Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After Christmas

We had an extremely quiet Christmas, but managed just fine. Nice to have friends to visit. Didn't hear much from our family, but know that everyone is very busy. We're still in the midst of a cold spell that has been going on for over a month. As I've said before, it sounds wimpy to complain when the temp gets down to 40 here, but that's really cold in the tropics. Last night we had two extra blankets on the bed and closed the shutters. We layer. Two sweatshirts in the morning and then shed them down to a t-shirt in the afternoon. It hasn't rained during this same period, which is a little bit of a concern. This is usually a really rainy time. Hope it rains soon to fill the rotoplas' that I use for laundry. The big cistern is still nearly full, so no real worries. We're extremely conservative in our water and electricity use. Since we had never lived off grid before, we weren't sure how to judge our usage. At this rate we could have put in a regular toilet instead of the composting one. Would have been cheaper and more comfortable. It's all a learning experience.

We are struggling to keep machinery working. One of the good things about the cold, dry spell is that things aren't growing very fast. We have a big weedeater in for repair (has been there for 5 months) and our regular one bit the dust today. It started life as a Truper (made in Mexico) and later the engine was replace with a Homelite. I guess you can only squeeze so much life out of them when they just give up. Bearings jammed and it welded itself into a non-usable lump. With tears and a nearly empty bank account, we had to buy a new one. Found a "deal" on a mid priced one, bro't it home and the darned thing won't start. Art went back to the store and THEY WERE CLOSED! THEY CLOSE ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. It's all right. This is Belize. Get a grip, Gale. Tomorrow is another day.

I did paint a couple of watercolors the last couple of weeks. Nothing great, but nice to get back into something creative besides weeds. I keep thinking I'll break loose and create something bright and splashy, but always end up with realistic something.

I've been hesitant to say that I planted another garden. Moved it down the hill where the marl isn't so close to the surface. Most things are doing ok, but the cold is taking a toll. I'm dragging hoses down there and watering from the gray water tank. That's our shower and dishwater water. Like I said, we're very conservative. I don't sprinkle, but put water only on the ground, not on the plants themselves. I planted carrots and yellow onions and nothing came up. Two weeks ago I planted more of the same seed and they're doing great. This time during the full moon. If I actually get something from this garden I'll post photos and, of course, will have to brag. Isn't it weird to plant a garden in December. My Oregon brain has a little trouble with some of this. Of course, where were lived in the mountains, we couldn't have a garden at all, so this is really a treat.

Ok, I've babbled enough for now. I'm going to dig out some photos I took of interesting fungus that were out before this cold spell hit. More soon. Gale

Saturday, December 18, 2010


It doesn't seem like Christmas this year. Last Christmas Art was Santa for about 650 children in a sweet little restaurant called "Mom's". Sadly Bill closed it down a few months ago. It will just be us this year. Just had a call from a dear friend and we'll have a get-together with several friends this Wednesday. We're so pleased.

I really miss Christmas in Bend and the States. What a storybook place with snow and living Christmas trees all around. Every Christmas, in our house in Oregon, I loved putting lights on the outside of our lovely log home and decorating the inside with a tree, garlands on the stairs and the decorations we've acquired in 50 years of marriage. It was always lonely in a way, as Art was a professional Santa, so was gone from Thanksgiving until just after Christmas. I loved being close to our daughter and two of our grandson's and sometimes spending it with our son and his three children and my brother & sister-in-law. I sure miss all of them.

Christmas is so different here in Belize. It's almost a non-event. Few decorations, people in shorts and flip-flops and almost no mention of Christmas. You can say what you want about commercialism in the States, but what a wonderful time of year. Decorations, music and folks dashing around, trying to find the perfect gift for loved ones. Sharing gifts, food and love can't be all that bad. We're also reminded so often that it's really a celebration of the birth of Christ. I guess here it's more of a private acknowledgement. We try to give our neighbors children a little treat, but don't even hear a "Merry Christmas" from anyone. You don't appreciate the generous hearts of Americans until you're away from it and you realize that the whole world doesn't feel the same way. How sad and how proud I am to be an American, even tho' we live in Belize.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday and are able to share it with loved ones. I know our weather here is lovely, but there's something incredible about snow and lights and generous spirits at Christmas.

Blessings and Merry Christmas.
Gale & Art

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shopping in Belize

This can be EXTREMELY frustrating. I dream of strolling thru Home Depot and Costco with their neat shelves stacked with goods and materials made for the U.S., with instructions in English. Here, it is only a dream. The reality can drive you slightly nuts. We're in the process of plumbing our guest bathroom and planned to install an on-demand, gas hot water heater. We have one in our house and, at the time, we had no trouble finding one. This time, it was like a conspiracy. We traveled to Spanish Lookout first, as the bastion of all things in the hardware line. (Isn't that a hoot that the Mennonites market the best machinery?) Well, this time, the only heaters to be found were huge, ranging from $1,000 on up. Wow, this is for a room that is rarely used and then only for a sink and shower. Come on guys! We used to hear this when we lived in a little coastal town in Oregon - "We just sold the last one and we're not sure when we'll get more." SCREAM! Yesterday I went to every shop & store in San Ignacio and Santa Elena and no one sells ANY hot water heaters. OK, the trips weren't a total loss as I/we had to go anyway to buy more fittings that we didn't get previously. All this is frustrating tho', because I burned $20 worth of gas in two trips to town. Please, don't tell me have to go to Belize City to get one. I really hate that trip and that town. Another problem is that, we have yet to see a phone book anywhere, so we have to gather phone numbers as we visit places. I found the number for Builder's Hardware in Belmopan and gave them a call. It's about 40 miles there and I'm tired of burning gas for a wasted trip. Hallelujah, they had only one, a 6 liter heater for $380. I practically scream at the fellow on the phone, hold it for me. Today, we traveled to Belmopan, and returned with our prize.

