Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tree cutting; Gilbert cuts water supply line; squid soup

Before we go any further, someone pointed out that in talking about cold weather we referred to Fort Frank as Caribou Island. We were probably betrayed by the spell-checker program. As you may know, a caribou is a North American reindeer. What we meant to say was Carabao Island. Carabao is the name for the local water buffalo. Unlike African water buffalo, which are some of the most dangerous animals alive, the carabao is domesticated and is used, among other things, as a substitute for a tractor in a rice paddy. And unlike reindeer, they cannot fly or pull Santa’s sleigh. Bad enough “eight tiny reindeer,” but imagine if eight 2500-pound carabao landed on your roof all at once.

We returned to no solar power on Sunday night. We had left the outside lights on, only to find them dead. The sun has not been shining a lot lately, and we had some fairly high wattage bulbs outside. The first thing we did was start up the genset and run it for two hours. That immediately restored power, and recharged the system sufficiently to keep the refrigerator running overnight. So the genset did its job. It uses about one liter of diesel fuel to run for one hour, so it’s not economical for regular use but not bad for occasional backup.

We replaced the 23 watt bulbs inside and out with 7 and 9 watt bulbs, in hopes that they will still provide enough light. We need to have outside lights on at night whenever we have lights inside or small bugs, especially gnats, will find their way into the house. We also decided that we had waited long enough to have the tree cutting project completed. Originally the big tree out front was cut back except for the side nearest the house, so as to not endanger the roof when the branches were cut and consequently fell. However, we needed to have sunlight later in the day, and this time of year they were entirely blocking the panels by about 2:30.

So one of the temporary island workers, a man but who certainly was small enough and young enough to pass for a boy, climbed up the tree and began, branch by branch, cutting them down. He used a bolo (machete) for the task. He was at least 50 feet in the air at one time. He was being extremely careful, but it was still scary to watch. Even Ronilo, the island manager who arranged for the work, stayed around because he was nervous as long as the man was high up in the tree. But he got the job done, on a day that was pure sunshine, so we got a good solar charge for the day. Afterwards Steve had a very difficult time paying the man, who kept refusing, but Steve insisted since he was the one who had put his life on the line.

Simultaneously, Gilbert, the island photographer, had offered to work in the yard. There are numerous old plastic water lines that run through around the house, relics of the time when the yard was an aviary. They are sometimes above ground and sometimes buried, and an eyesore. Steve had been assured that they were all unused, so the first thing he did was have Gilbert start cutting the old plastic water lines. The problem was that the very first line that Gilbert cut was the current water line to the house. Immediately water started gushing from the break.

The first thing that had to be done was to find the water shutoff valve. This took several minutes, by which time the ground was well saturated. Fortunately Gilbert was able to get the water running to a trickle. The island plumber is on vacation, but Edward, a handyman, was able to come and start to work on the leak. He did a great job and was able to piece the pipes back together. Gilbert’s next job was to bury the waterline so this won’t happen again.

Meanwhile, Gilbert’s cousin Mario was out in the yard putting borders around young papaya tress in hopes of keeping the guy who does the yard trimming from cutting them down. The other problem is that monkeys apparently ate the leaves off an 18-inch papaya right behind the house last night. We’re hoping that it will regrow its leaves and that the monkeys will leave it alone next time. That is the first time we’ve had trouble with them, although we’re told not to leave our laundry or footwear outside overnight because the monkeys may steal them.

By the way, last night we had leftover squid, this time in noodle soup. For some reason Steve’s squid had more ink than Marcia’s, so that by the time he had cut up his shrimp his broth was as black as coal. Both our tongues turned black temporarily. Steve would describe the soup as different or interesting, and Minnesotans, at least, should know what he means.

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