Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pine Ridge Reservation - an opportunity to pass it on

Right now Edy's (you know, the ice cream and fruit bar folks) is having a contest to win an ORCHARD!!! Talk about planting trees!. I heard of it through Oliver Swann of Natural Homes, who seems like a pretty good fellow. Here's the deal - and well worth the few minutes to vote, once a day until the end of May (yes, that rhymes, now go vote!). If you are inclined please pass it along to your friends as well, on and off facebook!

Oliver Swann: "I'm working hard for Sustainable Homestead Designs, who create sustainable housing and food sovereignty for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They built the first cob house there. They need as many votes TODAY and tomorrow as possible."

Another Saturday Morning in Paradox

Did you plant a tree yesterday? I hope so. All six of you! After thinking about it, I personally delayed planting my two (the avocado and the 'Unknown Tree'), because it is still so very dry, even though we've gotten rain that has sparked renewal all over the island. It only takes a day of no rain to dry out this thirsty ground and I want the babies to have all the chances in their favor. Planting time soon come, I'm hoping.

But I am really enjoying walking around the yard in the evenings and mornings, watering and looking at the signs that what appeared dead is not. I think if I lived in the northern climes I'd never get anything done in Spring. I'd be found wandering around, mouth agape, head turned upward in wonder. I can hear a quiet voice saying, "Come, come MJ, it's time to go inside now, you've been out all day. And it's snowing." Then gently leading me back to a fireside to curl up in a ball until it really is warm again.

I only say that because my niece wrote that at midnight in Colorado, where she and her family live, it was snowing, a driving snow. And that this morning her boys are going to their respective soccer and baseball practices. Wow. No, it's tropical climes for me.

Sea almond
Last of the cactus - a goner. I can't quite bear to take it down.
One of the neem trees coming back to life
One of three papayas in the yard (between the sea almonds). It lives! They all do. Hooray!
Morning has broken
CWIM: "Ok, I know you do this yard thing...but I do believe it is breakfast time." tap tap
Have a salubrious Saturday! Do something satisfying.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Free Range Friday ~ or~ We Can't Eat Trees but We Can Breathe Them

Today is Arbor Day, the "nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872." A short interactive background of how this came to be may be read here, and it's really pretty interesting. Morton had a passion for trees, and their benefits, that was so strong, it has become a national day of planting around the country. (When was the last time one of our passions and/or convictions scratched the surface of being that strong?). Thanks, Mr. Morton!

If you live some place where it is applicable (and of course it is not here on Culebra), you can join the National Arbor Day Foundation for $10 and get 10 flowering trees appropriate to your region sent to you for joining. They also have discounts on other trees. It appears to be a pretty good organization, even though I'd personally encourage planting food trees. And why not? If you are going to be waiting for a tree to do something, it might as well feed you! On Culebra, you can buy trees at D's Garden. Or you can ask one of your neighbors for a cutting. Or you can buy seeds and wait a really long time, but that is the beauty of trees, they keep on giving! Look at ol' Johnny Appleseed!

Though a wildly blooming tree of any sort is pretty magical...

Both of these trees are by Milka's, if you want to see them yourself

While the title of this post says you can't eat trees, I can already hear some of you saying, But MJ! You CAN eat trees! You can steep their barks and eat their roots and partake of their fruits. Of course you can. But that was too long a title. Plus, I wanted to emphasize another aspect of trees, of which there are so many, from the obvious to the not so obvious at all. I won't do all your homework for you, but here's a place to get you started or simply to remind yourself to plant another tree.

Because it is mango season around here and because I love mangoes, here are some recipes to give you a taste of the wide variety of dishes and sauces (no, I'm not giving you my mango hot sauce recipe, sorry!) for these succulent fruits.

This is one of my favorites. It's simple, it's quick and it's delicious. This recipe makes enough for two loaves of bread.

