Friday, January 28, 2011

A School Construction Project

When we have funding, we help with construction projects at private schools. This past week, Allen traveled to the department of Santa Barbara, to check in on a school we're helping. The round trip took eleven hours. Here are a few pictures of the school.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's not easy to take a picture of a puppy . . .

Here's the proof, from our recent photo shoot with our new puppy, Bunny:

Turns out, it's just like trying to take a picture of a toddler - when we distracted her with a stick she forgot all about dodging from the camera!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Unexpected Double Bunny Situation

We recently acquired another puppy. This makes six dogs for us. The new pup is a mutt, mostly lab, with characteristics indicating that there's a good bit of hound dog in her ancestry. She has a thin face, long floppy ears, and her legs and feet appear much too large for her body at this point. When excited she wags her entire body, and she tends to leap while running. She's adorable, although she may grow up to be an odd-looking adult. We mostly bought her for her potential to grow huge (based on the size of her mother).

The pup has a sweet, loving temperament, and has been named "Bunny," because of the ears and the huge legs and feet. We also thought that a huge dog named "Bunny" would be kind of funny.

Last night, Russell and Iris dropped by the house. Russell had some paperwork he needed to handle with Allen, and he said Iris was coming along because she had a surprise for me.

Well, I was certainly surprised when Iris handed me a teensy tiny bunny. A real bunny, this time, not a puppy! A lady on the street was selling the baby. Since we recently lost both of our pet bunnies Iris thought of us, and got it for us.

The baby bunny is so small that we're not certain it's eating solid food. We're waiting to see how it does before we get too attached, but at the same time, the baby has already been named "Thumper."

Oh, I don't have the camera today (Allen took it along with him, on a trip to visit a project site), so I'll have to add pictures of the two "bunnies" a bit later.

Friday, January 14, 2011

There's a poinsettia in the middle of my veggies

This year, I was able to participate in a charming Christmas ritual which I have neglected since living in Honduras - the traditional killing of the poinsettia plant.

Before Christmas, I happened to see a lady in town carrying around about a dozen plants to sell. It was an interesting and healthy-looking collection of flowers, including a geranium, some snap dragons, and one poinsettia plant.

Well, I haven't had a Christmas poinsettia in years and years - which is sort of odd, when you consider that they are native to Central America. In a rush of Christmas spirit, I bought that plant, even though my experience with plants in general, and poinsettias specifically, hasn't been encouraging.

I put the plant in an antique crock on my kitchen counter, and watched it change from a healthy plant to a less healthy plant, to an eyesore. The demise was slow, but steady, accelerating when David, unbeknownst to me, watered the plant with enough water to drown the poor thing.

When all the craziness of Christmas was behind us, I looked at what was left of my plant. All of the green leaves were gone, but two sets of red (are those leaves, or flowers?) were left.

I started putting the plant outside for part of each day, as I knew one reason for its decline was not getting enough light in the kitchen. Gradually the plant showed some will-to-live, and I needed to put it somewhere safe, where it wouldn't get scorched by the very bright sun we had in early January, where I wouldn't just forget about it and finish it off with neglect, where the dogs and cows couldn't get to it, etc. The only location I could come up with was the vegetable garden.

There was a spot in the garden where I had planted some lettuce seeds saved from last year, and nothing ever came up. So, I plunked down the poinsettia there, amongst my other types of lettuce plants.

It is now putting out new leaves! Hurrah! I may have started a new ritual - the resurrection of the Christmas poinsettia! Sounds more like an Easter tradition, but I'll take what I can get. When the plant gets bigger, I'll have to move it to a more appropriate location, as poinsettias can grow to be a large shrub here, and I don't think I'll be wanting a large shrub in amongst my lettuces.

And that's the story of why there's a poinsettia plant in my vegetable garden.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Garden in Progress

Back in November I finally started my garden, something I've been planning for a couple of years. I actually did a bit of vegetable gardening last year, in 5 gallon buckets. This year I was ready to start on a more permanent garden.

One of the first problems related to setting up a garden was choosing a location. Our property is large, and there's a nice garden spot downhill from our house location, but it was far enough away, and along a steep enough path, that we didn't feel like the garden would be convenient enough if we located it there.

Before we'd purchased the land the trees had been harvested from the flat land at the top, where we've located our buildings. As a result, much of the soil has washed away, and the ground is rocky and not especially fertile.

As you stand on the flat, high part of our property, where the buildings are located, you can barely see the garden. You can see the temporary fencing (to keep the dogs and cows out), but the garden begins just on the other side of a ridge.

Below is what you see as you approach the top of the ridge. The garden is still very much under construction, as you can see.

And here (below) you can see the garden up close. Closest to the gate is a section of garden which is mostly lettuce. There is also garlic, a few very tiny cabbage plants, two snapdragons and a poinsettia. I'll explain about the poinsettia tomorrow. The second section has beets and carrots, and space for additional beets and carrots, to stagger the harvest. The third secion has bush beans and some beleagered pea plants. Unfortunately I've found that the zampopos (leaf cutter ants) really like pea plants. I've been fighting them off, but I'm not sure I'm going to be successful enough to actually harvest any peas.

