21 April, 2015

Shake your tambourine

Always interesting around here.  Some big wind and waves have washed more (and more) Sargassum to shore and sand away from shore.
Big wave breaking over the dock in the early morning.  You can also see a little Sargassum in the water at the right edge of the photo.  When the day starts like this, there is usually more to come.  :-(
Even though the waves were high at the shore, just a little farther out it tends to be flatter.  A big yacht, I think from one of the big hotels in Placencia, was anchored that morning while their guests took a guided tour up the Monkey River.
Safe anchor about 1/3 mile off our beach.  This is the best spot around for big boats to anchor without damaging the coral.
Click below on JJ Cale, one of the best song writers ever, to hear him and Eric Clapton play "After Midnight" as the musical accompaniment to the rest of this exhibition.

This lovely green headed tree snake (Leptophis mexicanus) was letting it all hang out on the bracket holding our satellite dish.  It apparently likes to eat small lizards.
Just look at that bright green head and that long skinny body.

A black racing strip along the side.
Lovely large eyes.
It really posed for the camera.
The black racing stripe runs the full length of the snake, separating its paler belly from the brown back.
I do believe that this large green iguana would be too much for the green-headed tree snake to handle.  For weeks in late March and early April, we watched this big girl walk at least once a day from north to south along our beach.  She would sometimes climb into palm trees or noni bushes for some sun.  These iguanas, which are quite common, average more than 5 ft in length when mature!  Causing talk and suspicion, she probably laid her eggs on our south lot where quite a few nest sites are located.  In a few more weeks we should see dozens of little baby green iguanas running around.  Talk about shaking your tambourine!"
Female green iguana, stopping for a breather in front of our cabana.  Her foot prints are each about 4 or 5 inches long.
This little basilisk lizard is more the size that the green-headed tree snake would eat.  Can you see him?  No?  He sure hopes the snake won't either!
He blends in very well.
Zooming in a little closer you can see this young fellow still needs to grow up and find out what it is all about.  He will get to be about 2 feet or so long.
Those big back feet help propel it over the surface of water when startled, hence its colloquial name of Jesus Christ lizard.
Another fun group of lizards to see (and hear!) are the geckos, which are nocturnal.  I saw these 2 on the back veranda, hanging around after midnight. Well, not quite that late, but certainly after dark.  They make chirping sounds and for years I thought I was hearing birds during the night; turns out it was geckos all along.
Letting it all hang out on the underside of the pergola on the back veranda.
It has its eyes on the hummingbird feeder.
While I was talking the photo above, I saw a quick movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see something on the other side of the hummingbird feeder.
"You distract her while I run to the feeder!"
"uh-oh. busted."
"May as well chugalug and shout."
Uhmmmm.  Tastes like peaches and cream.
Now that I found out what that chirping "is all about", I finally understand why these geckos are so plump! 

18 April, 2015

The Twain Have Met

As promised, here is the second part of our building project update.  The twain have met!  Not only do we have the veranda roof connected between the old and new buildings at the front, we also have the decking joined the back.

We started with a huge stack of flooring we had laid out to finish drying several months ago.  Only 30 pieces, enough to finish a landing for the front stairs, remain now.
Tongue and groove flooring drying inside the new addition.  All this was used to floor the wrap-around veranda.
 Max tested it out at various times and places throughout the installation.
All this hard work wore her out.
 We changed the direction of the boards as the veranda wrapped around.
At the corners, we had wedges with the boards running at right angles to one section and what ever angle was the difference for the next section that came out perpendicular to the building.
Straight out from the French doors at the front.
Max, on the job.
Max doing the roll-over test to make sure it is all flat.
The back part of the veranda does not have a roof, per se.  It will have a large balcony with regular decking that will provide good shade from the afternoon sun.
The tall posts will support the balcony.  You can see the ledger board for the balcony on the back wall.
 Max loves to catch the breeze on the veranda.
Feelin' the breeze on her belly fur.
The guys also got the shed roof and the railing up on the little balcony at the front.
Still some work to do on the balcony rails.
 The views from the balcony are right at tree level - great for bird watching.
In the tree tops on the balcony.
 You can also see a bit over toward the southern part of the swamp that Black Creek runs through.
Looking south.
I really like how the pattern of the flooring turned out.
Hard working kitty.
Look at the wind brushing her long fur.
 We have sticky balls up until we get it screened in.
The screened in part with the door (where the broom is propped up) will come down so that the 2 verandas become one.
 Did I tell you that I really like the pattern of the flooring?
What can I say?  The kitty likes the veranda.
At the back, the twain have met!  At least north and south have, if not east and west of the poem.  Amazingly, the flooring height matched perfectly.
The 10 foot gap between the old deck and new one has been bridged.  We can now walk entirely around the 2 buildings while on the veranda.
 A 4 ft wide stairway to the ground 10 feet below will extend down from the left of the bridge.  All those rain gutters and downspouts are critical to us because all of our water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing, flushing comes from whatever rainwater we catch.  We have no other water supply.
You can see the breezeway between the 2 structures.  The batteries will be on the other side of the halfwall where the paint can is.  
 Below is the view of the front early this morning.
You would think we had planned it to look like this!  ;-)
Screen, doors, and stairs are next on the agenda.

