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.