A Wander Around the Yard
This morning I was trying I was trying to be a good social media girl and take some pictures of the work going on outside. I realize that since we’ve moved I’ve been doing a lot inside, at my desk (because I have an amazing desk!) and hadn’t really been snapping many pictures of the progress outside on the work yard buildings. So, I was wandering around, and as Chris came out the door to get in the truck to take the kids to school he told me that I should wander over and see his guava tree, because the fruit on it is HUGE. As I did, I realized you might enjoy seeing some fo the things we have growing around here.
After we bought the property back in 2012 one of the first things we did was put up a fence. And then we dug a well. After the well was in and we had a way of getting the water out of it Chris started planting trees. There were already some big, mature mango and avocado trees, as well as a sour orange and bread nut. He had been growing things from seed or cuttings up on our roof at the old place for years, just waiting for the right place and time to get them in the ground. Now that many of those have been planted we’re starting to literally see the fruits of his labor.
These are guavas. There are a lot of different varieties, and this particular one apparently makes guavas the size of softballs. If you think I’m joking, here’s a picture with my hand:
This is our cherry “orchard”. Does 6 trees make an orchard??? These are not regular cherries, these are Barbados cherries. They’re a tropical variety that are small with several small seeds in them. Kind of sweet and tart at the same time. Really good in juice!
This is one of our mature mango trees. I have to say “mature” because we have some wee gaffers that Chris planted, and a couple that have come up on their own. When I ask him how many varieties we have he has to stop and mentally do a walk around to count them. He has a bad memory and we have over 10 varieties! This particular tree though, is special. It’s special because it actually has three different kinds of mangos on it! Yep. Before we owned the land one of the neighbors grafted on two varieties to the original, and it actually produces all three. It’s literally doubled in size since we bought the land. Right now the mango francique are the ones you see on it.
Oh, wait, those aren’t trees… Hi puppies!!! They were so sad that they couldn’t walk around with me, but they wanted to say hi :)
Some of you have probably heard of acai berries because of Oprah. Or because you buy them covered in chocolate from Costco :) #becauseantioxidants What you probably didn’t know, and I didn’t either until Chris planted this, was that they don’t grow on a tree, they grow on a palm. Cooly huh? That’s an acai palm up there.
This is one of my favorite trees that we have simply because it’s so pretty. It’s a star apple, or kaymeet in Creole. I’ve never had the opportunity to actually eat a star apple, yet, but Chris says they’re amazing. I love the green and burgundy leaves. These get to be big, beautiful trees. We have three of them on the property.
This is one of many papaya plants that we have. Each of those papaya is bigger than a football. Typically papayas here in Haiti aren’t that flavorful, but the ones that we’ve been growing are tasty. We’re wondering if it has something to do with the soil?
Okay, this one isn’t a fruit tree, but it’s one that we’re excited about. It’s a plumeria. You know the flowers that they use to make lei’s in Hawaii? Yeah, one of those. This was grown from a cutting from a very sad one at our old place. These love full sun, so they seek it, and the old one was growing along the ground to get out of the shadow of the overhead trees. This one is growing straight up and will be a big, beautiful, very fragrant tree when it’s older. It’s already bloomed several times. The blooms are pink with orange/yellow centers. I can’t even tell you how amazing it smells.
This is an exciting one! Do you see those green fuzzy things? Those are mulberries!!! This is an ever-bearing mulberry, and we have 4 of them planted. Those little fuzzy things will start to get bigger and change color and then turn into amazing berries. That’s one thing that I really miss here, because we don’t get berries. Lots of different kinds of fruit, but no berries. I dream one day of having enough of these that I can put them in pancakes. Yum!
This also isn’t a tree, but a fun one. It’s a pumpkin flower. A West Indies pumpkin. Did you know that we live in the West Indies? Sounds so exotic :) Anyway, this variety is actually a Calabaza squash, which is incredibly versatile. They’re slightly sweet, so you can use them as a replacement for pumpkin, or use them like a squash. I do everything with them from using them to make pumpkin pie to soup to cooking them like I would cook squash. They’re the staple ingredient in Haiti’s traditional Soup Joumou – pumpkin soup – which is served as the first meal of the day on January 1st, Independence Day. Soup Joumou was considered rich people food, so when Haiti won it’s independence everyone celebrated by eathing the meal that had been forbidden to them. It has chunks of vegetables like carrots and potatoes, meat, and greens. It’s SO good.
I mentioned all the mango trees we have. One of them is notorious for giving huge mangos. This is a mango francique (fransik in Creole), and to give you an idea of just how big these are I put my hand next to it. I have big man hands that can palm a volleyball, just for a point of reference.
So that’s just a sampling of what Chris is growing here. So many more things that would take forever to photograph and post. As things get bigger and we do more landscaping I’ll post more.
That was Chris’ part, but what about me? I love the fruit, and the sheer variety of what he’s been planting, but I desperately miss flowers. Our old place was beautiful. We planted grass the year after we got married, and it totally changed the look of things, and there were a lot of mature vines and trees on the property. We have plans to do that here in the next couple of years, but baby steps.
