Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa came to Belize again

We dug into the duffle bag, stored under the bed and dusted off Art's santa suit. He would have enjoyed being Santa for more kids down here, but ended up just visiting with one group. What a lovely experience tho'. We've met a wonderful young couple who have opened a Pancake House in San Ignacio. The restaurant is next to their house, which gives them a nice situation with little overhead, and he's the minister of a small church which is across the street. They get no outside help with their funding, but give most of what they have to the children. The 19th of Dec. they fed 85 children a beautiful breakfast of bacon, an egg and pancakes and made up really nice gift bags for each of them. Art was delighted to share in this experience by being Santa to this excited group. Like children everywhere, they had stars and hope in their eyes as they gave him their wish list along with generous hugs. How we wish we could give each of them at least one special gift. We see the children here as well loved and cared for. It's so common to see a father holding the hand of a toddler, walking down the street. Most of the kids are clean and dressed proudly by their doting parents. So much of what little the parent's make is used for school fees and to take care of their children. Why do so few have so much when so many in countries like Belize, have so little? Santa's magic isn't able to fill the gap.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early Christmas with friends

We're blessed by having a few, very good friends here. Yesterday we celebrated with a lovely Christmas dinner at Betty & Robin's. The brother and sister-in-law of our friend, Diane were here for a couple of days from Florida. There were about 12 of us enjoying a fantastic dinner with more goodies than is probably healthy. We all pitched in which makes it less stressful for the host. We had a wonderful time just visiting and enjoying the sharing. We even had a round-about gift exchange. The weather turned out to be lovely so we managed "the hill" just fine. I'm so tired of worrying about our darned hill, but at least it wasn't a problem yesterday. Diane will be returning to Florida with her family for about five weeks. I'll really miss her, but am so happy that she'll have this time away.

As usual, I forgot my camera, so can't include photos, but maybe I can get some later.

It's difficult to be away from beloved family during the holidays, but some of the sadness is diminished by the hugs and companionship from dear friends. May we all be so blessed.

Happy Holidays, Gale

Monday, December 19, 2011

Generator problems

We bought a Briggs & Stratton generator because, in the States, it's easy to get parts and they're very reliable. When our generator started to spit oil at us we took it in for repair. The fellows determined that the piston was good but the rings are bad. They just tell you what they need and we have to do the hunting. This turned out to be an almost impossible quest. We left it at Perfecto's shop, in pieces, carrying the piston and as many numbers from the machine as we could find,with us to Spanish Lookout. It seems inconguous that the Mennonites are the only ones in Cayo who carry parts for machinery, other than cars. Seemed like a siple task. Go over, get the part from Universal Hdwr, where we bought it, and return. Wrong! They didn't have it and said they needed better numbers. We visited three stores with the same results. Nada! Ok, back home. We have a three year old phone book in which I found the number for a place in Ladyville that specialized in B & S. They were able to tell me where to look on the machine for the model number. It was hidden way inside. After getting those numbers it turned out they didn't have them either, so we had to resort to ordering them. They might be in this week or after the first of the year. When they finally arrive we then have to figure out how to get them up here. Ladyville is adjacent to Belize City. For now we're functioning on whatever we get from the sun. Thankfully, today is occasionally sunny, so we should be able to get through the night with moderate electric use.

Once the generator problem is solved, we'll then have to assess is our solar is working properly. Hope we didn't damage it by having to pull the batteries down so far. Live and learn folks. These old folks are still learning some really hard lessons. Blessing to all. Gale

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trying times

If you decide to try to live in Belize you have to be aware that the elements are hard on machines and people, things break and they're expensive to fix or replace.

Today was one of those days that feels as tho' you're being knocked down and every time you try to get up, someone else hits you a good one. We had to take our Toyota Tundra in for repair because, when it was converted over to butane, the fellow jambed the air filter into the headlight, causing a short. I was thinking that my night vision was getting worse, but discovered that one headlight was barely on. Also, we've been down here over two year so it needed a good tune-up. $$$$s.

The inverter for our solar system has been giving us very confusing messages, including no a/c power. We've tried to figure it out from the manuals, but they might as well be in Russian for all the good they did us. We could manage, at times, with the generator as backup, but it started using oil like crazy. The last couple of days it used a gallon of gas @ $10+ and a pint of oil. Took it to a fellow who does small engine repair. Has to tear it down and is probably a bad ring. $$$s.

The solar inverter gave us all kinds of blinking warning lights. (Take a deep breath). Could be bad batteries, bad inverter or who knows what. All huge dollar problems. To get local help we have to phone to Belmopan and hope for the best. HUGE $$$s. I tried to email Backwoods Solar in Idaho, but didn't have the power for the satellite, so when we took the generator in for repair we found a WIFI spot and tried to send. Bummer! AOL couldn't send emails right then. I was ready to scream or have a nervous breakdown. I took a deep breath and we headed for home, stopping to buy minutes for our cellphone so that I could phone the US. I can't sing the praises of Backwoods Solar enough. We bo't our system and appliances from them and they've always been available with patient help.Today Shawn talked me through our problems, helping me make adjustments to the settings. He told me he'd had the same issues with his system and the what we were doing was fine and he didn't see a major problem. Phew! That one was a big relief. I was able to breath again. Still, because it's so cloudy and rainy right now, we won't have much chance of producing solar power, so we'll have to supplement with lamps, but we have hopes that soon we'll be back to something resembling normal.

The trouble with a day like this when you're past earning an income and living not only off-grid, but in a whole country that feels like it's way off-grid, is that unexpected, heavy expenses are really frightening. The pot never get replenished.

We're going to go out (when the road dries so we can get down the hill) and buy a turkey or ham and I'm going to fix a Christmas dinner for us and put this out of our minds for a bit.
Blessings!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Art's home

Thanks for the questions about Art's health. I'm happy to say, after having to extend his trip for over a week, he's now home and doing fine. It's going to take him a long time to be totally free of his problem with his leg, but he got wonderful care with the VA in Bend, OR and came home with medicine and instructions. He'll get checkups here as follow-up.

Our dear Bailey was so much company for me while Art was gone and he missed Art, but seemed to adapt just fine. The telling thing tho' was when Art came home and Bailey saw him. Wow, he just about turned himself inside out trying to get to Art. We've settled down now and are slowly getting back into our rut.

At the last minute I decided to fix a Thanksgiving dinner. They don't celebrate Thanksgiving down here, but the Mennonites do raise turkeys, so it's not hard to get one. They're VERY expensive tho'. We invited a few friends to share with us. One couple are Americans who have lived here for 15 years. Another couple are German and Austrian and a lady, who's husband is working in Florida, is Canadian, so we had quite a mixed group. It turned out wonderfully. Everyone contributed something, which made it easier. We missed our Thanksgivings in the States with family, but it felt good to be with friends. The best part is that we got to enjoy the leftovers.

We're having the best weather right now. It's cold at night, so we had to put a blanket on the bed, but it's warm enough during the day to still wear shorts (only around here). We have to remember this time as it will get really hot in April and May.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Army (cleaner) ants

Seems I just keep going from one crisis to another. I'm going to preface this by saying that prior to moving here, we lived in the mountains or Oregon at 4200' elevation. That meant we had very few bugs. No fleas or snakes and because they sprayed in our area, no mosquitos. Now, fast forward to Belize. I've been chewed and nibbled on by a whole range of things from tiny no-see-ums to mosquitos and an assortment of flies. OK, if I pay attention and put on repellent, my pale gringo skin is relatively safe.

It was dry here for a couple of weeks and now it's started to rain a little. During our tree cutting operation I noted a line of ants moving down the hill. Rene said that that's because it's going to rain. OK, they're down there, fine. Yesterday they were back on a new path, going between the bodega and our house. Funny, for a bit they went one way, then an hour later, they were going the other way. Finally, they went the first direction again and by nightfall, they were gone. Whew!

Well, today, as I was eating breakfast on the veranda, I noticed a couple of ants on the table. When I looked down there were lines of them marching along the edge of the house. Here I have to say that I've heard from lots of folks about the cleaner ants and that if you just let them in the house, they don't damage anything, they just eat dead bugs and bits and clean your house and move on. Ick! Ick! I just couldn't handle that, altho' heaven knows I'm not a very good housekeeper. Maybe that's it. I could imagine them keeping busy for weeks! I couldn't bring myself to kill them as they're just doing what they're programmed to do, but I didn't want them in the house. I put Bailey out on a line as they were starting to swarm around him and he was totally confused and then I got the spray. I sprayed the doorways and at the base of the house and in front of them on the side of the house to discourage them from going those directions. I then sat back and watched them trundle the length of the veranda, down the pillar and within about 15 minutes they were gone.

