30 December 2017

Sculptural beauty of the coccoloba uvifera

     Hardy, salt spray resistant, and a hell of a conservation plant, the sea grape has the truly unlovely botanical name of coccoloba uvifera.
     The plant can grow close to or at the very edge of the beach; and it's prone to wander from its original site, forming what appears to be a colony but is usually just one plant.  It does this by layering whenever one of its branches touches ground for any length of time thus forming the sculpture that each plant becomes.
     The sea grape is one of the plants we don't remove at False Bluff, regardless of its size; and there are some really large clumps throughout the landscape.  

     Here's a fairly young plant showing the tendency for droopy branches, many of which will root because of their contact with the ground...some of the rooted branches will head south or north east or any other direction.  But all will be part of the parent plant...kind of like millennials who can't leave home.

     The Caribbean as seen through another young clump.

     This is a much older and established plant, capable of holding a swing or a hammock.  Several patches of our favorite zoysia grass have been planted under the clump and in a fairly short time the ground will be covered with a cushioned mat of emerald green.

     Another mature sea grape plant (partially visible just behind a young coconut palm) is close to one of our buildings.  This clump is host to a swing and for years has held a hammock or two as well.

25 December 2017

Joy to the world

Merry Christmas everybody!

Winsome at four months...
joy personified.

24 December 2017

Forbes Christmas movie list.....

     According to a Forbes' list some years ago of the ten top Christmas movies of all time, number one is Die Hard.  Quality and fun endure.  
     I used to think I was part of a very small group for thinking that Die Hard was the best Christmas movie ever, but I've learned that there are a whole bunch of us who agree on the point.

     'Welcome to the party, pal...."

18 December 2017

Grass and lilies, doing their things

     As a follow up to several posts, recent and otherwise, about two of our favorite landscape plants at False Bluff, here's a picture of the local (from Bluefields) zoysia grass and our much loved swamp (spider) lilies doing their thing in a location that suits them.  
     Worthy of note is that most all beach side locations suit them, something that can't be said of very many landscape plants.

12 December 2017

Jacinta's orchids

     This beauty is just about ready to bloom.

07 December 2017

Not just the swamp lily

     I wrote here not too long ago that if you were to drop a bulb of the swamp lily, our beloved and much used spider lily - that "...if you were to just throw one of the bulbs on the ground during friendly weather it will take hold where it lands."
     A bulb of the swamp lily is not the only thing that will take hold where it lands.  Here's a coconut growing where it landed at the foot of a nearby parent tree.

02 December 2017

Wood for The Nest

     As plans for El Nido began to come together (see recent October 6 post on this site), one of my decisions was what to use for flooring.  I had the option of using mahogany but chose, instead of mahogany's handsome look but dark color, as light-colored a wood as I could find.
     So I settled on a wood which grows locally and which was cut to order with a chain saw and then planed - edges and one side only: it's called aceituno.  It's not as nearly-white as holly which doesn't grow in Nicaragua anyway; and it has a more interesting grain than poplar which also doesn't grow in Nicaragua anyway.  But it's a nice addition.
     The botanical name of aceituno is Simarouba glauca and it has lots of common names in addition to aceituno.  The wood's used for things like furniture components and musical instruments.
     It's lovely and cool looking. Here's a close up of a piece before the first coat of marine varnish.

      And here are the floor boards themselves shown leaning upstairs in our first house after their first coat of varnish.  The varnish darkens it a bit...but not too much.

26 November 2017

The view...

     .....from the porch of El Nido.
     I took this picture before the porch floor went down and it shows the incredible view of the sea from The Nest.

     (Clearly visible is the aceite negro that has been applied to much of the wood.)

