HERE IN THE RAINFOREST, 2007

Hi Folks, We’re getting there. Only  six more years to go!

April 26, 2007 

As an American who grew up in the Mid-West, my traditional celebrations were patterned around the cycles of the four seasons. That worldview, however, does not apply to living in the tropics.  The weather here in Dominica is two-faced–too wet or too dry—take your pick. One has to be clever to live in sync with such extremes.

This duality affects everything from gardening to animal husbandry to roof repair. The window of agricultural success opens and closes abruptly. Although root crops like dasheen and yams can make it most anytime, a good portion of the year is much too wet for soft vegetables to flourish. January, February, and March have suitable rain for seeds to germinate, but ruinous downpours can occur even into April. May marks the onset of kawenm, the dry season. As soon as the gloomy days become luminous, animals instinctively take advantage of the bright weather. Puppies frolic, chickens lay more eggs, goats produce healthy, lively offspring, and Boas come out to  bask in the sun.

As a person who attempts to live in harmony with nature, I, too, revel in the sunshine. But I also make sure that repairs and preparations are completed by June when the fearsome spirit of Huracan threatens an unwelcome appearance. From then on there’s nothing to do but keep good supply of batteries, a pantry full of tinned goods, and your fingers crossed until December.

August 19, 2007

I should have had an intuition–things were going along much too smoothly here in the rainforest. The garden was producing like mad, and so were my dogs. River’s puppies had sold nicely, so when Valley, my other female Rott/Ridgeback, and Roxie, my pure Rottweiler, came into heat at the same time, I took a chance and bred them both. Voila!. Valley had eleven pups on May 16th and Roxie had five on May 17th.  Sixteen puppies, and every one survived! It took all my patience and marketing skills, but they were all finally settled in good homes. Now, I thought, it was time to relax. Maybe I’d take time to go and visit my family in the States before the next round of puppies arrived. But then there was talk of Tropical Depression # 4. I tracked it diligently as it rolled around in the Atlantic trying to make up its mind where to pass. Unfortunately, it seemed Tropical Storm Dean was headed straight towards Dominica.

A warning was issued. Dean, now a Category 1 Hurricane, would affect the island within 24 hours. The next morning, I, along with most of the population of Dominica, made a mad dash for supplies. (In my case more batteries, dog food, rum and tins of baked beans) and was back home before noon. I then spent the rest of the day battening down the hatches and trying to figure out where to put the dogs so that they would be safe. The wind started around 3 o’clock in the morning. By 10 a.m., it was blowing 100 MPH and lashing the island with a total of 20 inches of rain. The house stood strong, but there farm took heavy blows. As I write, phone lines are down, and a monumental landslide blocks the road. No telling how long I will be trapped at home without communication. Humph! Forget about a vacation. It looks like I’ve got plenty more work to do.

December 24, 2007

Season’s Greetings from the Dominican Rainforest!

Christmas is in the air! The days are brilliant, and the nights are cool and clear. Though lacking in what is perceived by some as traditional holiday décor, the stars have been so bright that extraneous lights, even if they were an option, would ruin the effect. The full moon, which falls tonight, on Christmas Eve, is another cause for celebration.

The shrubs of poinsettia that flourish on both sides of the long lane that leads to the house are also putting on a spectacular show. Over six feet tall and wildly profuse, they are the free range cousins of the tidy greenhouse varieties I grew up knowing. A tamer Euphorbia, one with much smaller foliage and tiny white blossoms reminiscent of snow, is planted alongside the standard variety. Together they conjure up images of starched white lace and big red satin bows on expensive presents.

The appearance of scarlet blossoms on the African Tulip trees that populate the otherwise verdant slopes of Morne Courrone is another sure sign of the season. The mountains above the river are ablaze with them. Bright red and green Jaco parrots flock noisily among the branches, flashing like gaudy glass bulbs, while scores of iridescent hummingbirds flit among the flowers. Christmas is the only time of the year that sugar cane blooms. The plumes glitter and wave in the breeze, causing visions of tinsel to dance in my head. This is also the season for Sorrel, a clear red drink made from the sepals of a member of the hibiscus family. Now that I’ve boiled it with local spices, poured it over lots of ice, and spiked it with rum, here’s wishing you all a Merry, Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

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