Sunday, October 23, 2016

Chicken update

I know I said a month or so ago that we were getting great enjoyment out of watching all the pretty chickens and roosters, but as the roosters have matured, the balance between the value of having pretty roosters around and getting a good night's sleep has tipped, and the good night's sleep is winning.

We started with 11 roosters, and we are down to eight.  Two went into the village to become "seed roosters," as the locals call them, because they are big and beautiful and very interested in the hens.  The third went into a frying pan and then our stomachs, and was delicious.

One of the things that makes it possible for me to eat the roosters, besides removing annoyances that crow around the clock, is the fact that "local chicken" tastes better than chicken purchased at the store, or even than the broilers we have raised specifically for meat.  The meat is slightly chewier, but that is actually a good thing since the texture matches the stronger flavor.  This means cooking them differently, and simply throwing one in the oven to roast doesn't really work, but with so many other ways to cook a chicken, I don't think we will have any problem eating our way through the remainder of the roosters, most of which are now destined for the pot.

Now, instead of wondering if I can eat them, I am developing my requirements for deciding the order of go into the pot.  The really loud roosters are going to go first.  They will be quickly followed by the roosters who are really hard on the hens, and fortunately some of the worst crowing offenders are also the worst hen offenders, which makes the decision easy.  One rooster, who is big, relatively quiet, and relatively easy on the hens will probably remain to be my seed rooster.  We have two other small roosters who might make the cut because they are quiet, pretty, and, in the case of one of them, actually comes to the defense of the hens, even though I know that might change as the pecking order changes.  The order will be somewhat determined by how many people I am feeding, and the size of the roosters.  However it works out, I am not planning on buying chicken from a store in the near future!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Different perspectives...

The vet came this morning to do annual shots for all - 4 horses, 2 dogs, 1 cat.  $202.50US.  Usually I crow over how cheap this is compared to the US, but this morning the vet told us that there is a rabies epidemic killing horses and cows because most Belizeans can't afford to immunize their livestock.  So now I am sad and don't want to crow.

This worries me on a few of different levels.  First, it is sad for the livestock that they die a painful death from a very preventable disease.  Second, it is a public health threat.  Third, people who can't afford to immunize their livestock will start killing bats to alleviate the problem, which will create a bunch of new problems.

It is frustrating, because I can't even think of a solution, besides, perhaps, the government offering free immunizations to those who can't afford it...but then perhaps those people can't really afford to have the livestock, so why enable them?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Surf & Turf, Belize Style

Surf and turf, Belize style...all gone before a photo...marinated skirt steak from #RunningW, #BelizeAquacultureLimited shrimp sautéed in local garlic and homemade butter from #WesternDairies cream, with zucchini and onion sautéed in #GloriousBelize coconut oil.  You can't really blame us for eating it before the camera came out!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Still helping with Hurricane Earl cleanup...

When we first moved to Belize, we would go to the market and buy a little bit here, and a little bit there.  Very quickly, we realized that one of the vendors was more friendly to us, and was giving us better prices, so we started shopping almost exclusively with her.  I soon realized that if Tom goes to the market without me or a detailed list, Gloria knows exactly what I want and makes sure Tom brings it home.  She also saves things she knows I like under the counter, and presents them to me with a twinkle in her eye when I stop in to shop. Needless to say, we've become friends over the years.

When Hurricane Earl hit our area in the beginning of August, the entire market flooded.  The river came up fast, and Gloria got her refrigerator out with a few small things, but didn't have time to get her display shelves out and they floated away.  She has been displaying her produce in wooden crates since then, but mentioned a few weeks ago that she really needed new shelves.  Tom, who loves a good project, offered to help build some for her.

Last Sunday afternoon Tom took the necessary lumber down to the market and built these display shelves for Gloria, with the help of Gloria and her partner Blad. Tom and Blad had fun, and Gloria got exactly what she wanted. And I can't wait for my next trip to the market to see them loaded with produce!
#lifeinbelize #belizetravel #hurricaneearl

Yup, it was dark by the time they finished.

