Thursday, May 31, 2012


HB and I planted our herb and pepper seeds on Monday morning, and resigned ourselves to a couple of weeks of waiting before anything happened. Imagine my excitement then, when, on Wednesday morning, not 48 hours after planting, I saw this:

Bright green seedlings growing in some of my seed cups.

They're so vibrant and big already, you can even see them through the double-layered plastic. I know basil is especially fast-growing, but I have thyme and rosemary sprouts too! The environment here is apparently very seed-friendly. Can't wait for some of HB's peppers to start popping up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


On my trip to Denver, I took along "The Girl Who Played with Fire" as some light airplane reading. The beginning takes place in the Caribbean Island nation of Grenada, and while our heroine is spending time in the sun, the island just happens to get hit by a hurricane.

Nevermind that this is in December, far past the usual confines of hurricane season. What really got to me is the scene in which a bad guy wanders into a waterspout, and the author insists that NEVER BEFORE has there been a tornado in the middle of a hurricane, and that it is IMPOSSIBLE for tornadoes to form over water. It seems Mr. Larsson could have done a bit more research, as tornadoes and waterspouts a very common side effect of hurricanes.

What I did not know until very recently, however, is that tornadoes and waterspouts can form in the Caribbean even when there are no hurricanes about.

On Sunday I was working in the kitchen, when I happened to glance out the front door at the cloud bank about a mile offshore to our north. Imagine my surprise when I espied what appeared to be funnel clouds.

Those two little wisps dropping down from the main body of cloud really grabbed my attention in a primal way. At first I thought I was being silly, but then I turned to HB and asked, "are those funnel clouds?". One glance and he confirmed my suspicions.

We stood on the porch transfixed as we watched the clouds elongate. After a few minutes, HB's sharp eyes picked up a disturbance on the surface of the water, just barely visible in the photo above.

A longer lens confirmed what our eyes suspected. The funnel cloud had touched down on the surface of the ocean and created a waterspout. This one lasted about 10 minutes all-told, and the same cloud system created a second, weaker waterspout that lasted maybe five minutes. Quite a lot of weather excitement for our Sunday afternoon, though.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dragonfruit Flower

Obviously I have been rather absent for the last week or so, and with no previous notice. I had to spend some time in Denver with my parents, and it was not at the top of my list of priorities to update my blog. I appreciate those of you who have still been checking in here, and reassure you that regular posting will begin again forthwith.

I do give fair warning, however, that I am currently very happy with my island home, and find it much harder to write entertainingly about the BVI when I am happy here. As a result, you may be subjected to lots of drivel about how lovely things are, and little ranting about utilities or immigration or other similar items.

Onward! Upon my return from Denver, there was a lovely surprise waiting for me in the garden. Our landlords have thoughtfully planted a dragonfruit tree (or pitaya) just near the gate to our residence. Ordinarily, the dragonfruit tree, with its spiny, reaching limbs, garner only our occasional annoyance as we try not to stab ourselves in the eye while entering or exiting the garden. But sometimes, for just a few nights a year, we are rewarded with its extraordinary blossoms.

These astounding flowers are approximately 8 inches in diameter, literally as big as my face, and open for just one night only. Last summer, when we moved in to the apartment, we happened upon one when returning from the bar late one night, but it had withered and died by the time we awoke the next morning. Since I've been back, three have opened, and there is another bud awaiting the right moment.

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get any dragon fruit from this plant. With blossoms open for only one night, a pollinator would have to fly from this plant, to another one nearby that is also flowering, within the confines of one evening, in order to produce fruit. Although I'm sure there are other pitayas on Tortola, I've never seen one myself, so I'm doubtful this one will be pollinated. The flowers alone are satisfying enough, though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Puerto Rican Ground Lizard

Ever since I started my job here in the BVI, I have been desperate to do a post about these lizards. They're everywhere on the property here, and in my head, I refer to them as "dinosaur lizards", probably due to the way they look like mini-Godzillas to me. They're extremely shy though, so I never managed to really get a picture of one before, but finally, yesterday, there was a slow-moving male outside the office and I was able to grab my camera and snap a few shots.

My favorite thing about the dinosaur lizards is how multi-colored they are in the sun. The sides of the males, especially, are adorned with blue and green spots, but vibrate in the sun, giving them a rainbow-sided look. 