Every day is an education in the bush.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

shutter on guest house




This probably sounds like a small thing, but it's turned out to be very important for the comfort of any guests we might have. I love our two guest bedrooms, but the one with the double bed, which faces east, has proven to be very hot in the morning. There isn't a veranda on that side, nor does the roof extend out very far. If we had it to do over again, we'd extend the roof a lot. Anyway, all our shutters are hinged at the side. We've kept the shutter on the east side closed most of the time to keep the sun from beating in. The problem with that is it also keeps the breeze, which generally comes from the east, from blowing in.


When Alejandro and Carlos were here, cutting down the trees, I had them remove the shutter and change the hinges to the top. Now it's propped partially open, protecting the window from the sun and the rain, but allowing us to replace the screen and have the breeze blow in.

Since the weather can be so extreme here. This should definitely be a consideration for anyone wanting to have shuttered windows. I have to add that we love our screened windows and wouldn't trade them for the louvered windows.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Cohune




































I hated to have to take down the trees, but it was really interesting to watch Rene take down the cohune. We've had large cohunes fall during storms and have cut down the little new ones, but this is the first time I've watched them take down a larger tree. This one was young enough that it hadn't built a trunk yet. The base of the fronds went to the ground, but it was still about 3' in diameter.

Rene told me that he's taken down lots of cohunes, especially during the many years that he ran a survey crew, mapping out much of the jungle of Belize. He's hacked his way thru the bush in all districts, even on some of the cayes. Cohunes can be deadly, as the base of the fronds is a hiding place for scorpions and snakes. This one was easier for him because we've worked around so much, most of those critters have moved back into the bush.


The fascinating thing for me was to watch him cut out the heart of the palm. I don't know if this is like what you buy in jars as "heart of palm." Rene had to use an axe to cut down the cohune as well as to get to the heart. I was so surprised to see the size and consistency of the heart. It's very white, quite soft and spongy and the piece that Rene cut out was about 9" across and over 2' long. I ate a small piece and it was slightly sweet and quite good. He took it home to see if his mother, whose in her late 80's, would cook it.

This heart isn't a common food any more, but during the 30's when the hurricane nearly wiped out Belize, the cohune kept many of the local people alive. The most common use for it now is to make oil out of the nuts. What a fascinating tree.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking down trees for solar




































As a confirmed "tree hugger" it really hurts me to take down a tree, but we've had to be practical because of our solar. This close to the equator, it gets dark between 5pm and 6pm almost year-round. The sun does move tho' from the north to the south. Right now, our small system shuts down or goes to sleep on cloudy days by 2pm. Even if we could afford them, our system has been in operation for nearly two years, so we can't add more batteries. We have to maximize what we have. We decided to cut down several trees to the west of the guest house to open up the sky in the afternoon.

I say "we", but Rene, along with two of his sons, Alejandro and Carlos, did the job. It made me so nervous to have Rene climb up the trees, but I had to leave it in his hands. They work so hard and are so good natured about it all. They cut down five trees, most of which are of no useful value. The only one we'll make use of is a small cabbage bark which will make good fence posts.

I'm hoping that this new openness will accomplish our goal of giving us at least another hour of direct sunlight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Walkway completed (mostly)















Amelio and Alejandro worked for three days and basically completed our walkway from our house to the guest house. I think it looks great and is very strong. We'll have to figure out how we're going to treat the handrails, but for now, they're great. I also have to build a gate at our end to keep Bailey from wandering over, down the stairs and off into the bush. We're extremely pleased with the idea of purlins so we don't have to have support posts underneath. The revised span turned out to be 17' and the purlins are steel, 2 1/2" by 8". I think this will look a lot better painted, but that decision will come later.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Medical update on Art

Art headed for Oregon for his annual checkup with the VA. We got his records from Loma Luz Hospital for his VA doctors. It turned out to be a good thing as they checked him over and found that not only was his blood clot not better, it had gotten frightfully worse. It's such a blessing that the medical facilities in Bend, OR are wonderful, with excellent doctors. At one point they were contemplating surgery, but have now decided on an intense program of medication. Not sure if he'll be able to come home as planned this next weekend. The doctors don't want him to travel for a bit. He's really frustrated and wants too come home, but time will tell. The great thing for him though is that he's getting to see our grandchildren. Max & Tyler in Bend and our son's three great kids in Kennewick, WA. It's hard to believe that Max has now turned 16! ! !

Surprise!

I really have some dear friends. I was really surprised this am to get a birthday greeting from a really nice lady here in Bullet Tree. Then another came in! I started to get the idea that this came from Facebook and there was a problem there, as it wasn't my birthday. It's not for another 10 days on the 16th. No biggy, I was just so pleased to be remembered. A truly great friend came to see me to help me with a download issue. Shortly after that, here came another car with two other friends, bearing a cake, a chocolate pie and munchies. What a lovely surprise. I hated to tell them it wasn't my birthday yet, but we all had a wonderful time. We called it my birthday anyway, but I told them that I refuse to accept the additional year to my already staggering number of years, until the 16th. What sweet friends.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Walkway













We decided to finally take the plunge and tackle our next project. Our intention when we built was to build a bridge between our little house and the guest house. We hate to force our guests to walk up or down the stairs, then across the rocky drive and then up our stairs. Especially at night, this can be hazardous. We built the guest house above the bodega with a floor eight feet off the ground. We then had Amelio build our house, which is a little up hill, so that the floor was level with the guest house. With guest coming, we want to make it easier to travel back & forth.

Also, since Dreamer Farm is for sale, it is now either a one-bedroom, one-bath house with a guest house, or a three bedroom, two-bath house. It's easy to chat across the 17' span so that children could sleep in the two bedrooms with safety.


Amelio came over to discuss our shopping list and we decided to use metal purlins to make the span. That way we wouldn't need a brace underneath. Art & I started doing some measuring and discovered that, since the purlins are 8" and we'll be putting hardwood boards above and below, the thickness would be at least 12". Oops! When we analyzed where the purlins would be overhead we found that even at my 5'3", I'd hit my head. Crumb! After walking around this for a bit, we decided to have Amelio build a little landing at the end instead of directly to the deck. Of course this will change my lumber requirements, but what else is new. Thankfully, I bo't a few extra 2x4's and 4x4's, which were slurped up by the new requirements.

The one photo shows where we originally planned to have the walkway connect. The open space with the green table in the background. The other two photos show our revised plan and the beginnings of the walkway. Doing it this way allows us plenty of room to work under the bridge.

We've stayed with Amelio, even tho' he has other work to do, we feel he knows our project since he built both buildings. He's interesting too as he really enjoys building and his recreational reading is of construction books. He and Rene are cut from the same cloth. True craftsmen in their own niche. Rene's oldest son, Alejandro, is helping with the project. We've been truly lucky and blessed by finding these lovely men.


I'm sorry to drop the fact that Dreamer Farm is for sale in the above paragraph, but there are several reasons for this. First, EVERY place in Belize is for sale. All our friends here have their places for sale in one way or another. Also, when health problems surface, most of us dash back to our original home for care. I'll chat more about this in another post. Blessings and prayers for everyone's good health.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Delta vs Continental from Belize!

I'm in such a rage that this probably isn't a good time to write, but I'm going to anyway. Art is trying to get back to Oregon for an appt. with the VA. An annual thing and not uncommon for expats in Belize. When I last made the trip, via Continental into Houston, I had one carry-on and NO checked bags. What a pleasure. A friend & I were expedited thru the line for the flight crews because we didn't have checked bags. Immigration and customs were handled at the same desk. We were rapidly on our way to our next gates.

For this trip, we got a somewhat better fare with Delta so decided to give it a try. NEVER AGAIN! Delta brings ina much smaller plane and wouldn't allow the carry-ons inside the passenger compartment. They checked it for that flight. When Art got to Atlanta (sucks!) with a 1 1/2 hour layover, he had to wait for over an hour for his bag to come off the plane, then regular customs, etc., so he missed all his connections and had to wait for another flight out of Atlanta and then stay over last night in Salt Lake City at OUR EXPENSE. This caused huge problems for him as well as our family waiting for him at his destination. Rather than getting in last night, he doesn't arrive until noon today. He has so little time with our grandkids there as it is, they've now cut his visit very short.

I don't care what the difference is in the fare. I'd choose not to travel before I/we will take Delta again. They don't have a clue, nor do they care, about the convenience or problems of their passengers. I've written to both Delta and Expedia, so we'll see if either has the courtesy to at least answer back. There's actually no way they can make up for the huge inconveniece and frustration we've been caused.

