Tuesday, 30 September 2008

My Blogging Friends

I have made a lot of friends through blogging. My fellow Trinidadian bloggers are a diverse bunch. One of the first bloggers that I followed on line was Nicole at My Caribbean Garden http://caribbeangarden.blogspot.com/ . She is a Trini who currently lives in Anguilla and always has the most amazing posts on plants and food. She is celebrating todayIt was a lovely surprise to find out that I had won the Blotanical award for best South American blog. Thank you so much, my fellow garden bloggers and dear readers.My congratulations to all the winners and nominees, many of whom have been on my blog list since inception .http://caribbeangarden.blogspot.com/
Her post yesterday was all about chutneys - making them and eating them. A subject close to my own heart. Nicole and I met in Trinidad last year (in real life) making it my first "blind-blogger" experience.

Another on-line friend is Nan at http://thingsivefoundinpockets.blogspot.com/. She is mum to three boys who also have their own blog http://chasandsam.blogspot.com/. I love Nan's blog with its mix of manicous and tarantulas, little boys, gardens, life, nature, traffic jams and lots more thrown in the mix.

Another good friend is Courtenay at http://pariasprings.typepad.com/paria_springs_trinidad_an/. Courtenay Rooks is a very old friend. He is an excellent nature guide and adventure-traveller. He has made an appearance on the blog with my Avocat posts. He has recently been to Brazil and his posts are, in tandem, both entertaining and educational. .... From August 26th to September 3rd I had to privilege of being hosted by the ABETA and the Brazilian tourism ministry on adventures in the Cerrado (pronounced Sehado) of Brazil. After this I attended the 4th installment of the Adventure Travel Trade Summit,

which this time was actually the Adventure Travel Trade Summit of the Americas. Dam, I'm lucky!!! ;-)

I thought the

frogs in my garden were exotic.
Thses are just a few of the people that I visit on-line. There are many more listed on my site.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Saut d'Eau

Saut d'Eau, French for "Waterfall", is a small island in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located just off the north coast of main island of Trinidad (less than 1km) in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of thirteen government protected wildlife sanctuaries, one of two breeding grounds for Pelicans in the country [1]. These pictures are from my friend Jeanine Storey who visited the spot over the weekend. With all the rain that we have been having, the North Coast is very calm and now is a perfect time to "pull a line" up on the coast. This bay is also known for its unusual statue on the beach. I am not sure if it is St. Christopher or St. Joseph. Neither do I know the history of the statue. But the thought of this bone white statue standing seaward is a very stirring, almost comforting one.
This is the waterfall that develops when it rains heavily. The sea at this time of year is brackish and sweet with the Orinoco spill. Perfect for swimming under a waterfall.
I was also not aware that Saut d'Eau is a protected site. The following is taken from Wikepedia.

The island was proclaimed a wildlife sanctuary in 1935 by the Trinidad and Tobago Government, granting it full legal protection by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry Division. Its notable wildlife is the Pelecanus occidentalis (Brown Pelican) which breed on the island, the only breeding place for the species in the country. Other important species on the island include the Chestnut-collared Swift and Rufous-necked Wood-rail, both of which are rare in the country. There are estimated to be at least 27 species of birds on the island. Poaching is not a major threat to the island because of its inaccessibility, due to its jagged cliffs, rough seas and distance from populated areas. However patrols by game wardens are also infrequent for the same reasons [2].

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Morning in the Garden

The angle of the sun is changing and moving. The air is a bit more chilly in the morning and the colour of the sky has drifted to a deeper blue. All of these signal the arrival of Christmas and after that, the dry season. Things are generally easier to grow when the humidity is not running in the high 90s. Below is a shot of my basil which is doing very well and has not be chewed to bits like my mint. I grow both spearmint and peppermint but I find mint to be very intolerant of any hint of fungus. I am even trying a small strawberry plant but I suspect we may not be cool enough for it to fruit.
My pink alocasias are still going strong and like many of my begonias I have found that growing them in a basket with a very light mixture of promix and manure has been the secret to keeping them alive in my damp garden.
A close up of "wild tobacco" and the flower. The foliage of this plant is an attractive dark brown.
My miniature pink banana is about to produce a small hand.

The zinnias are still bringing tons of butterflies into the garden but I think it is an island-wide phenomenon as there are butterflies everywhere. My daughter says that they have been flying in and out of the classrooms at school. Which makes me happy because I think that this little daily detail is going to be a precious memory for her later in life.