Mango Bread

    1 cup butter
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    4 eggs              
    1/2 tsp. salt    
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 tsp. vanilla
    4 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups diced mangos
    2 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best, bottled works)
    1 cup chopped nuts (optional)   

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs. Stir in dry ingredients, mangoes and lemon juice. Pour into 2 8" loaf pans. Bake at 350' for 1 hour or until loaf tests done. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool thoroughly. For best results, wrap in foil and serve the next day; but I doubt you'll wait that long. I don't. Warm mango bread? Yum! Buen provecho!
photo credit: Unknown

Have a fertile Friday. Do something fundamental.

p.s. Air Flamenco is back in the business of regular flights starting May 6th! Check it out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A short Culebra love story

Dear Culebra,

When the winds pick up and the clouds are dark and scuttling across the sky, that is one of my favorite times to go to the beach. It wasn't a flashy wild, electrical storm of Florida beach times, that can almost make you think you might implode with sheer negative ion joy. It was softly wild, rather, just grey and windy with spitting on and off rain. It was Perfect.

At Flamenco, only one kiosko was open and it only had two customers. On the beach, a guard was planting yellow flags of warming. In front of the beach villas, two people played in the water anyway. They were the only two people in the water. Out of the maybe five people on the entire beach.

Enough sun was getting through to keep the water that out of the spectrum blue and each wave breaking was a painting. But it started raining harder and it was time to go.

Dale drove up to deliver ice to the kiosko as I was heading toward my vehicle. We greeted each other, and mentioned the obviously different weather; how glad we were for the rain. And then Dale said, Just look at that beautiful tree...and we did. I'm sure it was only a long few seconds, but it seemed like a slice out of time. Because we really were looking and we really were seeing. Standing in an almost empty parking lot at the beach, on a very un-beachy day, with this beautiful tree and a friend. Then he went his way and I went mine.

I fell for you all over again, at the very same beach where I first met you almost exactly nine years ago. It was little things that got me to stay with you then, it is the little things that keep me now,



p.s. Thanks for the hummingbird.. You didn't have to. But you did.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A slow dance of gratitude and wonder for rain

An exciting radar shot
We haven't gotten a lot of rain. That is why the changes made in our dry and dusty landscape are so dramatic. To the casual eye, not much might appear to be different, but to those of us (and that is most of the people who live here) we become wide-eyed and smiling at the little shoots, new buds, the sheerest overcover of the palest green on the hillsides.

I have mourned over old plant friends in my yard that gave up trying and am moving on to the oh-so-much that remains. I'm pretty sure I can steal obtain some cactus to replace the gone ones. There is even have a new, ungrafted and useless, but pretty, avocado tree about a foot along, to plant somewhere around here. A twig snapped off on a walkabout, from a tree with intense orange flowers I've never seen, actually has some rootlets and a new leaf; incredible surprise. The clipped top of a tomato plant that was getting too leggy has rooted as well. Life on the small scale. Well, yes.

These are some not-quite-before shots...the sea almonds more naked than I've ever seen them. My yard is about as close to sea level as it's possible to get and not be the beach, so anything that survives growing in the shallow ground is damn hardy. The roots can't go too deep or they hit salt water. Too shallow and not enough nutrients and moisture. There are a lot of roots showing around here to teach me lessons about what is possible in the seemingly ridiculous work of learning to thrive without much. It's a good yard, even mostly naked, but I'm happily looking forward to seeing everyone dressed and primped again. Shoot by leaf, bloom by blossom. Oh joy!

Neem tree

Sea almond tree

Mock frangipani (the blossoms have no fragrance)

Rain is falling as I type. Oh boy!!! Invisible beautiful is happening faster now.
Have a Wednesday of wonder. Do something willingly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011's very, very quiet

Ok, it's quiet from my perspective anyway. This is another one of those secret great times to come to, or be on, Culebra. The Semana Santa crowds are gone, the weather is still lovely, the water is warm. And every place and activity is open, except for Susie's. She and her staff are getting a much needed rest after a season cooking and serving satisfied customers, both local and visiting. We'll just have to wait a month until her return. Did I mention the tuna? No? Well, you'll just have to check it out later on.

