Monday, August 27, 2007

And now we’re waiting for rain

Last week, it seemed like Dean upset the whole psychic balance around here, and we never did get into our weekday routine. Selwyn didn’t come to work on Tuesday, and Tom started doing some work on the shop on his own, when a couple of friends from San Ignacio pulled in the driveway. They were out “making sure everybody was okay after the hurricane,” which translated to just out visiting since it was an unplanned day off and the hurricane didn’t affect anybody around here. Both of our friends are archeologists, and Tom and I were a little surprised as we hiked up the hill behind the cabin to show them our water system, when they started asking lots of questions about the land and took off into the bush to walk around the hill where the water tank rests. We’ve noticed that the hill is terraced, figured that it was Mayan terracing, and assumed that it was agricultural. However, our friends both think that it’s some sort of structure, not just terraces in the hill. Whatever it is, it makes absolutely no difference to what we’re doing, but it generated a couple of hours of show and tell and interesting discussion about what it might be. Tom didn’t get any more work done on the shop that day, but it was an interesting post-hurricane holiday.

Wednesday was a fairly normal workday. Tom and Selwyn got all but two of the windows installed on the shop, and we finally hung up our Moonracer Farm sign. Our friends Tad and Anneke made the sign for us as a Christmas present in 2000, and while we were in Canadice it was sometimes on our tack shed and sometimes in it, depending on whether we’d had harsh weather and remembered to hang it up again. When we moved here, of course it came with us, and it’s been stored in the second cabin since we unloaded the truck and trailer. It just so happened that the timing of the hurricane, which caused us to take everything out of the second cabin and put it in the camper, made it so we found the sign just as the shop was getting done. So, we finally hung it up where it’s visible from the road as you pull up the driveway, and we plan to keep it hung here for quite a while. It will look even better when the shop is painted, but we need to wait for all the lumber to dry before we do that.

It was a good thing Tom and Selwyn got a lot done on Wednesday, because on Thursday Tom and I went to Belmopan to get our passports stamped and then went on to Spanish Lookout to do some shopping. We’re now legal in Belize until October 20. Then, on Friday, Selwyn had to take the day off because he was supposed to go to Belmopan with the San Antonio village chairman to get his paperwork which was stolen in Guatemala replaced. Unfortunately the chairman had an emergency meeting and Selwyn didn’t get what he needed, but in any case that left Tom and me home alone for the day, and I had to be Selwyn’s substitute.

I’m pretty sure Tom would much rather work with Selwyn, who knows what to do on these projects without being told, but despite a few false starts and miscommunications Tom and I managed to get the last two windows made and hung, get all the hardware put on all the windows, and get the gutters installed so we can move the big tank next to the shop and start collecting rainwater from that roof. That means we have to empty the big tank and move it from where it is now, but it also means that Tom can knock a hole through the cinderblocks and we can lock the pump in the shop rather than just leaving it out in the open.

Since we were on a roll with the gutters, we spent Saturday getting the gutters put on the tack shed. We’ve been meaning to do this for a while so that we could put the horse trough under the downspouts and collect rainwater for the horses rather than either using the water from our tanks or waiting until the water is flowing from the pipe. Of course it now hasn’t rained since Saturday morning so we’re still waiting to see if the system works, but we think it should. We’re also waiting to see if we have any wise-ass horses who will think it’s fun to pull the gutters and their supports off of the wall. We know that we had a few in Canadice who wouldn’t have let this mess stay on the wall for more than about 10 minutes, but our horses here are a little more laid back, so we’re hoping this will work.

We took a ride up the feeder road between the lots on Glinda and Tony on Saturday, and noticed that the property lines are getting overgrown. So, on Sunday, we went out to clear one of the property lines on our back lot. We were making good progress, but apparently I was getting tired because I chopped my leg. Not a big chop, more of just a good whack with the un-sharp part of the blade near the handle, but I managed to hit right on the top of my very sharp shin bone and split the skin even though my pants weren’t damaged. I thought about ignoring it and continuing to chop, but it was bleeding heavily enough that the blood was oozing through my pants and into my sock, so I called to Tom that I had to stop because I cut my leg. He came running back to me, saw the blood, whipped off his icky sweaty shirt and wrapped it around my leg. He wanted to know if he needed to carry me out to the feeder road and get the truck, but I assured him that I was fine to hike out and all the way home on my own. I was lucky, because the split skin is a very small cut, just in a place where it bleeds a lot, and now all I have is a nice goose egg and bruise on my shin. But, it was a lesson to me to listen to my body a little better in the future and take a break when I start to get tired. Years ago, I did a similar thing to my other shin with a pickax so now my legs match, although the pickax scar is still there since that was a much worse gash.

After rinsing out our bloody clothes and cleaning up, we ate lunch and decided to take the afternoon off and drive up to Rio On Pools. We heard thunder and saw black clouds in the distance, but fortunately we never saw any rain and the clouds only covered the sun a few times while we were there. A vanload of Belizean men were there when we got there, but they left shortly after we arrived, and the only other people there were two tourists and their guide on their way back from Caracol. It turned out that Tom had ridden with the guide when he and Stephanie and Matt went to ATM with Gonzo, so it was funny that we picked an afternoon to go when we knew the only other people at the pools.

Today, Tom and Selwyn are starting work on the second cabin. It doesn’t look like they’re doing much in this picture, but they’re measuring carefully so that they can get the supports in the proper places so they use as little wood as possible. We’ll probably have to make a few more Spanish Lookout runs over the next few weeks, and poor Tinkerbell will have a few more heavy loads of lumber to lug up the Georgeville Road, but we’re hoping things progress much more quickly on this cabin than they did on the one we’re where we’re living.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The American Media Makes Me Sick

In an effort to find out how the rest of Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula fared with Dean, I turned to the American mass media on-line sources since none of the Belize news sites are being updated right now. That was a mistake. I didn’t get any real news, and all it did was make me mad, and ashamed to be an American.

I’m not going to quote any specific articles, but I’ll paraphrase a few. Dean slammed into Chetumal as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds in the 165mph range. Fortunately – and one source really did use that word, “fortunately” – the area where it hit is only – and that was used too – sparsely populated with indigenous Mayan people who live in wooden shacks. Well then, I guess it’s not really news, is it? The articles stated that no major tourist destinations received a direct hit. That’s definitely a relief. We wouldn’t want the tourists to be inconvenienced, and it would be a real tragedy if some of the resorts owned and funded by Americans were damaged. And God forbid any American tourists get hurt while on vacation; that would be REAL international news. Those indigenous Mayans only live in wooden shacks anyway, so no big deal, and they all have lots of kids, so if a few drown in the flooding, they can just have more. They should probably have fewer kids anyway, since they don’t really have room for all of them in those shacks.

