Post Hurricane

Hurricane Beryl swept through the Caribbean as a Cat 4 storm with winds of 145mph. For a short time, it did reach Cat 5 with winds that topped 160mph. It swept through Antigua, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and was on a path towards Belize. The storm took a slight northward turn and headed towards Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. By then it looked like it was going to miss Belize, but now it was on a path to the Yucatan Peninsula towards Cancun and Cozumel. At this point, once it hits Mexico it is supposed to cross over into the Gulf as a tropical storm and then possibly reform back to a hurricane and head towards Texas. This was the biggest Hurricane this early in the season on record and was very devastating to a lot of places. We got lucky this time, but it is early in the season of what they predict will be an above average hurricane season.

Not sure which one, but one of the Caribbean Islands that was hit.

We are all very lucky and thankful that it did not impact Belize this time. There were no winds for us just some pretty good rains. Once we knew the threat had passed us we invited a few neighbors over for a post hurricane happy hour and BBQ. We are very relieved and I think we are better prepared if one was to actually hit us.

Hurricane Beryl

All this week we are preparing for the arrival of category 5 hurricane Beryl. Beryl is the strongest hurricane this early in the season on record with sustained winds of 160mph. It has already done extensive damage elsewhere in the Caribbean and it is headed towards Belize. We spent the past few days making sure we have the vehicles fueled up, extra gas for the generator, chainsaws in working order, everything charged up, lots of ice and of course, extra beer on hand just in case. Now it’s a waiting game to see what actually happens. Hopefully, it will take a turn north and we will end up with just a lot of rain. We’ll let everyone know an update by the end of the weekend.

 

Everything’s back to normal

All greened up and looking good again.

After a long hot dry season, the rains have finally come and it didn’t take long for everything to green back up again. The weather is very nice with the temps ranging from around 90º down to 75º. For the most part, we have had cloud cover for the past few weeks with a rain shower every other day or so. The rains only last for less than an hour and that’s just perfect for all the plants and the garden. The rainy season (now until November) is a great time to visit Belize. Yes, there might be some rain, but everything is at its greenest. Usually the rains are overnight and will not slow you down or stop you from doing anything, unless of course there’s a big storm coming in.

It’s a good thing our house is all hardwood, so the termites don’t bother it.

With the first rains of the season come the annual floodfly invasion. After the first good rain when the dry season is over the termites take to the air looking to set up new colonies. They will usually start around dusk and gather towards a light source. There are millions of them and they leave wings behind everywhere. This year when they first started, we were sitting in the garage having a cold beer when they hit. We shut the garage and headed to the house to shut the doors and turn off any lights we had on. Kelley ended up making dinner with a flashlight that night and that really helped to slow them down from getting in the house. The next morning the porch and inside the garage were covered in wings. You just about have to use a vacuum or a water hose to clean them as a broom will just make the wings airborne. We will keep finding wings around here till the end of the year. Hopefully, this was the one big invasion and it won’t happen again till next year. Well, it happened again the next week, so lots more wings to clean up.

It looks more like a ghost, but I think it’s working.

We recently planted some bush beans and yellow squash. Last time we planted beans the birds came and ate all the seedlings and I had to replant them three times. I saw Ruben had some old fertilizer bags on a stick down on our farm lot to help scare away the birds. So I thought I would give that a try. I put a bag on a stick and sliced the bottom into two inch strips so it could blow in the breeze, a little spray paint for a face and I had a very basic scarecrow. I assume it’s working because we have only lost a few seedlings and the rest are getting too big for the birds.

Seed pods off our moringa tree.

I have mentioned before about all the health benefits you get from moringa. Usually, we will dry the leaves from our tree and then they will get added to soups and other foods. We have eaten the seeds before after they were dried, but this time we tried them a little differently. We picked the seed pods when they were green, about 18″ long and then Kelley cut them into 4″ pieces. After that, she sautéed them in oil and seasoning. You eat them like you would an edamame, by scraping the seeds out in your mouth. They seem to have a flavor of asparagus or artichoke. There are a ton of health benefits you get from moringa, in fact, it is called the miracle tree. They sell moringa supplements everywhere, check them out, it might just be what you are looking for. Or you can come on down here and try some fresh for yourself.

Some of the dragonfruit flowers are huge.

With the rains we have been having the past few weeks everything is growing like crazy. Our star fruit tree is a shade of purple because of all the blossoms. The cocoa trees are blossomed out like never before and our dragonfruit is blooming like crazy. It should be a great year for dragonfruit and we can’t wait, because they are one of our favorite things from the garden.

This is just the beginning.

Ruben brought down a small sampling of stuff that was ready from our farm lot. The green chilies didn’t do as well as they did last year, but there are still quite a few on the plants. The rest of the corn will be ready next week and there could be at least a thousand ears or more. He also had a few different types of melon plants that are doing well. The Roma tomatoes are definitely the star of the crop this year. All his plants are getting huge and are loaded with tomatoes. I know that we will be freezing a bunch of corn and canning tomatoes in the near future.

Breaded okra all ready to be fried.

Not too long ago we planted some okra and they are producing well. In the past, we have planted rows and rows of okra and that was way too much, so this time we only planted a dozen or so plants. Every other day Kelley is picking a small handful which is just perfect for us. One of my favorite ways to eat it is breaded and fried. Kelley will coat them in cornmeal and some homemade cayenne pepper sauce, then individually freeze them on a cookie sheet. That way we can pull out just what we need and throw them in the fryer.

Bone marrow, fried okra, rocky mountain oysters and some sourdough. Not your typical meal, but still very good.

The other night we invited Amanda over and cooked up something a little different. Amanda brought over some bone marrow that we roasted on the grill and then spread it on some toasted sourdough bread. Kelley also fried up some okra and rocky mountain oysters to go along with it. This was the first time for Amanda having rocky mountain oysters and she was a little hesitant at first, but I think she really liked them. If you have never had roasted bone marrow spread on some toasted sourdough bread, you’re really missing out.

A big beetle with some nice hooks on his feet.

With the rains and cooler weather there are a lot more critters moving around. Kelley saw a bright green three foot long iguana next to the BBQ, but didn’t have a camera with her. Plus there are a lot of interesting insects around right now. The other day I saw this guy sitting on one of our plants. He caught my eye because he was about five inches long. He waited for me to go get a camera before he “Haha” buggered off.

This guy was about two inches long not counting his antennas.

Then this one here was on the garage and it looked like someone painted some yellow dots on him. We are constantly seeing insects that we have never seen before and some of them are really colorful and beautiful.

Not as pretty as when it was new, but still not too bad.

We finally got around to recoating the porch. After a lot of pressure washing and a couple days of sanding, it was as good as it was going to get. I managed to get two good coats on it in between the rain showers. The whole house needs it, but it isn’t as bad as the porch. They told us that the house would need to be recoated every 2-3 years. It has now been six years, where the hell did time go?

I’m sure some of you recognize these guys. They will be back in Belize this August.

From now until October is a great time to visit Belize. Most of the tourists are gone, lobster season is open, the weather is mild and a lot of places offer off-season discounts. Sure you might encounter a little rain, but then again maybe not. Plus come this August, Jim Dalton, Nick Scropos and The Jons with other special guests will bring their great music down to Belize. Once again the shows will be in San Pedro out on Ambergris. This year there are three or four great shows including Jim’s legendary Baracho Sunday, which is always a great time. Picture yourself taking a morning swim in the warm Caribbean waters, eating lobster for lunch, hitting a few beach bars for happy hour and then finishing the day off with some great music. It doesn’t get any better than that, maybe we’ll see you there.

 

Finally able to breath again

Water gushing out of the water line as a burning tree lays across it.

As soon as the last post went out, the fires in the mountains right behind our village got really bad. Besides burning up all the hillsides, the main water line to the village was threatened by the fire. They did all they could to protect it, but they couldn’t stop burning trees from falling on it. The village put out an urgent plea for anyone who could volunteer to help fight the fire. When the burning trees fell they either broke or melted the water line and that cutoff the supply for the entire village. Thanks to all the hard-working individuals, they hauled more pipe and equipment up the hill and had the water line repaired and back in operation again by the next day. Then two days later the fire took a turn and headed back towards the pipeline, but they managed to keep it contained and away from it this time.

Friends coming together to form a burrito assembly line.

We really wanted to help somehow, but we are getting too old to climb a mountain and fight a fire. So about 9:00 one evening we came up with this idea that we could make food to help feed the people who are actually fighting the fires. Burritos were the perfect choice because they are very portable and don’t really need to be warm. We called up a local restaurant that evening and asked if they could make us 100 or so flour tortillas. We told them what they were for and they had them ready for us first thing in the morning. So we talked to a few neighbors and all got together the next morning to form a burrito assembly line. We just happened to have a bunch of meat in the freezer, another friend made refried beans and another had loaves of banana bread. We also ran to town to pick up a bunch of bags of chips and a truckload of water bottles. We managed to get it to them just before noon and other volunteers hiked it up the hills to the guys fighting the fire. It was a small gesture but the village said that it was greatly appreciated.

A burned hillside along the road between our place and the highway.

After about two weeks of fighting the fire around our village day and night, they had won the battle. The fire was out and there was no more threat to the village. There were still a lot of other fires burning all over Belize, a big one in Pine Ridge just up the road from us has already burned 34,000 acres. Plus another big one down south that has destroyed a lot of cocoa farms and all the other smaller fires that seem to pop up every mile or so. They said that this is one of the worst fire seasons in Belize history. A lot of farmers lost their entire crops and orchards, plus all the damage done to the jungles and animals around Belize.

The well-needed rains have finally arrived.

The sad part is that a lot of these fires were caused by farmers burning their fields and then letting it get out of control. Even though there are fires everywhere and you can hardly see through the smoke, we still see people burning leaves or garbage in their yards. It’s really sad to see all the burned landscape around the entire country. The rains have finally started to come and everything should green up pretty quickly, but it will still take years before all the trees to grow back.

This would be a more beautiful picture if the sky was blue and not filled with smoke.

Amongst all the wildfires and forest devastation throughout the country, there is still some beauty to be had. This picture was taken at a park in downtown San Ignacio across from Hodes restaurant. Usually, we will see only one color of tree bloom at a time. We have never seen four different colors of trees blooming all at once and right next to each other. Can you imagine if they were to plant a mile or so of trees like this along both sides of a road somewhere?

A big colorful tree in our driveway over the garage.

Once the smoke cleared and the sky turned blue we noticed this big orange tree right over the garage. We have never noticed it in the past years, so maybe this was the first time that it actually bloomed. We are not sure what kind of tree it is, but if we ask around I’m sure we will get an answer.

Looks like fresh pineapples and mangos this week for breakfast.

It’s pineapple season at our place! At this point, our pineapples are not as big as in years past because of the drought and very hot weather. But there are a lot of them and they are delicious. With all the rains we are starting to get, the ones still on plants should plump right up in the next few weeks. The animals have gotten to a lot of the ones that were not protected by our electric fence, but there are still plenty for us.

A bunch of one gallon bags of cocoa waiting to be processed.

Like I said before, we have been picking a lot of cocoa. With the high temperatures and everything else going on, all we’re doing at this point is drying the beans and then sealing it up for later. So far we have at least 30 lbs. of dried cocoa beans ready to be processed. Once everything calms down, we will be able to get back to making delicious dark chocolate again.

The farm lot is looking good.

Ruben has our farm lot planted right now and it’s looking good. He has corn, bush beans, chiles, and tomatoes. A lot of the farmers around here have been suffering because they depend on the rain to water their crops, and it’s been a very hot and long dry spell. Our farm lot has water running to it, so this is not a problem for Ruben to keep his crop looking good and healthy. In another month or so he will begin to start harvesting. He will keep some for his family, we will take a little, and the rest he will sell to the markets.

Darren, Ron, Rhonda, Patrick and Dave enjoying some beers at Mango Fest. Kelley is taking the picture.

Darren came down to spend a week at his place before we headed over to Hopkins for a little beach time and to escape some of the smoke. Hopkins had Mango Fest going on the weekend we were there, which was just a big party to celebrate everything mango. Ron & Rhonda along with Patrick, who owns the Flying Pig Bar in Placencia came up for the day to join us.

Mangos everywhere you look.

Right now is peak mango season in Belize. Everywhere you looked around Hopkins there were trees just loaded with mangos. The sad part is that everyone has mango trees and most of them are just letting them drop on the ground and rot. I guess you can only eat so many mangos before you get tired of them.

The view from our patio. The water was so calm that you could not see the horizon line.

This time in Hopkins we stayed at Hopkins Bay resort on the north end of town. Earlier this year we found a deal where you pay for one night and get two more free, and you can’t beat a deal like that. Anyway, one morning Kelley and I decided that we would go for a dip out in the calm Caribbean Sea. We were about ankle deep working our way out when we noticed a log floating about 50′ from us. We watched it for a while and then it disappeared under the water. We thought logs don’t just sink like that, could it be a crocodile right there near the beach where we were getting in the water?

And I thought we only had to watch for sharks while swimming in the ocean.

Kelley went and got her big camera and sure enough it was a 7′ crocodile swimming just 50′ from us. We followed him down the beach for a while until he was far enough away from us and we thought it was safe to get back in the water. We were fine in the water, but every time a piece of seaweed or something would touch us it gave us the heebie-jeebies. So we decided it was best if we got out and sat in the pool and looked at the beach.

The last month and a half were not the best down here, but all is good now. The weather is better, some rains have started, the plants are looking good again and we are getting back to all the things we love about this place.

Happy Fathers Day to all you great dads and hope to see you soon!

 

Smoky and Very Hot!

This was the temp at 10:46 in the morning.

April was a great month for us, but as for May, not so much.  It’s been VERY HOT! Our thermometer has read as high as 111° and a heat index of 136°. It has been 100°+ every day in May so far, with no relief in sight. Besides that, the country is having trouble keeping up with the power demands, so there have been rolling blackouts constantly. Which means that during the hottest parts of the day, there goes your fans, computer, fridge, etc. Or while you’re trying to make dinner it just goes off and it gets very hot and dark.

Very smoky coming into our village.

To top that off the entire country is on fire, and it’s really bad. There is a big fire up in Mountain Pine Ridge not far from us that is threating our village’s water supply. The skies everywhere are just filled with smoke and it’s really getting tough on our eyes and breathing. A few of our friends have had wildfires extremely close to their houses. The other day we went to help a friend put out some hot spots about fifty feet from their home. At this point the closest fire to us is about two miles away, but that changes daily. We just hope it stays away from us until maybe some rains come next month, but there is nothing forecast in the next two weeks. In the meantime, we are just keeping a very close eye on everything.

This toucan was over by the garage.
This was a different one above the guest house.

Being the dry season here, a lot of the trees have dropped their leaves and it’s looking very bare and dry around here. One advantage of having a lot of the trees drop their leaves is that it makes the birds easier to spot. Kelley has been able to get some good bird pictures without all the leaves in the way.

Parrot in flight.

By next month the temps will go back down and we should start getting some rain to green everything back up again. In the meantime, we’re having to water our plants every day just to keep them alive.

Maybe we should just collect a bunch of click beetles for when our power goes out.

Recently we have had a bunch of click beetles flying around. Once it gets dark you can see what looks like fireflies all around the yard and throughout the trees.  They are actually quite different than fireflies. Fireflies have glowing abdominal sections where as the click beetle has two bioluminescent light organs on the back of its head and one under its abdomen. Unlike fireflies, click beetles don’t flash. However, they do seem to be able to control the intensity of the light they emit. When touched by a possible predator, for example, they will become brighter. They are a very cool insect and fairly easy to catch.

The bunch of yellow bananas had three that were ripe in the morning. By lunch time the whole bunch had turned from green to yellow.

Last week we finished off the last of our custard apples for breakfast. This week’s breakfast is going to be bananas. These are small sweet apple bananas and you can easily eat a few at a time. This is a good thing because once picked they seem to ripen rather quickly. In a few weeks, we should start picking some pineapples. And since they are in various stages of ripening, we should have pineapples for a couple of months. After that, we should have an abundance of dragon fruit this year. Seems like there is always something good and fresh for breakfast around here.

We are very impressed with the mangos and can’t wait for the rest to ripen. Yes, there is a big seed in there, you just can’t see it.

We just picked our first mangos and OMG are they delicious. A lot of people here don’t get this excited about mangos because their trees have been producing for years. But these are our first mangos off of a tree we planted when it was only two feet tall. Our mango tree is grafted so the first ones ready were a smaller yellow variety. There are other ones on the same tree that are bigger and just starting to turn a rose color. There are only a handful of mangos on the tree this first time, but hopefully, by next year it should be loaded.

More banana raspberry bread.

We tried, but you can only eat so many bananas before they start to go bad. So it was time again for Kelley to make her delicious raspberry banana bread. This time she made 13 loaves that will go into the freezer. She only had enough butter on hand for half the loaves, so for the other half she substituted coconut oil for the butter. The ones made with coconut oil had a very distinctive coconut flavor. They were not quite as moist as the ones made with butter, but still very good.

Raspberry jam

We don’t usually eat much jam, but we needed to start using up some of our raspberries from last year before the plants start in again. I found a recipe for a somewhat healthy jam that just used raspberries, lemon juice, and honey instead of sugar. By using honey as the sweetener, it has a little tartness to it from the raspberries. I personally think it’s great and I’m sure it will be wonderful on some banana bread.

Our coffee trees were getting too big to handle.

Because of this weather, our big coffee plants had to be stripped of all their beans, as they were starting to dry up on the plants. Since we stripped all the coffee and the plants hadn’t started flowering yet, it was time to top them off. The plants were getting so tall that we were having to get a ladder out there to pick the coffee. Now they are cut down to a more manageable size for the next time.

It’s too hot and we just don’t have time to process these, so Ruben will get a bucket of coffee.

We had been picking quite a bit of coffee off these two big plants for a couple of months as they ripened. This time when we picked everything off the two plants, we ended up with 18lbs of coffee ready to be processed. I know some are a little green, but they all had to be picked.

The cacao seeds are wet and slimy right out of the pods. After they ferment for a week or so, they will then dry in the sunshine for up to ten days. After that, they will then get roasted and then shelled. Then into a grinder for 24 hours before they get tempered. If all goes well they will be poured into molds and we will have some more delicious dark chocolate.

We are currently picking quite a bit of cacao. So here’s a part of our chocolate-making that I might not have shared before. After we harvest the pods off the tree, they are cut open and all the seeds are removed. The seeds then go into two stacked plastic bins, one with holes in the bottom so that all the liquid can escape while they ferment. While they are fermenting, they will turn a shade of brown and emit a fruity, yeasty aroma. We will let these ferment for about a week before they are put out in the sun to dry. Once dried we are just storing the beans until the weather cools down a little before we can process them into chocolate. Over the past few weeks we have picked at least 130 cacao pods that usually have an average of 40 seeds in each one, and there is still a lot more on the trees.

Sliced corned beef ready to make that perfect Ruben sandwich.

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve made any of our meats and everyone keeps asking about them. So the other day we picked up about 150lbs of beef and pork that we will process over the next few weeks. Of course, we will be making our breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, bratwurst links, bacon, summer sausage, and this time we will also have some deli style sliced corned beef for anyone craving a Ruben sandwich.

Kelley on her way back from picking more cacao.

Even though it’s hot as blazes here, there is still a lot of stuff around here that needs to get done every day. One good thing is that we have the hot tub (the heater has been off for a long time) to cool off in. And the other is that our bedroom has the AC cranked down to 72° overnight. Otherwise, during the days it has been a sweat-fest. Hopefully, this weather will break soon and we will get back to our normal nice temps.

Oh, and on the lighter side…..

Life is short and no doubt about it is getting shorter every day. Get out and travel, try something new, or move away from your comfort zone. There’s a whole world out there to explore and experience. You will only regret it if you never try.

A great end to a great month

Like I mentioned in the last blog, we were going to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary for the whole month of April. So the week after we got back from a great weekend in San Pedro, we hopped a flight up to Houston. From Houston, we headed over to the sunny shores of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a few days.

The view from our hotel balcony.

We have been to a lot of different places in Mexico before, but this was our first time in Puerto Vallarta. The main town was a little too busy and congested for us, but we had a great resort about 20 minutes south of all the hustle and bustle of the main city.

Papantla Pole Flyers along the malecon.

We did venture into the main part of town one day to do some shopping and check out the Malecon. The Malecon in Puerto Vallarta is pedestrian only and stretches for twelve blocks. It was a great morning walking along the beachfront checking out all the different shops, restaurants, and watching the street performers. We did get to see the  Papantla Pole Flyers which was quite a sight watching them climb a huge pole and then slowly spin upside down towards the ground.

Scallop tostada, shrimp & octopus tostada, and a cold beer while overlooking the water.

And once again, since we were at the coast, we had to get our fill of seafood. We enjoyed calamari, shrimp a few different ways, grilled octopus, scallops tostadas, almond-crusted mahi mahi, tuna & mahi sashimi, and a couple of other great dishes.

Boca de Tomatlan is a great place to get some fresh seafood and enjoy a few beers on the beach.

We drove about 30 minutes south of our resort to Boca de Tomatlan. It is a great little cove with a couple of beachfront restaurants, a lot of water taxis, and other boats taking people out on different tours. We spent a couple of days there with the waves hitting our feet as we enjoyed some cold beers, Yellow Fin Tuna sashimi and just kicking back on the beach.

