Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree

The Black Poisonwood tree (Metopium Brownie or Metopium Toxiferum of the family Anacardiaceae) is also known as Chechen, Chechem (Mayan name), Coral Sumac, Caribbean Rosewood, and Cedro Prieto. It is found throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the West Indies. This tree produces beautiful decorative wood used for carving, wood turning, furniture etc. But it has a very powerful defense mechanism against people!

This form of defense is a highly irritating sap, and when human skin comes in contact with it, the result can be quite an ordeal. It starts with a redness, (like a bad rash similar to poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and the rest of them…) but often will develop into itchy and burning blisters, and is extremely painful. Depending on the amount of sap and how quickly you treat it, it can remain a rash and be gone in just a few days, or it can develop into a 1st to 2nd degree burn(s). Plus another interesting thing, in my husband’s case, nothing major happen for 3 days, but then on the fourth day he was covered! When you scratch (and you will) and then touch another part of your body (or someone else’s), the infection can easily spread. The picture below is of a hand (mine) and an infected arm (my husband’s) with blisters. The pictures are not that bad, but for the squeamish, you may not want to click it!

That was extremelly painful and lasted for a few weeks. To get it that bad is rather rare though. Usually you only touch the bark of the tree and hopefully treat it immediately. It is then a mild rash and in a very limited area. In that particular case, we did cut lots of trees, which means that the sap was also in the air, landing all over our clothes and body. It was also a very warm day and we were sweating a lot… perfect way to spread it all over your body!

Pictured on the left below is the bark of the Black Poisonwood tree. The black stuff (the sap comes out of the tree clear, but upon being introduced to oxygen it then turns black), which actually looks a lot like tar, is the poison. You do not want to touch this tree at all, but especially the black spots. The leaves of the tree can also be toxic. Now even after the tree is chopped down and dried… it still can be just as potent. In the saw mills when cutting the wood, the dust can have the same burning affect. Or even when you are just burning off a pile of old logs, the smoke can also spread the poison. Pictured on the right is the Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursera Simaruba of the family Burseraceae), which is the natural antidote of the Black Poisonwood. The tree sap relieves rashes, stings and burns. A medicinal tree, tea from its leaves is use to treat fever, low blood pressure.

~~~~~~~~Black Poisonwood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gumbo Limbo ~~~~~~~~~~

Gumbo Limbo trees grow in the same area of the Black Poisonwood trees. If you have touched the Black Poisonwood, the first thing to do is to find a Gumbo Limbo tree. And as soon as possible you must wash the area very well with any oil dissolving substance as just water and regular soap will not remove all of it (I have also read somewhere that WD40 can be quite effective). You cut a piece of the Gumbo Limbo bark and wipe the inside on the affected area. Hang on to this bark and reapply several times early on. What you can also do is boil the bark, add powdered vitamin C to the boiled water to make a paste that you apply on the burn. But in an extreme case as in the picture of the hand and arm, it is way past the Gumbo Limbo power! You are now dealing with 1st or 2nd degree burns and believe me, it is atrocious. Medicated, anti-itch first aid cream helps relieve the burning and itching and also helps keeping the infection down. And in some cases, as in my husband’s, antibiotics and a steroid medication are in order! I myself used a Sunburn Relief Gel with lidocaine, tea tree oil and aloe vera and it was very soothing and cooling!

One more trick… if you are going to cut or handle Black Poisonwood, apply the Gumbo Limbo to your face, hands and arms before you start. This will provide a good protection as it prevents the sap to stick to your skin. Obviously, we learned that ‘after’ we had to deal with those trees! Not a lesson that we will soon forget!

The Black Poisonwood is hard, dense and very decorative. Here’s a Black Poisonwood Handcrafted drum by Greg Gaylord of Drum Solo


Photo credit Frankie Frost

And due to the high risk in harvesting this wood, it is pricey. Hey, maybe we are sitting on a gold mine here?

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle

Will your pet, no matter what, catch fleas and ticks in the jungle? It’s a definite yes. But, with scheduled upkeep, it is possible to keep it to a minimum. You can do a combination of little things that brings positive results.