The articles went on to say that after ripping a path of destruction across the Yucatan – also no big deal since no American tourist sites are in its path – Dean will head into the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mexican oil companies are evacuating their wells. That’s a little worrying since that could affect American oil prices, but the articles reassure readers that the American oil wells in the Gulf aren’t in any real danger. And, just so all of us Americans can feel better, when Dean makes landfall again, it will be about 400 miles south of the Texas/Mexico border, so don’t lose any sleep over Dean causing damage on American soil. Of course it will probably cause a lot of damage to Mexican cities like Veracruz and Tampico, but that shouldn’t affect any of us. Forget that these are major Mexican cities, and the whole beautiful Costa Esmeralda is in between them.

Okay, I admit I’m a little off what I can claim to be directly paraphrasing, but those really are the words between the lines. Tom and I traveled through the entire area affected by this storm on our way here, through Tampico, the Costa Esmeralda, Veracruz, and around the Yucatan Peninsula, and we can tell you that there’s a lot of damage and destruction to be done in Dean’s path, and a lot of lives to be affected. And we now call some of these indigenous Mayan people our friends and neighbors, and we can tell you that they’re just people, just like the rest of us, with the same day to day concerns, inspirations, joys and sorrows. I’ve also read about the havoc wreaked in the Midwest by the storms there, and wonder what it would be like to rewrite some of those articles with the ethnocentric twist reversed. The articles would have to say something like “The storm’s aftermath caused major damage in the Midwest, but fortunately only the indigenous people’s suburban tract houses (which take but a week or two to build) were damaged or destroyed and the only lives lost were the indigenous suburbanites. Major flooding or damage did not occur in any major US cities or tourist destinations.” The scary part about the media is that they only tell the public a small part of the truth – AS THEY SEE IT – and the public has been taught to believe what the media says and not think about what is NOT stated.

Since you may be wondering...

...Hurricane Dean was basically a no-show for us. We don't know how the coast and cayes of Belize fared, but all we've seen is a breeze and light rain since between 1 and 2am. It's still breezy and showery, but it's not even enough to take any of the leaves off the trees. We've had storms way worse than this a few times over the past couple of months, and this is nothing compared to the storm we drove through to get our friends Stephanie and Matt to the airport a couple of weeks ago.

So, thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers - it worked for us! We're just hoping the coast wasn't too badly hit, although since Dean came ashore as a Cat5, we're guessing that when we next drive the route we took to get here, it will look a whole lot different.

On the funny side, Selwyn isn’t here, and none of the workers at Sharyn’s place showed up this morning. Tom and I are laughing because it’s just like a snow day in Rochester when Syracuse and Buffalo are socked in, but the ground is bare in Rochester.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We THINK we’re ready for Dean…

Although how can we really know, since we haven’t ever been this close to a real hurricane before? We do know that we’re in nowhere near as much danger as those living on or near the coast. And, Tom and Selwyn are in the process of putting a few extra nails in our new zinc roofs, since we do expect a lot of rain and high winds no matter where along the coast Dean hits. We also took our stored things out of the doorless and windowless second cabin and shut them in the camper, where they should stay relatively dry no matter what happens. We’re not near any major rivers or other bodies of water, so we’re not anticipating any flooding, and while we are on a hill, it is well forested so mudslides shouldn’t be a danger. We don’t have electricity anyway, so we’re not worried about the impact of losing power, and we’re in the process of filling our two 1000 gallon water tanks so if the pipe water from the rivers in the mountains gets muddy, we’ll have a couple of thousand gallons of clear water to keep us going until the natural water sources are back to normal.

Until yesterday afternoon we had no worries at all. Then, we took a Sunday walk to visit our neighbors. Damion and Olmi weren’t too worried. Marta and Julian weren’t too worried. Then we stopped by at Maria’s house, and she told us that she’s worried about the wind blowing one of our big trees onto our cabin. But, there’s not much we can do about that, so we’re hoping we’ll sleep through the worst of it, which should be late tonight or early tomorrow morning, and wake up to lots of mud but no major damage tomorrow morning. If anybody can think of anything else we should worry about, let me know…

All I can say about what it’s like here right now is that it’s an identical feeling to that of upstate NY preparing for a major snowstorm. Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, with crystal clear blue skies, a very pleasant light cooling breeze, and virtually no humidity. Up here in the Pine Ridge, people aren’t too tuned into the media, so while most people we talked to knew that a major hurricane was steaming across the Caribbean, nobody was thinking too much about it. We took our Sunday walk to the neighbors’ with the purpose of making sure Marta Dos still wanted to go to Belmopan with us today, since we needed to get our passports stamped and she wants to apply for a Belizean passport. We stopped to chat with Damion and Olmi on the way over, where we talked about Damion fixing his truck brakes, about the pig the family butchered on Saturday night, how everybody was going to cook the pig, Olmi’s new linoleum, and other minor neighborly things. While we were there, Daisy ran to Maria’s to get us some of the deep fried crackled pig skin to taste (yummy, even though we know it’s virtually poison to our hearts), then the ice cream truck drove by so we ate ice cream, then Maria sent a bag of uncooked pork over for Tom and me. Then we went over to Marta and Julian’s house, where we worked on our Spanish and they worked on their English, and then Marta gave us some of the pork she’d fried up with corn tortillas. Yummy again. Then we wandered up the hill to thank Maria for the bag of raw pork, chatted for a while, started worrying about our trees, and then we came home. I didn’t even cook the pork because we didn’t really need dinner after grazing our way through the neighborhood. The neighbors were much more interested in the recently butchered pig than they were in the hurricane.

This morning, we got online to check Dean’s progress, then picked up Marta, Marixa, and George, and headed off to Belmopan. On the way down the road towards Georgeville, we saw a jaguarondi and a big black snake. We sometimes see wildlife on that road, but we’ve never before seen a jaguarondi, and we don’t usually see two different kinds of animals, which made us wonder if the animals are a little more active right now doing whatever animals do to get ready for a big storm. As we got closer to Belmopan, we noticed that there were lines for gas at every gas station. We got to Belmopan and found a sign on the door of the Immigration office saying they were closed until further notice. When we asked why, we were told that all government offices were closed in preparation for the hurricane. So, we went to the market, which was doing business as usual. We also made a stop at Builders’ Supply, which was very busy, which we expected by that point, and then headed out to the Six Flags grocery store in Unitedville, which was a little busy, but nothing like Belmopan. On the way home, we listened to the radio, which was a series of announcements about what people should do to prepare for the storm, where they could go if they lived near the coast, and what stores were remaining open until the end of the day so people could get supplies. On the way back up the Georgeville Road we saw a big iguana, which brought the tally of animals seen on the road that day to three, which is a record for us and which made us wonder even more how the animals seem to know when bad weather is coming.