21 November 2017

Aceite negro

     In Virginia and most of the United States we get to go to Home Depot or a similar place, pick our wood, load it and head for the job site:  2"x4"s, 1"x8"s, 2"x10"s; treated or untreated.
     Those aren't choices in most of Nicaragua and for sure not in the Bluefields area.  Instead you give a list of the wood sizes you need to someone and he goes out with a chain saw and cuts your wood to order.  
     And then you build into your project an extra three weeks or three months for your fresh cut wood to dry - we're accustomed to kiln dried wood we can use right away. Again, that's not an option in in the Bluefields area.
     This said, there is one place in Bluefields that offers a selection of wood sizes ready-cut but the wood is more costly, not planed, not treated, and not dried.
     Another thing to take into consideration when using wood along the Caribbean coast is termites: there are a lot of them. Treating wood to prevent, or slow them down, is pretty critical.  And even if you build your home of block and concrete, there are wood elements as food for termites.

     So a practice has developed along the Caribbean coast of treating the wood in situ, that is after it's put into place in the building.  In other words you build your house or shed or room and then apply either diesel fuel or aceite negro, (used motor oil) to all the wood.  Given the cost of diesel, black oil is what's usually applied.  
     So when a building goes up, a crew goes through the entire thing with throw-away containers full of oil and throw-away brushes and they coat every wood surface with used motor oil (or diesel) which termites DO NOT LIKE.
     Here's Cesper, certainly our builder of choice, and part of his crew coating El Nido from the top down.  It's messy but it's a very effective treatment against termites.  Two or three weeks after the oil's applied you can paint right over it and never know that such a thing as aceite negro had ever been applied.

16 November 2017

NICARIB, still going strong...

     Posted here years ago:  NICA... NICA...

     Still going strong and currently loaded with the colors of a Virginia fall:

11 November 2017

Hunting: with dogs...

     People around the world hunt with dogs, and Nicaragua is certainly no exception.  One big difference about hunting with dogs close to Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is that most of the travel to and from the hunt is done on water.
     This pair of hunters, the first of whom is shown in the picture below, was on the way back to Bluefields.  Though not all visible at first, there were five dogs aboard the boat from which a rope....

     .....is being used to haul the second hunter in a boat with only three dogs aboard.

06 November 2017

It's in the bag...

     On a recent trip I carried food harvested from False Bluff in an old bag I've been using for years.  The bag sat, pretty well loaded, in the front of the boat heading to Bluefields.  Every piece of food had been harvested and in the bag just before heading toward town.
     In the bag:

     Out of the bag:
Two papaya, scored and ready to "peel and eat;" two types of limes, smooth and rough (my favorite); and some red bananas.

01 November 2017


     Every trip to False Bluff is a reunion - with friends who have become like family, with acquaintances who have become friends....on the beach, in boats going back and forth, in Bluefields, in Pearl Lagoon, in Kukra.
     This time the reunion started at the airport.
     I've been acquainted with Alexander Scott for years. Initially he was closely involved with the Bluefields Sound System, which promoted local talent and made efforts to save music that was becoming only a memory.  
     Xander is now with blueEnergy -       http://www.blueenergygroup.org/
     I hadn't seen him in a while but there he was at the Bluefields airport, arriving only minutes after I did.  Standing around waiting for taxis, we caught up a bit and I urged him - once a frequent passer-by on his way to a farm north of us - to come out for a visit.  And happily a couple of weeks later he arrived for a picnic with his wife, his stepdaughter, some other youngsters, and some co-workers, including Guillaume Craig and his wife.
    Guillaume and his brother Mathias are co-founders of blueEnergy, a group that has some success at doing things most people don't have the stamina for.  Their stated approach is: "There are no quick fixes where we work. We don't give things away.  We stick around.  We take diversity seriously."  
     I was going to cut and paste pictures of Xander and Guillaume...and then realized I had already posted a picture of them at False Bluff the day of the picnic - so I'm just doing a repeat: Xander to the left, Guillaume to the right.

     There will be more here about blueEnergy because of the group's contribution to the overall environmental health of the area in which False Bluff exists.


26 October 2017

Noisy lil' bastards...

