Fruitful Times


“Don’t sit at home and wait for a mango tree to bring mangoes to you wherever you are. It won’t happen. If you are truly hungry for change, go out of your comfort zone and change the world.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

I love this quote! It really represents our life in Nicaragua. We definitely moved out of our comfort zone 13 years ago when we first moved to Ometepe Island. But now that we have settled into our little boomer nest, we are experiencing fruitful times.

Our last rainy season just ended and what a glorious rainy season we had. The past three years have been exceptionally dry, but now with the abundant rains, we have new fruits popping up everywhere.

Ron planted several avocado trees five years ago. This week, I noticed one avocado tree blooming and it is beginning to produce baby avocados. Last avocado season there were few avocados. The extended drought took a toll on the trees. But, this should be a great avocado season. It is still early, yet I am finding local avocados in the grocery stores now.

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Last year we had one cacao or chocolate pod on our cacao tree. I was so excited because although the tree is seven years old, we never saw any pods develop. However, the pod cracked and fell off the tree last year. I think due to a harsh dry period. But, this year, we have a couple of pods developing and one is the size of my hand.
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When Mango Trees Hit Back


“Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Oh, I love this quote! I remember that scene from the Chamber of Secrets well. It reminded me of our mango tree, one of the five mango trees closest to our house. It is an Indio mango and the fruit isn’t as good as our two Rosa mango trees.

Two times a year, this tree drops hundreds of mangoes on our roof. At the peak of mango season, we fill three wheelbarrows every morning with rotten mangoes. They bounce off the roof in the windy season like a rapid fire machine gun. Bam! Bam! And then they roll off the roof and scatter in the front yard.

We’ve tried everything to stop the almost constant supply of Indio mangoes, except for toppling the tree. It is too tall to spray or blow off the blossoms so the fruit doesn’t produce. And, it is a wonderful shade tree!

Last year, I researched an injection that I could put in the trunk of the tree called a fruit inhibitor. It isn’t a pesticide and will actually sterilize the tree so it won’t produce fruit. There were two problems with this; first, it had never been tried on a mango tree, only walnut trees in the states, and second, although it isn’t a pesticide, the container looked like it was a pesticide, which is prohibited on airplanes.

So, it was back to the old climbing the tree and cutting the limbs that hung over our roof. Jorge to the rescue!
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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Tropical Look Up


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Look Up.

Living in the tropics in the rainy season if you don’t look up, you will miss out on some wonderful surprises. Take a walk with me around our finca this morning as we look for new life blossoming in the tree tops.

I love the shade our mango tree provides, but the termite nests and the mangoes dropping like bombs on our tin roof…not so much.
IMG_1681The sour sop fruit is almost ready.
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Where does the Mango Stop and the Sky Begin?


One way can be learned by starting to see the magic in everything. Sometimes it seems to be hiding but it is always there. The more we can see the magic in one thing, a tiny flower, a mango, someone we love, then the more we are able to see the magic in everything and in everyone. Where does the mango stop and the sky begin? ~ Joshua Kadison

I have never seen this many mangoes in ten years. We have five mature mango trees. Three trees are Mango Indio and two trees are Mango Rosa. Eating the first ripe Rosa mango is a taste explosion. Ron’s beard is stained a permanent yellow and my clothes are sticky and stained with mango juice.

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When Great Trees Fall


Our magnificent Pera tree fell down last night in a rapid rain storm with strong wind. Some say it was a cyclone. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall.

 

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A Little Light at the Tunnel’s End


Every decently-made object, from a house to a lamp post to a bridge, spoon or egg cup, is not just a piece of ‘stuff’ but a physical embodiment of human energy, testimony to the magical ability of our species to take raw materials and turn them into things of use, value and beauty.
Kevin McCloud


The Mayans believed that the Jicaro tree grew out of the liberation of the people. They worshiped it as sacred. No wonder, because with a variety of products of the Jicaro, it is possible to feed people and cattle and fuel industry and cars. The tree is striking and unusual. Year-round, it is adorned with lime green oval or round balls, that appear in the least expected places. It is not considered a fruit, but a swelling of the tree’s woody parts.

IMG_3638This hardy tree has been forced to adapt to the harshest environments, thus it thrives in our extended dry season because of its strong, deep roots. Jicaro trees have been described as the vegetable version of goats. They are both strong and resistant, need very little to grow robust, and thrive in places that would be nearly impossible for most species to survive. They are a “tree” and an “animal” for the poor. For with the number of industrial and commercial uses of the Jicaro tree, the impoverished farmers are beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

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I  chased our neighbor’s egg-eating dog out of our property, when I noticed huge Jicaro balls in our neighbor’s field. “I think I see potential for a lamp shade,” I thought to myself. I found several dried Jicaro balls, carried them across the barbed wire fence, and got to work. First, I sanded the Jicaro, then cut it in half. Packed tightly inside was an ant colony… a tasty treat for our chickens.

IMG_1180Then, I used my Dremel to punch holes in star patterns.
IMG_1181I stained the lamp shade, then used gold, silver, and copper-colored paints to embellish the stars. I added a few whirling comets, too.
IMG_1197I strung some beads in the holes at the bottom of the shade. Finally, I sprayed a protective layer of transparent varnish over the shade. Voila!
IMG_1199Next, I’m making a hanging lamp with Pre-Columbian patterns. A perfect testimony to the magical ability of our species to take raw materials and turn them into things of beauty. There’s always more room for a little light at the tunnel’s end.

