LAS TORTUGAS

We have a few building lots left. Email us at lastortugasatfalsebluff@gmail.com for information.

11 November 2018

This is how it starts


     When I began the project here we cleared brush, leaving healthy existing coconut palms and sea grapes - and then planted hundreds of additional coconut palms.  
     And, of course, the empty spaces in between the palms and sea grapes filled up with a brush/weed combination that had to be cut - like any yard.  But here in Nicaragua it gets chopped with a machete;  and like any yard the stuff comes right back again after it's chopped, perpetuating a labor intensive cycle.
     To break that cycle, one of the first outside plants I introduced was a local zoysia grass.  Although not found specifically at False Bluff, it is native to the area growing all over Big Corn Island and in isolated patches in Bluefields which is where my starter plants came from.  I rescued approximately two basketball-sized clumps from sidewalk cracks in Bluefields and carefully divided and planted it here at False Bluff.
     Once established enough to divide, we began taking small clumps from our own stock and expanding its hold.  The grass forms a thick almost impenetrable mat that makes it a hell of an erosion control device, it never needs to be chopped, it is seemingly impervious to drought, and snakes and ants hate it. 
     Faintly outlined in red are shown several clumps getting a start.


     In a surprisingly quick time the clumps will join together to form a thick emerald green mat.  Shown here are a few pictures of it both establishing itself -and established.  This hasn't happened overnight but it's been worth the wait...









06 November 2018

Life with Hennessy

     ...the hammock, not the booze.
.


01 November 2018

Lobster traps

     Stacked and ready to be put into use these wood traps are shown before being loaded onto trucks.  They sit on a road in Loma Fresca, a Bluefields neighborhood, where they were made. 


27 October 2018

Mangoes to eat...

     ..."real" mangoes and the "hillbilly mangoes."

     The mangoes shown on one of our mango trees at False Bluff in the October 2, post have ripened and it was worth the wait.  We eat them as is


...or, juiced, we drink them.


     In Virginia we pick the hillbilly mangoes - which are really pawpaws - directly off the tree (or off the ground if they've just fallen) and eat them as is.


          Wherever and whichever, they are a treat.

22 October 2018

Hiding in plain sight

          Can you find her?  The males are larger and quite dark - and so are much easier to spot.


17 October 2018

NIC-71

     For most of its long history Bluefields has been accessible by water or air - although early on people traveled by horseback and then in cars and trucks on not-so-good roads that didn't actually go all the way to Bluefields.  Almost everything that entered the town...people or sofas or mustard or clothes or tractors or boat engines or taxis...came by boats or airplanes (most by water, obviously, because boats, particularly big boats, can certainly carry more than airplanes can).
     Then there was talk of a "real" road that would run from the western part of the country all the way to Bluefields.  And for years there was only talk.  And then for years there was work.  The July 11 post here shows part of the space between the Pacific side and the Caribbean side before and after the road.
     Once the road was completed to the point that people and stuff could come and go, I heard lots about it and saw big trucks carrying all sorts of things into town.  I once was in a taxi in Bluefields, stuck behind a pick-up truck, listening to my driver's complaints about all the people from the other side coming into Bluefields and messing up the traffic because they didn't know their way around town (he used a word other than 'messing' but I got the point).  
     But I'd never been on the road.  Recently, friends made sure I got to travel on part of it.  
     We picked a time when its westernmost section was not blockaded, because we traveled during the summer of 2018 when blockades were a thing.  And we traveled cautiously and didn't go more than an hour west - although we weren't really very worried about trouble and a couple of weeks later I traveled NIC-71 much farther away from town.  
     The road wasn't then fully finished.  But it's far more easily traveled than many of the 'old' ways into town, and it accommodates vehicles bringing all sorts of needful things to town - as opposed to carrying the things to Rama and then taking the things off whatever vehicle they were on that took them to Rama and then putting them on a boat for the rest of the trip to Bluefields.
     And sure enough, there it was just a couple of blocks past my carpenter's shop and right around the corner from BICU.  
     I took these pictures from the front seat of the truck so the coverage is limited.  But it's easy to see the road and how beautiful Nicaragua is.






