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


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! ! !


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


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.