We're having Carlos, Rene's youngest son do the plumbing. He usually works in Placencia, but there isn't work for them right now. It's so nice to not be climbing on the ladder and trying to figure out what goes where. This time I'm just the gofer. Within an hour of returning with our purchase, Carlos had it installed and water running. Oops, we forgot the gas line and regulator for the butane. Oh well, another trip to town, but we're almost done. Whew!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just wandering around the place

It's still hard to wander around our little Dreamer Farm when the temp is in the 70's and realize that it's so cold up north. I love the blue vine that winds itself around our veranda, with the double hibiscus at the bottom. We've cut the brush in about an acre below the houses and are creating paths and planting for our "park". Right now it's not that impressive, but it is a quiet refuge where you can look up at the trees and watch the birds. We've planted some dwarf palms near a winding path that I created. I'll add more plants and flowers as we get them. I was going to have Art bring back some impatience seeds as they love the shade, but then I realized that it's December in Oregon and they're selling snow shovels and mittens rather than seeds. I'd love to hit the local nurseries, but the budget is a little tight, so will see what I can snip and start from scratch.

As Rene chopped and cleared, he'd find medicinal plants and I asked him to save them. He tells me how each can be used, but I'm a very poor student. He laughs when I tell him that his wonderful stories tend to go in one of my ears and falls out the other. I feel like the little boy who said "teacher, I need to go home because my brain is full." I'm trying to write some of it down. He knows so much of the Mayan methods. I'm trying to come up with a way of labeling these plants so that we don't accidentally cut them down. I'd like to get a printer and put together a book of photos and a map of where things are.

These are just random photos. The darker single hibiscus is near our guest house. The photos doesn't show the deep red center very clearly. The light purple bougainvillea is a dwarf plant and now full size.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Art's home

Art made is safely back on Friday. What a shift in gears he had to make. From nearly 4' of snow in our back yard in Oregon to 70 degree weather here. He had a safe, but long trip back with 18 hours of travel time due to long layovers in San Francisco and Houston. I had to have William of Belize Shuttle pick him up at the airport as I'm, once again, struggling with a broken tooth. I had a temporary in place, but it fell out Thursday evening. Luckily she could get me in Friday morning for a replacement. Get a permanent filling on Tuesday and then a crown. Luckily, it's not hurting me as it seems to have missed the nerve. Bailey is sure glad to see Art. He was wonderful company when Art was gone, but I could tell that he was confused that his special person was missing. He now seems content that his family is back in place again.

I'm excited to hear that my brother, sister-in-law and two of my cousins will visit us in Feb. In over a year, this will be our first visit from family. We'll be busy sprucing up the place.

Right now, I wish we had visitors to share the wonderful smell outside. There's a tree that has tiny blooms on it that smells wonderful. It's such a tall tree that we can't really see the blooms, but they fall to the ground and create a beautiful carpet. We're also starting to see some of the migrating birds from the north. Caught a glimpse of a toucan today, heading for a trumpet tree, but they're too fast to photograph. Rene stopped by with the Trooper today and brought a bunch of plants to add to our "park". He's so proud of it and wants to help make it pretty. As soon as I can get some decent photos, I'll share with this blog. He told me that when he worked on Friday, he saw 4 Great Curassaw birds cross our yard. They're seldom found here, but he thinks that Hurricane Richard pushed them here from the Tikal area. He's heard that the Ocellated Turkey has also been seen in the area. Talk about a funny looking bird. It has a bright blue neck and then bright orange bumps on it that look like pieces of plastic. Don't you just love the bright colors of the jungle birds?

I know reading my ramblings would be more interesting with photos, but right now I've not had much luck. Will try to be more obliging soon.

Hugs from the jungle, Gale

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Art in Oregon

Poor Art, I talked to him last evening and the snow is still falling. Over 2' and more coming down. He spends most of his spare time with the snow blower. Our house is about 25 miles south of Bend, Oregon, across Lave Butte, adjacent to Sunriver. (Not in the resort as their rules and costs would drive us crazy). We're at an elevation of 4200'. Bend is closer to 3200'. Anyway, Art went to Bend yesterday and there wasn't any snow there. Our place is the perfect location for skiers as Mt. Bachelor ski area is less that 1/2 hours away, but can be tough on us. It is extremely beautiful there tho' and our handbuilt log house is like a lovely small ski lodge. Oh well! Art will be glad to get back here to our 60 to 80 degree days. (I know there's a degree symbol somewhere under one of these keys, but I don't know where). Bailey and I will sure be glad to have him back here, safe and sound.

I'll post more about Belize, but right now it's just maintenance and putting one foot in front of the other. We sure can't complain about our weather here tho'.

