Jamaican newsletter

Jamaican newsletter

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Jamaican newsletter

Dear Friends,

Trust you all had a wonderful Christmas, and celebrated the New Year: appropriately!

I must apologise for the delay in this newsletter: we have been extremely busy with the coffee, this year: record crop ( to date ) and still some more to come. Having to do everything by hand, takes up a lot of time!!

If you go to www.coffee4dummies.com you can see ( in the article "processing the coffee" ) just what is involved, and you might get some idea of the time it all takes: and that is on top of the actual growing!!

On the day of the Solstice ( Dec. 21st ) and just waiting for 1.33am ( well: being after midnight, it is really Dec. 22nd ) when the total eclipse of the moon, begins: have just checked outside, and we have a nice clear night, just a few light clouds, which should not obstruct the view. The full moon, as bright as I can ever recall, seeing it, is just about, directly overhead, it's brilliance totally drowning out all but the very brightest stars: on with a thick woollie, as it is chilly tonight, 59F, and must be a couple of degrees cooler, outdoors.

The eclipse was spectacular, to watch the Earth's shadow, very slowly ( took about an hour ) creep across the face of the moon, and as the last tiny fleck of sunlight vanished, a momentary pause, and the moon turned a rather "dirty" orange colour. We had an almost perfect view of the whole eclipse, just a couple of thin, high clouds, occasionally "dimming" the whole event.

I have seen a couple of lunar eclipses in the past, but nothing like this! it would be hard to think of anywhere that had a better, or more spectacular, view of it. Almost makes up for the pathetic meteor shower that was supposed to happen earlier in the year.

The usual Christmas, over here; Christmas lunch ( a turkey is far too much for me to eat my way through, in less than a month! ) was roast beef, with all the trimmings: starter was some home made chicken liver Pate ( with a few local spices added, and it was delicious! ): and followed with a Jamaican spice bun, with cream and cold custard: lunch was taken out on the balcony, in the sunshine: and followed with a few cups of my very best "special reserve" coffee, from the late picking, of the crop from last season, and was it GOOD!!!!

A bottle of 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon, from Chile: about ?4 for the bottle, excellent with Christmas dinner! and superb value for money! Very "soft", yet full bodied flavour, no trace of excess acidity, and flowed down, with great ease!

Found a very rare "treat" in a supermarket, a tiny piece of real Stilton cheese! Cost a fortune, but well worth it!!

The locally manufactured "cheese" ( if you can call it "cheese" ) is processed NZ Cheddar, it is a deep orange colour, and virtually tasteless: the alternatives are almost all American "generics" of the worlds finest cheeses, but a pale comparison when it comes to the flavour, and texture!

Boxing Day, and checking my e-mail; what strange weather there is at the moment: England having the worst winter weather on record ( ??? ), and even Atlanta GA ( just a little north of Florida ) having their first "White Christmas" since records began back in 1887!!

Up here we are still in the grips of a cold front coming down from the US, mega damp, and very misty, with just the occasional bit of drizzle: the condensation of the cold tile floor ( downstairs ) is really bad, I must have swept out over a gallon of water, in the last 3 days: BUT, the floor has never been so clean!! instead of a mop or broom I have been using an old wiper blade from the car, attached to a stick, and it sweeps up the water, along with all the muddy dog footprints, a real treat!! If it were not for the narrow gaps between ( and slight unevenness of ) the floor tiles, it would be "perfect"!!!

Then we almost hit a real disaster, running out of dog bones!! so I have had to "re-use" some of their old ones: the long bones ( femur and tibia; which came pre-cut into 1 inch lengths ) with the hole down the middle: boil them up, and stuff them with cooked liver, dogs think they have got "new; marrow" bones, and are all chewing away, with much noise!! They would be MOST unhappy, without their evening bones; which also keep their teeth very clean, and no "dog-breath", around them!! Sometimes when I cannot get Ox bones, I substitute with cut-up pigs trotters, they love them, and at a few pence per bony-bit, excellent value for money!


Even with all this damp, the coffee is drying, albeit very slowly, under the plastic tent; even with virtually no sunshine, the beans are still slightly warm to the touch: has to rank as one of my "better" ideas!!! Unfortunately, the plastic sheeting I got hold of, is not very good, and it starts to go opaque, and gets very brittle, when it has been in the sun for a few months, presumably the ultra-violet rays from the sun, affect it.

Over the last couple of seasons, it has worked so well that I will have to invest in some "outdoor" quality plastic sheeting, and make a much better wooden frame to support it, as I will soon be running out of covered space to put the coffee, to dry: and I now also have the coffee fruit to dry, to make the "elixir", which needs as much space as the coffee itself.

