Monday, May 12, 2008

A Green Splash

No, not a Green Flash...we haven't seen one of those here yet. Other than the bar on Salt Cay, but that's different. Most of the green in that flash comes from Heineken bottles. The weather has finally, and suddenly, switched from winter windy to summer sultry mode. We have had three days in a row with sunsets like this one last night:

Temperatures in the mid 80's, and water temperature around 83. It's survivable.

And that particular view is about to change for us. Because starting this morning trucks full of green plants started showing up at the house. The landscapers had dropped off one load on Friday, and after two months of feeling like exposed lizards sitting on a sunny rock up here we finally got into keeping plants watered over the weekend. Then this morning, the rest started arriving. First we got some thatch palms and a couple mahogany trees, with two workers:

They unloaded and then drove away. "Well" (we thought) maybe they will come back with some more tomorrow...or sometimes.." That would be pretty much in line with our experiences here for this kind of thing. But these guys are serious. Another truckfull of green stuff showed up,

And then another load, along with another truck full of laborers, shovels, rakes, pickaxes, more bushes, and of course...electric jackhammers. You wanna plant a bush on this hill, you have to start with a jackhammer. The house started looking different immediately:

We got mahogany and palm trees going in on both sides of the driveway:

We got some kinda dead-looking grass ("fountain grass") and a zillion small buttonwood trees running all over the place:

The idea with the buttonwoods is that they are tough little boogers, they should be able to withstand our harsh conditions, and they are being planted three feet apart. So after they get established, we start trimming the tops and they spread out and intertangle, making a hedge-like barrier against the wind and blowing dust. They should protect less hardy plants going in between them and the house. And provide a little privacy.

The driveway is getting it's own hedge. This should help with erosion and make us feel less exposed from that angle as well:

Everything we chose for the landscaping is something native to this area. We left out the standard Coconut Palms, for example. We went for thatch palms, which are native to the TCI.

Things went pretty smoothly for the first day of official landscaping. Oh, they did get one of their trucks stuck, with no weight in the back it was spinning its rear tires trying to back up the hill. I was standing by with the camera, as the rear of the truck was sliding over toward a nice little drop-off and I was thinking this might be a decent photo. But finally El Jefe called the help together and they managed to push it out:

That Christmas Palm is going outside La Gringa's office window. That should be a nice change from the view of bare dirt and rock. Well, she's still got the view of the dirt and rock, and the ocean, and all that stuff...but now she's got green palm trees in the frame as well. An improvement.

The area around the front door, where we sometimes stand to take the sunset photos:

This is where we have been thinking of putting a web-cam with a view of the salina, the new marina, and Provo in the distance. Oh, and the sunsets of course. We have watched the sun setting further and further to the right as the Northern Hemisphere approaches summer. I used to think about American Indians, the people who built Stonehenge, the Egyptians, Greeks, Aztecs, Maya...all those cultures that developed knowledge of the movement of the planet and astronomical details from simple observation. Before telescopes and complex computers. Living here and watching the sun and moon, and seeing the constellations rotate around Polaris...I can sometimes get a slight feeling of how they felt, observing it all and having to come to their own conclusions. And getting it right. And all without a High School diploma or worrying about getting a mark on their permanent record...

This would be a fantastic place to take up astronomy...great place for a telescope. It's not yet on the same priority list as plumbing, carpentry, wiring, cabinetry, auto and boat maintenance and repair...

We think the entrance to the driveway has benefitted from some foliage:

I can see I am going to have to find a better parking spot for the boat trailer. I have some ideas. Unfortunately they will have to wait for the second driveway to go in.

And Dooley the Delerious Devil Dog doesn't know what to make of all this activity. He likes things to be the way they were when he went to bed the night before. He is like a little grumpy old man. He doesn't like changes. He will bark at a new stump. He will bark at a navigation buoy on the ocean. He barks at rumors. He insists on knowing what the plan is, and can barely tolerate being out of the loop in these matters. But he has taken on his appropriate share of the responsibility for the new plants, starting this afternoon right after he realized the scope of the job:

He told us he would be finished with the first coat by Thursday if his kidneys hold out and it doesn't rain. Yeah, yeah, where have we heard THAT before?

By my figuring, and completely discounting his promises to double up, Dooley could water a different new bush every morning and it would take him six months to work his way through them all. That's the problem with these sub-contractors....they don't reastically estimate schedules when they promise completion dates...they don't allow for weather and delays in water deliveries...

(I need a break from this house)

And with all the water issues we are going to have to solve to keep these plants alive, maybe we should get a bigger dog, and we could call the house "The Oasis"...(somebody help me. I can't stop...)

I honestly intended to get a sunset photo today, but just before dark our buddy JR (Evan) stopped by to say hello, and of course he needed a cold beer on a hot tropical afternoon and we started talking and I missed the sunset. We have written about Evan before. He wanted to let us know what he's been up to. Here he is showing us the keys to his new truck, a graduation present:

After a bumpy 2007, Evan (JR) has landed on his feet pretty well. He just graduated from a Yamaha factory mechanic training program in Jacksonville. He has been working full time as a Yamaha mechanic, and now he's factory certified. As far as we know, he is one of the only, if not the first, person with that certification in the TCI.

La Gringa refers to him as "Our adopted son in the TCI", and that's not far from the truth. So we are pretty glad to see him happy and doing well. He's dating our builder's receptionist, whose mother is in Customer Service at the telecom/internet company. She also is good friends with our builder and has been trying to help La Gringa get the internet problems here sorted out. Okay, got that part down? This is a small country, remember. Everybody is related somehow, somewhere to something someone else is involved in.

