Dear Island Notes Readers…
My apologies. It has been months since I last wrote about the wonders of living on an island. Perhaps it has been year or two. But I have been delayed in the hammock, stranded on a sandbar without a sail, blurred into the fuzzy existence of island time.
I do have excuses. I have been trying to rescue the last of the sailing cargo ships in the ABC Islands, Stormvogel (Storm Bird). A mighty endeavor, I might add. The evergrowing bucket list has altered my course to Colombia, the Peruvian Amazon and a trans-Atlantic voyage from the Caribbean to Portugal upon a British schooner built in 1902. The list goes on. But I know what really matters to Island Notes readers–stories, fables and lies from those little latitudes. And that is what I am about to deliver to you.
It was last year, 2015, that we cast off from our comfortable seaside digs of Kaya Playa Lechi in the port town of Kralendijk and landed in the hills of Bonaire. Our little island has grown in population by a whopping 50% in those eight years living seaside, and the increase of cars, people and noise made us pull up the anchor.
Now I don’t expect sympathy for our discomfort. I realize most of the people of the world have much more arduous challenges in their lives. Even folks from Iowa in winter don’t want to hear me sing my down island blues. But as Albert Einstein once said, “All things are relative.” Or maybe that was the recently-deceased Paul Kanter, phenomenal axeman for the Jefferson Airplane. In any event, we fled to the hills of the island.
The choice proved fruitful. We now have a bit of land overlooking that beautiful Caribbean Sea. But we are more inland. I chase goats out of my garden. Parrots fly by in great numbers every sunset to roost for the night on the ridge above our house. Most importantly, we revel in the silence without people nearby and all of their bloody, gas-guzzling machines.
But after months of listening to the sounds of silence, I broke out of my Garfunkelsonian trance and realized I had land! I consulted my Dutch landscape artist, Ap, and said I wanted to grow bananas. He proposed a humble banana grove. “We will set it on the leeward side of your home. Bananas don’t like a lot of wind and we always have wind on Bonaire. Plus they will only get the afternoon sun (more than enough at 12-degree latitude). I suggest to start with 4 banana plants, a lime tree and a Suriname cherry tree.”
Ap was singing my song. The garden was built, plants in the ground. We hooked it up to a drip irrigation system. I also set up a way to take advantage of the water that I need to discharge from the pool filter (the white pipe) every two weeks doing a back flush. It’s a magnesium pool so the water chemistry doesn’t seem to harm the plants.
I went down one day to see the progress of growth. The banana plants are now knee high and growing well. The Suriname cherry has yet to be delivered but I hear it’s on its way in a ship container from somewhere, perhaps even Suriname. And the lime tree…
I bend down. I see a group of young limes, each about the size of a pea. Promising. But then I spot a lime nearly full grown (lower right). Should I pluck it? Hell, yes. It is hot and approaching five o’clock somewhere.
I take it to the kitchen and slice it in half. It is not very juicy. I probably should have waited on the harvest.
But the aroma… The taste… I squeeze every last drop I can over ice in a Waterford crystal glass–only the best for the first harvest. I pour a jigger of Mount Gay Barbados Eclipse Gold Rum over the ice. It crackles. A bit of sparkling water to the mix. I sip. The sun is now setting over the sea. My banana grove has delivered. I’m limin’.