Tuesday, 24 April 2012


I apologise in advance to all those experienced homesteaders and country folk out there for whom ticks are just an annoying inconvenience that happens every summer and who will think me an ex-city-dwelling, drama queen.  For me, first-time dog owner and new tropical gardener, they were something of an unseen, and unknown, Nemesis lurking in the long grass.

Having finally gotten around to clearing a new patch of grass that had stood as tall as me (possibly taller), for many months, I was pleased with the new open area....the dogs however, were nothing short of jubilant. This newly cut grass was the dog equivalent of catnip. They jumped, rolled and cavorted from dawn 'til dusk and then headed home. I noticed a week or two later that George was scratching rather a lot, so decided to investigate - horror of horrors - he was covered in ticks!!  Big ticks, little ticks, tiny ticks - I have never seen one up close and personal (in fact I'd never seen one at all but recognised them from a recent feature by a fellow blogger.)

Out came the tick & flea shampoo and a good bath.....WRONG MOVE APPARENTLY!! The ticks only seem to get worse and HUGE.  "Do not attempt to pull them off" say all the instructions, this will only cause them to regurgitate the contents of their entire self into the dog's bloodstream (gross!) resulting in a potentially very sick, or even dead, dog!  What utterly hideous creatures - the more I read, the more every part of me itched at the thought of them....I read about prevention and natural remedies but somehow this seemed to be an urgent and desperate time that called for desperate measures. I apologise again, this time to all my fellow herbalist, naturapaths and DIY remedy experts - I confess I panicked and called the vet who came and administered a commercial brand of evil chemical tick killer....but it wasn't over by any means and the worse was yet to come.

The following morning where George had slept on the verandah, walked several ticks, as though out for a morning stroll - the rats were abandoning the sinking ship (mixed metaphors? - rats, ticks - the concept is the same)....utter revulsion engulfed my usual calm demeanour and "laissez-faire" approach and George was quarantined and confined to his pen whilst the mother of all clean-ups begun. (Don't despair dog lovers, his pen is some 15ft x 15ft square with a 4ft high lattice surround - it's a rather pleasant holding cell with a distant sea view and a paddling pool).

I scrubbed, cleaned and washed down every thing in sight. I gathered all visible signs of ticks or tick-like life (including an errant jumbo oat flake and an apple seed) and destroyed them.....and yes, I used a chemical spray, but confined to a bucket with a lid on - a makeshift tick gas chamber.  I am not proud of myself - these creatures caused all my ethics to be lost in an instant - live and let live, stay natural, ban chemicals....how easy it is to slide when you find the one thing that makes your flesh crawl and your scalp itch at the mere idea of them!

The oddest part in all this was the fact that Ilsa had no ticks at all - they do EVERYTHING TOGETHER, and go EVERYWHERE TOGETHER - so how was she unscathed in all of this?

The vet said, "perhaps George has had an encounter with a frog?"......."perhaps"?  there is no perhaps about it, George adores teasing and tormenting frogs, no matter how often I chastise him, many evenings he returns home with the tell-tale foaming of the mouth where he has gotten too close and been squirted by one of the many huge frogs or toads that we have here.  Ilsa on the other hand, will watch and bark but will never touch the frog.
 "So....", enquired I of the vet, "what has the frog got to do with ticks?"
"Frogs have ticks" says the vet, "and if George has been playing with frogs, there is a high chance he will pick up ticks from them"....
"who knew?".....not I, for sure.

Whilst I momentarily lost my cool on the discovery of these heinous creatures, I cannot begin to contemplate harming, destroying or driving out the entire frog population from an acre of bush and storm drains. George seems to be undeterred by any of the usual punishments and continues to stalk and terrorise the local frog population. 

HAPPY CONCLUSION: it's been two weeks since the last tick sighting and both Ilsa and George's coats are clear and glossy - George has stopped itching and calm has returned to Happy Hippy Haven and the whole place is as shiny as a new pin.....but what next?  I've tried to keep the grass low, but having Trevor the gardener come when he says he will is one bit of magic that I haven't found a spell for....and widespread spraying is out of the question. 

