29 September, 2015

The Moon Also Rises

The moon has never had so many cameras aimed it as it did night before last, and mine was one of the many.  Geographically, South Englishtown is in the perfect place to view this eclipse as the moon rises over the unbroken sea - moonrise at 5:39PM, sunset at 5:47PM, full moon at 8:52PM.  That means the totality would commence around 8:20PM.

The moon made its appearance above the low clouds on the horizon at 6:05.

And at 6:23 it was bright and relatively crisp with a lovely golden glow.  Not exactly the blood moon I had anticipated, but spectacular never-the-less.
Would the weather cooperate for the next 4 hours?  In a word, no.  I did get a few images of the beginning (through the haze) and more as neared totality. For the full effect, click on the image above and scroll through the images.

The first sign of the eclipse was around 7:00 with shadow showing up in the lower left side of the moon.

Clouds obscured everything for the next hour, by which time totality was approaching.  The next set of shots took place from 8:03 until 8:13, when clouds rolled in for good.

I sat on the little east-facing balcony with the camera on a monopod to take these photos. They were taken with the zoom maxed out at 105mm and an exposure compensation of -3.66.  I adjusted the aperture and ISO as conditions changed.  Otherwise, all I did was crop them; no adjustment of color or brightness.  I am pretty happy with them, my next chance to photograph a lunar eclipse with the moon at perigee won't happen again until 2033!

Did the moon come back after being eaten by the dark?  Yes, The Moon Also Rises the next evening.  And it looked satisfyingly red this time.

26 September, 2015

Sunshine in the Rainy Season

Another beautiful dawn after another night of rain.  We could get used to this!  Especially since the rainy nights have not been stormy, rainy nights.  The music of rain during the night, or anytime really, is the music of our water vats being filled and that is lovely music, indeed.
Sublime start to the day.
We have had measurable rainfall for 21 of the first 26 days of September, for a total of more than 20 inches in September.  And the good part is that most of it has fallen at night, leaving our days nice and sunny.
It looks like a postcard when you frame the photo so that the eroded beach doesn't show!  The beach is slowly building back now that the night-time winds are from the northeast instead of due east.
September is a hot month, second only to May for high temps.  And all that sunshine seems aimed right at the solar panels on the roof of the addition.  We are awash in solar power!  Never before have we been replete with power and water at the same time.  I am almost giddy - no wait - I AM giddy!  Of course that could be giddy with heat stroke ...  The sunshine that gives us power also bakes down on the metal roof.  And that brings us to our current building project.  But first, click here to listen to "Sunshine", a great anti-war song of the 1970s that, unfortunately, remains far too relevant.

Ok, now to our project, namely roof insulation.  Dennis had the foresight to order 4 big rolls of thin foam insulation backed on both sides by reflective foil.  We are stapling it to what are locally termed "lapboards" because they are the boards over which you lap the metal roof and screw the metal down to.  You can get an idea of how in works in the photo below.
The corrugated roofing is screwed down to the "lapboards" (2x4s in this instance) that span the distance between the roofing trusses.  The flexible foil-backed foam insulation is stapled to the sides of the lapboards.  A partial roll of the insulation is visible in the lower righthand corner of the photo.
We will come back and put rigid foam insulation between the trusses. It will be mounted flat against the lapboards, giving an airspace between the foil and rigid foam that will also increase the R-value of the roof insulation.
The stack of rigid foam insulation awaiting installation.
 A high R-value is very welcomed on the south-facing roof.  I checked the temperature of the interior of the roof right at noon today.  I measured it at 4 places on the south-facing roof:  1) the bare metal; 2) bare metal covered with  the foil-backed insulation; 3) under the solar panels without insulation; and 4) under the solar panels with insulation.  The results were astounding and scary!
The south-facing roof with solar panels.
The hottest part is, of course, the bare metal without insulation which averaged 137F (58.3C).  Ouch - you could cook on that!  Next was the area under the solar panels, but without the insulation, which was 123F (50.5C).  Still uncomfortably hot to the touch.  With the insulation, but without solar panels was 93F (34C), and with insulation and solar panels was 91F (33C).  The air temp in the loft was ~91F when I made these measurements.  It will be much cooler when we get the entire roof insulated.

They will finish with the foil-back insulation next week, so we are ready for more hot, sunny days.
Lots of sunshine and clear, calm seas!
I played in the water today for the first time in ages.  It is now clear enough and I can get to the water without having to leap off a cliff.  It was delightful.  But I could see up close how the seagrass beds have suffered with those rough east winds.  In some places the grass has been scoured down to the roots and what does remain is brown (dead?) or sickly green.  I hope it will grow back from the rhizomes. The breakwater is still a work in progress and we are very happy with it so far.