Now we just wait and see what happens. We don’t have a barn for the horses, although we’ve been told that they’re better off turned out in a big storm. The dogs will stay in the house with us as usual, probably making us crazy with their muddy paws. Right now (2:45pm Central America Time, which is two hours earlier than EDT) the sun is still shining through high clouds, and it isn’t at all windy. The most up to date report from the weather service is that it should hit Chetumal, which is right on the Mexico/Belize border (a little over 100 miles as the crow flies northeast of here) shortly after midnight, so with the size of the storm it should start to cloud up here before dark. I’ll try to update the blog tomorrow and let everybody know how we are, although if I don’t, consider no news good news, and imagine us trying to get the satellite dish reinstalled on our roof!

Non-Dean News…

Tom and Selwyn got the roof on the shop done on Friday. It makes a huge difference in the “curb appeal” of the property, and will probably be even better when we have doors and windows on the little building. And, it means that we can get the tools out of our bedroom and get some real bedroom furniture, not to mention a battery bank and inverter so we can have some electric lights at night, and rainwater collection instead of relying on the pipe.

Saturday was our wedding anniversary, and we celebrated by packing a picnic lunch, saddling the horses, and heading off to Sapodilla Falls. We again had the entire place to ourselves, and after a nice ride we spent a couple of hours eating, swimming, and climbing on the rocks, although more water was flowing over the falls than when either of us had been there before, so we couldn’t make it all the way to the top. If we get a lot of rain over the next couple of days, we’ll have to take another ride and see what it looks like when the water is really flowing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Roof Raising

Tom and Selwyn have spent the week working on the roof of the little house by the road. It took them most of a day to get the remains of the old roof down and the peaks of the building propped up, and then they were able to start building the new roof.

They worked from one end of the building to the other, and said it was easier as they went because each new board had more to support it. Neither of them have ever built a roof from scratch, so it was a little trial and error, and they ended up putting two support poles inside the building. This doesn’t really matter because we’re planning to divide the building into a few different rooms, so these poles will just become part of some walls eventually.

By this morning (Friday), they were ready to put the zinc for the eastern exposure on the roof. They started early – 5:30am early – to get the metal on before the sun was up.

They then moved to the western side of the building and finished putting up the rafters for the porch roof, where they can work in the shade. The building has a solid cement slab porch that is probably 2/3 as large as the interior of the building. Tom figures he’ll leave it open so he can move big things on and off, and use it as an extension of his shop for things that are too big to fit in the building.

The only break Tom took from the roof this week was our trip to Spanish Lookout on Wednesday and on that day Selwyn stayed on the farm and built the three doors for the building. Unfortunately, we forgot to get hinges, so the doors can’t be hung until we pick up hinges on Monday, when we have to go to Belmopan to get our passports stamped.

On our trip to Spanish Lookout, my faith that the horse god keeps an eye on our horses and us was renewed. We were almost out of hay, and it’s been difficult to find hay that the horses like because it’s been dry longer than usual this year, so the farmers haven’t had as much hay to cut and bale as usual, and they’re saving much of what they harvest for their own livestock. We picked up the lumber we needed, and then tried a couple of farms where we usually get it. One of them gave us a phone number of another farmer who sometimes has hay for sale, but since it was almost lunchtime, we decided to get our grocery shopping done and then continue the hay search. We were a little nervous about not finding any, because besides being almost out of hay for the horses, we’ve found that trucking loads of long boards up either of the dirt roads to our place is much easier if the lumber is held in place by strapped-down hay bales.

We were standing at the hardware counter in FTC (the Farmers’ Trading Center, basically the Walmart of Belize), and Bernard walked past me. Bernard is the grocery manager at FTC, and I met him a couple of months ago because he purchased some horse videos from a friend of ours in NY, and when she realized that he was in Belize, she gave each of us the other’s contact info and we met one day when I asked for him in the store. I said hello to him, and introduced him to Tom. Knowing he’s a horse person, I asked him if he knew where we could find some hay. He couldn’t think of anybody with a lot of hay to sell, but said that he would sell us five bales of his own horse hay, which was all we needed to get the lumber up the road and feed the horses until the next time we’re in Spanish Lookout.

We drove to his farm, loaded the hay, and then had a delightful conversation with Bernard and his wife, Lisa. They are Mennonites, and both were born in Belize. They talked about what it’s like growing up as a native in a country where the rest of the native population is black or Hispanic, and about how they must learn parts of multiple languages – German, English, Spanish, and Creole – in order to live and do business in Belize.

During this discussion, we learned something that had been puzzling us since we’ve been here. We’d noticed that when people are saying how high something is, they illustrate it with their hands in a number of different ways, and Bernard said that learning what the different gestures mean has helped him do business in Guatemala and Mexico, where English is spoken much less than it is in Belize. If you want to say how high grass or a plant or bush is, the gesture is the forearm held parallel to the ground, with the hand flat, palm down. To indicate the height of an animal, the forearm is again held parallel to the ground, but the hand is held in a vertical position with the palm facing the person being addressed; the animal’s height is the bottom edge of your hand. To indicate the height of a human, the forearm is held perpendicular to the ground with the hand pointing up and cupped; to get a vision of the person’s height, imagine the person’s head being held in the cupped palm. We learned this on Wednesday, and on Thursday Ofelia and Iris stopped by, and we were talking about how Iris has grown taller just since we’ve been living here. Ofelia was telling me how short Iris used to be and indicated her height exactly how Bernard had shown us a person’s height should be indicated. We mentioned this to Selwyn, and he said that although he’d never given much thought, it is an unwritten rule, and to indicate a thing’s height in the wrong way could be taken as an insult. So, although it’s somewhat depressing to know that learning Spanish involves not only learning the vocabulary and the grammar, but also the hand gestures, at least we now know how not to insult someone by measuring their child’s height as though that child is a plant or an animal.

The puppies are continuing to grow. They were over 45 pounds each the last time we weighed them, about a week ago.

The only thing they’ve destroyed is the screen that we didn’t protect with the quarter-inch wire on the porch where they sleep, so we’ll have to re-screen the bottom of that porch, and run the quarter-inch wire all the way up to the rail.