Over the years I collected plants from friends and planted them, but not a lot of stuff that was flowering. And, if it did flower it was typically white or red. Our soil was really bad there, and we had a lot of shade, heavy water and were right on the ocean. Not a good combination for things to thrive. When we were looking at the land here we spent some time talking to the locals, and I remember one conversation I had with an elderly lady. When I asked her what kinds of things grow in this area (every area seems to have it’s “thing”) she said, “everything”. When I pressed for more specifics she let out a sigh and said, “If you put it in the ground it’s going to grow!” Meaning – the land is fertile and it’s going to do something. She wasn’t kidding! With water things go crazy here.
With that in mind, and seeing Chris’ sucess with stuff to date, I decided that it was safe to order some seeds to come in with his parents this past month. I did also get some cuttings from our old place and had been working at rooting a bunch of them.
One of the cuttings that I took was an orchid that I got from another expat almost 10 years ago. I put it on a tree and just left it along, because orchids are part air plant and will do well in places where they can dig their roots in, like tree bark. It did nothing for years, and then one day in the fall of 2014, literally 7 years after I put it there, I looked up and noticed this spray of small purple flowers! They lasted for over a month, and from that point on it started to really push out. It didn’t bloom again until last fall. When I took the cutting the easiest part to get off was a couple of the newer stems. I put it in water off and on for the first couple weeks, then finally went at tied it on to a tree outside our office, on the shady side. Last week I was in the process of moving it when I looked closely and realized that not only was it pushing out a new stem, or “pup”, but that it had a flower shoot coming out the top! I tied it back on to where it was and decided that it was much happier than I had thought!
We planted this flower bed in early January simply because a lot of this stuff was overgrown in it’s pots and needed to get in the ground. It needs some clean up, and I want to edge it, but it’s a start. We did something tricky when we plumbed the washing machine, in that we separated the drain lines for the laundry room and rather than have them go into the septic system, they drain into this flower bed. It means anything here will get watered a lot, which is good because it gets direct sun for most of the day, for most of the year. I have some canna lilies growing, as well as a few other things that I can’t remember the names of :)
Last week while the guys were changing out our office door (whole other story) I decided that it was the perfect day to go and plant some of the things I had ordered, mostly just to get away from the dust and noise. What I thought would maybe end up being a couple hours at most of putting seeds in pots morphed into me cutting a flower bed and moving about 20 wheel barrows of dirt. But, the results were exciting. We have landscaping!
The big metal pot is an old sugar cane pot that would have been used on one of Haiti’s sugar cane plantations hundreds of years ago. It was at our previous property, and the sidewalk around it had broken up. I kept telling Chris that I wanted to take it with us and he thought I was crazy, but eventually humored me, backed the truck up and 8 of the guys cleaned it out and lifted it into the truck so we could bring it here. On Wednesday I had them move it over to this spot and put it in place for me, then I filled it with dirt.
This is right next to the driveway, and just outside of the office door, so it’s something that people will see as they’re coming in, and I wanted it to look nice. I figured that since I had all the tools out I might as well go and dig the flower bed below the pot and get it all edged, which would also mean I could transfer all of the spider lilies that were overgrowing in pots and give them some room to stretch their legs, er roots. There were some other plants, planted around the back side just as filler, but I didn’t get a picture of those. I have plans for the whole wall by the office and around the front of the house, but that will take a bit of time. We also want to put in walk ways and grass, but again, that takes time.
What did I plant in the pot? Zinnias! A friend was able to get some growing here a couple years ago, so I ordered some seeds. Whenever we order seeds for stuff we have to do some research to make sure that the varieties are suited for tropical/hot climates, so that’s what I did. AFTER I planted them I decided to check on what variety I had planted and turns out, being super smart like I am, I ordered the California Giants. The ones that get 2-3 feet tall. And I just spread those seeds around. And for good measure, just in case, I planted some in seed pots. And now they may be going crazy. We might need to do some thinning, and we might have a ton of zinnias…
I also cleaned out and then filled some of our big pots and put them on the deck, then planted them with 4 o’clocks. I’ve grown these before here, so I know they’re easy, and they do really well. So well that they kind of take off. I’m excited about these particular seeds because what I planted before were pink and white, which are fine, but these are bright, mixed colors with purples, pinks, oranges, yellows and some variagated. They should add a lot of color to our deck. I’m looking forward to getting my work benches moved over to the workshop once it’s ready and cleaning this space up to be a nice area to sit.
Those little guys are literally a week old! So exciting.
And herbs! Those terracotta pots are all herbs. There are a few things that I wanted to try planting that I’ve never been able to really get growing because of the soil/water/ocean thing. One is cilantro. I love the stuff and miss having acess to fresh cilantro for cooking. I also planted rosemary, and found some renegate shallots in one of our pots, which was fun. The last thing I planted was lovage. It’s fallen out of style now, but it used to be a very basic kitchen herb. It’s in the celery family, something that we can’t get here. It does really well in the shade, and tastes like celery, so it’s a good replacement.
There are some other things growing but they aren’t doing anything remarkable yet, so we’ll hold off. I did start some seeds inside just to see how they’d do, and Alex loves checking them out multiple times per day. Until yesterday it was just zinnias (surprise!) but yesterday evening all of my blue shrimp plants started popping up, which is really exciting. I have some multi-colored calla lily seeds in there too, but I’m not sure how those are going to do.
So that’s the garden tour for now! I’ll look forward to sharing more once things start getting bigger.