Thursday, July 29, 2010


We've finally reached a time where all of the big projects (that we could afford) are done. The sporadic rain keeps me from spending much time in the yard, so what to do? I've drawn and painted a little for most of my life, so I'm trying to talk myself into jumping back in. It's much easier to be busy doing manual projects and skirting the issue of my art. Being self-taught, I've never developed the confidence or discipline to work at it every day. If I can't create when I'm retired, well when will I? It's only for me anyway. I guess I've always felt that everything should be a masterpiece. Of course, none of them ever are. My brother, who's a wonderful artist and has taught for years, has encouraged me to loosen up, create and have the courage to throw it away. It's hard, but a wonderful way to loosen up.

Anyway, I'm going up to the little Mennonite house to doodle way the afternoon. There's no electricity up there yet, so I have to work during daylight hours. Don't expect photos of great work, I just create for myself. Isn't this is what being retired in Belize should be all about. Relaxing and just being yourself.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Full moon

We've had some wonderful views of the full moon the last couple of days and nights. The moon is rising before dark, which happens here about 6:30pm. Last evening the sky was mostly clear so I dashed in, got my little camera and tried to get some photos. As you've probably already noted, if you've checked out some of my previous postings, I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but I snap away anyway. I was fascinated by the little cloud that drifted across the moon.

Tonight, we've had lots of clouds, so just had a short view of the moon. I didn't get a good adjustment on my camera, so the views tonight show the moon as a big splatter, but it's actually full and lovely. I loved the wild clouds, scudding by. Actually, right after taking my shots, it started pouring rain. It's so comfortable tho' as the rains have brought the temperatures down to the high 60's at night. Bailey's really happy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quiet around here

We seem to be in a quiet spot up here. We watch the storms build to the north and more often to the south, accompanied by lots of lightning & thunder, but they usually pass us by. The other day, when I told about Art heading to town during a storm, was the exception. He made it just fine, but water was over the road in the Village. It's interesting to see how fast the land handles all the water. The road up to our place can look like a problem, as the water pours down the original tracks down to the rock. We just move to the side a little and gallop our way up and down. We're so pleased with the fact that we had our driveway and parking areas graveled and they're solid and stay dry.

We can see where most of the water ends up. The river below us, the Mopan, is running a little high and looks like chocolate. It comes here from Guatemala, where most of the clouds that pass us by, dump their rain. That's fine with us. The ferry across the Belize River is closed during this high water.

Frustrations continue, but that's just life. My garden is currently a bust, but I've not given up hope. I harvested a few nice cukes and then the bugs/worms took over. Vines are dying and cukes have been eaten. The cantaloupe are also being attacked, but the blooms aren't setting fruit. Well, I'm attacking all this with grated teeth and determination. I'm not going down without a fight. As long as there isn't any fruit, to heck with the organic, I've turned to the Confidor. Once we have fruit again, I'll turn to the Neem. Rene's very hesitant to criticize me, but I told him I really want his help, so he's opening up a little about my errors. One thing he suggested is to put up sticks to give the plants something to climb, thus getting the fruit off the ground. Hey, I'll try anything. I'll post photos of any solution we come up with.

I've planted some tomatoes, lettuce and chinese cabbage behind the house, in the partial shade, to see how they react. We're sure not going to founder on our produce, but have found a lady near here who sells produce from the back of her car, so will at least have veggies handy.

Today is a quiet Saturday. Not going to the market, just staying home and fussing about the place. Thank goodness I did laundry a couple of days ago as my new washing machine broke. Yah, another repair mess. Getting a little frustrating. Of course, this is a chinese made thing that we bo't locally, so what can we expect. Plastic!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and we're both just enjoying each day. Our sweet Bailey is always happy when we stay home. He's shedding again (I hadn't even noticed that he'd wooled bup again) so will spend time with him and the brush.

Here's to a quiet day on our hill.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lots of Rain

In case someone asks you, when is the rainy season in Belize? You can answer, “RIGHT NOW”. We now know the meaning of DELUGE. This is really a downpour. I’ve never seen rain like this. It’s been raining quite a bit, off and on this afternoon, but it’s now been coming down in a steady downpour for about 30 minutes, with no sign of letting up.