Where the sand meets the surf in Puerto Vallarta

The weather was just perfect, not too hot during the day, and a cool Pacific Ocean breeze at night. And yes, we did sit around the pool and even had mimosas for breakfast. I know you’re trying to imagine us doing that, but yes we actually did. Anyway, we met a lot of new people and there is a chance we would go back again sometime as long as we stayed away from the main part of Puerto Vallarta. There are a bunch of great-looking quiet little beach towns north of the city that we wouldn’t mind checking out next time.

Grandkids Luke, Alli and Tyler all going for a ride in Alli’s car.

After getting enough beach time in Mexico we hopped a flight up to Phoenix to see some friends and especially the grandkids. The grandkids are growing up and changing so fast that it’s mind-boggling.

Roger, Nick and PH putting on a great show.

While we were up in Phoenix we had the chance to see Roger Clyne and PH Naffah of the Peacemakers do a small show at a bar I used to go to some 40 years ago. They had a special guest Mark Zubia of the Pistolero’s performing some of his old stuff and some new songs. Halfway through Roger’s set, Nick Scropos (bass player for the Peacemakers) showed up and joined them on stage. It was one of those shows where they were just goofing around and having fun.

Kelley, me, Pam and Armond. I know three of us look a little different than we did 40 years ago.

We got to see our good friend Armond and meet his new wife Pam. We haven’t seen him in about seven years or so, but they had just moved to Arizona so we should be seeing a lot more of them in the future. It was only fitting since 40 years ago Armond was the best man at our wedding.

Stacy documenting Randy and me putting the motor back in her 59 Cadillac.

Our son and his wife have some classic cars and I really love helping them work on them when I’m up there. This time it was putting the motor back in the 59 Cadillac. We got the motor dropped in and then I helped button it up during the week while they were at work. We got it fired up just before we left, but like with anything that is 60+ years old, there were a couple of little setbacks.

This 1948 International pickup has some great patina.

They also recently acquired a 1948 all-original International pickup. He got the fuel tank back after being cleaned and flushed, then got it back into the truck. It didn’t take long for that old flathead motor to come back to life. I believe they are going to leave the truck just the way it is, which is very cool in my opinion.

Heart of palm out of a Cohune Palm tree.

While we were gone I had Ruben cut down a couple of big Cohune Palms that were overtaking the back patio. He saved the heart of palm out of them and was going to make tamales. We have never tried heart of palm tamales, but he said that they are delicious. Maybe in a few months, I’ll have him cut another one down just so we can give them a try.

Not much longer and we should have some ripe mangos.

April was a great fun filled month, but here it is May already, and time to get back to what we do. As soon as we got home it was time to pick bananas, cacao, coffee, and a few other things. Besides picking everything it’s also time to get new stuff planted. Since April and May are the hot dry months down here, everything is going to need a lot of water. With all the tending to the yard and such we should stay very busy for a while until we decide it’s time for another getaway.

Our house we bought in Mexico 30 years ago before we did a lot of work to it.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! It was thirty years ago on Cinco de Mayo that we bought our house “Bedrock” in Cholla Bay, Mexico. It was also six years ago on Cinco de Mayo that we sold Bedrock and got ready for the big move to Belize. So today we will raise a glass of tequila to all of our friends we made throughout Mexico. Salud!!!

A great way to start April

Nowadays everyone seems to celebrate their whole birthday month. Well, this month is our 40th wedding anniversary, so we are going to celebrate as much as we can for the entire month.

A couple of cold Belikin’s before we get on our puddle jumper out to the island.

We started this month off by catching a flight over to San Pedro out on Ambergris for a few days of misbehaving. This was a totally unplanned trip, but we had been working hard around here and thought we could use a break. Besides it’s only a two hour drive and a twenty minute flight from our place to the sunny shores of the Caribbean.

Coming up to San Pedro.

What prompted us to go was that Mike Nash was going to be on the island doing a few shows at some of our favorite beach bars. We found that out on a Monday. So by that Friday afternoon we got on a flight out to the island and grabbed us a coconut cart to putt around in. A short time later we were sitting on the beach with a cold beer in hand enjoying great music.

Mike Nash putting on another great show.

We’ve seen Mike quite a few times in the past and he always puts on a great show. The first time we saw him was about six years ago in San Pedro when he was playing with Kelly McGuire. His first show this time was Friday night at the Palapa Bar. The last concert we saw at the Palapa Bar was Jerry Jeff Walker just before he passed. Mike’s next show was on Sunday at the 303 bar where we have seen Jim Dalton, Nick Scropos, and the Jons play a couple of times. It’s great that some of these musicians are finally finding their way down to Belize. For all of our Phoenix and Mexico friends, Mike will be in Puerto Peñasco next month for his SOB Songwriters Festival. If you are down that way be sure to check him out, he’s got a lot of great music.

Not a bad way to spend the day

On Saturday, Mike invited us to tag along with him & Melissa, and Boyd & Keli for a day of bar hopping. Bar hopping for the day is always fun, especially in San Pedro where there seems to be endless beach bars over the water. What’s more fun, is when you get to do it with friends on a boat.

Melissa (Mike’s fiancé) enjoying the sun as we work our way through the mangroves.

We got in the boat on the lagoon side of San Pedro where the water was less than a foot deep. It was a slow ride out to open water weaving our way through the mangroves. Some places were so narrow that the mangroves were touching the boat. It was awesome going through the mangroves and checking out all the fish and wildlife, we’re just lucky that Boyd knew where he was going.

The Coconut Café on the other side of the lagoon.

Our first stop was this little bar/restaurant on the lagoon side where we got out for a few beers and some coconut shrimp. After that, it was out to open water on the Caribbean side to hit a few more of our favorite stops. We would just pick a bar, pull the boat up and go in for a couple of drinks, say hi to some friends, and then head off to the next one.

Phoenix and Peñasco people. Does anyone recognize them?

One of the days I had on my Wrecked at the Reef shirt from Cholla Bay, Mexico. Across the bar, this whole group noticed it and started screaming. It turns out that they were all from Phoenix and go down to Puerto Peñasco/Cholla Bay all the time. We found out that they knew a lot of the same people we know, and even sent pictures and texts to them while we were there. A couple of the gals we recognized from the past few years in Belize when they were there to see Jim Dalton, Nick Scropos, and the Jons. By the way, Jim, Nick, The Jons, and a VERY special guest will be back in Belize again in August for some more great shows. Anyone interested?

One of our few quiet times on the island.

For the most part, it was a crazy fun filled weekend with a bunch of old and new friends. We did manage to find some quiet time for just Kelley and me to enjoy the views of the Caribbean and have a cold beer by ourselves. But they were far and few between.

The big iguana hunter. Bamboo chicken anyone?

You would think getting away from the jungle that we wouldn’t have to deal with any critters, well not us. We stopped into the Belikin store to check out any new merchandise they might have. As we were looking around, an iguana kept jumping at the glass door trying to get in. The gal inside was fairly scared and trying to call animal control because she couldn’t open the door and risk him coming into the store. I said that I could probably take care of it. So I opened the door while Kelley blocked the opening so he couldn’t get in. Once I was outside, I was able to grab him, take him down to an open lot, and let him go. You should have seen everyone driving by on their golf cart pointing at me carrying an iguana down the street. The gal at the store was so thankful that she gave us a couple of beers on the house.

Stone crab eggs benedict.

While we were on the island you know we had to get our seafood fix. We had conch fritters, coconut shrimp, sushi and sashimi. One morning for breakfast a restaurant had a special that was stone crab eggs benedict. I just had to give it a try. It was nothing like traditional eggs-b, but still very good. It was an English muffin with pureed avocado, a huge amount of crab, an egg, cheese, and hollandaise sauce. It was nothing like I’d ever had before, but it was delicious.

40 years later and we are still having fun!

Next Sunday will be our actual 40th wedding anniversary. Looking back on all the fun, adventures, and experiences we’ve had, we wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

More life in the jungle

Once again here’s a little more of our garden, foods, and jungle creatures.

Our Easter ham

Every year for the past few years we have been curing a ham for Easter weekend, and this year was no exception. So a couple of weeks ago we picked up a nice big pork leg from our butcher. After having him trim it to the size we wanted, we ended up with a beautiful 20lb leg that we would turn into a delicious smoked ham. After injecting a lot of cure and seasoning, it went into the cure bath for ten days or so, till it was ready to go into the smoker. I usually like to use apple wood chips when I smoke ham for a delicate smoky flavor. When we re-heated it on the grill to serve, Kelley made up a Jim Beam Peach whiskey glaze that was brushed all over it.  We have been curing and smoking our own hams for a while now and they always turn out great. We’ve had a lot of requests from people asking if we would make one for them. Hams just take up too much space in the fridge while they are curing, so this is just our special little treat.

Wild oyster mushrooms from the driveway.

We’ve got a log in our driveway that has been producing oyster mushrooms for a few weeks now. It only takes a couple of days from when we first see them until they dry up, so we have to check this log daily. These mushrooms are absolutely delicious and we are so excited when we find some. I think if we spent more time and actually looked for them around the property we would probably find a lot more.

If that isn’t the biggest chocolate covered expresso bean ball you’ve ever seen.

Not everything always goes according to plan. Recently we purchased a candy coater attachment for our stand mixer. We were going to use it to coat our coffee beans with dark chocolate. It is supposed to tumble the beans around as you add chocolate and you end up with nice round individual candies. Well, the first attempt failed miserably. All the coffee was starting to coat fairly well until we added a little more chocolate. That’s when they all started to stick together and would not break apart. At that point we started laughing because there was nothing we could do, so we just let it run. We ended up with a giant ball of chocolate covered expresso beans. There has to be at least 150 or more dark roasted coffee beans in that ball of chocolate. We will try it again, but in the meantime, we went back to using our molds to make them.

Nice big custard apple cut in half.

Our custard apple tree has gotten a lot of fruit this year. The birds love them, so the ones we can reach we had to put mesh bags on to help protect them. I’m sure some of you have never heard of, or ever tried, a custard apple. In the States, they are not very common, but you can sometimes find them at specialty markets. Ours are about the size of grapefruits this year and they are delicious.

Frozen custard apple with fresh raspberries. 100% fruit. No sugar, no dairy.

The flesh of the custard apple is creamy white with a similar consistency to custard (hence the name custard apple). It tastes like a sweet tropical ice cream, especially when chilled.  We eat them plain, usually for breakfast, but we thought we would try something a little different this time. We picked out all the seeds, put in some fresh raspberries, and then hit it with the immersion blender. After that, it went into the freezer. It did freeze a little too hard to eat as ice cream, but it would make a great popsicle on a hot day.

The next step is to dry them and then roast them.

When we find time, we’ve been sitting out back with some cold beers and peeling coffee. We can only do this for about an hour at a time, as that’s all our fingers can handle. This is just the first process to turning these little things into that delicious coffee that most of us love. We’ll be doing this for the next few weeks until the trees are picked clean. I just hope we have enough beer around to get us through all this coffee peeling.

Peach tree blossoms.

For the first time, our peach tree is really blossoming out. In the past, we have gotten only a handful of blossoms of which only 3-4 fruit had actually formed. And when they did get about the size of a marble the birds ate them. So far this year, I’ve estimated that at least a couple hundred flowers are blooming with more opening every day. Hopefully this year we will get some peaches. Peaches don’t seem to grow down here, I think because of the climate. Although, there is a variety of peach trees that will grow in tropical environments, and hopefully this is one of them.

This one is on a split-leaf philodendron and is approximately 4″ long.

We have a lot of different types of philodendrons growing around here. We have relocated most from elsewhere on our property, friends give us cuttings or sometimes we will even take some cuttings from our favorite restaurant. Either way, they always grow great when we give them a tree to climb up on. Did you know that most, if not all, philodendrons bloom a beautiful flower that looks sorta like a lily? Depending on the type of philodendron, they vary in color, but they all seem to have the same basic shape to them.

Freshly plowed and ready to plant.

A small portion of our farm lot has gotten plowed and will be ready for planting later this month. Ruben has thousands of seedlings getting ready to go in on the next full moon. In just a few months we should have an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, beans, and whatever else he plants. We will usually just take what we can personally use and then he will sell the rest to the market in town.

This beautiful guy’s picture was taken right from our front porch.

This guy was in the tree directly above the casita. He sat up there for a good half hour, just calling and grooming himself. I assume he was calling for a possible mate. We watched him for a long time hoping another one would show up, but he finally flew off to look elsewhere.

A very interesting looking creature.

Recently we were sitting out back with some friends and this bug that we’d never seen before crawled by. It was close to four inches long and really didn’t care if we were touching it. Kelley took some pictures of it and posted them on the Creatures of Belize Facebook page. It didn’t take long before it was identified. Turns out that it is a Prisopus and is a member of the stick bug family. I hoped he was harmless, as I picked him up and let him climb all over my arms.

Couple of beach bums in Mexico.

Sometimes I think it was much easier being a “beach bum” in Mexico than being a “farmer” in Belize. But we would not change this experience for anything. The things that we have seen and learned, plus all of the adventures are priceless.

 

Always keeping busy

Here it is again… What’s on the porch drying or ripening? This time it’s tomatoes, ripening in the sun a little more before they get canned. Ruben came down to buy some Italian sausage from us the other day and said that he had just picked tomatoes and asked if we wanted some. He had about 12 buckets of Roma tomatoes, so it was a perfect trade, a bucket of tomatoes for sausage.  Kelley canned them whole to be used for pizza sauce, salsa or whatever else we decide to make. Since all the tomatoes got peeled before being canned, we dehydrated all the skins and ground them into a powder to be used in soups and such. It’s great being able to make trades like this with friends and neighbors.

Approximately 300 or more beautiful Roma tomatoes.

The coffee plants are really producing this year. They are just starting to ripen, in the past week we have picked a good size bucket full. Most of them are coming off just two of the Arabica plants. Our Robusta plants got some type of fungus last year and we had to cut them way back. But they have recovered well and are now getting ready to flower. Our Arabica plants got so tall that we have to get a ladder out to pick the ones near the top. Once everything is picked we will have to top them down to a more manageable size. It takes a lot of time and effort to go from bean to cup with the coffee. Sometimes I question why we planted more than a dozen coffee plants, especially when Kelley can’t even stand the smell of roasted coffee.

Our Arabica plants are too tall, so they will have to be topped once everything is picked.

Our raspberry plants have really taken off this year. For the past month we have been picking a quart baggie full of raspberries every few days. We have been eating them, giving some away, and putting some in the freezer. At this point, we have at least 10-12 pounds of raspberries stored in the freezer. When we get time we will decide if we will make jam, ice cream, or something else with all those raspberries. Of course, there will be more banana/raspberry bread once the bananas ripen.

Fresh raspberries from the garden.

Most of our fruit trees were put in at least five years ago and this year just about everything is producing. So far there are at least fifty pineapples on plants, five bunches of bananas going, lots of mangos, a lot of avocados, custard apples, cacao, coffee, raspberries, lemons, and oranges. That’s just the ones that have fruit on them currently. We are up in the garden at least three times a week with a bucket picking something. Sometimes I think it would just be easier to buy the stuff at the market, but it keeps us busy and we know it doesn’t get any fresher than this.

Bananas                                             Pineapples                                               Mangos

Okay, here’s round two of what’s on the porch this time. No, it’s not small cherry tomatoes, it’s coffee. After a couple of days in the sun, we will peel the fruit off the outside and then dry the beans before they get roasted. It’s tough and time consuming peeling them, but we just tried a new method that is working very well. We pour boiling water over them for about five minutes to soften the skin and then you can just squeeze them and the bean pops out. This batch we are going to roast a little darker than normal and make some chocolate covered expresso beans with our homegrown chocolate.

Coffee and cacao out on the porch. Can’t wait for some chocolate covered expresso beans.

We just pulled another fifty pounds of bacon out of the smoker and it’s resting in the fridge before it gets sliced and packaged. Here is my favorite thing about leaving the freshly smoked bacon in the beer fridge for a couple of days. First of all, there are no other odors for it to absorb, and once it comes out, the fridge will smell like bacon for a couple of weeks. So every time we open the fridge to get a beer, it still smells like bacon, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Bacon and beer, what more could anyone ask for

The other day I was walking between the house and the garage and there was a big ruckus in the bushes. I looked in and saw a bunch of Coatimundis (quash as they are called in Belize) climbing up and down the trees. I called for Kelley to get the camera and she got some great pictures of them just before they all took off.

We have seen the whole family of them three times so far this week.

Right off the back patio, there is a big palm tree that has a huge strangler fig tree wrapped around it. In the past couple of years around this time, we have seen at least 20-25 coati around that tree. I think they may camp out in that tree for a few days while they are around here looking for food. There were definitely a couple of bigger coati, but the majority of them were small ones. I’m pretty sure that the parents are just showing the young ones where to get  pineapples in a few months.

I counted at least 23 of them, but I know I missed some.

There are a lot of interesting insects down here and we are always seeing ones we’ve never seen before. To us, the most interesting ones, and probably the most beautiful are the moths. Every morning there are a variety of moths on the front of the garage that were attracted to the light the night before. We usually try to get a picture of the more interesting ones. This one here was about a half inch long and very fuzzy, plus he had some good color going on.

Quite a fuzzy little moth

It was time to invite a few friends over for another fish fry. My theory is that if we don’t have any more fish in the freezer, then it’s time to go fishing again. This time we didn’t invite the usual friends over, but instead some new friends that we met over the past few months. Everyone there is either getting ready to build or is in the process of building. No one really knew each other before this gathering and they were all happy to meet some new friends. There were a lot of questions being asked and everyone was sharing their thoughts and ideas. It was a good gathering, and the fish turned out great.

New friends at our fish fry.

March is that time of year again for the La Ruta Maya River Challenge. This is a 4 day canoe marathon that starts in San Ignacio and ends in Belize City covering 170 miles. It’s considered the biggest sporting event in the country and the largest of its kind in Central America. This year there were 64 teams entered in all age and skill levels. There were stops along the way where the teams set up camp for the night and got their daily time recorded. These stops have turned into big parties with lots of food, spectators, and of course, Belikin beer which is their major sponsor. The winning team this year was Slim & Trim like Guava Limb, with a recorded time of 18 hours and 24 minutes to cover the whole 170 mile course down river. Now that’s moving!

The start of the race in San Ignacio.

There’s always something happening around here to keep us busy. The next two months will be hot and humid, but after that, it should be pretty nice for the rest of the year.

Hope to see you soon.

A little more beach fun

There was another cold front that came through, pushing our nighttime temps down to the low 50ºs up here in the jungle. I know a lot of you are thinking that’s not cold, but for us it is! So off to the coast for a few days to soak up some of that warm Caribbean sunshine. Our neighbor Amanda came along with us down to Placencia to meet up with Ron & Rhonda for a few days of misbehaving on the beach.

Ivan’s Island is a great place to spend the day. Or there are a few little cabins where you could spend a few days.

Since Ron & Rhonda are now living in Placencia, they had heard about a Lobsterfest out on a small private island and wanted to know if we were interested. Of course, we were interested in squeezing in one more chance to indulge in lobster before the season closed in a few days.

The master chef grilling up our lobster lunch.

The event was on Ivan’s island, just a short 25 minute boat ride from Placencia. The weather could not have been more perfect. With the temps in the 80ºs, no wind, and the clear blue Caribbean water that you see on postcards. Ivan’s Lobsterfest was one set price of $125 USD for everything. That included the boat ride, all the lobster, chicken, and fish you wanted, plus unlimited beer and rum drinks. It was quite the party with Caribbean music from the DJ, dancing, hanging out in the water, great food, and lots of new friends. We have had a lot of great times here in Belize and this was definitely one of those times.

Kelley & Amanda, members of the Mike Nash Central American Drinking Team.

The whole weekend on the coast was spent pretty much misbehaving with friends, soaking up the sunshine, relaxing in the water, enjoying some great food & drinks, a little karaoke, plus just enjoying the end of Ron’s and my birthday month. This was our second trip over to the coast in February, but now it was time for us to get back to our jungle home.

Chilling in the pool at The Other Side with Ron & Rhonda.

Now that we are back from our little side trip to the beach, it was time to get the word out that we had corned beef briskets ready for Saint Patrick’s Day. In the past month, we have processed about 110 lbs of corned beef briskets. Once we got the word out that they were available, it took just over a day for us to be sold out. Now that the briskets are gone it’s time to get more bacon curing. Just like the corned beef, as soon as word gets out that we have bacon, it will all be spoken for before it’s even out of the smoker. In case you weren’t aware, we have a Facebook page Wicked Toucan where you can check out some of the different meats that we make and when they are available.

Once a year we make corned beef and it goes quickly.

Our cacao is really starting to ripen, so we will be processing it quite frequently now. Recently, we finished up another batch of our chocolate, all that’s left for this batch is to temper it and get it into molds. It’s a long process from picking the pods off the tree to this point, but very well worth it in the end.

A couple of nice sheets of homemade dark chocolate from our garden.

Recently a friend of ours gave us a few cinnamon trees that are around 16″ tall or so. Five years ago when we first planted all of our trees we did have a cinnamon tree, but for some reason after a year or so, it didn’t make it. Now is our chance to give it another try and hopefully, these will do better. Did you know that cinnamon actually comes from the bark of the tree. Yes, the cinnamon sticks you buy are just peeled bark from the tree that is rolled up and dried. Also, you can use the leaves to make a tea. I’m picturing homemade cinnamon rolls in our future with fresh cinnamon from our own trees.

Ground and whole cinnamon.