15 April, 2015

Made in the Shade

I'm sure you are wondering how our building project is progressing!  ;-)  After all, I haven't posted any construction updates since October.  A lot of progress; in fact so much that I am going to split it into 2 posts.  As usual, things move slowly but steadily.

This is how things stood at the beginning of January after we had taken a break for most of November and all of December.
Two separate buildings connected by an uncovered breezeway.

The biggest conceptual challenge was to figure out the roof line to cover the breezeway.  We tried several layouts using long slats of wood.  We decided to continue the roof on the old cabana and have it butt up against the wall of the new addition.  But the eave of the new cabana roof prevented us from just taking it straight across.  After dealing with various structural constraints, this is layout we settled on:
We extended the ridgeline of the older roof so that it angled to the front.  That way we could keep the ridgeline horizontal yet get it tucked up under the eave of the roof on the new addition.
 The finished breezeway roof from underneath looks kind of cool.
It was important that we get this roof to shed water to the front and to the back and not streaming against the side wall of the addition.
Once that was completed, the crew worked on a little room just off the breezway.  This will be the inverter room, conveniently located near the batteries which will be on the breezeway.
Putting the shed roof on the inverter room.  
 Next up was getting the veranda roof up.  The veranda wraps around the entire addition and will be covered except for the rear section.
The ledger boards for the veranda roof and for the little balcony are in place and the crew is just starting to set the support posts in place.
This portion of the veranda will be screened in.
Rafters going up.
The finished roof is very nice and keeps the inside of the addition much cooler.
Joists in place for the flooring to come.
 The addition is an irregular hexagon, so each corner is different.
We used lots of fasteners to secure the lap boards to the the rafters, the rafters to the sill, the sill to the posts.  We can't ignore the possibility of hurricanes, and are building to withstand a direct hit from a category 3.
 Max is responsible for the daily inspection and approval to proceed.  After all, this is her veranda!
Max, checking out the progress from the temporary decking.
 Before the roofing went up, the crew put up the frame for the little balcony.  The posts rest on the rafters of the veranda roof.
The little balcony is taking shape.
Installing 2x6 decking on the balcony.  Don't panic - railing will be next!
View of the balcony from the breezeway roof.
Adjusting the flashing on the roof.
By the end of the first quarter of 2015, the breezeway roof and veranda roof were complete, the inverter room was finished, and the balcony platform was in place.  We are really pleased with the quality of the work.  Max is too, and we know that is the most important thing.

11 April, 2015

Prey For Me!

OK, after that last post about the horrors of Doctor Flies, I thought I should remind you (and myself!) of some of the more lovely and desirable insects that abound here in southern Belize.  Hard to beat a butterfly for starters.  This is one of the beautifully named "Sister" butterflies of the genus Adelpha.  I think it is a smooth-banded sister (A. cythera), but am not certain.  Click here for an excellent site on the sisters and tons of other butterflies.  And click here for music to listen to while you read this post - although Weezer is little confused including an earthworm with his insect friends.
This sister has a little wear (don't we all ...), but will probably last quite a bit longer.  We see them quite often on the back path, but they don't usually slow down long enough for me to get a decent photo.  Happily, this one cooperated.
Keeping with the feminine theme, I have a couple of shots of damselflies.  I think these are female and male pond damsels in the genus Argia, maybe the species pulla.  Love to have confirmation or other ID if anyone knows.
This is probably a female Argia pulla pond damsel.  Found not too far from the Smooth-banded Sister butterfly.
The striking male pond damsel on which I based the Argia pulla ID.  Gorgeous fresh-looking specimen.  It was also along the swamp path near Black Creek.
This dragonfly took my breath away with its Chinese-lacquer-red abdomen.  I had to creep up on it slowly, letting it settle back down on its perch several times as I inched closer and closer.  Still not positive of the ID, but I am pretty sure it is a species of Tropical King Skimmer in the genus Orthemis, probably schmidti.
Also representing the males - a Tropical King Skimmer.  He was about 4 inches long and had a bright red face.  My only shot of the face is so out of focus it is "abstract art".  :-(
Now for the "preying" in the title - a tiny, recently hatched praying mantis nymph.
Not even half an inch long - just a baby.
Such big eyes, the better to see you with.
It will be eating anything it can catch, preying on larger insects once it gets a bit larger itself.  This is probably a Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) or perhaps the European Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa).
This one seems to be asking to stay.
So, don't call the doctor(flies); just prey for me.  I know the damsels, dragons, and mantids will.  Perhaps the good sister will pray for me, too.