Tick pic copyright of RangerDJ.com ~ Flea pic copyright of ehow.com

Ticks and fleas are bloodsucking parasites who attach themselves to the skin. There are a large variety of species of both ticks and fleas, and many are known to carry diseases. One of the more common one is Lyme disease. Here’s an excellent article by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station if you want to learn more about ticks. And eHow has good info about fleas.

We have four cats and two dogs in a tropical lush jungle environment, so dealing with those parasites have become part of our life. After some trial and error, we have come up with a combination that has worked out best for us.

For the kitty cats, I do the 30 day squirt between the shoulder blades with a product such as Advantage® and Frontline®. If you buy online (which I do as these products are very expensive in Belize) please make sure it is genuine and not a fake which can be inefficient but most importantly, harmful to your animal. I also brush the kitties almost daily with a fine tooth brush which keeps their coat clean and fluffy. They play outside a lot, but they cuddle in bed with us too, and rarely do I find fleas or ticks.

Sammy & Watson

Hey Sammy, lets go chase the other kitty cats!

Now the dogs are a different story! Since they are mostly outside, and like to sleep in the dirt and roll in the grass, it is more difficult to keep under control. In addition to treating the dogs coat, you also need to treat his sleeping and living quarters. The dogs get a monthly shot of Ivomec® and B/12 vitamins. A year ago I had never given a shot to anything, and didn’t really like getting any myself. But now I’m a pro! In Belize, you can buy medications, syringes etc. for your animals. At Reimer’s Feed in Spanish Lookout, a nice guy directed me to the different treatments and instructed me on how to administer the injection. My first time I was very nervous but it turned out to be real easy. Then a neighbor started bringing me her dog every month, and now she too does it herself!

Watson’s sleeping quarters under the power shed

Spraying their sleeping quarters is crucial. Watson likes to sleep on the shed’s porch or under the shed. To keep him off the ground, under the shed is lined with wood pallets. These areas get sprayed with a product called Bañol® (which also controls other local parasites that burro into their skin and cause them to scratch until the skin is raw). Mixed with water, using a yard sprayer, we spray the porch and the pallets. Since this product is also to be used to bathe dogs, we spray him at the same time (watching out not to spay the eyes/face or genitals). For the surrounding areas around their sleeping quarters, we keep the lawn mowed short and also spray a mixture of bleach and water. As for the frequency of the spraying, it all depends on the season and the weather. Being on a creek, the dogs swim pretty much daily, so they also get a regular bath with herbal flea and tick repellent soap. During wet season where it is harder to control, we also use Fipecto® Spray which is good for dogs or cats.

You may have to experiment with different procedures and ideas, and also ask the neighbors what their tricks are. But it is important to keep on top of those parasites as they are very uncomfortable to your animal(s) and if left untreated, can cause skin infections and sores.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country

Here follows from my previous post, Health Issues when Living Abroad, reason #1 for selling. So reason #2; the inability of having proper telephone/fax services, and toll free numbers.

A professional business requires good, dependable, and affordable telecommunication services. And all better if they can provide toll free numbers from USA & Canada.

Phone/internet service in Belize is provided by Belize Telemedia Ltd. (BTL), and in many areas there are not even any services, including cell phone signal. BTL is the exclusive telecommunication provider of Belize, and when a business has a monopoly it is usually not economically wise for the people of the country. Competition brings controlled regulations, openness, quality of services and competitive prices. So in the case of BTL, they can do, and charge, whatever they want. BTL long distance rates are currently some of the highest in the world. Depending on the time of day and the plan you are on, calling to the USA cost between .43¢ to $1.26 per minute. Calling to Canada between .25¢ to $1.08 and to the UK between .35¢ to $1.59. That is one issue that greatly affect doing business in Belize, or in any similar countries, making it difficult and sometimes not viable.

But when you are off-grid and have a reliable internet access, there are several good options such as Skype or Gizmo, and new technology like Magic Jack. Most of them work quite well, but obviously, not like a good old land line! We have experienced a few and are using Skype full time. Here are some things that you are able to do:

-Skype to Skype chat (type and voice). As long as both parties have downloaded Skype, this service is free, in real time, and very reliable. This would be the best quality.

