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.