We've had cool, lovely weather for about a week, but it's now raining again. Mirrors my mood. Thank goodness for our incredible Bailey. He's such a comfort and loving friend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hurricane Rina

To answer a question about our preparations for hurricane Rina, the answer is that we don't have any. We're on the very western side of Belize, only about 3 air miles from Guatemala, so most hurricanes don't find their way over here. What we do get is lots of rain. There's not much we can do about that except have lots of supplies in case we don't want to navigate our road. Even with a hurricane, such as Richard, which did come our way, all we can do is close our shutters and wait it out. Our house is on concrete pillars and is strapped and/or bolted down. The winds generally come from the SE and we don't have trees on that side of our buildings. We are extremely happy to not be down near the river as the rising and falling of the Mopan don't affect us up here. All-in-all the most we can do is have food and gasoline for the generator and wait these things out. A little prayer doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The sun is shining

Ok, I've whined so much about the weather and our road that I have to remind myself and you to sing praises when the weather is wonderful, which it is right now. We've had a few days now without rain, scattered clouds and sun. Being so close to the equator, when the sun is out it can get hot really fast, but oh, are we all loving it. It's gotten quite cold, for here, with the temp dropping to the high 50's at night. We're actually using blankets on the bed. So lovely. Bailey is enjoying the cool. This is absolutely perfect weather.

I splurged and bo't two bouganvilla's, a lovely hibiscus and a couple of other plants (I'm terrible with the names) and will plant them today.

We haven't been doing anything with the cacao. Our grafting attempts failed miserably. I've talked to nursery folks and found that they do most of their grafting in Nov. & Dec., so we'll try again, now that it's cool out. The problem will be getting the buds. I always have to give things at least one more shot.

Rene is back at work. He told me that he's feeling much better and going crazy staying home with nothing to do. Also, they have absolutely NO money. We pay social security for him so he did get 80% of his wages, but it's not enough to support them as he only gets paid for 3 days a week. Anyway, we told him to pace himself and only do what he felt like. Fat chance. He put in a full day, clearing the property line fences. We're so lucky to have him helping us.

Art's heading for Oregon to visit the VA, so we're getting things caught up before he leaves. Wish I was going too, but, as we've already said, one of us has to stay to take care of the place and Bailey. This is a very special time as our oldest grandson, Max, turns 16 on the 28th. It's hard to believe that he's that big. That's the hardest thing about moving out of the country. We REALLY miss our family, especially our grandkids.

Enough babbling for now. I need to get outside before it gets hot. Blessings!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Trooper OOPS!

On it's best days our little old, 1990 Trooper isn't a thing of beauty, but right now she's having a new struggle. We let Rene take it home over the weedends so that he can get to another job on Friday and then to the market over the weekend. A week ago he bro't the car back and parked it on the driveway. We've had the emergency brake repaired, but he doesn't like to use it. He was weedeating a distance away and I was in the house when I heard a noise and looked out in time to see the Trooper bumping down the hill on it's own. I took off running and yelling when I heard a fairly gentle crash. As I came around the corner of the bodega I saw that it had hit our lime tree. The tree had been struggling with an infestation of bugs which we'd been treating, but it's now a moot point as it was broken and lying off to the side. Luckily, the Trooper only seems to have a broken headlight. If the tree hadn't been there, it would have picked up speed going down the hill and probably been totalled in the heavy bush. We've been trying to find a used headlight assembly, but no one has a driver's side light, so have now ordered a new one. Next week we'll take it to Bado (body shop) and have him straighten the hood and fender and install the new light.
2 weeks later:
We looked everywhere we could think of to find a used headlight, but only found three that were for the passenger side. Darn. Ended up having Bedo order a new one and then straighten the hood and fender to accomodate the light. I told him he didn't have to make it pretty because that would only embarrass the rest of the car. We now have it back and so far, so good. We're ready for a lull in the unexpected expenses.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rain, rain and more rain

Sometimes it seems that's all I talk about, but right now it's definitely on our minds. If you can look at a satellite photo of Central America you'll see that we're right at the junction where fronts from the Pacific heading NE and those from the Atlantic, heading NW are meeting and heading for Mexico and the Caribbean. The hurricane center says that there aren't strong winds associated, just lots of rain. Well let me tell you, that's an understatement. It's been pouring for two days and is supposed to continue tomorrow. We're not going to head down until this is over as there's no way we could get back up our hill.

We have one neighbor just beyond ours and he's trying to do some construction. They have hopes to open as a small resort. I swear there's one resort for every tourist in Belize. People can't believe that we're gringo's, live here and don't have a resort. Anyway, we heard a truck try to make it up the hill, unsuccessfully, and then Bailey started barking. "Good boy!" I saw two guys walking up the hill, dragging rebar! ! ! Can you imagine. It's about a 1/4 mile up that muddy, long hill.

My dilemma is laundry. I didn't want to leave clothes at the laundry because I don't know when we'd get back to pick them up, but we really needed some things, so I did a few loads today. Seems silly because it's raining like crazy. I used the existing lines on the verandas of the guest house and our house and Art hung a new, higher line on our veranda so that I could hang sheets. Heaven only knows when, or if, they'll get dry. It's still quite warm out, so worth a try. Makes me feel as tho' I'm doing something positive anyway. Several of our friends have butane clothes dryers. I'm envious, but a huge expense for such a short time. It's something we'd buy tho' if we could afford it.

OK, back to J.D. Robb and Dallas. In case someone reads this who doesn't know, J.D. Robb is a nom de plume for Nora Roberts, writing about detective Eve Dallas. Great stories, but I've read them all at least 3 times. I'm getting desperate. I slurp these books up so fast tho', that I forget them just about as fast. Scary!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dengue fever

Our dear Rene, who works so hard for us two days a week, was working a week ago when he collapsed. He's been weedeating. We heard a faint cry and Art dashed out to see what had happened. Rene was on the ground. He hurt all over, but mostly in his stomach and head. We got him in our truck and Art took him to the government hospital, stopping off at Rene's to get a couple of his sons. They stayed with him while they ran tests and checked him over. Now this hospital is new, but nearly worthless. The service is free, but you get what you pay for. Rene went back home, but felt awful over the weekend, so they took him to a private Dr, who diagnosed him as having Dengue and possibly malaria at the same time. There have been lots of mosquitos everywhere, with all our rain, so hard to pinpoint where he got it. We don't have any standing water, but the bush does harbor dampness. Anyway, after a week, he's doing much better and he's determined to try to return to work on Monday. We do pay his social security, which is a combination of retirement and workmen's comp insurance. He'll collect 80% of what his reported earnings are. The trouble is, so many people don't pay the insurance, so many workers end up with nothing. They work so hard for so little anyway, that it makes you angry. Dengue is a real threat here. We've had other friends who have contracted it and it's taken them months to get back to normal. Besides being weak, you have a horrible headache.

I'm so glad that Rene is doing better and we're praying we escape it, but it's hard to escape those little devil mosquitos.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jaguar carving



I finally finished my jaguar panel. I was really happy with the carving, but disappointed at how red it turned when I put the teak oil finish on it. This is my first use of mahogany, but I should have expected this. Anyway, I now have to push myself to start something new. I can't complain any more that I don't have the time, because I'm getting really lazy and spend lots of spare time reading. I'm going to try to find a wood that's not quite so red this next time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday

We decided to drive into San Ignacio for breakfast. It's something we always enjoyed doing in the States. Here it's somewhat of a challenge. Most everything is closed except the grocery stores, and many of them close early. Our only choice is Pop's. It's a little hole in the wall that seems to have been there forever. Only six booths, so we had to wait outside, hovering to grab the next one available. As Gringo's we have to stand up for ourselves in line or we'll lose out. We had a nice breakfast with my favorite, fry jacks. Everyone seems to make them a little differently, but I love Pop's the best. I should try to learn to make them, but I really don't like to cook and it's so much better when you can enjoy those of an expert.

The weather is "tween" right now. Threatening, with thunder both to the north and to the south most of the day, but little rain for us. The Mopan river is at the bottom of our hill and it comes from Guatemala and the mtns. It's obvious that the clouds and storms to the south of us are dumping rain on Guatemala because the Mopan looks like the chocolate river in the Willie Wonka movie. The water level is high, but not enough to flood Paslow Falls Rd., which is a blessing, and is a dark red, mud color. We really don't covet land along the river. The potential for flooding is huge. The bugs love the dampness. According to Rene, who lives along the Mopan, the iguana's, which are a protected species, destroy most of their plants. We're so happy up on our hill where we usually have a lovely breeze. It's stifling hot a lot of the time along the river. When the weather is nice and the water is clear, we just pop down the hill and enjoy a dip. The best of both worlds!