12 October 2018

Gardening at False Bluff

     Is this a raised bed or a container garden?  
     The sugar cane growing in the ground behind the boat make it difficult to see the pepper and herb plants that are actually growing in the boat...where they're thriving.

     
Note:  Jacinta's genius on display.

07 October 2018

Small bird of paradise

     The bird of paradise plants most of us are familiar with...from pictures and visits to local greenhouses or botanical gardens...are large and dramatic.  But when I arrived in Bluefields I was introduced to others, among them a small plant which quickly became one of my favorites. 
     Although this little one is represented in our nursery, it's not salt-tolerant and we'll never be able to use it close to the beach which is a shame.  However, planted near our piers it gives a visual punch and is the first color other than green that a visitor sees on arrival.
     There are no nurseries in Bluefields.  In fact the only nurseries I've found in all of Nicaragua are at Catarina, a town on the country's west side which in itself is one huge nursery because almost everybody there grows plants to sell.  It's a stunning place to visit, sitting on a slope above a lake, with blooming plants everywhere.  A big problem for me is that, despite its wide array, almost none of the plants is tolerant of salt-spray - I could find none for coastal planting.
     So when I tried to add this small bird of paradise to our growing collection of plants, I had to beg a few plants from someone in Bluefields who had it growing in a yard.  Actually I ended up being able to buy five or six plants.  And then after planting it at False Bluff I learned that it doesn't thrive in the Caribbean's salty breeze.
     But in a spot just away from that breeze it does thrive and in a few years we have this and a few other colonies that bloom year 'round.



    

02 October 2018

Mangoes, here and there

     We have mangoes at False Bluff and in Virginia.  The ones at False Bluff are "real" mangoes.  The ones in Virginia are known as "hillbilly mangoes."  
     By either name they're a treat. 
     The mangoes in the first picture, mangifera indica, are not yet ripe and are on a young tree right outside our kitchen at False Bluff.  
     This is the first year this particular mango tree has borne fruit and it's got a pretty good crop - enough of a crop to warrant propping up some of the branches.


     Below are asimina triloba, better known in the United States as Pawpaw but also known as the hillbilly mango.  This tree is just one in a pawpaw patch near the James River and these pawpas, tho' green, are ripe.  
      Some sources claim not only that the flavor of the pawpaw is tropical; but that the tree itself is a tropical tree that has somehow adapted to non-tropical climates: they extend all the way into Canada, a place not known for its tropical climate.



      Whereas the pawpaw thrives and sets fruit as an understory tree, our mangoes at False Bluff thrive under the hot Caribbean sun.  It would be interesting to see how a pawpaw does in full sun.

27 September 2018

Mandarin oranges

     Just like not all of the trees at False Bluff are palm trees, not all of the citrus trees at False Bluff are limes and lemons.  
     And not all of the citrus trees we have are mature enough to bear fruit.  Some of the trees are on the cusp...that is, they're bearing a small amount of fruit now on their way to bearing a lot of fruit in the future.  This year's crop is kind of like a dress rehearsal.
     One variety had a single orange, not yet ripe; but I was told that next year the tree would be loaded.  
     Another variety had a small amount of fruit with the same prediction for what it would produce next year.  That particular tree bears mandarin oranges, and part of its "dress rehearsal" is shown below, not yet ripe but on the way to getting more size and a much different color.


23 September 2018

El Nido, in color

     After the caulk and primer come the colors.







Note: The concrete portion of the support posts have since been smooth coated, polished, primed, and painted.  The ridge caps had not been installed when I took these pictures.


19 September 2018

"Freshness you deserve"

     ....but rarely get in your local grocery store, where that phrase was recently on display.     
     Here is a mid-morning snack of limeade and pineapple.  The limeade? Maybe not so fresh since I had snatched the limes from a tree the evening before instead of that morning.  The pineapple, however, had just been picked a few minutes before ending up in a bowl.





14 September 2018

Jose

      In September, 1821, Nicaragua became independent from the Spanish "Captaincy General of Guatemala," a territory that went from Costa Rica up to a part of  Mexico's Yucatan peninsula...and Nicaraguans have celebrated independence every September since.