Blessings, Gale

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Art's trip to Oregon

Why does fate always do things like this. Poor Art, didn't want to make this trip, but he needed to visit the VA. We're trying to keep one foot in the US for now. We've had quite a bit of rain here in Belize, but it's warmed up, so not uncomfortable. Right now it's cloudy,but 70 out. Well, I just talked to our daughter in Oregon and overnight they had 1 1/2 ft of snow and it's supposed to get down to -7 Fahrenheit. Art should be landing at the Bend/Redmond airport in just a few minutes. He didn't even have a coat to take up there with him. This is one time we're glad we have the house and lots of stuff there. All of our winter clothes are packed away in the house. Also, when I left in April I left the snow tires on the car. At least something should be ok. Hopefully, the fact that it's very dry there will make dealing with the cold a little easier.

Bailey & I will miss Art like crazy, but I have lots of chores and projects, so will keep busy.

Happy Thanksgiving, Gale

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aracari carving

It appears that we're going to have rain, rain and more rain for the next week or so, so looks as tho' I'll not have an excuse for ignoring my little projects. A friend of ours has a wood shop where they create exquisite furniture. I snagged this piece of mahogany from them and carved this piece. This fellow spent some time in a tree in our backyard. Most of the time they just fly by, but luckily I caught him/her to get a couple of photos. We don't have mature fruit trees, since we've been hacking our place out of the bush, so most of these guys just pass us by. Hope to catch more than a passing glimpse of the big toucans too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Lots of holidays here that we don't have a clue about. Tomorrow is Garifuna day, which is a national holiday. The Garifuna's are a group of people who mostly live at the coast and south, who are descendants of slaves. I've been told that this is the most colorful holiday in the country. That's great, but we also miss our traditions, like Thanksgiving. We were thrilled that a lovely friend has a tiny restaurant and she decided to have an early Thanksgiving dinner. We just returned from stuffing ourselves on her wonderful fare. Everything was perfect, except that we won't be able to nosh on the leftovers. Oh well! Turkey and all the trimmings and pie. We were in heaven.

I should preface this with the fact that we've had the most incredible weather for a couple of weeks. Cool at night and in the 70's & 80's during the day. Can't imagine any better. I had to water my new little garden every day tho' and was getting worried that the tank I use was getting low. Well, not to worry. Tonight it was filled several times over. About 2pm it started to rain and then it changed to POURING. We slogged our way down the hill early to dinner as we were afraid we wouldn't be able to get back up. Someone said that it rained 2" in an hour. I think it was probably even more than that. It's now about 6:30 and it's still raining. A big share of Paslow Falls Rd was under water, but we managed just fine. At least the river has been down, so there's somewhere for all this water to go. The trip up the hill was a hoot. All I could do was put our sweet Toyota pickup in 4 wheel drive and let her pick the route. It wasn't easy as the whole muddy thing was a river itself. Lots of huge bumps and trenches that previous rains have dug. The top half where we had so much work done is a blessing. We always breath a huge sigh of relief when we hit that part.

Anyway, Art& I enjoyed having our Thanksgiving together as he leaves for Oregon for 10 days on Monday. He'll have the real Thanksgiving up there with family. Bailey & I will be toughing it out together here. Actually, we'll be great. I have lots of tasks to do and Bailey & I have great (if one sided) chats. Also, lots of friends and neighbors to keep tabs on me. We've agreed that Art needs to go to the VA once a year for checkups. Some healthcare here is ok, but we feel better with the quality care he gets at the Bend Clinic. He'll also be able to totally shut our lovely log house up for the winter. It's cold up there right now. We had left everything functional for occasional renters, but decided that's foolish. He'll be a busy little beaver.

I'll close for now. The hum of the generator is putting me to sleep. We didn't take in many solar rays today, so are glad for the generator. Don't have to use it very often, but a blessing at times.

Happy Thanksgiving (& Garifuna Day) to you all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Dear Friends,
I enjoy sharing our adventure with anyone who's interested, via this blog. It's always rewarding to get your comments. They let me know I'm passing on info that is of interest. If you want to email me directly, I'm happy to hear from you. Also, it would be helpful if you want to hear from me I need your email address.

Belize is an interesting, frustrating, beautiful and sad country, just like any other. Legally we're outsiders, so have no say in anything. That can make it both good and bad. By accepting it for what it is and realizing that there are wonderful people here who are just trying to live their lives too, helps us to sit back and relish the wonders of it all. A couple of things that made Belize appealing to us is that the roots of the law are British, English is the basic language of the country, altho' the majority of the local people speak Spanish) and we've found quite a few expats to maintain our comfort zone. We did a little traveling on our first visits to Belize, but always rushed back to Cayo as we realized right away that it's home for us.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful. If you have specific questions that we might be able to answer, please drop me a note.

It's warming up a bit and today is overcast. Had a dumping rain yesterday which really helped as the ground was very dry. It's actually been a wonderful year here in the "Little Jewel."

Blessings, Gale

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Birds in the morning

I love sitting outside on the back veranda in the morning. Right now it's cold, but clear and sunny. The bird sounds are all around. I'm finally used to our 12 hour days. Dawn about 6am, dark about 6pm. I haven't much knowledge about birds, so am constantly thumbing thru "Birds of Belize." What's that one? So many look almost alike.