We both did some weedeating yesterday so have decided to give ourselves a day off today. Art's reading and I'll probably try to finally finish a panel I've carved of a jaguar. I've really been lazy about my artwork. Discipline isn't my long suit.

I had planned to run errands tomorrow, licensing the pickup and going to the Bank. Those will have to wait a day because, saddly George Price, who lead the country of Belize into independence in 1981 and became the first Prime Minister, passed away this last week, just before Independence Day. Prime Minister Dean Barrow has declared Monday a holiday in memory of Mr. Price.

Hope you are all enjoying a relaxing day too. Blessings, Gale

Friday, September 23, 2011

Adjustment to butane conversion

We've been driving our pickup for a bit now on butane and it's doing beautifully. A problem did arise, however, when we tried to flip it back to gasoline. I've been checking some articles online and read that it's adviseable to start the vehicle on gasoline, at least occasionally, to keep the engine clean. It did start on gasoline, but had no power and wouldn't move. It seemed to be starving. Took it back to LP gas and found that indeed was the problem. It was starving for air. If you have this done, be sure to have this problem addressed. I wasn't there for the dialogue on the problem, but apparently the engine needs more air on gasoline. They installed a switch that will open (or reroute) the airflow when on gasoline. We'll probably have someone else look at it to be sure that this is the proper adjustment. Hope this ends this little project. We are very pleased tho' with the performance on butane and would recommend it to anyone trying to save money on fuel. Now, back to life in Belize!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Trip with friends in the newly converted truck

A friend had to fly to the State because his mother isn't well, so I agreed to drive him and his wife, Betty, to the airport. It had rained hard most of the night, so I was really leary about driving down our hill. Art didn't want me to try it, but I'd promised, so I slipped and slid sideways down the hill.

It's a short two hour drive from here to the airport, but we always allow lots of time as the trip from here to Belmopan is hurry up and slow down for villages, buses and kids going to school. From there, Betty, our good friend Diane & I headed for Belize City as I'd never been to the new Benny's. Wow, what a treat that was. It's the first store I've seen in Belize that resembles one in the States. It's like a smaller version of Home Depot. Lots of beautiful items for your home, but few would fit in our little wooden house. Our small rooms and single wall construction aren't conducive to installing fancy fixtures, tile or large appliances. I'm sure I left drool marks tho' on the washers and dryers. We had such a lovely time looking tho'. We then made a stop at Brodie's. They're a little high priced on most things, but they carry so many things that you can't find anywhere else. It's lovely to see familiar brands. Our next stop was great, but please don't ask me the name or where we were, because I was lost. Down an alley, behind several stores was a small warehouse that appeared closed. We were buzzed in (made me think of old movies where they buzz you into a dark door to an illegal gambling hall), but this was a wholesale produce place. It was getting to be afternoon, so pickings were somewhat slim, but we still got lovely lettuce, grape tomatoes, apples, peppers , asparagus at good prices. Our last stop was at Save U. I was getting desperate as it's way too easy to spend more than you intend, but here the prices were too good to pass up. I didn't buy a lot but sure had fun.

We headed toward Cayo about 2:30pm. My concern was that it had rained a lot during the day and our road loomed large in my mind. I dropped each of the ladies off at their homes and then headed home myself. Betty insisted on following me in her old 4x4 truck. I felt badly that I'd let my concern spill over to them. She waited at the bottom of our hill and I headed up. I didn't get very far before I got stuck. The mud is slippery like gumbo and I couldn't find rock. I backed up and tried again. Still no luck. Betty stood by and watched my wheels while I kept trying by rocking just a little. Finally, I was able to get down to a bit of rock and lurched my way up the slippery ruts to the top of our hill. I wanted to stop and thank Betty & let her know that I was ok, but I couldn't stop. When I got home the truck & I were both a muddy mess, but I was glad to be home with my groceries and to be able to just relax. It was all worth it. I had such a lovely time with two truly nice friends.

I haven't had a chance to fuel up yet, but the gauge on the tank shows 45% full, if I'm reading it right. We know that our V8 engine doesn't get good mileage, but it appears that the trip cost about $65bz, where previously it cost about $150 for gasoline and a shuttle is from $180-$200, so NOT BAD! Blessings!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We're driving on butane







This isn't going to be the definitive answer to all your butane questions. Just how we see our conversion. It was a tad cheaper than we'd been told, which was a lovely surprise. We just put a few gallons in at LP gas as they only had the imported butane available for $5.21bz/gallon. Art drove to the BNE depot and filled up with 25.5 gallons for $102bz. ($4bz/gallon). Now the test will be the mpg.

Right off the bat we can see two problems.

1. We've lost some of our load space and the gauges and connection are toward the back, so we'll want to put some kind of a barrier there if we want to haul anything that might hit them. Already ran into that problem when we hauled the old flail over to Hillside welding AGAIN! Yes, that's 3 trips to Sp. Lookout this week.

2. This is a problem for me. The switch on the dash is just the right height that I tend to bump it will my delicate little knee when I get out of the truck. Have done it twice already in one day. Up is butane, down is gasoline.

These are just minor bumps and certainly not significant enough to discourage someone from having the conversion done.

The biggest issue is that, right after we got home the "check engine" light came on. Bummer! Now will have to go to Matus to have that checked. He's the only one with a real code tester.

9/12 This morning Art took the truck to Matus to find the answer to the "check engine" light. Whew! He said it's normal. Just the vehicle's way of saying things have changed. Ignore it! Hard to do, but great to have such a simple answer and it was "free."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Butane questions

I'll know more after Tuesday, but I'll answer a couple of questions right now.
First, most of the people use butane appliances, ie. stoves, on-demand water heaters, etc., so there are lots of places to get butane. There must be at least 10 in San Ignacio alone. We're lucky that BNE just opened a new station on the Western highway, just west of San Ignacio.

The truck will have a semi-permanently installed tank in the bed of the truck. To fill it we just go to a station and they fill it there. Our only problem that we can see is if we decide to put the canopy back on the truck.

I forgot to mention that there'll be a switch which will allow us to run on either butane or gasoline. This will make it easier as we could switch to gasoline if we should ever take a long trip with the canopy on and a load in the truck.

Hope these help.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

butane vs gasoline

We've been struggling with this question for quite a while. I'm referring to switching to using butane to fuel our pickup truck. We love our 8 cylinder, 2000 Toyota Tundra, but it's a gas guzzler. Here in Belize gas has run up and down from $10.47bz to nearly $12 per gallon. In US dollars that's from $5.50 to $6. Ick! $200bz won't even fill the tank. We use the Trooper some, but it's not much better considering it's age. We haven't really travelled much around the country because of the expense. Between the vehicles and weedeaters we feel we're supporting the gas station on Bullet Tree Rd, all by ourselves.

A few years ago, oil was discovered here in Belize. There are several wells in Spanish Lookout, with more scattered around the country. BNE (Belize Natural Energy) seems to be quite prosperous, but we understand that most of the $$s leave the country, as the oil is processed out of Belize and the company itself is Canadian. Anyway, I digress!

A byproduct of this oil is butane gas. Now my knowledge about all this is extremely limited and I was under the impression that butane and propane weren't interchangeable, but apparently I was mistaken. Anyway, at this point, we are focusing on our immediate problem. Imported butane sells for around $4.50 - $6/ gallon, with the local butane from BNE selling for $4/gallon. We've met several folks lately who have converted their vehicles and they couldn't be happier, so off we trudged to Spanish Lookout to check out conversion possibilities. (I still find it weird that the best mechanics are Mennonites. Kind of an oxymoron to my way of thinking). Folks who've had the conversion done claimed to have spent from $1k to $1,400. Of course, when we checked it has now gone up to closer to $2k for the complete conversion, plus a 30 gallon tank as well as some butane. One consideration is that we'll probably get one or two miles per gallon less with butane. Even at that price, with butane being only $4/gallon, we can save enough in a year to pay for the conversion. It's tough to spend money on something so unexciting, but fiscal survival makes it a smart decision, so Tuesday, early, we head off for Spanish Lookout. Here's hoping we'll find ourselves among those smug, satisfied customers. Later,





Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lazy days of summer



Here in Belize that phrase has a different meaning for me than it did up in Oregon. Up there it seemed that the weather is still warm, but the nights are getting a little cooler and you should just sit back and enjoy the slow, winding down. Here, it's just too hot to do much else. I feel guilty as lots of the local folks (Rene for one) keep working all day, heat and all. It just wipes me out. It will rain for a while one day and then be hot for the next few. Today dawned cloudy, but didn't feel like rain, so I quickly did a couple of loads of laundry. I'm probably repeating myself again, but I do laundry the Belizean way. I either haul water or use the hose to till a washer that agitates, then I move the clothes to a tub on the side, which spins the clothes. It's reminiscent of the wringer washer system my grandmother used. Anyway, I hung the clothes on the line, ate a bite of breakfast and then had to head to town to get the Trooper licensed. This wonderful event is once-a-year, as is the insurance, and a pain in the "neck" (insert your own body part of choice). We always have to wait our turn, which can mean a long time unless we assert the fact that we were there ahead of others. Then they may or may not inspect the car. Now we're talking here about a 1990 Trooper with 280k miles. We checked all the lights before leaving home and they all worked. We just had the emergency brake fixed, so we felt in pretty good shape. Well this happened to be one of the times that he wanted to check the car. The left headlight is held in place by a piece of wire and always heads a little bit off to the left. He pointed out that it was not very bright. Was he refering to me or the car? Of course the sun was blinding us and boiling my brains out, but I couldn't argue with him. Luckily, Art popped up about then and whispered to him that this car is not driven at night and is only our security system. Hi smiled and let the rest of the check go. Way to go Art! Of course then there is another fellow to double check the paperwork and then you go to the cashier. Here we had to wait in line behind a couple relicensing a taxi. They were shuffling with the money an bro't out a wad that looked like hundreds of dollars. Turned out to be his fares, so was two's (yes in Belize they use paper twos that are blue) and fives along with a bunch of US ones. The clerk had to sort it all, turn the buills around, shuffle, shuffle. I was ready to jump the counter and do it for them, but they finally agreed on the amount and it was our turn to hand over $200 and wait for the poor girl to hand write all the papers. My little voice has to keep say, "this is a 3rd world country, it's an emerging nation, it will be over soon!" Miraculously it was. The weird thing is that here, rather than getting license tabs, you get a sticker for your windshield. We always put the sticker on the passenger side. Now, they're demanding that the stickers go on the driver's side. It's to make it more convenient for the transportation inspector to check when he stands in the middle of the road at a checkpoint. Of course, you might hit him as your vision will be impaired because of the stickers, but ours is not to reason why. (Little voice says, "get a grip Gale, you'll be out of there soon). Oh joy, I get to do this again next month when the license for the pickup expires.

After we left there it was off to Three Flags (market) and the bank. The line at the bank can be long and take forever, so we stopped and got a coke before heading home. We had a bite of lunch and then, our energy flagged and it's an afternoon of reading and just gentle chores. I'm seeing the practicality of the mid-day siesta. My trouble is that it's stretching out longer and longer. Wow, looks as tho' I may be retired!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

cacao problems














This probably isn't of interest to anyone but us, but I want to record some of it here for my own memories. We were so excited because our root stock has been doing so well. We've had a good success ratio and had lots of small plants for grafting. Our only source of buds for us to graft has been at Marco's place in San Ignacio. It's exciting to see his trees, full of flowers and tiny pods. We select buds from the strongest trees with the most pods. Marco hasn't labeled his trees, but we know that his are grafted and a mix, so that's going to have to be good enough. Rene and I have collected buds 3 different times and returned home and grafted them the same day. We've been extremely careful with our grafts, but the end result after all this time is that we've had almost no success. We haven't been able to coordinate with Marco for help, so have been struggling on our own. Art & Rene have been extremely disappointed and wanted to give up, but I just can't. If they can do it in Toledo then, by darn, we can do it here in Cayo. It's just hard to have lost so much time and money with our experiments, but we're NOT giving up.

I've been looking at the grafts that we've lost and it seems that they're really wet, with some even having mold on them. We've had them under the trees, but not really under cover. We've had some serious rain lately at times, so that I'm pretty sure that that's our problem. It's not so much our grafting techniques as much as too much water. Marco had already told us that cacao doesn't want to have their feet wet all the time. This time we pulled out all the stops. Our friend Jane gave us a screened house that we'd hesitated to put up as it's not real heavy and we were afraid that the wind and rain would destroy it, but we need it, so up it went.

Fourth batch - Rene and I experimented with different kinds of grafts too with this batch. We left some buds long and not covered and used plastic wrap rather than the parafilm on most of the side grafts. We had already tried 2 unsuccessful grafts on several of the plants, so Rene cut the top off of them and tried a top graft. We put all of these in the screened house right away. We're hoping that in a couple of weeks we'll see an improved result. At that point we cut the tape off and expose the graft to the air. It's hard to work with your fingers crossed!

We've arranged with Marco to come up on Monday to review our problems and give us some advice. Rene feels badly that he didn't ask all the questions we have when he was in Toledo, but heck, he was really only there for one day and we think he learned a lot in a very short time. It's frustrating to learn by the "hunt and peck" system, but we'll get there. We also remind ourselves that the folks in Toledo were given everything by grants. They have concrete floor buildings, were given seed and unlimited help with growing, grafting and pruning. We're outsiders by being in Cayo as well as being gringos. It's just a fact of life here that we can't let make us angry. It seemed to us when we were actually living in the US that the immigrants got most of the assistance and priorities, but here in Belize it's just the opposite. Unless you're a wealthy gringo, you just shut your mouth and plug along trying not to make waves. We knew that coming in, so we try to make it work. The part that makes it acceptable is that we have friends in the same boat. It's easy to feel sorry for ourselves until we look at the plight of the local families and then we realize that we're doing ok. At least we have a great place to live and food. Many of them have next to nothing. That's for another posting. I can really get angry for them. My glass is still half full.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stormy weather

Yes, I talk a lot about the weather, but it dictates so much of our lives here that we all talk about it a lot. "Wow, isn't it hot today?" "We had a little rain today at our place, but not down the road 1/2 mile." Yesterday was really sticky. We had been told that a storm was on it's way and would hit Belize on Saturday. Ahead of it was hot, humid air. I watch the NOAH satellite info as well as the weatherbug site which shows the weather for San Ignacio. We try to touch base with friends to be sure that everyone's aware and prepared. I headed to town to buy a few groceries so that we could survive if it rained a lot and Paslow Falls Rd flooded. It doesn't happen often, but when it does we're cut off unless we choose to walk over the hill to the village. It's easier to have a few supplies and ride it out here. We also have to be sure to have gasoline for the generator.

Today we've seen the beginnings of this little tropical storm called "Harvey." That was my Dad's name, so I'm expecting a little disruption, just to keep us all guessing, but no real damage. Most of the afternoon it's been raining and it looked like twilight out at 2pm. We've had a couple of spurts of hard rain, but most of the time it's just dribbling. Probably most of this will hit during the night. Right now the winds are predicted to top out at 50mph, which isn't particularly disturbing. As I've said before, when we lived on the northern Oregon coast we often experienced winds up to 100mps and we rode them out in our 1893 Victorian house. Those storms didn't even warrent a name. I'm not pooh-poohing these storms, we just don't get hysterical worrying about them. If it does get severe, we button up the shutters and (sadistic things that we are) we enjoy the sounds of the storm. I did take advantage of the water to wash the truck. Besides the rain falling, I knew that the cistern was filling faster than I could use it. I also took the opportunity to dig some of the grass that's grown in our driveway and use for plugs in some of our areas of weeds. Go grass!


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Update on Art

We've had notes from folks inquiring about Art's medical progress. I'm delighted to say that he's doing really well. He wasn't to go back to the Dr. for three weeks, but we were concerned about the Warfrin and if it was working propertly. He visited our family Dr. and then had blood tests. Yippee! He's doing great. He's been determined to try to get out and continue weedeating, etc., but his leg does bother him when he overdoes (duh!) and it's once again HOT outside. Weather shows that we should have thunderstorms and rain, but all is passing us by to the south and we're just getting the hot and hear some thunder. Thankfully we also get the breezes, which keep it somewhat comfortable. The thermometer that's in the sun showed 118 this am, but is now in the 90's. All in all we're doing ok. Thanks for all the good tho'ts.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Medical care

One of our big concerns about living in Belize has been, "what if one of us gets sick?" Many of us have had this conversation, along with upsetting stories of previous care. We pay insurance premiums in the States, but they don't transfer to Belize. We're on our own down here. Well, out of the blue, a problem caught us unawares and had us having to use the Belize system.