Then the weather changes, 2.00am, and up to 70F; crystal clear sky, and in less than 3 hours, almost all the water has gone!! Still a few small patches on the floors, but otherwise, drying rapidly: expecting it all to be gone, by the morning! and all the things that need "drying" ( the washing I have had waiting to dry, for some days ) will be out in the sun, in the morning: and will be dry in no more than 2 or 3 hours, that is how fast things dry, in the sunshine!

Middle of January, and the short lived sunny period, gone: we are back to rain and the damp, misty weather, when is the "dry" season going to start???

January 12th, and the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake:

The Gleaner published, in the business section, a short article about the current conditions in Haiti.

A couple of Korean companies are in the process of opening new factories in the Country, but it will be some time before they have any effect on the economy; it appears to be a good deal for the Koreans, with minimum wages set at US$3 per day!!

Wages are comparatively low, in Jamaica, but the current minimum wage level, is over 3 times this rate ( about US$10 per day; or around ?1 per hour. ).

Of the estimated 105,000 houses destroyed, and 208,000 damaged: only about 15% have been rebuilt.

An estimated 20 million cubic feet of rubble, was created by the quake; less than 5% has been cleared away, which is compounding the problems of replacing the destroyed homes. The UN. estimates that by the end of this year ( 2011 ) some 650,000 people will still be living in the tent cities and camps.

Water and sewerage infrastructures, are still a major problem, and over 1 million people still have no proper water supply, relying on "bottled" water to survive.

Since the quake, some 700,000 people have been employed in the cash-for-work programmes, rebuilding and clearing up: but these are only temporary jobs, and will do little for the long term economic growth of the Country.

The Cholera outbreak appears to have been "controlled", but it killed over 3,500; and sickened more than 155,000.

THAT, is the extent of the news from Haiti!!!! How quickly the world forgets!!!!


The latest update on the price the commercial processors are paying for our raw coffee beans, is now settling down at J$2,300 ( US$26 ) per box, half the price paid for the last 12 years!! Still blaming it on the world recession, but their selling price has not dropped, nor have they economised on the annual fleet of brand new cars, for the management!!

An update on that: according to the Coffee Board, they have been forced to cut the export sale price of the green ( whole, unroasted ) beans by 8%: either my brain is "going", or there is something wrong with the maths: sale price down 8%, farmers price for the cherry coffee, down 50%: no matter how I try to manipulate the figures, allowing for fixed processing costs, etc, etc. there is only a single conclusion that be drawn: the growers are, quite simply, just getting "ripped off"!!

The delays in paying the growers, are now up to 7 weeks ( for many years it has always been 5 working days ): and to say that the growers are "pissed-off", would be a gross understatement!!!

Mark ( the beekeeper ) has been round a few times, and has suffered badly, this winter: due to car problems, he has not been able to get up the mountain, and spend the necessary time with his hives: and has lost 35 of 36 hives to the red ants; his hives back at home, are fine, but it is a major loss for him.

Unfortunately bees and ants are quite closely related, and all the available insecticides, kill both of them, so we will have to try and find some way of protecting the hives, from the ants. Our current thinking is to use bottles of used engine oil, and stand the legs of the hives, in them ( ants do NOT like old engine oil, and the bees can fly over it!! )

He also grows a few acres of coffee, but with the current price being paid by the processors, it is just not a viable proposition to reap the coffee; by the time he has paid the pickers, and transported the cherries to the factory, he has made a cash, loss!!

It would appear that the latest TV ad "buzz-word" is ridiculous or ridiculously: describing everything from the amount of bubbles in a can of soft drink, to car battery reliability, to shoe comfort inserts; shame they never consulted the English Dictionary, and discovered the actual meaning of the word!!!

Then we had another disaster, one of my two coffee "cafeterias" finally succumbed to all the repairs that had been done to it, and broke ( both of them were cracked, and held together with silicon glue, and duct tape ).I have been all around Kingston, even gone through the yellow pages of catering suppliers, not a single one to be had on the Island.

BUT; guess what, the glass base is almost exactly the same internal diameter as the empty wine bottle ( from Christmas lunch ) so:- cut the top off the bottle, and made a new one: works fine, but without a pouring spout, is not all that easy to get all the coffee, in the cup!

Mid February, and we have had some 2 weeks of rainy weather, and there is no end in sight! Most unseasonal weather, rain, mists, the occasional thunderstorm; the drive is just a "sea" of mud, as it has managed to block the drainage channel, which will have to be cleared out, as soon as we get a few dry days.

With so much coffee already picked, and as we are processing the coffee fruit as well; ran out of drying space under the plastic tents, so we had to rebuild them: and it the process managed to almost double the available space under the same plastic sheet:-


The new drying tent: and what a surprise when I looked at the picture: the sun interacting with the mists, and it looks like a raging forest fire!!

