Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Another weekend flies by

This past weekend flew by, and we’re not even sure what we did. We got to bed late Friday night because Iris, Lucy, and Rosa from next door came over to use the computer, and then we ended up playing dominoes with Rosa while Lucy and Iris surfed. On Saturday, both Tom and I woke up with lots of plans to get things done even though we were starting a little later than usual, and while both of us were busy all day, we’re not really sure what we did. Tom continued the pasture clearing effort, made a bunch of burn piles, and burned lots of dry palm leaves and coconuts, along with other brush. The rainy season is definitely here, so it’s safe to burn again, and we’re trying to get the piles we’ve been building for the past few weeks burned before they get too wet to burn. Since the middle of last week, we’ve generally had warm sunny mornings, and then the black clouds start to build and we can hear thunder in the distance by early to mid afternoon. By 4:00 or so, the sky gets black, the wind picks up, the thunder and lightening are definitely noticeable, and then a good thunderstorm will roll through within an hour. The heavy rain lasts about an hour, and then it seems to drizzle and shower off and on for most of the night, and then we have another sunny morning. So far, the rain is a welcome change from the unrelenting dry heat. We’re catching up on inside stuff that we hadn’t wanted to do when it was so nice outside, and the cooler nights are refreshing. The flying termites haven’t been back, although we’ve been warned that they could make another appearance before the end of June. No doubt they’ll show up just about when I’ve managed to rid the house of wings from the first infestation.

I spent Saturday trying to catch up on email, without much success. I was doing that while I was doing some stuff in the kitchen, so I wasn’t moving too fast, and I just sat down to concentrate on the email task when Wilton showed up, just to visit. We chatted, and then I taught him how to play Jenga, which he loved. Tom helped Sharyn with some computer stuff, and we managed to have an early dinner and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Our Sunday morning started at 7:15, when a man and his son from 7 Miles stopped by to see if Tom could pick up and deliver some lumber for him with our truck. Tom doesn’t think he’s ever met the man before, so he isn’t sure how the man knew we were hauling lumber in here for our own project, or why the man thought to approach him to ask. In any case, Tom decided that while he’d like to be helpful, Tinkerbell doesn’t need any extra wear and tear hauling heavy loads over the rough road, so he explained this and said he couldn’t do it. He had time to finish his breakfast, and Damion and Wilton showed up with Damion’s truck. The aforementioned rough roads had broken the bracket holding Damion’s rear bumper on his Toyota pickup, and Damion needed to use some of Tom’s tools to remove the bumper. We were sitting at the table chatting before Damion went to work, and Wilton remembered that Damion had never seen the Caracol pictures from our trip there with their family in April, so we turned on the computer and did a slide show. Just as they were finishing, Ronald and George, who had also gone to Caracol with us, showed up to help Damion, so they had to see the pictures too. Then Damion and George went outside to work on the truck, and Ronald and Wilton stayed inside to look at more pictures and play Jenga.

I finished cleaning up breakfast, and Tom took off to pick up Selwyn and his family because we had planned to go with them to see some more of the resorts in the Pine Ridge. Selwyn has either worked at most of the resorts around here, or his family knows the owners and/or managers, so he’s happy to lead us around and make introductions. Everybody is so friendly that we probably don’t really need Selwyn to introduce us, but we’re still glad to have an “in.” By the time Tom returned from picking up Selwyn and his family, Damion and George had finished the truck and left, and then bellowed from their house for Ronald and Wilton to come home. Ronald and Wilton were all for ignoring the yelling and finishing their Jenga game, but I suggested that if their parents were yelling that loudly, they were probably yelling for a reason. I told them I’d leave the Jenga game on the table, but that promise ended up being broken because when Tom returned with Selwyn and Hilda’s two little boys, it took about a minute before the table was bumped and the Jenga tower collapsed. No matter, really, and after the boys played with the pups for a few minutes, we loaded up the truck and headed up the road.

Our first stop was the Pine Ridge Lodge, which is only about 3 miles up the road. We talked to Richard, their manager, and he allowed us to look at a few of their rooms and to walk around the property. Because we don’t know what’s involved in building around here, we try to look at as many buildings and landscaping projects as we can so we know what’s possible. Their cabanas are cement, some with thatched roofs and some with tile, so we didn’t get too many construction hints there, but Tom and Richard talked about how Pine Ridge provides water to all the cabins, and a few facts about dealing with water out of gravity feed tanks became clear. We’ve been researching this and trying to figure out if we’ll have enough water pressure to run through the water heaters, but have found some information that isn’t very clear, and some that’s downright contradictory. Richard made it simple, and told us what he’d found by trial and error – the pipe from the bottom of the tank must be seven feet above the shower head. We were glad to know it’s that simple, but not so glad to realize that we don’t think (from eyeballing it) that we have seven feet between tank tap and shower head. So, our problem isn’t solved, but at least we have some clear information.