Monday, 23 April 2012


Dear readers,

Sincere apologies for being so very quiet - I've heard that some of you are missing me - how kind you are! : ))

Ma had taken a bit of a dive, health wise, and things got rather hectic but the cavalry have arrived in the form of my sister from the UK and the return of my sister-in-law who had gone to the UK for a month to make the acquaintance of her two new grandchildren.  Ma has improved hugely in this last week under a new doctor and a new medication regime......so normal services will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime, I've been trying to keep things ticking over with quick, short posts via my facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Happy-Hippy/269710913099463?ref=tn_tnmn

I know it's no substitute for proper updates and news.....but it helps.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Contrary to expectation, and something of an anomoly, as we head into the rainy season, water shortages and water storage have been on my mind.

My experience thus far has been that when the island has high or sudden rainfall, the reservoir gets filled with silt and debris as water thunders down the mountainsides and rivers burst their banks. The result is heavily muddied waters and the need to close down pumping stations whilst the mud settles...hence no mains water.

Coupled this year with a further complication - it seems that following the passage of Hurricane Tomas, the water company believed it had removed much of the silt that had settled in our main dam/reservoir and that all was hunky dory. However, as water levels have dropped through this dry season, they have become acutely aware of the fact that a 20ft depth of what they assumed was safely stored clean water, is in fact 20ft of mud!  So a re-hash of calculations means the possibility of two things:
- if it doesn't rain soon, they will run out of water much sooner than anticipated;
- if it does rain torrentially, the silt will be disturbed and the water will require additional handling before it can be pumped.
- Either way, there are likely to be disruptions to supplies.

So, my efforts (and budget) this week have been rallied around the issue of that all-important and magical resource that we cannot do without - WATER!

Et voila! The completion of a much-pondered solution; a pair of gravity-fed water storage tanks are now purchased, plumbed and filled with 1200 gallons of water.  When full, the system will auto-switch to sending mains water direct to the house.  I know this is all very obvious to many, but growing up in the city meant I never had to think about where my water was coming from - it was just there whenever one turned on the tap.

The next major water projects include:
-  the creation of a rainwater-gathering system. This may have to be as simple as some rain barrels for now as to build a proper concrete, plaster-lined cistern would be too costly at present
- then there is the question of water for the new veggie garden which is some distance from the house, so requires a deliverable short-term plan for both a mini rain-water gathering system and piped mains water if I am to grow anything.......seems I shall be a very busy bee in these coming weeks.

In the meantime, having chosen the highest point on the whole plot, the tanks are fully operational. My eldest brother, who is an electrical wizard, kindly installed a pump for times when levels get very low - but for the most part, the high position and gravity will do the job very nicely and the pump will get very little use (hopefully).  At last, it seems there is some benefit to this very steeply sloping site!

When time and resources permit, I shall ask Handy Andy to plaster the blocks and add lattice doors and "windows" to prettify the structure, but right now, as far as I'm concerned it's a beautiful sight and will mean that I won't have to go 15 days without water as I did the last time they shut down the pumping station.

Nine months later - looking as though it's been there for years and working perfectly!



Sunday, 8 April 2012


What an amazingly stunning morning!  The sun is shining, the sky is blue with drifting white clouds and there is a fresh sea breeze. I have thrown open all the verandah doors to let in the sunshine and had breakfast outside. Today will be a rest day with family and friends, but first there is time for Easter eggs, followed by coffee and chocolate.

Wishing everyone a great long weekend. Hope you manage to do all that you want to and that you make some time to simply relax and enjoy it all.

Looking forward to when EVERYTHING on this plate is "homegrown"

Saturday, 7 April 2012


"Come into the garden, Maud...." ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

EUREKA!  Handy Andy was true to his word and worked Friday and Saturday to make up for time lost during the week...and what great progress he has made!

Stage I is completed. All the retaining walls are up with drainage included to allow water to continue on its natural pathway down the sloping landscape. The lattice fencing to keep dogs "out" and cucumbers, beans and more "up", is all in place and looking exactly as I had planned.

Stage II  - the addition of the potting-shed-cum-gazebo was due to begin after the Easter break, but rumour has it that our reservoir is reaching critical levels and with the recent hot weather and lack of rain, the water company may have to take steps to ration water supplies. So, I have shifted resources to the purchase of a new water tank and will start the installation next week, when Andy returns.....

In the meantime, my next task for the garden is to consider where the much-needed topsoil will come from and how it will be removed from its current location and transported to the new garden. The terrain does not allow for any kind of mechanised earth moving, therefore, all work with be done the good, old-fashioned way, using spades and wheelbarrows!  I truly hope that Handy Andy doesn't "make like Houdini" next week, I really need him to be present!