Our friend also gave us a miracle berry plant. Okay, this one is going to take some explaining because I’m sure most of you have never heard of it, I know we hadn’t. It’s a plant that gets a small red berry on it about the size of a coffee bean. When the berry itself is eaten, the molecules bind to the tongue’s taste buds, causing sour foods to taste sweet. We tried it by eating a bilimbi fruit first, which is extremely sour (way more than a lime). After eating the miracle berry we took another bite of the bilimbi and the sourness was gone. It will affect anything you eat and will last anywhere from 30 minutes up to a couple of hours. It doesn’t make sweet things taste sweeter, it just makes things like mustard or vinegar taste sweet. A couple of hours after I ate one I had a Belikin beer and it was like I was drinking some sweet fruity beer. Very weird.

You need to try these, they are the most interesting fruit we’ve ever eaten.

Check out the health benefits of these crazy berries. For example, if you have a sweet tooth, but are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, using miracle fruit in conjunction with sour food can give you the sweet burst you’re looking for. Miracle fruit is also used by some for medical purposes, such as changing the flavor of unpleasant medications or lessening the side effects of certain medical treatments. If you are curious about these miracle berries and would like to try them for yourself, you can find them on Amazon.

If they put up a sign it must be true.

Over the past year or so, we have heard neighbors talking about Jaguars in the area. Some have seen tracks in their yard and others have reported actually seeing them. Then another neighbor said that they were attacking her sheep. We have yet to see any around our property or get any pictures on our trail cameras, but we assume they are here. I guess it’s official now as they put up a sign about a mile from us on the road saying Jaguar habitat. At least we don’t have any type of livestock on our property to worry about, but we do have a lot of small local game animals. It would be really exciting to get a picture of one, either on the trail camera or even better yet, with the regular camera.

Yes, our possums know how to work the pole.

We had an old wood pole with a flat piece of wood on top where we’d put fruit out for the birds. Recently it fell over, so I had to build a new one. The new one I made using a piece of 2″ pvc, built a new platform on top, and bolted on an old garden rake that the handle had broken off. The rake works great to stick different fruits on so the birds can’t carry them away. This worked out great until the possums found it. Now, every time we put fruit on the feeder the next morning it’s gone. We know it’s possums because I put a trail camera out to try and catch what was eating the fruit after dark. After looking around the internet for ideas to deter critters from climbing a feeder pole I found one I liked. My favorite was to put a slinky on the pole and then they couldn’t climb it. I have a couple ordered on Amazon, so by the next blog hopefully we’ll have some funny video to post.

Geckos get into everything and lay eggs.

I have a degree in electronics, but they never taught us about this situation. Our garage TV stopped working the other night, so of course I had to take it apart to see if there was anything obviously wrong with it. First thing I find is a dozen or so gecko eggs, and some were starting to hatch. I got that all cleaned up, but I didn’t think that would cause the TV not to work. So I decided to take a circuit board out and there it was. A fried gecko, stuck to the board and part of the board was burned beyond fixing. Hopefully I can find a replacement board on line tomorrow. All just part of the fun of living in the jungle.

A nice row of Alocasia right off our porch.

That about closes out our February. Hope everyone is having a great year so far. Oh, and we saw this on a decal in a bar down in Key West and thought it would make a great shirt or something. It said “Live a Great Story”. I just thought that was a great saying and very inspirational.

A great couple of weeks

Mike Nash doing another great show up in the jungle.

Mike Nash was once again up in our neck of the Jungle playing a show at our favorite bar, The Bluff. This was week two of his four week tour through Central America on his Meeting of the Mayan tour, MeetingOfTheMayans.com. Check out this yearly tour he does, and maybe next year you could tag along. This is a good chance to have fun exploring Central America and listen to some great music along the way. For something a lot closer to home for a lot of you, he has an annual event in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico on May 6-11 called the S.O.B. Songwriters Festival, NashMike.com with a lot of your favorite artists. Mike plays country music, but over the past years, he has focused more on Trop-rock and plays a bunch of awesome beachy songs that would be great on anyone’s summer playlist.

Our first vanilla beans.

About 9 months ago one of our vanilla orchids got its first set of flowers. We had read that every flower had to be hand-pollinated in order for a bean to form. Plus it had to be pollinated within 6 hours of blooming for that to happen. Out of all the flowers Kelley pollinated, there were only two that took and grew into a vanilla bean. Once they formed they had to stay on the plant for another 8-9 months before they could be picked. Once picked there is an involved process before they are ready to be used, which is why they are so expensive. We love learning about and growing all these exotic plants, but as for vanilla, I don’t think we will work too hard trying to harvest them.

Our coconut tree is growing fast.

When we first moved here we were given a couple of coconuts that were starting to sprout. The yard was just being established so the nuts got moved all around the yard for a couple of years before they finally got planted. Since we planted them they are growing quite well. Hopefully, in a year or so we should start getting our own fresh coconuts. Coconut palms grow in tropical climates that fall between the 25 north and the 25 south latitudes, with Belize being around 17 latitude, it’s a perfect place for them to grow. A coconut tree can produce for 80 years over its 100 year lifespan. These trees could actually produce for our great, great, great-grandchildren.

Tons of blossoms on the mango tree and even some small mangos.

When we first planted our fruit trees we were told that it would be 4-5 years before they would start to produce. Some started bearing fruit last year and others  are still showing no signs yet. This year we are very excited as two of our trees that have never bloomed are full of blossoms. One of our mango trees is loaded from top to bottom with blossoms. Hopefully, some will take, and come summer we will be enjoying fresh mangos off our own trees for the first time.

Lots of avocado blossoms all over the tree.

Another tree that is loaded with blossoms for the first time is one of our avocados. Hopefully, some fruit will set and we will have plenty of avocados in a few months. Maybe in time for some fresh guacamole on Cinco de Mayo. We still have five or six different types of citrus, velvet apples, malay apples, and macadamia nuts that have yet to produce. Hopefully, as the weather warms up they will start to blossom later this year.

Fresh from the garden.

Who needs to go to the market when you can get gifts from the garden? Today’s harvest was cacao, green beans, oyster mushrooms, assorted peppers, lettuce, coffee and star fruit. We have been eating star fruit as they ripen, but now there is more than we can eat fresh before the next group is ready. So we are dehydrating a bunch of them so they will last longer. We have dehydrated some with cinnamon sugar, with Tajin, and some with sea salt. They were all good and tasted totally different from each other, but our favorite was when Kelley juiced fresh ones. The green beans and lettuce are on their way out, but the coffee and cacao are just starting to ripen. Some of the pepper plants will soon need to come out, but there are more seedlings already started along with some okra. The way things ripen around here there is usually always something from the garden to eat.

Kelley’s tropical almond tree she planted from a seed.

About five years ago we were in town and there was a big tropical almond tree there. They are big beautiful trees that get layered branches and you see them all over Belize. They are mostly around people’s yards as they make great shade trees to sit under and cool off. Kelley picked up a couple of seeds from the tree that were on the ground and planted them to see if they would grow. It did grow and now 5 years later we have a great shade tree.

The mighty King Vulture.

The other day there was a King Vulture soaring above our house. Since we’ve been here we have only seen a few of these big birds. Excluding the two species of condors, the king vulture is the largest of the New World vultures. It can have a wingspan of up to 7′ and can weigh up to 10lbs. For such a big bird, they have quite a long lifespan, the oldest animal at the Belize Zoo is a 40 year old King Vulture named Rex. The top picture Kelley took as he was soaring above our house and the closeup below is pulled from the internet just so you can see how beautiful these birds are.

The King Vulture is a beautiful colorful bird.

Recently we have had some critter eating some of our cacao pods on the trees. We have not had this problem in the past, so we decided to set up a trail camera and see if we could catch the culprit. We have a bunch of Agouties around here, but we didn’t think they could reach as high as some of the pods that were being eaten. Well, the camera proved different. There were pictures of them going from tree to tree and even standing up on the trunks to reach the higher pods. But the real kicker was when one of them grabbed a cacao pod and posed in front of the camera to eat it. We’re not sure what we can really do about them, we are just thankful that they can’t climb the plants.

I can’t believe he sat in front of the trail camera and taunted us.

This past week we had two of Kelley’s sisters, Sue and Karen come down for a visit along with Karen’s husband Erik, and Sue’s friend Arnaldo. They started off their trip with a few beach days out in San Pedro before heading up our way to do a little jungle exploring.

A great evening with friends and family.

One of the nights we fired up the pizza oven and invited a few neighbors over. Kelley was putting the pizzas together with whatever toppings were requested and I was cooking them up as fast as she could make them. I think we ended up cooking seven or eight pizzas that night.

We’re getting pretty good at making pizzas.

We only fire up the pizza oven when we can get more than a few friends over because it’s not worth it to do it for just us. I usually start the fire in the brick oven a good six hours before the first pizza goes in. The temp in the oven gets around 900 degrees and that will usually cook the pizza to perfection in about three minutes. The next morning I checked the temp in the oven and it was still at 170 degrees inside. We haven’t tried it yet, but one of the restaurants here will put their chicken meat in the pizza oven at the end of the night. The next morning they say it cooks to perfection for use in their other dishes that day.

Sue, Karen and Erik intensely pealing the roasted cacao.

While the family was up here they checked out a couple of different Mayan ruins, got to put their car on a hand-crank ferry across the river, went on hikes, saw Mike Nash doing his show, zip-lined and even went cave tubing. Between all that fun they did find time to sit around our place and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Kelley also gave them a course on our process of how we make chocolate. From the cacao pods on the trees to the fermenting of the seeds, drying and then peeling the roasted beans. I think they might have been helping peel the roasted beans just so they could have more of the finished product.

Karen, Erik, Sue, Kelley, and I at our Toucan Hideaway.

I believe they all had a great time exploring different parts of Belize and seeing how diverse and friendly this country really is. From the hustle & bustle of the beaches in San Pedro to the quite lush jungles up by us. After they left our place they headed back over to the Caribbean shores of Hopkins. Hopkins is a quiet little beach town and a great place to spend the last few days of their trip to just unwind.

Of course, the day everyone was leaving Hopkins, the wind calmed down.

Since the family left, the temperature up here had really dropped, in fact, we got down to 53º a couple of nights. The sisters shot a note and said it was a nice warm day over on the beach in Hopkins. Well, that was all it took for us to decide to take the 2½ hour drive over to the warm Caribbean shore and surprise them. Boy did we surprise them! They just happened to be checking out our river lot when we came pulling up.

Surprise! They were not expecting to see us again.

I know when they get back they will have lots of pictures and stories to tell everyone. Heck, we might even start seeing more family come down and visit us. After all, we have a guest house and that’s what it’s for.

Picture yourself here at our guest casita.

If you feel the need to get away from the world, where the WIFI is weak and the beer is always cold, you know where we are.

Finally some sunny days

Delicious Gibnut tamales wrapped in a banana leaf.

New Year’s morning started off great with a visit from Ruben. He brought us down some Gibnut tamales that they had just made. Gibnut is a rare treat, as it is the most prized game animal in Belize and is considered a delicacy. He brought us down five big tamales all steamed and wrapped up in banana leaves. We have been lucky enough to try Gibnut in a variety of different ways, and the tamales are one of our favorites.

Moringa leaves drying on the front porch.

The sun has finally come out and it’s drying up around here, which means we can actually get some yard work done. One thing was to trim our Moringa trees back to a more manageable size. We usually try to save the leaves and either use them fresh or dry them for later use. I’ve mentioned before that moringa has a ton of health benefits and is considered a superfood. Kelley uses the fresh and dried leaves in soups and salads. Once dried she also makes a very healthy tea out of the leaves. The Moringa tree is also called The Tree of Life or The Miracle Tree, and since we have a couple of them growing here it doesn’t hurt to include some in our diets.

Cacao drying in the sun.

It seems like there is always something on the porch drying in the sun. A couple of weeks ago it was moringa, this week it is cacao beans. They will sit in the sun until they are completely dry before they get roasted. Then they will get peeled, ground, and turned into chocolate. It looks like once this batch of cacao is dry then the coffee will be about ready to start picking. Then it will be coffee beans out in the sun drying before they can get roasted. As the coffee is drying they sort of look like peanuts. There have been a couple of friends who have tossed a few beans in their mouths thinking that they were peanuts, boy were they surprised. We do sometimes have peanuts drying on the porch, but it’s always best to ask us what it is before trying anything.

Starfruit is just about ready to pick.

This year our star fruit tree has a decent amount of fruit on it. They are just starting to ripen and turn yellow. We are just starting to get raspberries again, and in a few weeks, we should have some custard apples ready. Bananas are randomly ready throughout the year and come June we should have a bunch of pineapples and dragon fruit ripe. Most of the time Kelley and I will have fruit for breakfast, even if we have to buy it when nothing is ripe around here. Once some of our other trees mature and start producing we should have a good variety of fruits available throughout the entire year.

Fresh picked lettuce from our lot down the way.

With all the rains in the past months, Ruben hasn’t been able to plow or plant our farm lot with new crops. He did manage about a month ago to get a 300 foot long row of lettuce in. This was not to sell, but just for his and our personal use. I’m sure when it’s all said and done, we will have only used or given to friends 30 or so heads, which leaves a lot for Ruben and his family.

Planting more Zebra plants. We started with only a couple of plants, but all you have to do is put the cutting in dirt and they grow.

This past weekend it was 90º and sunny, which was a great time to get some plants in the ground, catch up on our tans, and drink a few cold beers out in the sunshine. We always have cuttings from plants that we have trimmed and are rooting in pots waiting to go into the ground. Of course, as we plant the cuttings that are ready, we trim others and they go into pots for a few months. It’s a never-ending cycle, but we hate to just throw the cuttings away.

One of the hundreds of White Fronted Parrots that were above the casita.

On a recent Sunday morning, it got extremely loud around here. It sounded like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”. In the trees above the casita, there were hundreds of parrots that all landed there at once. They were all squawking for a good half hour before they slowly started to fly away. We see parrots fly over almost every day and usually not more than a dozen or so at a time. Every so often a few will land in the trees around the house, but nothing like this time. It really was an amazing sight and sound.

Common Roadside Hawks together for a rare photo opp.

We see a lot of hawks around, usually sitting alone in a tree, on our antenna, or on a power line. We have never seen two of them sitting together before, until now. The other afternoon when we saw these two, we were standing in the yard talking to Amanda when one of the hawks chased a Chachalaca bird. We were standing only a few feet apart and this Chachalaca dove between us almost hitting us. The Chachalaca bird is not a small bird, they range from one to one in a half pounds in weight.  Kelley saw him coming and ducked and I just felt a giant burst of air on my shoulder. The hawk turned away when it got close to us and the Chachalaca got away. That sure would have been cool to see the hawk grab that bird right in front of us.

A Gray-headed Tanager. An ant-eating machine.

The same time we saw the two hawks there were a dozen or so little birds all over the ground that we’d never seen before. It turns out that they were Gray-headed Tanagers, which Kelley found out are uncommon around here. It says that they follow swarms of army ants around, which is why they were all over the driveway. There was a mass migration of ants going across our driveway. They were at least ten feet wide going across the driveway turning our new white rocks in the driveway black. Seeing that many ants at once is the thing nightmares are made of. At least there were birds there to eat a few of them.

This picture of the Toucan was taken from our front porch.

We have also been seeing more Toucan around the property. I think now that the sun is out all the critters seem to be more active, or maybe it’s because we are just outside a little more than we have been.

Had to try one, but will probably never buy another one.

We are always looking to try something new to eat. The other day at the market they had Singo Pears which I assume were imported. I guess another name for them is Asian Pears which can sometimes be found in the States at the grocery store. Anyway, we had never seen one before and it was all wrapped in this fancy package, so we knew it must be something special. It was juicy, crisp like an apple with sort of a pear taste. It definitely was not worth the $5 price in my opinion, especially when there are so much better local fruits available at a much better price.

Every time we buy pork bellies to make bacon, the ribs come with them as an added bonus.

Darren and his aunt and uncle were down for a visit to check out Belize. They spent a few days in San Pedro before heading up this way to see Darren’s place. The first few days they were up here, at least one of them had been not feeling well. Not a great way to spend a vacation, they seem to think it’s the flu or something. They pretty much have stayed to themselves, but we did manage to have a couple of meals together. The first night they were here we made some giant pork ribs on the grill. We hope they all get better, as his aunt and uncle have been on a world tour for the past year and have more places to go and see once they leave Belize.

Until next time, have fun with whatever you’re doing and maybe we’ll see you down here sometime.

Happy New Year!

The weather is still a little unstable around here, with more days being cloudy and rainy than there are sunny days. Same with the temps, most nights are in the mid 60ºs and the days can be from 70º to the high 80ºs if the sun comes out. The good thing is that everything around here is very green, even though there’s still a lot of mud.

Time to dump the gravel.

With all the rain we have had the past couple of months, a lot of our gravel in the driveway washed away leaving nothing but mud. So it was finally dry enough to get a truck in here with 15 more yards of white gravel. Besides the driveway, more gravel was needed in front of the casita where it had also washed away, and a little more in front of the garage. It’s a shame we had to put it on top of all the grass that was filling in so nicely, but in a few months, I suppose it will grow back through the gravel.

With the help of the tractor and some rakes, Kelley and I had it spread out in no time.

Lots of plants, either wild or ones we planted around here are putting out flowers right now. I know it’s the middle of winter for most, and you might not see any flowers in your yard for a couple more months. So here are some flowers from around our place that will hopefully hold you over until your plants bloom or you can start planting again.

Type of Pea flower falling all over the driveway.
Blossoms on one of the Cordylines.
Beautiful flower on one of our Hawaiian Orchids.
Wild Polly Redheads are used to make nature’s iodine for bug bites, rashes, and other skin conditions.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow flowers start purple then turn lavender and eventually white as they mature.
A red Torch Ginger in front of the casita. We also have pink and white ones around.
Hibiscus flower

There are lots of squirrels around here and they seem to be hiding nuts for the winter. For the past couple of months, our Cohune palms have been dropping their nuts like crazy. Every day the squirrels can be seen picking them up and running off into the trees. They seem to be hiding them in places that are up off the ground where I guess other animals can’t get to them. We have seen them in trees, in a corner of the BBQ, inside the railing on the porch, and many more places. Below are a few pictures of some of their hiding spots.

Cohune nut hiding in the coconut tree
Another nut hiding on top of the Humming Bird feeder
Another hiding place was on the pillar of the house

We have had a couple of interesting insects around here lately. The first one is a rhinoceros beetle. He is a real powerhouse of an insect with a hard shell and intimidating horns on his head. Only the males have horns which are used in battle. They get up to three inches long, but this one was just over two inches. He really had a grip on the cement and it was tough to lift him up. When Kelley put him in her hand he really started to dig his legs in and get a grip on her.

This Rhinoceros Beetle hung around the garage for a good week or so.

The second big interesting insect around here this week, which we have seen many before was the peanut head. This one is about 4″ long and very cool looking. When his wings open up there are two spots that look like cat eyes to help scare predators away.

A very strange-looking Peanut Head bug

One of our Jamaican Lime trees is starting to put out a few fruit. Jamaican limes are green on the outside and bright orange on the inside and super juicy. Their taste is a combination of lime juice and orange juice. It’s a favorite to make a limeade for a hot summer day or with a little bit of rum it’s outstanding.

Jamaican Limes fresh off our tree

We are always willing to try something new to eat. The other day as we were wandering around the grocery store we saw a package that was written in Chinese and had a picture of chicken feet with some chili peppers. The feet were individually sealed so we assumed they were “snack feet”, bet you’ve never heard of snack feet before. Anyway, we bought them and took them home to try. They were fully cooked with a spicy sauce on them, and they were actually pretty good. Chances are we will never buy them again, but you have to try new things every so often.

I imagine you can use the toenails to pick out what gets stuck in your teeth.

Not much else has happened around here since Christmas, but I thought I’d get one more blog out to end the year. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year. We hope to see you in 2024!

December for us is all about good food

Well it’s supposed to be the beginning of the dry season, I think it was a big lie this year. It has been raining almost every day since we got back from our visit to the States last month. The yard is nothing but a giant mud puddle making it tough to get things done around here. Besides that, this last week has been cold, especially for Belize. Heaters and fireplaces are pretty much unheard of down here, so all we can do is bundle up. The daytime temps have been in the 70ºs -80ºs but the nights are dropping down to the high 50ºs. One night it dropped down to 51º, and that was the coldest it’s been since we’ve been here. With this weather, there’s not a whole lot to do around here but stay inside and make some food.

Hot out of the oven, raspberry banana bread.

A friend of ours dropped off a couple of big stalks of bananas. We gave a bunch away and ate as many as we could before they started to get too ripe. Once they ripened, it was time for Kelley to make up some of her delicious raspberry banana bread. These make great gifts around the holidays and also an excellent breakfast.

A plate of Kelley’s sweet treats for Ruben and his family.

It wouldn’t seem like Christmas around here if Kelley didn’t make her holiday cookies. This year she made peppermint bark, ginger snaps, peanut brittle, red velvet cookies with a white Hershey kiss, and some Heath-type candy with our homegrown dark chocolate on top. She really cut back on the amount of treats this year as we are trying to both lose a little bit of weight.

Sea salt caramel squares and dried pineapple dipped in homegrown chocolate.

Back when our pineapples were ripe we ended up picking quite a few of them. We ate what we could, but we also dehydrated a bunch, and some of those got put in the freezer. We recently pulled a bag of vacuum-sealed dehydrated pineapples out of the freezer and there was no getting the pieces separated. Because they were sticky and compressed they would just not come apart. So we decided to cut them up into small little pieces and dip them in dark chocolate. We also made some sea salt caramels with dark chocolate. They both turned out very good.

