21 December, 2022


They may be subtle, but Belize has definite seasons.  I can track them by the way the shadows fall on west veranda.  This afternoon of the winter solstice is shady and very pleasant.  By the end of March, the afternoon shadows will shift south, bathing (baking?) the west veranda in direct sun.  The screening that we put up to add some shade is working out very very well for the little plant nursery.  

Seedlings and kitchen herbs.

Arugula, 20 feet from the kitchen sink.  It prefers the shadier side of its little bed.

Malabar spinach seedling (back row) and Cuban thyme.
I'm very thrilled with the provision tree seedlings.  I started them from seeds I collected a tree about a quarter mile up the beach from us.  The pods are giant fuzzy brown rugby ball sized things which crack open to reveal 50 or so large seeds.
Section of a provision tree seed pod with seeds.  The seeds are golf ball sized.
I plunked each of the 8 seeds I collected into its own small pot, just nestled into the soil on 16 July.  I watered and waited.  And watered and waited.  And watered and waited.  Finally, 2 October saw the first little sprout emerge ...
The first seed sprouted!
In the end all but one sprouted, but in the meantime I planted one that washed up on the beach and it sprouted, so I wound up with 8 little trees.
Ready to plant outside. on 20 December.
I planted 4 of them out on the grounds.  They are supposed to be able to tolerate wet, brakish soil, so I was able to put a couple of them in spots that get wet when Black Creek floods during the rainy season.
Thrive, my brave little tree!

I put this one in the middle of iguana town, with prime nest sites about 12 feet to the east and west.
Provision trees have the most gorgeous flowers.  The buds look like a yellow banana and they peel open to reveal a mimosa-like spray of bright pinky red anthers.  I know I have photos of them, but I can't find them right now.  In the meantime here is a link to one that was photographed in Belize.  I can hardly wait until these trees bloom.

I also set out the Malabar spinach and the purple passion fruit that I had been nurturing in the shade nursery.
Malabar spinach is a vine and a prolific grower.  A couple of years we were able to share huge bagsfull of spinach with families in the village.  I hope we will be doing that again soon.

The purple passion fruit seedling was given to me by a friend who knows how much I adore passion fruit juice.  The trellis is half of a double security door that we no longer used.  We have a sort of pergola thing happening above this bed that passion fruit vine will spread out over.
Dennis has also been busy with various seedlings.  He started kuri squash and got them set out in a raised bed a couple of weeks ago. They seem happy.
Kuri squash, getting ready to escape the raised bed and take over the world.
A few years ago, we set out some jacks of red bananas.  They are finally coming into their own and it looks like we will have plenty to share in a few weeks.  These are not the tiny red bananas exported to supermarkets in the US.  I don't think these are suitable for shipping.  They are quite large and chunky.  I look forward to trying them.  They have the most gorgeous flowers.
The red banana plants and the bananas themselves are very robust.

Amazing flowers.

Various wild creatures also enjoy the west veranda.  
Clove stood stock still, staring at the young basilisk lizard for about 5 minutes.  She really wanted to get at it and shake it to death.  Her prey instinct is very strong.
I don't know if it is the same individual, but I have seen praying mantises on the veranda a number of times and just a couple of days found one right next to an egg case.

I love their eyes.

Same one as above, but arms up and ready to fight now.

Could be the same one - who knows? This photo was taken 10 weeks after the 2 above.

Egg case.  I will keep watch to see if I can catch them hatching.  I don't know what the incubation period is, so I will have to be vigilant.  Lucky for me, the egg case is right next to the clothes line and I can see it from the bedroom window.
So, we have been busy and now I must post this right now and take the dogs for their last walk of the day before it starts to get dark on this winter solstice!  Enjoy this longest night.

10 December, 2022

Bright Star on a Cloudy Day

Still here, still busy.  Always time to wade through still shallow water.

13 November, 2022

Moon, Sun, Clouds, and Lunar Eclipse

We've been busy working on several projects.  Biggest one is repairs to our seawall and replenishing the sand on the beach after Hurricane Julia (no, not Lisa, Julia was the one before).   That will take a month or more of hard work by our crew to finish.  More fun is monitoring sea turtle nesting activity.   So far this year there have been 18 crawls, the most we have ever seen.  Of course that doesn't mean there are 18 actual nests; some crawls seem to be primarily exploratory.  I'll do a separate post on turtles once the season is over.  Another ongoing project is documenting birds and I am having great fun with the Merlin App using Sound ID.  They have recently added more Belize birds to the Sound ID feature.  

Did you know there was a lunar eclipse November 8?  The best viewing time for us was between 3:00 and 5:00am.  The sky was crystal clear at 2:00 and I got my first photo at 3:00 with just a tiny edge of darkness showing up.

This is with my phone.  Mitchell should have been here - his moon photos are superb!
Clouds were just beginning to show up and within 15 minutes, the view of the moon was blocked.  So that was it for me.  I went back to bed and didn't get up again to see if the clouds had blown over.  

Two days later, the moon was in her glory rising over Great Monkey Cay.

The moon is looking right at me!

Reflection on a calm sea.
Followed by the every day miracle of sunrise.
Also reflections on a calm sea.
When a light breeze comes from the west, the trees block the wind from the disturbing the surface of the water closest to shore - it can be almost mirror smooth at times.  A little farther out, and you can tell the sea is slightly ruffled.

This morning's sky view was of these super cool clouds.

Like UFOs.

Then all hell broke loose, so Clove and I made a mad dash for home.  No aliens, just 1/3rd an inch of rain in 15 minutes.  Always something exciting going on.