Not Culebra! photo credit: Anse Chastanet
I've been busy at home ordering a sausage maker and setting up a very big smoker (courtesy of Walt). Now all I have to do is figure out how to use both of them! But I'm excited. new learning curves keep us from falling asleep under palm trees with umbrella studded drinks in our hands.  Being served to us by handsome beach boys trained to liberally apply sunscreen at the lift of a finger. Before the band sets up on the beach and the tiki torches are lit. The guys don't get beach boys, so don't go there. Well, unless they ask. And no, that's not me. I'm a lot more tan...and a lot more... Hush.

Here are some other things I saw yesterday...and the day before too.

Another beauty in the harbour...don't know that flag

First cow I've seen on Culebra since the Brahmas have gone

Ripe papayas! Not my yard...Mine are trying to survive, only a block (and sea level) away

The cloud was a lot darker than this and brought rain! Hooray!

Looking out the bay to sea
Another day in Paradox...

Have a tempting Tuesday. Do something terrific.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A confluence of Events

Passover. Easter. What would have been Sean's 70th birthday. Lambs' blood on doorways, saving sons. Bunnies and eggs, The Lamb of G_d rising from the dead. And one that we wish would. Entangled. Commonality? Hope and love. No matter what your hopes and beliefs, have a good Sunday, celebrate in peace. Culebra is my Easter basket, full.

Here is this morning on Culebra. The deer was a gift.

Good morning Culebra, St. Thomas, St. John and Jost Van Dyke (I miss y'all!)

Up the hill coming back from alarm, just browsing

She looks majorly pregnant to me

Peace in the mangroves

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I missed the meteors but I got the burrito!

If yesterday, meteor day, Earth day and Zaco's Tacos opening day were having a contest, there would be no problem guessing the winner. Zaco's Tacos - by a long shot. From the 11:00 opening - I know this because I heard from the first customer, who loved the food - until we strolled out with Monika, who was still smiling but quite ready to shut the door behind us at 7 - Zach and Monika kicked Mexican food booty! Lots of friends, lots of great food, some brought in libations along with the many non-alcoholic liquid refreshments in a bright and cheery setting with fun games in the back yard? What's not to like? Best of good fortune (the kind that comes from hard work) to you, Zach and Monika! oh, and Olivia too.

Great decor!!
Not saying Monika is looking divine, but...

Comfortable outdoor seating on the deck

Nachos and the special guacamole - yum!

The above was when I unexpectedly went to Zaco's early with Mike. Francie, Ann, Karen and I had already planned on going around 5, but I got a sneak preview...and definitely wanted the special guac that was ordered next to me. Luckily, there was still some left when we did get back at 5. Why didn't I take photos of the chicken and beef burritos? Of the pork belly tacos? Of the repeat special guac? Because...I was hungry! And it was delicious. And I forgot. No doubt there will be more photos and good times to follow.

 Yesterday was Good Friday, which, around here, means that there are no markets open. Along with the bank, the PO and who knows what else. Every year I feel a little bad because I've forgotten to say 'You'd better do your shopping Thursday! Or be ready to wait until Saturday.' But most years I forget (and anyway, it's good to be a pioneer sometimes; you know you can do it!!) But I'll say it now. Get to the stores today because tomorrow IS Easter, and I make no promises on what will or will not be open!

What happened to Free Range Friday? See above...I let Zach do the cooking! What happened with the meteors? I was asleep, oops!

What happened with the Lyrids meteor show? Dunno!
By the way, if you have been grinding your teeth and getting an upset stomach, saying 
to yourself, I just wish I knew earlier when these dang blasted meteor showers were 
going to happen so I could properly prepare myself or at least set my alarm clock, why oh why don't I know this? And what the heck is a meteor anyway?', check out this page

What happened with Earth Day? Well, Desmond Tutu contributed to a book called 100 Places to Go Before They Disappear, coming out May 1st that you might want to read to help understand why we even have Earth Day. 