Art has been having problems with dizziness and then developed a pain in his leg, along with swelling. He tho't he had a charley horse or pulled muscle. When this didn't get better, but continued to get worse, I nagged him into seeing a Dr. I'd seen Dr. Sanchez in San Ignacio previously for a couple of very minor issues. He's a lovely, caring man, trained in Cuba. He's a family practioner. He sent us to Belmopan to the Imaging Clinic for an ultrasound as he feels they do a better, more professional job. We had to dashed there, get the ultrasound and then get back to San Ignacio before 3pm, when Dr. Sanchez closes until evening hours. As he suspected, Art had a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in the back of his leg. There was a lot of hassle finding an internist available who could admit him to the hospital, but the Dr. found Dr. Manzanero was actually at Loma Luz hospital right then. We dashed up there (it was now 7pm) where Art was examined and admitted. Now we had heard scary stories about how expensive Loma Luz was, but hey, this wasn't any time to quibble. We needed help. They immediately started him on a blood thinner and pain killers.

I hated to leave Art in the hospital, but it was really late, we'd had pouring rains and we hadn't been prepared for him to enter the hospital. I dashed home, in the dark, and I have to tell you, when it's dark here it's really DARK! The road up to our place was about a 1/2 mile of slippery, gooey, muck. It was the worst I had ever seen and I was alone and it was pitch dark out. Hey, I'm a tough old, ex truck driving, broad, so I plunged up the hill. I made a real mess of the road, but our trusty Toyota truck got me thru again. I was home and able to take care of Bailey and get ready to head back to the hospital the next day.

Tuesday was long and tiring. It rained gently all night, which is worse than a driving rain because it just creates goo instead of washing it away down to the base rock. I was able to get down the hill, going sideways at one point, but trudged on. I was worried that Paslow Falls Rd would be flooded, but thankfully, was just giant puddles.

I won't bore you with the details of our day, but will just say that it was really long. The nursing care at Loma Luz was terrific. The nurses were caring and cheerful. Art told me they took enough samples to drain half his blood, which meant that they were doing every test immaginable to get all his levels. I don't think he minds my saying he is also diabetic, which might be a causing factor for the clot. Art felt better than he had in days. The medications he was given seem to have an immediate effect, reversing most of his symptoms. The really difficult thing was that the Dr. doesn't come in until 6pm and it turned out that they had emergencies, so he didn't come in to see Art until about 9pm. By that time, I was about asleep and Art was ready to run screaming into the street. Finally the Dr. came in, gave us the reports, all of which were very encouraging, prescribed medication and sent us on our way. We went down to the pharmacy, which is part of the hospital, got the meds, at which time she presented us with the bill. Take a deep breath! This is where it gets scary and they have to admit me with a heart attack! We had to give them a $500bz deposit when he first checked in. Ok, give us the worst. What? We now owed a total of $7.89bz. My gosh. Are you sure? There was an amount there for the Dr. Do we owe that separately? No, that's included. That covered the stay, the Dr., the meds and the lab work. We could have cried tears of relief.

Our trip home, now at 10pm turned out to be even worse than mine the night before, but we made it! I made a huge mess of the road, just putting the peddle to the metal and grinding my way up, but who cares? It was so good to be home, together and know that, for now, we're ok.

We discussed having to fly back to Oregon to get medical help and still might have to resort to that for more serious concerns, but for now, we have much more faith in the Belize level of care. I guess that's the clue. We felt genuine care for Art's problem, how we were and what needed to be done. All along the way we only saw kindness and concern. I have to add that Loma Luz is by far the cleanest hospital in our part of Belize, but by U.S. standards, it would be horrible. Everything looked as tho' it was a garage sale find, but the walls were freshly painted and things seemed relatively clean. There isn't a lot of shiny stainless steel or machines going beep, but we did find compassion and knowledgeable help. It's not the U.S., but that's not all bad. Blessings.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

cacao grafting
















We've made two trips to Marco's this week to collect cacao buds. This is a tricky job as we're trying to match the size of the buds to the size of our little seedlings. Marco's trees aren't labeled, which surprised me, but he says they're a mix, so we'll just go with that. When (& if) we finally get grafted plants into the ground, we don't want to plant all of one variety in one area. They need to cross pollinate. Since our first round of grafting was unsuccessful, we did a second graft on those seedlings. It was a little hard on some to find enough room for the graft, but we managed. All together we grafted 184 plants. This time we followed Marco's advice and cut the branches, then trimed the leaves off and placed the bud stem in newspaper, which we wet before transporting. The leaves need to be trimmed to stop the photo synthesis. (Wow, I'm learning a tiny bit of the terminology). We looked for trees that had lots of flowers and small pods because we're actually cloning the most productive trees.

We've been asked, "why grafting." According to Marco, if we plant the seedlings directly in the ground, it will take 5 - 7 years to start getting pods. By grafting we should cut the time down to 2 1/2 - 3 years. I accepted this, but still didn't understand why. As Rene and I were grafting, of course we talked a lot. This question came up and he finally put the answer in terms that made sense to me. He's wise in Mayan medicine and has worked in several fields, is smart and inquisitive. Anyway, he told me that the bud comes from a fruiting tree so once it takes hold on the rootstock it takes off from the point of the parent tree. It no longer has to wait to reach maturity, it will start producing as soon as the plant reaches a strength to support the fruit. Not technical, but makes sense to me.

We have about 500 more seedlings nearly ready to graft. We'll probably wait a week or two for them to gain a little size and then start again. Our goal is to plant an acre or two, which would be about 600 plants, and then possibly be a nursery to sell to others who don't want to mess with the grafting. Don't blame them as it's a tedious task and the loss along the way is very frustrating. The thing is, Rene and I seem to do fine and enjoy the challenge. Art is frustrated that he isn't able to help with this stage as he has a little tremble in his hand, so he gets to do the toting and fetching. We're all a team.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shipping into Belize

The things I shipped from Oregon to Belize finally arrived. 7 boxes, 2 plastic tubs and one suitcase, at least that's what they were when they started. By the time they got here, they were barely recognizeable. The shipments started with UPS from Bend, OR to Houston. From there the shipper put in a container to Belize. Not sure of the route, but went thru the hands of the Guatemalans, who took everything apart and threw them back again. The end result of all of this is that the boxes and tubs were crushed and the hard-side suitcase was only holding together because I had shrinkwrapped it. The sadness for me is that most of the things most precious to me were broken. I'm used to packing and have rarely lost items, but this trip was upsetting. I have to admit that I didn't identify everything as "Fragile". I just filled boxes as things demanded, never thinking that they'd be so carelessly handled. One of the wonderful things tho' is that the photo albums that I did ship are here and ok. Memories of building our log house and our grandkids. The bulk of our photos remain in storage with our son. I have to say that the true treasures are our memories. In spite of hurts that have made us sad, the memories of family and friends are still there to make us smile. No careless "lumper" can shatter those.

We've gone from rain to sunshine and humidity. It's so lovely, here on our hill, as we usually have a breeze. Art and Rene worked really hard this week to mow the yard. It really looks like a park. This next week we're hoping to get some budwood to be able to graft our cacao. More about that learning process in my next post.

We're off to visit friends and share some of those unshattered memories. Blessings!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rumination

I'm in a strange frame of mind. Probably just getting old, but right now I'm just tired. When I was in Oregon I really missed Belize (of course Art was here), and now that I'm in Belize, I can't seem to settle. I enjoyed having Jane here, altho' we both really wore our selves out, packing her life here. I now seem to be waffling between wanting to be alone and just sit and do nothing but read and being so lonesome for family that I could, and often do, cry.

We have several wonderful friends here who are always ready to help, but I sense that we're all in a similar frame of mind. I think what's got me most upset is missing our grandchildren. Wish we had the money to bring a couple of them down for a visit. Maybe next summer.

We've had torrential rains the last few days which have kept us housebound, here on our hill. Our "road" down the hill is a slippery slide. We can usually slide our way down, but are more worried about getting back up. I guess I was in a sort of coma last weekend as I didn't do the shopping, so we found ourselves facing a real Belizean life of making do with the odds & ends that were here. Since I'm not much of a cook (I really don't care for it) the reality was very upsetting. Yesterday afternoon the rain had let up and we decided to take a chance and head down. On the worst part of the road down a tree had fallen across the road. I took a chance and backed up, turned around and went back to the house to get some tools. The machette did the best job and we finally were able to make it down. We stocked up on groceries at 3 Flags (icky, but best prices) and stopped in at Cayo Cargo to check on my shipment from Oregon. It had arrived over the weekend, but there wasn't anyone there to help load in our truck so we just paid the bill and left the things there. I honestly can't remember what all's in the 10 boxes I shipped, but it had all better be good stuff as it cost a mint to ship. Actually, it's just little pieces of our life that I tho't would do better here. I had to get rid of so much, but wanted to keep bits that were memories or that I tho't would help us here. Whatever! It's a done deal. The shipment from Houston took a little longer than usual because they've decided to forego driving across Mexico for the near future because of all the violence. They're now filling containers and sending via ship. One of the things I'm looking forward to finding is a bunch of books I bo't on eBay. I've read most of my books at least twice, so new fluff is exciting stuff. My sweet cousin sent me books from Amazon, but he expects me to be a little deeper than I am. Right now just give me a good escape.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jane's back in the UK

We sorted, packed, taped toted and haul boxes for two weeks. Most of Jane's Belize life is now stored at our place. Actually, most of it is boxes that she shipped to Belize, but never did get the rooms finished to be able to unpack. Now most of the books, etc. may find their way back to England.