Beli is a perfect angel, but Stout continues to vex us with his habit of being bad but being such a clown about it that we have to laugh. He still has difficulty keeping his feet out of the water bowl, and he continues to act like the feet have minds of their own, and he just isn’t strong enough to keep them out of the bowl. As we were eating breakfast this morning, he and Beli were playing and running around the table chasing each other and wrestling. Every once in a while, Stout’s feet would take him to the water bowl, where they’d start to dig. We’d yell “STOUT!” and the feet would come out of the bowl, and he’d gallop after Beli. After three or four stops in the water bowl, his wet feet had the track around the table pretty well soaked, and the floor was slippery. So, after he’d take off after Beli with his newly wet feet, he’d slip. At some point this became part of the game, and he’d let his front feet slip out and he’d slide like a seal across the floor on his head. This was funny enough, but one time he misjudged and slid his head right into the wall with a big thunk. It didn’t seem to phase him, and he did another lap and the feet made another stop at the water bowl. That time we really couldn’t yell at him because we were giggling too hard about him bonking his head.

We haven’t seen too many real snakes around the property – still only the one venomous fer-de-lance when we first moved here, and just a few other snakes. So, the boys next door decided that they needed to show us the snake that they “caught” in their yard.

Ronald, Hector, and Wilton even let Tom hold it!

And, by the way, for those of you who are tracking it, we know that Hurricane Dean is heading in this direction. However, with what the forecasters are predicting now, it looks like the hurricane will make landfall well north of here, somewhere in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. We’ve asked the locals what happens when a hurricane hits near here, and pretty much without exception they shrug and say “Lots of wind. Lots of rain. And then it clears up.” So, we’re not anticipating any big deal, and if it stays on the predicted track, we may not even see any change in the weather.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The next steps

Tom spent last Thursday and Friday in Spanish Lookout getting the building supplies for the next phase. We had originally planned to get going on the second cabin and turn it into guest rooms, but somewhere along the line we heard that when it really starts to rain here – which could happen at any time – the water supply in the pipe gets muddy. So, we decided that our next project would be to put a roof on the little house by the road, which we plan to use as a shop and utility building. We can then collect rainwater from the roof, and use that to fill the 1000 gallon tank that we fill before pumping water up the hill to the other 1000 gallon tank which gravity feeds the house.

This is what the shop/utility house looked like when we first moved on to the property.

Tom and Selwyn spent this morning taking out the old roof supports, which were held up by just a few nails here and there. They’re now rebuilding the roof, and will cover it with zinc roofing. They’ll also build windows and doors so we can lock the building and use it for tool storage, and eventually as a shop for Tom. We’ll probably also put the battery bank in that building, and move the generator down there so the noise is further from our living space. Tom plans to wire the property from that point so that whether we eventually run from a solar or generator powered battery bank, or from electric from the road if it ever gets this far, we can have all the buildings wired so it doesn’t matter what the electric source is.

Nessarose and Elphaba, and the other horses

We’ve named the two new horses Nessarose and Elphaba, who are, respectively, the Witch of the East and the Witch of the West in the book Wicked, which is also where we found Glinda’s name. Glinda was also the name of the good witch in The Wizard of Oz, but I’m not sure if the original story ever named the Wicked Witch of the West or her sister. In the story they’re sisters, but even though they’re mother and daughter here, we named the mare Nessarose because she’s lame in the front, and Nessarose in the story didn’t have fully formed arms. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, fits the little filly, who is well on her way to being a witchy little mare.

We’re not sure we’ll ever be able to do anything with Nessarose, but we figure we’ll give her a good home since she looks like she deserves it. Not only does she have the fat fetlock, but she has a scar around her neck where the hair is gone, and some white hair around that, where it looks like she was tied by the neck and the rope was allowed to grow into her skin. She also has saddle sores all down her back – which I don’t get because she supposedly wasn’t being ridden because she’s lame. The sores on her withers are enough to make me cringe, but what’s even worse is they run all the way down her backbone, which sticks up a bit higher than it should since she’s so thin. She has other old scars rimmed with white hair where something has rubbed her, and she has another rope burn scar around her right hind pastern. She has fungus under her mane and, until we gave her a couple of good groomings, she was filthy and loaded with ticks. Selwyn doesn’t know how old she is, but we guess around 10, although we’ll ask the vet for his best guess when he comes out to give her and the filly their shots. She’s not as lame as we’d thought she’d be, although it looks like she hasn’t used that leg properly in a long time because the hoof has grown too boxy. We’re wondering if a good hoof trimming might not make her almost sound, at least at the walk, so we could get her out and get her some exercise. But, before we do anything with her, we’ll feed her and get to know her. She’s very sweet, and loves to be rubbed and groomed, and so far has been very willing to do anything we’ve asked.

Elphaba is a little piss-pot. The lack of an eye doesn’t slow her down for a second, and while she’s also happy to be fussed with, she’s a little too reciprocal in her affections and we need to teach her not to bite. She seems to be in better shape than Nessarose, probably because she’s still nursing so she’s getting more nutrition. We kept the two new horses separate from the others on the first day we brought them home, and then tried turning them out with our other three and Burrito (Selwyn’s horse who lives here periodically when we need to use him). Esmerelda and Glinda checked them out and seemed to accept two new mares as part of the herd, and Tony didn’t really care, but Burrito, for some reason, decided that he didn’t like the filly. He went after her, bit her good, and went after her with his teeth out when she ran away. Tom and Wilton were clearing coconuts out of the pasture so they saw the whole thing, but I got over there just in time to see Elphie still running from Burrito, but attacking Tony. Tony, the poor guy, was just standing by the gate, and she ran right at him with her teeth out, and bit him on the shoulder! Being the good guy he is Tony just hopped his back end like he was thinking about kicking her, but she had to run off anyway because Burrito was catching her. She did another lap around the pasture to get ahead of Burrito, and came back for another go at Tony! He did the same thing, but by that time I was there so I was able to herd Burrito out the gate and into the other pasture, and then grab Tony so I could swat the filly away from him. She left Tony alone once she was no longer pursued. We ended up tying Burrito out in the yard, which was probably a good deal for him since he gets more grass there.

Our five horses seem to be getting along just fine in the pastures. Esmerelda seems to be the self-appointed boss mare, because she makes sure that Nessarose and Elphie are in the front pasture while she, Glinda, and Tony eat in the middle pasture. I finally got to see her jump – and she looks as good as she feels – because as I was distributing feed, she saw Nessarose and Elphie come into “her” pasture. I was on the path where I can step over the log, and Es had to pass me, so she made a pretty big jump over the log and all the stuff that’s growing on it in order to put the two new horses back where they belong.