Let the loading begin!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Huge Road Improvements

Moonracer Farm is at Mile 9 on the Chiquibul Road, which means we are nine miles south of the Western Highway at Georgeville via bad dirt road, occasionally impassable with anything other than a high clearance 4WD vehicle.  We are also very near the junction with the road that runs directly into Santa Elena through San Antonio and Cristo Rey, which until this summer, was about twelve miles of bad dirt road with short paved portions in the two villages.  If we were going to San Ignacio or points west, we would take the road through San Antonio; if we were going to points east, we would take the Chiquibul Road.  We chewed up a lot of tires, had a lot of maintenance bills, and got really used to driving vehicles with lots of bangs and rattles. 

Just this summer, the government paved the road between Cristo Rey and San Antonio. We still have three miles of dirt between Moonracer and San Antonio, and there are still a couple of miles of dirt between Cristo Rey and Santa Elena, but the paved, improved road between the two villages is really, really nice. I never thought I would say that; when we bought this place ten years ago, we liked the privacy and isolation fostered by the bad roads, and actually spoke out against paving when it was brought up six or eight years ago. 

But, with many hefty vehicle maintenance bills, not to mention aging bodies, we really like the paving and use that road almost exclusively to drive to the Western Highway, no matter which way we are heading.  We also recommend the San Antonio/Cristo Rey road to our guests, and we are happy to not be greeting literally rattled guests when they arrive. With the three remaining miles of dirt between here and San Antonio, we still have the remote jungle feel, but we are much more accessible.  So, for once, here's to progress!

This is where the pavement used to end outside of San Antonio.

If you look closely, you can see red lines in the road, like it might eventually even have a center stripe!

Road improvements included big ditches that will, with any luck, keep the road from washing out as it did when it was dirt...complete with big, heavy concrete bridges for driveways.

Project isn't quite done...but it's close!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If you want a Belize map...

One of the most frequent questions we get from future guests is what map of Belize they should get for their visit.  We used to refer them to a fairly expensive paper map, until we were referred to the app.  It's a free app you can download on your devices, and it works as a GPS whether or not you are online. It is also crowd sourced and frequently updated, so it is as complete and accurate as any map we have found, including both roads and hiking trails.  Just make sure you download the Belize map while you have Internet access. Moonracer Farm is already on the map, so you can get driving directions from the airport!
#belizetravel #belizejunglelodge

Monday, October 10, 2016

It never gets old

Despite having lived here almost 10 years and having a keel billed toucan nest over the house, we still run outside to see them when we hear them croaking.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


At Moonracer Farm, I tend to focus on serving wholesome, healthy, vegetable based meals. But it's hard to argue with bacon pizza. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Small, small world

We had some drive up guests the other day, a man from Colorado with his 13 year old son, and his mother from New Hampshire. Shortly after they arrived, we started to chat, and found that Susan, the mother, has horses and drives.  After a few more minutes of chatting, we realized that we have a mutual friend in NH.

After just another minute or so, Susan's face suddenly lit up, and she looked at Tom, and said, "I know had bouncy shafts but won anyway at Lorenzo!"  She then described Shawn, the horse, Tom's turnout, and a few other details from that show, which showed that she was who she said she was, even though Tom didn't remember the bouncy shafts!

We then proceeded to bore her son and grandson while we relived the glory days of Tom's driving, and developed a long list of mutual acquaintances, human and equine.

You never know whom you will meet at Moonracer Farm!

Shawn and Tom at Walnut Hill in 2004, after the bouncy shaft incident.  

#smallworld #travelbelize

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Horse hauling, cow hauling?

Life in Belize...Tom went down the hill from 7 Miles into Barton Creek to talk about getting Internet for the school kids in the village (another blog post when the story is finished...).  On the way back up, he had to halt at a switchback because a Mennonite was using his two horses to haul a trailer containing a feral cow and her calf who had run off and were too wild to lead home, and the load up the long steep hill was too much for the horses.  So, Tom backed down so the Mennonite could back his horses to the switchback where it was wide enough for Tom to get by, and Tom pulled ahead.  He hooked the tow rope to our little blue truck and the doubletree of the horses' harness, and gave them a little extra pull until they were on the flat.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Where do people who live in the Caribbean vacation?

Why, they vacation in the Caribbean, of course.

Part of the reason Tom and I moved to Belize was because we fell in love with the Caribbean while visiting Tom's parents' condo on St. Thomas, USVI.  From the first time we went there, sometime in the early 90s, we talked about moving to the Caribbean.  But, in addition to the problem of needing jobs, we also recognized that horse keeping on an island was impractical at best.  So, for ten years or so, we toyed with the idea of moving from NY to somewhere warm, probably the southern US, but didn't do anything about it until we vacationed in Belize and realized that the Caribbean lifestyle was available on the mainland in a place where we could have our horses and create jobs for ourselves.