You can also see, in these photos, the next part of the garden, which is still under construction. Christopher digs down (breaking up and removing lots of rocks in the process), and then he, Bethany, and David fill the section with a mixture of topsoil and dried manure.

We're getting close to our earliest harvests - leaf lettuce, beets, and carrots.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Construction Projects - here's the second one

As you can see from the photos, this is a larger church than the one I wrote about yesterday. The smaller church from yesterday (in Belen) is the first church building for a congregation which has outgrown it's beginnings as a house church. That church has about 60 people in regular attendance - about half adults and half children.

The church in the photos above is being constructed in the town of Guacutao, and it is the project of a congregation which has outgrown an earlier church building. The congregation of about 250 people currently worships in a church building which seats 250 - so they can't fit any extra people during special events, outreach services, etc, and they need room to grow.

Although the Belen church was being built of adobe blocks, this larger church is being constructed of cinderblocks.

Church construction projects continue to crop up all over Lempira. We've seen a decrease in funds being donated for church construction projects, so we're not able to materially help all of those who ask.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Church Construction Projects - here's the first one

This week Allen visited two churches, which had asked us for help with their construction projects.

The first project, shown in the following pictures, is located near the town of Belen.

Mixing concrete


Some members of the church congregation

There are certain things we look for, before we consider helping a church financially, with their construction project:

First, the land must be owned by the church, not by an individual.

Second, the church must have enough congregational support to get the foundation and walls constructed without our help. Most of the churches in the rural areas of the mountains are constructed from adobe bricks, and this type of construction isn't expensive, but it is labor intensive. By the time the congregation has achieved this much of the construction, they will truly feel that the construction of the church is their project, not something the gringos have given to them. Sadly, when outsiders completely give a church to a congregation, it isn't rare to find that the congregation expects outsiders to pay for ongoing maintenance and other expenses, too. We feel it is important for the church congregation to have full ownership of their building - we just help out some in the process. We've also had instances where, when we've helped finance an early stage of construction, the churches were slow to continue the construction, seemingly waiting for us to do more. By helping with the roof, we guarantee that after we've helped, the church will at least have enough of a structure completed to hold services in.
The church near Belen has fulfilled the first requirement, and they're on their way toward the second. Allen was able to give them some helpful pointers, on ways they can improve the wall construction, during this visit. Once the walls are completed, if we have the funds available, we will purchase supplies needed for the construction of the church roof.

I plan to post about the second church construction project tomorrow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Things I never saw in the Suburbs

Before moving to Honduras, I lived most of my life in the Maryland suburbs - a rather affluent part of the US. I was thinking of starting a series of blog posts on things I see along the roads where I live now, that I never saw in the suburbs. Here's the first installment, which was the inspiration for the series.

From the Land Cruiser (that's the vehicle's snorkle you see on the left side of the picture) . . . what is that beside the road? Surely it isn't . . .

Yep. It is. Cow carcass.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"If That Cat Could Talk, What Tales He'd Tell . . . "

Here's Smudge, the cat, back where he belongs on David's (unmade) bed.

Smudge is David's best animal friend, and he's been missing for the past month. Being a tom cat, he tends to roam about a bit, get into fights, etc, so for the first few days of his absence we weren't especially concerned.

But weeks passed without any sign of Smudge. Most of the family had (silently) assumed that Smudge had met an untimely end. David didn't make this assumption, and no one wanted to tell him that with the passing of so much time it was unlikely that we'd be seeing Smudge again.

Last night I was up in the middle of the night, killing a mouse, when I heard a commotion on the front porch, then noises on the metal roof. I went outside to see what was going on, and there was Smudge looking down at me! I called to him, and he came right down the ladder that was up against the house, and willingly let me pick him up and carry him into the house.

Smudge was very hungry when he got home, almost choking on the cat food I gave him, because he was trying to eat so fast, but he doesn't appear to have lost weight during his time away from home. He's a very good hunter, so that's not especially surprising. He's got a few nicks and cuts, but he's not really hurt anywhere. So, I do find myself wondering - where has he been for a month? What was he doing? What brought him back now?

Smudge isn't telling. But he's clearly glad to be home again, where he can luxuriate all day on David's comfy and unmade bed. David isn't making the bed, because he doesn't want to disturb Smudge.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Visiting Rodeito Feeding Center

Since our arrival in Lempira in 2005, we've felt compelled to help with the problem of malnutrition in the mountain villages. With food prices climbing, the need for feeding centers has grown significantly. We are now providing food to 74 feeding centers, scattered throughout several departments. Keeping the participants in the program accountable - to make sure that the food gets into the bellies where it is most needed - is a big task, and part of this involves us visiting the centers to see them in operation.

Back in October, when Allen's parents were visiting for Russell's wedding, they traveled with Allen to visit the feeding center in Rodeito, Lempira. Here are some pictures from that visit.