Right Steps & Poui Trees


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A is for Ackee: An Alphabet of Leaves

An ackee leaf on a morning after rain…

P1420303 ackee leaf

…given the scientific name Blighia sapida by a botanist at Kew Gardens in London in 1806, after the infamous William Bligh of Bounty fame. He wasn’t responsible for bringing the ackee to Jamaica, but for taking it from Jamaica to Kew in 1793. (B. W. Higman, in “Jamaican Food”)P1420302 ackee leaves

The ackee was most likely brought to Jamaica from West Africa by enslaved Africans.

“As a native of Africa, the ackee was familiar to core contingents of enslaved people, and in Jamaica the tree and its fruit have never had any name other than their African derivation, the Kru a-kee. Distinctively associating it with their homelands, the enslaved may have played an active role in the plants dissemination within Jamaica. Whereas former slave village sites contain only the occasional breadfruit tree, some of these abandoned settlements are indicated by large groves of ackee trees.” (Higman, p.154)

P1420298 ackee pods

In our garden, we have both the softer butter ackee and the firmer cheese ackee trees. I much prefer the latter, as the fruit keep their shape during cooking and aren’t as likely to crumble and become mushy.P1420295 ackee branch and fruit

The largest ackee tree we have in the garden is this cheese ackee tree, which sprung up in the spot where a massive male guinep tree had been. That guinep tree was the first to fall during Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and the ackee sprung up of its own accord, probably from a seed dropped by a passing bird. Bless you, passing bird!P1420304 ackee tree

It is an impressive specimen, though it did get a bit tilted in one of the storms that brushed past us in the years since Gilbert. We never get to eat the fruit from the very top of the tree, however. No stick long enough and no-one spry enough to get there.

“A” is for ackee. That’s good enough for me…


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A Venerable Mango Tree: On A Sunday

The morning after Gilbert had raked its eye across Jamaica’s spine, blasting through decades of complacency and careless wishes to experience a real hurricane, I went to see how a nearby neighbour was doing. Part of his roof was sitting in our front yard and when I got to his house, I could see that all of the roof had been blown off during the storm. He was all right, he said. He and his sister, both of them quite elderly, had retreated to the only part of the house with a concrete slab roof and his family had called and were on their way to help.

IMG_20180701_141815_resized_20180701_043513289 (1) Bombay mango tree

But, he told me, I could expect the next mango season to be a bountiful one. The hurricane would have pruned branches, shaken up the roots and new life would be coursing through the trees that had survived.

And he was right. The massive old Bombay mango tree in our back yard has never borne fruit as abundantly as it did in the post- Gilbert season. Not in the thirty years since Sept 1988. IMG_20180701_142833_resized_20180701_043207897 Bombay mango tree

It was an old and venerable tree even then. Older and even more venerable now. It has had encounters with subsequent storms that have brushed past since. IMG_20180701_143203_resized_20180701_042947057 Bombay mango treeThis year hasn’t been a very good season for the old Bombay tree, in fact. Relatively few in number, with a high incidence of worms in the ripe fruit.P1310264 Bombay mangoes

The height of the hurricane season is still to come.

I don’t believe that there have to be storms for there to be good crops, not literally or figuratively. But my Bombay mango tree may be aligned with my old (long deceased) neighbour’s words.IMG_20180701_143311_resized_20180701_042805015 Bombay mango tree


.#Matthew: Friday Morning Outlook From Jamaica

I went up on the roof this morning and the view is beautiful and peaceful, as it usually is. p1010350

Forecasts

matthew-met-service-release-30-9-16-5amThe current weather forecasts are, however, showing that Jamaica is increasingly likely to have a direct encounter with Hurricane Matthew. Our Met Service‘s 5am release says that “A Hurricane Watch may be required for Jamaica today.” A Hurricane Watch is usually issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are likely to be felt. Once we have that strength winds, it’s difficult to do any further preparations.

 

The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) map at 8am EST (7am Jamaican time) forecasts that on Monday morning the eye of Hurricane Matthew is likely to be very near the eastern tip of Jamaica, and within the forecast cone a direct hit is quite likely. This can obviously change, but direct hit or not, we are in for severe weather, it seems. Here is the NHC 8:00am advisory.

 

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I don’t like what I am seeing on Weather Underground this morning, which forecasts Matthew as a category 3 hurricane when it affects Jamaica, and the computer models are clustering to show a likely direct hit.

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pm-tweet-30-9-16Jamaica Prepares

Prime Minster Andrew Holness held  an emergency meeting with Members of Parliament at the Office of the Prime Minister last night. He has posted an update on Twitter & Facebook, and if you scroll down on his Facebook page, there is a recording posted of the full meeting – Meeting on Hurricane Preparedness. This morning the newspapers have reports of that meeting.

Gleaner: Ready For Matthew – Gov’t Says It’s Prepared For Hurricane, Jamaicans Urged To Store Water

Jamaica Observer: J’cans urged to prepare for Hurricane Matthew

So, even as we keep an eye on the weather forecasts, it’s time to prepare.