In other horse news I rode Glinda yesterday for the first time since I tried her when we bought her. She bucked Tom off (he actually stepped out of the stirrups at an opportune moment), then bucked Selwyn off a couple of times, and since then Selwyn has been taking her on trail rides with the draw reins tied to the horn of his Western saddle so she couldn’t get her head too far up or down to buck or rear. It seems to have worked, since she was good for me. I was glad I had the Tucker training I’ve had to get on her, since she did a lot of dancing around and threatening to hump up her back, but I got on slowly, steered her around before I was all the way in the saddle, and when I got on I didn’t even have to pull her too far in with the draw reins. By the time we got out on the road she was pretty relaxed, and while I kept a grip on the draw reins for the whole ride, she was, if anything, a little too quiet. She doesn’t use her back like Es and she feels really hollow – a lot like Shawn – but I think a little work getting her to reach for the bit rather than just avoiding it will get her moving better. The bucking had to stop before we could do anything with her.

Back to our “normal” life in the jungle

With Steph and Matt gone back to NY, we’re getting back to our normal routine which, in the jungle, isn’t always normal, and it’s been even less normal than usual this week despite our best efforts to get back in our rut. Selwyn has been on vacation this week because he’s been here six months and has earned a week of vacation, and with our busy July he’s been doing double duty, doing everything he always does around here, plus taking our guests on horseback rides and jungle tours, plus being our house/horse/dog sitter while we’ve gone away overnight. Long story short, he’s more than earned it. On Monday, for the first day of his vacation, he planned to go to Melchor, the town just over the border in Guatemala, where many Belizeans around here go to shop since prices are lower and the exchange rate is good. We’re in desperate need of hammocks (I know, I know, it’s funny how “needs” change), so we gave Selwyn money and told him to get the best three hammocks he could get for the money.

I didn’t mention it in the last blog entry, but Tom and I faced a dilemma over the past weekend because we were driving from home to San Ignacio on Saturday morning, and between here and San Antonio we saw a guy we don’t even know riding our bike. We’ve turned the bike over to Selwyn to use to get back and forth to work since he lives about 3 ½ miles from here, and because he sets his hours based on what we’re doing here rather than on when he can get rides, we figure it’s only fair that we help out with transportation. We call the bike the company truck, and Selwyn has it with the understanding that it’s for his use only. We’ve found his family sometimes “borrowing” it, and we’ve just asked Selwyn to try to limit the use of the bike for anybody other than him, and told him that it’s fine to say we don’t want anyone else using the bike if he’s in an awkward position with his family. Anyway, here we were, just driving down the road, knowing Selwyn is in school in San Ignacio on Saturday, and there’s our bike being pedaled down the road by a perfect stranger.

Tom (for some reason always on the lookout for our bike on the road) stopped the truck, got out, and waited for the bicyclist to reach him. The guy stopped, and Tom just said “That’s my bike.” The guy said he knew, and Tom told him to get off it because nobody other than Selwyn is supposed to be using the bike. The guy didn’t argue, and Tom put the bike in the back of the truck and we went on our way, with both of us stewing, of course. When we got home we locked the bike in the tack shed, and figured that we’d see Selwyn on Sunday when he got home from school and realized the bike was missing. Sunday morning was the morning we took the early morning airport run, and we were a little surprised when we got home that the Selwyn wasn’t here. We started coming up with all sorts of scenarios about why somebody we don’t know was riding the bike, and what Selwyn could possibly be doing that he didn’t even know the bike was missing. When we didn’t see Selwyn at all on Sunday, we figured that he’d stayed in San Ignacio and we’d see him when he got home from Melchor on Monday.

That turned out to be a correct guess, although that’s the only part of any of our scenarios that was anywhere close to the truth. We didn’t see him all day on Monday. We sat down for dinner around 7:15, and heard a car stop at the gate. We looked at each other, Tom said “Selwyn,” and we waited for him to walk up the driveway, with a last minute whispered conference about how we were going to handle the bike issue. We agreed that Selwyn was no longer going to be able to borrow the bike since he obviously couldn’t prevent other people from using it, and we were thinking of instituting a no more loans policy on all our stuff, including the weed whacker and our camera which occasionally spend weekends in San Antonio, supposedly used only by Selwyn, but the bike incident had us wondering.

Wrong. We never would have guessed Selwyn’s story, and after we heard about the day he’d had, we both felt guilty for even doubting him. It turned out that after school on Saturday, he went to his aunt’s house in Santa Elena, and she convinced him to stay overnight on Saturday, go to church and visit with them on Sunday, and then leave for Guatemala from San Ignacio on Monday morning. He got to Melchor without any problems, and changed our money and the money he’d taken for his own shopping. He’d shopped around, picked out the stuff he was going to buy, and was in the process of paying for our hammocks when somebody came up behind him, shoved him, and grabbed his wallet – with all of the money he’d changed. The thief took off into the crowd, and although Selwyn and a few other people chased him, they weren’t able to catch him.

After realizing that all of his money (and our money) was gone and he hadn’t purchased anything, Selwyn set about figuring out he could get home without any money. He went to the border and found that his karma wasn’t all bad; he saw someone he knew who also lives in the Pine Ridge, explained his situation, and asked for a ride home. The guy wasn’t going all the way home, but he said he could get Selwyn into San Ignacio, where Selwyn knows enough people that he could find someone and borrow a few dollars to catch the bus home. The good karma continued, however, and before he even got to the bus stop, Damion (our next door neighbor) drove by and asked if he needed a ride. It turned out that Damion, Olmi, Wilton, and Daisy had also spent the day in Melchor doing some back-to-school shopping, and if Selwyn had waited just a few more minutes at the border, they probably would have driven by and given him a ride from the border all the way home. As it was, Selwyn hopped in the back of the truck and asked Damion to drop him off at his house in San Antonio. Selwyn was planning to come out here, but because he’d been gone for a few days he wanted to stop at home first and check on his animals, making sure that the neighbors had fed them while he was gone. And, he said, he figured that once he’d checked the animals, he could hop on the bike and get out here to talk to us about the money before it was even dark.

But, Selwyn didn’t know that the bike was here. He said he fed the animals, and went into the back room to get the bike, and discovered that it wasn’t there. He stormed over to his neighbor’s house to see if they’d seen anybody in his, and his neighbor told him that he’d “borrowed” the bike on Saturday morning, and Selwyn’s boss had stopped and taken it. At least at that point Selwyn knew where the bike was, but he also knew that on top of telling us that our money had been stolen, he knew we’d be stewing about the fact that somebody we didn’t even know was using the bike. But, being Selwyn, that just made him want to talk to us even more to let us know everything that had happened, so he walked up to the main street through town to try to catch a ride to our house. His good luck with rides held, and he found someone he knew driving to Blancaneaux, which means they’d go right past our driveway, and he got the ride.