Two big pans of dark chocolate ready to be poured into molds.

Word got out that we had our dark chocolate candy bars available. Well, we sold out of all 130 within a couple days, not what we expected. We are in the process of making more now, but they won’t be ready for another week. The good thing is that we still have another 15 pounds or so of dried cacao beans from earlier this year. Plus the trees are loaded and we should start picking again shortly. Making and growing chocolate was never something that we thought we’d be doing, but you never know where life will take you.

Summer sausages all wrapped up and ready to go.

The holidays are here and that meant it was time for us to make our summer sausage again. The first batch sold out before it was even out of the smoker. So far we’ve made twenty 1½ lb. sticks, last year we ended up making around 75 of them. In the past, we started making them around Thanksgiving, but this year we got a late start, so not sure we’ll be making any more this year. Well, there was a big request for more, so we called up our butcher and are making another batch in time for New Year’s.

Kelley linking up some Italian sausage.

Since the weather has not been so great we decided that it was a good time to restock our meat supply. In December alone we made close to 200 lbs. of sausage and bacon, which 3/4 of that has already been sold. So far this year we have processed close to 1,000 lbs. of meat. This could probably turn into a full-time thing if we wanted it to, but for now, we are just doing it as a hobby when we feel like it.

Irish whiskey, green beer, and corned beef makes everybody Irish for a day.

Now is the time we need to start processing corned beef for St. Patty’s Day. We will put all our other meats on hold for a while because the corned beef takes up space and time in the fridge while it is curing. Last year we made up around 30 corned beef that were between 3-5 lbs. each and they were gone instantly. As far as I know, we’re the only ones around making corned beef. It takes our butcher time to get us the right size briskets we are looking for. So he has started rounding them up now for us so we can get them processed in time for St. Patty’s Day.

Nice char on the outside and med/rare in the middle. It just looks more raw than it really was.

Last month we picked up a beautiful prime rib roast from our butcher. After he got it all trimmed up it weighed in around 17 lbs. which was still a little more than we wanted. So he cut this big 2 lb. steak off the end to make it more the size Kelley was looking for. After all was said and done he ended up giving us the steak that he cut off for free. We grilled that steak and it was probably the best most flavorful steak we have had in Belize yet. The prime rib roast has been sitting in the fridge for the past few weeks aging and waiting for Christmas Day. Hopefully, it will turn out as good or better than the steak that came off the end of it.

The prime rib roast is vacuum sealed and sitting in the fridge for a few weeks until Christmas Day.

The cayenne peppers that we had fermenting were finally ready to grind up into a nice pepper sauce. We have made this before, but this is the first time in a couple of years, only because we haven’t grown cayennes recently. It turned out really flavorful, with a little sweetness from the peppers and some pretty good heat. There was also a small jar of heatless habaneros that were fermenting. They have all the flavor of habaneros, but there is no heat. It’s interesting because you taste habaneros and you are waiting for the burn, but there is none.

Seven bottles of cayenne pepper sauce and one bottle of heatless habanero.

Ron & Rhonda now live in Placencia and are busy putting the finishing touches on their new home. They will be joining us for a few days at our place over Christmas weekend. When they got here Saturday we made up some lobster chowder served with sourdough bread. Then Christmas Eve we are having some friends over for a fish fry with some of the fish we caught last time we were in Placencia. Last but not least, is the Christmas Day prime rib roast. Amanda and Ron & Rhonda will join us on Christmas Day for prime rib and all the fixings. If all this doesn’t get us in a food coma, I don’t know what will.

Rhonda, Ron, Amanda, Dave and Kelley wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from Belize.


 

Wet, but all is good

We got back home from a great trip to The Florida Keys and Arizona only to find out that we’d been having a lot of rain. In the first few days of November before we got back, our weather station recorded over a foot of rain (13+ inches).

Didn’t see any fish swimming through the yard this time.

Our village gets its water from the river up in the mountains, but with all that rain, it took out the water system for the entire village. Which meant we got home to no water in the pipes. Luckily we have a backup water tank that was full, but it’s not hooked up to the house. So we had to fill up 5 gal buckets and bring them over to the house for dishes, toilets, and such. We had heard there was a chance that the water could be out all week, but luckily they had it fixed the next day so we could get a shower and do some laundry.

Mr. Hankey leaving his summer home and headed to South Park for the Christmas season.

So far we have seen over 18″ of rain just in November. And just like last year when the holidays started to roll around it was once again time to quote cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, “Shitter’s Full”. We have a very big 3-stage septic tank, big enough that my Jeep would fit in it. But with all this rain the ground is just saturated, which means that the septic is not draining properly. Since the ground is so wet we had to wait a few days for the road to dry up before we could even get a pumper truck in here. At least we have the casita with a septic tank that rarely gets used.

Variety of pepper plants doing well.

After the rains, there was a lot of cleanup to do around the property, nothing major just palm fronds, tree branches, plant trimming, and lots of mud. Once it dries up a little more I will have to get the tractor out to scrape the driveway smooth and take down some of the big ruts on our road. For the most part, the garden looked good, thanks to Amanda for taking care of it while we were gone. I’m actually surprised that the tomatoes and pepper plants survived all the rain. Ruben’s tomatoes on our other property didn’t do so well. They all had green fruit on them and with all that water they absorbed, most of the tomatoes split open and he lost the entire crop.

Habaneros are starting to ripen. Time to make some more habanero salt.

Our garden is on a slight hill so all the rain didn’t have a chance to sit around the plants and puddle up. Actually, all of our peppers are doing quite well. We are still picking cayennes, the habaneros are starting to ripen, there are a few green chili plants and the Italian peppers are starting to get big. The tomato plants from the seeds I got from my sister are starting to blossom. This week we will be planting bush beans and some purple carrots.

Cayennes from the garden fermenting till the end of the year.

Kelley has got some of our cayenne peppers bottled up, waiting to make some pepper sauce. The peppers are fermented in vinegar and water along with some salt and garlic for about six weeks. After that, everything will get pureed down into a fine liquid. There is also a small jar of heatless habaneros fermenting to see if it makes a delicious sauce without the heat.

Cacao about ready to be picked. This is our smallest tree only about 6′ tall. All the other trees are at least 15′ tall and loaded with pods.

We are still making dark chocolate around here. Recently Kelley has had a problem getting the chocolate to temper, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Recently we picked up some local cacoa butter that should help it temper, along with the cooler weather it should be fine. The chocolate is still very good even if it doesn’t temper, it’s just that after a while it melts in your hands if it’s not tempered correctly. Which will be great come Christmas time when Kelley is making cookies and you want to bite into that soft chocolate chip cookie.

Would you like to buy a candy bar and send a jungle girl and boy to summer camp next year?

Anyway, the chocolate that does temper we’ve been making into individual bars that get packaged and sealed so they will last. Not sure what we’ll be doing with all of them besides enjoying them and sharing them with our friends. Maybe we’ll be selling them door to door as a fundraiser to send ourselves to summer camp next year.🤣😎

There are maybe 4 or 5 papaya trees on our farm lot and they all have a bunch of papayas on them.

A year or so ago Kelley cut open a papaya and some of the seeds were starting to sprout. Well you know Kelley, she had to plant them. The plants grew to a couple of feet tall, but we had no extra room around here to plant them. So we gave them to Ruben to plant down on our farm lot. The plants didn’t get really tall, but they are getting some nice big papayas. Neither one of us is a big fan of papaya, but Ruben loves them, and we will take a few for the bird feeder.

The first batch of beef snack sticks out of the smoker and ready to be packaged up.

The first weekend of the month, The Bluff has been having a big yard sale where anyone can come and sell stuff. We have been asked if we would come and sell some of our meats. So we have been really ramping up our production. Hopefully, we should have ready summer sausage, beef snack sticks, bratwurst sausage, Italian sausage linked and crumble, breakfast links and patties, bacon, and maybe some chocolate. This will be the first time we have actually set up and sold our meats. Usually, it’s just word of mouth and everything is gone in a week or so.

Toucan in the trees.

It’s been a while since we have heard or seen any toucans around here, but that’s changing. I assume that the wild fruit in the trees is starting to ripen as we are seeing more of them around. We are starting to see them in the trees out behind the house and just flying over. As soon as the fruit in the trees over the casita ripens we should see a lot more out in the open and Kelley can get some more great pictures of them.

A laughing falcon right off the back patio.

The other morning we heard what sounded like a  laughing falcon in a tree just outside the house. He was out there very loudly calling for a good hour. Finally, Kelley couldn’t take it anymore and got the camera and went out looking for him. She found him in a tree just off the back patio. He stayed around long enough for a few good pictures before taking off.

A very strange looking mushroom.

We haven’t seen these mushrooms around the yard since last year. The common name is the latticed stinkhorn and feeds off decaying wood matter or garden mulch. It has a bad odor, somewhat like rotting meat, which attracts flies and other insects to help disperse its spores. This one was about the size of a softball, and with that smell and bright color they are hard to miss. After all the rains we’ve had mushrooms popping up everywhere, hopefully, we will find some oyster mushrooms around, because they are delicious.

The feast is over.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, I know we did. Kelley cooked up a traditional Thanksgiving meal and we had a few friends over. The weather here this last week has been great, with no rain, highs of 85°, and low of 67°. We are starting our dry season, so the next few months should be great down here.

See you in Belize!

Key West then out west.

In the last post, I said that there were alternative plans for Kelley’s 60th birthday. Well here’s the second part of that plan, after all, this was her birthday month.

One of the 42 bridges on the 113 mile drive down to Key West.

We thought on our way up to see the kids in Arizona we would do a little side trip for a drive we’ve been wanting to do for some time now. So we caught a flight to Miami, rented a truck, tuned in some Margaritaville, threw on our flip-flops, and headed down Highway 1 to Key West for a little more birthday celebration.

Now that’s a lobster!

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the drive down. Of course, everywhere you looked there were seafood restaurants and beach-themed stores selling anything that had to do with the sunny beachy lifestyle of the Keys. There were some gift shops you just had to stop at, especially when they have a giant lobster out front.

Stone crab season had just opened, so of course we had to have some.

We avoided the bigger touristy restaurants and bars, but instead chose the more local looking places that had more character. There were more fresh seafood choices than you could imagine and of course when in Key West we had to have some key lime pie. We ended up finding some nice little places that overlooked the water where we could grab a cold drink, watch the boats, and check out all the big Tarpon that cruised around the docks.

There it is, the original boat from the movie.

For the most part, we just drove all the way down to Key West stopping at State Parks and checking out interesting watering holes along the way. The only tour we did was a cruise on the original “African Queen” from the 1950’s movie. We thought it would be cool to take an actual cruise on this piece of movie history, and it really was. The boat was built in 1912 in England and then shipped off to Africa where it worked until it was picked up in the 50’s for the movie “The African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

We’re not quite Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, but we are on the same boat.

It is an amazing 5 ton steel hull boat with a coal boiler that in turn runs a steam engine. For the tours, they just had a small outboard motor that powered it. They said it was just impractical to keep the boiler fired up all day long to run the engine. The engine did work though, and the captain did take the break off the prop shaft so we could see the engine turn over as if it was actually running on steam.

The steam engine and the boiler on the African Queen. Extremely cool!

After the movie was done, the boat was purchased and shipped to a company in San Francisco in the late 60’s. Then in the 80’s it was sold to someone in Florida where they now conduct tours. I know a lot of people have never seen the movie “The African Queen”, but it’s a classic movie that’s worth checking out.

Stacks of boats everywhere.

If anyone can ever have boat envy, this was the place to have it. Most of the boats in the Keys were center console fishing boats from small to very large. There were boat dealers on just about every corner it seemed. A lot of them had yards full of new and used boats and some even had racks where the boats were stacked 3 stories high.

My dream fishing boat.

Most of the bigger center console boats were usually running four 450hp+ outboards. The one running four outboards was well over the million dollar mark. I knew we’d never have one of those boats, but it was still fun to imagine cruising one of those big horsepower boats around the Caribbean doing a little island hopping.

Our hotel in Marathon about halfway down to Key West.

It was a great side trip down to the Florida Keys, but now it was time to continue on to Arizona to see the grandkids and prepare for Halloween.

Grandkids Tyler, Allison ,and Luke are all dressed up and ready for Halloween.

This year the kids dressed up as a police officer, a little witch, and a stick figure. The boys were super excited to get started, but the little witch Alli had just woken up and it took her a little bit to get going.

Ever since I can remember we have had a big Halloween party, but since we moved out of the States some 15 years ago we have passed all our decorations on to our son and his family.

Our son Randy ‘aka Doug from Liberty Mutual Insurance’ electrocuting a naughty nun. I’m sure she didn’t deserve it.

Over the years, they have acquired more Halloween stuff than you can imagine, luckily they have a place to store it. In fact, they have to use a forklift to put pallets of stuff up on racks in the shop, plus they have a room full of all the latex creatures in their house.

The aliens have landed.

This year some new additions were a spaceship complete with aliens, flashing lights, and a fog machine under the spaceship for effect. Another new one was a couple of old skeletons watching a bony dancer on a pole.

Just a couple of guys and a dog enjoying a good dance.

Of course, there were coffins, hanging heads, hillbillies roasting a corpse, a train full of zombie babies being attacked by giant spiders, an electric chair (that really works), and many more things around the yard.

Getting ready for a big barbecue. Yes, this is a moving prop that actually rotates around.

Another addition this year was an old couch they refinished, which made for the perfect spot to get your picture taken.

The great purple couch where I was an alien butcher from the Alien Sausage Company and Kelley was a baked baker handing out free brownie samples.

It’s always a great party seeing the decorations and the creativity everyone puts into their costumes. We are so happy that they continued the tradition and really get into the spirit of Halloween. After all, we are “The Adams Family”.

A picture with the grandkids.

We had a great time in the Florida Keys, a lot of fun with the grandkids, and of course, the Halloween party where we got to see a lot of our friends. Now it was time to head back to the jungle to get back into our routine and relieve Amanda of garden duties.

Until next time remember…it’s a big world out there, get out and explore!

 

Quite the October so far!

This October Kelley turned the big 60. We had some good plans to go do something, but it didn’t work out, so we came up with a couple alternatives. We started off her birthday weekend with a 4 day trip over to the Caribbean in Placencia. The plan was to enjoy some beach time and hopefully have at least one good day to get out on the water and do some fishing. Well to our surprise, every day the water was calm as can be and was that beautiful turquoise blue color.

Kelley with her first Horse Eye Jack. We also caught barracuda, snapper, yellow jacks, rainbow runners, and mackerel.

So we called up a guide who we’d fished with before and headed out around 7 am. After about an hour’s boat ride in the beautifully calm Caribbean water, we were catching fish like crazy. Every time our live minnow hit the water we had a fish on. Just before 10 am we had caught more fish than we needed and decided to head back towards shore since the weather was really starting to heat up.

Enjoying a morning beer on an island in the Caribbean. Can it get any better than this?

On the way back we stopped at Ranguana Caye, a small 2 acre resort island 20 miles off the coast. Since we’d been there a couple of times before, we knew there was a small beach bar there with ice-cold beer. We knew it was early, but we figured after all those fish we deserved a couple cold Belikins.

Baby sea turtles waiting for a nighttime release.

One of the gals working on the island came over and showed us a box of sea turtles. She said that in the last two days, they have released over 300 of them back to the sea from that tiny island. She told us that they gather them up when they hatch and release them at night so that the birds won’t eat them. That’s pretty good thinking.

A couple dolphins glide gracefully in front of our boat.

After a couple of beers and visiting with some friends who just happened to be on the island for a day trip, it was time to head towards shore. As we were leaving the island there were some dolphins that came up next to the boat and followed us for a bit. It was the perfect day, glassy calm turquoise water, lots of fish, turtles, dolphins, and some friends on an island, all that and we were back on shore by noon. It was one of those days that dreams are made of.

Barracuda and a few lobsters going in the smoker.

Once we got back home I fired up the smoker and loaded it with barracuda steaks. We also threw in a couple of lobsters that will be used on a pesto and artichoke pizza. All of the fish we caught were filleted except for the barracuda, which I knew I was going to throw in the smoker.

Raquel and Anne up in the garden.

Our friends Stephen & Raquel, along with his sister Anne and her husband Brian, came down for a first-time visit to Belize. They stayed with us up in the jungle for a few days where they explored a Mayan ruin, went cave tubing, and just checked out the area around us. We showed them our garden and later they sampled some of our dark chocolate, dragon fruit, and some banana-raspberry bread.

Fresh out of the brick oven.

We went out to a couple of our favorite restaurants in town and one night we fired up the pizza oven and made a bunch of pizzas. Kelley also made some smoked barracuda dip for an appetizer while the pizza oven was heating up. Looks like they had a great time in the jungle, but now they were off to see the Caribbean side of Belize. They will be heading to the coast in Placencia to get their toes in the sand and enjoy all of the things that the beach has to offer. Hopefully, we’ll see them back down here again sometime.

Yellow and red dragon fruit from the garden.

Well, most of our dragon fruit this year seemed to ripen within a couple of weeks. Which was great, they happened to be ready when our guests were here so they could give some a try. This year most of them were deep red inside and a handful of them were white. We are sorta split on which ones taste better, I like the red ones better and Kelley likes the white ones better. Either way, they are both delicious, especially when chilled. I know they are sometimes hard to find and expensive in the States, but well worth trying if you’ve never had one.

These Cayenne Peppers will make a nice hot pepper sauce.

We have been slacking on our vegetable garden this year, but we finally got a few things going. At this point, we have okra, kale, cilantro, cayenne peppers and poblano peppers. There are also some red Italian peppers and beefsteak tomatoes from some seeds that my sister sent down from her plants in Washington. The tomatoes and red pepper plants are looking very healthy at this point so we are hoping for a good harvest. We have never had these red Italian peppers before and it is almost impossible to find anything but Roma tomatoes down here, so we are looking forward to those. At this point, the Cayenne peppers and okra are needing to be picked daily. Kelley will eventually ferment the cayenne peppers and make a hot sauce out of them.

Fresh roasted peanuts at the festival.

Our village of San Antonio just held its first Peanut Festival. After all, San Antonio is the “Peanut Capital of Belize”, so why not? It was held on a Friday and a Saturday, we chose to go there on Saturday afternoon which was our mistake. They must have had a lot of the vendors sell out on Friday as there weren’t really that many there on Saturday. Still, it was a big event for the village and I’m sure next year will be bigger and better.

Almost a total solar eclipse, taken from our driveway.

This year we were lucky enough to be right in the path of the solar eclipse. Over on the coast of Belize, they had the perfect view with 100% blackout of the sun with a nice ring of fire around it. Since we were a little to the west we just barely missed seeing the complete solar eclipse, but it was still very impressive.  Most years will have two solar eclipses, but on average, it takes about 375 years for a total solar eclipse to happen again at the same location.

We won’t be here for the next total solar eclipse, but you could be here for your next vacation. Hope to see you soon.

 

It’s like Wild Kingdom around here.

We’ve seen a lot of very cool critters around the property, but this one might just top them all. The other day I checked my trail cam that I just put up in the driveway. It had only been up about a week, but I thought I’d give it a check anyway. Well to our surprise there was a good-sized cat walking down the driveway towards the garage. We think it was an Ocelot, but Ruben seems to think it was a juvenile jaguar. Either way, it was exciting to see a beautiful wild cat that size walking on our property.

Possibly an Ocelot strolling in our driveway around 3:30 am.

We’ve got a driveway dinger to let us know if someone is coming in the yard or if there are any animals in the driveway. Usually, it’s just birds or squirrels or other small animals that we usually don’t get a chance to see. The other day it went off and there was a small fox walking towards the house. He must have heard or seen us as he turned back around and headed out the gate, but not before Kelley could snap a couple of pictures.

Cute little fox coming in our driveway.
Okay, I’ll turn around so you can take my picture.

There are a couple of Rainbow Ameiva lizards that hang out around the deck out back. They’re medium size lizards that are very colorful and will let you get fairly close to them before they move away. They must be a mating pair as one is quite a bit larger than the other and they are usually seen together. The males can get up to 18″ and the females up to about 14″ in length.

We think this is the female and is between 12-14″ long.

A few days later the two Rainbow Ameiva lizards were out in the open mating. Kelley managed to get a bunch of pictures of what we assume is a rare sight. Soon the female will be laying her eggs and we will have more of these beautiful lizards around here to help keep the insect population down.

Making baby lizards.

The other morning there was a lot of commotion in the trees just off the porch. Kelley grabbed her camera and spotted a bunch of Coatimundis in the trees. It was a big family of them with a lot of small young ones, we estimated there were somewhere around 25 of them. They eventually all came down a tree single file and were on their way. I think they were actually here showing their young ones where the best pineapples are for next season.

Amazing how the Coatimundis can walk straight down a tree.
Coatimundi heading down the tree.

And we still have the two little Agouties that are roaming around the yard all day. As the sun goes down we will be sitting in the garage with lights and music going and it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They will be twenty feet in front of us just doing their own thing. Plus we’ve been seeing a few Toucans around. It’s like having our own private zoo.

I wonder how close the Agoutis will actually get to us.

Well, we just picked the last of our pineapples of the season and they were delicious. Out of all the plants we have, about a quarter of them produced a pineapple this year. The rest of the plants are healthy and should produce next year. This season we ate a lot of fresh pineapples, froze some, and dehydrated a bunch. The pineapples might be gone till next year, but the good thing is that our dragon fruit is just starting to ripen.