At first light the parrots start trying to decide where to go for the days forage. It's a group meeting with everyone having a voice. Pandemonium and then they're gone. Out to decimate some farmer's corn.

The two groups of Chachalacas seem to call to each other. The blackbirds, kiskadees and brown jays are always around, noisily flitting about, hopefully working on the bug population.

I keep my camera handy, but both it and I are too slow to catch so many of the little birds. A tiny Black & White Warbler and (I think) an American Redstart tease me by dancing up and down and thru the trees, always moving before I can locate them with the lens. There are so many tiny, li8ttle warblers, variations of yellow and greenish brown. Our resident hummingbird keeps busy with our few flowering bushes.

We've been frustrated that most of the flowering plants we've started have been stripped bare by ants. This will be an ongoing battle.

I had a surprise and thrill a couple of days ago, when I went into the bodega (concrete storeroom under the guest house) and was met by a beautiful blue/green bird which flew past me and out the door. It was a fairly large bird and at first I tho't it must be a parrot. Luckily it hung around for a couple of days so that I could identify it as a Motmot. What a thrill. I suspect that, because we're on the top of a hill, lots of birds pass by, but don't stay.

I wish I had a bird authority at my side to identify all the unseen birds by their sounds. There's chirping and singing all around. A constant variety of sounds, coming from the canopy. I may not see them, but I do love that they're there.

A sadness for both of us is that Art's hearing is getting worse and he can't share in the joy of all this music. We're truly blessed to be able to enjoy this gentle place, at least for now.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Ok, Here's Momma Gale's handy hint for the day. If you travel to Belize in November or December, BRING SOME WARM CLOTHES! Now, we moved here from the mountains of Oregon where it can get darn right cold, so this seems kind of woosy to say that it's cold here at 50, but it is. When it's 80 during the day and then 50 at night, with humidity around 98%, it feels as tho' it's freezing. Our first trip during November we had only bro't warm weather clothes and we couldn't get warm. We shopped everywhere and there wasn't a sweatshirt to be found. So please, dear friends, bring sweatshirts and/or jackets for the late and early hours. If you're having to furnish your own bedding, a comforter will save your life.

When we started building here, we stayed in a little travel trailer. It was handy, but boy was that little metal box cold at night. We were begging bedding from friends to survive.

In Oregon we'd be lighting a fire in our little stove to take the chill off. So be warned, the jungle can get cold because it's so damp.

Warm hugs, Gale

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Just a quiet day

Actually, probably a pretty boring day. I had to laugh when I checked my mail. Probably the highlight of the day is the fact that, after 53 years of marriage "someone wants to date me," Wow, the things that pop up in my spam file. So glad there's a "delete file" button that makes all that stuff disappear. I think AOL looks for the mass mailing stuff. Thank you AOL.

It's been overcast a lot and a little rain most days. Just enough to make weedeating and rototilling the garden tough jobs. We're still trying to burn piles of "Richard" debris. No rush.

We read a lot. Are actually rereading most of the books we bro't down. Lots of places trade books, 2 for 1 which gives us new stuff. We both have collections of books that we don't want to give up, so our wall is actually growing.

I don't know why I'm so hesitant, but I have started a little relief carving. They're a lot of work, but for the first time in my life, I have the time. Now I just need a kick in the hinny to get going. One huge panic for me was when I opened my tool roll that holds my Swiss chisels. They have started to rust. I've had them out a few times, but I guess this wet weather permeated my toolbox. I attacked them with a fine steel wood and light oil and have now placed a towel in the tool roll to, hopefully, absorb most of the moisture. We get chips for our yard paths and for composting from some friends who have a furniture factory. On our last trip I spotted a nice piece of mahogany in their trash and am now trying to see what I can make of it. We had an aracari visit some time back & it appears that it might find it's way onto the piece of wood.

The reality of living in the bush is that there is a lot of hard work always looking us in the face, but there are also long stretches of time to sit an ponder about life in general. Why did we make the move, we missed the election in the States, what is everyone else doing, etc.? For the first time in my life I'm actually retired. It's still a start to both of us that we don't have to get up and go to work each day, doing something that is just a job. What a blessing that we've been given this time to just savor life.

Tomorrow night we're going to sample the food at a restaurant that's new to us with some friends.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

After Richard

Things sure could have been a lot worse. We've spent most of Tuesday & Wednesday cleaning up debris. First on the list was getting the gutters cleaned out. Rene had done it about two weeks ago, but now the roof was almost solid bits and pieces. During the storm the water poured over the gutters, dumping water everywhere. Since we collect the water from the roofs for our cistern so it's really important that we keep them clean.

We both worked in the yard, cutting up downed trees and limbs, raking and piling.
Barely made a dent Tues., but Wed we got help from a neighbor and got most of the larger pieces picked up. Rene was working on his other job, but will be here Thurs. & Fri and will have to work cleaning the perimeter fences. That will be a huge job.

The picture of a pile of debris isn't very impressive, but when you see that we are making about two dozen similar piles, it mounts up to a lot of work. Art's shoulder and my back keep trying to remind us that there are younger bodies out there who should be doing some of this work. The thing is, it's our yard and our budget and we enjoy knowing that each thing we do hopefully makes our little place better.