After much searching, I found two large kennels in San Pedro and with the help of some friends who were spending a couple of days there, we finally got the kennels to Cayo in the nick of time. (There's a whole story there, but I won't bore you with it now). We got the kennels put together the night before, loaded the animals in their kennels and drove to the airport the next day. Jane had done the paperwork ahead of time, but it still took over two hours to get it all handled. The two dogs and a cat flew to Houston and then straight to England. I was concerned about Honey, to old dog, that the trip would be hard on her, but she's pretty mellow and made it just fine. They're now in England in a quarantine kennel. The dogs are together and are living in the lap of luxury. Magic, the cat is staying pretty hidden until Jane comes to visit and then she comes out of hiding, purring and settles in her lap. The animals flew out on Thursday and Jane flew home on Monday, so they were there and settled by the time she arrived. England doesn't approve of the shots given in Belize so all the animals had to get the shots again. Belize is definitely viewed as a third world country in the rest of the world. A weird twist of fate is that, Jane just found out that the UK will abandon the quarantine period as of January 1. Instead you will have to have the animals tested three months ahead of traveling to prove that they don't have rabies, etc. They'll spend 48 hrs in holding and then can travel with you. Jane is having to spend a lot of money to keep them in quarantine, but she's happy that she can go see them every week or so and know that they're safe. This is all new to me, but I understand that all these requirements are only if your bringing animals in from a country that is not part of the pet passport program. I don't think you have to go thru the quarantine if you're traveling from the U.S.

We were concerned about Max, the dog who chose to stay here and live with Elan at Jane's old house. He now seems happy to be alone and the main man. What a relief.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We're "flush" with pride!
















I know that's pretty tacky, but we're

actually pretty excited. To go from our composting toilets to two flush toilets is pretty exciting stuff here at Dreamer Farm. We've toted the doodoo and put up with the bugs so the reality of flushing is really nice. We've had them build an 8' x 8' concrete septic tank and put in a single drainfield with infiltrators. This was a new concept to us, but our friend, Robin, has installed them before and had extras which we could buy. After reading about them on the internet, we felt they were by far the best solution for us. They're designed for locations that don't perk. That's not our problem here, but the marl is close to the surface, so were concerned that, in an extreme situation, we could have a drain problem. Our friend, Jane, is still here so she was able to go thru the transition with us. We've all laughed at how we can get excited about such a basic thing.

Our cistern holds a shy 10,000 gallons of water which we collect from the two roofs. We just had a pretty severe dry season and we still had over 1/2 the tank full, so water isn't an issue. Also, we have a pump and a couple of tanks, so we can go to the Mopan for water, if necessary. Yippee!

We're still not very fancy here, but at least now I'm not embarrassed to direct visitors to the bathroom.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Packing, packing, packing

No, we're not moving. Our dear friend, Jane Beard, has returned from England to spend a couple of weeks here, making sense out of the things she left in her house here and shipping her animals back to the UK. All this is much harder than it sounds. She has a whole room full of boxes that she'd never unpacked when she moved into her house. Burlars broke in recently and ransacked the room. It was someone who knew what was there as they seemed to have had a shopping list of items to take. Mostly Mayan books and memorabelia. Also, many of the boxes of books had become damp. We're having to sort and rebox. Ick!

Also, she has 3 dogs and a cat. Magic (cat) came from the UK, so is returning home. Max (dog), whom she's had the longest, must sense what's happening and decided he doesn't want any part of it. He's become aggressive and wouldn't let the vet near him. She's decided to leave him here and gave him to the nice young fellow who's been staying in the house. Even if Belize would let Max out of the country, she wouldn't be able to get him into the UK. I've tracked down two large kennels for her other two dogs and they should arrive here today. That search is a whole nother story. We bring the animals here Wed. and take them to the airport on Thursday am, EARLY.

Then it will be back to the sorting. Once we're done we will keep her boxes in our little Mennonite house until she can afford to ship them. It's so difficult to see her have to make decisions that I had to make just a few weeks ago. The economy all over the world is forcing so many of us to make tough decisions. She heads back to England on Monday and then it will be back to our projects.

They finished building the septic tank yesterday and will now do the drainfield and plumbing.

The nursery is doing fine with about 90% success with sprouting our seeds. We are having trouble with bugs, which is difficult as we're trying to be totally organic. Hope the soap, garlic and neem works. Trouble is, I spray and it then rains. Trying not to be discouraged, but being tired doesn't help. Getting to be a cranky old broad. Have to slap myself alongside the head for an attitude adjustment.

More later.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Giving up on composting toilets!






We've had it with the composting toilet thing. We paid a lot of money for a Biolet toilet and absolutely hate it. Of course, we bo't the basic model because we were concerned about our electricity useage, which may be part of the problem. But, the whole process is just too smelly and a pain to empty. In this humidity the bugs hatch really fast, so we're emptying it a lot. Whatever the reason, when I went back to Oregon and was able to actually flush I told Art that I wanted to upgrade to a water flushing toilet. Hard to get excited about something this basic, but we are.

When our family visited recently, we had trouble with the one in the guest house as the vent odors permeated the bedrooms. Ick!


We've hired Rene's sons to dig the septic and build the system. Originally we tho't we'd have to have two septics, but upon advice of an American contractor friend of ours, we moved the site to below both buildings and will drain both into the one. We could have had someone come in with a backhoe, but did that with our cistern and it made an even worse mess than we have now and cost a lot just to get them up here. The boys dug a neat hole and they really need the work. It's money better spent. They just finished the hole and will pour the floor tomorrow. Our biggest problem is getting rid of the pile of marl that's now littering our yard. Will probably have to load it in the pickup and put it on our road.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June in Belize













I had an unevenful trip back home to Belize. Long layovers proved to be a blessing as weather was delaying flights in and out of San Francisco. No worry for me, just shortened my layover time. No problem with Belize customs as residents are allowed to bring in $200 worth of goods and I only bo't a couple of small items, so breezed thru. I did ship a few boxes of "stuff" to Belize, via Houston. Nothing important, just memory things to remind us of our previous life. I'm anxiously awaiting a few books from those boxes.

I've been home a week and am just starting to get my balance again. It was such a difficult time in Oregon and the weather was cold and when I arrived back in Belize it was hot and humid. I've had a tough time sleeping and have just felt disoriented. It was so good tho' to get back home and find my place again. One thing that helped was that Marco bro't us 700 more cacao seeds and some bags the day after I got home. It was great to have a project and to jump right in. This time we've changed our tactics. We're pre-sprouting the seeds to be sure that they're viable. We've put them under the house on screen and are keeping them wet. As they start to sprout, we put them in the bags giving us a much better success rate. We gave Rene some seeds and have about 500 in bags. We already have about 270 seedlings growing for root stock. Now we just need budwood to start grafting.

Belize's hot spell seems to have broken and it's started raining. We're getting lots of thunder during evenings and nights and then lots of rain. This is really good for the seedlings, but the trees we hoped to get budwood from have sprouted too fast, so we're left waiting, again. We made the base for our nursery from a pile of marl we had from digging our cistern. The rain makes this slippery and it splashed up on the bags. Cacao hates marl. Marco suggested we put sand on top, but it tracks and washes away. Instead we've opted for shavings. We get them either for free in bags, or they bring us a trailer load for $20 for fuel. It's really tidied up the nursery making it easier to water and much less messy. Hope we don't find that this has an adverse affect on the plants.

