or cups  "...made by Indians..." and "...That stuff's been in the ground for at least three hundred years..."  Nobody I talked to knew anything else and I'm not sure they even knew that.  But I do know it's been well over a hundred years since anybody lived at False Bluff.  
     I have learned recently, thanks to Bluefields native Herman Downs, who now lives in Florida and whose head seems to contain a fully stocked library, that in 2003 Nicaraguan and Spanish archaeologists found remains of really old ruins near Kukra Hill - which is right outside False Bluff's back door.  
     And I mean really old!
      "...evidence of a poorly known, complex civilization that existed in the tropical forest just before the Maya began to dominate regions to the north" according to archaeologist Ermengol Gassiot from the University of Barcelona.  Gassiot also said  "Usually scientists say that the conditions in tropical forests are not suitable for the development of social and political complexity, but here we have a tropical forest (society) with great social complexity, and well before the Maya."  
     The first sign of habitation in the area dates to about 1500 BC with major construction having begun at about 750 BC.  The society came to an end about AD 400.  Living along the Caribbean coast these people might have been both fishermen and traders.  John Hoopes of the University of Kansas speculates that inhabitants were probably ancestors of the Rama Indians who still live in the area (Rama Cay is in Bluefields Bay).  
 Upside down?

Right side up?

     So going through all the information Herman provided was good, and it was educational; but it didn't help me reduce the possible times during which the bowls and cups were made or the possible group of people who made them. 

     In fact the information widened the spectrum considerably....and pieces like this, or bigger, or smaller, come out of the ground just about every time we dig a hole to plant a tree or an electric pole...or unripe bananas. 

18 November 2014

A death

     In late July, 2014,  a Hawksbill  sea turtle washed ashore just south of False Bluff either dead or dying.  There was no indication of 'foul play' and no indication it had been wrapped in the debris that washes around in the Caribbean...the turtle was just dead.
     A neighbor found the carcass on a walk down the beach and salvaged the shell.  When I showed up at False Bluff he brought me something else he'd salvaged: tags from the front flippers that showed that the University of Florida (UF) at Gainesville had tagged the turtle.
     I reported the tags to UF and have been told this female sea turtle was tagged while nesting in the Pearl Cays in 2008.  I followed up by sending UF photographs and additional information with my own request for input from them on specific conservation practices I can institute at False Bluff, more specific than what's outlined in the booklet mentioned in the previous post, and in English.  (To date I've not had their promised response.)

     I asked the neighbor who found the remains if he would bring me the skull and a few bones if there was anything left on the beach - and he did.  The skull and one of the bones are shown here.

     And he also brought me the two sections of the very thick tail shell, shown both right side up - and upside down.

13 November 2014

Turtles and MARENA

     Several species of sea turtles nest along the beach here at False Bluff and in our ongoing efforts to protect both the turtles and their eggs, we visited the Bluefields office of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, or Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales, or, simplest, MARENA, to put our property on their radar and somewhat under their protection.  (Blog post at http://falsebluff.blogspot.com/2011/09/sea-turtle.html)
     MARENA is charged with protecting, studying, planning for, and managing the country's natural resources; and sea turtles are definitely a natural resource.   There are seven species of sea turtles in the world and five of the species nest somewhere along a Nicaraguan coast line.
     The visit to MARENA involved signing papers which will end up being registered at the main office in Managua plus a site visit that included a local MARENA staffer, a member of the police department, and someone from, I think, the Nicaraguan navy.
     I loaned a MARENA staffer my passport overnight in exchange for use of the only office copy of a book detailing strategies for management of sea turtles along the Caribbean coast.  I promptly had that book copied and the new copy bound at a local copy shop.    The copy now resides at False Bluff.

     The poster about not eating turtle eggs was a gift right off the wall of the MARENA staffer who was so helpful.  It's been laminated and affixed to a wall at the house at False Bluff.

09 November 2014


     Just outside the kitchen we have an electric pole up and the cross bars with wire and accoutrements installed.  Only waiting for the transformer.   After the transformer, we drop a line to a meter at the house and electricity in the house itself will follow.  Very odd to see this stuff out here.

03 November 2014

Rosewood at False Bluff

     I'm a fan of rosewood, which is one of the prettiest colored and grained woods I know.  I have some old pieces in my home in Virginia, like the table below, inlaid with mother-of-pearl

and the piano leg which supports a vanity top and sink.