07 November, 2022

We Are All Good

As they say - we dodged a bullet this time.  What a relief for us - Hurricane Lisa shifted north prior to making landfall in Belize.  Our relief was at the expense of Belize City - which experienced a sudden but impressive storm surge followed by extensive post-hurricane flooding.  The brunt of the damage was to the poorest communities with sub-standard (even for Belize) housing.  Although there was property damage, I have not heard of any lives lost.  The only real impact Lisa had on me and Dennis was the nationwide outage of telecommunications.  We had some limited phone service restored on Friday (Lisa made landfall on Wednesday) and then on Sunday had full phone service and internet again.  Power was out over most of Belize for about a day, with it mostly restored by Sunday.  That didn't affect us since we have our own solar power system.  

Looking to the southeast this afternoon - clear, calm sea.

Barnie enjoying a little sit-down after her walk.

Just look at her gorgeous Little Richard eyes!

Happy Clove.

Happier Clove.
Clove thinks that everyone would benefit from a good roll in the sun-warmed sand.  I think she's on to something.

01 November, 2022

Hatches Battened

Tropical Storm Lisa will make herself felt in Belize starting tomorrow afternoon.  Will she be a hurricane then?   Almost certainly.  Landfall is estimated to be to our north, so it is unlikely that we will experience hurricane force winds, but we are expecting winds as strong as 50mph and a possible storm surge.  We plan to stay put unless the forecast changes dramatically for the worse.  

These shutters serve as shade awnings under normal conditions.

Inside one of the screened -in verandas with the sheet metal hurricane shutters in place.

The other sea-facing screened in veranda.  It's like being inside a container unit!  The sheet metal panels are numbered because they are custom-fitted.

If you look closely, you can see the hurricane shutters inside the screen.

Our workers got up all of the hurricane shutters, so our hatches are battened except for the few that Dennis and I will put up tomorrow morning.  Everything that could blow away has been moved into sheltered space - kayaks, wheelbarrows, plant stands, etc.  Battery-powered tools are fully charged as are flashlights, power packs for computers and other electronic.  With any luck,  the wild weather will pass overnight Wednesday while we and the dogs are snug inside.

Right now the weather is beautiful.  Hard to imagine that Lisa is just over the horizon.  Our hatches are battened and we are as ready as we can be.  See you in a few days or perhaps longer if the internet goes down.

13 October, 2022

Getting to Chan Chich Lodge - or - Driving 140 miles in 5.5 hours

The drive to Chan Chich went quite well, but was very long.  The last 35 miles on dirt roads of varying quality took nearly 3 hours.  Here's the route from Google maps. 

Looks easy and fast.  Google Maps says less than 4 hours start to finish!

And here is what the last part actually looks like according to Google Earth.

We left the paved roads when we turned north near the Crique Blanco Zibal.  Did I mention no phone service after the first 5 or 10 miles on the dirt track?
I left home at 7AM.  Dawn on the beach was promising.   
Nice calm sea made for a fast and easy boat trip to Placencia to meet up with Melanie.
We left Placencia at 9AM with me driving Melanie's Kia.  We planned to reach Chan Chich before 2PM, just before the restaurant stopped serving lunch.  We made our first stop near Dangriga at a service station that has clean bathrooms.  I took this photo of the sign on inside of the bathroom stall.
In Belize, and many developing countries, you do not flush any thing down toilet except poop and pee, not even toilet paper.  There is always a conveniently placed trash can beside each toilet. Hang on to your dreams.
I didn't take any photos along the newly engineered and resurfaced Hummingbird Highway.  It goes through the stunning Maya Mountains and is now a joy to travel on.  We missed the turn onto the dirt track and stopped for directions at a hardware store not too far from the Mennonite village of Spanish Lookout.  These Mennonites have embraced many aspects of machines and technology and have massive modern farms that supply Belize with all manner of vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy products.  The clerk I asked for directions to get to Yalbac Road was not able to help me, but he did suggest asking another customer in the store because "he should know".  So I did.  Mr. John Roberson, as it turns out, knew exactly how to get to Yalbac Road because he built most of the roads in the area!  He drew a map, gave me his phone number, and said to turn around, take the first major right on Farmers Express Road and then take the next left onto Roberson Road - his road.  Did we find the right person or what?!  Coincidentally, he and his wife were taking their visitors down to Monkey River Village the next day.  Belize is such a village, you will discover some link with anyone you speak to for more than 5 minutes.

Corner of Farmers Express and Roberson Road.
Finally Yalbac Road, which went on forever!  We did not see another vehicle until we reached Chan Chich.
Still surrounded by farm fields, jungle is up ahead.  No phone service from here on.  No electricity and only a couple of homesteads.
At some point we entered a reserve that is used by US and British military for jungle training.  We had to go through checkpoints and show that we had reservations for Chan Chich.
First checkpoint.
The road become much hillier and a bit rougher, probably due to army vehicles.  We passed through Busby Camp, which is where the military folks stay while on training missions.
Just a few old-fashioned barracks type buildings were up ahead.

Looking back south toward fields.
There were 3 or 4 very tricky spots of mud with steep ditches on either side.  I actually had to get out of the car to scope out the best way to get through without getting stuck or bottoming out the Kia., which fortunately is fairly high.
Second checkpoint
Not too far now . . . 
Chan Chich Road - only 7 miles to go!
And finally we're here.  Too late for lunch, but we were greeted with deliciously cold allspice tea and promises for an early dinner.
Melanie in front of our accommodation.

We averaged 25 miles an hour overall, much slower through the jungle.  Good thing I like to drive.  Silly us to trust Google Maps to account for dirt roads when calculating driving times!  In the end, it was worth it.

05 October, 2022

A few more photos

 The wifi is making me crazy,   just something quick for now. First is a heliconia flower.  Next is an ocelated turkey.  And finally an overgrown, unexcavated part of a Mayan ruin.  Except blogger on my phone put the ruin first and I can't change it.  Oh well.