     Students all across the country join in the celebration of independence by marching, school by school; class level by class level.  They are joined by representatives of the military, the men and women charged with protecting this independence.  Regardless of recent troubles, Nicaraguans join together to celebrate who they are.



     
     And the best students - the brightest students -  lead their classmates in the parade.  Hard work and superlative achievement is rewarded...and Jose, whom I've known since he was seven years old, was at the head of his class, at the head of his school's part of the parade that fills many of the streets in Bluefields.

     Congratulations Jose!  You earned your place in the lead.   We are so very proud of you.


JOSE, 2018

     Jose sent this message with the pictures:
     "As every year, Nicaragua (has) its patriotic celebrations ...
     And then I always marching, but this time, God gave me a lot of...intelligence and I...go with the best students. Here are these photos ... the truth that all this I owe to God, and...this was my last year that goes."









13 September 2018

Our nursery continues to grow

     We recently increased the size of the nursery by about a third.  The expansion was needed but sad nonetheless because we had to remove three mature-but-young palm trees to get the additional space.  
     Shown here are two of the trees that we removed.  The third tree, already on the ground, is visible in the rear left of the picture.


     Because the trees were just at the edge of the existing nursery space - and in one instance actually in the nursery - taking them down without doing damage to our mother plants was a problem.  The fronds of a mature coconut are very long and very heavy...to say nothing of the actual trunk.  But the people I know can solve problems - each problem in probably four or five different ways.
     The solution here was to remove the fronds one at a time with a machete.  Use of a machete assured that the frond removal was controlled enough so that someone could grab the tip as the frond was nearly ready to fall and control to some extent just where it would land.



     There was an audience for much of the frond-removal part of the expansion process.


     A chain saw took care of what was left of each tree and then everything was hauled to a burn pile.


09 September 2018

El Nido and caulk

     The title is self-explanatory....and when the front of a building faces east, sitting at the edge of the Caribbean, paintable silicone is cheap insurance...even when the windows are sheltered by an overhanging porch roof.



05 September 2018

Pick or pay?

     Today I almost bought limes for a fresh limeade - it takes two limes to make a really good limeade.  In the end I decided to just "walk away."  Aside from the "$0.69 each", there was the dubious claim of "Freshness."  I'll wait until I'm back at False Bluff...and it's worth the wait. 


      Although from the posts here you might think we only grow coconut trees, that just isn't so.   
     Our citrus trees are just beginning to bear, including two varieties of limes - and every day I have as many limeades as I want.  I pick the limes myself: they're not only fresh, they're free.
     The lime tree below tells the story of why it's so easy to enjoy multiple limeades every day. And this is just one of several trees bearing this particular variety of lime.


     Shown here are the two types of limes (and the only lemon variety) we have bearing right now.  The lime on the left is the lime found in grocery stores in Virginia.  Its skin is smooth and its flesh is lime green.  The lime on the right, which is also the lime hanging on the branches of the tree above, does not have smooth skin and its flesh is orange.  It's called the 'toad lime' because of its rough and bumpy skin.


     Both varieties of our limes have good limeade flavor; but the toad lime, my favorite, excels in the  flavor game.


      When we head to Bluefields we carry limes for family and friends...usually by the bucketful.



31 August 2018

Dinosaur eggs?

     Not even!

     After having planted hundreds of coconuts trees we're going to plant some more...coconut trees, palm trees, are such a visual part of beach life.  And we have enough space that I can't imagine having too many of them.  
     In the case of coconuts, which are just big seeds, we wait for them to sprout, which they do almost without fail, and then we put them in the ground.  
     But we facilitate the natural cycle.  Plant a tree.  The tree matures and produces seeds.  The seeds drop on the ground.  And this is where we step in.
    Sometimes, without interference, a seed might drop on or in an inhospitable spot.  It might sprout; it might not sprout; if it sprouts the new tree might grow; if it sprouts the new tree might not grow.
     Our interference involves providing an unimpeded location for sprouting and then our selection of an unimpeded location for growing.
     Most of these seeds are from trees I planted.  Will the circle be unbroken?  In this case there's no doubt about that.
     Here the seeds wait, open to the sun and rain and without competition from much of anything but a few pineapple plants.