My vandas are coming back in now and (I don't even want the batchacs to hear me typing this) so far they remain uneaten. This lovely yellow spotted vanda is just beginning to show some wear and tear.Late blooms of the flamboyant.....I thought that the tree had packed up for the year but we got a burst of flowers earlier in the week. I have a bumper crop of hibiscus blooms that are about to pop open. But lots of things can happen overnight so I hope that the precious buds don't prove irresistible to the many wandering, nocturnal, hibiscus-bud predators that I never see but who can decimate an entire bush overnight.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Why am I not posting on my garden? All the pruning and fertilising that I did for the Garden Club's visit was just a week too late - next time I know to cater for six weeks and not one month before a big event. Anyway the garden is about to burst into full colour in a day or two and I don't want to spoil the show. So I am posting on other areas of life...... I used to be a reasonable cook. But now it comes and goes. Tonight this was one of my winners so I thought I would write it down because I can never remember my recipes to recreate them. This was a mussel and shrimp tomato something in a garlicky white sauce.
I really believe that your pot has a lot to do with it - tonight I used a large Le Crueset pot that I lugged all the way from Miami a few years ago. It is perfect for white sauces. I had no butter so started with an olive oil base, 4 crushed cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of flour and about 1 1/2 cups of full cream milk. I made my roux and cooked it quite a bit before adding the milk a little at a time. I added about a cup of grated cheese, 1/2 cup of white wine and one teaspoon of mustard. If I had to change any thing - I would have used vermouth or sherry if I had had in the cupboard and added gruyere instead of cheddar....but I made do with what was in the fridge.
I then added a tin of button mushrooms (no fresh), one cup of diced frsh tomato, about 2lbs of jumbo shrimp, shelled and cleaned; and one pack of Greenshell mussles. I sprinkled half pack of Maggi taste maker and a little white pepper and covered the pot and left to simmer on low for about ten minutes.

I then cut some parsley and green onion and sprinkled over the top. I served it with linguine and red wine. I know.....this is a white wine dish but I love to break the rules. It was a big hit and maybe I'll do it again.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Life Outside of the Garden

The current Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival is a very unique opportunity to gain valuable insight into the region. It's also the first year that we have seen such an abundance of "short" or short films by very young and talented students. Oliver Milne (The Cost of Living) and Alicia Milne (Luso Trinidad- Home in the Land of the Homeless) are two that are very close to home. The last name is purely coincedental but strangely, Oliver is my neighbour and Alicia is my cousin. If I could spend all day doing nothing but looking at movies in the cool dark of Movietowne for the next week, I would be one happy person but I'll just have to squeeze as many in as I possibly can. Over at Bookman, the festival has been summarised and reads in part..... In its third year, the Trinidad and Tobago Film festive is screening a body of work by Trinidadians and Tobagonians including a host of international filmmakers who have their roots from the Caribbean. The two week festival will give the public a taste of independent film and what it takes to be filmmaker through a series of workshops detailing the process of the craft. The festive begins on the 17th September, 2008
The following list are the films to be screened via the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival

Africa Unite : Stephanie Black
Alabaster Moon : Sarah Beckett
Almost Heaven : Ed Herzog
Arena: The Strange Luck of VS Naipaul : Adam Low
Candy Shop : Joel Burke
Cherps : Kolton Lee
Derek : Isaac Julien
Desamores : Edmundo Rodriguez
Eat For this is My Body : Michelange Quay
El Benny : Jorge Luis Sanchez
Film Makers of the Caribbean PT1 : Edmond Attong
Florentino and the Devil : Michael New
Francisco de Miranda : Diego Risquez
Ghosts of Cite Soleil : Asger Leth
It’s All About Dancing : Jason Williams
Jamesie: King of Scratch : Andrea Leland
Pan Man, Rhythm of the Palms : Sander Burger
Poor Boys Game : Clément Virgo
The Price of Sugar : Bill Haney
Soca Power : Claude Santiago Jean Michel GIBERT
The Black Mozart : Steven James
The Garifuna Journey : Andrea Leland
The Mystic Masseur : Ismail Merchant
Wrestling with the Angels : Marsha Pearce
A Culture in Motion: Scripting Identity With Images : Tamara Tam-Cruickshank
A Long Way Home : Graeme Suite
Adam and Eve : Laura Munoz
Afia : Lacey Duke
Anamnesis : Brendan Foster-Algoo
Baby Blues : Sara Ann Chow Quan
Balance : Christian James
Baltimore : Isaac Julien
Binghi : Natashe Callander
Curious City : Thomas K Jemmerson
Dancescape : Nalini Akal
Deeper Shadow Song : Corretta Singer
Directions : Renee Pollonais
Documentary Interview : V.S. Naipaul : Indrani Bachan Persad
El Café de Lupe : Marina Fuentes
Fantôme Afrique : Isaac Julien
Historias del Viento : Javier Beltrán Ramos
Invisible : Elspeth Duncan
Let Go : Nadya Shah
Locked Out : Diana Bernard
Luso Trinidad: Home in the Land of the Homeless : Alicia Milne
Mandy (Herman Tales) : Roger Alexis
Manipulation : Daniel Greaves
Mr loverman : Jimmel Dariel
Old Rabbits Die Hard : Stefano Caines
On the Map : Annalee Davis
Paradise Omeros : Isaac Julien
Queens of Curepe : Michael Mooleedhar
Salt of the Earth : Sophie Meyer
Scoundrel : Nile Saulter
Top Cop (Herman Tales) : Roger Alexis
The Art of Inspiration : Jean Ahn , Dara Brown, Christopher Thomas, Nikita Joseph, Nishi Soondar & Sasha Ramcharran
The Art of Stickfighting : Joseph Valley
The Caged Bird : Andre Johnson
The Cost of Living : Oliver Milne
The Fiddler : Kareen Brown
The Patriot (Herman Tales) : Roger Alexis
The Siege : Junior-Andrew Lett
True North : Isaac Julien
Western Union : Isaac Julien
Who Let The Dogs Out : Oyetayo Ojaade
“W” : Sonja Dumas
X Tempo : Valdir Silva
So just for tonight, it's not about the garden. This venture needs all the support that it can get so read on........