     Green parrots flock in the hundreds to False Bluff at the start of the rainy season.  It was my unsuccessful experience trying to capture even half-way decent still shots or videos of these noisy lil' bastards that finally prompted me to buy a real camera to replace the point and shoot I'd been using for years....and then, of course, not a parrot showed up for a photo op. 
     But next time they and I are hanging out at the same time I should get some better stuff.
     Again, they only show up in the hundres during the rainy season but all of what's below was shot from either inside or very near the house - a raucous caucus - demos or republicans I couldn't tell.  But they did seem to argue a lot so maybe it was both.

     Because these parrots live in the rain forest between the house and Smokey Lane Lagoon even when it's not the rainy season we can occasionally hear them if they're debating some particularly contentious piece of legislation.

22 October 2017

Plastic in paradise....

     Recently published in the Daily Mail was an appalling story, with equally appalling pictures, of trash, much (if not most) of it plastic.  The story states that much of what was shown off the coast of Honduras, near and around the tourist spot of Roatan Island, had been washed into the Caribbean by waters flowing from land to sea during the rainy season.  
     Plastic in the Caribbean, however - hell, plastic in all of the earth's oceans - is a growing and long lasting problem weather event or not:     http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5002084/Oceans-choked-plastic-bottles-bags-rubbish.html

     Several posts on the False Bluff site show what washes up on our beach here.  We clean the stuff up - and the next tide brings more. But I have never seen anything like what's shown around Roatan in the Daily Mail story...not even remotely like it.  Nor has anyone else at False Bluff.
   The small video here shows how calm the sea was one day in mid-September when some folks from False Bluff went fishing; and, as usual where we are, there was no floating trash to be seen. Obviously some trash is there or we wouldn't continuously be cleaning it off the beach.  
     But the Caribbean along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast has never endured anything like what's happening off the coast of Honduras and I sure hope it never does.

     (The Caribbean as shown here is not always so calm and when it acts up it can be a killer.)  

16 October 2017

Probably not "Giant Sister" ...

     After the clearing was done, coconut trees and the native zoysia grass were my first planting priorities.  The trees would outline the walkways - would actually line both sides of the walkways - with a double row of trees on the side away from the sea, the west side.  
     Before the trees were planted there were no walkways - so even before planting was begun I had to map out the overall and future design, the layout, for False Bluff.  I mean, what's the sense in planting anything if you don't know where it's supposed to go, or what part of the whole it's supposed to be, or even what the whole is?
     So for days I sat near my tent with pen and paper; but mostly I wandered - back and forth, back and forth - as clearing and burning went on around me.  I later learned that the people working with me thought I had endured some sort of mental glitch.  They didn't get actually worried until I picked up a big stick.
     I used the stick to measure the distance between future-planted trees and the width of the walkways themselves. We're talking hi-tech here.  And then, when I traded the stick for a shovel and began digging holes, everyone seemed to finally understand what was going on.  
     My lack of Spanish, particularly nearly a decade ago, has been a problem.  Try taking an English/Spanish dictionary into a hardware store in Bluefields and asking for 1,000 one and a half inch coarse sheet rock screws...or using that dictionary to explain a vision of how a design today will impact what a place will look like ten or fifteen years down the road - or even what the vision is - where tree-lined walkways and buildings will be.  I've heard that many people who begin a project like False Bluff have a staff...of designers or architects or planners; but I'm not sure that's true.

     After the trees and the grass had been planted and become somewhat established, along the west side of all our walkways and just in front of the double row of coconut trees I planted what we fondly call "swamp lily," a spider lily that doesn't need a swamp to thrive.  
     What I'd like to think we have at False Bluff is a variety of Hymenocallis known as 'Tropical Giant Sister' but what we do have is most likely just kinfolk known as "beach spider lily," the littoralis.  At various nurseries in the United States you can buy one of these plants for anywhere from $5.00 to $19.00.  
     I've pulled this picture off the internet. I've got lots...of the plant and of its bloom...but today I'm just not going to hunt one of them down.  Besides, our clumps are young and not this showy yet.