It is all constructed with some bamboo poles ( this is the really BIG bamboo; the poles grow to 5 inches in diameter, and reach a height of over 40 feet, the "usable" part of the stem can be over 25 feet long ) and the stems from a Hibiscus bush, which had to be severely trimmed down, before it took over the garden!! The rest of the building materials are old bits of wood/planks, that were just lying around the place.

February is traditionally the middle of the "dry" season, but not this year!! we have had the monthly rainfall average for the whole month, almost every day, and hardly seen the sun for about 5 weeks!! This is playing serious havoc with the coffee drying!!

The last few days of February, and the start of March, and at last we are seeing a change in the weather, some good warm morning sunshine, until the mists arrive, just after lunch, but no rain for several days now, and everything is starting to dry out.

Amazing how quickly the time just flies past: March 19th, and a special evening to watch the moon: at its ( almost ) closest to Earth, and is 14% bigger and brighter than a "normal" full moon. Something which happens every 18 years, but this one is almost "perfect", with the moon only a fraction away from the closest it ever can get, to us.

AND, of course, it is the cue for more ravings from all the doom-and-gloom merchants; predictions range from an earthquake, to the end of the world, from the second coming, to an assortment of major catastrophes: well, this time they were right!! A catastrophe almost on a par with Noah's flood, the mute button on my TV remote, failed, and I had to LISTEN to all the TV adverts!! But, did hear one interesting programme advert, surprisingly on a normally interesting channel, which does a lot of programmes on real-life, real criminal cases, and goes into the forensic science, in depth: a new series, called: "Hard Core Porn", had to take a second look, only to discover that what they were advertising was "Hard Core Pawn", a series about a pawn shop!! Disappointing???

The Moon, watched it rising over the mountains, and it appeared huge ( this is purely an optical illusion, the moon appears to be bigger when it is near the horizon, and appears smaller when overhead ) around midnight, and it will be only slightly off, exactly overhead: and if it stays as clear as it is now ( 10.30pm ) I will be able to stand outside, in the most brilliant moonlight we ever get, and have no shadow from it. And, it was just that, wonderfully clear night, the brightest moonlight I have ever seen, and I cast no shadow, as it was just a fraction away from directly overhead.


AND: there it is, setting behind the mountains, just as dawn is breaking.

Approaching the end of March, after the Equinox: and at last, the weather seems to be improving: for the first time this year, we hit 80F up here ( nice, and comfortably warm!! ) and the overnight temp is staying in the low 70'sF. The warmer weather should ripen the remaining coffee, over the next couple of weeks, and that will be almost the last of the seasons crop.

With my 3G internet connection ( most of the time!! ) my download speed has increased dramatically: fastest rate seen so far, is almost 400 megabytes per hour, and it averages around 300 megs per hour: a huge difference over the old connection, with a maximum speed in the region of 20 megs. per hour.

Lost the 3G for a couple of days, so I was able to check the download speed: using the fastest rates they display; 300 times faster!! but averages around 250 times faster.

I have found a web site that gives out a free game, every day; so I have been trying some of them: and what a load of rubbish!!! Totally fail to see the point of most of them: rubbish "stories", and the game itself, quickly gets either boring or tedious: out of the 100 or so games I have tried, there are only 6 that require any thought, or "tactical" planning.

Eye-straining "hidden object" games: "action" games ( beat-em-up ) just how many times can you hit a single key, per second: Mah Jong ( just boring ) and some of them are so bad, claiming to be for children, but more like they have been designed for morons!!

Local business man, over-sleeps whilst with his girlfriend: in panic, at 4.00am, he grabs his cell phone and frantically calls his wife "Don't pay the ransom, mi escape"!!! ( Jamaican style joke ).


The "Maypole", a species of Algarve, the flower spike can grow up to 30 feet high, and the leaves around the base, can be 6 feet long. They flower late April, and into May, hence the "Maypole" name.

A real exciting couple of days: found "rat-sign" in the kitchen: I have absolutely NO idea how they get into the house: all the doors are locked shut, all the windows are covered with 1/4inch steel, wire mesh, yet they still manage to find a way in. Many times we have gone around the place, to try and find their access route, and failed. The dog pack hears them, and off they go, a-hunting, but by the time they get downstairs, the rat has gone: SO: out with the ( home-made ) rat trap; first time, and it gets the bait, without operating the trap: modifications made: and this time we get it!!

Have to give it to the dogs, to chase and kill, but with a "sporting chance" ( at very long odds ) of it escaping: took them only a few seconds to kill it ( as usual; rat corpse swapped for a lump of cheese, and the other two, who assisted in the kill, also get the cheese reward ).