The last of our fresh pineapples till next summer.

It was time to pull out all the pineapple plants that were done and replace them with more slips and rooted tops. The slips should produce next year and the tops the year after that. After planting and replacing everything around the yard there were a lot of slips and tops left over. So we took them up to our other lot and planted them around the coconut trees. Now all I can picture is Pina Coladas in our future. At this point, we have somewhere around 300 plants that should produce for the next two years. As we were planting the new ones we noticed three plants with little pineapples developing, so maybe in a month or so, we will have a couple more.

A hundred or so pineapples ready to be planted.

We’re looking at getting a new wheelbarrow for when the pineapples are ready next year. It might be an overkill, but like they say “Go big or go home”.

I might need a little help pushing this thing.

A friend of ours called the other day and asked if we were interested in some wood planks he was selling. There were four 12′ x 18-24″ slabs of live edge cabbage bark lumber that had been drying for about four years, at a price we couldn’t resist. My thoughts were to square up one side, connect them together, and make a big table for the back patio. After Kelley and I unloaded them from the truck, we decided there is no way we would be able to move a large table by ourselves. Cabbage Bark is a very heavy, hard, durable wood that is used in the construction of bridges, train tracks, docks, boat building, and more.

Cabbage bark wood slabs.

If I decide to build a table I’ll just have to round up a bunch of people to help move it. When finished, Cabbage Bark is a beautiful piece of wood that will last forever. We have a small entertainment cabinet made from Cabbage Bark and it took four people to move it into the house.

Finished Cabbage Bard wood cabinet.

Here’s a little food porn for you. We picked up 5 lbs of chicken wings the other day. They were going to get fried like we normally do, but I had an idea for something a little different. What if we brine them in the same brine we do for our bacon and then smoke them with some hickory chips? After four days in a bacon brine and a few hours in the smoker, it was time to see how this experiment turned out. They were great and the opinion was that we need to make these again. We had some leftovers for lunch the next day and tried to criticize them and decided that there was nothing we would do differently next time. So if you are looking to do something a little different with some chicken wings, definitely give this a try, I’m sure you’ll be impressed..

Delicious whole smoked bacon wings.

Where do you live? 🤣🤣🤣

Rural: If you stand naked on your front porch and no one can see you… it’s rural.

Urban: If you stand naked on your front porch and the neighbors ignore you… it’s urban.

Suburban: If you stand naked on your front porch and the neighbors call the cops on you… it’s suburban.

That’s about all for now, time to go sit on the porch and watch for more animals.

 

 

September already?

It’s hard to believe it’s already September. I know it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything, but there’s not a whole lot happening down here with us. Mostly we’ve just been working on long overdue projects, maintenance, and tending to all the plants around here. We have been having a little bit of rain here and there, just enough where we don’t have to water any of the plants, which is nice.

The past couple of weeks we’ve had a few friends stay with us. Ron was here to check on construction of their new house down in Placencia. Michael also joined him for a week of hanging out and a chance to see how the new house is coming along. Ron had some business to take care of up in our area, so they decided to spend the night with us instead of driving to and from Placencia all in one day. We had a few beers, cranked up the grill for some lamb kabobs and they were out of here first thing in the morning.

Ron, myself and Michael relaxing and enjoying a cold beer.

Next was Chuck & Roxana who are building just past us. Their house is just about done, in fact, this trip was the purchase of appliances, fans, water heater, etc. Five years ago we were one of the first to build in our little area and now out of the eight property owners, seven have built. A few of us have multiple 5-acre lots so we are still spread out quite a bit from each other.

Chuck and Roxana’s house just past us.

Labor Day about 8:45 in the morning there was a very loud boom right near the house. It turns out our transformer at the end of our driveway blew. I went out to inspect it and no oil leaking or damage, but both fuses were off and it looked like what was left of maybe a nest. Anyway, we drove up the road where the phone would work and reported it to the electric company. Within 45 minutes there was a truck there replacing the fuses and removing what was left of a nest. We couldn’t have asked for better service than that.

Less than an hour without power, these guys were great!

It’s that time of year when our Cohune palms start dropping all their nuts. This means that the squirrels, agouti’s and I’m sure others, are out feasting on them and storing them away for later. Just about every day for the past couple of weeks there have been agoutis around the yard carrying nuts off into the bush. We think we have a family of them here as we keep seeing two larger ones and two very small ones. Besides all the cohune nuts around, we also throw our fruit and veggie scraps just off the porch. The agoutis really seem to like the pineapple and dragon fruit scraps that we toss out there.

Two Agouti’s gathering palm nuts.

The agouti is related to the Guinea pig, but is larger and has longer legs. They can get up to 14lbs and a length of 29″. They are excellent swimmers and can run for hours when being chased by predators. When they eat they always sit up on their hind legs and hold their food up to their mouth. They’re always fun to watch when they’re around eating and gathering nuts.

This Agouti is stripping the outer bark off the cohune nut.

We get a lot of butterflies around here, in fact, there are at least three butterfly farms within a few miles from us. It’s always great to see the beautiful blue morphos or bright orange ones and so many others. It must be that time of year as we have a lot of butterflies around here currently. There are quite a few that have jet-black wings with a different solid color. Some are black with red, others are blue or orange. The other day this one that was a neon greenish-yellow landed on our big toucan out front and Kelley managed to get a few pictures.

It’s amazing how symmetrical the pattern is on its wings.

This is the time when we see the golden orb spiders around the yard, mostly because it’s their mating season. They are a big colorful spider that weaves a golden web and are a sight to see. They can get up to 2″ not including their legs, which in my opinion makes them a big spider. The venom is relatively harmless and rarely causes more than slight redness and temporary localized pain. Their webs are gold in color, extremely strong, and can be between 1-2 meters in size. It’s awesome to see one of these wicked-looking spiders in a big golden web, but at the same time also a little scary, especially if you have a fear of spiders.

A golden orb spider that is at least 4″ long.

The other day we were on our way up to Pine Ridge to meet some friends for pizza and a few cold beers. On the side of the road eating something was a King Vulture. They are a fairly rare sight to see, in fact, we have only seen a few in all the time we’ve been here. They are a big beautiful almost all white vulture with black on their wings and tail and a red head. They can have a wing span of up to 7′ and unlike other birds, there is no difference in plumage and little in size between males and females.

Not a great picture as he flies away in the rain.

We just finished making up another big batch of pastrami. Deli-style meats are just about impossible to find in Belize unless they are imported. There are a couple of the bigger meat companies that make round lunchmeat-style ham and such, but not deli-style meats. Who doesn’t love a good hot pastrami on rye with some melted swiss cheese, which is why we chose to make our own. It’s a long process that takes around three weeks by the time the meat is cured, smoked, sliced, and packaged, but very well worth it.

Hot pastrami, brown mustard, and swiss cheese on a toasted roll, now you’re talking!

It’s looking like a lot of our dragon fruit buds got pollinated so we should have quite a few this year. The big flowers bloom only at night and depend on bats, moths and other insects to pollinate the flowers. It takes about a month from the time the flower blooms until it is ready to pick. Most of our dragon fruit is deep purple, but we do have a couple of plants that have white flesh.

A few of the dragon fruit blossoms

If you have never tried dragon fruit you don’t know what you are missing. Kelley and I love to have them for breakfast right out of the fridge. They are one of our favorite fruits that we have growing around here. Besides just eating them plain, they make for some very good and colorful margaritas. I even had a piece of cheesecake the other day with a dragon fruit puree topping and it was great.

These we small dragon fruit, but still very delicious.

Like I said, not a whole lot of anything exciting happening around here, but we are getting stuff done. Hope to see you down here sometime.

 

Fun In The Pines

We just got back from a quick trip to Arizona for a follow-up visit on my cataract surgery and to spend a little more time with the grandkids. But, the main purpose of this trip was to head up to the pines in Pinetop, Arizona to catch a couple days of music with some of our favorite musicians.

Ready for the shows in beautiful Pinetop Arizona.

Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers were playing their annual show at the Lion’s Den in cool Pinetop, AZ. Besides Roger, his special guests were The Jons, The Cole Trains, and Drew Cooper. There were three shows, Friday night, Saturday night and then an afternoon Borracho Sunday show which was a lot of fun. There were a lot less people there on Sunday, plus the bands were having fun and the beer and tequila were flowing.

Roger Clyne on guitar, Scooby from The Jons on tequila, and Jon Villa from The Jons on drums.

Our friend and neighbor Amanda had become a big fan of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers but had never seen them in person. When the dates for the Pinetop show were announced, it was right about the same time as Amanda’s birthday. So road trip it was.

Kelley and Amanda pose for a picture with a great musician, Drew Cooper.

With Pinetop being such a small venue, it was much easier to approach and talk to the musicians between sets. I believe the highlight and most memorable moment for Amanda was getting to meet Roger Clyne and get a picture with him.

Amanda meets Roger Clyne for the first time.

It was a great trip up to Arizona and especially up to Pinetop for the shows. We met up with a lot of friends that we haven’t seen in a while and even met some new ones. I’m sure this is a trip that Amanda won’t soon forget.

Some of the friends we saw at the concert in Pinetop.

Now Back To Belize

Our cacao trees are loaded with blossoms this year like we have never seen. Thousands of flowers per tree, from the ground up to the tallest branches and everywhere in between. At this point, we have nine trees that are flowering. If just a small percentage of the blooms take, we will be very busy processing and making chocolate in the coming months. Plus we just planted a bunch more three-foot trees that we grew from seeds. I’m not sure what we were thinking about planting more trees, but can you really ever have too much chocolate?

Cacao blossoms and one cacao pod.

Kelley has been busy making chocolate bars from the cacao beans we picked earlier this year. We still have about 25 more pounds of dried beans that need to be roasted and processed. It’s a long process, but well worth it in the end.

Dark chocolate candy bars right from the garden.

With all this chocolate we are always looking for other ways to use it. Recently Kelley dipped some dehydrated mangos and pineapple in dark chocolate. My favorite is the mango, but then again there’s nothing wrong with the pineapple.

Dehydrated pineapples and mangos dipped in dark chocolate.

A friend of ours gave us some avocados off their tree. Besides all the basic things to do with avocados, we were looking for something a little different. So we found a recipe for some chocolate avocado brownies. We have a lot of chocolate and now some avocados, so it seemed like the perfect thing to do with them. They actually turned out really good and moist. You would not know they were made with avocados if no one told you.

Super chocolaty avocado brownie bites.

Dark chocolate has many health benefits, one being that it is full of flavonols which is a huge benefit for your heart. Flavonols are related to the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes your blood vessels and improves blood flow. In turn, this also lowers blood pressure. Due to their antioxidant properties, flavonols are also beneficial in fighting cell damage relating to aging. This along with other healthy benefits, I feel good about having a little dark chocolate treat every day. Of course, this is only for dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao, whereas milk chocolate is usually 10% cacao, dried milk, sugar and other ingredients making it not so good for you.

Dark chocolate ready for the molds.

Last year a bunch of our coffee plants lost all their leaves and seemed to have died out. I trimmed them back and left them there to see what they would do, and now they are coming back. I believe it was our Robusta plants that died back, but whatever affected them, didn’t affect our Arabica plants that are doing great.

Coffee

The dragon fruit is doing really well this year. I’ve been looking up how to get the plants to produce more fruit. I don’t know if what I’m doing is working or not, but we have a lot of buds this year. Hopefully, they will get pollinated and we will end up with a bunch of dragon fruit.

The start of some delicious dragon fruit.

The star fruit tree is producing, even though we lost a bunch to the wind and rains. The custard apple tree is starting to set fruit and of course, we still have pineapples, and there are bananas throughout the year. Overall, all the fruit trees are doing well and we usually always have some type of fresh fruit available around here.

Star fruit on the tree.

When we get our pork bellies from the butcher they always come with the ribs attached, that’s just how he sells them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as we love smoked or grilled pork ribs. We make a lot of bacon so that means there’s going to be a lot of ribs. Usually, we will cook up a bunch of ribs and throw them in the freezer for another night. Sometimes when we are getting too many racks we will invite friends over for a BBQ. Either way, if pork ribs are a “by-product” of making bacon, I can definitely live with that!

A couple hours low and slow and then crank up the flame for a little char and the meat just fell off the bone.

Well, off to get about 500 seedlings started so they can go in the ground next month. Always something to keep us busy around here. Have a great day and hope to see you soon!

Lobsterfest and other stuff

It’s already July, and here in Belize, that means lobster season opens and it’s time for Lobsterfest! Belize has three main Lobsterfest celebrations which usually last a long weekend. The oldest one being on the island of Caye Caulker which started in 1994  as a way to celebrate the beginning of the season. The longest celebration, which started in 2007, is in San Pedro which usually goes on for more than a week. And then there is the one in Placencia, which started in 1997, as a way for the town to raise money in the slower summer season. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as they all have their own separate vibe. But, one thing they do have in common is lobster, beer, live music, dancing, local art and the promise of a good time.

Lobsterfest in Placencia.

We have been to a few Lobsterfests in Belize and this year we were headed to Placencia for the festival. Ron and Rhonda were going to be there to check on the construction of their new house, plus some other friends Steve and Denise were down from the States for a first-time visit to Belize.

Ron, Denise, Kelley, Me, Rhonda and Steve hanging out at Toucan Jack’s in Placencia.

The first morning in Placencia, we started off with lobster omelets all smothered with cheese and served with a side of fry jacks. Of course, with it being Lobsterfest, every restaurant had its own special dishes that included lobster. A lot of the restaurants were actually closed for the weekend so that they could set up a makeshift kitchen over at Lobsterfest.

Lobster omelet with fry jacks. Not a bad way to start the day!

Once we worked our way over to Lobsterfest there were all kinds of food booths set up cooking lobster, just about any way you could imagine. Of course, everyone had whole lobsters on the grill, but there were also jerked lobster, lobster egg rolls, lobster kabobs, lobster fritters, ceviche and so much more. The one thing we noticed was the size of the lobsters this year, some of them were huge!

Lobsters on the grill along with some Jamaican limes to squeeze on top.

Besides all the food there were also all kinds of artists there showcasing their work. There were vendors with paintings, wood carvings, jewelry, etc., something for everyone. One of the wood carvers even had a giant carved wooded bottle of Belikin beer, but when I asked him how much, he didn’t want to give me a price.

This should last me all weekend.

Of course, there were beer tents everywhere and lots of music. One of our favorites was the group playing the steel drums. It’s amazing how effortless they make it look even when they are playing one with each hand. Our least favorite was probably the loud, live music and DJ’s till 5:00 am, but that’s probably just because we are not as young as we use to be.

Steel drums, lobster and cold beer on the Caribbean shore, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Below is the special lobster menu from one of our favorite beachfront bars. They really know how to showcase the lobster. If you are planning on visiting Belize and are hoping to eat or even catch your own lobster, remember that the season runs from July to the end of February. Otherwise…No Lobster For You!

All prices on the menu are in Belizean dollars, so it would be half that in US dollars.

After Lobsterfest, Steve & Denise still had some more beach time in Placencia before they headed up to our place for a few days. Unfortunately, when they got here we had a couple days of rain, so that stopped them from seeing some of the natural beauty around here such as caves, waterfalls, Mayan ruins, and other things. Still, that didn’t stop us from having a good time, we took them to a few of our favorite restaurants and bars to hang out and to meet some of our friends. We invited a few friends over for a BBQ and even ordered in pizza one night. That’s right, I said ordered pizza.

Enjoying a bucket of Belikin at one of our favorite restaurants.

There is a guy close to us that is a pizza chef at one of the restaurants in town. He recently built his own pizza oven at his house and is delivering pizzas on Sundays. Whoever thought we could be sitting in the jungle and have wood-fired pizza delivered to us? It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t have water, electricity, internet, or even a decent road to our place, and now we can get pizza delivered with just one call. I can’t wait for football season to start up and be sitting in the garage on a Sunday, watching the game with a cold beer and then ordering up a pizza.

A wood-fired meat lovers and a Hawaiian pizza delivered right to our door.

Now that we got the critters to stop eating the pineapples, they are ripening quickly. They are all nice big and juicy pineapples, but the ones that are growing more in the shade close to the house are a lot smaller. I’m calling these personal pineapples, you could almost just peel it and eat it as you would an apple. Or you could core it out and make mini virgin pina colada for the kids. Either way, it sure is a cute little pineapple.

Even though it was small, it was still very sweet and juicy.

We had more apple bananas ready recently. We ate what we could, dehydrated a bunch, and made some more nice cream. This time we added chocolate and some caramel to the banana nice cream. Down here it’s hard to find caramel syrup or little squares etc. For the most part, it comes in a can. The cans just have a white label on them that says caramel, and that’s it. I guess when you boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for a couple of hours it turns into caramel, who knew? I was really surprised when we opened that plain white label can and it was full of great caramel. I assume there’s someone here that is turning sweetened condensed milk into caramel, re-labeling it, and getting it into the stores.

12 frozen bananas, a little milk, chocolate and caramel. This is delicious!

If you have been looking at our Facebook page for Wicked Toucan you know we have been making and selling all kinds of meats. Our breakfast sausage is a big hit down here, and we have always offered it in patties. Well, recently we decided that we should also offer it in links, so now there is an option, patties or links.

We now offer breakfast links.

Back when we first started setting up areas around the yard, we arranged some downed tree logs to form a small area where we could plant flower or herb seeds. Well, the wood finally rotted away, so we decided to make it a little more attractive than just some logs that would eventually rot. It’s just some cinder blocks we painted and some fence poles, nothing too elaborate.  But, once we get some colorful wildflowers growing in there it should look pretty good.

The new flower bed in the middle of the yard.

I’ve mentioned before that we have a lot of different types of orchids around here. We have a few Catasetum Integerrimum Orchids, which are some of the larger ones that will bloom once or twice a year. When they do bloom they attract the Belted Orchid Bee, which is about an inch long, yellow and jet black. The only time we see these bees is when this orchid blooms. From what I could find out, the male bees are attracted to certain orchids not to gather nectar, which these orchids don’t possess, but rather to collect fragrant compounds which are then used to attract the female bees. The male and female bees will visit other flowers to obtain the nectar that they need, but we’ve only ever seen them on this one orchid.

These big bees create quite the buzz when there are a dozen or more on the plants.

The peppers and tomatoes are all done down on our other lot, and the corn is just about ready for harvest. In the next day or so the soil will be tilled up again and ready to plant. Ruben has thousands of seedlings that are already a few inches tall and ready to go in the ground. I’m not sure what all he has planted, but I do know he is planting more green chilis. Whatever it is, we will have more fresh veggies in a few months.

Sweet corn was planted just over two months ago.

That’s about what’s happening down here this July. Hope everyone is having a great summer and maybe we’ll see you soon.

 

I got a tune up!

We were just up in the states this past March to see about getting my cataract fixed and get a lipoma about 3″ long removed from my neck. After a lot of Dr. visits and testing they said it couldn’t be done that trip. So we scheduled some surgery appointments for June. I went in on a Wednesday for the neck surgery and then Thursday morning for the cataract fix. Everything went very smoothly and I can now see like I haven’t seen in years, plus I don’t have a big lump in my neck anymore.

Having toast and eggs with Alli.

Of course while in the States we got to spend a lot of time with the grandkids since they were on summer break. There were games of poker, Yahtzee, and a bunch of Lego time with the grandkids. For the most part though, they just played together and entertained each other. They have a lot of electric cars and bikes to ride around the yard, so they were constantly on the go. On the weekends with the temps hovering around 100º there was also some good refreshing pool time.

Tyler going for the big cannonball.

The last time we were in the States I helped my son get his ’62 convertible Nova running. This trip it was time to get the ’65 Lincoln fired up. He had dropped a built Ford 460 SVO motor in it a while back that he pulled out of a truck he had. The motor hadn’t been fired up in a long time, but after tinkering with it for a day, that big block roared to life. I think he now has a major motivation to get that Hot Rod Lincoln back on the road, and I can’t wait to go for a ride with him.

I can’t wait to see it done and on the road.

While we were up in the States one of our favorite stand-up comedians (Brad Williams) was doing a few shows at a local comedy club. If you are not familiar with him, you need to check him out, he’s hysterical. Brad Williams is a little on the shorter side, so he talks about and makes fun of things that have happened to him in his daily life. He has a couple specials out on DVD, Netflix, or whatever, called “Fun Size” and “Daddy Issues”. I guarantee you will not stop laughing.

Favorite stand-up comedian, Brad Williams.

A few days after we got back home the rains started, which meant it was time for the annual invasion of the flood flies. Flood flies are termites that leave the nest looking for a new place to set up shop.

Termite nest on a tree branch.

When the first rains come after the dry season we will see a few of them flying around in the evening. Once we get a good rain is when they come out thick. I mean shut the doors, close the windows, and turn out the lights. It’s usually only for one night and only lasts for a few hours, but they shed their wings and leave a mess for weeks to come. Luckily everything we have built has been with hardwood and the termites seem to leave us alone.

Termite wings. We will keep finding them for months.

A few years ago we bought some coffee plants to see how they would grow in the shade. Well, when they bloomed it turned out that they were not coffee, but Jasmine. They are still nice green plants with white flowers and sometimes a great scent. All these tropical plants were new to us when we moved here, so we just had to trust the guy at the nursery and sometimes he got them wrong.

White jasmine.

A while back I ordered up a bunch of Hatch Chili seeds from New Mexico. Ruben got some planted down on our other lot and they did quite well. They didn’t get as big as I was hoping, but there were a lot of them and the flavor was there. The picture below is just the first picking, we still had a couple more to go.