     I don't know the variety of either of the above pictured pieces of rosewood, but I've brought from Nicaragua some small hand carved pieces of 'cocobola' rosewood (dalbergia retusa), a variety of rosewood known worldwide as one of the best quality rosewoods of the genus.  Since the pieces are hand carved, the maker's work is easy to see.  Cocobola rosewood is denser than most other true rosewoods and the variety found in Nicaragua has a reputation for consistently producing vibrant reds and oranges.  See the July 25, 2013 post for more of Mr. Lopez's work:  http://falsebluff.blogspot.com/2013/07/horses-and-hair-sticks.html

       Cocobola is listed as 'rare/vulnerable' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) 'red list' and at False Bluff we are prepping to plant about a hundred young trees.  I've been told that cuttings from the trees root easily and so, as time goes on, we'll extend our plantings.   Although Nicaragua now carefully regulates the harvesting of all species of rosewood trees that grow in the country, rosewood trees can be harvested beginning when they're as young as ten years old. 

31 October 2014

Pink hibiscus

     This stunning hibiscus is one of two new varieties we've just added to the growing collection at False Bluff.

25 October 2014

There are mosquito nets...

     ...and then there are mosquito nets.
     For years we've used the mosquito nets that drape from a central point. You probably know which ones I mean...they so contribute to the idyllic look of a bedroom in the tropics. Problem is they don't work very well because the holes of the mesh are way too big and some of the seasonal bugs that live at False Bluff go right through them. We don't have those tiny insects all year, but when it's their season the old fashioned nets just don't keep them out.

     Last trip we discovered a new and better mosquito net. These keep out everything but the breezes. They are suspended from four points instead of one central point... and they come in a rainbow of colors.

11 October 2014

la entrada

     The entrance to False Bluff is our way of welcoming guests and so the plan is to make it both beautiful and inviting. We began to line it with these yellow flowered bushes which grow wild here. They thrive in certain location...like the plant below right outside the kitchen window.

     But one place they don't thrive is along the walkway which is closer than the house is to the Caribbean. Along the walkway they are just too exposed to the constant salty breeze. They struggle even to survive and sure don't extend the welcome I want.

     So, we're replacing them with this red hibiscus which doesn't seem to mind being so close to the sea. The hibiscus are just going in now while we have rain. Not the biggest or showiest blossom but once they're massed along the walkway their color will put on quite be a show.

     This gives only a hint of how a continuous sweep of red hibiscus will look along one side of the main walkway (and the picture also gives a pretty good idea of the incredible growth of some of the coconut trees we've planted).

04 October 2014

orchid nursery

     Orchids grow all over the place down here.  The plants, in flower or not, are easiest to see while traveling up or down the canal in or out of False Bluff like the one below.  And we've collected a few varieties.

     The plants are placed in half-coconut-shells filled with a mixture of dirt and rotting grass and are then attached to the leeward side of a tree right outside the kitchen.

     One orchid is in bud.

27 September 2014

Buoy oh buoy

This thing is big and heavy and at one time floated around in the Caribbean.  
Made entirely of metal, it’s like a huge beach ball with an open shaft running right through its center. At one time, a wooden pole or spike sat in the shaft and held some sort of light. When I googled 'old metal buoy' I came up with a picture that looks very much like what we're finding in the woods, labeled as an anti-submarine buoy. 
Somehow these things washed ashore...and pretty far ashore, like hundreds of yards into the forest. How the hell that happened I don't know, but now that people are once more doing things along this section of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, these old buoys are being rescued.

20 September 2014


In an earlier post i mentioned that different crews did different jobs in this huge ENEL undertaking of running power lines up and down a remote section of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast - like the crew that chopped the right of way didn’t deliver the poles to the sites where they’d be put in the ground. And in keeping with this separation of duties, the crew that traveled up the beach in the truck from El Bluff was going to climb the poles and attach all the stuff that would make the poles ready to carry wire.  
All the usual complement of crew members plus a load of supplies was disgorged in our front yard where the supplies were set under the very clump of sea grapes where I used to live in a tent...shady and close to the house. The supplies would be left there and used as needed. The process of installing all this stuff on the poles would take several days.

     The truck does not have a front tire in a hole...it's parked on level ground.....

     The equipment brought consisted of the wooden four-by-four cross pieces that go near the top of all electric poles throughout the world; and the hardware, both metal and porcelain, that keep the cross pieces in place and carry the wire.  And yes, even with a full load of stuff, a crew of about twenty-five men were in and on the truck...all the men and all the equipment in these pictures.

     The first day the truck showed up all that happened was that the equipment was unloaded in our front yard under the same clump of sea grapes where I lived in a tent before the house was built. The spot was shady and close to the house; and would stay there for several days and used as needed.

     The crew chief took an inventory and some of the men immediately began to put together the pieces that could be put together ahead of time. Each pole would get two men plus supplies.

     (And in case you're wondering, these guys are dressed as we might for a day in autumn...but it was in the mid-80's when these pictures were taken.)

13 September 2014


We have two kinds of papaya producing at False Bluff: the big kind and the little kind; or the oblong kind and the round kind.

Whatever! They’re both delicious.

The papayas are ready to pick when the skin turns golden: