domingo, 25 de julio de 2010

Insectos: from creepy to copacetic

Rainy season brings out all the best (and worst?) critters. Typically when I discover an uninvited guest of the creepy crawly variety in the house, it is quickly and carefully relegated outdoors (notable exceptions are cucarachas and scorpians, both killed on the spot).

I was prompted to do a bit more research recently in order to identify the following many-legged ones found in my bedroom. I had a strong suspicion one or both might be poisonous.

The first,
most likely a millipede though I didn't get a leg count before ushering it outside. Millipedes feed primarily on decaying plant matter, so no big threat there. They can, however, produce an "irritating fluid" when disturbed. gross.

Next, less leggy though slightly more menacing,

some kind of centipede, a carnivorous insect with a set of sharp claws that contain venom and can inflict a painful bite! The very large varieties can harm humans; I think this guy is small enough to be considered inoffensive; nonetheless he was removed to the outdoors as well.

A safer distance from my bed, on the exterior door of the house, I happened upon this gorgeous and unusual spider and her web.
Click on the image to get a closer look--it's worth it ;)

Undeniably elegant and cheery, the butterflies emerge in full force after a heavy rain, dipping in water droplets and nibbling on fruit.
Here they feast on a juicy opening in a mango still on the tree.

Below, they converge upon the mango pit I am sun-drying before planting.

martes, 20 de julio de 2010

Mamey Fruit

I've discovered a new fruit, delicious for you and your goat!

Admittedly, it doesn't necessarily look so scrumptious from the outside...
This strange globe-shaped fruit with a surprising sweet flesh is known as "mamey" here in Nicaragua, and in more official circles as Mammea americana. When ripened, these huge, heavy fruits come crashing to the ground with a distinctive thud. Needless to say, loitering under the mamey trees would be foolish.
Last year at this time I was loitering under the mamey trees, scratching my head in wonder at the pumpkin-orange mess splattered and rotting in fermenting puddles around the farm. No one had mentioned that the magnolia-like trees lining the coffee rows produces an edible fruit. and they don't exactly have that fruit tree sort of look, do you think?
Even if I did notice the brown dinosaur eggs growing in the branches above, they closely resemble another "fruit" in the area, inedible, nicknamed "donkey balls" which secretes a white sticky milk that I was told can be used to repel flies. So fair enough, I managed to miss a whole season's mamey crop despite it growing, literally, in my own backyard.
NOT donkey balls

This year, as a more informed fruit eater, I was ready for mamey season (keeping a safe distance from the drop zone) and easily collected a wheelbarrow full of ripe specimens to sample.

Peeling a mamey is not easy, and once you get inside there is a bitter white membrane, like an orange, to pick through before reaching a thin layer of flesh surrounding a gigantic round seed. However it only took one taste to make it all worth it.

The flavor is tough to describe, much like mamey's fragrance: a deep, sweet, peachy perfume. Try it, you'll like it!

jueves, 15 de julio de 2010

when the cat's away....

Finally we are home!!! An extra long visit to the USA was fun-filled and relaxing, but now i am so ready to get my hands dirty again!
From the looks of things around here, a lot has been going on. In a word: OVERGROWTH, of both flora and fauna. I expected the long spiraling vines, extreme weed invasion, bolting basil, and even the moldy film layer on all clothing and textiles in the house. this is tropical living in all its glory.
Rainy season came early this year, so the 4-6 months of photosynthetic bliss began without me. Most days, the air is thick with impending rain, not a stifling humidity though; it is like a warm haze, the sun glowing dimly somewhere in the sky, making the air almost visibly green. Then suddenly, a wonderfully refreshing breeze heralds RAIN, RAIN, and more RAIN, drenching everybody and everything in tropical wetness. So the plant profusion I anticipated. the barrage of animal life is another story. more than one actually.

You leave a house with only screened windows and doors for 2.5 months, what do you expect, right? And it is fly season after all. However, it was still startling (to say the least) when I interupted the very settled-in ANT COLONY that had moved in to my PAJAMA DRAWER! Big gross ants with eggs and all. Escaping the heavy rains, my bedroom window must have offered ideal access into my closet, i.e. the perfect nesting space.
I had no problem eradicating the ant community. Ants and i go way back, this was only one more skirmish in our ongoing conflict of interests.

The situation in the coat rack is entirely different. here's an initial glance.
Hmm. sticks and junk inside a hanging baseball cap? How strange.
Closer inspection reveals oh-so-much more:

Yes, real live wild baby birds. Did i mention the coat rack is IN the house?!? Her beak stuffed with tasty morsels, Mama Bird slips under the crack of our front door several times a day. Three little chirpers wait patiently in their baseball cap nest. Life was certainly less perilous for this birdy family before Chia the cat moved back inside. There's only so long I can carefully moniter the cat's actions. Twice now I've found Chia face to face with a baby bird; by some miracle the tiny winged-ones seem fully intact. Hopefully they will be fast learners and fly out of here soon!

The animals I was most happy to see are thankfully alive and well, if a tad on the skinny side.

Stella & Daisy