Despite having got the rat, they were still very agitated, and kept hunting around the back yard: then we spot the second rat!! Out with the trap, and the story repeats itself: caught in the trap, and killed by the dogs!!

Then the following night ( 2.45am ) yet another rat; quite small, so guess the other two were the parents, out with the barricades, to block the kitchen door, its escape route, and wielding the machete, I chase it off the cupboards, and as soon as it touches the floor, it is between a set of sharp dog teeth, and dead!!

If there is one "baby", there are more: so set up the trap, and we will see if can get them!

Since I discovered the rats around the place, I have built 3 rat traps: easy I hear you muttering to yourselves: easy to design, and make; but very difficult to get them to work, without using any sort of spring!! The problem with them all, has been to make a mechanism that is sufficiently sensitive to operate the trap door, but also sufficiently secure to not go off by itself: and the trap itself to be sufficiently robust to prevent the rat escaping ( they can chew their way out of a trap made of 1/2inch plywood, in a couple of hours: just see the hole they chewed through the first one I made!! ) and the whole trap capable of being moved around, and made without any iron parts, which quickly rust away in the dampness, around here!!

Well, my friends: at last we have the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!!! Real and genuine, and as expounded by TBN ( Trinity Broadcasting Network ) who do all these in-depth scientific studies, and have concluded that the answers all lie in the Quantum physics formulae, which are "hidden" in the shroud of Turin!!

As with all this pseudo-scientific biblically motivated "research": they almost get to the "answer", and then side track away from it!! leaving the actual question, unanswered, and the viewer, greatly frustrated!!

Firstly: a general discussion on the subject, which gets focused on a particular aspect, and reveals the answer, ( well: almost!! ) just as they appear to be getting to the crux of the matter, off they wander down the side track, of the authenticity of the shroud, itself. Apparently we need a holographic quantum laser scanner, to read the code, and the formulae, in the shroud: oops; nothing like a " holographic quantum laser scanner" currently exists, what a pity, hope someone will soon invent one, and ALL will be revealed!!

The image on the shroud is, apparently, a "quantum hologram": formed by the singularity which appeared at the "critical" moment!! A "mini black hole", appearing, vanishing the human body, without touching anything else, and the energy released during the process, imprinted the shroud with a quantum hologram, which, when we invent the necessary instruments, we will be able to read, and finally understand EVERYTHING!!!

The whole programme was "made possible" by the viewers "love gifts" and telethon donations!!!


This should be a most interesting Easter weekend: a Jewish friend of mine, is coming up for the holiday: so I have had to do a bit of research on Passover feeding!! Have a couple of recipes for the unleavened bread which is the only form of "bread" she can eat. Learned quite a lot about the Passover festival, from the web: apparently the most important thing ( on a physical level ) is the complete eradication, from the house, of all traces of yeast ( chametz ) and nothing that contains, or has been in contact with it, is allowed during Passover: BUT: the "Passover dinner" ( Seder ) requires the drinking of 4 "cups" of wine with the meal??? and you can't make wine, without yeast!!!

Not quite sure what to make of this; yet!! But there is a big storm roughly midway between Puerto Rico, and Bermuda: if it gets just a little bit stronger ( possible, but not very likely ) it will become only the second named tropical storm, in April, since 1851!! Assurances from the "scientific" camp that this is not a harbinger of a really bad hurricane season, just awaiting the output from the doom-and-gloom, camp!!

Very Best Wishes, from all of us, to each and everyone.

Robin and the Dogs.

Robin Plough, friend of www.coffee4dummies.com

For questions about JBM, mail to: Этот e-mail адрес защищен от спам-ботов, для его просмотра у Вас должен быть включен Javascript

See also:
A New Year on the Plantation
A Visit to Paradise
A year in the life..What makes JBM, the 'legend' of coffee?
Assessing your coffee (part 1)
Assessing your coffee (part 2)
Assessing your coffee (part 3)
Economics of JBM. Part 1
Economics of JBM. Part 2
Everything you wanted to know about the Coffee Board
Growing a coffee plant at home
Growing Coffee. Part 1
Growing Coffee. Part 2
Growing Coffee. Part 3
Growing Coffee. Part 4
Growing Coffee. Part 5
Growing: Part 1
Growing: Part 2
Jamaican food (part 1)
Jamaican food (part 2)
Jamaican food (part 3)
Living in Paradise: Part I
Living in Paradise: Part II
Living in Paradise: Part III
Processing our coffee (part 1)
Processing our coffee (part 2)
Random thoughts on the end of the world
Random thoughts on the end of the world (II)
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 1
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 2
SPECIAL: Coffee borer beetle in Hawaii
Trivia and other ramblings: part 1
Trivia and other ramblings: part 2
Tropical Storm Nichole
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