Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Real Dog and Pony Show

Tuesday, April 17, 2007, Wednesday, April 18, 2007, Thursday, April 19, 2007. Friday, April 20, 2007

Sorry for the delay in blogging this week. We’ve been too busy to blog, so this will be a long one as I try to catch up, but I promise lots of pictures.

The bathroom and kitchen of the first cabin are walled in, and are ready for Tom to do the plumbing. Tom and Selwyn finished framing the walls without any difficulty, and then started hammering up the hardwood. I went out and tried to help one day, and I think I bent three of the first five nails I pounded. I thought I was just being a useless girl, until I watched Tom and Selwyn and realized that they were also creating pretty big piles of bent nails. They finally changed tactics and predrilled most of the holes, which saved a lot of nails. The man at the FTC in Spanish Lookout where we bought the nails admits that they’re not good for hardwood, but that’s all they have. So, we buy more than we need, and spend extra time drilling the holes, and eventually all the walls are up and solid!

Tom and I had to get our passports stamped yesterday, so we went to Belmopan to do that and then went to Spanish Lookout to get more supplies. Tom picked up everything he needs (he thinks) for the plumbing for the first cabin, so that will be his task for the weekend. Even if he doesn’t get it in, he wants to get it set out so he knows if he needs anything else. He did the most important plumbing job this morning, when he climbed the water tower to add a few reinforcements. He noticed that when the tank is full, the 2x4 platform sagged a bit, so we used all the water in the tank and Tom climbed up and added some reinforcements. We hope that will keep the tank where it belongs when it’s full!

Our other big acquisition in Spanish Lookout yesterday was the boards for the walls and ceiling in the first cabin. Tom had ordered them last week, but shortly after he placed the order and left, the man who operates the machine that mills the wall boards cut his arm and was out for a couple of days, and then was back but wasn’t working as quickly as usual. So, when Tom went in the beginning of the week to pick up the boards, he found they weren’t done. They were done yesterday, but after a full day of Belmopan and a bunch of other errands in Spanish Lookout, we didn’t get to the mill until about 4:30. Tom looked at the pile, and realized that they hadn’t cut the boards in 10 foot lengths as he requested, so we had to load a combination of 10’, 12’, 14’ and 16’ boards into poor Tinkerbell’s bed since there wasn’t time to cut them before the mill closed at 5:00. It wasn’t good. We drove a couple of miles to the Western Highway, pulled over, and tightened the straps on the boards. We drove into Georgeville, and stopped and tightened the straps before we turned onto the Georgeville Road towards home. We turned onto the Georgeville Road, hit a few bumps, and stopped and tightened the straps again. After the first big uphill, Tom got out and looked, and the whole pile had slipped back over a foot. So, he got back in the truck, and on the next downhill, he counted down from three and jammed on the brakes. That put the boards where they belonged – until the next hill. We went through this cycle for a few more hills, and then realized when we were almost to 7 Miles that the boards were dragging on the ground and had bowed the dropped tailgate. It was dark by this time, but nonetheless, we pulled over, took all the boards out of the back of the truck, and reloaded them.

While we were doing this, a couple who had just flown in from Canada and were driving a rental car to the Pine Ridge Lodge stopped to ask us how far they’d come on the Georgeville Road, how far they had to go, and if the road was this bad all the way. We couldn’t do anything but laugh. We told them they’d come about 6.5 miles, they had another six or seven to go, and the last two or three would be better, but they had a bit more rough road to cover. They asked if the road was always like this, and we said no, when it rains, it’s worse. They asked if we lived up here, and we told them yes, and they asked how we coped. We told them we just plan on doing things like reloading a truckload of lumber in the middle of the road at night, and it’s no problem. They then realized that bouncing around in a rental car really wasn’t that big of a deal, so we just chit chatted for a few minutes as they asked us about when and why and how we moved to Belize. They’ve never been here before, and are at the beginning of a two week vacation, and we assured them that we loved it here enough to move here and tolerate the roads, so they’ll probably have a great vacation. We also told them that they can spend the whole week on the Mountain Pine Ridge and not have to take the bumpy Georgeville Road out to the Western Highway again, so they could just relax and enjoy their vacation. They told us they’d stop by and see what we’re doing sometime in the next week, so we’re looking forward to their visit. We left Spanish Lookout at about 5:15 after trying to get the load tied down, and we pulled into our driveway about 7:30, twelve hours after we left. Selwyn had very kindly stayed until we got home because he knows we worry about leaving the dogs alone, so we gave him the day off on Friday since he’d already worked at least a 40 hour week.