Of course, they aren't really dinosaur lizards. They are, in fact, Puerto Rican Ground Lizards, or some close relative thereof. They are a type of ameiva, and I haven't been able to find much information on them. The El Yunque link indicates that these guys only grow to about 8 inches from snout to vent, but I have definitely seen larger specimens than that here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I'm headed back to the States in a few days to visit my parents, and one of the things I am most excited about is picking up the seeds that HB ordered. He's decided to finally give making his own hot pepper sauce a go so he ordered a wide variety of hot pepper seeds to try and grow: some habaƱeros, some poblanos, some purple jalapeƱos and some Butch-Ts (the hottest pepper in the world). The peppers should be relatively easy to grow -- they love a hot humid climate, and as long as we can keep the birds off them, they should do well.

I am more nervous about the handful of herb seeds and the one packet of tomato seeds I ordered. Tomatoes are not big fans of the damp, so I will have to struggle to keep them dry. I also have never grown tomatoes on my own before, and I know they can be finnicky and difficult, so I may be asking advice from you, my readers, a few times once I've got the seeds planted.

All in all, I'm definitely excited to start a new hobby here on Tortola and will keep you updated with our progress.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fog and Rain

Awoke last night to some of the most violent rain I've heard here on Tortola. Co-workers commented it sounded almost like a hurricane without the wind, the rain was so heavy.

With the amount of fog we've had, I've been asking myself fairly frequently lately when it was that I moved to San Francisco. As HB calmly pointed out, we moved on the 1st of May. Nominally, May is the 4th rainiest month on average in the BVI, after September, October and November, but the feel of the rain is May is entirely different. The continual grey clouds, and steady drip can make it feel like it never stops raining the entire month. And on Tortola, in the mountains, continual clouds means continual fog.

I took this picture on my way to work this morning to illustrate my point. It wasn't until editing it earlier that I realized it is kind of a callback to one I took in Colorado last fall.

Just another twenty days or so of this to go. Unless it continues into June like it did last year. For those considering travelling to the BVI in May, be forewarned.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Dog's Life

Every so often, I feel a need to tie this blog back to it's title, and so here is your update on the titular basset hound in the BVI. On Monday, we spent a lazy and satisfying afternoon on the porch with the dogs.

When HB went for a stroll through the garden, he took Roscoe with him

but poor Flash, who can't be trusted to wander around off leash without trying to dash through a privet and out of the garden, had to watch from behind bars.

I made it up to Flash later, though, by providing him with one of his favorite treats, a floor-dwelling human.

One happy basset.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Wandering around the garden yesterday, HB was somewhat surprised to encounter this:

Having never encountered a pineapple plant before, the immediate identifiability of the fruit and the manner in which it grew made me almost think someone had bought a pineapple at the store and "planted" it (metaphorically speaking) as a trick. No, in fact, apparently this is how pineapples actually grow, right-side up at the end of a thick stalk.

I guess I'd never really deeply thought about it before, but somehow I just assumed that all pineapples came from Hawaii. Encountering this evidence to the contrary in the garden made me realize that of course, pineapples are probably grown in countries throughout the temperate zone, even here in the BVI.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Other Paths

As Michael in the Florida Keys will attest, having only one route to get to work can become a major liability, especially when traffic accidents occur. Not being able to quickly dart down a side street when traffic starts to get bad is something I'm still getting accustomed to, living the the BVI. I've written before about how an excavator-loading on the road to my house can make me 30 minutes late for work or, as it did the other day, cause my ice cream to melt as I was held up on the way back from the grocery store.

This morning, I was five minutes from work when I encountered a back-loader that had collided with a jeep in the middle of one of the many switchbacks on Windy Hill. The back-loader couldn't get enough purchase on the steep switchback to move out of the roadway, and a tow truck was going to have to be called in -- an operation that would keep the road closed for around two hours. Had I been in the Florida Keys and on Highway 1, I might have just turned around and headed home. In the BVI though, I am blessed to have at least one alternate route at all times. As it was, I had to backtrack about halfway to town, come down to the coast, and take the long way around to work. In all, my 20-minute commute became 45 minutes. Not too terrible. Still, I desperately missed those side streets and alleyways of my gridded-street Denver youth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

King of the Lizards

Another weekend in St. John, another iguana sighting. I see them fairly frequently in Tortola, especially running around the hotel property, but never have a chance to take pictures of them. This guy was just sunning himself in the roadway and HB snapped a photo for me.

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