The official webpage of the Festival reads in part.....A celebration of the best films from and about the Caribbean, its Diaspora, and Latin America, the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) will be held in September 2008 at MovieTowne and Studio Film Club, Port of Spain.TTFF2008 seeks to highlight excellence in filmmaking and to expose Trinidad and Tobago audiences to films from throughout the region. The Festival accepts films made by Caribbean people, by persons of the Diaspora and by international filmmakers who have made films about the Caribbean in the Caribbean spirit. In addition, we have expanded our submission criteria to include films from and about Latin America.

For a country with so much creativity, industries such as film and publishing have inexplicably lagged in the last two decades. Visit http://trinidadandtobagofilmfestival.blogspot.com/ for daily updates.

Some of the films that I want to see:

Eat, for this is My Body (Mange, Ceci est Mon Corps)Running Time : 105 minutesOrigin : Haiti/FranceYear : 2007Director : Michelange QuayBeginning with nearly seven minutes of aerial shots traveling from the shore to a plantation in Haiti’s rugged interior, the narrative framework of Eat, for This is My Body moves from an elderly, bedridden white matriarch, conflicted about her allegiances, to her daughter Madame and a younger woman's cat-and-mouse relationship with a group of feisty native boys. Startling imagery, often captured in long, wordless takes, includes a frenzied religious ceremony; women manning DJ mixing consoles; black bodies in and around a vat of milk; and a single-take food fight. The film itself plays out in a state of narrative self-consciousness, similar not just to dreaming, but also suggestive of hypnosis and allegory. It is a surreal, largely non-narrative commentary on Haiti as it is today and as it is (or perhaps once) was imagined. The island we are shown is like a lost phantom boat, abandoned in the middle of the diplomatic sea, cursed, adrift in its own dreams of glory and nightmares of submission. Most of the film’s roles are played by non-actors, a decision that helps push the boundaries of what is real versus that which is imagined. An unusual film that offers a rich, often voluptuous, cinematic experience.Screening Times:
Tuesday 23 Sept 8:00 p.m., MovieTowne P.O.S. (following short film, Luso Trinidad)
Sunday 28 Sept 5:30 p.m., MovieTowne P.O.S. (following short film, Luso Trinidad)

Arena: The Strange Luck of VS NaipaulRunning Time : 78 minutesOrigin : UKYear : 2008Director : Adam LowWhen Sir Vidia Naipaul agreed to have a film made about him he said he wanted it to be “as personal as possible.” This is indeed a candid personal portrait, presenting the 2001 Nobel Laureate for Literature in the three places that have been most influential to his writing career: his native Trinidad, his ancestral home of India, and Wiltshire in England, where he has lived for many years.Interwoven throughout the film are readings from some of Naipaul’s best known works, including Miguel Street, and his opus, A House for Mr Biswas. Also featured in this moving and often touching documentary are Naipaul’s former editor Diana Athill, his agent Gillon Aitken, and his current wife, the feisty Lady Nadira Naipaul. Screening Times:
Friday 19 Sept 3:00 p.m., MovieTowne P.O.S. (following Bhoe Tewarie’s Interview with V. S. Naipaul)
Saturday 27 Sept 5:30 p.m. (following Bhoe Tewarie’s Interview with V. S. Naipaul) * Director present