As I’ve probably already noted, there are two seasons in Belize, dry and rainy. The rainy coincides with the hurricane/tropical storm season. Seldom do the hurricanes hit the “little green jewel”, but we sure do get the edges. That means lots of rain, lightning and thunder.

Art just headed down the hill to go to San Ignacio to the dentist. I’m hoping he’ll be able to navigate back up the road. It is undoubtedly a river, eroding the road to canyon status. Glad we were able to at least get the top part graveled, but the bottom half is hideous. Actually, we put the Toyota into 4x4 and blaze a new trail a little off to the side of the old.

We don’t have a rain gauge and I bro’t my bucket in, but based on a previous measurement, I’m sure we’re getting 9 to 10 inches. After all, this is the rainforest. Hope the Oregon house sells so I can get a butane clothes dryer.

Soggy blessings,

Cohune - The survival tree

We have lots of cohune trees on the west end of our property. I find them fascinating and have asked Rene to save as many as possible. It appears that the eastern end of our place was cleared with a bulldozer many years ago, so there aren’t as many cohunes and the other trees are moderate sized.

Rene’s talked a lot about how special the cohune tree is to the local people. He calls it a survival tree and it grows in almost any soil. During past hurricanes the tree has literally kept them alive. Also, the Maya people used them in starving times.

Of course, we’ve seen so many palapas with thatched roofs, either of cohune or bay leaf. I’ve seen Rene make a quick shelter of cohune fronds when he’s caught in the rain. They can also be used to build a temporary sun shade for garden plants.

The cohune nuts are fascinating. Folks collect the nuts that have fallen on the ground, crack them (which is a daunting task as the shell is extremely hard) and boil the nut for cooking oil.

Prior to the introduction of torches, they would make a fire with the shells as they burn extremely hot.

You can break the young cohune nuts that are still on the trees, and extract the water, much like a coconut. You can roast the soft nut and add a little sugar for food.

During times of extreme need they would fall the cohune tree and cut out the tender heart which is at the top of the tree. It’s very sweet but if you boil it the sweetness goes out. They would smash & fry it or make soup out of it.

There is a nut between the shell and the oil nut. The gibnuts & bush rabbits love to eat it and they get very fat. People then hunted and eat them.

We were fortunate that Rene pointed out the bloom of our cohune (is that a rhyme?) This bloom only lasts for maybe one day and then fades. Later it becomes a tall dull brown colored shell that resembles a canoe. Out of it is a large dull ecru colored bloom. When it initially blooms the boat is a bright orange and the blossom is a lovely bright pale gold. It all hides away at the heart, high up in the tree, so it’s easy to overlook.

Rene told us that when he was a boy they would get the dry boats and use as sleds to slide down the hills, especially in the mud.

We feel blessed that we have so many around our place and that Rene is here to let us see things thru his eyes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I've put off writing about Rene because there's so much to tell that I haven't known quite where to start. He's a local man who has worked for us a couple of days a week since we bo't the land. He describes his family as Mestizo and Maya. He actually looks like a Mayan.

When we first purchased the land, nearly 5 years ago, it was totally impenetrable bush. Thru our realtor, we hired a man to cut down some bush so that when we made our next trip we'd be able to see our pig-in-a-poke. Well, we paid way too much for a really poor job. Lesson #1.

When driving up Paslow Falls Rd., we'd pass Hummingbird Hills and this gentleman was always working there and the place looked beautiful. One day we stopped to inquire about Neem trees that they had for sale. Come to find out, the owner's were in the States and Rene was taking care of things. Wow, he was working and the owner's were gone. We eventually got to know Mary & Fran of Hummingbird and when they cut Rene back in days, we asked him to work with us. What a blessing.

Over time, Rene has cleared much of our land, just with his machete, and then maintains it. He and his sons have put up our perimeter fencing and helped with almost all our projects. The lovely thing about him tho', is a mixed blessing. He loves to talk and tell stories. Of course, he knows that I love them, even when I've heard the same story before. He worked with a survey crew for 25 years, so has literally walked over most of Belize and has stories to go with most of it.

My real interest tho' are his stories about the lore of Belize. He tells about "the crying lady" and about the little elf who visits, especially when he's upset (the elf, not Rene). I don't think I've mentioned it, but like so many properties in Belize, we have a Mayan mound. We were actually quite upset when the land was cleared and we realized then that the road up to our entrance is over the top of the mound. We're not superstitious, but did wonder if this would be upsetting.