Sheesh. What could we say but “poor Selwyn?” We listened to his story, assured him that while we don’t like to throw money away the stolen money wasn’t his fault, and told him that we certainly wouldn’t hold against him the fact that the neighbor borrowed the bike out of his locked house without his permission. We fed him – he hadn’t eaten all day since the money had been stolen before lunch, and it had taken until dinner time to get home – told him to take a hot shower, and then Tom loaded Selwyn and the bike in the truck to take him home. Fortunately for Selwyn, Steph and Matt had forgotten that they wouldn’t see him again when we went to Hopkins on Friday morning, so they’d left a tip with us for Selwyn for leading the trail rides. We gave him the money so he had some cash, and thanked the powers-that-be that we all forgot to give him the tip on Friday, because then that would have been stolen as well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Two New Girls

I finally got the blog entry below done yesterday, just in time to hear a popping sound from the generator. Then, although the generator was still running, everything that had been running on the electricity from the generator stopped. Tom ran out and shut it off, and then took it apart and put it back together. He couldn’t see what was wrong with it, so the two of us loaded it into the back of the truck and he took off for Spanish Lookout to the store where we purchased it. Tom was a little peeved with himself that he didn’t find the shorted wire himself, but the diagnosis and repair at the shop cost a whopping $20BZ – plus, of course, the gas to get it there. In the meantime, I stayed home and tried to catch up on email, not knowing when it would be sent. I was delighted that a working generator came back with Tom last night, so all the email went out as soon as we turned the generator on today.

That, however, wasn’t done until the afternoon because we spent the morning picking up the two new horses, which are explained below. We saddled Esmerelda and Tony this morning and headed for San Antonio, and found the horses in Selwyn’s yard, as he had promised. They’re both pretty nice, despite the mare’s fat fetlock and the filly’s missing eye. We’d trotted most of the way to San Antonio, but we walked home pretty slowly since the mare doesn’t do much more than walk, although she’s not even all that lame at the walk. Tom ponied her from Tony, and I followed behind her on Esmerelda, keeping the filly on the shoulder side of the three horse fence. We had a few tense moments when the filly wanted to meet a little stud colt tied in somebody’s yard, and again when she wanted to say hello to some cows grazing on the side of the road, but we all made it home in one piece and the two new girls seem to be settling in. We’ve locked them in the front pasture, and it doesn’t seem like much name calling is going on over the fence between the two new girls and the other four.

A week with Stephanie and Matt

We picked Stephanie and Matt up at the airport as planned on Friday. Like Tim and Kelli, they were through immigration and customs in a flash. It seems that our family and friends look like the typical Belizean tourists from America, so officials don’t even look twice, not that they have any reason to anyway. Coming from the East Coast, Steph and Matt were two hours ahead of us, so when we met their noon arrival, it was already 2:00 to them, and they were starving. We stopped at Amigos for lunch and Belikin beer, and then backtracked a little bit to the zoo. Although we’re a little peeved with the zoo for taking the cages from the property without permission, we have to admit it’s still a nice zoo. The animals are all seem happy and make themselves visible to the zoo visitors. Like us on our first visit to the zoo when we first came to Belize, Steph and Matt were interested to see what kinds of animals live in this environment. Tom and I were as fascinated with the animals as we were on our first visit because we can now say that we’ve seen many of them in the wild, but at the zoo we get a chance to get an up-close view of what may have been only a tail disappearing into the jungle. We were also interested to see what the zoo is doing with the cage material that they acquired from this property – building an over-the-walkway jaguar run as they attach two cages together to give the jaguars a little more room. Tom, claiming he recognized the material, stopped to see what they were doing, and the workmen were happy to explain the project to Tom. I kept his ear firmly pinched between my thumb and finger, and gave a little squeeze whenever he drifted too close to antagonism with the workers, who probably had nothing to do with acquiring the cage material.

On Saturday, Tom, Steph, and Matt went up to Caracol, Rio Frio Cave, and Rio On Pools. They all enjoyed themselves, and Steph said she especially liked the cave, which was a good thing since they’ve visited a few different caves around here. Nobody was too badly hurt in the pools – Matt just fell on his butt on the slippery rocks, and they returned around 5:00, tired and sunburned from their fist full day in Belize. I think Steph managed to stay awake until we finished dinner around 8:30.

On Sunday, we went to the horse races. The Peter August Stadium race track is in Santa Elena, and while we comment on the sign almost every time we drive by, which is at least once a week, we’ve never been. The races only happen every three months or so, and while they’ve happened a few times since we’ve been here, we’ve always had something else to do. We decided that this time, especially since Steph and Matt are here and Steph is a horse person, we’d make the effort to go. As we talked about it a few days ahead of time, we got a lot of taxi reservations for the truck. George and Ronald from next door wanted to go, as did Selwyn and his family, as well as his brothers Gilroy and Richard and his sister Shirley.

Hector and Wilton wanted to go, but couldn’t do it since their parents had no interest in going, and they didn’t think that turning two boys loose at the race track all afternoon was a good idea, and Tom and I had to agree, especially after we caught Junior relaxing at the races.

Ronald had a flyer for the races which said they started at 12:00. We know everything happens late in Belize, so we got to the gate around 12:15. The gate attendant told us the races wouldn’t be starting until 1:30 or 2:00, so we headed for Hode’s in San Ignacio for lunch. We got back to the track around 2:00, and it was still virtually deserted, of both people and horses. We walked around looking at the horses that were already there and talking to their trainers, and watched the other horses coming in. This was our first clue that Belize horse racing is done a little differently than horse racing in the US.

The horses came in open trailers, usually pulled by small pickup trucks, with one person standing on the trailer with the horse, and a few others watching from the bed of the pickup in case there was any trouble. As the horses arrived, people started to arrive, and we took our place in the stands, right at the finish line. The first race still didn’t happen until after 3:00, and by that time there were more people there, but still not the packed crowd you’d see at a track in the US. When the first race finally happened, the Americans in our group were a little surprised. First, the horses apparently don’t seem to have to be thoroughbreds, or any breed for that matter. If a horse will run, it can race, and all the horses in the first race looked like ponies.

Second, the tack…wasn’t. The boys who were riding the horses had bridles on over the halters, and most didn’t have any saddles. When they started racing, they just tucked their feet up behind the horses’ shoulders, and rode. And, I do mean their feet, since they weren’t wearing any boots. Or any shirts. I think their pants may have been jockeys’ pants, but they may also have been silk long underwear.

Nevertheless, the horses ran, the winner came back for his trophy, and the races started. There were five races, and each race was for progressively higher stakes.

