23 April, 2024

Passiflora Promise

The Passiflora vine is covered with its fantastical flowers.  The vine has grown heavily over the arbor we made for it and has spread to cover the next one over!  It is engulfing the chaya plants, but I can cut the chaya back and they will be happy for the shade provided by the vine overhead.  Hoping we don't have an incipient kudzu-type take over on our hands!

Flower-spangled passion fruit vine as seen from the veranda above.

Chaya plant peaking out on the right from behind the cascading passion fruit vine.  "Help me!"

Blossoms nestled in the chaya leaves seen to the right.  I harvest the young chaya leaves to cook like spinach, so I want to keep it alive and happy.
The flowers of this particular passion fruit vine are basically white and purple with green sex organs.  Some varieties are much more colorful than these.  This plant is supposed to bear purple-skinned fruit; hope we find out this year.  

Below are some images of the alien beauty of the flowers.

Fringed like a 1920's flapper!

ET taking flight.

Complex radial symmetry.  I count 10 petals, 5 anthers, and 3 stigmas.  Not to mention the hundreds of filaments.

Yellow pollen knocked loose onto the purple bases of the filaments.  
If some of the pollen finds its way to the stigmas and if some rain falls (it's so dry right now!), this passion will bear fruit as all good passion does.

21 April, 2024

Up to The Nest

Since buying the property at Sleeping Giant with the plan to build a house and move there, I spent some more time there to view the property during various times of the day and year.  I want to make sure I have a good feel for the space while planning the orientation of the house, windows, approach, etc with regard to sun, wind flow, rain runoff, potential flooding etc.  Great excuse to go spend a night now and then at this  lovely place.  Each time I go I expect for the other shoe to drop and to find something that is "off" or perhaps "awful", but instead each time I fall in love with it a little more.  As much as I love our current seaside living, I think I will find my place of serenity nestled against the mountains.

The lot is situated at the end of a cul de sac and will have only 2 visible neighbors since the land behind the lot is part of the protected National Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.  The reserve covers more than 1000 squares miles.

The house will built just on the other side of the white concrete pillar at the end of the cul de sac.
The lot is sloped downward toward the mountain, so the plans call for the house to be cantilevered above the slope.  The living level will be about 2 feet above street level and hardscaped to eliminate the need for steps or stairs to enter the one-level house.
Vista from what will be the approximate main level of the house.
A stay at Sleeping Giant back in October found me on a pre-dawn walk, listening to birdsong and watching the mist rise up along the Sibun River Valley - pure magic. Right along the river bank is an amazing treehouse called "The Nest" that leans out over the river.  Let's climb it!  

A spiral staircase wraps around the tree trunk for a couple turns and ends on a viewing platform.  From the viewing platform, a dizzying ladder ascends the tree trunk with another tiny platform at the top of the ladder.  And then!  Then there is a taut net platform that hangs out over the river.  Breathtaking.  Scary!
What a whimsical structure!  But extremely well-engineered. 
Up we go . . . .

Beautiful river valley at dawn.
Safety cage around the steep ladder.  Very comforting.

Scary net platform.  I couldn't do it.  But look at that view!
I couldn't make my foot step out onto the net.  In defense of my scaredy-cat-ness, let me just say I was clutching my phone in one hand and binoculars in the other.  I think I did well to get this far!  But next time, folks, next time I will venture out onto the net and get some panoramic shots to prove it!

18 April, 2024

Change Can Be Good

Back in March when I started writing this blog again, I wrote about the yoga retreat that my niece Becki, my friend Melanie, and I went to at Sleeping Giant Rain Forest Resort (read it here).  The retreat and the company were a balm to my soul.  Before going, I was perusing the website for the resort and noticed that they were expanding their development and when Becki and I hiked to the lookout we could see new roads along the older orange groves.  The resort was first developed adjacent to the massive orange farm (they call them farms in Belize rather than orchards) also owned by the lovely couple who own the resort.  They developed the orange farm out of jungle in the Sibun River Valley starting in the 1980s as part of a national plan sponsored by the Government of Belize to expand the economy to exportable products.  The whole Government plan was a big success for Belize.  But things change, as they do, and the owners began to diversify into tourism alongside agriculture.  They had fallen in love with the jungles of Belize and thought it would be feasible and profitable to start an ecologically sound jungle resort.  Thus Sleeping Giant Rainforest Resort was born.  And changes continued, not always good changes, the orange blight being one of the "not good" changes.  Rather than replant their thousands of acres with blight-resistant orange stock, the owners (I think during the slowdown of tourism and work in general during Covid) brainstormed a new plan for development of estates on portions of the property.  
New paved roads on the right into the old orange fields.  The green area on the right has had the diseased trees removed.  Healthier trees remain in the center.
Most of the orange trees are gone from this area.  The National Pine Ridge Forest Reserve serves as the backdrop in this view.
One section of vacation housing along the river banks and other sections more appropriate for full-time living were proposed and approved by the Belize planning commission.

Perhaps you see where this going.  After I saw this with my own eyes, I decided to talk with the owners about their plans and get some details.  Which I proceeded to do before the yoga retreat was over.