We've checked up on all our friends here and blessedly, we all came out about the same. Lots of trees down, but no damage to houses or other buildings. It's amazing that there was no loss of life in Belize due to Richard. Lots of property damage tho' and I hate to think about how devastating the loss will be to the citrus industry. They did a flyover and most of the trees are still standing,but the oranges and grapefruit are on the ground. Just a couple of weeks away from harvest. I understand that there will probably be government help for the growers, but I feel for the workers who were looking forward to finally having work. There's almost no work here in the little jewel and now Richard has destroyed an important lifeline for so many.

Once again, we're so greatful that, when a hurricane finally did hit Belize straight on, that it was Richard.

Hurricane Richard

For the first time since Hurricane Hattie in 1961, Belize was in the direct path of a hurricane. Richard made landfall from Belize City on the north to the Toledo District on the south. It kept heading due west, on to the Cayo District. Bullet Tree Falls Village is about 3 miles NW of San Ignacio in Cayo.

We spent the late afternoon with several friends at the home of a lovely couple who are new friends. Doris is German and Walter is Austrian. Besides being about the nicest people you'd ever want to meet, she's an incredible cook. They invited several couples over as a thank you for making them welcome to the community. I won't even try to describe the food, but she must have cooked for a week. Everything from a German beef stew, ham, vegetable casseroles, fruit salad and the most incredible homemade cheesecake. Yum! Anyway, we all had a delightful time, but the rains were starting and we knew that Richard was coming our way, so we headed for home. As we came down Paslow Falls Rd., we passed a street light (there are only two)the light went out and homes were dark. The electricity ends about a half mile before our road heads up the hill. It was a slippery drive up, but we made it fine.

We don't have real windows in our houses, only screens. We closed most of the shutters, just leaving a couple open to the back. We moved the truck into the middle of the drive so that if a tree went down it wouldn't be hit. We then settled down to watch a couple of videos. The beauty of being off-grid is that we can stay functional when the infrastructure is hit. Of course, that's only as long as our system isn't hit too.

Having lived at the Oregon coast, where the winds are cold and can really slam hard, we went to bed and slept soundly. Yesterday morning we woke to quite a sight. We were very fortunate to not suffer any damage to our buildings, but boy did the trees get pruned. We lost quite a few and have branches EVERYWHERE.

We walked down the road and there were several trees across. One was a huge Gumbalimba that was actually uprooted. We loaded our little chainsaw and some other tools into the truck and went to work. One blessing is that the Gumbalimba is very soft and cuts easily. At one spot it had a diameter of at least 2'. That sweet little Stihl handled the job just fine. I must admit the job just about did us in tho'. It's hard to admit that we have limitations. We got the trees cut up and moved, but both of us have strained muscles.

We had a phone call from our friend Diane, who said that some fellows came by from the "government" and were cutting trees for folks who needed assistance. Such timing. We had cut the trees that were the immediate problem, but there was a tree over the road leading to our neighbors place. A truckload of about 8 guys came up and made short work of that tree. They were having a good time, laughing and working. Turns out they're from the village, just helping out.

Today we're heading out to see what damage there was to the cleared property. When Rene comes next we'll have him take care of the property line fence.

We're so fortunate that the hurricane that finally decided to hit little Belize head on, was just a category one. We're also extremely pleased with the design of our buildings and where we chose to place them. Our little place and this old couple fared just fine. And Bailey too!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Since we haven't had company, we don't use our guest house. We occasionally use the bathroom when the need arises. Lately, we've been sharing it with this little guy. It's so small that I first tho't it was a moth. We appreciate bats for their insatiable appetites for mosquitoes. They can regularly eat twice their body weight in the bugs every day. I hate to shut this little fellow out, but hope it stays nearby. Since there is so much vegetation around we didn't think that there would be a lack of places for them to reside, but may decide to build a couple of bat houses to ensure that they hang around.

I was surprised when I got this one in my viewfinder to see how little it's face is. It looks like a little fox. But check out those arms. Hope it keeps munching away in our vicinity.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Ok, even tho' I've mentioned that we're not young kids, I had to giggle at my mention of Wilt Chamberlain as a hint. I have to admit that I'm not a basketball fan, so don't know the names of many players. If we want to watch a good game, we'd prefer to catch a girls high school game. Now that's competition. Anyway, decided I need to include a photo of the two of us, enjoying our little piece of the world. One blessing is that we've discovered where to buy COFFEE BEANS! Yum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

View from our veranda

I had hoped that when we moved from the really cold winter climate that I'd finally be cured of my bronchitis spells, but they followed me. I've actually been surprised to hear how many folks have sinus and breathing problems. I guess it's because the air is humid and heavy. Anyway, for whatever reason, I'm having a case of the punies. Not much energy so I'm sitting on our back veranda, drinking tea with honey and just enjoying the view. It's so peaceful, with small, unseen birds flitting around in the trees and just a gentle breeze keeping it from being too hot. I'm not very good at just sitting without reading or doing something, but today I'm really savoring the view. The pictures don't begin to do it justice, but I want to share anyway.

Below the guest house we're clearing the bush from about a 1/2 acre, in the same way as this view. We all call it our "park". When it's finished, I'll try to post photos of it too. I love the trees, so we're just chopping the bush. Peace, dear friends.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Today was busy, as usual. We ran errands in town, one of which was to once again take a weedeater in for repairs. When we got home we both headed outside to work. It was such a lovely day for working. Not hot, just fleecy clouds. This is perfect weather.

