Monday, October 15, 2007

Wildlife Abounds

Compared to how long it took to get the cabin we’re living in completed, Tom and Selwyn are flying on the second cabin. The bathrooms are completely enclosed except for the wall one bathroom shares with the utility area, which Tom has left down intentionally in order to get big things into the bathroom.

The plycem is up for both showers, so those just need to be tiled, which we won’t do until the bathroom ceilings are done.

Tom has one of the sinks installed and the vanity partially built, and he spent part of the weekend getting the gutters up on one side of the cabin. Early this week, they’re going to work on the plumbing, and Tom is making a run to Spanish Lookout tomorrow for whatever plumbing supplies are needed and for some of the lumber needed to finish.

I have a good start on our webpage, and I’ve figured out most of what I need to know to get the pieces built. That’s a project a lot like building the cabins; the bulk of the work is pretty straightforward, but I know I’m going to run into a few walls as I try to get it finished – details like deciding on our rates so I can publish them on our rate pages. Tom and I will probably be spending a few late nights sitting at the table with our computers and spreadsheets, trying to agree on how to price everything from breakfast to rooms to guided horseback rides or hikes. It’s not that we haven’t talked about it and don’t have some ideas, but we have to run the numbers and make sure that the numbers we’re thinking about now are realistic. In any case, I’ll let everybody know when we have a web page appropriate for public viewing.

Today, Monday, is another Belizean holiday. As I understand it, it’s “American Day,” but I’m not sure what that means, mostly because it doesn’t seem like the Belizeans we’ve talked to really understand what it is. Some say it’s really “Pan-American Day,” where Belizeans are celebrating being part of Central America (everything between Panama and America), and some say it’s just “American Day,” celebrating Belize’s relationship with the US, in which case I guess Tom and I should be celebrating too. We've also heard that it's the same as the US Columbus Day, and that the holiday has something to do with Columbus. But, since nobody really seems sure, we’re just treating it like any other day.

Selwyn will be working, although we’ll pay him time and a half, and we may take a couple of hours this morning and go for a horseback ride, but other than that it’s just business as usual.

The reason we’re really going for a horseback ride this morning is the weather. It has been very, very wet and rainy and this morning, so far, it’s only cloudy. Until the middle of last week, we had sunny mornings and rainy afternoons, but Friday through Sunday were pretty much wall to wall rain.

From what we’ve read about the weather on line, it seems to be the result of a “sleeping giant” of a very wet low pressure system that parked over Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. The sleeping giant is supposed to move up through the Yucatan in the next day or two, but the rain may not be over since another tropical depression had formed in the western Caribbean, as of yesterday. There’s really not much to do about it, so we’re just not making weather dependent plans, and we’re trying to get things to stay dry. Except our water tanks, of course, which are staying full.

I finally gave up waiting for sunshine yesterday and did a couple of loads of laundry. They’re hung on the line now, but there’s no telling how long it will take everything to dry; we’ll just have rainwater rinsed clothes! We’re also dealing with very muddy dogs, which is just annoying. Our bed sheets have muddy dog prints all over them since we can’t train the Jacks to stay off the bed, and we always have brown blotches on our legs where muddy dogs have rubbed us. One day last week I wanted to stay clean as I fed the dogs, so I suited up in my full rubber raingear outfit, boots, rubber pants, and rubber slicker; I’m sure I looked more like I was going to try to feed some dolphins rather than a pack of dogs. The good thing about the rain is that everything is growing. The coconuts we planted on the driveway months ago have suddenly doubled in size, and my latest batch of lettuce and basil is growing way faster than the first batch.

The puppies are growing like weeds too. We give them their monthly flea and worm treatments mid-month, so we weighed them yesterday to see how much wormer we need. Stout is up to 65 pounds, and Beli is a little over 60 – and their feet still look a little too big for them, so they’re still growing. They’ve both become good scorpion hunters, which we appreciate. When they see a scorpion, they stand at a good distance and bark at it, and we’ve learned that when they’re barking at a spot on the floor or the wall, the best thing for us to do is lock the Jacks in another room and get a machete.

Mellow is hanging in there, although he’s getting stinkier and stinkier from sleeping in his wet bed.

Lou and Nock are still working on keeping the puppies in line. They’re terrified of Mel, but as soon as Mel goes outside they start to run amok.