Fast forward 2 weeks and Dennis has come to see what has caught my interest.
Dennis taking a look at where some of our yoga practices had been.
Surveying the lots I had my eye on.
The lots were being offered for an excellent price, so folks, without much faffing about I made a counter offer which was accepted.  By the end of April, I was the happy owner of an acre of land bounded on the backside by the hills of the Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.  Big changes ahead - let the fun begin!

16 April, 2024

Snake Hips and Future Beauties

 As I mentioned in a comment on Mitchell's blog, I, too, have been having leg - hip in my case - issues.  Yesterday was my trip for medical care and my experience reinforced my decision to live in Belize.  My friend Melanie drove me to Belize City, a 2 hr 45 min easy drive to see my orthopedist at Belize Healthcare Partners.  I almost didn't recognize the place due to the ongoing construction of new facilites.  I was about 15 min early for my appt, but they took me right away to get my vitals after I checked in.  I had a bit of wait (35 min past the appt time) to see the orthopedic surgeon.  Super nice guy.  He tentatively agreed with my thought that I was experiencing pretty extreme trochanteric bursitis that had also affected other connective tissues in my left leg causing swelling and pain all the way down to my ankle.  He sent me off for x-rays just down the hall.  Four x-rays later, I waited again for the films and for Dr. Sosa to return from his lunch.  He reviewed the x-rays with me and noted that the femur was perfect, a little arthritis in both hips, and little loss of bone density in the hips that didn't warrant any urgent attention. (But I will take it up with my primary care physician at next visit in June.  Probably need a dexascan to make any decisions regarding treatment.)  Then the physical poking and prodding of the affected area commenced.  Treatment was discussed and agreed upon - 1 injection of a systemic (not physically targetted into the bursa) corticosteroid that would help with whole leg swelling very quickly, 12 days of a quite strong NSAID ( I tolerate NSAIDs very well as long as I take them with food), rest and ice for 2 weeks.  I don't tolerate rest at all!  I did talk him into letting me use my indoor rower very gently to try not to lose muscle mass.   The injection left me sleepless, but so worth it to get up with a major decrease in pain this morning.  As the day has worn on the pain has actually eased even more.  To the point that I am going to have to be very stern with myself to take it easy!  Icing it right now after having been on my feet to walk the dogs and to do some things that must be done.  Fitbit says 3 miles so far.  I often do 8 miles a day, so I think I am at my limit now.  And the dogs still need their last walk of the day in 5 hours.  So - the burning question - what was the cost for the exam, the x-rays, the NSAID, and the injection?  My friends, it was less than $300BZ, which is $150US!  Can you believe it?  And I was out of there in less than 3 hours!  And everyone was so pleasant and professional!  And I made the appt only 4 days ahead of time!  Hard to take issue with any of that.

If you have ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) scroll by the next photo and maybe even this paragraph as quickly as you can!  One of the things I used some my steps on today was a short walk to see this massive Central American Boa lounging in the sun.  It must be 12 feet long and is as big around as my thigh right up at my hip (have to make the title of this post work).  Its head is nestled in the brush pile, but 90% of the full length is visible.  Such a gorgeous specimen!

Look at how glossy and iridescent its skin is!  It must have recently molted.  I bet it is sleeping off its first post-molt meal.  The tip of its tail is right at the bottom edge of the photo just to left of center.  Its head is under the dead brush at center near the top edge of the photo.  At least 20 inches in diameter at its largest.
And now to end with something completely different.
Passion fruit flower buds.  The vine is covered with buds which will open over the next few weeks.  Hoping for a better fruit-set this year.  No fruit at all last year.  So that's a low bar to leap over! 
You will be seeing more photos of the passion fruit flowers - and hopefully actual passion fruits - in posts to come.  Gorgeous flowers.

06 April, 2024


Way back in 2015, I germinated an avocado pit from an especially tasty avocado we had purchased at the market.  I do that periodically with the tasty ones.  The plant from this particular pit really thrived as I moved it into pots of ever-increasing capacity.  Finally in 2016 we made a slightly raised bed for it using palmetto "sticks" to corral actual soil (not sand) into a mound and planted the avocado outside in its forever home.  

Fast forward 8 years and the avocado tree is about 18 feet tall.
Palmetto stick palisade to hold in the mound of soil.

Last year it bloomed for the first time and set 4 fruit!

Not quite ready to harvest.
By harvest time only two of the four remained.  I think parrots may have beat us to the other two.  They were about softball size. The flesh was very creamy, nutty-tasting.  Quite delicious, but I may be biased in claiming it is the best ever.

I have been watching closely for more blossoms this year and today is the day!  They are not flashy, colorful, or big, but are beautiful in their potential.

The unimpressive flowers are hard to spot.  Three clusters of yellowish flower buds at center and more to the left and right.
I am hopeful the crop the year will be a little bigger than last year's.  It is very dry and we need a good rain to keep us all going until the real rainy comes in late June.

03 April, 2024

The View From The Balcony

Our house is basically a single level of living space raised up on 10 foot stilts as a precaution against storm surges (not needed so far!).  We have what we call a loft above the newer part of the house on the right of the photo below under the gable end roof.