We're slowly clearing the bush under the trees below the guest house. Rene is using his machete to clear the bush and I'm using a pitchfork to rake the debris. The bush is a haven for scorpions, in the rotting wood, and snakes. Today, Rene bro't us a female yellowjaw that was lurking in a pile of debris. He had nicked her when he was chopping. He wanted us to see what one looks like before he killed her. She was about 2 1/2' long. I asked how he could tell that it was a female and he noted that this one had a fairly long, thin tail. A male has a shorter, wider tail. I hope I never get close enough to take note of the difference.

Rene is incredible in the bush as he spent nearly 25 years traversing the country, in charge of survey crews. He is so tuned to all the movements, that he seems to see everything. He warned me today to please stay out of the uncleared, low bush. I tend to forget the dangers and plunge ahead. Wearing gloves & boots can't protect me from all the creatures.

Bailey and I seem to be cut from the same cloth. We can't let him loose because he doesn't recognize the dangers. He proved it yesterday when I put him in the yard on his cable. He was jumping around, trying to get at something unseen and barking gently. When I got closer I saw a huge tarantula skittering away. Bailey just wanted to play with it. Oh joy, a new fuzzy toy. Bless his little Japanese/Gringo heart. He catches frogs and just puts his nose on them and then watches them hop off. Coming from the mountains of Central Oregon where we don't have poisonous bugs or snakes (the rattlers are at lower levels), we tend to just blunder our way around.

Anyway, thanks to Rene, we are getting an exciting education in the realities of the jungle. When we finish clearing the bush in the back, I'll try to get a couple of photos.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I've tried to not be negative in my entries. We really do love our place and are so happy that we made this move. We've worked hard to build and create a place where we can be comfortable and where family and friends can too. It's been a labor of love and joy. The idea of moving to the jungle and living off-grid, where we aren't hostage to an unreliable infrastructure has really been satisfying. I'm still not going to tell our ages, but I'm sure we're older than most folks who have made a similar move. We just feel that you're never too old to dream and accomplish.

One thing that we've found here, and I'm sure it's probably the same in most of Central America, if not the world, is that folks move here for lots of different reasons. Many from the US are frustrated with the government and have very negative attitudes. Some are literally running away from legal problems and lots just want to hide. We're here mostly for economic reasons. We haven't been able to sell our house in Oregon and we can't afford to live there on our retirement income. We can afford to live in Belize, even with our current repair expenses. This is a very sad commentary on the current economy. The recent census reports from both the US and Belize found the widest gap possibly ever, between the haves and the have-nots. I doubt that there's much of a middle class left. We do have a very small circle of wonderful friends here who share some of our interests and concerns.

Our problem is that, we knew that we'd miss our family, but had hopes that they could come down and we could manage to go up there periodically. The reality is that the economy has stripped all of us out of any expendable income. We're all just struggling to survive. We miss so much being even a little involved with our grandchildren's lives. They're growing up so fast. Our daughter's two boys, Quiet Max, our oldest will turn 15 the end of this month. He's a sophomore in high school and loves his classes, especially algebra. Tyler, 13 is in the 8th grade and is our talker. He's finally having a good time in school and can't decide whether he wants to go out for the school play or basketball. We're hoping for the play as he isn't exactly a Wilt Chamberlain. He has enthusiasm tho', so will put his all into whichever he chooses. We've lived near them their whole lives, so our move has been difficult for all of us.

Our son has three children. They live about 5 hours away from us, in Washinton State. Rex is 14 and is a terrific student. He's so smart,loves to read and has such abilities. Hope he taps into them. Charlie, 12 is definitely his own person. He's taking Judo and loves it. None of them communicate much, but he wrote that he broke his collarbone, but no information. Kids! Then there's our beautiful Jessie May. She's 7 (or is it 8? I'm sorry Jessie, you're growing up so fast). There's no question that she's a girl. She loves pink and is so bright and loving. Our son just remarried to a wonderful lady. We're so happy for them, but sad that we don't get to be involved in their lives even a little bit.

Then there's my wonderful brother & sister-in-law. I miss his creativity and sharing our life experiences. His lovely wife, Jan is such a blessing in all our lives. They've been so supportive, even about our crazy move. They never fail to keep touch via phone or email.

The crux of all this is that, if we could sell this place, we'd move back. The separation is just too difficult. We do enjoy and appreciate our Belizean neighbors, but, no matter what, there'll always be an unfillable gap because we're Gringos. Our experiences are so totally different. I'll always be "Miss Gale", which makes me slightly uncomfortable. I know it's similar to using Mrs. but still makes me feel different.

Because of our financial worries, we've put both places up for sale hoping that one will sell soon. Then we'll be able to figure out where our future lies. For now,we're loving our place and continuing to maintain and improve it as we can.