We’re going to be even more cautious than we have been about letting Nock out to hunt after our latest wildlife encounter. Tom went out to fill the generator yesterday, and saw a very colorful snake trying to get out of his way by crawling under the generator. Tom took a look at it, and came inside for the snake book. He determined that it was some type of coral snake, so he called for me, the camera, and a machete, and we went outside for a snake hunt. Coral snakes are very dangerous because Belize hospitals don’t have any antivenin for their bites. However, they’re also very shy, so unless you surprise it, you probably won’t get bit, and there are also snakes known as false coral snakes around here that look like the coral snakes, but are not poisonous. After consulting the snake book, we decided that this snake was definitely a coral snake, and its behavior supported that conclusion.

When we went back out to the generator, it had moved under the camper and was hiding behind the rolled up camper waste hose. Tom tried to chop at it with the machete without chopping the hose, and it didn’t strike at the hose, but just tried to crawl away. As it went behind the camper tires, Tom got a couple of good chops in, and it then went in a bigger hole under the camper. Because we didn’t know if it was dead and could no longer see it, Tom sprayed it with hornet spray to stun it, then got a stick and fished it out of the hole. It was still alive, but not in very good shape. Using the stick to help it along, Tom managed to get it over to the other side of the camper, where he was able to deliver the coup de grace and make it become a multi-part snake. We put it in a glass jar and Tom took it to the neighbors, who confirmed that it was indeed a coral snake. It’s very beautiful, with brilliant yellow, red and black rings, and being the mush I am, I didn’t like killing it because it was so non-aggressive. However, it was a dangerous snake in our living space, and I have no doubt that Nock would go after it if she saw it move, and if it was being killed by a dog, it would no doubt try to bite the dog to escape. So, the snake had to go.

On a happier wildlife note, the toucans are back. A couple of times in the past week we’ve had six or more toucans in the tree right over our cabin. With a whole flock croaking like frogs, we know they’re there and run out to look. They hop around in the tree for a while, feeding from the fruits, then fly away. We’ve also had a flock of aracaris, which are small toucan-like birds, stopping in our trees for a meal. And, we saw a black headed trogon in our pasture. We’ve seen glimpses of them through the trees in the jungle this morning, but this is the first one we’ve seen in a place where it was clear enough to get a good look.

Olmi has confirmed that La Negrita is in fact El Negrito. She said that this batch of chicks was strange because of the seven chicks, only two are hens and the other five are roosters, which is backwards from the usual ratio. This means I’ll probably eventually use another cage as a chicken coop, leaving El Negrito with the two hens we have now, and getting some new unrelated hens to coop with our white rooster. It doesn’t look like this is anything I’ll have to do right away, since El Negrito is taking full advantage of being a chick. He can now get himself up into the coop at night, but once he’s there he nestles under the white hen’s wing, and they both seem pretty happy with this arrangement. It’s very funny, because when we look in the coop we don’t see El Negrito, but if we call his name, his little head pops up out of the top of the space between the hen’s wing and her back, and he peeps at us. During the day the white hen keeps track of him, and clucks and purrs to keep him close. Olmi was in the house one day and asked which hen was setting on eggs, and was surprised when I told her neither, because she said that’s the noise a hen makes when it’s setting and is disturbed. When she went out to the cage yesterday to see El Negrito, she realized that the noise she was hearing was the white hen talking to El Negrito – and the white hen isn’t even laying eggs yet. There’s always something fascinating in the world of chickens!

We’re sure this week will fly by, since we have a long list of things we want to get done. Tom and Selwyn have work to do on the second cabin, I’m working on the web page, and there’s always the day to day maintenance. Tom is going to Spanish Lookout tomorrow for supplies, and we both have to go to Belmopan on Thursday or Friday to get our passports stamped again – already! If we get the two months’ of stamps we’ve been getting, that means we won’t have to go back until the week before Christmas, and then we’ll only have one more month until we’ve been here a year. Then we’ll be able to apply for permanent residency, although we’ll also have to figure out what to do in the time between applying and hopefully being granted permanent residency, which could be six months to a year. With any luck, we’ll be open for business during that time, which means we’ll probably have to get a work permit, which is more expensive than the monthly passport stamps, but we won’t have to go to Belmopan every other month. Whatever happens, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to do to keep busy.

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