The other big project of the week was fixing the burned water line. Tom and Selwyn managed to cut out one section of pipe and replace it without any problem, but the other section continues to leak. We’ve dubbed the leak “Pinocchio” because there’s a Pinocchio statue with a fountain at Blancaneaux, and Tom and Selwyn joke that they’re trying to put Pinocchio to sleep so he doesn’t wet the bed. It’s taking a long time to fix because the water supply has been off more than on, and only on at odd hours like the middle of the night, so it’s a bit of a guessing game in the morning trying to figure out if the ground around the repaired section of pipe is wet.

Marge’s Sapodilla kitchen – all the reddish colored boards are Sapodilla. That means that ALL the nails had to be predrilled; there is no chance of driving nails through this wood. And if you bend one when you are trying to drive it, you have to cut it off near the board and just pound it flat, you can’t pull nails out of it, the heads break off. Very pretty, tough to work with. It’s “Ford tough.” [Note from Tom]

Both the kitchen and the bathroom are completely enclosed. The bathroom boards weren’t sorted so they’re all the same like the kitchen, but they were all very hard to hammer.

Tom put the last window in on Friday. He’d left it open in case any large pieces of wood had to be put in the cabin, but the wall wood we picked up was the last big thing, and that will go through the door without any trouble.

This is the load of wood, reloaded in the road. After unloading and reloading it in the dark on the road, we waited until morning to unload it onto the deck.

Marge spent a couple of mornings cleaning out this cage behind the first cabin. The only trick was finding a door that fit, since all the doors had been removed, without any note of which door went with which cage, and they’re all hung just a little differently.

The cage was a secure and nice kennel for the dogs while we were gone to Spanish Lookout for 12 hours on Thursday. Selwyn worked that day, but we didn’t think he needed to spend the day being a dog sitter and walker.

This is the brand new American Embassy in Belmopan, Belize. To get to it, you have to drive on streets that aren’t finished yet, dodging backhoes, rollers, and dump trucks. We stopped because we’d been told that we should sign in and let the American Embassy know that we’re Americans living in Belize, which we did. We also reported our experience with the mechanic, because he is trying to get a visa to work in the US, and we think it isn’t a good idea to let someone who thinks it’s okay to steal from Americans go to the US. Why turn a chicken killing dog loose in the hen house?

Speaking of the mechanic, we finally did something we’ve been thinking about since that incident. Unfortunately, the mechanic isn’t the only one who thinks that it’s okay to steal from Americans. After all, all Americans have so much money they won’t even miss whatever the poor Belizean steals. However, we’ve been told and we’ve noticed that most people around here who are up to no good are very afraid of dogs. We’ve had people come to the gate and not come in because they see Mel walking around, and we don’t tell them that if they bumped into him he’d probably fall over. The Jack Russells are actually more of a threat than Mel, and probably would do their best to protect us and our things. However, they’re only about 20 pounds each – or less – and while most people are respectful of them, they really don’t inspire us to feel secure. So, we’ve been talking about getting a big dog that not only looks threatening, but that will actually be protective.

We’ve been asking around, and it’s actually been harder than you’d think to find a dog with all the dogs running around here. In the US, we would have gone to the pound. Here, there are a few pounds, but they’re full of street strays, and most of them are in pretty rough shape, so we didn’t want to get a stray and have it bring its diseases and parasites to Mel, Lou, and Nock. We also thought we should get a puppy rather than a young but large dog because we’re afraid that if Mel got into some big puppy physical games, he could really get hurt at this point. And, because there’s already some tension between our two boys, we thought we should get a bitch. It seemed like all the dogs we inquired about were either male or older than we wanted, until one of the people Tom talked to referred us to a woman on the Western Highway who breeds German Shepherds and Turkish Shepherds, and occasionally crosses the two breeds because she thinks the cross produces a heartier dog.