Our next stop was Five Sisters resort, which is 2.5 miles down the road past Blancaneaux. We were very curious about Five Sisters because Tom’s parents are taking a Central American tour with Overseas Adventure Travel in the end of December, and the last stop on the tour is Belize, where they’ll be staying at Five Sisters. Most of the OAT adventurers will head home from Belize, but Tom’s parents will stay with us for a little while after that. But, since they’ll be spending their first couple of nights in Belize at Five Sisters, we wanted to make sure it was okay – and it is okay, very nice, in fact. They’re not very busy this time of year, and in fact the only guests they were having were from another OAT group due to arrive Sunday afternoon. They showed us a few of their rooms and cabanas, and they’re all very nice.

We took a look at the restaurant and bar, and then walked down the 300+ steps to take a dip in the river and see the Five Sisters Waterfalls – obviously where the resort gets its name, and quite beautiful. They usually have an electric tram running, but something was wrong with their electric hydro plant, so the tram wasn’t running. We walked down all the stairs, had a swim and a snack and a rest, and then headed back up.

Ali and Junior walked up all the stairs with very little help, and when we got to the top, we were heading back to the truck, walking through the beautiful gardens surrounding the cabanas. We heard a Melodious Blackbird in the garden, which has a distinctive call that always makes Tom and me think it’s saying “Look at me!” Suddenly Ali says, “That bird is saying a bad word.” “What bird, and what bad word is he saying?” asked Hilda. “That bird,” said Ali, “he’s saying fookin’ ass.” And then Ali walked along the path, chirping “Fookin’ ass, fookin’ ass, fookin’ ass.” When we stopped laughing, Hilda asked where he’d heard those words, and he looked at her like she really couldn’t get much dumber, and just said, “from the bird.” So, Diane and Bill and Pete and JB, next time you get a call that Jonah or Lilly have said a bad word, just tell the principal or whomever the offended party is that they must have learned the bad words from a bird!

We made a quick stop at Blancaneaux on our way out, where we admired the two new colts, one a few days under two weeks, and the other a few days older. The mares had been bred when Selwyn was still working at Blancaneaux, and he’d heard that they’d both had colts, and since we were driving by, we stopped to see. While we were there, we picked up Selwyn’s brother Richard, who works there, and brought him and another worker down the hill. We picked up Selwyn’s other brother, Derrick, at the family farm, and they all came to our house to pick up the legs to a rabbit hutch we’d given Selwyn and Hilda for the boys’ rabbit. We’d been hearing thunder since we left Five Sisters, and the sky was getting blacker and blacker, so we all came in the cabin, and, since we’d skipped lunch, we decided to eat. Selwyn has been talking about having Hilda come over to teach me how to make tortillas for months, and we decided that yesterday was time for the lesson.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’m a pretty good cook and can usually figure out how to make just about anything in the kitchen. But, I’ve been working on tortillas since I’ve been here, and I just can’t make them round and even and without any wrinkles or parts that are either too crispy or too raw. I’ve been reading cookbooks and tortilla recipes on line, and I’ve tried different recipes and different methods of stretching or rolling them, but nothing has worked. I discovered yesterday that you just have to watch somebody who’s been doing it since she was six years old, and it gets a whole lot clearer, although I’m still going to need a lot of practice. It does start with the dough, but you have to know how much to knead it, and then how to make the balls for the tortillas, which is a little more complicated than rolling it in balls. In fact, the whole thing seems to depend on making different sized bubbles with the dough, and there’s lots of pinching and crimping and bubbling involved. I watched Hilda, then she watched me and gave me a whole bunch of technique tips, and while I seem to be able to press it into something resembling a fairly even circle, I’m still having a hard time getting the raw tortilla on the griddle without wrinkling it. That, I think, will just take practice, and fortunately Tom and Selwyn both like tortillas enough that I can keep practicing, and they don’t really care if there are a few wrinkles here and there until I get it right. After all, they’ve been eating the very wrinkled crispy/raw tortillas I’ve been making, so this is an improvement. Hilda also showed me how to slice an avocado, which is so easy I should have figured it out years ago – but I guess it takes someone who’s been eating that food since she was a baby to show me the right way!

Anyway, we ended up having burritos, thrown together with a bunch of stuff from the fridge. A little of this and a little of that added up to plenty to feed a whole pack of people, and while I’m not going to plan any dinner parties until the bed is out of the dining room, it was fun to sit in the cabin and eat with a whole bunch of friends again!