Beyond that, over 100 million acts supporting the environment were noted around the world. From sixth grade Iraqi war survivors planting trees through about a million acts down to me watering my veggie plants, small and carefully tended in half shade, so maybe I can reap food from them to eat and share. Around here, right now with the lack of rain, planting a tree might have been a bit of a negative. But as soon as the rains come, I'll be back to planting trees and hope you will too. For a few awesome photos of Earth Day celebrations around the world, go here

Have a safe Saturday (there's a lot of crazy boaters out there)! Do something small and sublime.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Culebra and Earth Day 2011

Earth Day 2011. What is happening here on Culebra for Earth Day? The same lawsuits and protests against the same people who violate our land every day and will not stop, despite the laws, despite the reality that they are involved directly in dispossessing every resident, on land and in the sea, of every good thing about this spot of Paradise. There will be acts of green done, but the fight for the Earth is ongoing. The battle continues here like a microcosm of the entire world. We are not Japan with its nuclear horrors unleashed by an unprecedented earthquake. We are not the Gulf of Mexico and its shorelines impacted by an unprecedented oil spill. Those are the poster children for the lack of concern that the 'thems' with supposedly so much knowledge let loose in the quest of saving a buck to make billions. Believe it.

We are a small island, with a small population, a speck on the planet, fighting the selfish to keep the beauty that many here have grown up with and fought for for generations. Against the Navy, against developers, against the person who threw their trash onto the side of the road, who smashed a bottle on the bridge, who cleared the flats of all the whelks, who take baby conchs believing there will never be an end to the supply. We are that and so much more. Earth. Our home. Culebra. There is only one of each that we've got, and we'd better take care of every one. One by one by one. Earth Life.

April 22nd marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement. After witnessing a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. The groundswell on that first Earth Day in 1970, was supported across the country by all political and income groups, and led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Today, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries and the priorities have shifted to clean energy and addressing global warming.

Here's a list of 100 things to get you started: (from Teeswater dot Ca)