We pulled up on our way from Belmopan to Spanish Lookout and were met by two of her Turkish Shepherds in the driveway. The bitch was a total sweetie – she bypassed hand sniffing and had us get right down to business scratching her ears – but the dog didn’t approach us, and just went and blocked the gate and barked – exactly the type of behavior we’re looking for in a guard dog. The breeder came out, found out what we wanted, and told the dog it was okay, and he then came over for some attention. We found out that the rumors were true, and the breeder did have a two week old litter, a cross of a German Shepherd mother and a Turkish Shepherd father, and there were two girls in the litter, both still available. The breeder, Lena, showed us the one she thought we’d like better and which she thinks will make the better guard, and it was a done deal. We put down a deposit, were told that we can stop and see the puppy any time we drive by, and were told that we can pick her up when she’s somewhere between six and eight weeks old, depending on when they get their puppy shots and what Lena thinks of us as she gets to know us on our puppy visits between now and then. As we drove away, Tom had a brainstorm for her name, so she’s already named Beli, short for Belikin; we’re going back to our previous beer name convention and she can join Bud, Weiser, and Molson (Molly) on the list of Gallagher dogs.

Beli at two weeks

Beli at two weeks, top pup in the pile of pups

Beli and her parents

This is Beli’s mother, a German Shepherd named Princess.

And here she is with her dad, a Turkish Shepherd named Diego.

Speaking of dogs, we also got our second horse this week, and we’ve decided that she’s more dog than horse. When Selwyn had mentioned to his neighbor that he was going with us to Barton Creek to look at horses last Saturday, his neighbor had mentioned that he had a horse he wanted to sell because it had been tied in his yard for a year and he never rode it because he didn’t have a saddle. He said at this point he was afraid to ride it because it wasn’t used to being ridden any more, and he wanted $600BZ for it. Selwyn went out on her on Sunday, and said when he first put the saddle on and got on, she crow hopped a little but that was about it. We didn’t get to see her until Monday evening when we took Selwyn home, and the neighbor dragged her over by the rope around her neck. She’s a little thin, but not in bad shape, and she was a little skittish about being looked at and handled. She’s a palomino mare, no special breeding although she looks like there’s some Arab in there somewhere, about five years old. We decided that for the $1400BZ difference between her and the Barton Creek mare, we’d spend less money and have a horse we can use now, rather than spending $2000BZ and having a horse that really wouldn’t be much use until September, and a baby to take care of that wouldn’t be much use for at least a couple of years.

We arranged for Selwyn to ride her to work on Tuesday – more of his overtime activities for the week, which all seem to be animal related. We figured that if he could get on her and ride her the three miles from town to here, she’d be okay – and she was. When he got here, about 7am, I rode her around a little, and she’s green, but seems like she’ll be very nice. We’ve been so busy this week that we haven’t ridden her at all, but we plan to take the two mares and do the vista loop early tomorrow (Saturday) morning, before it gets too hot. It’s probably bad luck to say it, but we’re not anticipating any problems because she’s become such a different horse just in the few days she’s been here. We put a grab rope on her halter on Tuesday because she was so skittish, but we find that we can’t get rid of her, and if we walk around in or near the pasture, she’s right behind us with her nose on us. The first couple of times we fed her, we had to lure her over near us and then she’d eat, but now she stands in the corner of the pasture whinnying at us whenever she sees us. Esmerelda stands in the background, and we can just about see her eyes rolling at what a suckup this new mare is. We named her Glinda, because she’s a very shiny gold palomino with a very blond mane, and she made us think of Glinda, the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, who always seems shiny and gold and bright. Plus, I believe Esmerelda is the name of Samantha’s mother in Bewitched, and since most of the mares I’ve known have been witches, witch names will work even though it was sort of an accident. If anybody had told me I’d move to Belize and end up with two Arabian cross mares, I’d have told them they were crazy. These two certainly aren’t the brown thoroughbred geldings I’ve always preferred, but they’re probably a whole lot more useful around here. And Selwyn and I drove back to Barton Creek on Wednesday to tell the Mennonites that we’re going to pass on the very nice $2000BZ mare.

This is Glinda. She has the kindest eyes, without looking vacant. I’ve never loved palominos, but she’s really very pretty, and I think when she’s fed and groomed and shiny she’ll be almost too bright to look at on a sunny day.

Esmerelda says her eyes are beautiful too (and they are), even when they’re rolling at Glinda’s fawning.

While we were in Spanish Lookout on Thursday, Selwyn noticed that the majunches were starting to get ripe. He cut the bunch down from the tree and put them in the first cabin so the birds don’t get them before we do. We’ll probably try the first couple on Sunday or Monday, which is when Selwyn says they’ll be perfect for eating.

All the yellow flowers that were in the beautiful tree are now all over everything under the tree. If the area around the first cabin didn’t look like a construction zone, it would have looked like a place decorated for a wedding with the blossoms strewn on the ground. This is a picture Tom took of all the yellow blossoms on the cabin roof.

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