Dear Rene has told me so many times that this property is comfortable. He feels that the spirits are pleased with us and happy that we're here. He and his family have had some very hard times and he's told us that he would often come up here when things weren't going well, just to absorb the feeling of peace and comfort.

Rene doesn't claim to be a bush doctor, but he was raised around a grandfather who was Mayan and taught him so much about the bush. We told Rene that when he was clearing the bush, to save anything that was a healing plant. We now have quite a collection of bush medicine. He knows things that help your stomach, babies colic, sunburn, female and male problems, what to do for scorpion & snake bites and more. On the other hand, they go to the doctor for everything, which is really confusing to me. I've talked to him about that and I think that they've just been told, as we all have, that modern medicine is the only way to go. How crazy is that, when the medicine they say you should take today, they'll tell you causes some horrible problem tomorrow. These bush remedies have been around for centuries. He knows I'm interested, so he tells me when someone comes to him with a problem and he's able to help. He won't take pay, but tells them to pass it on.

Before we moved down, before we would leave here to go back to Oregon, we'd give Rene money to take care of expenses. On our next visit, he would show us his book where he'd document every penny he'd spent. We would also leave our old Trooper with him, which most everyone tho't was a huge mistake. Every time we returned to Belize, the Trooper would be waiting for us, washed and in good mechanical shape. It was a blessing for both us and Rene, as health issues had depleted their finances and they couldn't afford a vehicle.

Of course there are cultural difference between our families, but we feel so fortunate to have Rene as a friend. He shows us how to do things here, how and when to plant and has made our transition to living in Belize a much more safe and rewarding experience.

Thank you and God Bless, dear friend.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


When you move to a foreign country, of course there are things that you will leave behind. Sometimes they’ll seem trivial, but they’re a loss none the less. I have to restate here, in case I failed to previously, that we love the U.S. and are proud of being U.S. citizens. Our leaving, unlike many others that we’ve met, had nothing to do with dissatisfaction with politics or other nefarious reasons, it was almost totally economic. We just found it very difficult to survive on our retirement. Property taxes, insurance, utilities keep raising, finally reaching outside our ability to pay. Here in Belize, especially since we’re off the grid, we can survive. (I won’t go into the fact that we’ve been unable to sell our house in Oregon, which is really dragging us down).

Back to things that we do miss. Outside the grandchildren, of course, I have to say that I probably miss Costco as much as anything. Just dreaming of those shelves stacked with all sorts of diverse and lovely products. Even with just the two of us, it paid to buy their giant economy sizes and store them. How comforting to have well stocked shelves.

Here, it’s back to older times. Peter’s or Running W for meat, Caribbean Chicken for Chicken, a Chinese market for good prices, 3 Flags for non-perishable items and of course, the market for vegetables. The vendors here don’t seem to need the huge markups that most US stores demand. The big GST of 12.5% on non food items has hit everyone pretty hard though.

This all came to my mind when I bought a jar of garlic powder. Dumb! As with all powdered products, it got hard and I’ve had to chip it out of the jar. I was reminiscing to my friend, Diane, about the wonderful jars of garlic in oil that I used to buy in Oregon and she told me that she buys garlic bulbs at the market, peels and chops them and stores in olive oil. It’s labor intensive, but what the heck. So today, I’m peeling and chopping. It smells like a little of Italy in here and I love it. I think I’ll go out into the garden and work for a bit. When I used to have horses, we’d give them some garlic in their feed to repel the bugs. Maybe I’ve hit on something. We’ll see! Oh Costco, I miss you!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Sadly, I didn't inherit my grandmother's green thumb. Actually, there are so many wonderful things about her that I wish I'd inherited, but we won't go into that here. Needless to say, she was a gentle, loving soul and a blessing in my young life. Anyway, I continue to try to plant a garden. I spoke to a very helpful Mennonite lady yesterday who said that there really aren't seasons for planting here in Belize. Things will grow almost any time as long as they get water. That can be a big problem for me up here on our hill, since we rely on rain water, so I have to haul water to the garden for the time being.