Never quit dreaming.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What else? More rain

This may sound boring, but is the reality that we deal with here in the jungle. We've just experienced about a week of almost steady rain. We'd get a little letup, which would make me excited that we could finally get something done and then it would start up again. The gods of thunder were sure working overtime. We could tell that Guatemala was getting more than it's share of rain, which for us, means that the Mopan River would overflow. The road from Bullet Tree Village towards our place is Paslow Falls Rd. It's about 2 miles to where we turn up the hill. About half way there's a spot where the river is right beside the road. Monday it spilled over for a while. With all this rain, we hesitate driving down our road as it's muddy and slippery, so I walked down the hill and back to the spot where the road floods. By the time I got there, I was really sweaty and tired and the river had receded, so no flood. So much for photos of our dilemma.

We just had a few light showers last evening and this am we woke up to sunshine. Wanted to give the road a chance to firm up a little and then were going to head down to visit some friends and do a little shopping. Just about ready to leave when it DUMPED rain again. We're up on top of a hill, so the flooding doesn't affect us except for our ability to drive up our hill. Frustrating, but not a threat to our place. I just have a severe case of cabin fever. It's only been three days, but there's something about knowing that you CAN'T go down, that makes me obsess about wanting to go down.

An aside to all this is that we can practically watch the vegetation grow. We're going to have to beat it back again. The weedeater and Rene's machete are going to be very busy.

These photos don't begin to show the power of our flooding river, but they're the best my limited photo prowess can produce. The photo of the road with puddles is where about 4 hours earlier, the water was up to your knees. This was confirmed by our neighbor who had to keep her little boy home from school because they couldn't get to the village.

The photo of a track up the hill is exactly that. It's about 1/4 of a mile of mud, up the hill to our place.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple bananas - Yum

Yes they're called apple bananas by the local folks. I'm sure they have an official name, but who cares. All I know is that they're 100 times better than any banana that you'll find in a US grocery store. They're only about 4" long with a slightly tart taste. After you've tried these, all other bananas are just sweet, with little real flavor.

About three years ago, Rene bro't us a few plants and put them behind the house and fairly near the road. He told me that that was the best soil for them. We now have robust plants and more bananas than we can possibly eat.

These photos show a new bunch starting from the bloom, which is that strange long purple thing. You can see the bunch starting above it. I'm sure that most folks know that bananas grow "up" as you can see in the closeup of a bunch. In the photo of the plants themselves you might be able to see three bunches, very close to cutting. Then you see the bunch sitting on our veranda. Rene cut it about four days ago and they were all very green. They actually turned yellow yesterday. Yes, it happens that fast. Once they turn, they ripen really fast. Because these are so yummy and small, we each eat about three each time, but you do get a little tired of them after about three days of eating as many as you can. By then they're starting to approach overripe and you have to fight off the bugs. I suspect that most of the ones ripening now (there are 8 bunches right now) will go to friends, altho' most folks have their own.

An interesting thing about these plants is that they're much like raspberries. The fruit grows on an old stalk. The stalks look a lot like a tree, but they're not. One bunch grows on each stalk, so they cut the stalk off at about 4'to collect the bunch. The plants are constantly putting out new shoots which will then grow more fruit. You can also dig up the small new shoots and transplant for more bananas (which you'll have to try to give away).

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Woke up this am to Bailey's frantic barking. Could tell it was a dog or something in the yard. He rarely barks, so always means something. We've had to encourage him to bark at folks coming up the road. Don't want them to realize that he's actually a sweetheart. But at 120# he's intimidating until you know him. Anyway, this am it was a darned horse wandering thru my devastated garden. We finally have our whole perimeter fenced with the driveway the only entrance. Of course the poor thing found that. The horses here are very sad. Most folks can't afford supplemental feed and probably wouldn't care anyway. Animals subsist solely on the grass. Most of the horses owned by the local people have bad backs and are skin and bones. They ride or pack them anyway. This horse was an older, rangy. bay that has been wandering the area for a few days. I almost think someone just let it loose in the hopes that it would be taken in by someone else. Horses and dogs are only kept here for their usefulness. Most don't seem to acknowledge the companionship and love you get back from these loving creatures.

Anyway, we made an effort to catch the horse, but he wouldn't let us anywhere near, so we guided him to the gateway and off he went down the hill. I would love to have a horse or two again, but not ready to take on the added expense and responsibility. I hate it that age is guiding me to eliminate some experiences in my life, but have to be practical once in a while. Bailey's probably as close as we'll get to a horse in our lives. He's almost as big as some of the miniature horses we used to own, but his manners are much better and he's easier to take in the car. LOL!


I love comments. So much fun to exchange ideas and to know that there are folks out there interested in our little piece of the world.

Batfish just shared the idea of supplementing our solar with wind. Right now seems like a good idea as it's been heavy overcast for three days, lots of rain and very little solar collection. Thank goodness for the generator. A neat side affect of the wind is that it's pruning the dead cohune fronds and other branches. We'll have tidying up to do when this settles down, but so glad for the pruning help.

Anyway, we've tho't about wind power, but right now we don't have the funds for any more improvements. If we did we'd probably start by putting up at least two more 165 watt solar panels. Even tho' we are on a hill, we monitored the wind and it's very sporadic so not sure if it would warrant the investment. A couple of gallons of gas and we're charged back up, so doing fine, as long as things don't break!

I have read about so many innovations they're making with solar and wind. A friend told us about an article he read about a small turbine wind generator that was very cheap. Maybe something like that will be in our future.

Right now my name has more than one meaning (or maybe it's all the same. lol)

Love to all, Gale

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rain - again!