Taking a detour here - which I rarely do...
     The song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," doesn't have a damn thing to do with growing coconuts other than the obvious tie of the title to the way nature often works.  Sung over the years by the likes of Johnny Cash and his family, Joan Baez, Randy Travis, and lots of others, the song is a classic. 

     Here is a traditional rendering for anybody familiar  -or unfamiliar - with it:




      And maybe the best for last.  This version is also traditional but almost unique in that there's very little between the voices and the audience except a mic: 




26 August 2018

T.S. Eliot

     Things come to thrift stores in Bluefields compressed into very large bales; and during my years of haunting these stores there, most everything I've found has come with a tag from another thrift store...all from the United States.
     Stores of this ilk have been my metier in the U.S. for decades, with thrift store visits being more like treasure hunts than shopping.  And I've learned over the years that items in thrift stores have a 'shelf life:'
when first presented an item has one price; and two weeks (or more) later it has a lower price; and two weeks (or more) later it has an even lower price.  Then it just simply disappears.  
     There must be some central place where the unsold items go.  I never really thought about it until shopping in Bluefields, but I've learned that when most things in a thrift store in the U.S. don't sell,  they end up in another country.  And sometimes that country is Nicaragua and some of what ends up in Nicaragua goes to Bluefields.  
     Serendipity for me and T.S. Eliot.
     Again, I never really thought about where unsold thrift store stuff goes and won't do any research; but it all seems to be about recycling and the market.  I've benefited from the arrival in Bluefields of unsold stuff from Idaho - or wherever.  An extant tag might read 'Salvation Army' but I've never seen one that reads 'Salvation Army of Boise Idaho.'
     Sheets and towels and T-shirts and socks and plates and other useful items have all made their way from U.S. to False Bluff where they continue to give good service.
     And then there was T.S. Eliot sitting in the window of a Bluefields thrift store.  Nearly thirty inches from ear to toe, to say the least he's eye catching.  That might be the reason nobody in the U.S. wanted him, since it's apparent he sat through numerous price reductions before being compressed.  And his looks might also be why nobody in Bluefields seemed to want him either.  
     Whatever it might have been at his beginning, his name now is T.S. Eliot - Thrift Store Eliot rather than Thomas Stearns Eliot - and his journey is poetic in its own way.  
     Compressed, again, but this time into my suitcase, he's back in the U.S. -  still looking a bit surprised about it all.




    " Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
    Thomas Stearns Eliot

21 August 2018

El Nido and the world it sits on

     The environmental drawbacks to cement (and concrete, of which cement is a major component) have been - will always be - things we consider when building at False Bluff:  we want the look and, given our harsh coastal environment, a lot of the benefits of a block and mortar building with as few of the damaging side effects as possible
     Blueboard, which is the siding of El Nido, the small building that will be our reading room, was the kinder option.   
     But I confess the stuff made El Nido, at the edge of the Caribbean, look decidedly odd when it was first installed.



     We selected a brand of blueboard designed for exterior use and once the building was parged the place looked much less strange sitting at the edge of the sea.  
     I had done some preliminary landscaping and after putting the plants in the ground and marking where more would go, I pulled a chair onto the porch to enjoy the spectacular view - just before doing some caulking.


     Thanks to Cesper for the solution to our concerns: the man's always problem-solving.  And thanks to him and his crew for making it happen.