And as usual, I cannot finish without mentioning that whilst we scurry and toil, Mother Nature has put forth an epic display of new baby mangoes in the last few days, these being in addition to the already heavy load that the trees are currently groaning under - it never ceases to fill me with wonderment!  And as for the seedlings, they continue to thrive (those that survived being trampled under foot by the small dog). Though the dog has managed to jumble the labels, so I am not entirely sure what's what, and may have to hold a "name that seedling" quiz in a few weeks time....

Mystery seedlings with their new "dog armour"

YAY! The basic structure in place - the "pretty" bits will happen later.

View from inside the garden

Looking towards the house, with its new coat of fresh, Spring paint

More baby mangoes emerging this week

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


At the risk of repeating myself, it looks as through it will be a bumper mango crop this year.   Was it the chillier than normal winter that had folk shivering and complaining, and pensioners island-wide wondering if this is what hypothermeria was like, with night-time temps reaching as low as 23c?? (they have no concept of what it's like to live in a cold climate where you wake in the morning with thick ice on the INSIDE of the bedroom window, or to have your toilet cistern frozen solid for days).  Or was it the strangely windy January and February - did that aid better pollination than usual?  Whatever it was, I cannot recall the last time I saw such heavily laden mango trees.

Between my parents, brother and myself, we must surely harvest tens of thousands?  Which would mean, island-wide, there must be millions?  What will happen to all these mangoes? Generally speaking no one seems to preserve, bottle or freeze them....I am intrigued by this question and will watch with interest.

Other fruit buds and blossom are now appearing all around and we have bananas galore. I am truly thankful to see such bounty.

And with all this abundance, I was very alarmed to hear from my neighbour this week that many of his bees have died suddenly and inexplicably. Let us hope for all our sakes that our tiny island has not succumbed to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that is being experienced in many parts of the world. This would be a major blow that would come hot on the heels of the terrible devastation of many bananas plantations due to Black Sigatoka Disease which threatens to wipe out the livelihood of many St Lucian banana growers.  With no other industry to fall back on, we have to ask the question of what will happen if we lose our bananas and our bees?

In the meantime, just sharing some photos taken on a walk around my father's modest but highly productive garden at the weekend.....

I don't have a wide angle lens wide enough to capture the amount of fruit on this tree

Cashew Tree


A mysterious variety grown from a seed from a garden down south

Lime buds

Limes almost ready to pick, with Bitter Melon growing through the thorny tree

A perfect specimen which was absolutely delicious!


Sadly, as is all too familiar on island, my helper, Handy Andy has gone AWOL.  Heading off for the weekend with a full week's pay in his pocket means that I am unlikely to see him again until the money runs out.  On previous weeks, it's been a case of "no show" on Monday and/or Tuesday but today we have reached Wednesday and not a word.  I hope he is OK, but suspect that he is probably "recovering" from a good weekend.  In the meantime, with the shipment of cement afloat out in the Atlantic somewhere, and Andy off in the country resting somewhere, we head into the Easter break no further on. 

The dogs clearly hope that this situation will continue as they have made the cool and shady sand pile their new favourite place to sleep and dig.  I am pleased that they are enjoying the delay.

Oh well, better turn my attention to something useful until we can re-start the counter on the "Garden-within-a-garden" project.  It will give me some time to consider what, if any, structure I wish to add, where it will go, how it will be used and what it should look like - all good thoughts, so the additional thinking time will not be wasted  : )   

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Just as complacency was beginning to set in about the reasonable behaviour of my dastardly duo of Dobermans (cross), they seem to find something new to make me a less than Happy Hippy!

With building work going on, comes the need to store materials, mainly aggregate and sand, which they seem to have taken an uncontrollable liking to, especially the latter.

Every day, Handy Andy, my trusty helper, sweeps the sand into a neat pile and places an odd assortment of household items around to keep the dogs out! HA! will he never learn. Seven days in a row, he has gone through this same ritual and seven mornings in a row he has returned to find the sand strewn haplessly about the place and scattered down the drive (with a decent helping on the verandah where they come to shake themselves off, after the deed has been done!).

I will be pleased when this project is completed, not least so that I can cease to chastise these creatures in trying to stop them from doing something that they seem to take so much pleasure in.  And whilst I am willing to forgive them their sand fetish, I am less pleased to report that the little dog has rampaged over the seedboxes chasing a lizard - just as the first signs of life had begun....oh well, it's back to the drawing board on pooch-proofing my planting.