On Monday, Tom and Selwyn moved the generator from under the cabin where we’re living. It’s a big generator, and it’s loud enough that Tom and I would have to almost shout our conversations if it was on and we were talking in the cabin. They dismantled the old “barn” next to the camper, and build a new generator hut out of the truck cap and some zinc roofing we found lying around the property. It’s still loud, but it’s a definite improvement, and they were going to have to move it closer to the second cabin anyway when they start working there – which, with any luck, will be very soon. In the afternoon, the three of us took a walk around the property to figure out first what needs to be done, and second, how and in what order we’re going to do it. We changed our pasture plan a bit, because we were going to keep the three pastures as they are now, and put the horses in the middle one while we grew grass for grazing in the other two. After looking at the space, we think we may eliminate the middle pasture, leaving an alley between the two pastures for when we want to move the horses, and turning the rest into a small parking area for guests,a riding area for my jumps, and a fruit grove, since there are already a number of fruit trees growing in that area. There are large mango trees, avocado trees, a number of different types of citrus trees, and a few coconut palms. There’s a dead tamarind in that area, but a number of tamarind seedlings are growing around it, so we’ll chop down the dead one and replant some of the seedlings where they’ll be able to grow.

This means we need something to do with the horses if we don’t want them in one of the growing pastures for at least part of every day, so we moved up our plans for a barn. Tom and Selwyn had discussed building a barn with a thatched roof and palmetto sticks in the big pasture, but when we started looking at the area, we realized that a mostly intact cat cage with two small concrete rooms attached is located right near the corner of the pasture. So, we’re thinking that we’ll probably turn the cage into a barn, using the poles and metal cage material as a structure to attach stall boards and roofing, and the concrete “dens” as tack and feed rooms. We paced out the space, and while it will be nothing like a conventional barn or any sort of conventional building, half of the cage should make a pretty nice four-stall barn, and when we get more horses, we could build four more stalls in the other half of the cage where some of the cage material has been removed.

On Tuesday, I left for a morning shopping trip in San Ignacio. One of the items on my list was horse feed, and I went to all three feed stores in town, and none of them had any horse feed. So, I took care of the rest of my San Ignacio to-do list, and took an unscheduled trip to Spanish Lookout. Fortunately, the feed mill had feed – which wasn’t a certainty, since it’s the feed mill that supplies all the feed stores, so I was wondering if the reason all the feed stores were out of feed was that the mill wasn’t working. But, it was, so I got my feed, plus a few other things I remembered that we needed from Spanish Lookout, and headed home. I was just in time for lunch, cooked by Selwyn – a nice treat for me! After lunch Tom and Selwyn started clearing the big pasture, with Tom wielding the weed whacker through the middle, and Selwyn working with a machete around the fence line, where we suspect some of the wire may be down. They figure it will take them two to three days to clear the pasture, and they said there’s some decent grass under the brush, so as soon as they’re done and have fixed the fence, we’ll probably move the horses to that pasture and plant grass in the front where they’ve been living. Then we’ll work on the barn, and by the time that’s done we should be able to turn the horses out during the day on the first planted pasture and keep them in at night, and then we can plant new grass in the big pasture. Of course plans will change, but that’s the plan at the moment.

Now that the rainy season has started, we need to get started on the gardens. We’ve been talking about what we want where since we’ve been here, but it’s pointless to plant when it’s so dry – but once it starts to rain, things we’ll take off, so we need to get them in the ground. Since neither Tom nor I have a lot of spare time, we’ve hired Hilda and Selwyn’s sister Nellmarie part-time to get the gardens going. I’ll help when I can, but they both know a whole lot more than I do about gardening, so I think I’ll be doing more learning than helping. The second cabin is a temporary day care center for Hilda and Selwyn’s three kids and their babysitter, so there’s activity all over the place around here.

Because the chicken now lives in the rabbit hutch, she’s safe, but she’s in a direct line for the dogs when they head out the door of the cabin. Usually we call them off as soon as they head in that direction, but I wanted to see what they’d do if we let them go near the chicken. I shouldn’t have done it, but it was pretty funny watching the three of them bouncing around under the cage, with the chicken popping up and down like popcorn. The blur immediately under the floor of the cage in this picture is Nock.

Here’s all three of them under the cage, getting ready for the next assault.

Here’s Lou where he’s happiest, resting on the pillows and watching me.

And here’s Nock, doing what she does best – standing at alert on the bed, keeping an eye out the window so she can see any intruders as they come up the driveway. The camper was in a direct line from the bottom of the driveway, so the dogs had a good view of the road, which I think they miss in the cabin. She looks pretty good for a nine year old, doesn't she?

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