     Our planting stock of this spider comes right from the property where there are clumps in odd places, some right at the edge of the beach. I have no idea how the hell they got to False Bluff because until this project began nobody had purposefully planted anything out there in decades; and where the existing clumps are indicate no sense of purpose anyhow.  
     I do know that the plant is a hardy survivor and whereas I dig a hole for each one I plant, if you were to just throw one of the bulbs on the ground during friendly weather it will take hold where it lands - I've seen beach wash-ups that have done just that.
     The plant forms a nice clump pretty quickly and has the spidery, somewhat ethereal, bloom...and though the bloom scent is very faint it's also very sweet.
     The picture below is from 2015 just a day or two after the lilies were planted...maybe the same day from the looks of the disturbed earth around them.  I planted one lily bulb - or tried to plant one - every 18" along the walkways...and there are a lot of 18" spacings along our walkways.

     This was taken this year and shows pretty much the same place.  Nature at work, with a little guidance.  It's all getting just a bit better every day.


11 October 2017

Coconut trees and hammocks and the passage of time

     Shortly after we bought our first piece of property at False Bluff,  my sons and I hung hammocks among a triangle of coconut trees close to the shore.  
     We camped close to the shore because the incredibly dense undergrowth that was everywhere then made moving away from the shore difficult...undergrowth that grew so thick it completely blocked the breeze from the sea.  Pushing into it felt like stepping into an oven.  
     There was no pushing through it because the undergrowth seemed to go forever. I found out not too much later that it does go forever, or at least to the edges of Smokey Lane Lagoon to the west...and gets worse and thicker on its way there.

      And, of course, we hung the hammocks close to the shore because being close to the shore was why we were there in the first place.    
     Then, as many pictures on this site show, the undergrowth was cleared away and hundreds of coconut trees and plugs of a carpet-forming grass were planted in its place and left to nature...no fertilizer, no irrigation, just the passage of time.  
     I stood on the site of that first camping trip to take the picture below - testament to the dramatic changes to the scenery.

     On a recent trip I was a bit awed, hanging in that same hammock (a Hennessy, a brand of hammock often referred to as "the coolest tent in the world") between and below other coconut trees - coconut trees that I had planted after the brush was cleared away.  
     And now there's no shortage of trees at False Bluff from which to hang a hammock. I took a book into the hammock with me because I usually take a book wherever I go.  But I confess I spent a considerable amount of time not reading but marveling at what time and adequate amounts of rain had given me in exchange for a few thrusts of a shovel nearly a decade ago.

06 October 2017

El Nido

     The "foundation" for The Nest (El Nido) was constructed nearly two years ago.  Large deep holes were dug into which concrete foundation platforms were poured.  On these platforms square concrete columns came up about 4'; and into each concrete column a wooden beam was installed.

     And there it all sat like quills on a porcupine until just a few weeks ago...

      The small building is a single room with a front porch, both 8' above ground - plus a considerable amount of outdoor space at ground level for hammocks and hanging chairs.  The Nest is not, and never was, intended to provide living space although I'm sure I'll "live" in it until the rental units are up.  
     (The rental units will also sit 8' above ground and have open living/bedroom combos, deep front porches across their fronts, kitchens, and bathrooms; and will be available by the week...but more about that later.)
     Instead, The Nest will be for future visitors as a library or game room.  The books that now live on shelves in separate bedrooms in the existing house will all be pulled together into one space with additions...lots of additions; and a selection of games like dominoes or monopoly.  
     People can select a book to read in their own spaces or read in or below El Nido.

05 October 2017

A Decade - Part 3

After looking at properties on the west coast, Big Corn, and in Pearl Lagoon we chose False Bluff for the family farm.  After the purchase had been completed we camped out on the farm to get a feel for the land and plan the future.  These pictures are from our family camping trip from almost a decade ago.