19 September, 2015

Sand and Early Morning Rainbows

Sand - there is new sand on the beach!  Still nowhere what had been there, but things are improving.
The sandbags along the shore are almost covered by sand; only the tied ends are visible as white blobs on the wet sand to the right of the dock.  The bags to the left of the dock are fully covered.  You can also make out the submerged sandbags of the breakwater that runs under the dock in the foreground.
 The shore is still a big mess with washed up seagrass and driftwood, but even that is gradually getting covered by sand.
View from the dock looking toward the buttonwood tree.  The shore has built up a bit of a slope now.  The brown stuff under the buttonwood is seagrass sitting on top of the sandbags that were placed in front of the buttonwood to keep it from getting undermined by the waves.
As I write this, the breakwater extends all the way down our property to the south and they are still working on the part to the north.  In the photo below, taken Sept 15th, the breakwater extends from the dock only to just in front of the buttonwood tree. Notice how the wave breaks hard to the left of the buttonwood, but is not breaking at all between the buttonwood and the dock.  That is just what we wanted!
Breakwater in action!  See how much flatter the waves are near the dock?
We think we are the right track with the breakwater.  Since I took those photos a few days ago, a lot of seagrass has washed in on top of the sand, so we can't really tell if the sand is still there.

The sea is beautiful and calm today.  The crew made good progress extending the breakwater to the north.  Next week is a short week because Monday is the celebration of the Independence of Belize.  Never-the-less, I believe they will finish Stage One of the breakwater next week, unless the weather turns bad.  Also, we have the electrical engineer, Jose, with us today.  He and Dennis are repairing the big diesel generator.  We had the coil rewound, which required shipping the coil to the town of Spanish Lookout.  So they are working on that as I write this.
Jose and Dennis working on the big diesel generator.  Note the essential tools - the can of Liquid Wrench and the persuasive hammer.
This morning at dawn, a very gentle rain shower drifted in from the southeast.  The sun was low on the horizon (as it tends to be at dawn!), peeking through the falling rain over the sea.  To the west was a gorgeous double rainbow.  By the time I got my camera and went back up to the sunset balcony, the intensity of the rainbow had faded, but it was still a lovely sight.
Rainbow over the jungle.  The Maya Mountains are low in the distance.
A Great Egret flew over.
And thus started another day.

15 September, 2015

Morning After The Storm

We had such a storm night before last!   Howling wind, crashing waves, torrents of rain, booming thunder, strobes of lightning.  It seemed our little cabana was rocking-n-rolling all night long while we were trying to sleep. Click here to hear the music.

Loud noises that sounded suspiciously like furniture being dragged across the back veranda outside our bedroom windows really got our attention - we don't have furniture on the back veranda.  And the sound of the rain coming off the roof intensified. What the heck was going on?  All we could do was close the windows so the rain didn't blow in and try to get back to sleep.

After very fitful sleep, we were awakened by silence.  And deep red skies.  Here is what we saw:
The most magnificent dawn ever.  And a calm sea.  What a relief from the night's cacophony!
It was still too dark to see clearly, but there was on shape on the ground in front of the cabana.  As the sun rose, the daylight revealed a shade panel from the pergola on the back veranda on the sand in front of the cabana.  The wind had blown it up and over the roof to land, undamaged, on the sand below.
Shade panel from the pergola, covered with Coolaroo(TM) fabric, survived intact its airborne journey up and over the roof.  Another panel, also intact, was on the roof.  No rips or tears in the fabric - amazing.  All we had to do was shake the sand off and screw it back down on the pergola.  We used additional screws this time.
A total of 3.6 inches of rain fell during the storm, which is great.  So far the rainy season has not been rainy enough, especially for those of us who rely solely on rain for all of our water.  And also for the many farmers throughout Belize who are suffering through crop failure due to the unseasonably dry conditions; another effect of the El Nino.

The sea was calm and perfect for working on the breakwater.
The crew preparing to set more bags for the breakwater.  The far end of the breakwater is just below the surface of the water behind the boat.  I took the shot from the dock.
 They made great progress, getting 5 loads of bags set.
You can just make out the white bags of the breakwater just below the surface of the water on the far side of the boat extending all the way to the dock.
 A great day for this work.
One of five turtle gaps is visible here.
It was a lovely calm day and we made a lot of progress on Stage One of the breakwater.  The calm was short-lived, however - the wind picked up around 5:00pm and is still blowing hard as I write this 15 hours later.  The wind-fueled waves did bring in more sand to the area protected by the breakwater.  The section to the north where we haven't built the breakwater yet is not faring as well.  So we will push to get Stage One finished as quickly as possible.