I'm experimenting with chicken manure in one section and commercial fertilizer in another. I planted cucumbers in the both sections and cantaloupe with fertilizer. Right now the manure part is way ahead. The cucumbers are growing like crazy. I'm watching a couple of the first ones and they're going from a couple of inches to full size in a couple of days. The cantaloupe plants are very vigorous, with lots of blooms, but so far, no fruit (? is it a fruit)? I've also planted yellow onions, dill, carrots and tomatoes. I'm starting the tomatoes in flats and transplanting into the garden. A few days ago I put several plants into the garden and that night we had a downpour. I was sure they'd be either smashed flat or broken, but in the morning, they were perky and looking as tho' they were happy to have the freedom.

If nothing else, this experience is teaching me patience and perseverance.

Now I'm on a quest for canning jars and ingredients for pickles. Yum. If everything grows, you'll probably find me with a stall at the market, trying to hawk all the produce. Wouldn't Grandma be proud?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Over time, we've discovered quite a group of expats here in Bullet Tree. We were chatting with some friends in Remo's and I invited them to lunch. It grew to a potluck which is great fun. I've always apologized for our road up the hill and folks have stayed away, but these lovely ladies found their way up with no problems. After all, it's Belize! What a joy - great company and fantastic food. I meant to take pictures but we were so busy visiting that I forgot. Diane, Pat, Peggy, Doris, Heather, Betty and her husband, Robin. So pleased Robin came so that Art was able to escape the female chit chat.

We were concerned about how Bailey would react to our friends and how they would feel about him. As I've already stated, he's 120# and has a huge bark. Looking up at him he looks like a bear. Not to worry, it was love at first sight all around. We tried to put him in the house so we could visit on the veranda, but Art caught him checking out the food on the table. After all, he's tall enough to slurp it all up. He's a good boy tho' and just nosy. We finally resorted to putting him on a cable in the yard so we could eat without pathetic dog eyes looking at us, with drool coming out of his mouth. He's such a baby!

The food was incredible, but the real pleasure was in the friendship. The hugs and the kinship gave me such joy, but also made me realize how much we miss our dear Oregon friends. We've been blessed to find kindred spirits in our lives.

Hugs to all our friends everywhere.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I can't believe that I've talked so little about Bailey, our wonderful Akita, when he's such an important part of our lives. When we made the move to Belize, we sold our Dodge diesel pickup and bo't the Toyota because we needed the back seat for Bailey. The Dodge only had the front seat. He traveled down like a trooper, giving us lots of laughs and companionship. He loves to travel in the truck.

We rescued Bailey from the Humane Society in Bend, OR nearly 3 years ago. They figured he was 5 years old at the time. I can't figure how someone would let him go and not look for him. He's the most wonderful friend (I hate to refer to him as a dog) that either of us could want. They found him running in town and had had him for quite some time. Some think that he's part shepherd, but our daughter lived in Japan for a couple of years and she said that he looks just like the Akita's there. We don't really care.

Bailey has bonded tightly with both of us and worries when one of us is gone. At 120#s he's quite intimidating to folks who don't know him. We felt guilty when putting up beware of dog signs, but seeing the signs and seeing him are great deterrents. Even the census taker sat at the gate, waiting for one of us to come out. We don't tell folks that Bailey's really a love, altho' you can't be sure when you're gone what they'll do. He's very quiet, rarely whines or barks, but when he does bark, you'd better listen. It's huge and he's usually telling us someone, or something, is here. He's a terrific alarm system.

The one huge problem we have with him is that he's a bum. If loose, he'll wander just to see what the country looks like and then come home. We can't let him do that here because of the snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, etc. Just like with the golden frog, he wants to check it out and play with it. Consequently, we built our house with verandas all the way around and put wire around the bottom to keep him in. That's about the only freedom he gets, other than the 3 or 4 walks he gets each day.

I hate to see him age, but it's inevitable. He's getting a little gray around his muzzle and fat from inactivity. Of course, he hates the heat. It seems that his thick coat protects him from insects and I hope he's like the Arabs who dress in wool against the heat, so that his thick coat protects him.

At night he insists on sleeping near us, moving from one side of the floor to the other, always putting his head under the bed. During the morning, on the west side veranda, he'll sleep under the table and in the afternoon he'll move to under the settee on the east side. I think he's a cave dweller at heart.

Anyway, dear friends, I hope you enjoy meeting this very important member of my family.