Since our False Bluff, Nicaragua canal had not been dug at this time we had to schedule a panga boat to pick us up and drop us off by way of the Caribbean instead of the quiet waters through the lagoons in the back.  The reason we have clothes hanging up drying while we were still setting up camp is because the boat flipped while riding a wave in to unload.

10 year old video so please forgive the quality.

02 October 2017

False Bluff, the beach

     ...enjoyed by Dominic.  Actually enjoyed by everyone who visits but only Dominic got his picture taken this day!

26 September 2017

A Decade - Part 2

Part 1 showed what the Caribbean side of False Bluff, Nicaragua looked like on our first visit.

This picture shows the first time we visited the west side of the farm almost a decade ago.  The west side is accessed by going through protected lagoons.  This bit of deep water in the mangroves is the start of what would eventually become our Nicaragua canal allowing us to reach the beach.  Digging the canal was a huge project and the previous posts are worth looking at.

This hole in the jungle is what has now become the head of the canal.

A Decade - Part 1

Time does fly and in a couple of weeks we will hit the 10 year anniversary of our first trip to Nicaragua looking for the perfect family farm.  

We looked at several properties all over Nicaragua.  This coastline looks pretty much the same along the 26 mile long bluff beach.  Except this bit of beach is False Bluff.  This picture was taken the first time we saw what would become our family farm.

This picture is one favorites from an early visit.

19 September 2017

Fresh Food

This nondescript doorway is one of the entrances to the public market that connects Bluefields to the surrounding communities.  Through this door comes food that is freshly caught in the bay or produce that is grown on the jungle farms that are only accessible by boat.  Well worth a visit.

12 September 2017

Town to Town

Most of the towns on the east coast of RAAS, Nicaragua have developed not on the Caribbean coast, but on the shores of the inner bays and lagoons which are all connected by miles of natural canals.  These protected waterways allow for safe commerce with all kinds of boats.  If you enjoy boats there are lots of unique ones to see when going from town to town.

05 September 2017

The Green Season

False Bluff is green throughout the year.  During the rainy season it becomes vibrant green.  Most tourists visit Nicaragua during the cold months which is also the dry season.  They miss out on the nature when its at its best.

01 September 2017

Good Days and Better Days

Is there such thing as a bad day at the beach?  Most every day at False Bluff is good, some are just a bit better.

Nice calm clear day, you can even make out Cayman Roca in the distance offshore.

29 August 2017

Above it all, part 6

     If you stand just under the front lip of K and L's house porch (which is at least eight feet off the ground), you can see the outlines of the path that he has laid out. The pathway leads right to the edge of the Caribbean, which you can just see here.  

     He's already lined the south edge of the path with baby coconut palms.

22 August 2017

Crab Soup Festival

Its that time of year.  Every August Big Corn Island, in the Caribbean 40 miles off the coast of False Bluff, celebrates their emancipation from slavery by having the Crab Soup Festival.  I've only been able to make it to one so far.  The day of the parade drummers in trucks start circling the island at about 3am.  It's a very festive atmosphere for a couple of days.  

The greased pole.

Maybe a little to festive, some late night vehicle damage done to Casa Canada during the festival.

The end of the Crab Soup Parade.  Turn your volume down.

13 August 2017


     a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? 

     If the waves stop rolling to shore, can you hear the butterfly go by?

04 August 2017

Above it all, part 5

     K and L's house at Las Tortugas, part of False Bluff, is shown here partially under roof but with the parging on the cinder block not yet begun...and what a difference these two things will make when done! 
     There is less than one-quarter of the below-house space enclosed (where there are the stairs, the well, and room for storage). The rest of that space, that ground level open space, will be living space used almost as much as the enclosed space that's "above it all."

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     And Cesper Fox, the builder, is taking a break on the living room windowsill which faces the Caribbean.

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