Now...he used to be "Evan" on Pine Cay, because that's his given name. BUT now he is living on Provo and his name is "JR" which is short for "Junior" He always went by JR on Provo, but when he worked at Pine Cay there was already a JR there, so he went by his name Evan. Even though there was another Evan there as well. (Still is, but that Evan goes by "Punch") But if JR goes by Evan on Provo it confuses people because they all know his father as Evan, which is why Evan Jr. goes by JR. He would go by "Junior", but you cannot imagine the confusion that would buy into. We got LOTS of "Juniors" in the TCI.

This is not uncommon here. The ratio of preferred nicknames over given names is many times higher here than anyplace I have ever been in North America. (And if you are down here and hear "Hardcore" on the radio helping someone with a Yamaha problem, thats Evan. Junior. JR.)

And for the record, we liked the kid LONG before he just happened to become a factory-certified Yamaha Outboard Motor mechanic...... (Whew. I was needlessly worried that he was going to get into medical school. We got good doctors here. Yamaha mechanics are like gold.) Hey, JR, old buddy, old pal........wanna nuther beer?

So, that's a quick update for those people who follow this whole living in the tropics thing. The house completion creeps along. We are still, for example, waiting for 27 ( yes, twenty seven) window louvre cranks so that we can open and close windows without inserting, cranking, and then removing one of the few cranks we have, for every window. They have been "on order" for something like four months. Strange that I can get parts for Land Rovers, entire water filtering systems, gas grills, and inversion tables down here in a week. A dumb Gringo.

Okay, I went and mentioned the filtering system. I am trying to break myself of that. At least I didn't post another photo of it. Sorry I missed the sunset, but I have hopes of some decent sunset photos coming up from somewhere behind the new palm trees. From a photographic point of view, I am thinking this kind of angle has some promise:

Kinda helps "Tropicalize" the place up a little bit, don't you t'ink?


Anonymous said...


i accidentally came across your blog when i typed in 2 gringos, looking for another blog. that area looks beautiful. i love the plants! i look forward to reading your blog on a regular basis.

take care and enjoy the nice weather.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous comment from Sir Reel.

God sure knew what he was doing when he created all sorts of vegetation! I don't think any single step that's been taken in the construction process has had the dramatic affect that the landscaping has accomplished. Just a side note, when you start trimming those button woods, save the cuttings. That's the favorite choice in South Florida for smoking mullet!

Anonymous said...

Looking great !!! It won't be long before you'll be seriously trying to reverse osmois saltwater for a new irrigation, read irritation, system or studying rain dance methodology! Life on the end of a hose pipe is BORING !

Anonymous said...

Hello Teresa,
Glad you stumbled across the blog.
I think the earlier stuff before we got seriously into house building was much more interesting. Its more about boats, diving, exploring the The last couple months we have been consumed with getting a house finished. But the day is coming.

And as for the Reverse Osmosis idea, I already have a system picked out, and a location. We have to dig or drill a seawater well down where the second driveway will intersect the road. We will have to get a little blockhouse built and run power down to it. And then we should be able to run the fresh-water output up the hill and into the cisterns. All the irrigation pumps etc. will pull from the cisterns. I think I have it all pretty much engineered and worked out.

Just takes $$$$$...oh, and time. Lots of time.

heinz said...

I applaud you for using all native plants - it just makes great sense. I like the selection and the framing of the driveway. Have you had a lot of haze the past week? Maybe May 8-10; I was in St. Thomas and it was very hazy.
Beautiful home!
If you ever need something shipped from the states, please let me know.

Anonymous said...


nice to see your comment. i would love to go back and read your earlier posts but scrolling down gets old fast. is there a quick way to do that? i got back as far as jan. 23rd. by clicking on "e-mail updates" but would like to go back to when you started. that's what i usually do when i find a blog i really like. by the way, those sunset pictures are spectacular.


La Gringa said...

Hi Teresa,

One thing you can do is start with the Archives - expand the first month and start with the first post. When you finish reading the first post, click on Newer Posts at the bottom and you will go to the next one.

Hope that helps!


Anonymous said...

I finally made it to the "present" in the blog and am thoroughly enjoying it. House looks wonderful. Good for you for using natives. I think you mentioned irrigation somewhere. Are you going to work out some kind of graywater system (besides Dooley)? I don't know how any piping could be installed but if there's a way, you'll figure it out.

Keep the posts and pictures coming!

Anonymous said...

We have a 1500 gallon gray water tank, and we add between 150 to 170 gallons a day to it. Yesterday we had the plumber here to install a submersible pump and float switch in it. It will be used to irrigate the plants on that side of the driveway. The rest of the stuff will be getting water via another pump which will pull it from the cisterns. I am still working out the most cost effective way to get the water into the cisterns in the first place. Buy it at six cents a gallon delivered, or put in an RO system, drill the seawater well, etc.

Oh, and of course we are hoping for a lot of rain the next few months. Without those big circular winds, of course.

Anonymous said...

hi there,

thanks for the suggestion. i had already tried that and it didn't work. tried again after you suggested it, still didn't work. no big deal, i'll just work my way backwards. it'll be faster than scrolling to the beginning.

by the way, the sunrise pix on april 22nd are spectacular! especially the one at the end of the post.


Murni Rosa said...

Hi.. Accidentally come to this blog. hehehe.. Btw, mostly I like the top one picture.

Anonymous said...

Hello M.R. Indrasari,
I am happy you stumbled upon us.
If you look back at older posts, there are MUCH better photos than that one.

And not all of the blog is about building this house, and landscaping. And hopefully, soon, we will be writing about other parts of the islands again.