We ended up picking about 5 five-gallon buckets of these beautiful green chilis.

We have been roasting the chilis to freeze and Kelley has been canning some in jars, plus we are also dehydrating the smaller ones to make a green chili salt mixture.

Not technically Hatch chilis, but the seeds were and that’s close enough for us.

A lot of the chilis were starting to turn red, so we separated them and let them continue to ripen. Once ripened we dried them and now Kelley can rehydrate them to use in chili, enchilada sauce, pozole, birria, and a bunch of other delicious dishes. The reason they were all picked at once was that the plants were starting to die out. Plus Ruben was ready to get another crop in, but come this fall he will replant the chilis again.

Red chilis drying on the front porch.

There are a lot of wild orchids around here, and when we find one we usually try to relocate it closer to the house. Recently there was a wild one growing on a tree just off the back patio. There was nothing special about it, just two small leaves about 4″ long. It finally got a small shoot and produced two flowers. The flowers were only about a 1/2″ in height, but they were amazing. If you look closely you can see all kinds of images. I see a fairy with a yellow face, two big eyes, nose, mouth, and a purple hairdo. I also see a black cat with eyes and two paws just under the purple. Kelley says she sees a devil and an Oriental person. Can you see any of these, or let us know what you can see?

A very beautiful tiny orchid flower.

Since I’m talking about plants, the electric fence seems to be working well. We haven’t had any critters eating the pineapples in a few weeks now and we are actually starting to harvest some. In case you were wondering which one of us would be zapped by the fence first, it was Kelley. She was straddling the wire picking a pineapple and the machete in her other hand touched the wire.

There has been a Jaguar spotted in the hood about a half mile from us. It’s believed that it took one of the neighbor’s small sheep. The authorities have set up cameras to try and get some pictures, and if that pans out then they will try to trap it for relocation. There have also been vampire bats around seen biting the neighbor’s chickens. Just some of the excitement of living in the jungle.

I Vaant to suck your blood!

In reality, the chance of us seeing a jaguar in the wild is slim to none. Although that would be a bucket list item if we ever got to see one. And as for the vampire bats, they usually only land on animals, unless you choose to lay on the ground and play dead. If for some reason I start drinking Bloody Mary’s, sleeping all day, and only active at night, I’m sure Kelley will let you know.

Hope to see you soon.

 

 

 

Wow! Five years already.

This June it’s been five years since we hopped that plane and headed off for our new adventures in Belize. The casita was just finished, and we now had a small place in the jungle to call home.  The main house was just getting started and would not be finished and ready to move into until the first of the year. I’ve got to admit, it was a little challenging living in such a small place with all the rain and construction workers here every day, but it was all part of our new adventure.

This was our home for a good six months.

When we started there was no road into the property, no water, no electricity, and no internet, but here it is five years later and we are doing well. I know some of you had your doubts about how long we would last down here, but we’re still here learning and experiencing new things almost daily and that’s what it’s all about.

Now this is the guest house.

It’s mango season! You don’t realize how much you really love mangos until they’re not available. If you can find any out of season, they are very expensive. Mango season in Belize usually runs from about May to September. We are lucky enough to have friends who have big mango trees on their property with excess mangos. Amanda brought over a bag of about 50 mangos from a friend of ours the other day, and they said there’s more when we are ready for them. Besides eating them fresh, we are also dehydrating them and cleaning some to freeze. That way when there are no mangos available, Kelley can pull some from the freezer and make a mango cobbler or something else delicious.

Delicious mangos!

We actually have a bunch of mango trees that we planted around here, but they have yet to produce. I know someday, we will be the ones giving away mangos to all our friends, but in the meantime, we will gladly take whatever our friends are sharing.

This mango tree was about 2′ tall when we planted it.

Finally found some time to cure another ham. We told our butcher that we wanted a 15 lb. or so pork shoulder. We didn’t look at it, just put it in the freezer until it was time to cure. Turns out it wasn’t the piece of meat I was expecting, but it still turned out great. We brined it for about a week, then smoked it with some apple wood and it turned out very moist and flavorful. Kelley thought it was probably one of the best ones we’ve done so far. So, we decided to share it and have a few friends over one afternoon for some cold ham sandwiches and a game of darts.

A lot of fat in the ham, but I think that’s what made it so juicy.

From what we have read, Belize has four types of Trogons. Kelley has gotten pictures of three of them right from our front porch. We have seen so many different birds around the yard, and that’s only when we are out and about. I can’t imagine how many we’ve missed by not being outside actually looking for them. This area where we live really is a birder’s paradise.

Black-headed Trogon.
Gartered Trogon.
Slaty-tailed Trogon.

We love seeing the coatimundis around here, but they are really starting to get on our nerves. Almost daily they have been taking a pineapple off our plants and eating it. We know we need to share the fruits with the animals, but at this point, they are taking more than their fair share.

Very frustrating!

So far here’s what I’ve done to try to detour them. I built wire cages for the pineapples, but they were just pulling the cages over and taking the pineapples. Then I looked up how to keep critters away from your garden, and spraying vinegar around was supposed to work because critters don’t like the smell. That didn’t work, so someone suggested placing mothballs around the plants and that might help keep them away because of the smell. Nope, still not working. So now we have resorted to putting up an electric fence to see if that will stop them.

Now we just wait to see who will get zapped first, Kelley or me.

We really love seeing the coatimundis and other critters around the yard. But when it takes a year or so to grow a single pineapple and they are taking them almost daily, it gets a little frustrating. I know it probably would have been cheaper to just go buy a bunch of pineapples instead of an electric fence, but that’s not the point.

I’m coming for your pineapples!

Some friends from Cholla (where we used to live in Mexico) showed up the other day. Ron and Teresa and a few of their friends were down here for a first-time visit to Belize. The first week of their trip they hopped a catamaran in Placencia and cruised around doing a little island hopping. After that, they headed to our neck of the woods to check out the jungle. While up here they had a chance to explore Mayan ruins, waterfalls, caves, and much more. After a few days in the jungle, it was off to San Pedro for some more beach time. It looked like they were having a great time all around the country and hopefully, they will all be back again sometime.

Chill’n on the back porch with some friends.

The dry season usually ends in May and this year is no exception. For the past couple of weeks, we have been getting some rain every few days or so. Not a ton of rain, but just enough that you can see all the plants have a lot of new growth on them. There are tons of new leaves on all our fruit trees and the grass around the yard is filling in nicely.

The grass around the yard is starting to fill in.

Yes, we are now in the rainy season, but don’t let that stop you from thinking about coming down. There are plenty of beautiful sunny days during this season. The rain will usually just last for a little while unless there is a big storm present. Besides, this is the time of year when everything is at its greenest. Hope to see you down here soon.

 

 

Vacations are over…for now.

After a bunch of little mini vacations over to the beach this year and a trip to the States it was time to buckle down and get some stuff done around here.

We finally found time to get the railing painted on the main house. This was supposed to happen a few months ago right after we painted the railing on the casita, but things came up. Because of the intricate design of the railing, it was almost impossible to sand it all down and varnish it again, so we opted to just paint it. After a good pressure washing and a bunch of scraping it was ready for a coat of paint. We are hoping that the paint will hold up, plus it adds a little splash of color around here. Next up is to sand the porch down and get another coat of clear on it.

The Toucan Hideaway gets a splash of color.

A couple of the trees we cut down a few weeks ago were hardwood. It was time to get them cut to size so they will fit on our log splitter. Once they dry and we get them split they will be perfect for the pizza oven and the smoke house. Not sure what type of wood they are, as our friends only knew the Mayan name for them. Either way, Ruben and the guy who cut them down said that they were very good for cooking.

A lot easier to haul with the tractor than a wheelbarrow.

We had given the meat making a break for the past couple of months, but now we are back at it. We have been making bacon, summer sausage, bratwurst sausage, Italian sausage, and breakfast sausage, usually at least 20lb batches at a time. As soon as we get the word out of what we have, it’s usually gone in a few days. So besides everything else around here, this is keeping us pretty busy.

Pork bellies getting ready to become bacon.

It was time to get back to making chocolate again. At this point, we have around 25 lbs of dried cacao that needs to be roasted. We are making 4 lbs of dark chocolate at a time and have been flavoring it with mint, orange, or raspberry. We even tried some with our habanero salt sprinkled on top, which was actually pretty good. So far we are just eating it and letting friends sample some, but the way the plants are producing this might become another Wicked Toucan offering.

Homemade dark chocolate from the garden.

Yes, we are still getting plenty of our little sweet apple bananas. We have enough banana bread made in the freezer and still eat them for breakfast almost daily. So I thought I’d make some banana nice cream. I found a recipe where you just slice and freeze the bananas and then put them in a food processor and it is supposed to taste like soft-serve ice cream. I was skeptical at first because I’m an ice cream lover. It needed a little milk in the food processor to help get it going and then I added some of our homemade raspberry chocolate. It turned out better than I expected, super creamy and it really taste like ice cream. Even after some time in the freezer, it tasted like hard ice cream. And the best part is that it’s really healthy.

If you are looking for something healthy, this is worth making.

The other day a lone Coatimundi (commonly called “Quash” in Belize) was wandering through the yard. He didn’t seem to mind that we were on the porch talking and taking pictures of him. It’s possible that he was a male out looking for a female as this is the beginning of their mating season which coincides with the start of the rainy season.

Coatimundi in the front yard.

We watched him wander around the yard for a while sniffing everything he could. Then we saw what we had suspected all along, he was the one eating our pineapples. Usually, the critters will wait until the pineapples are about ripe to dig into them, but recently they have been taking bites out of small immature ones.

I know it’s not ripe, but I’m still gonna take a bit out of it.

I have recently made about 75 chicken wire cages to fit over the pineapples to hopefully detour them from just taking a bite out of them. I know we will lose some of the pineapples to the animals once they ripen, but they’re at least a good month away from that point.

Hopefully, this will keep some of the critters out.

The pineapple cage update. A week after I put the cages on the pineapples here comes a coatimundi strolling through the yard again. He goes up to a pineapple with a cage on it and just pulls the cage and breaks the pineapple right off the plant. It’s like he was going to carry it home all packaged up in a wire basket. So now I’m trying a vinegar spray around the plants to see if that detours them. I sure hope so, because we really love pineapples and it would be nice if we got a few for ourselves.

If I present this to my new mate she will be so impressed.

Of the 450 or so species of birds in Belize, we have seen a lot of them. Yet every so often there will be one in the yard that we have never seen before, and if we’re lucky Kelley will get a picture of it. This time it was a Red Legged Honey Creeper and it’s mate. It’s not too often you can get a picture of a bird and its mate together. The Honey Creeper is a fairly small bird, the male is bright blue and black with red legs and the female is more of a green and white with a little blue in her bill. There are still hundreds of birds in Belize that we haven’t seen yet, so every time we see one we haven’t seen before it’s pretty exciting.

Red Legged Honey Creeper and its mate getting a drink from the bird bath.

There have been a lot of Toucans around the yard lately. One day there were seven Keel-Billed Toucans in the tree above the casita. The next day there were two Keel-Billed Toucans and seven Aracari Toucans in that same tree all at the same time. Kelley got a picture of them all together, but they are too small to really see in the big picture. Here is a single close-up of one of the Aracari Toucans.

An Aracari Toucan just off the front porch.

Ruben’s got our other piece of property looking like a real farm. He’s down there every day, pulling weeds, adjusting the irrigation, setting up trellises for the tomatoes, and making sure everything is good for the best harvest possible. Currently, there is cilantro, bush beans, Roma tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, cabbage, habaneros, and green chilis. And of course over 40 fruit trees that we put in last year.

There are bananas and papayas in the foreground.

Recently one of the furniture stores we buy from advertised that they had some Adirondack chairs for sale. So we went and checked them out and they were very well constructed, comfortable, all made from hardwoods and they were only $50usd each. We grabbed a couple of them and brought them home. They were fine with their natural finish, but we decided that we would paint them to add a little more color around here. These are great for just sitting around relaxing with a cold drink in hand, (if we ever find time to do that).

Looks like a great place to sit with a cold one and watch the animals.

Well, that’s the haps around here the past couple of weeks. Come on down for a visit, that might actually give us a chance to relax and use these chairs.

 

Finally got out fishing

It was back to the beach once again. This was our fourth trip to the coast this year, but when it’s only a couple hour drive, why not? This was a trip that we had planned a few months ago for our 39th wedding anniversary. This time it was off to Placencia where we met up with Ron who was down for a few days checking on the construction of their new home.

The very end of the Placencia peninsula.

One of the days we decided that it should be a pool day, so we thought we’d go over to The Other Side, a place we’d never been to before. The Other Side is on a lagoon island, and the only way to get there is by boat. They have a small resort and a pool with a swim-up bar. To get there all you have to do is stand on the dock across the way, give a wave to the bar and they send a boat over for you. Pretty cool!

The boat that will take you to The Other Side.

It’s a great place to soak up some sun and have a few cold drinks while watching boats go by. When you are ready to leave, just pay your tab and the boat will take you back across the water. They don’t have to worry too much about anyone skipping out on their tab, as the little island is surrounded by water. Plus, there’s also a sign there that might discourage anyone thinking about swimming across.

I know this sign is up there for a reason.

After a bunch of trips over to the coast, the weather finally cooperated with us, and we were able to get out and do a little fishing. A friend of ours in Placencia told us about her husband who is a fishing guide, so we decided to give him a try. We opted for just a half-day fishing since the weather was pretty warm. We left by 8:30, drove about 22 miles out to an island where the captain gathered a bunch of live bait. After that, it was another few miles out to the fishing spot. As soon as our bait hit the water we had a bite or a fish on. After couple hours we were out of bait and had caught more fish than we needed.  It was definitely one of those great fishing days, and we were back to the dock in time for lunch.

A nice Jack.

The hundred-quart ice chest on the boat was just about full of the fish we decided to keep. We caught barracuda, mackerel, snapper, and jacks. We decided to just keep a snapper and a jack because that was more than we needed to have a couple of good fish frys once we got home. Our captain definitely knew where the fish were and what he was doing. Next time we are in Placencia and the weather is good, we will be booking another trip with Darrel.

A big snapper.

A few days after we got back from Placencia, Darren flew in for a week’s visit. This was a perfect time to invite a few friends over for a fish fry with some of that fish we just caught. We cooked up some of the Jack and also some conch. Everyone brought a side and it was all very delicious. Plus there is still enough fish in the freezer for a couple more fish fry’s.

Fried fish and conch done in the disco.

Of course, the day we decided to cook the fish was one of the hottest days of the year (104º), but there was also a storm moving in later that night. The storm arrived just as we were eating, with wind, rain, and the power going off and on. Luckily the power would only go out for a short burst, as when it did, it got really dark in the jungle. Some places around us even reported good size hail falling, which is very unusual for Belize.

Fresh bananas from the garden.

Bananas are still doing good around here. About every other week for the past month or so we have been picking a bunch. We give some away, eat what we can and of course, Kelley is making banana-raspberry bread. At this point, the plants still have more bunches at different stages. It looks like we will have a steady supply of bananas for the next few months.

Passionflowers are amazing.

This seems to be the time of year when the wild Passionflowers are blooming around here. If you can catch the flowers when they open, they are probably one of the most beautiful ones you’ll ever see. Not all Passionflower vines produce fruit, but some of the ones we have around here will. We have tried the fruit in the past and decided that it’s better to just leave them for the animals to have. Of course, like most of the plants around here, there are many health benefits associated with the passion fruit.

Our first two vanilla beans.

On our first bunch of flowers on the vanilla vines, it looks like only two took. Not for lack of effort, Kelley was out there every morning as the flowers would open, pollinating them by hand. Even though there are only two vanilla beans at this point, they are our first and that is exciting to us. Hopefully, next time they bloom maybe some of the other vines will decide they should too.

I can cut trees down, but there is no way I can climb to the top of a tree with a chainsaw.

It’s been a while since we’ve cleared out any big trees around the house. After we originally cleared, all the trees that were in the background decided it was their turn to start growing big and taking over the yard. So we finally found time and made arrangements for some professional tree trimmers to come take a few down. In just a few hours they had five trees down and all cleaned up.

Can you guess what this picture is? No, it’s not some type of strange looking UFO or a bug on the camera lens. It’s a Toucan in mid-flight with his wings tucked back. Kelley has taken a lot of great pictures of Toucans around here, but this one is just a little different view of these magnificent birds.

“Bedrock” our home in Cholla Bay, Mexico.

On Cinco de Mayo, 5th month, 5th day, 5 years ago we officially moved out of Mexico. Our home in Cholla Bay which we purchased on Cinco de Mayo 24 years prior, was now somebody else’s dream home.

A lot of great times with friends were had under that palapa.

Over the years we owned the home in Mexico, we met a lifetime of friends, and had some of the best times and adventures anyone could ever imagine. We just felt it was time for new adventures in our life, so off to Belize it was. Kelley and I are very grateful to have lived in Mexico and now in Belize, seeing and experiencing things that most people never will.

Cholla Bay, Mexico with Puerto Peñasco in the background.

Speaking about Mexico, it’s amazing what a small world it really is. We met a gal in Placencia who said she was moving to Mexico. We asked where and she said Puerto Peñasco. Then we were talking to another couple in the pool, she said her stepdad lived in Cholla Bay and used to buy fishing tackle from me. Then, the guy who owns Big Titty Rum said that back in the day he spent his summers as a teenager running around Cholla Bay. It really is a small world once you get out and start talking to people.

Well, we’ve got about another month of hot, humid weather down here before it cools off again and we get some rains. In the meantime, lots of water on our plants and keeping ourselves well hydrated is the main goal. Come June the weather should be great through the end of the year, hope to see you down here.

 

 

A trip up to the states

It was time for a visit stateside to see about getting a cataract fixed in one of my eyes. After a few doctor visits and consultations, a surgery date was all set, but not for a few more months. It looks like it will be another visit up north come summertime and hopefully, I’ll be able to see a whole lot better when it’s all said and done.

Alli and Ty feeding ducks in their backyard.

It was great to see friends and family and especially the grandkids and how big they are getting. They are so full of energy, constantly running around or flying around the yard on some wheeled device. While we were there they got irrigation in their yard, which left them with a pond for about a week. This meant that every day the ducks would fly in and swim around in the water. After school the kids would go out and toss bread or popcorn to them, practically getting them to eat out of their hands. It was their own private duck pond right in their backyard.

Fitting the new brake shoes on the Nova.

While we were there I had a great time helping my son work on his 62 Nova convertible. The car hadn’t been on the road in over 20 years, but after getting it running, a complete brake job, and a new fuel tank, it was able to take a few laps around the block. The only drawback to helping him with the car was that I tweaked my back and my sciatic kicked in. Usually, when this happens it clears up in a few days, but this time it held on for over a week. So much that it postponed our trip back home for an extra week.

The Nova hits the road for the first time in a while.

One of the days there was a small “coffee and cars” gathering going on not far from the kid’s house. In case you don’t know what a coffee and cars gathering is, it’s where a bunch of locals gets together in a parking lot at a local coffee shop for a few hours and show off their cars.

Now that’s a Camaro! It almost looks like a full-size Hot Wheel.

There were some nice old-school hot rods there as well as some very nice older semi-stock vehicles. That is one thing that I really miss living in Belize, seeing classic cars and hotrods almost daily.

A couple of sweet rides.

When we got back from the states my back and leg were still not 100% from my sciatica.  So, after checking the house and yard for a couple days we decided that sitting on a beach and soaking up some vitamin sea would be good for it. Being Easter weekend and short notice, all the rooms in Hopkins and Placencia were booked. San Pedro on the other hand had a lot more options. We had no problem finding a room and booking a flight over to the island. So before we knew it, we were sitting at our favorite beach bar drinking a cold one and enjoying the cool Caribbean breeze.

The perfect cure for just about anything.

We found a great room at The Isla Bonita Yacht Club overlooking the pool and the Caribbean. We had nothing planned, just chill’n out and enjoying ourselves. It was just what we needed to recharge ourselves for a few days. And it worked like a charm, we were both feeling good and ready to get back to it once we got home.

A great view from our balcony at The Isla Bonita Yacht Club.

Now back to the jungle

After being away from here it’s always great to get home and see how much all the plants have grown. Thanks to Amanda for keeping the garden watered while we were gone. The first batch of green beans was ready to pick and we got enough for a couple meals. We also picked another big bucket of cacao pods, some custard apples and cut down another bunch of bananas.

Green beans fresh from the garden.

Our pineapples are going nuts this year. There are at least 65 pineapples on plants currently, with more popping out weekly. At this point, only about 1/4 of the plants have fruit on them. Once they ripen, we will be enjoying fresh pineapples daily and giving some to friends. For the majority of the pineapples, we will be dehydrating them so we can enjoy them throughout the year.

Another month or two and we will have more pineapples than we know what to do with.

For the first time, it looks like one of our vanilla vines is flowering. Vanilla in its natural environment is pollinated by a small stingless bee. Due to the particular anatomy of the flowers, pollination rates in the wild are low. In cultivation, vanilla must be pollinated by hand, in the early morning, while the new flowers are still fresh. Kelley looked up a few videos on how to pollinate a vanilla flower, so every morning as a new flower opens, she is out there hand pollinating it. Now we just need to wait and see what happens.

Hopefully, we will get some vanilla beans from these flowers.

Since the weather is warming up that means a lot of the plants are starting to flower. My favorite tropical plant is the heliconia or lobster claw. We have a lot of these between the house and the casita that are just starting to bloom.