At some point the horses started appearing with jockey saddles, and after one race where a jockey was rubbed off between two jostling horses and trampled in the track by the horses following him, helmets and goggles even appeared. The accident was interesting, because it happened in pretty good view of the stands, and when the horses passed and everybody in the stands could see that the jockey didn’t get up, the stands emptied as all the spectators ran to see what happened. A few from our group even joined the throng, although Steph and Matt and Tom and I remained in the stands. The benefit of having eyewitnesses to the accident in our group was that we knew almost immediately that the jockey had a good gash on his hand where it was stepped on, but other than that he seemed to be okay. The races ended and we left for the trek home, although many of the spectators stayed to continue the party at the track, which looked more like a fair ground with fast food stands and the necessary set of giant speakers belting out reggae loud enough to make your clothes vibrate. The next “big” races are at Burrell Boom, a town near Belize City, in September and at New Year’s, and the buzz has already started to convince Tom and me that we want to go.

On Monday, Selwyn led Steph, Matt, and Tom on a trail ride to Sapodilla Falls, which they discovered is called Tree Basin Falls on the map. They had the same experience as Tim, Kelli and I, riding for the whole day and swimming at the falls and never seeing another soul until the ride back on the road. Steph rode Es, and declared her the perfect horse since she’s perfectly happy to walk along the trail in any position in the line, but when you ask her to go, she really goes, jumping over streams and ditches and running just for the fun of it. Of course she added the same caveat as I always add – she’d be perfect if she were a foot taller. But, she’s not, so we’ll take what we’ve got, and be happy that she’s plenty strong enough to carry us and our stuff. Matt had never been on a horse before, but he survived the day on Burrito without too many bruises and sore spots. Tom rode Tony, and was probably the most tired of the four of them since he had to constantly kick him to make him keep up.

Tuesday was ATM day for Steph, Matt, and Tom. We met Gonzo in Santa Elena, and they joined a friend of Gonzo’s and two kids from San Ignacio on the tour.

Because they were all pretty fit, they took a slightly different route into the cave, and when they were done, took a hike through the jungle to another cave with Mayan artifacts and Mayan handprints on the wall.

Steph and Matt were impressed, as everybody is, and we had plenty to talk about at dinner that night. I had a less than pleasant day, since I had to take the truck to Spanish Lookout for some brake work. I had been assured that all I had to do was show up at the mechanic’s shop and they’d fix the truck, but of course it wasn’t that simple. They didn’t have the parts, and told me that I had to go to the parts store to pick them up. Tom had ordered the parts and the parts store assured Tom they would be in by Monday. When I went to the parts store, I was told that the parts hadn’t been ordered, although the guy in the parts store sort of remembered talking to somebody about it. I went back to the mechanic to have him write down what needed to be ordered, went back to the parts place, and found that one of the parts was in stock anyway and one could be delivered from Belmopan by early afternoon. So, I took the in-stock part and went to the mechanic to see if they could do that, but by that time they’d already started something else, but said if I came back after lunch with both parts they could do it. I went back to San Ignacio to do the rest of my errands, and got back to the parts store in Spanish Lookout just after lunch. The part wasn’t in; it would be in at 2:00. So, I went to tell the mechanic, who said maybe he could install what I had. That took about an hour, which meant it was after 2:00, so I went back to the parts shop, and was told that the part was on its way. I waited in the truck until the delivery guy came about 2:30, where they delivered it to me right in my truck, and then I went back to the mechanic, who took a look at it, and then decided, around 3:00, that he’d better not start fixing it then in case something else broke and they wouldn’t have time to put it back together. I left with the part and instructions for Tom to call a couple of days in advance to set up an appointment to get the part installed.

My original plan had been to get the truck fixed, get my errands done, and spend a few hours at home before picking the crew up in San Ignacio at 5:00. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen since about the time I got home would be the time I had to leave for San Ignacio, so I headed for the ferry and decided to wait in San Ignacio. Fortunately, Stephanie had delivered the new Harry Potter book, so I didn’t mind the half hour wait for the ferry since I could sit and read, and by the time I got into San Ignacio around 4:00, I decided to just sit on the riverbank, watch the low-lying bridge for Gonzo’s van, and read Harry Potter. I didn’t see the van go by, so at 5:00 I went back to the truck to go to where I’d meet the ATM crew. Steph and Matt were already sitting in the bed of the truck; somehow they’d managed to get over the bridge without me seeing them, which isn’t all that surprising since my nose was in the book. They hadn’t seen me either, so Tom had gone into town to look for me despite Stephanie’s suggestion that I was probably sitting and reading somewhere, but he was back within about 10 minutes and we went to pay Gonzo and head home.

On Wednesday we headed to Barton Creek to canoe up the creek in the cave and take a swim in the Barton Creek Outpost’s swimming hole. Tom and I had missed the Barton Creek trip with Tim and Kelli because we took Tom to the hospital for his fever, so we were excited to be doing the tour. The Barton Creek Cave is beautiful, with the creek navigable for about 800 yards through the cave. We saw lots of cave formations, some Mayan artifacts, bats, and catfish. We all really enjoyed it, although when we talked to Steph and Matt later, we realized that in the future if our guests want to do both Barton Creek and ATM, they should do Barton Creek first since it seems tame after ATM, where you swim and climb up the river rather than gently canoeing, and you see many more Mayan artifacts. After the canoe ride, we took a swim and played on the rope swing and sat on the Outpost’s deck. Selwyn and I were sitting and chatting, when suddenly a dog that looked just like Beli bombed up the stairs. Then she barked, and she barked just like Beli. We checked with Jim, the owner of the place, and confirmed that his dog is the other bitch from Beli’s litter, although they look so similar we had no doubts.

On Thursday Selwyn led Steph, Matt, and Tom on another horse back ride through the jungle to Big Rock. I met them there with lunch, and we all had a swim under the waterfall, with the men jumping off the high rocks. It was quite a contrast to Sapodilla Falls, since we were sharing the falls with a group of about 20 girls from England who were on a five day trek through the jungle, lead by Selwyn’s brother Gilroy. Gilroy seemed pretty pleased with the job, and I don’t think any of the men minded watching the British bathing beauties sunning themselves on the rocks. After drying off, we packed up the remains of the lunch and headed back up the hill, where I got in the truck to head home and everybody else came home by horseback.