I went through Hurricane Gilbert at this house, when it hit at category 3 strength in 1988, and I know that this house can stand a serious storm. But it was very frightening. I know what I need to do to prepare and am beginning to do it.  I hope we don’t have a direct hit; a major hurricane would cause devastating damage in Jamaica.


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Keeping Track of Hurricanes: Gilbert vs #Matthew

That weekend in September 1988, I knew that there was a hurricane in the Caribbean; it was on the news, but I wasn’t paying close attention. It wasn’t until my mother called me on the Sunday morning (Sept 11), that I began to pay attention.

“Susan, this one looks as though it’s going to hit us,” she said. And the following day Hurricane Gilbert did hit us, as a category 3 hurricane, with the eye travelling across Jamaica from the east to the west.

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National Hurricane Center satellite  picture, showing eye approaching eastern tip of island on Sept 12, 1988

At that time, the radio newscasts  and the weather forecast on the nightly television news were the main sources of information, which came from Jamaica’s Met Office.

How different it is today!

Matthew

On September 23 (2016), Jeff Masters of Weather Underground began to comment on the system that became Tropical Storm Matthew, before it even became Invest 97L.jeff-masters-23-9-16

He has continued to track and forecast about the system since then and his blog – Dr Jeff Master’s Wunderblog – is a good weather blog to follow.

There are many good Twitter accounts to follow for weather info about storms and hurricanes, and two that had early tweets about Invest 97L were:cantore-tweet-29-9-16andErdman 23-9-16.PNGThere are official sites, such as the US National Hurricane Center, at which you can read updates and view forecast maps & satellite imagery.

(Forecast map & satellite image – Matthew, 29-9-16)

met-service-29-9-16-aThe Meteorological Service of Jamaica site is the official government site for updates & is a good place to check. It has issued a severe weather alert for Jamaica and has advised us to pay attention to subsequent releases.

Yesterday Matthew began to affect the Caribbean and Twitter came alive with updates from around the region..

A short while ago, I saw online that Matthew has now been upgraded to a hurricane and posted a tweet myself. It looks as though we may be feeling some effects come Sunday…sg-tweet-29-9-16I still listen to the radio for hurricane updates, but there are so many other sources nowadays that tracking Hurricane Matthew is a vastly different experience than tracking Hurricane Gilbert was 28 years ago!

 


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350 Words or Less: Hurricane Gilbert, September 12, 1988

It’s 28 years since Hurricane Gilbert made its way from east to west across Jamaica, a direct hit if there ever was one.

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I remember it well. As a child, I longed to experience a “proper” hurricane. Gilbert fulfilled that childhood wish and though I retain a fascination with weather phenomena, I have no desire to experience anything like it ever again.

Each year on September 12, there is some acknowledgement of Hurricane Gilbert’s landfall in Jamaica. This morning I heard Lloyd Lovindeer’s hit song from that time, “Wild Gilbert”, a welcome comic take on events, generating much-needed laughter at the time.wild-gilbert-lovindeer

This evening, NOAA tweeted about Gilbert, which remains one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.noaa-hurricane-gilbert-tweet-12-9-16I have very clear memories from that time. I remember the first tree to fall in our garden, the massive guinep tree that was completely uprooted very early in the storm:gilbert-1gilbert-2

I remember letting the dogs out during the eye of the storm, and walking around in the garden, seeing the damage already done. It was quite still and the sky was blue. And then the incredible intensity of the winds when they returned, from the opposite direction. By nightfall, the sustained winds had passed, but every so often there was a strong gust and I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, with a terrible headache, worrying about how some family members had fared.

I don’t have many pictures from that time. This one shows the house next door with much of its roof gone. The massive metal beams that held that roof had been bent back like plasticine, a mental image that forever represents for me the power of the winds during the hurricane.gilbert-3

After Hurricane Gilbert, we were without water for some time and without electricity for many weeks. We, like so many others, refined the art of cooking bully beef and savoured the pleasure of occasional cold drinks.

It’s a generation ago now and there are probably many Jamaican children wishing to experience a “proper” hurricane. And there are those of us who’ve experienced one, saying “No, thank you!”hurricane-gilbert-eye-over-jamaica-12-9-88

 

 

 


Poor Man’s Orchid Plays with the Light

The play of light on plants. On trees, on leaves, on flowers.

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I love taking photos of sunlight on flowers.

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Poor Man’s Orchid.

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Bauhinia purpurea

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The scientific name ‘Bauhinia’ comes from two Swiss-French botanist brothers, Johann and Gaspard Bauhin. Which I didn’t know before.

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Trees in flower may already show numerous pods.  Elongated dehiscent pods.  Dehiscent: opening spontaneously to release seeds or pollen.

The Poor Man’s Orchid tree in my garden fell sideways in one of the hurricanes. Gilbert, I think. But decades later, askew, it still flourishes.

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