When they are fully bloomed there should be around 20 “claws” per flower.

Another plant that is flowering is the Torch Ginger. We have a bunch of these around the yard, as they are easy to propagate. We’ve got red ones and also some pink ones. These make great cut flowers as they will usually last a couple of weeks in a vase.

Our pinkish/orange Amaryllis (a type of lily) in front of the casita is also blooming. Every year around Easter they start to bloom. This year there are a lot more flowers than there have been in the past.

It’s a shame that these only bloom once a year.

This is the time of year when the Cassia Grandis trees locally known as the Belize Bukut, all turn a brilliant color of pink. These are big trees that get a long thin fruit that has a somewhat unattractive smell. When Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods tried the fruit, here was his description. Bukut, also known as the stinky toe fruit is fantastic stuff. It taste like anchovies and fish sauce mixed with molasses and was kind of delicious. That really doesn’t sound too good to me, so at this point, I’m just going to enjoy the beautiful pink trees and pass on tasting any of the fruit.

I’ll bet you have never seen stinky toe fruit in your market.

You never know what you will see around here and the other day it was a cattle drive. Well not a big one, but we still had to pull over to the side of the road. A friend of ours who has a farm and a vegetable stand at the market in town was moving some cattle down to another field. He was in his truck and the cattle were just following him down the road. I suggested to him that he just keep going and bring them down to our place and we would have a big BBQ. He laughed about that, but they never did show up at our place.

I guess a proper cattle drive is when you drive your truck and the cattle follow.

That’s about what’s happening around here for now. Hope to see you down here sometime.

 

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More fun down in Belize

A couple of weeks ago it was quiet around here so we decided to head down to Hopkins for a couple days and chill out in the pool and on the beach. We got there on Tuesday, just in time for the Mardi Gras celebration at Driftwoods Pizza joint. They have great pizza, but that night they were also serving up Gumbo. Of course, there was live music, masks, beads, and a whole lot of partying going on. Since seafood is not all that common up where we are, this was my chance for the next couple of days to get my fill of all that good beach food. Besides the shrimp gumbo, I also had some great jerked conch, coconut shrimp and some fish & chips. It might seem that we are always heading over to the coast, but it’s only a couple hour drive and it’s just good to get away for a little break.

Mardi Gras on the beach in Hopkins.
More Mardi Gras fun!

Ever since we’ve been going to Hopkins we thought it would be great to have a little spot down there where we could escape for the weekends. Hopkins is a very laid-back village with great beaches and good fishing. Plus it has a big navigational river with crocs, manatees, otters and a ton of other wildlife. Well, this last trip the opportunity came up and we took advantage of it and bought a lot there. We are not riverfront, but one off with a view of the river. The lot at this point is currently very dense with palm trees.

No shortage of palm trees on the lot.

There is a well maintained road in front of it with water, electricity and internet available. There is a public boat ramp at the Sittee River Marina about 1,000 feet from the lot. Plus it’s only a 1/2 mile walk to the beautiful sandy beaches. From the launch ramp, it’s only a 5-10 minute boat ride out to the open Caribbean waters. At this point, it’s just an investment, but I could also see us down there with a boat fishing for snook, jacks, tarpon and spending the day just cruising around the Caribbean. For now though, we will just sit on this and see where life takes us.

 Hopkins and the Sittee River.

We used to be about the only ones down our road, but people are now starting to build. This past weekend there were six of the eight lot owners down here all at the same time. Which meant it was a great chance to have a little block party for everyone to meet their neighbors. Craig & Monica were down along with Craig’s parents (their place is complete). Dan from the top of the road (house complete). Amanda whose house is under construction. Chuck & Roxane who are building just past us, and Kelley & I who are always here. About the only one missing was Darren. We also invited John & Penny, they are not technically on our road, but close enough. Out of everyone, Kelley, myself, and Amanda are the only full-time residents, so it is still usually very quiet around here.

Some great neighbors.

For the block party, everyone brought something and we grilled up some of our homemade bratwursts. Simmered them in a beer bath with onions and peppers and then seared them on the griddle for a little crispness. Of course, we also had some spicy mustard and sauerkraut to go along with the peppers and onions.

Wicked Toucan grilled brats.

The hatchet throwing board is great, but the first time we started throwing I broke one of the wooden handles on the hatchets. So it was off to Amazon to see what they offered in the way of actual throwing hatchets. I found these nice all metal, double sided throwing hatchets that work pretty well, but It turns out that the wood for the target board was still too hard for them to easily stick into. So I had to put a layer of softer pine over the target board for them to actually stick. They go in much better, now all we have to do is get some practice in.

New throwing hatchets.

After all the rains we’ve had, it’s great to see the past few weeks sunny, and temps in the 80°s. Which means all the plants are loving it, especially the fruit trees. Currently, on plants we have six bunches of bananas, forty pineapples, a bunch of custard apples, a lot of cacao and a ton of raspberries.

Looks like breakfast for the next couple of weeks.

Some of the other fruit trees are starting to blossom, such as starfruit, coffee, and peaches. Still nothing on the mangos or citrus, but for the first time our avocado tree is getting some blossoms. Hopefully, we will get some avocados and the citrus and mangos won’t be too far behind. It’s looking like it should be a very fruitful year, haha.

Mesh bags on the lower custard apples so the birds won’t get them.

We are finally getting a few strings of peppercorns on our plants. We assumed that once the peppercorns dried up on the plant then they were ready for harvest as black pepper. I guess that was wrong according to what I’ve read. It states that if you want black or green pepper, then you should pick them when they are green and just starting to ripen. If you want white pepper, then you harvest them when they are red and they’ll turn white as they dry. It’s always interesting to learn about all the different things we are growing down here.

Getting some peppercorns on one of the plants.

Usually, we see one or two toucans at a time when they fly over or land in the trees around the house. The most we’ve ever seen at the same time was four. The other day Kelley spotted one flying over the driveway and then another and then another. By the time they were done flying over she had counted nineteen of them and there were still more calling from the bush where they had come from. It looked like they were heading to some trees out behind our house somewhere. It’s always amazing when we see a toucan fly over, but seeing this many all at once was something else.

Toucan in flight above the yard.

We saw a beautiful rat snake in the yard the other day doing what he does, eating a rat. I was cleaning up the leaves around the casita when I noticed something moving on one of the plants. Then all of a sudden a rat comes running towards me, but the snake didn’t follow. I called for Kelley to get the camera because the snake was still hanging on a plant. He didn’t chase the rat because he was already wrapped around another one.  In a matter of about a minute, he positioned that rat towards his mouth, swallowed it whole and went back into the bush.

Rat snake squeezing the life out of a rat.

I know a lot of people are squeamish around snakes, but rat snakes are good to have around. First of all, they are nonvenomous constrictors and are no threat to humans. Because of their gentle nature and nonaggressiveness, they are very beneficial because they help control the rodent population. They are a rather large snake and can get up to nearly 9′ in length (this one was only about 4′). They are daytime hunters looking for rats, mice, squirrels, birds and are excellent tree climbers. We don’t see too many snakes around here, but when we do we are always very cautious until we can identify what kind it is.

One big gulp and that rat was gone.

This month the weather is great down here, but the next two months will be hot. Once June gets here the temperatures will be nice again for the rest of the year. I know airfares are on the high side right now, but if you watch the sales and book ahead of time you should be able to score some good deals.

Hope to see you down here someday.

 

 

 

Busy the last couple of weeks.

Breakfast this week around here consists of star fruit and raspberries fresh from the garden. Our raspberry plants are just starting to produce and it looks like we’ll need to be picking them a couple times a week for quite a while now. The raspberry plants are very invasive and need to be cut back at least once a week or so. If they weren’t so damn delicious I’d probably just take them all out.

It’s nice having fresh fruit available.

Another fruit that is ripening on our trees is custard apples (Cherimoya). They are not really apples, but a subtropical fruit that has a sweet custard-like texture. Like most fruits and things down here, there are a lot of health benefits to them. We are chilling them, cutting them in half, scooping out a spoonful, then adding a couple of raspberries and it is almost ice cream like. They are a fruit that is rarely seen in the states, but you can order them on Amazon. If you really want to taste this fruit wait until you come to Belize or some other tropical country as they are $55usd a pound on Amazon.

Custard apples

Our cacao plants are doing great and we are picking a bucket full every few weeks. In the past, after we’ve fermented, dried, and roasted the seeds, we were then using a food processor to grind them up to make chocolate. The food processor worked fine but it left the finished chocolate a little gritty. Since we are getting a lot of cacao we decided to invest in a chocolate malanger. It’s a machine with grinding stones that grinds the cacao very fine to produce a silky smooth chocolate. For the first batch, we made four pounds and let the machine run for about twelve hours. It turned out very smooth and delicious. Now that we have all the right equipment and we’re making more, it’s time to experiment by adding some flavors such as mint, raspberry, and coffee.

Rich creamy dark chocolate, fresh from the garden.

A couple of weeks ago we planted about 150 bush beans and they are all growing fast. It was also time to get our lettuce and kale seedlings in the ground. There are more than 100 romaine lettuce plants and a bunch of kale. By the time the bugs and animals eat what they want, there should still be plenty left over for us.

The first section of garden going in.

We got a new batch of habanero salt all made and ready to spice everything up. We still have a few more batches to make, but this should take care of everyone who has been requesting it. I have found that the longer it sits, the hotter it gets. I guess the salt really soaks up the flavor from the habaneros. The last little bit of mine that had been on the counter for quite a while, I had to throw out. Yes, it got too hot for me, and I like stuff about as hot as it gets. In case you are wondering about the different color lids, we have been saving all our spice jars from all the meat we are making and reusing them for the habanero salt.

If you like it spicy this will add that extra kick to meat, veggies, soup, and even popcorn.

I know a lot of people like and even collect air plants to have around their homes. And why not, they are easy to care for and will grow just about anywhere. Down here you will see them growing on trees, powerlines and just about everywhere else. We have a lot of them growing around the property and when we find a good one we will transplant it closer to the house. Sometimes we don’t have to go looking for them they just appear. Like this big example that fell off a tree and was just laying in the road. We pass a lot of them that are on the road, but this is a big one that we thought needed to come home with us.

Sometimes great plants do fall from the sky.

The other day there was a vulture in the palm tree just five feet out Kelley’s office window. We thought that was strange because we have never seen a vulture in a tree so close to the house before. He flew away once we went outside, but we did notice a foul smell around there somewhere. We looked all around on the ground and didn’t see anything anywhere. Then Kelley glanced up in the palm tree and there it was. It was a dead kinkajou hanging in the tree. I managed to get him down from the tree and we didn’t see any cuts or damage to him. So we’re just going to assume that he died from old age. It was sad to think the cute kinkajou that we’d grown accustomed to seeing would not be around anymore. Then later that evening we heard two or maybe more squawking and moving around in the trees. We’re not sure what happened to that one, but it’s good to know there are still a few more in the area.

The vulture was just doing his job of cleaning up.

Our little meat venture has really taken off. Currently, we are selling as much as we can make, and that’s only by word of mouth and to friends. Since December we have made summer sausage, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, hickory smoked pepper bacon, corned beef, brats and beef snack sticks. Over the past few months, we have processed somewhere around 500lbs. of meat.

The garage is starting to look like an appliance store.

Recently we had to buy another freezer to store everything, one is for the finished products and the other is for the meat waiting to be processed. We found these nice freezers that have plastic drawers on each shelf. That way we can keep the products organized and we’ll be able to tell when we are getting low on something. The other nice thing about these freezers is that each shelf has a cooling coil on them to help freeze everything evenly.

We’d never seen freezers like this before with all the drawers.

For the past few months, I’ve been wanting to build an ax-throwing board. Well, we finally rounded up all the pieces needed to put together this rustic medieval looking board. All the posts are sapodilla, leftover from Darren’s house build. Sapodilla is a really hard wood that should last a very long time and I can’t remember what the target board is, but it is something the hatchets will stick into. I don’t know why we need to practice this, probably just for fun. Or I guess on that rare occasion when something is charging you and you happen to have a hatchet handy, a skill like this would be nice to have.

Kelley might just be a natural at this.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Valentines Day! Instead of going out this year, we decided to spend a quiet evening at home. Of course, we will make a nice dinner of grilled steaks, portabella mushrooms, stone crab claws, asparagus and of course a bottle of wine.

Hope everyone is doing well and maybe we’ll see you soon.

 

A Great Start to the New Year

After the past few months, Kelley and I decided that we needed a little break from all the mud and rain, so over to the beach it was to put our feet in the sand. Placencia was our chosen destination this time, one reason being that Ron & Rhonda were going to be there to check on their property. Most of our time there was spent hanging out with friends, eating, walking around, bar hopping, and soaking in some sun. It was just what we needed to recharge ourselves after all the cloudy rainy days we’d been having up in the jungle.

Sitting at De Tatch beach restaurant enjoying an ice cold Belikin.

Here’s a little more about this great little Caribbean beach town. Placencia has a Guinness World Record for the narrowest main street in the world. This street is not a place to drive on, ride bikes or even skate on, but rather to walk. Called The Sidewalk, this main street stretches for more than 1.5 miles and is only 4′ wide. When it was built, the main foundation for the sidewalk was conch shells, over 30,000 of them. Along the sidewalk you will find local artists, gift shops, restaurants, boutique hotels, and of course some of the best beachfront bars in Belize. When you are in Placencia be sure to take a walk down the sidewalk. It’s a great way to stretch your legs, do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat and of course, sit on the Caribbean shore with an ice-cold umbrella drink.

Looking down the Placencia Sidewalk.

It’s funny how depending on what part of the world you are in what people consider weeds and others consider plants you want around your home. For example, around our place we have philodendrons, lantana, ferns, and a bunch of other tropical plants that just grow wild. In other parts of the world, these are considered house plants, yet here we just hack them down with our machetes. The other day at this roadside restaurant in Placencia there was a bleeding heart plant growing in the sidewalk. We asked the guy about it and he told us that it was just a weed and he will eventually pull it out. I guess weeds come in all shapes and colors depending on where you are.

This is considered a weed in Placencia.

We just picked a nice bowl of coffee this week. Currently, we have two types of coffee growing, Arabica and Robusta. Over the past year or so our Robusta plants have got a disease or something and are not doing too well. On the other hand, the Arabica plants are thriving and doing very well. We prefer the Arabica as they are a much larger bean and are easier to process. Plus it’s supposed to be a better coffee than the Robusta. When we process and roast the two types we usually just do them both together for a blend. If our Robusta plants can’t recover then hopefully we can replace them with more Arabica plants. The problem with buying new coffee plants down here is that a lot of the time the nurseries just call them coffee and you’re not sure which variety you are actually getting.

This is a mixture of Arabica and Robusta just as they were picked from the plant.

For the past year or so I’ve been making a habanero-sea salt blend that is extremely spicy. It seems that if you like spicy hot foods then you just can’t get enough of it. A lot of people are asking when I’m going to make more, well the time is now. We just picked up a full bag of big, ripe, red habaneros and we’ll start drying them later this week. Hopefully next time I make it we will be using our own homegrown habaneros, as Ruben is preparing to plant a few hundred plants for us.

Big ripe habaneros.

Usually, once a week we go to town to stock up on supplies for the week and go to the butcher, baker, market, etc. For those times that we don’t want to make the run all the way to town, there is a great little roadside produce stand that opened a year or so ago right near us. The lady’s name is Nila and her stand is called UPE NAI which means, Dream Come True in the Mayan language. Her family has a small organic farm where they raise fruits and vegetables. She usually has fresh eggs and whatever is in season from her farm. The gal that we have gone to for years at the San Ignacio market also has a farm in San Antonio, but she also imports other fruits and veggies such as mushrooms, apples, and other stuff that they don’t grow here. No matter where we get our fruits and veggies from, we know we are getting the freshest available.

UPE NAI produce stand is about a mile hike from our place.

When we are making bacon or corned beef brisket we usually have to buy the whole side with all the ribs attached. The butcher separates them for us, but we are getting a freezer full of big racks of ribs. The pork ribs are great and we have been mixing up the recipes. Besides basic barbeque, we have done some Asian style and some hot wing style. The big racks of beef ribs I’ll put in the smoker, low and slow the same way I’d do a brisket. I’m sure we could cut the price a little and tell the butcher that we don’t want all the ribs that come with the pork bellies and the beef briskets, but then again who doesn’t like ribs?

Smoked beef ribs.

The weekend after Placencia, Ron and Rhonda headed up to our place for a little jungle time and to do a little pricing and shopping around for things they will eventually need for their new home. Sunday was a beautiful day and most of the stores are closed, so we spent the day hopping around to some of our favorite little watering holes and visiting friends.

Kelley, Rhonda and Ron soaking up some sun at a great little riverfront bar up in our area. 

Mike Nash was back again playing at The Bluff as part of his Meeting of the Mayans tour. This year his tour includes Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. It’s a month-long tour that you can sign up for the whole thing or a week at a time depending on where you want to explore. You’ll get to see and explore all the spectacular sites in Central America, plus hang out with Mike at all his shows along the way.

Another incredible show with Mike Nash.

It would definitely be a trip of a lifetime if you could tag along for the whole month-long tour. Especially this time of year when most everyone is freezing their butts off up north. Check it out here @ meetingofthemayans.com maybe next year you could be joining him on his Central American tour. Be sure to check out his blend of Trop Rock and country music @ nashmike.com. And for all our Puerto Peñasco friends, don’t miss him at the S.O.B. Festival (South Of The Border) this May.

Having a good time at The Bluff.

Hope everyone is having a great year so far. See you soon.

 

 

Is It Really 2023?

Well the holidays came and went and here it is 2023. This is like some futuristic year that I couldn’t have imagined as a kid. Anyway all the Christmas stuff is packed away and we are ready to see what this new year has to offer. Not like we had a lot of Christmas stuff to put away, we just couldn’t get into the spirit of the holidays. Kelley did manage to make some cookies and treats that we took around to some of our friends. Plus we had a few lights around the house, but that was about it for our Christmas doings. It might have had something to do with all the rain we’ve been having, but hopefully that is over and we can start this year on a dry note. Well so much for that last statement that I wrote a couple of weeks ago as we are still getting daily rain showers.

Kelley’s Christmas cookies. The chocolate ones are made with cacao from the garden.

One benefit of all these rains is that the mushrooms like it. Recently out by our front gate there was a small tree down and it was full of oyster mushrooms. Kelley brought a section of the tree back into the yard where we could keep an eye on them. At this point there are only two types of mushrooms around here that we will eat, and that’s only because someone told us they are good. Oyster mushrooms which are very good to sauté with a steak and wood ear mushrooms which Kelley puts in hot & sour soup. I know there are a bunch more we could be eating, but until someone actually points them out and tells us they are good we will not be taking any chances.

Oyster mushrooms starting to grow on a log.

One of the projects we got done around here is building more trellises for our dragon fruit. We just expanded the trellises last year, but at the rate their growing we had to do it again. The dragon fruit cactus grows really fast down here, in fact all the cuttings we are planting are from the original couple pieces Ruben brought us a few years ago. Since we are moving the original plants, there was enough cutting leftover to also put down on our other property. Come summer time we should have a decent amount of dragon fruit to eat, even if the animals do eat half of them.

The new section of trellis had to go over the top of the pineapples. By the time the new dragon fruit starts to produce those pineapple plants will be long gone.

Now that the rains are lightening up, we are getting a few sunny days and there are a lot more animals roaming around. We’ve been seeing agouties, possums, kinkajous, coatimundis and a lot of squirrels. The squirrels are a lot of fun to watch as they never slow down. I watched this young squirrel run around and climb a tall tree at least ten times before he jumped off to another tree. Maybe he’s been eating some of the coffee we have growing.

A small squirrel on a palm tree next to the porch looking at the Christmas lights.

There is a possum that climbs down the palm tree just three feet out our window every night as we are watching TV. When we see the plants moving on the tree there he is and we can get a good view from inside the house. Usually the kinkajous around us only seem to come out after the sun sets, but lately we have seen them just before the sun goes down. This one here was out over the guest house the other day and Kelley was able to get a few pictures of him.

Kinkajou eating the berries in the tree above the guest house.

We are also starting to see a wide variety of birds again. A lot of the smaller birds are migratory and we only see them this time of year. Not all of them are big colorful tropical looking birds, but they are still fun little birds to watch running around looking for food.

There have been a few red tanagers around lately.

On the other hand we are seeing more parrots, parakeets, toucans, aracaris, motmots and other bigger colorful birds around the property. The toucans we are hearing and seeing just about every day now. These three pictures of toucans were all taken on different days.

The picture is taken from our front porch.
Here’s one coming at you.
This toucan was eating the nuts in the tree above the guest house.

Almost every late afternoon I’ll have an apple or some other piece of fruit for a snack. When I’m done I’ll throw the apple core or whatever off the porch into the bush. Recently there has been a Motmot waiting for me to throw something. As soon as the piece of fruit hits the ground there he is within seconds to grab it. Even in the morning if Kelley cleans a pineapple and throws the core out, there he is to grab it. I’ve seen him sitting on the porch railing and I can actually get pretty close to him before he flies away. Motmots are such beautiful birds, especially when you can get up close to them.

A Motmot just a few feet off the porch. They really are neon blue.