-Video/webcam chat

-Incoming phone call/number. You can currently choose a phone number from 21 countries. When someone calls you, they are actually calling the country of your number and it rings on your computer wherever you are in the world. In our case, in the middle of the Belize jungle!

-Conference calling. Once with a relative in Abu Dhabi (UAE) and 2 in Calgary we had a conference Skype voice chat with web cams where we could all see each other. Trish in the UAE carried her laptop around and gave us a tour of her house! It was awesome, and free!

-Land Line Calling. This feature allows you to call any landline (or mobile phone) in the world, from your computer, at very affordable rates. The rate is based on where you are calling, not where you are calling from. The plan we are on cost US $3.00 per month and provides unlimited calls to USA and Canada. Calling the UK cost a mere .02¢ per minute! Unfortunately this service can sometimes be spotty and really depends on your internet connection speed and quality. I believe there can be factors on the land line end that also affect the quality.


2 samples of a Skype window

Those are just a few things you can do. There are many more features available. One downside is that toll free numbers are not available.

Unfortunately, those that get their internet connection through BTL are unable to use most of those VoIP services as they have been blocked. So in addition to charging horrendous amounts of money, they also stop you from other amazing, more affordable, options. There are many other countries, such as the UAE and China that block those VoIP services. If that isn’t a form of dictatorship, I don’t know what is!

So Skype through satellite internet is awesome to talk with friends and family! For business, unless those you are communicating with are colleagues that already know you and your business, it can work okay. But unfortunately it is not suitable for conducting business dealings with unfamiliar people and building new contacts as there is a slight delay in the transmission. Similar to a VHF radio, only one person can talk at a time, otherwise it disrupts the connection and neither person will be able to fully hear what the other one is saying. So when you’re talking to that person with whom it is already tough to get a word in, this makes it even more difficult!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access

This blog can be written in only 6 words; Go see Harry in Spanish Lookout!

Ok, maybe I can elaborate a bit more on this internet access!

There are not too many installers in Belize, or in any other undeveloped 3rd world countries! So your first step is to locate them and find out what brand, system, equipment and provider they carry. They might only carry one, so your choice will probably have been made for you! Our choices were between different sizes of Hughes satellite dish and modems. As technology improves so rapidly we went for the latest model which was the HN7000S modem with a .94m dish.

The installation of the dish is most important. It is attach to the roof so it has to be done professionally. Once installed, it must be precisely aligned and secured to the proper satellite. We had Harry and his brother do it all. Both of them on the roof, one at the dish and the other one sitting down with his laptop. In no time they had homed in to the satellite and secured the dish. That was in November 2006 and we’ve never had any major problems since. When the rain is really intense you may lose connections, but it is for a short amount of time and very rare.

The speed is totally acceptable. There are 2 type of speeds; Download (to receive data) and Upload (to send data). Here are some speed comparisons:

Dial Up: Download – 40 Kbps to 48 Kbps / Upload – 36 Kbps
Cable: Download – 4 Mbps to 15 Mbps / Upload – 384 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps
DSL: Download – 768 Kbps to 6 Mbps / Upload – 128 Kbps to 768 Kbps
Satellite: Download – 512 Kbps to 1 Mbps / Upload – 128 Kbps to 256 Kbps

Through our provider, Hughes.net in the USA, we subscribe to the middle package which gives us a speed of : Download – 800 Kbps to 1 Mbps / Upload – 200 Kbps to 256 Kbps.

This speed is sufficient for our usage requirements. At most and at the same time, we had 4 computers working on the internet with one connected to Skype making phone calls to the USA and getting a clear connection. The connection through Skype is not always clear, but Skype to Skype calls are usually far better. Skype to land line or cell phone sometimes has delays and tends to break up or off. But overall, it is acceptable enough when chatting with friends and family. To conduct business it is not the best. But for the fact of being in the middle of the jungle and being able to phone home is quite amazing and fun!

And prices for both connection and call rates through a VOIP provider is much cheaper than the local phone company, and more often than not, more reliable.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

 

Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging!