11 September, 2015

Family Holiday at Point Reyes National Seashore in California

In early August I joined some of my family for a holiday at Point Reyes National Seashore.  We spent a whole week there and had a marvelous time.

The Cast of Characters:

  • Lizanne - my sister
  • Fred - Lizanne's husband
  • Becki - their daughter, my niece
  • Matthew - Becki's son.  I call him my nephew, but I think the actual relationship is second cousin.
  • Arnie - my brother
Dennis and my other sister and brother-in-law were not able to join us.  :-(  

Lizanne rented a house (using the VRBO website) at the edge of the small town of Point Reyes Station.  It was perfect.  It was the ranchhouse for a dairy farm until a short time ago.  When the family that owns it stopped farming at this location, they restored the pastures to wetland/estuary and began to rent the house out.  Funds from the house rental help support the continuing restoration of the wetlands, which is quite impressive.  
View of the old barn from the kitchen garden.  The wetlands and estuary are on the far side of the barn.
A view of the barn with the house to the left from a path in the wetlands.  Lots of late summer flowers were in bloom.
Colorful developing seedhead.
Honeybee on thistle.
Lots of honeybee activity.
Got pollen?
Teasel in bloom.
Wild blackberries were everywhere!  But they had a very bitter taste, even when they were fully ripe.
This morning glory and rose covered fence was alongside one of the houses in Point Reyes Station.  It is a picturesque town.
If you look closely, you can see that the eagle has caught a salmon.  Abalone shells decorate the gateposts.  We saw some large sculptures made from abalone shells.
Point Reyes National Seashore covers a large peninsula.  This is a view to the north from the southwest tip.
Black tailed deer family.
The orange growth is an alga, not a lichen, like I thought at first.
We hiked the Wittenburg Trail to the highest point on the peninsula.  The vegetation was beautiful and lush from the cool fogs that roll in almost every day,
Not sure what the flower is but it looks sort of like a gladiolus. Derek suggested that it might Crocosmia, and I believe he is right.  Thanks Derek!.
The orange color just glows.
Becki (green jacket), Arnie (dark blue), Lizanne (with orange pack), Fred at the front with Matthew as we hiked the Wittenburg Trail.  This was the easy part.
Lots of lichens and mosses on the trees.
A family of California quail was also hiking on the trail.
The light coming through the lichen- and moss-covered trees was fabulous.
From the near the top you could look out and see the bay in the cleft between the 2 forested hills. The ranchhouse where we stayed is on the far side of the bay, hidden by the hills to the right of the photo.
More gorgeous light through the lichens.
The survey marker at the peak.  Unfortunately, there was no view because the trees were so dense.  Still, it was a lovely place.
Matthew found some interesting creatures on the return trip.  Here he is with a centipede
I really couldn't get enough of the light!
A horse trough for the equestrians.  Well actually their horses.  ;-)
Matthew with a legless lizard.  He got lots of great photos.
The north end of the peninsula is home to tule elk.  
Looking out over the Pacific and the incoming fog.
Lizanne and Fred taking in the view.  
I called this the batman beetle.  Can you see why?
We had a fantastic time.  The house had a swimming pool that we all played in. Matthew and I made daily use of it and had a grand time playing catch.  One day we headed to Hog Island Oyster Company and bought 60 large oysters which Fred single handedly shucked.  He grilled most of them and then the next day Lizanne fried the remainder.  We also took full advantage of the Cowgirl Creamery located in Point Reyes Station to stock up on their award-winning cheeses.  It's a good thing we did all that hiking and swimming because we spent the rest of the time eating and drinking!  It was a great trip, the only way it would have been better would have been if Dennis and my other sister and brother-in-law could have joined us.

A beach update before I close:  the breakwater seems to be working well.  The crew have extended it almost to the south end of the beach.  Next we will take it farther to the north.  We are keeping the top of the breakwater right at the height of the water at low tide.  The highest high tide is only 18 inches higher than the lowest low tide, unless, as often happens, the wind is pushing the tide in higher.  The breakwater is covered at high tide and the waves can ride over it.  But the breakwater absorbs quite a bit of the energy of the waves so they don't pound the shore so hard.  Quite a bit of sand has built up in front of the cliff, creating a nice slope.  Things are looking up.