Monday, July 20, 2009

Progress around the property

Tom said I should do a blog entry of what we’ve been doing around here, and when I started making the list, I realized why I haven’t been blogging lately. We’ve been busy!

Gardening
Since I’m unable to grow anything, Tom has started wearing the Head Gardener hat. He’s planted some of the cuttings we’ve had growing in our gardens, and started some new cuttings in plastic bags. He’s also started paying attention to everything already planted, and has been ministering to our baby banana and papaya trees, and nursing a chayote (chocho) plant that accidentally sprouted from a chayote that got lost in the back of my refrigerator.

We’ve been fascinated watching this thing grow. From the time it sprouted, it started sending out tendrils, so when Tom planted it, he gave it some sticks so it could find those and crawl up the cage next to where he planted it. Tom will spend hours waving his finger in front of the tendrils and watching the tendrils follow it, and then monitoring its progress as it attaches to a stick and coils to draw the vine closer to the stick it will use to climb. We’re not sure if it will ever bear any chayotes, but it’s certainly been entertaining!

And we’re amazed at how fast papaya trees grow. Some of the trees, which started from seeds I dried out of a papaya I liked, are now close to six feet tall and have itty-bitty baby papayas on them. We didn’t believe it when people told us a papaya seed could become a tree bearing ripe fruit in a year, but now we’re changing our minds. We’re finding that everything grows faster and better with water, so now that the dry season is gone and we’re getting occasional rain, and because Tom waters when it’s dry since we’re not so worried about using water from our tanks, the things that get the most water grow the best. (doh!) All the papayas were planted at the same time, an some that haven’t received enough sun and water are only a foot or two high – midgets compared to the well sunned and watered ones.

I am, however, still allowed to do lawn maintenance, since that involves cutting down rather than trying to encourage a plant to grow up. For some reason, lots of people around here get a big kick out of the fact that I like to use the weed whacker. Some of the locals call me “the gringa who works.” Little do they know that I actually enjoy weed whacking; it’s very satisfying to look behind me and see the swatch of lawn next to what still looks like horse pasture. When we first came to Belize, and even when we first moved here, we kept asking people why everybody weed whacks their lawn rather than mowing. We now know the simple answer – the ground is just too rocky and rutted, and would kill a lawnmower blade in no time flat – just look at the rock in this picture!

New Gate
We had a three-wire gate to the paddock where we keep the mares at night, and not only was it a bother to open and close it and not let all the horses out, but Elphie and Glinda learned to lean right through it and break it. So, Tom built this snazzy new gate.

Gravel path to the back room of the guest cabin
Once the rain started, we were reminded of the need for a gravel path to the back room in the guest cabin. We’ve had a rock-lined walkway, but it was only dirt, and when the dirt around here turns to mud, it’s wet and sticky and gets tracked in everywhere. So, one day when we had to go to Spanish Lookout, we took Tinkerbell and got a load of gravel. We’d been going to get a truckload of gravel since we have lots of muddy spots that could use a little fill, but we didn’t want to go overboard yet, so we just got one truckload – which was perfect for the path!

Kennel
Another one of those things we’ve been waiting to get around to is finishing the back cage near Tony and Lodo so we have another dog kennel. We’ve fixed up a few of the cages around the house so they’re suitable as kennels, but the back cage has a very nice (by dog standards) concrete shed that just needed to be cleaned out and re-roofed. So, we cleaned it out, put the roof on, made sure all the doors are secure, and we’re ready for guests. It’s in a good spot because it’s not too far from the guest cabin, so it’s convenient for guests, and it’s right near Tony and Lodo, so we’re back there pretty often during the day. It’s far enough from the house that strange dogs in that kennel won’t get in a barking contest with our dogs near the house, but close enough that if those dogs bark, we’ll hear them and can check on them. Although we already mention the dog facilities on our business website, I’m going to add a Kennel page and post our rates – and we’ll see what happens!

Webpage
Our biggest time sucking activity over the past few weeks has been the upgrading of our website. I went in to make a few changes, and realized that the version of the authoring program we were using was due to become unsupported at the end of this week. I emailed an SOS to our friend Karl, who had installed and set up the original version of Joomla, and he very kindly offered to do the upgrade for us – a big relief for me since backing everything up, reloading, and upgrading with our sometimes spotty satellite connection could have been a nightmare. After some mucking about with us via email getting all the right passwords matched up with all the right user names for everything he had to touch to do the upgrade, Karl did the bulk of the work over the weekend and the new Joomla version was running by Sunday night with little or no downtime for the website. Unfortunately, the template we’d been using wasn’t compatible with the new version, so we had to find a new template with a look similar to the old one, apply it, and then go though the website page by page to fix all the things that weren’t quite right with the new template. I’m actually still working on that, so if you look at our webpage and notice funky formatting, it will probably be fixed in the next few days. I’m also making a few content changes, and adding things like pop-ups from the Adventure Rates page with more detailed descriptions of each adventure, what’s included for the price, and what the guests need to bring and know for each tour. We’re also adding another FAQ – “Why are your tour rates sometimes more than the rates advertised by tour companies or adventure sites?” – and changing the Meals page since just about everybody who has stayed here has said that the existing page doesn’t do our food justice. Now I just have to hope we have a couple of more rainy days this week so I’m not lured outside to sunshine and horses…

3 comments:

Wilma said...

I'm so envious of your mature fruit trees. We planted 3 mangoes, about a dozen various citrus trees, a couple of avocadoes, a breadfruit, a tamarind, bananas, and plantains over the last few years at our place on the coast in Englishtown, Toledo. One of our mangoes bloomed (a single blossom) for the first time last year. It will be a few more years yet before we have much of yield, although we have lots of plantains. We have the challenge of being oceanside, so there is a salt wind that many plants can't tolerate.

We don't live in Belize fulltime yet, but we visit twice a year for 2 weeks each time. The first thing we do when we arrive is take the "plant tour" on our grounds to see what is thriving, what is in need of more TLC, etc. It is a real treat to read about your gardening and really, all of the things you do to make your home in Belize.

cheers,
Wilma

MoonracerFarm said...

Thanks, Wilma! It sounds like you're as much of an animal and outdoors nut as we are. I've enjoyed reading your web page too.

We were lucky here because this place was a Belizean's farm before it was the wild cat rehab, so we have lots of mature fruit trees. In fact, if you look at the Google map zoom in pic, it looks like an orchard or orange grove. We didn't know that when we bought it because it was so overgrown, and it's been a great surprise to find so many fruit, and now fruit bearing, trees.
Marge

MoonracerFarm said...

Thanks, Wilma! It sounds like you're as much of an animal and outdoors nut as we are. I've enjoyed reading your web page too.

We were lucky here because this place was a Belizean's farm before it was the wild cat rehab, so we have lots of mature fruit trees. In fact, if you look at the Google map zoom in pic, it looks like an orchard or orange grove. We didn't know that when we bought it because it was so overgrown, and it's been a great surprise to find so many fruit, and now fruit bearing, trees.
Marge