This probably seems like a repetitious subject, but right now, it's what's on our minds. Tropical storm Lisa is showing off by dumping heavy and nearly constant rain on little Belize and much of Central America. It's ugly to check out the satellite photos and see that huge orange weather system heading right for us.

I've lived in the northwest most of my life, so am used to rain, but this is totally different. It can be calm and then you can hear the rain coming, sounding like a freight train in the distance, heading right for you. Then boom, it's dumping. Yesterday it was clouding with periodic rain, all day, so our solar intake was minimal. We had to run the generator for nearly 2 hours last evening and expect to do the same until this weather lets up. The forecast is for this to continue until next Tuesday. Ick! Cisterns overflowing and laundry piling up.

Actually, the laundry is piling up because my Belize washing machine (made in China) which is only about 9 mos. old, gave up the ghost. We tried to get it fixed in Spanish Lookout, where we bo't it, but problem beyond their capabilities. After three trips back and forth, we went to San Ignacio yesterday and bo't a new Dae Woo yesterday. Can you believe that a South Korean brand is top of the line here. I just want clean clothes.

Can't really blame all our troubles on living in Belize. My Dell computer has met the same fate as my washing machine. I should probably write a whole posting on that mess. Anyway, between Best Buy and Dell, my computer died at 9 mos. and there's not help there for us. The SOB's finally won and I've given up!

Anyway, dear whoever's out there, all is not gloom and doom. This icky weather is making me face spare time and I'm tired of reading the same books over again, so will try to do some sketching. My cup is still half full (but with this rain it's going to be running over and down the hill).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Laundry, weather & crime

We've gone from about a three week dry spell to rain. Tropical storm Karl went by giving us some precipitation. With a few exceptions, that's what usually happens when storms or hurricanes head up the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. Belize is in what they call here a "bight". That's a bay or inlet. When you look on a map you can see that Honduras sticks out below us and the Yucatan is protruding north of us. Corozol in the north of Belize did get more rain and winds at about 40mph, but here in Cayo we just got some rain. So far, it's been a pretty gentle year, but it's not over until the end of November. Hope our luck holds.

My frustration is that my washing machine was broken and we just got it back. Laundry piled up and it's raining. Tough on my solar dryer! Since it's so cloudy, we'll probably run the generator and then I have a couple of lines on the veranda where I can hope things will eventually dry.

Also, have to run to town today to run errands as this is the big holiday weekend. Independence day. I would have done more shopping yesterday, but most shops closed as a statement about crime. Last Sunday there were four murders in Belize City, one of which was a little 8 year old girl who was asleep in her bed. Someone shot at the house and killed her. The other three sound like random killings of men. The business community is banding together with their quiet protest by closing their shops. This form of protest was started by the Chinese shop owners as they have been targets in Belize City. It's sad how often the shops are closed. Sure brings it home to all of us who don't keep up on the news.

It makes me cry to hear about how much hate and ugliness there is in the world. I don't like to include this here, but these are the realities that we all have to face wherever we are.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ferry to Spanish Lookout

We've lived in Oregon and Washington most of our lives and have taken lots of ferries. The Washington State Ferry system is wonderful. Beautiful big car ferries in the Sound that take 50 or more cars and of course the scenery is spectacular.

Of course, little Belize doesn't have the money or need for large ferries, but my first views of a Belize ferry had me uncertain if I'd complete my journey on the bottom of the river. So far I've been on three very similar ferries. The first was near Orange Walk, there's one going to Xunantunich and the one we use the most, going to Spanish Lookout.

We have three options to get to Spanish Lookout from Bullet Tree. The direct way thru Santa Familia and Billy White is absolutely awful most of the time. Talk about rough road. It's actually best when it's wet as it's less harsh. We don't drive it much over 15 mph. The long way is east on the western highway almost to Belmopan where there is a new bridge over the Belize River. This road is paved and well maintained by the Mennonites. It's about 30 miles from our home, but takes about the same amount of time as the direct way because we can travel at normal speeds. The way we take the most often, when it's an option, is to take the ferry from near Central Farm. This way has a short span of rough road (almost every road in Belize is rough), but is fairly direct.

The ferry is open at the whims of the Belize River. If the water is too high or the wind is too strong, the ferry ties up. Driving in Belize is so much a matter of faith. You look at a bad road or a wooden bridge or a ferry, most of which are literally falling apart, and have to say to yourself, "Those folks made it across, so I guess it will handle us." Faith! The ramps onto the ferry take a beating and are not repaired until they are ready to fall off. It holds three cars at a time. It can be a little scary when all the vehicles are pickups. I've been the last one on and had to have the backend of the truck half on the ramp. My fear can almost put me in tears, but, hey, I'm a grownup. I moved to Belize! I can handle this! After about 100 trips, I no longer panic, just trudge forth like I had good sense. You come to the realization that they don't have much faith in the safety either as passenger's must walk on to the ferry with only the driver in the vehicle. I guess that's so that only one will go down with the car????

The ferries are powered by cables stretched across the river with a fellow turning a crank. Backwards and forward, all day long. There isn't a toll, so imagine that they're paid by the government. Can you imagine turning that darned crank for hours on end? I'm always happy to drive off and get on to S.L. to take care of business.