Timeout for Art: Happy Trails


This week’s Timeout for Art is all about happy trails and the Chilamate tree. A friend visited us from the states last week, and she had never seen monkeys. Knowing that the Howler monkeys hang out in the Chilamate trees, we went on a quest for the largest and most spectacular trees in tropical forests.

Also known as strangler figs, these majestic trees begin life as an epiphyte in the crotch of another tree, then produce roots that snake to the ground to eventually anchor in the forest floor. Eventually, it strangles the host tree like a boa constricting its prey.  As the support tree decays, some Chilamate trees end up with interior passageways from base to crown, becoming true jungle gyms for the Howler monkeys who like to hang out in the trees snacking on the leaves.

Wandering through happy trails with Chilamate trees shading the worn, dusty paths, we fulfilled our quest. We spotted several Howlers lounging in the treetops lazily sleeping through the heat of the day. By the way, I was going to draw a monkey in the tree, but I wanted to focus on the splendor of the tree itself.

Happy trails to you my friends…. until we meet again.

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Weekly Photo Challenge 2: The Heavenly Chocolate Chip Tree


The Silk Floss Tree, or species of Ceiba is the majestic giant of the rainforest. It has long been considered sacred for the indigenous people of Nicaragua. One of their myths is that the souls of the dead would climb into the branches of the Ceiba to reach heaven.  Large spines protrude from the trunk to protect the bark and discourage predators.  I call it the chocolate chip tree because its unique spikes resemble chocolate chips.

the chocolate chip tree copyLike the Pickle Tree, the Chocolate Chip Tree has many uses.
Uses for the wood:
The straight trunks of the tree are used to make dugout canoes. The wood is pinkish white to ashy brown in color, with a straight grain.

Uses for the seeds and fiber:
The brown seeds are round like peas and grow in pods. The pods burst open and inside a whitish cotton like fiber surrounds the brown seeds. The fiber is extremely light, buoyant, and water resistant. It is used to stuff pillows and life jackets. I have some fiber sitting in a bowl on my porch and the hummingbirds gather it for their nests.The fiber has also been used to wrap around poison darts to be blown out of blowguns.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds , leaves, bark, and resin are used medicinally to treat dysentery, fever, asthma, and kidney disease.

Thanks to my son, Cory, for the stunning photo.

 

 

 

 

 

The Human Termites


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Last night, at 2:30 am there was a loud crash that interrupted the sleep of most of my neighborhood. The flashlights scoured the area like a well-cleaned cooking pot, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. Ron thought it was a crash landing of the German satellite, due to hit Earth last night. “Space junk,” he yawned and fell back into a deep sleep. Cory thought it was a spaceship. I guessed the Mango tree had fallen into Cory’s house. Our neighbors thought maybe Vulcan Concepcion had erupted.

With the light of dawn, I saw that a giant limb had fallen off an enormous tree behind our property. The heavy rains must have weakened the tree. “Time for the human termites to do their job,” I yawned.

Last September, after a strong wind storm, a huge dead tree fell into the lake obstructing my view and messing up my beautiful beach. I hired two men to cut the tree and they arrived early in the morning armed with machetes, strong backs, and an ancient ax.

They parked the horse cart beside my beach chair hoping to load the wood into the wagon and cart it off for firewood. “How much will this cost?” I asked apprehensively because it looked like a huge job. “Five dollars,” they responded.

At dawn’s first light, they waded into the warm water and proceeded to whack at each limb with their well-worn machetes. Machismo at its finest!

Meanwhile, Marina, my neighbor, ran over to my house wearing a black velvet party dress and smelling of strong flowery perfume…at 6 o’clock in the morning. Her 77 yr. old husband, Don Jose, has been in Rivas all week with his sick sister. “What are they going to do with all that wood?” she asked. “I told them to haul it off,” I said. “How much are you paying them to cut the tree?” Marina inquired. Discovering that I was paying them 5 dollars, she screamed, “Oh, muy caro!” Very expensive.

“Don Jose isn’t here, and I need wood for my cooking fire.” she exclaimed. “Can I help to pay if we take the wood?” Knowing that my neighbors are very poor ( I had to lend Don Jose $10 to visit his gravely ill sister in Rivas) I said, “I don’t want you to pay. I’ll tell the machete men that you can have the wood.” So, the machete man sent for his 7-year-old to take the horse cart back home.

Within an hour, they had most of the small branches cut off the dead tree and hauled ashore. “How much more do you want us to cut?” they yelled across the dead tree to where I was snapping pictures of their toothless grins. “I want more of the dead trunk cut.” I yelled back. After much debate and a demonstration of where I wanted the trunk cut, they said, “Oh, but it will cost you more money because the trunk is very thick.” “How much more?” I asked.” Five more dollars,” they said kind of apologetically.

So they grabbed the ancient ax and began to cut the thick trunk. Within another hour, they had most of the thick trunk hacked away. The wood was piled up on the beach and Marina’s father,and her son, Julio, carried the piles of wood to their house.

While they were hacking away at the trunk, Marina brought refreshments for all of us, warm bread from the local tienda and pinole drink ( Marina drinks this every morning instead of coffee).

A few more whacks with the ancient ax and their work was done. Not a bad day’s wages for 2 hours of work. Soon, the little termites swarmed to the beach to collect the wood for their cooking stove.Grandpa joined in the collection, and in no time at all, the beach was cleared.

The human termites were remarkable. For $10 I had my incredible view and a clean beach. My wonderful neighbors had enough firewood for a month of cooking. And best of all, we shared our blessings with our lovely community.

Looks like we’ll have to hire the human termites again!