The loft is under that gable roof just inside the little Juliette-style balcony.  The main living floor is fairly obscured by the trees.  The ground level is storage and workshop space between the stilts. 
There is a beautiful view of the sea from the little balcony.
There's our dock in the center of the photo leading to that incredible turquoise sea.
Inside, the loft is a large room that I use a yoga studio and gym.
Antique Nordic track on the left - I bought it used in 1994!  Yoga space in the center and Concept 2 indoor rower on the right.

Stairs down to the main living space are to left of white balisters.  Lots of storage space in the loft plus an office space that is not pictured.

The view from main level is also pretty awesome!
The front veranda connects the new and the original cabanas.  Seating and lounging on one end and dining and an outdoor cooking area on the other end.
Morning coffee in the hammock on the front veranda.
I use the oudoor cooking area for the air fryer and slow cooker so the kitchen doesn't collect the heat.  And also just extra counter space for processing mango, etc.

Mango puree! 

There is more square footage of outdoor space than indoor space, which makes perfect sense because unless it is super hot, you will find me outside.

A celestial image to close this post.
 Venus and Jupiter with the crescent moon.  February 22, 2023.

30 March, 2024

One for the Road

More catch up today with the last of Becki's visit.  We went out into Black Creek in the kayaks one morning.  It was a lovely day with beautiful sunshine, but not too hot.  Black Creek is really a tidal lagoon fed by a couple of small fresh water streams.  Black Creek lagoon is behind our property and we have a little landing there for boat access; sort of a back entrance to our property.  The lagoon is usually very calm and flat - perfect for Becki's first time in a kayak.
Perfect morning on Black Creek lagoon.
She's a natural!  We explored the entire lagoon, spotting moon jelly fish gently pulsating through the tea-colored water, white ibises feeding back in the mangroves, bare-throated tiger herons pretending not to be there, chattering kingfishers annoyed by our presence, shadowy tarpons zooming up out of the deep spots.  It is a magical place.
Venturing up a small feeder creek.
Back on dry land, we did some container gardening on the back veranda under the protection of the shade cloth.
Lettuce in the foreground, Becki is planting the shishito peppers.
This little pepper plant and its mate are still growing strong 13 months later.  More peppers than I can count.
Much too soon, it was time for Becki to leave us.  But first a beer flight of local brews before her flight home.
At Di Bruwry on Airport Road.  Home of Belikin beer and more!
I'll close this post out with the ever popular sunrises and rainbows - no words necessary.

23 March, 2024

More than a year ago

Steve (of Shadows and Light fame) has motivated me to get off the "inactive blog" list and start writing posts again, so you can blame him!  But all the blame is with me for not having posted anything in well over a year!  How did that happen?  Well, it started like this . . .

In February of 2023, my lovely niece Becki came to visit us.  This was her second trip to Belize and, I am hopeful, the second in a long string of trips in the future.  This time, like the first time, she came to join me at a yoga retreat.  The first retreat, which was fabulous, was at Ray Caye and you can read about it here and here and here. In 2023, the retreat was at Sleeping Giant Rainforest Resort in Maya Mountains of Belize, also fabulous. 

But first!  Big change - cut off my long hair which had grown so much during covid! 

16 inches of braided, grey hair sent off to Locks of Love.

I was so relieved to have short hair again!  I felt pounds lighter.

My friend Melanie, who joined us on the yoga retreat, and I drove up to the Philip Goldston International Airport in Ladyville, Belize to pick up Becki.  Good tidings were foretold by the rainbow over the airport while we waited for Becki to clear customs and immigration.
Double rainbow for double goodness.

Rainbow in rearview, the three of drove to the stunning Sleeping Giant Rainforest Resort for the yoga retreat.  The grounds were so lush.
Resort grounds with path to the swimming pool.

The pool.
We were in a creekside suite which looked out across the Sibun River Valley.  In front of our suite was a koi pond fed by gurgling creek.  We were surrounded by beauty you could see, smell, and hear.
View from the private veranda of our room.

Koi pond in the rain
Also beauty you could taste - the food was as lovely as my companions!
Becki and Melanie at dinner.

Our yoga sessions were at various locations in the expansive resort.
Sunrise yoga at the riverside pavilion.

We also had sessions adjacent to a creek way back in the jungle and another on a deck overlooking the valley.  Everywhere the walking paths were lined with amazing plants that hosted multitudes of birds and other wildlife.  The paved paths between the resort buildings wound through beautifully tended, yet natural looking, gardens.
Ginger flowers.


The reddest hibiscus I have ever seen!

Rougher trails criss-crossed creeks over hammock bridges and climbed up mountains, sometimes with steps and other times with only rope handholds with which to pull yourself up the cliff sides.

Limestone cliff behind those trees.

Catching my breath as I look down the steps I just climbed.

Flowers and ferns on the cliff face.

Becki, puling herself up the mountainside.

And contemplating how much further there is to go . . . .

View of the Sibun River Valley from the mountaintop gazebo.

Panoramic View.  All of the forested area is part of a national forest reserve.

After the hike

That was 13 months ago and so much has happened since then.  More to come.