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Butterflies and Buddhas

Thses photos were taken by my friend Jeannine Storey who is a very talented graphic artist. She designs the Gardening In Trinidad calendar every year and is the daughter of Joanne de Gannes, one of the Trinidad and Tobago's top landscape artists. My zinnias were a bit hit with the butterflies and seeing this makes me so glad that I have tried to cut out all spraying of insecticides. Butterflies are lovely but they are, of course, preceded by caterpillars. It is impossible to have one without the other. As children we were always surrounded by butterflies but they are becoming more and more rare. This is my new trellis - and this is my shade area where I grow gingers and calatheas. I tried everything as a border plant on these stairs but nothing would grow until I tried this long-leaved calathea which solved the problem.
A section in the front area of my garden This orange Datura does not last very long but is quite spectacular when it is in flower. This bed is filled with acalyphas, begonias, pachystachys, hibiscus and coleus.
This is a new bed and it is at the entrance to my garden. Once again because of heavy shade, I ma pretty much locked into calatheas for foliage patterning. A miniature ixora is doing well here and I have planted a pomegranate behind my buddha.

Thank you Jeannine.

Saving our Buildings

Building like this are at risk of disappearing overnight. Literally. You may go to bed one night and next morning drive past a heap of rubble. And the frightening thing is that when these buildings go, that's it. They are gone forever, There is no template to follow; no catalogue of local historical fretwork. The best we can do until the National Trust grows some teeth is to photograph and document as much as we can. This lovely building is the City Gate building which I believe was the old train station. The architecture is Georgian and reminds me very much of the buildings that I saw in New York.
A mystery. The logo below has a definite Rennie MacIntosh feel to it -Beautiful and almost calligraphic. Will this beautiful style come back into fashion again?
I love old structures because they remind me that not everything has a price tag. In this digital age of consumerism, it becomes easy to believe that anything can be replaced. These structures serve to remind us that reality still lies in the concrete and the tangible.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Garden Club Meeting

My garden is photogenic. It looks good in picturesWhich is both a good and a bad thing because it does not always look as spry in the cold light of day. And since I stopped spraying with insecticides...well let's just say I'm losing the battle with the wilderbeasts. Sometimes after a long season of rain, I can only see the bare spots where I've lost my grass, or the acalypha that have been ravaged by the batchacs. And after weeks of torrential rain, I was on the verge of handing out snorkels and flippers when the Garden Club of Trinidad arrived to visit yesterday morning. It is always a pleasure to host this club because they are a group of very good gardeners; stalwarts such as Sandy Gibson with his remarkable orchid knowledge;Peter Moll from San Antonio Farms and his wife Chancy, who is a very able president amd who makes presenting look like a walk in the park.You can ask questions about particular problems that you may be having with a difficult plant.

Yes, it did rain but we had brilliant (scorching) sun in the morning before the heavens opened. The showbench theme of the month was pink and people came with their beautiful euphorbias...bromeliads...

orchids...heliconias...and foliage.
And even plants that were not pink came to show off their finery. George de Verteuil brought an exquisite example of a "bleeding heart" vine.And it was lovely to see Joanne de Gannes out looking so lovely. She is one of the most talented landscapers in Trinidad and Tobago and to see her put a garden together is a privilege. She has been ill and I know what an effort it was to make out to the meeting.

Her daughter Jeannine is the artist and the solid production manager of the Club's annual and much anticipated Calendar - Gardening In Trinidad.

Holy Ghost Orchid

Yesterday I was lucky to come across a very unusual orchid. Just one of those fortuitous moments. The Garden Club of Trinidad visited my garden yesterday and I was suitably humbled in the face of some seriously knowledgeable gardeners. The show bench theme was anything pink. But Sandy Gibson, one of Trinidad and Tobago's leading orchid experts, arrived with a spray from the Holy Ghost Orchid. Which was not pink but is so beautiful and rare that it trumped all other entrants. The Holy Ghost Orchid or the Dove Orchid as it is sometimes known, is the national flower of Panama.
I found it difficult to believe that anyone's national flower could end up being on the seriously endangered list but according to Wikepedia, the Holy Ghost orchid aka ...(Familia: Orchidaceae Subfamilia: Epidendroideae • Tribus: Maxillarieae • Subtribus: Coeliopsidinae • Genus: Peristeria (Orchidaceae) Species: Peristeria elata Hook. )(1831) is over-collected in its natural habitat..... This over collection has led to its status as a species threatened with extinction delineated in Appendix I of CITES. In its native habitat, Peristeria can usually be found growing near the edge of hardwood forests. In the fall, after the trees in the hardwood forest lose their leaves, the plants are exposed to full sun throughout the cool, dry winter. Species in this genus are either epiphytic or terrestrial in growth habit.

The orchid goes by the name dove orchid because of the distinct dove-like appearance of the interior of the bloom.

It is also beautifully scented. And after being passed around, the general consensus was that the smell is distinctly pomerac-like with a delicate rose-tinged perfume.