My brother wrote that it sounds as tho' we're working hard and getting blisters. Instead, we work a little in fits and starts and then just watch to see if something is sprouting. All this rain makes it hard to do much else outside, so we're back to reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Out with the old, in with the new

I've been in Oregon for almost 3 weeks sorting possessions, having two garage sales, giving things away and doing a lot of crying. Art had to remain in Bullet Tree to take care of our place and our dear Bailey. It's very difficult to dismantle and discard pieces of our 50 years together. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not going away from, but to. We're definitely not alone in this struggle. So many are facing the same heartache. Leaving a home that you created, loved and now have to walk away from. We're lucky that we have our place in Belize. It's entirely different from our log home in Oregon, but it's a place of healing and new directions. We've been so blessed with good health and to have each other, along with our wonderful Bailey, which allows us to keep dreaming and facing new goals. It' s just so hard to once again, say goodbye to our beloved family.

It's also been very strange to leave Belize, where it's been over 100 every day for a couple of weeks, and have snow and freezing temps in the Oregon mountains. I've actually been so busy that I haven't had time to worry about it. I just put on a jacket and keep packing. Art tells me that it rained yesterday, so not sure what I'll find when I return.

When I get back to Belize I'll update what's happening with our Cacao nursery. I'm taking back grafting knives and tape, so will be jumping into the next phase of our growing.

I'm so grateful for the internet. It can be such a pain, but it allows us to remain connected, even in remote corners. More to come soon. Blessings!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

cacao nursery









After our loss of the seeds from Toledo, we decided to rearrange our nursery. Rene had taken note when he was in San Jose, that they put the bags in 2 rows to allow air space between. We used some of our pile of marl to level the floor and then Rene put up a little palapa to protect our new nursery from the direct sun. It's fantastic to watch him take material from the bush and build this very serviceable structure. As the cohune fronds dry, they'll let in more light. If it's too much he'll just add another layer. So clever.

We've been filling bags like crazy, getting ready for seeds. Hoping to get replacements for the previous failure and then additional. We're hoping to have 500 - 600 grafted plants to put in the ground later this year. That might be too optimistic, but it's our goal.

The photo of the little plants shows the 38 that have come up from our initial planting of 41. A small success.


I'll be heading for Oregon next week and hope to pick up grafting supplies up there. Wow, my learning curve is getting a little intense, but fun.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Hate to complain~

It seems horrible to complain about the heat when so much of the U.S. is suffering from such a long, miserable winter, but we're still in the throws of a very long hot spell. Today was the most miserable yet with a temp of over 100 a good share of the day. What makes it almost intolerable is that the farmers think that they HAVE to burn their milpa at this time. The humid, horribly hot air is also so smoky you can hardly breath. Thank goodness we're on the top of a ridge where we usually get a lovely breeze. It's been over two months of dry with about 10 minutes of rain a week ago.

It's hard to get up the energy to do a lot but tend to our new nursery. We've had some success and a big failure, but that's to be expected. The 41 bags we planted directly from a pod are doing great. Right now we have 38 plants up. Hoping the 3 pop up too. The frustrating thing is that the 107 seeds we bo't from the south aren't sprouting. We're not sure if it's the seeds or something we did wrong in the planting. Seems strange that we don't even have one plant showing. We planted them the day after the 41.

We've ordered 400 more seeds and Rene is putting up a shade palapa for the new nursery area. He came back from the south with ideas for an improved growing area. Marco came up on Saturday, looked at our six grafted plants and was very pleased with their growth. We're hand carrying water to them and giving them lots of love and attention. They're our hope for good budwood stock in the future. We're shooting for 500 to 600 grafted plants in the ground by the end of 2011. Go Dreamer Farm!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rene's trip

I picked Rene up at the bus stop in San Ignacio yesterday (Wednesday). He was tired, but seemed pleased about his trip and what he'd learned. The trip sounded difficult as it's long, without breaks. Rene, Javier and Henry took the bus from S.I. to Belmopan at 7am. It was a one hour trip. They had to wait until 11am for a bus south as there is now a rule that no one can stand up on a bus, so the full buses passed them by. It was then a 5 hour trip, without a stop to PG (Punta Gorda). They went to the Cacao office where they were waiting for them. They had a quick trip to the chocolate factory and then were driven to the farm in San Jose, getting there at 7pm. What a long day. Coming back they got up at 3:30am to catch a bus from San Jose to PG, but all were full. After two hours they had to pay someone to drive them to catch a bus back. I'm sure Rene's calmness helped them make it back.

I was pleased that Rene could travel with Beth's fellows as he's been all over Belize, is very friendly and not afraid to ask questions. He thinks that neither of the other fellows had done any traveling and were a little unsure what to do. Rene is a gem. On the way back to Bullet Tree he told me a little about the trip, sounding quite excited about what he'd learned. He decided to rest up Thursday and come to our farm on friday to pick up the Trooper and we'll sit down and discuss our project. We're moving forward.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cacao-grafted plants



Marco is enthusiastic about finding growers in Cayo, so isn't letting any grass grow under his feet. Another friend of ours contacted the Toledo Growers about cacao and Marco is assisted her to get started. She has some old trees, but we've found that they aren't of the preferred variety, so she'll be starting fresh too. She has lots of good land along the river, so some of her issues will be different from ours. It's nice to feel we can work together, learning as we go. Yesterday we met again at Marco's place where he had some grafted plants for each of us. We're buying all our stock, but as members of TCGA the costs are certainly reasonable. Once again, we dashed home to get our very special little plants in the ground. These 6 are each a different variety, so we'll label, give them special attention and track their growth and performance. These will eventually furnish our budwood for grafting. (see I'm learning new terms already).


We've been sharing our discussions with Rene and he seems excited about this too. Marco has arranged for us to send Rene and our friend Beth to send two fellows to the Toledo District to learn more about cacao, pruning and grafting. Because of the hot weather and schedules we decided to do this right away, so they will travel tomorrow by bus to Punta Gorda and then to a farm in San Jose. It's a long trip, but the only way we/they can get the training.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Cacao


We've jumped in with both feet in raising cacao. There's quite a learning curve, as with all new things, but is interesting and hopefully will be rewarding. We met with Marco a week ago, toured his place here and picked up the seeds he bro't up from Punta Gorda. He had a few pods on his trees, but the woodpeckers had destroyed all but one. He broke that one open to show us the seeds and then gave it to us to bring home and plant. The problem was that it's still very hot out and the minute the pod was broken open the seeds start to ferment, which will kill them. We stopped for a few minutes at the Saturday market in San Ignacio for some veggies and then headed home. By the time we got here we could already smell the fermentation. We had bags and got 41 seeds from the pod, which we planted immediately. We bo't seeds from P.G. and planted that 100 the next day. We now have a little nursery in the shade with our 140 seeds. It doesn't look like much, but hey, it's a start. Chocolate in our future! Yum!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our log home in Oregon










I'm taking this time to digress from the farm to share a little of our distress and upset about our previous home in Bend, Oregon. It's actually a couple of miles outside the resort area of Sunriver, Oregon. The area draws folks because of the Deschutes River, lots of lakes, golf courses galore and less than a 1/2 hour drive to the Mt. Bachelor ski area.

We discovered a log home being dismantled near Seattle in 1999. After a year of assessing and planning we bro't the logs down to Oregon and started rebuilding the home. We had to put the huge logs back in the same way they came apart, which was no mean feat. The original house was 2-story, but the top floor was covered by the roof with dormers. We wanted the view of Mt. Bachelor and more light, so we built an exposed 2nd story. We attempted to use as many salvaged products as possible. We were lucky to find oak kitchen cabinets that had been torn from a vacation home. They were like new. We installed an antique door at the side with most of it's original thumb print glass. When we located a party tearing out two, like new, clawfoot tubs, we couldn't make up our minds between the short or long one, so bo't them both. A really difficult task was accumulating downed poles and posts from neighboring woodlots for our loft and stair railings. Doing all the cleaning & shaping by hand made it a real struggle, but we did it. I spent one winter, carving a cougar on the outside of the front door. We were often visited by deer, so I carved two does on the inside of the door. There are lots of handcarved accents thruout the house.

Our crazy project was written about in "Log & Timber Style" magazine and later we were given a huge writeup in the Bend Bulletin. I'm only sharing all of this to give some insight into the anguish and sadness that we're going thru right now. We've tried to sell the house since first deciding that we wanted to make our home in Belize, but have been haunted by the rapid downturn in the housing market. We've supported the house for a long time, but now that must come to an end. I'm traveling back to Oregon in May to sell all the furnishings, salvaging as much from it as I can and then we'll let the house go. This horrible decision is coupled with some extreme family problems that are tearing us apart.

We'd placed both the Oregon house and Dreamer Farm on the market for sale, but, at least for now, Dreamer has truly become our refuge. It's so peaceful and beautiful and is giving us a positive direction for the future. We're going to stay here, grow cacao and renew our efforts to create a refuge for family & friends here in Belize.