For the past almost ten years of living in Belize, we have vacationed in Mexico and Guatemala and parts of the US that we hadn't seen prior to moving to Belize, and we plan to continue doing that.  But, we have friends who have a house in Belize and a house in St. John, USVI, and they happened to be in Belize at the beginning of the year when we got in over our heads with a big project at Moonracer, and they put on their work clothes and helped us get our project done.  A couple of months ago we asked  what we could ever do to repay them, and they laughed and said we could take a trip to St. John and help them with a project on their house that has proven to be a little bigger than expected.  Since we love the USVI anyway, and Belize is very quiet in September, we got plane tickets out of Cancun planned a couple of working vacation weeks in St. John.

Our view from bed as we wake up in the morning
at the guest house
We have been having a wonderful and productive time.  Our friends own and manage vacation rentals, so we have been staying in one of their very beautiful vacation rentals, complete with a hot tub for a nightly soak.

Full moon between cacti at the top of Ram's Head
We have done a number of really fun things, including a full moon night hike to Ram's Head and a swim in Salt Pond Bay under the moonlight.

Setting sun over Salt Pond Bay

View of Coral Bay from the top of the hill

We hiked up the hill to get the mountaintop view of Coral Bay.

The condos at the Elysian, where we used to stay pre-Belize

We visited Tom's parents' old condo.

View of Coral Bay from our friends' deck
The rest of the view from our friends' deck
We took a day and went on a motorboat snorkeling tour around the island.  We've taken picnic dinners to a private beach, eaten at a number of really great restaurants, and have had cocktails on the deck with beautiful views almost every night.

Despite the fact that it's hurricane season, we've had mostly great weather, with just a few much-needed afternoon showers to fill the cisterns.  We've also done enough work that our friends have been glad to have us here.  And we've learned that a great vacation spot is a great vacation spot, even when it's a lot like home.

Full moon rising over Coral Bay on the official full moon night

More of the full moon rising over Coral Bay

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hurricane Earl

This past August, Moonracer Farm endured its second hurricane since we moved there in the beginning of 2007.  In October of 2010, Hurricane Richard wreaked havoc on the Cayo District and other parts of Belize, and in August 2016, Hurricane Earl added his impact.

Wet hens!
Both went over us as Category 1 storms.  While Richard did more damage to the rest of Belize, Earl seemed to do more damage to the Cayo District, although we were incredibly fortunate in that while we had a lot of downed trees and limbs, we did not have any damage to property.  The horses and chickens were cold and wet and annoyed the morning after Earl passed us, but by midday they had dried off and warmed up and seemed to be pretty much back to normal.

We spent a lot of time cleaning up over the next few weeks, and it is going to take years for the jungle around us to fully recover, but overall we won't have any long term effects.  Not everybody was so lucky, and the floods after the hurricane did more damage than the hurricane itself to those in low lying areas such as San Ignacio, which was flooded over the market and into the park in the days following the storm.  It makes us glad to be hill dwellers!

We had a lot of warning that the we were potentially
in the storm's track.
The horses all had to wear halters with tags with our
name and number written on them with a Sharpie.  
We feel fortunate to be living in a hurricane zone in this day and age where weather can be predicted days if not weeks in advance.  Everybody knew Earl was on his way a good three or four days ahead of time, and while you always hope you're not in the bull's eye, you need to get ready as though you will be, and that's what we did.  We stowed anything that could blow around, we put halters with name tags and our phone number on the horses, we parked the vehicles in protected spots, we made sure anything breakable in our open kitchen (including our glass tabletop) was stored in a safe place, we took the solar panels off the roof, moved things away from the walls in our house, and did what seemed to turn into a never ending list of things to reduce damage if we got hit.

In the afternoon, we were hopeful that it was
changing direction and would pass north of us.

Because we have internet, we spent the afternoon before Earl hit keeping the village council up to date on what the storm was doing so they could get people to hurricane shelters if necessary, and make sure the village was as battened down as possible.  They stopped by in the early evening, and we made sure we had everybody's phone numbers so we could keep them posted as long as we had internet and phones.  Then, we ate dinner, and went in our closed up house to wait for the winds to start.

