Thursday, 26 September 2013


Every time I walk out onto the verandah, my eyes are drawn across the valley to the new house build that is taking place. I've watched with interest, and with some degree of selfish disappointment, from the very first day when the workers arrived with chainsaws to clear the trees; with bonfires blazing, seemingly out of control, and the bulldozers came to create the new access road.

That was barely two months ago, and now standing tall, probably 30 feet from the base, there is a clearly discernable building of substance, which someone will soon call home.
Perhaps they will go up another floor?...or they may create a rental suite/in-law apartment downstairs?...or perhaps both, who knows.  What I do know is that the view and landscape will change....forever?  This is, of course, of no real consequence and has been happening, at an ever growing speed, these past few decades. People need places to live, and I have no doubt that eventually the entire hillside will be covered with new homes. 

With that thought, I wondered about my neighbours in the turquoise house across the way. Not the prettiest of houses granted, but home to that family for many years now.  Imagine the day they chose that particular spot; perhaps they planned all aspects, fantasising about early morning coffee with the rising sun and sundowners at sunset. Their sprawling south-facing terrace had an uninterrupted 180 degree view across the valley of virgin woodland and the sea beyond. Then along I came, and built a house in the middle of that woodland - I hope it's sufficiently far away, so as not to impede their view.  Three years on, despite any possible initial disappointment on their part, I suspect that they've learnt to live with this change of prospect, and maybe even enjoyed watching my comings and goings, and dog-related shenanigans from a polite distance.  But now what?  This new house will be immediately across the road from their terrace - a road that never existed when they sat down and planned their own dream home all those years ago.

Once the new house is completed, they will no longer be able to see my house, and likewise, they will be hidden from my all intents and purposes we shall cease to exist for each other.     

But this is life, isn't it? Nothing is permanent, every thing changes - that we can be sure of.
On a positive note, apparently the Buddha said, "because nothing is permanent, everything is possible". 

Several years ago, my partner and I hatched a master plan. We sold our house, containerised our belongings and put them into storage....we were off to start new jobs and embrace a new European lifestyle at 'Corporate Giant' Global HQ, set on the banks of Lake Geneva, looking across at the French Alps.  A new apartment was found with stunning views across the water to Evian, France (where the mineral water comes from), and Italy was just a short (efficiently Swiss) train ride away.  We talked of weekends in Milan during opera season, drives across the Alps into France and other intriguingly exciting things. Je suis arrivé!

Just a few months into the adventure, whilst we shared a celebratory dinner, I heard uttered those words so many of us hope we'll never hear...."I don't want to do this any more".
As far as I can recall, I believe I accepted this declaration with good grace, for somehow I already knew this would be the outcome, and had come to terms with it, but that didn't make it any less painful. It's a bit like having a close friend or family member with a terminal illness; you know it's just a matter of time, and you think you're prepared for the worse, until the final day arrives. I doubt that any amount of 'knowing' or warning can prepare you for the real sense of loss that follows. In a way, I think my coping mechanism and justification for accepting the situation so graciously was to believe it was karma catching up with me (I've since learnt that this is a common misconception of what karma truly means), for I'd done the self-same thing to someone else ten years previously, almost to the day, in order to be with him; which in turn seemed to provide me with a peculiar insight and understanding - and first-hand experience of how my own actions, all those years ago, had made another person feel; a rare gift indeed.        

Within two weeks, my father who had yet to be furnished with this "news", called in tatters; my mother had had a stroke and he was desparate for some help and support. In less than one month, I had resigned, agreed an amicable split, boarded a plane and begun considering a totally new plan of my own...thousands of miles from where I thought I would be. Almost seven years on, though both parents are unwell, we have shared some true quality time together, something I had not done with them for over twenty years. Life can be unexpectedly surprising, and I am grateful for the chance to have this 'second life' with them.

We can plan and scheme, but the universe may have a different plan for us, as yet unknown, and as it unfolds, we can choose to embrace it; embracing the uncertainty of each event, every change, and dance with life (to paraphrase two of Susan Jeffers' bestsellers).

Perhaps we can take some comfort in the fact that in the same way that good times may come to an end, so do bad times. As Sir Charlie Chaplin put it, "nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.".  

Making a start on the new build

No doubt in time this entire hillside will be covered with houses

Monday, 23 September 2013


Rather proud to be following in my old Papa's footsteps and supplying a decent harvest of organic Tahitian limes to a local hotel.  Though my Papa is very canny and held back a portion of the harvest to barter for some very tasty, and incredibly large, avocado pears from one of our neighbours.  'Tis these simple things in life that bring so much pleasure....

Thursday, 6 June 2013


As some of you know, this year I've been trying one bed using the "Back to Eden", no-dig, wood chip method, and one using a blend of organic gathered material from around the property mixed with  conventional compost. I added the standard amounts of organic fertilizer and Epsom Salts to both beds to give the seeds a kickstart.

To be honest, although I had read about "Back to Eden" and seen many photos, a part of me believed that the leaf mould and gathered material would win hands-down.

How wrong I was!