First thing first… you have to be there. Attempting to build while out of the country is a BAD idea, unless you have a really good trustworthy manager on site.

Some decisions you will have to make before starting your homework are very important: will I build concrete or wood? What size and type of building do I want? The other million things I will need (hardware, furnishings, etc). Being off-grid, what type of commodities do I want (pressured water or gravity, hot water, electricity…)

Building contractors don’t always provide proper outsourcing for specifics like plumbing, electrical, painters/coaters, inside finishing such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Many do, but you have to be on top of everything, as anyone can call themselves plumber or electrician because no license is required in those fields. But did you know that to be a tour guide you must be licensed!!! There are good chances that you will end up having to find those labors yourself in the end.

We went for wood buildings on cement posts. I recommend cement over wood posts (sturdier and longer lasting). The hardwoods of Belize are amazing. I never thought I would need to pre-drill a hole to pound a nail… plus I have never gone through so many drill bits in my life! The entire 1,500 sq. ft. floor is thong & groove Cabbage Bark. The walls and ceiling are a mix of Santa Maria, Red Wood, Mahogany, Ceba, and many others.

The homework for this one is a bit tougher as communication can be an issue. Many contractors have ‘mini’ websites with some information. Email works well with many of them, but you have to be ready to get on the phone or better yet, go down for a visit!

You also have to build in the right season. During rainy season, construction often comes to a halt due to some serious downpours that can last a month. So obviously the dry season is the time to do it. That season is from November to May.

There a 2 ways to do the hot water; solar or butane. We have an on-demand butane water heater (very standard in Europe) and it works great. Those little heaters ignite when you turn on the tap by the pressure tripping the flint. All you need is a D battery for the igniter.

Do your homework on butane. For your own safety, you might want to do your butane line yourself. Once you know how to flange an end correctly, it is relatively simple. Butane is important as it will also fuel your stove, fridge, and a clothes dryer if you chose to have one. What we have found out is that those butane appliances are easy to install and they are reliable… the fridge can be a little finicky until you figure out how it reacts to the weather and temperature changes.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!

Life in the mountainous jungle can be very pleasant, but just like anything else, it’s not perfect. We succeeded in setting up a comfortable good size house with full solar electricity, satellite internet, hot water, A/C… yeah, comfort!

The climate certainly has great sides. Most people think that the down side comparing to the North American living is that you don’t have the four seasons. Although not as drastic as in North America, there are very distinct seasons throughout the year, which can be seen from changes in the surrounding wildlife, fruit trees which produce at different times, the considerable variation in vegetation, and of course the temperature. Also there is a “wet” and a “dry” season, the dry season lasting approximately from late November through May, and the “wet” pretty much parallels hurricane season, which is June through November.

While quite hot, low to mid 90ºs F (32º C) during summer afternoons, as soon as the sun sets behind the mountains it cools off beautifully. This sub-tropical climate is a dream for sleeping. Winter season, nights can get down to the mid 50ºs F (10º C) to mid 60ºs F (16º C). It can get cold enough that you will even close your windows! One thing I miss during that time is my big fleece bath robe which I never thought I would need!

Get awakened daily by birds and other creatures welcoming the sun! The temperature remaining cold (I personally use cats as heaters!) until the sun rises over the mountain tops, it is very easy to lounge in your comfy warm bed with a view of the jungle, the mountains and the creek. From the constant changes of the jungle sounds, you can also easily identify the changes in season.

The humidity can also be a factor. When transiting from 55º F (13º C) to 85º F (29º C) within a 4 hours range, things have a tendency to get damp! And the things prone to catch mold will! Some of those are leather, or wood not from the habitat. A picture frame made of soft Canadian pine doesn’t do well in this climate! But by afternoon everything is dry again.

The place I am talking about is Barton Creek in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. Belize is tucked in between Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Caribbean Sea. With a total of 8,867 square miles (22,965 sq. km.), it is one of the smallest countries in Central America. With a population of approximately 300,000 there are a lot of open spaces. The population being spread out, there are not many highly populated areas. The main one being Belize City which is comprised of just over 1/4 of the population for this entire little country!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
2 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle Of Belize
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living In Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2