Right before we went to bed, Earl was just off the coast of Belize.

We went to bed around 10:15, and it was just starting to get windy.  The storm was still a ways off the coast.  We actually slept, until around 4AM, when it sounded like a train was going by and everything was crashing and banging.

When we woke up to lots of noise a little after 4AM,
we found that Earl came much closer to us than had been
 predicted earlier in the day.
It sounded like a hurricane was going overhead, which we found out it was when we got on line and against all odds found that we still had internet and could see exactly where the storm was.  It wasn't right overhead, but it was close enough that we had hurricane force winds twisting the tops out of trees.  We messaged with a few friends who were doing the same thing we were, and waited for it to get light.

The view from our door when we first went outside.
 It's too bad we can't display the smell of lots of freshly broken wood.
At first light, we went outside and found that despite all the trees and leaves and branches, everything was basically okay.

A near miss for the satellite dish!
The satellite had taken a near miss, but continued to work throughout the storm.

The kitchen was a wet mess, but no damage.
It needed a deep cleaning anyway.  ;)
My kitchen was soaking wet and it was still blowing, but I used my body to shield the burner from the wind and made a pot of coffee to take to our guest, and to make sure she had made it through the night.  She had done basically the same thing as we did, sleeping until it got really loud around 4AM.

Leaf litter was plastered to everything.  Leaves had just been shredded.
Around 7AM, a crew of guys from the village, including the village council members who had been monitoring the storm, showed up and cleared the driveway and enough paths that we could get around on the property...and then took our chainsaw to go get other people out and make sure everybody in the village was okay.  They were; only one house had lost its roof, and nobody was hurt.  It was very much like Upstate New York after a blizzard:  everybody with the equipment to manage the emergency banded together and did what had to be done to get things back on track.

A Big Thank You to Julio & Janeth!

For about two and a half years, Julio and Janeth were managing Moonracer Farm while Tom and I were working on a conservation project and then taking care of family business in the US.  They did a fantastic job, and Tom and I didn't have to worry at all about the business or the property or the horses, or anything else they were caring for in our absence.  We realize that doing this for us caused them to make some fairly significant sacrifices in their personal life, so we decided that treating them to a vacation out of Belize would be a good way to let them know that they are truly appreciated.  And, we went along, so it was great fun for us too.
Janeth & Julio on the beach in Playa del Carmen

We did a sort of combo trip..., a little sightseeing,  a little all-inclusive experience, and a little shopping.  We drove from our village to Playa del Carmen, where we stayed in a small inn in the city, but off of 5th Avenue.  We ate at El Fogon, my favorite place, and did a little shopping.  Then we took the ferry out to Cozumel, where we stayed at an all-inclusive resort, El Cozumeleno.  It was beautiful, and it was great fun to completely relax and not worry about anything.

Marge & Janeth shopping on 5th Ave. in Playa

When we were done there, we went back to Playa for a night, and some more food and shopping, and then drove to Chetumal (to shop some more) with a stop in Tulum along the way.  After spending a night in Chetumal, we headed home for our re-entry into real life.

These pictures don't really have anything to do with Belize, but they have a lot to do with the lives of the people who make Moonracer Farm happen.  And, the fact that a Mexico trip can be a short vacation is part of the reason we choose to live and work there.

Eating at El Fogon.  My favorite thing!

Julio & Janeth at the ferry terminal in Playa, on the way to Cozumel

The four of us in Cozumel!

The view from our balcony at El Cozumeleno

Janeth saying hello to us from their next door balcony

Julio & Janeth at one of the fountains along the waterfront in Cozumel

Julio & Janeth entering Tulum
Janeth & Julio at Tulum

Janeth & Julio cliffside at Tulum

On our last night, we went to La Botana in Chetumal for dinner.  Julio had a giant fish!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cohune Camping Casita Building Process

Some photos of the Cohune Camping Casitas going up. 

First, mix concrete for...

...the septic tank for the casitas, and...

...the footers.

Next, the platform base. 

Put down the floor and start the walls. 

Finish the framing and up goes the hip wall. 

Add a roof. 

Screen and curtain the windows. 

Install a sink in the corner, 

And a toilet, and the associated plumbing.

Get the stairs on, and we are ready to go!