On Friday we took a trip down to Hopkins so Steph and Matt could take a dip in the Caribbean. Hopkins is a beautiful drive down the Hummingbird Highway, which was made even more beautiful than usual because we were driving in and out of thunderstorms, so we saw the mountains both in the sunshine, and with the impressive backdrop of mist, thunder, and lightening. We pulled into Hopkins right about noon, and the clouds went away and never came back. We ate lunch at one of the local dives, and were a little frustrated because we all wanted to hit the beach, but the service was extremely slow, and we never did get everything we ordered. But, our stomachs were temporarily satisfied, and we went swimming in the very warm Caribbean Sea and floated up and down on the waves. Tom and I were a little distressed because the beach was filthy, with all sorts of garbage washed up with the seaweed at the tide line. However, once we were in the water, the bottom was all sand, and it’s shallow enough to walk out a good 25 to 50 yards. We dried off by taking a walk up the beach, where we ran into Gonzo’s friend who had been on the ATM tour – Belize is a small country! – and made a quick stop at Hamanasi, a resort that specializes in dive trips, to get prices and information on diving with them if we don’t stay there. They offer very reasonable dive-only packages, so Tom and I are planning a few dive trips so we can be comfortable in the water next spring when the whale sharks migrate through Belizean waters; we really want to see these friendly giants up close, and everyone we’ve talked to who’s done it says it’s really awesome. Even though we’re not working, we still have to have goals!

Saturday was Steph and Matt’s last day, so we spent the day in San Ignacio so they could get the feel of the town. We stopped at Sak Tunich on our way out, which is an artists’ gallery and gift shop run by a local Mayan family. They do art work in clay, slate, and limestone, attempting to duplicate the methods of the Mayans in producing their art. The gallery and the methods of producing the art have been passed down through the generations, with the current generation learning from their father and grandfather, and they’re teaching their children. Steph and Matt bought a carved slate Mayan calendar, just as Tim and Kelli did. We then headed into San Ignacio, where we wandered around the produce market, which is more of a flea market on Saturdays. I actually prefer to shop at the market during the week when it isn’t so crowded, but it’s worth the experience for visitors to put it on their Saturday trip itinerary. We went to Erva’s for our standard burrito lunch, walked through town a little more, and then headed out to Xunantunich to see the ruins. To get to the ruins, vehicles need to cross the river on a ferry, which is worth the experience in itself, although the Xunantunich ferry cranker is a little more cranky than the Spanish Lookout crankers. We wandered around for an hour or so, then headed out with a stop at Three Flags for Marie Sharpe’s hot sauce for Steph and Matt to take home, and then headed home for an early dinner.

All week, we’d been thinking that Steph and Matt were flying out on the return trip of the flight they came in on. Fortunately, Steph took a look at their tickets on Saturday morning, and realized that their flight was at 8:00am on Sunday. So, we had an early night, and were up and on the road at 4:00am to get to the airport by 6:00. It had started raining while we were eating Saturday night, and continued to rain through the night.

We left here in the rain and crawled down the Georgeville Road, very glad that Tinkerbell has her new “mudder” tires.

We don’t think the old tires, which were new when we left the US, would have made it down the muddy road. Tom was hoping that the rain was confined to the hills and that it would disappear when we hit the Western Highway, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and we drove most of the way to the airport through torrential downpours which really limited visibility, especially on the dark roads without any lines. The only good thing was that at 5:00am, the roads don’t have the foot, bike, and horse traffic that they have earlier in the evening that make driving Belizean roads at night difficult under any circumstances, so we only had to worry about driving off the road, not about hitting something. Despite the adverse conditions, we made it to the airport at 6:00am on the dot, said a sad goodbye to Steph and Matt since we didn’t want them to leave any more than they wanted to leave, and headed home. It was still raining, but visibility was somewhat improved with the day light. We stopped alongside the road to call Tom’s parents in Florida since we had cell reception, and made it home around 8:30 – just in time for Augusto’s delivery of a pork roast from the second butchered pig from next door. We then had breakfast and decided that since it was still raining, our best course of action was a nap – and that’s been our Sunday.

Selwyn is taking his first week of vacation this next week, so Tom and I are planning to regroup after a fairly solid month of visitors, which meant we were on vacation too. We have a list of things we need to do to get the first cabin “finished,” and we’re going to take a couple of trips to Spanish Lookout to get the building materials we need to work on the small house by the road – which will be a shop/utility house - and the second cabin when Selwyn is back from his vacation. Somewhere around the time Steph and Matt arrived, we finally hooked up an on-demand water heater, and we’re still working on getting it set at the right temperature so we can shower with hot water without being scalded. Although the rainy season was supposed to start in June, we’ve really had very little rain, and we’re actually hoping for more rain so that things will grow more quickly. Tom is back to normal with no residual effects from his two-week fever, so with the plans Tom has for construction, they only have to do a few things outside like getting framing done and roofs up, and then they’ll be able to go full steam ahead regardless of the weather.

The herd grows
One of the other things we have to do this week is go pick up our two new horses. Selwyn showed up early one morning last week, and asked to talk to us. A friend of his has a mare and her eight-month old filly, and about a year ago the mare badly injured her fetlock and hasn’t been sound since. The filly is blind in one eye because some kids were sling-shooting rocks at her, and Selwyn’s friend decided that he just wanted to find a good home for the two of them, with the payment being one foal out of the mare sometime in the future. Selwyn can’t take two horses at his house in town, so he asked if we would be interested. We’re not named Moonracer Farm for nothing, so Tom and I said we’d take the two horses. (Our farm is named after King Moonracer, the King of the Island of Misfit Toys in the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special. We chose that name when we moved to Canadice about 10 years ago because at the time all of our dogs and horses were misfits for one reason or another – orphans, chicken killers, track rejects, behavior rehab cases, or some combination.) We figure the mare will just be overhead, but we’ll be able to break the filly in a year or so and have another riding horse. And, if we like the mare’s babies, we can use her as a brood mare and breed another horse for ourselves in a couple of years. We have to come up with a couple of more witch names for the two of them, but we figure we’ll wait til we meet them and see what fits.

And in the category of too much information –
we think we have a new slogan for the Belize Tourism Board: “Belize: A Boon to your Bowels.” Although we shouldn’t have been surprised, since all conversations around here seem to eventually devolve to the scatological, Tom and I were a little surprised one night when Tim and Kelli were here, and Tim announced at dinner that he’s never pooped better in his life. We were even more surprised when one night while Matt and Steph were here, Matt made a similar announcement at dinner. The only thing that kept us from being really surprised is that sometime over the past few months Tom has made a similar observation about himself. I’m sure that lots of fresh produce, beans, and lots of fresh air which keeps us thirsty and drinking water has something to do with it, but it just seemed odd that along with Tom, our first two guests here have seen fit to make the same comment!

Of course, we also get plenty of exercise, or at least we try. I’ve learned that the dogs need to be shut off the porch if I try to do situps or any other floor exercise.

They think it’s great that I’m down at their level to play with them!