(Just pick one and DO IT!)
  1. Clean or replace air filters on your air conditioning unit at least once a month.
  2. If you have central air conditioning, do not close vents in unused rooms.
  3. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120.
  4. Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket.
  5. Turn down or shut off your water heater when you will be away for extended periods.
  6. Turn off unneeded lights even when leaving a room for a short time.
  7. Set your refrigerator temperature at 36 to 38 and your freezer at 0 to 5 .
  8. When using an oven, minimize door opening while it is in use; it reduces oven temperature by 25 to 30 every time you open the door.
  9. Clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load so that it uses less energy.
  10. Unplug seldom used appliances.
  11. Use a microwave when- ever you can instead of a conventional oven or stove.
  12. Wash clothes with warm or cold water instead of hot.
  13. Reverse your indoor ceiling fans for summer and winter operations as recommended.
  14. Turn off lights, computers and other appliances when not in use.
  15. Purchase appliances and office equipment with the Energy Star Label; old refridgerators, for example, use up to 50 more electricity than newer models.
  16. Only use electric appliances when you need them.
  17. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save money and energy.
  18. Keep your thermostat at 68 in winter and 78 in summer.
  19. Keep your thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter when you are away
  20. Insulate your home as best as you can.
  21. Install weather stripping around all doors and windows.
  22. Shut off electrical equipment in the evening when you leave work.
  23. Plant trees to shade your home.
  24. Shade outside air conditioning units by trees or other means.
  25. Replace old windows with energy efficient ones.
  26. Use cold water instead of warm or hot water when possible.
  27. Connect your outdoor lights to a timer.
  28. Buy green electricity – electricity produced by low – or even zero-pollution facilities.      
  29. Eliminate mercury from your home by purchasing items without mercury, and dispose of items containing mercury at an appropriate drop-off facility when necessary (e.g. old thermometers).
  30. Learn about alternatives to household cleaning items that do not use hazardous chemicals.
  31. Buy the right amount of paint for the job.
  32. Review labels of household cleaners you use. Consider alternatives like baking soda, scouring pads, water or a little more elbow grease.
  33. When no good alternatives exist to a toxic item, find the least amount required for an effective, sanitary result.
  34. If you have an older home, have paint in your home tested for lead. If you have lead-based paint, cover it with wall paper or other material instead of sanding it or burning it off.
  35. Use traps instead of rat and mouse poisons and insect killers.
  36. Have your home tested for radon.
  37. Use cedar chips or aromatic herbs instead of mothballs.
  38. Avoid using leaf blowers and other dust-producing equipment.
  39. Use an electric lawn- mower instead of a gas-powered one.
  40. Leave grass clippings on the yard-they decompose and return nutrients to the soil.
  41. Use recycled wood chips as mulch to keep weeds down, retain moisture and prevent erosion.
  42. Use only the required amount of fertilizer.
  43. Minimize pesticide use.
  44. Create a wildlife habitat in your yard.
  45. Water grass early in the morning.
  46. Rent or borrow items like ladders, chain saws, party decorations and others that are seldom used.
  47. Take actions that use non hazardous components (e.g., to ward off pests, plant marigolds in a garden instead of using pesticide).
  48. Put leaves in a compost heap instead of burning them or throwing them away. Yard debris too large for your compost bin should be taken to a yard-debris recycler.
  49. Copy and print on both sides of paper.
  50. Reuse items like envelopes, folders and paper clips.
  51. Use mailer sheets for interoffice mail instead of an envelope.Use mailer sheets for interoffice mail instead of an envelope.
  52. Set up a bulletin board for memos instead of sending a copy to each employee.
  53. Use e-mail instead of paper correspondence.
  54. Use recycled paper.
  55. Use discarded paper for scrap paper.
  56. Encourage your school and/or company to print documents with soy-based inks, which are less toxic.
  57. Use a ceramic coffee mug instead of a disposable cup.
  58. Ask your employer to consider flexible work schedules or telecommuting.
  59. Recycle printer cartridges.
  60. Shut off electrical equipment in the evening when you leave work.
  61. Report smoking vehicles to your local air agency.
  62. Don't use your wood stove or fireplace when air quality is poor.
  63. Avoid slow-burning, smoldering fires. They produce the largest amount of pollution.
  64. Burn seasoned wood – it burns cleaner than green wood.
  65. Use solar power for home and water heating.
  66. Use low-VOC or water-based paints, stains, finishes and paint strippers.
  67. Purchase radial tires and keep them properly inflated for your vehicle.
  68. Paint with brushes or rollers instead of using spray paints to minimize harmful emissions.
  69. Ignite charcoal barbecues with an electric probe or other alternative to lighter fluid.
  70. If you use a wood stove, use one sold after 1990. They are required to meet federal emissions standards and are more efficient and cleaner burning.
  71. Walk or ride your bike instead of driving, whenever possible.
  72. Join a carpool or vanpool to get to work.
  73. Check and fix any water leaks.
  74. Install water-saving devices on your faucets and toilets.
  75. Don't wash dishes with the water running continuously.
  76. Wash and dry only full loads of laundry and dishes.
  77. Follow your community's water use restrictions or guidelines.
  78. Install a low-flow shower head.
  79. Replace old toilets with new ones that use a lot less water.
  80. Turn off washing machine's water supply to prevent leaks.
  81. Revegetate or mulch disturbed soil as soon as possible.
  82. Never dump anything down a storm drain.
  83. Have your septic tank pumped and system inspected regularly.
  84. Check your car for oil or other leaks, and recycle motor oil.
  85. Take your car to a car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
  86. Learn about your watershed.
  87. Buy items in bulk from loose bins when possible to reduce the packaging wasted.
  88. Avoid products with several layers of packaging when only one is sufficient. About 33 of what we throw away is packaging.
  89. Buy products that you can reuse.
  90. Maintain and repair durable products instead of buying new ones.
  91. Check reports for products that are easily repaired and have low breakdown rates.
  92. Reuse items like bags and containers when possible.
  93. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones.
  94. Use reusable plates and utensils instead of disposable ones.
  95. Use reusable containers to store food instead of aluminum foil and cling wrap.
  96. Shop with a canvas bag instead of using paper and plastic bags.
  97. Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently.
  98. Reuse packaging cartons and shipping materials. Old newspapers make great packaging material.
  99. Compost your vegetable scraps.
  100. Buy used furniture – there is a surplus of it, and it is much cheaper than new furniture.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of some interest to weather weenies (post dos; this might be gone by tomorrow!)