Our little meat venture seems to be getting bigger and bigger. We are getting orders from people we don’t even know and a lot of our friends have standing orders on certain products as they become available. As the year ended we had sold out of everything we had made. So we decided to take a break for a couple of weeks before we started in on it again. Since we had some time we decided to make something that would be just for us. So the first week of January we made up a bunch of beef snack sticks. We had no plans of selling these, but they turned out really good. So we will get some other people’s opinions and see if this is something they would be interested in. Snack sticks like these are almost impossible to find down here. So if we can get a good price point on these, they might become something else we offer.

The next batch of beef snack sticks will be spicy.

The ground is still very wet and muddy, even though the sun has been peeking out occasionally. The temps are ranging from the mid 60°s at night to the mid 80°s during the day, which is just about perfect in my opinion. Anyway, with those conditions, we have been having some pretty good fog in the mornings. It usually only lasts for a half hour or so before it clears up. It’s still a little eerie looking, especially when you can’t see very far and you hear something moving around in the bush.

At first, I just thought my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. But no, it really was fog.

Darren was just here a few weeks ago and now he’s back again. This time he brought his sister and her husband and a couple of their friends. He got to spend some good quality time in his own home and show it off to his family. He’s getting some paintings on the walls and other personal touches that make it a home. They spent a few days up here seeing the sights before heading out to San Pedro for a little beach time. One night I fired up the pizza oven for a pizza and beer night. As I was stoking the oven with wood the smoke drifted out through the trees where the sun was shining through. It looked pretty cool with the blueish beams of lights shining on the smoke.

Beams of sunlight through the smoke and the trees.

Overall the holidays were pretty quiet and uneventful around here. We did manage to get a few projects done and sneak in a little relaxation. This next year is shaping up to be a pretty exciting year. Some of our fruit trees are finally at that stage where they’re going to produce, our meat business is keeping us really busy, we have friends scheduled and others talking about coming down this year, plus we have already reserved a few weekends over on the coast just for us. We’d love to see you down here this year, so put some time aside and give us a call, and we’ll have the guest house ready for you.

Here’s hoping everyone has a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year!

 

Lots of rain, means everything is growing well

Supposedly December was the start of the dry season in Belize. Someone here didn’t get that notice this year, as it has rained almost every day at our place in December. The past few months have been really wet and muddy around here, plus there was a hurricane thrown in. We’ve been trying to get our road fixed for a few months now, but it’s still too wet. And then to quote cousin Eddy from Christmas Vacation “Shitter’s full”.  So we had to get a septic truck out here to pump it out. He got here first thing in the morning with an empty truck and still only managed to get 3/4 of it before his tank was full. The ground has been so saturated from all the rains, in fact so far this year we have recorded 64″ of rain. I guess that’s all part of living in a green jungle.

Septic pumper truck doing what it does.

Darren was just down for a visit and to check on his house. The construction is done and it was time to furnish it. He got beds, couch, recliner, barstools, microwave, tv and a bunch of other things that will make it more comfortable. It really came together and is looking like a home, and he even spent a couple of nights there. Of course, there are still things to do around there, but it is completely livable. The entire time he was here it rained every day, which made for a muddy mess everywhere. When he comes back in a few weeks with family hopefully the rains will have stopped and everything has dried out a bit.

Lots of rain the past few months.

It’s time for Ruben to plow our other lot and get ready for the new crops. That’s all great, but there were still a lot of good looking basil plants growing there. So before the plows came we went and rescued a few nice basil plants to put in pots around our place. We also picked a huge hefty trash bag full of leaves that we threw in the dehydrator for future use. The new crops going in are bush beans, purple carrots, beefsteak tomatoes, red pear tomatoes, habaneros, and green chilis. And if everything goes well there should be a whole lot of everything in a few months.

We can’t believe these beautiful basil plants were going to be plowed under.

It’s been a few months since we’ve had any bananas on our plants, but now they are starting to produce again. Which is good because now we can quit buying them every week at the market. Also, we just ate our last loaf of banana bread, so now Kelley can start making some more. These are our favorite sweet little apple bananas that we think make the best banana bread.

These apple bananas are only about 4″ long. So it’s no problem eating a few at a time.

We just picked 50 lbs. of cacao pods off our plants. A couple of weeks ago we also picked a bunch that is still in the drying stage. Our trees are getting really big and producing lots of cacao. Hopefully, over the holidays we will have time to process all this and turn it into some good dark chocolate. We still have a bunch of dried from earlier in the year that is vacuumed sealed and ready to be roasted and turned into chocolate. It’s a shame Kelley doesn’t like chocolate, but that’s fine with me because I love it!

Fresh picked cacao pods that will eventually be turned into chocolate.

Recently we roasted a pig on our rotisserie, as it turned out it was too big so we had to remove the head to make it fit. Well, we finally got around to doing something with the head. We brined it for five days in our bacon cure and then smoked it for a few hours with mesquite wood. You would not believe how good it turned out. Kelley diced it up for tacos and it tasted like a bacon/ham combo with just enough fat, plus the crunchy skin made for a nice little crunch. We have cooked many pig heads in the past, but this is probably the best one yet.

It’s not head cheese, it’s head ham!
We are still making a lot of sausage and bacon around here. Currently, we are concentrating on beef summer sausage for the holiday season. The past few months we’ve been making up a lot of bacon and different sausages, and it usually sells out before we make the next batch. So besides everything else around here, this is one more thing that keeps us busy. The only problem is that it’s not leaving much room in my beer fridge to chill down those Belikins.

 

Beef summer sausage, and pork bacon ready for the smoker.

We love our natural wood house and wouldn’t change anything, except for maybe a simpler railing design around the porches. The railing needed to be refinished, but it’s impossible to get in and sand around all those tight angles. So we made the decision to pressure wash and scrape it as good as we could and then paint the porch railings instead. We started with the casita to see what it would look like before we tackled the main house. It does add a little more pop of color around here and it should be a lot easier to maintain in the future.

The newly painted railings around the casita porch.

Recently we ordered in a couple of LED spotlights to point up at the trees above the back patio. It doesn’t make it any brighter out there, it just adds some uplighting. Of course, there is a wide variety of light colors to choose from depending on our mood. Currently, we have it on a green setting which we think looks pretty good.

The uplighting adds a nice effect to the back patio.

Earlier this year we were at a craft fair over on the coast where we found a unique Christmas decoration. It’s a Christmas tree made entirely out of sea glass and even has a heart-shaped piece of coral for the top. It’s hollow up the middle so a string of lights fits up the center. Definitely a one of a kind piece.

Christmas tree made from sea glass.

We’ve been so busy this December that Christmas snuck up on us real quick. We did manage to get a few lights up around the house and some decorations inside, but that’s about it. We just haven’t gotten into the Christmas spirit this year and all of a sudden it’s a week before Christmas. We opted not to put our tree up, have the swinging monkeys hanging garland, or even put lights around the back patio.  We haven’t even heard any Christmas songs or watched any Christmas movies yet. Kelley did manage to get some Christmas cookies made and we will still have our annual eggs benedict on Christmas morning. Every year we cook a prime rib roast for Christmas, but this year we are just doing a store bought ham. With only a week left before Christmas hopefully we can get a little Christmas spirit before it’s gone.

Here’s wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas!

 

Where did November go?

It’s been a busy November so far. The end of October we hopped a plane up to Arizona for a visit and to see our grandkids. We got there just before Halloween, which meant decorating cookies, pumpkin carving, and of course trick or treating.

Grandkids, Luke, Tyler, and Alli with their Halloween cookies they decorated.

This year Luke and Tyler went as Ninjas and Allison was a cute little fairy. At Alli’s first stop she was a little hesitant when they gave her candy. At the second house when they gave her candy she tried to give them the candy she got at the first house. A few houses later when she figured out that all the candy was for her, she was almost running up to the front doors for more treats.

The grandkids, all ready to raid the neighborhood of their candy.

November is the time of year that we go to Arizona for our annual doctor’s checkup. The doctor said we are both good and healthy, but Kelley had something on her cheek that they had to do a biopsy on. Turned out it was squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer that had to be removed immediately. So it was off to the specialist to get it removed.  While we were there I had also scheduled to have a hernia repaired that had already been repaired 15 years ago. We are both in good health, with the exception that I can’t lift anything heavy for a couple of months and Kelley can’t make funny faces for a while.

Thankfully hurricane Lisa remained a category 1

A few days after we left Belize there was a late tropical storm brewing in the Caribbean. It eventually turned into a category 1 hurricane (Lisa) that was headed directly to Belize. There was plenty of damage along the coast, but by the time it got inland to us, it was starting to lose strength. About the only damage I heard of up by us was a lot of downed trees and flooding. Besides losing power and a bunch of branches scattered around our yard, we were very lucky to only have lost a couple banana plants. The lot across from us lost a couple big trees and a few big palms. Darren’s lot next to us had a couple good size trees go down and a big palm that just barely managed to miss his house. It’s great to have friends who will check on and take care of things when we are not there.

Not a problem because they grow back fast. Surprisingly the ones with bunches of bananas didn’t blow over.

Halfway through our trip to Arizona, our friend and neighbor in Belize (Amanda) flew up and joined us. We made a quick 3 day run down to the beaches of Puerto Peñasco, Mexico to show Amanda where we used to live. We gave her a whirlwind tour of the town and all the places we used to hang out. We saw a bunch of friends we haven’t seen in a while, ate a lot of seafood, got a lot of sun and of course drank too many crevesas.

Soaking up the sun down in Mexico.

One of our stops in Mexico was down to the estuary where they raise oysters. Kelley and I have been going there for well over 30 years, but this was Amanda’s first time and it did not disappoint. As we pulled up on the beach, the old man came out of his shack and asked what we wanted. In no time at all, he was pulling a crate of fresh oysters out of the water and shucking them for us. We only had two dozen between us (we easily could have done 2 dozen each) but we had more food stops planned for the day.

Low tide at the oyster farm.

In the short time we spent in Mexico we managed to get our seafood fix in. We had steamed clams, octopus, fried oysters, coconut shrimp, and raw oysters on the beach. We also brought some jumbo blue shrimp and scallops back to Arizona where we had a big seafood feast at the kid’s house. All in all, it was a short trip down to Mexico, but it gave Amanda a chance to see where we use to call home.

California yellowtail sashimi, grilled scallops in bacon fat, snow crab, jumbo blue shrimp, scallop sashimi, and of course some sourdough bread with an olive oil, garlic, and parmesan dipping sauce.

Now back to Belize

Since the holidays are right around the corner, it was time for us to make our beef summer sausage again. We have been making it for a few years, but last year was the first time we offered it for sale, and everybody loved it. So far we have orders for at least 30 and we haven’t even passed the word to everyone yet. So it looks like the next couple of weeks we will be concentrating on making summer sausage in time for all the holiday gatherings. We also picked up another 50 lbs. of cubed pork to make more Italian and breakfast sausage.

Summer sausage with cheese and crackers makes great Hors d’oeuvre for your holiday gatherings.

Before we left for the states we were talking to our neighbors and the subject of clam chowder came up. We had recently ordered in a case of canned clams from Amazon because we’ve been craving clam linguini and clam chowder. Canned clams are almost impossible to find down here and if you do they are expensive. We said that when we got back from the states I would make up a batch of clam chowder and invite them over. So sourdough bread bowls were ordered from the bakery, the chowder was made and Kelley made some deep-fried lobster raviolis. Throw in some wine, cold beer, and good friends, what more could you ask for?

Neighbors Penny, John and Kelley, and I with clam chowder in sourdough rounds, along with some deep-fried lobster ravioli. Amanda was also there, but someone had to take the picture.

After being gone for a while it was time to check the old trail camera to see what interesting critters have been around. There were coatimundis, tayras (bush dogs), agouties, foxes, possums, squirrels, and a bunch of different birds. It’s good to see there are still a bunch of animals roaming around here and hopefully one day we will get a picture of a jaguar or tapir on the camera.

A beautiful healthy looking fox.

Belize has a very diverse landscape for being such a small country. There are hundreds of islands off the coast and beautiful beaches along its Caribbean shoreline. There are also wetlands, mountains, and tropical jungles. One surprise that some people don’t know about is the pine forest. We live on the edge of Mountain Pine Ridge and just a short drive from us the jungle disappears and gives way to streams and pine trees. It reminds us of Northern Arizona, with the pine trees, red dirt, and even deer. Sometimes it’s a little hard to believe that you are in Belize when there are pine cones scattered all over the ground.

Twenty minutes from us and you are up in the pines.

While driving around the other day we saw a yard full of white goats  with a sign that read “NO TRESPASSING GUARD DOGS ON DUTY.” We just found humor in that.

In Belize, there is a special breed of dogs.

It was a great trip to Arizona and down to Mexico where we got to see a lot of friends we haven’t seen in a while. Now it’s time to get a new garden in, make up a bunch more sausage, and take care of all the things that have been neglected around here for the past month. Even though we had no real damage from the hurricane, there is still a lot of cleaning up and trimming to do around the property.

This Thursday we’ll be making up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the fix’n’s. We’ll invite a few friends over, eat too much, watch some football and talk about how we can’t believe it’s already the Christmas season. Here’s wishing everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Working around the yard

There was a lot of cleanup around here after the recent big rains. Lots of debris everywhere and plants down or washed away. Most of the 200 or so pineapples we have along the driveway were washed over and laying flat on the ground. Kelley managed to get them all back upright and it looks like they should do well.

The pineapple plants are back up and looking good.

The rains also washed away a lot of the logs we had as borders around the house and garden. It’s a good thing we have a lot of trees around here, just pick one out and cut it to size. One doormat washed away, but Kelley found it 50′ out in the bush. As for the solar pathway lights, they’re probably lighting up some animal’s den right about now. Anyway, the new borders are up around the casita and yard, plants are back in shape and new solar lights are on the way. Everything is looking good again, and all that rain really gave the plants a major growth spurt.

New log borders around the casita and the plants are back where they belong.

Ruben finally got a small section of our other property chopped down, so it was time for us to cut a road in and decide where we wanted trees. Lots of rocks and stumps had to be removed, but now you can drive on the property. Our neighbor gave us a truckload of coconuts that were starting to grow, so we planted a bunch of them along the property line. We also planted 4 Avocados, 13 Mangoes (5 types), 3 Malay Apples, 1 Soursop, 2 Lemons, 1 Valencia Orange, 1 Mandarin Orange, 1 Yellow Grapefruit and 1 Red Grapefruit. Besides all the new trees there were already Bananas, Plantains, Guava and Jamaican Lime trees on the property. Most of the new trees are around 5′ tall, about half of them we’ve grown from seed, and the others we bought. It will take some time before all these really start producing, but once they do we might just have to set up a fruit stand.

Digging out rocks and stumps and scraping in a road.

Up on this other lot we also put in a Cortez tree. Once a year the Cortez tree will lose all its leaves and then bloom these beautiful yellow flowers for a couple of weeks, and it’s spectacular. Since we use to live on the shores of the Sea Of Cortez, we thought it was appropriate to put a Cortez tree on the property.

A Cortez tree in full bloom just down the road from us.

It was a decent harvest of peanuts this year and they’re all looking good. It took longer for them to dry this time because of all the rains we’ve had, but now they are ready for roasting.

Our peanuts did well with a lot of 3-4 nuts per shell.

Our Roselle or Jamaican Sorrel plants are ready to start harvesting and should be for the next month or so. Sorrel is a type of annual hibiscus plant that gets beautiful pink and red flowers. After the flower falls off, the “fruit” will develop for about a week or so before it’s ready to pick. The fruit itself is used to make wine, jellies and other stuff.

We planted twice as many Jamaican Sorrels as last year all from seeds we saved from previous plants.

We like to dry ours and use it to make a red flavorful tea. It has a slight resemblance to cranberry juice, and of course it has many health benefits. Mexican restaurants serve this sweetened and it’s called Jamaica. We don’t sweeten ours and it’s still very tasty. Usually we’ll grow enough to last us all year, and in fact we just used our last little bit from last year, so the timing is perfect for these plants.

Jamaica tea would make an excellent low-calorie mixed drink.

We’ve got a few black pepper plants growing around here and they are doing good. They’ve been in the ground a few years now and haven’t really started producing yet, but we did find a few peppercorns on one of the plants. We dried them out and then gave them a try. Wow, that was a strong black pepper flavor and we can’t wait till the plants really start producing. Black pepper is something we use constantly around here and is one of our favorite spices.

One of our Black Pepper vines growing on a tree.

I’m sure many of you have or might have had Caladiums growing as a house plant. Here we have them just growing in the yard around the house. When planted outside in the right environment they will get a flower, which is what a bunch of ours are doing now. The one below is one we purchased from a nursery, but we do have other varieties that are not as colorful growing wild around the property.

Although it is commonly called the heart of Jesus, it is a toxic plant and care should be taken around children or pets.

Caladiums are perennial plants, meaning they will come back every year. Which is why we can walk around the jungle and not see any, then a few months later they are all over. The one below is one we found on one of our walks and relocated it near the house.

I believe this one is called a Freckles Caladium.

We’ve grown ginger in a big pot for the past few years and it does good. We usually just pick it as needed until the plants die out, then we plant some more. This is the first time that one of the ginger plants has flowered. I don’t know why the ginger plants have never done this before, it’s such a beautiful little flower.

Ginger flower in bloom. One or two flowers open from the bud at dusk each night.

When we were moving plants the other day we found the smallest little frog we’ve seen. Not sure what kind it is or even if it’s a frog or a toad. Anyway, just had to share a picture of this little guy.

This is a tiny little frog.

The other night we were watching TV when Kelley heard a noise on the porch. We looked outside and there was a Kinkajou up on the beams of the porch just hanging out. Recently every night we hear and see him in the trees around the house, but this time he decided to get a little closer. He was up there a good 3 hours until we turned the lights out and went to bed. We only got a couple of pictures of him as we did not want to blind him.

We think he might have been after our dragon fruit we had sitting on the porch.

We still have a bunch of lobsters left in the freezer. After eating a few “the normal way” we decided to start looking up other ways to serve them. There was a lobster pot pie recipe that caught our attention. So Kelley got to work on this new lobster recipe and it turned out great!  She will definitely be making this one again in the future. When you come for a visit, ask Kelley really nice and she might just make one for you.

Lobster pot pie…Yummmm.

Hurricane season ends next month, which means it’s the beginning of the dry season. It’s a great time to be in Belize, but then again it’s always a great time to be here. Hope to see you down here sometime.

 

Big BBQ one week, Big rains the next.

Our neighbors raise a few pigs and wanted to know if we would be interested in one. They were all small and thought they would dress out around 20 lbs. or so. We thought this would be the perfect size for us to rotisserie on the BBQ. Of course we said yes, so this was the beginning of a Big Ol’ Barbeque. We picked a weekend when the weather was going to be good and invited a bunch of friends over. When the pig was delivered it turned out to be a little bigger than we thought. He dressed out at 40 lbs. and was too big to fit on the grill. So a last-minute decision was made to take the head off in order for him to fit. Not exactly the presentation I was hoping for, but in the end, it really didn’t matter. He roasted on the rotisserie for a good five hours and turned out all golden and juicy.

The rotisserie pig couldn’t have turned out any better.

Once the pig rested for a while it was time to get him off the grill. Kelley wasted no time and went to work carving him up. We have cooked a lot of pigs in the past and this one was definitely the  juiciest.

Kelley slicing up that beautifully roasted pig.

This of course being a Big Ol’ Barbeque and not just a pig roast there had to be other meats. The night before the barbeque, we put 2 big beef briskets in the smoker and cooked them low and slow till the next day. Once the briskets came out we put some chickens in the smoker and had them ready when everyone arrived. Now we had enough meat to call this a Big Ol’ Barbeque.

Brisket, mesquite smoked for 14 hours and then rested in an ice chest for another 6 hours. It turned out perfect!

Since the theme was barbeque, everyone brought sides that went great with all the meats. There was deep-fried mac cheese, cornbread, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans, cobbler and more. A great time was had by all and according to everyone it was “OMG delicious”.

A great crowd with lots of great food.

After everyone got their fill of all this great food it was time for a few games of darts. As the sun was going down some people were starting to head back to their homes. Being a Saturday night, some of us still had a lot left in us. So it was off to the garage for some beer pong that went into the wee hours. Sunday was definitely a day of rest for us, which is something we never get to do.

Beer pong

Last year at a friend’s fundraiser we won the high bid on a 3-night stay down in Hopkins at https://www.villarisingsun.com.  So Kelley’s birthday weekend we decided that just the two of us would head down, even though there was tropical storm Julia heading this way. The storm was staying south of Belize, so let’s go enjoy the beach and do some fishing we said. Well, the storm did blow in with lots of wind and even more rain. We spent a lot of time indoors staying dry and watching tv.

Not the calm turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

Between the rains, we did manage to frequent a few of our favorite places for some cold beer and good food. One evening as we were heading home along the flooded roads in Hopkins, the road was alive with crabs. We had to drive slow and swerve just to miss hitting these crabs that were as big as my fist.

Hundreds of these crabs on the road that night.

I don’t like posting pictures of animals that aren’t alive, but just outside of Hopkins there was an animal on the road that had been hit by a car. This wasn’t your typical squirrel or possum, so we had to turn around and check it out. It’s not every day you see a crocodile on the road that had been hit by a car.

Very sad to see, but things happen.

On our way back home a neighbor of ours reached out, saying to be careful as there is a lot of rain. Once we finally got home there was water running everywhere like we have never seen before. Water was running across our driveway big time.

Good thing we have 4 wheel drive to get through our driveway.

Our roundabout driveway we put in the front yard was a big river that you could have floated down.  It was all running down in front of the casita and down into the creek behind it.