19 August 2018

A letter to my adopted country

Dear Nicaragua,
     The idea of False Bluff began decades ago, long before the idea had either a specific location or name. The reality began more than ten years ago when I bought the first of the pieces that now make up False Bluff today.  
     Young children have grown up and graduated from high school; and new children have been born and begun elementary school.  At least one new child was born at about the same time as one of my grandchildren although both of these children have a couple of years before they begin any formal school at all.  Young friends have finished college, begun lifetime careers, married, and then completed master's degrees in their chosen fields.  Older friends have become like family members.  Our part of Nicaragua has become home...a second home, but home nonetheless.   
     And during all this time we've dug wells and put up buildings and put plants in the ground at what has become False Bluff.  The story has been unfolding here, usually with pictures, ever since I figured out how to do this web/blog stuff. 
     I never made a conscious decision to not discuss politics during my time in Nicaragua.  I just never did it.  There were always many other - and much more important - things to do.  But the last few months of this year have been terrible for you, Nicaragua...death and destruction and discord for many reasons.  
     It was strange to spend months with you in the middle of these bad months; and this time, 'tho I still didn't talk politics, I listened to people on all sides of the spectrum. And I watched news stories that were local and national and international, something I don't even do when I'm in the United States....since I don't have a television.
     But a realization about the news coverage I was seeing during my recent stay hit me hard pretty early on: the news about events in Nicaragua resembled the news about events in the United States.  
     The local and national stories in Nicaragua were as disparate in their coverage as are, say, the Daily Wire and The New York Times...which means a lot of what was put out there was just wrong.  It's easy to tell that sort of thing when you're up close.  And all of the international news I saw or read, without fail, was as badly skewed as the local and national stories to the point that after a short time I just stopped paying attention to it.  
     This stuff is sad at home, regardless of the home I am occupying at any given moment.  All of Nicaragua has suffered, although the outrage and deaths and destruction have not been felt to the same degree in the southern autonomous region as in the western part of the country.
      In Nicaragua during the last few months some people tore up a street.  Within days other people, the people who lived nearby, went out and fixed it.
     In Nicaragua during the last few months some people burned a market.  Within days other people, the people whose livelihoods depended on being able to buy and sell at the market, did what needed to be done to be back doing business.
     In Nicaragua during the last few months some people burned or demolished a school.  Within days other people, teachers and the parents whose children attended that school, had arranged for classes elsewhere or at the same location if the damage wasn't too bad.
     Over the decade-plus since I have become involved in Nicaraguan life, I've learned things that give me hope even during the country's present hard times; and the hard times this year have confirmed what I've learned:  your people are some of the strongest and most resilient people I've ever met. 

   Thank you for letting me be part your family.
     

14 August 2018

False Bluff on a Bluff?


Or is it a peninsula or an island?  It is the land the separates Bluefields Bay from the Caribbean and everyone just calls it the Bluff.


False Bluff is just barley visible if you look far north up the beach.



07 August 2018

31 July 2018

Shrimp Fleet


A small fleet of shrimpers usually fishes in one of the lagoons on the way to False Bluff.  Pull your boat up next to one of theirs and you can get the best buy of the freshest shrimp around.






24 July 2018

Good Meal and Great View


The second floor of the public market has been open for a couple of years now since the renovation.  If you want a good affordable meal and a great view its worth a visit.


17 July 2018

Choppy Day on the Bay


Even when rain squalls are coming through every few hours and the bay stays choppy, the boats still run and commerce still goes on.


11 July 2018

The Long Cut

For the first few years flying into Bluefields, there was a long stretch of uninterrupted dark green jungle before town quickly popped up unannounced.  Then the dirt road started stretching further and further into the green alerting you that your flight was almost done.  Now you can see the light green patches of farms and the white line of the road quite a ways before you get close to town.






25 June 2018

Mango

     As in the recent post "Sea grape," nature exhibits the beauty of youth here with young, new leaves making their debut against the older leaves on one of our young mango trees at False Bluff.


20 June 2018

Bath time

     Bluefields is primarily a water based community.  Almost everything comes and goes via water.  The boat shown here is at a dock in the heart of town and is registered to the Pto. El Bluff - that is the Port of El Bluff.
     El Bluff and its port are just a few miles across Bluefields Bay.  The small town sits on a strip of land where the bay and the Caribbean meet.  And El Bluff is almost exactly 8 miles south of False Bluff by beach walk.  Boats travel between Bluefields and El Bluff regularly...with people and supplies and motorcycles and pets and birthday cakes etc
     While this particular boat is waiting to be loaded with people and cargo, it's getting wiped down with a wet cloth by a wet man.



   

11 June 2018

Sea grape

     A new leaf and an old leaf - nature's exhibit of the beauty of youth on one of the sea grapes at False Bluff.