While no one in the 'know' seems to expect much from this as far as land and humans are concerned, and while it has nothing to do with us on its Westerly course, it's a good reminder to get your seasonal supplies and plans in order. And weather wise, it is interesting (thanks, Suzanne of Finca del Seto for the link!). If you like that sort of thing. And I do.

335 PM EDT WED APR 20 2011





Home again but...

It is, as it always should be for everyone (even though it isn't always, and I know how graced I am), excellent to be home. Even more so after a really good trip. That's why I can't walk into today without finishing up a bit from a much colder - right now - place with its own very particular beauty. Thanks, Lorraine, Jim, Annie and Monique, for having me up there and showing me all manner and shapes of a good time!

A better look at one of my favorite wind vanes

There is still Culebra sand in their shoes

The stones and forsythia...oh my

It is impossible to look at these and not wonder at the hands that moved them

"Hey, are you bringing me dinner?"

So long for now, big house! Thanks for the fires!

Lorraine and I decided to head into Newport on my last day. It was grey and spit rainy, but when has weather ever stopped me? Well, except for the 921 times it did?

I'd been to Newport before, staying on a boat there for a stretch of time  (I'd sit crocheting my as yet unborn grandson's blanket in the cockpit, watching the beautiful boats go around me), and it was good to come back. Even if the weather wasn't the prettiest, the company was good and the sights were eye filling! I hadn't gotten nearly as far walking around as we got in the car!

The Clairborne Pell Newport bridge

It's a really beautiful bridge!

Hmm, a stable, Newport style?
So it appears. Maybe. Nice, regardless
 After a bit of a drive about, we came across the Ocean Cliff Hotel. It was beautiful on the outside, what about the inside? Hotels have restaurants, it was time to investigate!

One of the vanes at the Ocean Cliff Hotel

One tower...beautiful structure, shape and stone

From the deck view looking toward the bay...just a little Newport heap

From a little bigger view...not sure what this is, but I like it

And way across the river...another place 'we just like to call home'

Another view of the bridge. Yes, I liked it. However, I don't think the residents were delighted it ended right on Ocean Drive, into the heart of Mansion Country. 

More vanes on the hotel. Ok, I'm obsessed with weather vanes. And not ashamed.

One of a few ornate fireplaces - this one is a room set up for a conference...nice.

This fireplace was in the Ladies! Nice job, remodelers!

Cheery yellow house after other huge stone, marble and white gargantuans

Did I mention stone gargantuans?

On a sunny day, a fine place for a spot of tea

There was no way to get the magnificence of this beech tree into a photo...I'm sure it looks so radically different when it is dressed in leaves...which I hear should happen any time now

A very primitive fence for a pretty fine house. Notice how the pickets are carved around the stones? How'd they do that? Why'd they do that? I like that they did that.

Almost home again!!
So ends another fun work adventure! Life is good. And it's still chilly here. I dragged my blanket back down in the night...if my blood thickened up there (which Lorraine swears it did and I think not), it thinned in a real hurry!

Have a terrific Thursday! Do something timely.