Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rain in the tropics

OK, now we're having a REAL tropical rainstorm. It's relentlessly pouring. I was going to enter this as it was happening, but it's overwhelmed the satellite. The overflow on both the cistern and rotoplast are rivers. The eaves on the house can't handle the flow, so the plants below are being pummeled. It's nearly impossible to talk on the verandas because of the roar of the rain on the zinc roofing. It's a little better in the house because of our wonderful wood ceiling. In order to visit or watch a DVD, we have to close the shutters to block out some of the sound. This is what makes the jungle, the jungle. It takes a lot of rain and boy are we getting it!

I worry about Rene as he took the weedeater to clear fence lines. He couldn't find a piece of plastic for a cover at home, but I gave him an old plastic poncho in case it rained. Ha! This is beyond rain. It's a deluge. He hasn't come back yet, so imagine he's sitting under a tree under the poncho. We can't really help him, but feel guilty leaving him out there. I could write a book about Rene, but will say here, he worked for 25 years supervising a survey crew all thru the jungles of Belize. He's very self-sufficient when it comes to survival. Even if we got nothing else from our adventure here, Rene's stories and generous help would make it worthwhile.

I have clothes hanging on the verandas, trying to dry. They go as far as damp, but not dry. We're trying to rig up hooks near the ceiling of our bedroom to string a line. Heat rises, right? I could whine about needing a dryer, but this is still quite a learning experience. Don't know if our kids would enjoy this, but maybe our grandkids would. Frogs & lizards. Oh, to answer a question, yes the "chicken frog" is here. Not sure what he/she looks like, but sure can be loud. Art actually saw a golden colored frog a couple of days ago. Maybe that's old "chicken". Rene said that the golden color is very rare. Anyway, maybe the grandkids wouldn't enjoy it tho'. They're the Gameboy/Nintendo generation. Wish they could come down and give it a try. Maybe someday.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

rainy season

We had rain off & on all day yesterday and it looks threatening again today. Rene just came to work and told us that this is the beginning. Things will start growing like crazy, which they already are, and that we need to pull all vegetation and dead leaves away from the buildings because the snakes and bugs will try to get in away from the wet. I can see today's activity. We're so happy that we built wooden building, up on stilts. Rene & Bonita had a coral snake in their house, but they have a concrete house, on the ground and near the river.

I also have to do laundry, which is really a trip when it's so humid. Nothing really gets dry. Sure wish we had a butane dryer. That's why the name, Dreamer Farm. The cistern is overflowing, so water isn't a problem. We are going to ask Rene to get up on the roof and clean the gutters to keep the leaves out of the cistern.

I am going to have to do some extra shopping to be sure that we have enough supplies in case weather hits. There's a spot on Paslow Falls road that is low and floods, making it impossible to drive out. It's pretty far for our gringo legs to walk to the village. We're not really worried, just trying to listen and learn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May morning

It's strange to me that the days & nights remain fairly even. It now gets light about 5am and dark settles in about 6:30pm.

So many bird sounds. I've tried to identify them, but with so much vegetation the they're almost impossible to see. I always open my eyes in the morning with a smile to the grating calls of the Chachalaca. They sound like a squeaky gate, carrying on for over an hour. We watched our DVD of "The Count of Monte Cristo" a few nights ago & now it sounds to me as tho' the Chachalacas are saying "Jacopo, Jacopo, Jacopo." (He's the Count's trusted friend, played by Luis Guzman). If we ever leave here, that's the sounds I'll miss the most.

We finally had a short rain last evening. Only in spurts for about 15 min., but lovely. Of course, the gutters overflowed because of leaves. We'll have to ask Rene to get up on the roof to clean them when it's dry & cool. I don't have to worry about carrying water to my plants for a couple of days.

Early morning is so lovely. It's cool with the mist hiding the harsh sun. As the sun breaks thru, we have to shut our front shutters to keep the house cool. When the sun rises above the veranda roof, we'll open the shutters again to allow the breeze to blow thru.

We've struggled to see what we're guessing is a warbler in a cohune by the house. What a lovely sound. Being from the mtns of Oregon, our bird experiences were totally different. We'd watch the osprey & bald eagles, the blue jay, robin, red winged blackbird, pine siskins, grossbeaks, crossbills & blue birds. Our favorite was the little rufus hummingbird who spent the summer near our feeders. That's on today's shopping list. I need a feeder for the large hummingbird we see in the flowers. We're off to the metropolis of Spanish Lookout, always hopeful.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Off-grid challenge-toilet !

Living off-grid brings a lot more challenges than setting up a solar system or trying to have a successful garden. Some of the REALLY basic needs have to met right away. One of our first problems was a bathroom. Now for the guys it's not that big a deal, but I refuse to expose my delicate posterior to the elements. During one of our first trips to stay on the property, we had a fellow dig a latrine and Rene & Amelio put a terrific top on it. It certainly wasn't conventional, but it worked fine. It took a little convincing that it was private, but after a few giggles (by me) looking at cohune palm frond walls, we found it quite comfortable. Of course, the palms wouldn't last forever, but got thru the building stages and our first couple of visits.

We had the bodega and guest rooms built next. When we came down to check on the progress, Amelio surprised us with his version of a composting toilet. Not fancy, but very functional. Note: this is the photo with the blue seat. We put a screen under the toilet seat to keep bugs from going up or down. Since this is on the upper floor, He fabricated a metal chute under which we've place a 10 gallon barrel. When it's time to remove, it's easy to pull out, place a lid on it and take it to the special compost bin. We use wood shavings with a rule of one to two cups depending (fill in the space yourself). We've found that there's almost no odor with this setup.

When we had all our stuff shipped down, we tho't we needed a more normal looking toilet in our house, but since we're very sensitive to electricity and water useage, we bo't a Biolet non-electric toilet. This is a white plastic thing with a bucket inside. The theory here is that the water passes thru holes in the bottom of the bucket into a pipe in the ground and the bucket is removed and carried to the compost bin. Sounds ok, but in practice we hate it. They recommend that you use their special, wonderful composting material, but hey, we're in Belize and it's not that easy to get it sent down here. We actually use the wood shavings here also. They're clean and smell nice, which is more than I can say for the toilet. The holes in the bucket mean that we have to put it in a garbage bag to carry outside. The bugs love this thing and I'm constantly spraying to keep it bug free. The venting has been a problem as the toilet itself it light weight and tends to move, disconnecting the vent joints. We're handling all this just fine, but, if we get another water source, we may choose to go the conventional route. We MUCH prefer the homemade version that Amelio created for our guest house and have even tho't about changing to it. A huge consideration too is that the Biolet cost us $1448US before shipping & customs and the homemade version cost about $50BZ including the seat. Wow!

If you're considering off-grid living, I hope some of this is of value to you. If not, you can smile every time you flush.

DRAT ! i Can't get this darned notebook to read my SD card to publish the rest of the photos. As soon as I figure it out I'll update. Thanks guys. G.