From what I had gleaned, mostly skim-reading, because that's how I roll (I do dislike that phrase, it sounds phoney, so I use it very much in a silly, cheeky way), much of the praise for the wood chip method had been around the fact that the layer of chips holds in moisture and keeps plants moister for longer, extending the period of time between watering and thereby reducing the amount of water required, as well as reducing trauma to the plants from high heat on sunny days. There are other benefits too, but I was focusing on this point for now.

With this in mind, I wondered whether here on a tropical rainforest island, my main priority should be to  conserve moisture or protect from high day-time temps?  It rains heavily almost every night during the summer, but it can reach into the mid to high 90f/30c during the day. Somehow, my expectation for the wood chip vs the organic leaf litter fell in favour of the latter, after all that's how our lush forests have grown for centuries, unaided by humans?

'Tis a good thing I am not a betting woman, for I would have surely lost my stake money.

It seems the wood chips have another weapon in their armoury - the ability to soak up excess water; like little sponges they wick away the water from the soil, allowing it to evaporate more effectively. So, after many weeks of unprecedented rain for the time of year, the veggie beds were waterlogged.

In the red corner, the wood chips did their thing, whilst in the blue corner, the organic matter has turned into soup! And within that quagmire, few of the seeds have germinated and those that have seem to be drowning or rotting.

So, there you have it. It's not scientific - a trial of one! But see for yourselves. I am always ready to admit when I'm now all I have to do is wait for the right phase of the moon and thin some of these seedlings and set them some place else.

If you're interested in learning more about the "Back to Eden" you can visit their website or Facebook page (links below).

Now where can I find some more wood chips?.....

The "Back to Eden" style wood chip bed - 6 weeks after sowing

Tomatoes are now 5 - 6 inches/15cm high

Okra already about 12 inches/30cm high and every single one germinated

Eggplant/Aubergine, looking strong and healthy

The organic compost/leaf mould bed, looking very wet and a little sorry for itself

Chinese cabbage - whole row sown, less than half have germinated and barely an inch high
The Back to Eden Chinese Cabbage, sown at exactly the same time - now about 3 inches/8cm high with good germination

The leaf mould bed saturated with rain and run off from the rest of the garden

Sunday, 28 April 2013


There are some days when it all becomes too much to take, not the hustle and bustle of traffic sounds rising up from the streets, or airplanes overhead, but the sheer diversity of experiences that bombard the senses on a simple walk around a tropical garden on a warm Sunday morning.

A morning that begun brilliantly clear and sunny, followed by a sudden and torrential downpour, in turn gave way to a parting of the clouds, sunshine and clear blue skies; and so it has continued. Now at 11.00am, the sun is making yet another bid to show itself, and all around great plumes of steam gently rise from the dense green foliage across the valley - I feel as though I'm in the Costa Rican jungle.

Here we are in the last few days of April and there is no doubt that spring has sprung, as several pairs of 'newly weds' busy themselves in searching for nooks and crannies to call home.  What I cannot fathom is the fact that although surrounded by acre-upon-acre of virgin woodland, the bird population seem hell-bent on making their nests in my home! Several pairs of bullfinches, each armed with a beak full of straw, are bickering and jostling for pole position to land the perfect spot.  Unfortunately, the prime location appears to be the space between my windows and fly screens.  Many of the upstairs windows are left slightly ajar, 24/7 to keep a good air flow through the house. For some reason (perhaps because of the good airflow?), the bullfinches have deemed that this is indeed a very good place to call home.

Sadly, I've had to evict two pairs (before they had time to complete their nest), because at some future point I will need to open the window on warmer days, which would result in their nest falling out; or need to close the windows, in the event of heavy rain/strong winds, which would be disasterous if the nest contained eggs or young.   So, I have to be vigilant, and chase away my would-be tenants before they get too comfortable.

Thankfully, one pair at least have seen sense, and moved their efforts to the self-seeded West Indian Lime, where they will be safe and dry. However, the much larger pair of Turtle Doves who keep appearing at my bedroom door may be a little harder to deter.   One of my Facebook friends commented that perhaps the birds just 'long to be close to you" - which made me laugh out loud, and ever so slightly disappointed that I hadn't thought of making use of that song title myself when I posted the status about the birds! :) 

And whilst all this is going on, and as if not to be outdone by all these sights of steaming jungle greenery, and sounds of battling birdlife, the olfactory receptors have also been treated to warm, steamy, sensuous and provocative scents wafting from nearby blooms of Gardenia, White Ginger, Rosemary, Jasmine, Citrus blossoms and so many other plants that I have no notion of their name, or how they came to be in the garden.  I guess I have to thank the birds for that too?

As I upload a teeeny, tiny glimpse of some of these wonders, through photographs that barely do justice to the 'real deal', I can hear the sound of raindrops again on the metal roof, and know that it is probably now too wet for me to plant the carrot, beets and radish seeds as I had planned:

Throwing open the bedroom doors, and thinking today would be a good day for seed planting...

Bullfinches in the West Indian Lime tree

Greeted by the sight of every cashew nut plucked from the tree, chewed by my canine dastardly duo and disgarded - grrr!

The new garden is slowly becoming a riot of colour, even on a grey day

Heleconia (variety unknown)

A much-loved poster I have from a visit to the South of France; but who needs perfume factories when you have all this on your doorstep?

Arriving home just after a rain shower, and had to capture how green is my valley!