30 October 2015

Ylang-ylang in bloom

       The 'odorata' part of the botanical name for the ylang-ylang tree is wonderfully true. Some years ago we planted several small 'cananga odorata' trees at False Bluff. Three survived and have matured enough to bloom; and the scent is more than I expected - and I expected a lot.
     Thirty or so years ago there were a lot of ylang-ylang trees in RAAS, most a bit inland from our seaside location.  An agricultural agent saw our trees before we planted them and recognized them immediately.  He was both pleased and surprised to see them saying that most of the old trees are gone, had died out and not been replaced; and that he'd actually only seen one live one since he'd been working for the government.
     The ylang-ylang tree (ylang-ylang is pronounced ee-LANG-ee-LANG) is fast growing and in ideal conditions can reach a height of forty feet pretty quickly. Our conditions are ideal with one exception: salt spray from the sea.  We're on the Caribbean coast and that environment's taken its toll on more than the ylang-ylang trees. 
     The three trees that are blooming were purposefully protected when we planted other trees and shrubs to take the brunt of the salt spray. However, these protecting plants have pretty much hit their height limits and thus, so too, have our ylang-ylang trees - because when new ylang-ylang growth pokes above the plant screen the salt spray kills it pretty quick. 
     But I'm OK with that because if our trees grew the way they were supposed to, the blooms would be forty feet above the ground and thus out of my reach.  I wouldn't be able to pick the blossoms and the scent, the odorata, would go right over my head - like so many other things do.
     Here are the flowers on the tree...

     and in the hand!

25 October 2015

Good friends.........

     When I bought these at a thrift store four or five years ago I had no idea how old they were - but they were in pretty good shape, I liked their look, and the price was right. Turned out they're very comfortable and have a hell of an arch support.
     They were part of Nike's 'All Conditions Gear' line and were at some point discontinued, which is a shame because most of Nike's sandals since then look like bad orthopedic shoes. 
     During our second trip to False Bluff together the tops and bottoms began to part ways and so I had a sidewalk shoe repair guy in Bluefields simply sew them back together and on we went - on the beach, on the boats, on the dirt roads, on the airplanes, on the sidewalks....in Nicaragua and then back in Virginia.
     During our latest trip to False Bluff their condition deteriorated pretty dramatically and I had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to lose them:  the soles were worn through in several places.  Granted, what was left was still securely attached to the upper part of the shoe because of the previous year's sew job...but this was a more serious situation and heavy waxed thread just wasn't going to fix the problem.
     There are sidewalk shoe repair places all over Bluefields. The difficulty was finding the place that had the sole I was looking for, or a sole that was close enough to be useful...that little indentation at the toe made the search impossible.  Hell, I'd never seen this style of sandal in the United States before the thrift store outing, and it finally dawned on me that finding a sidewalk street repair guy in Bluefields who had this replacement sole just wasn't going to happen.  
     I hadn't gotten the shovel out of the tool room but mentally I was reviewing appropriate music.

     Adios old friends!

23 October 2015

BICU to house volunteers

     Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU) has volunteers from all over the world come to teach and interact with students and faculty.  Finding  housing for them has sometimes been problematic.  And so BICU is constructing a 'hotel' for its volunteers.
     The hotel wasn't finished when this picture was taken (you can tell the project's not done because it's still closed off behind what serves as construction fencing in Bluefields). 
     The BICU volunteer hotel is closer to the center of town than the main campus and thus closer to restaurants, the bay, the new 'culture center,'  markets, and the many street festivals, all of which will be fun for anyone who gets to stay here.
     The architecture of the new building mirrors that of the buildings at the main campus, one of which is shown below.  

16 October 2015


       I've planted more than 500 coconut trees at False Bluff...and then I've replanted a lot of those...
     Sometimes there's an 'animal' that digs a hole right next to a newly planted tree. The bug burrows down and begins to eat the inside of the coconut, the part that's transitioning from food to tree. 
     At the time of planting a young coconut tree the plant is almost as much coconut (which is just a big seed) as it is green fronds; so when something attacks the seed, out of which only two or three new roots extend, death of the whole plant follows pretty quickly. As a result of this bug dining on the young coconut, on the seed, the new sprout dries up and dies. 
   We have acres of 'yard' planted to these trees and wandering around looking at the base of each tree for the tell-tale hole, the sign of invasion, just isn't practical.  There are ways to kill the bug but usually by the time we notice the damage and are ready to treat the problem, it's too late to save the tree.  The only sensible option is to yank the young tree out of the ground and plant another in its place. Rather than nurse an ailing tree, this is our course of action because we have NO shortage of baby trees. 
     Although we usually literally do yank the tree out of the ground, we cut this one to show just what the bug does.

09 October 2015

It's zoysia, not bermuda

     Until the last few years, this grass didn't grow at False Bluff.  It grows all over Big Corn Island and can be found in a few places in Bluefields...which is where I got what's growing at False Bluff now (http://falsebluff.blogspot.com/2013/05/bermuda-grassmaybe.html).
     I was told at some time in the past that this is a 'bermuda' grass and I accepted that with no question until fairly recently when I went online looking for the botanical name of the grass and learned it's actually a form of 'no mow zoysia.'
     Whatever!  It's one of my favorite coastal plants: it's drought resistant, loves the sun, doesn't impede the view of the sea....and withstands salt spray.  These are huge considerations on this section of Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast.
     As mentioned in the blog post in the above parens, after rescuing some from a sidewalk in Bluefields I began to plant really tiny divots at the base of coconut trees, partially because planting them there would provide the newly grass some protection from wind but also from people walking on it before it got well established.
     Turned out the stuff has a real affinity for coconut trees - which I should have guessed from seeing how it grows around coconut trees on Big Island.
     And maybe my very small divots, smaller than the palm of my hand, could qualify as the 'plugs' that are recommended as the best way to plant zoysia.
     Who cares? It's spread, and continues to spread, beautifully and in otherworldly ways, covering bare ground, forcing out undesirable growth, cutting down on the necessity to chop/cut, and providing an endless supply of even more divots to plant at the base of even more trees.
     In a relatively short time most of our cleared land will be well covered with the stuff - which was my original hope - and we'll have a soil and sand-clutching carpet that's pleasant to the eye and easy on the feet.

     I confess, however, that once all the bare sand's covered I'll  miss seeing the way the stuff spreads.

04 October 2015

La primera familia

     This family keeps things going at False Bluff; and this year there are two times as many children in the family as there were last year - although the newest family member sure isn't happy about having her picture taken. Thank you!