Honey Bees Sipping Water

Honey Bees Sipping Water from an Antebellum Sugar Mill’s Boiling Pot

It is hard to believe that after 150 years that the pictured sugar kettle would still have any sugarcane residue on it and the bees are not just drinking rain water, but I would like to believe that there is still something left from so long ago. These bees are sipping at the lip of one of four big copper boiling pots at the Reef Bay sugar mill, which ceased operations in 1908. The sugar mill began working before the Civil War as part of a slave plantation in 1855. This mill is unique on the islands, in that it was powered by a steam engine. Most mills were powered with animal or human labor. In 2017, the hurricanes blew the mill’s roof off, before that the abandoned mill used to house Fruit bats, but now they don’t roost there anymore.

Reef Bay Sugar Mill’s Sugar Pots

Sugarcane was refined in the mill, but only up to the point. To prevent loss to theft, the sugar was only refined into a brown paste. This paste was then shipped back to Denmark, where the refining process was completed. As part of the mill, there was also a rum distillery. Rum was primarily made for local consumption. On the islands, rum drinks were significantly cheaper than other alcohol forms, even though now, both sugar and rum are imported. 

Today seems far, far away from a week ago when these photos were taken. It snowed overnight and continues to snow this morning. That’s the trouble with tropical getaways, you eventually have to come back and I think that that is harder than never having gone at all. More’s the pity for that.

We Protect You From Yourselves

Democracia – We Protect You From Yourselves, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, 2013

We had a home security system installed yesterday. Our appointment had been scheduled between the hours of eight and twelve. What wasn’t made clear is that the appointment would run that entire window, from eight to twelve. It turned into quite the ordeal and was way more involved than I thought that it would be.

Now that I am retired, we travel a lot more than we ever used to and I think that to some extent, we have been living on borrowed time. Don’t get me wrong, Joanie does a bang-up job of looking after the house when we are away, but she can’t be here 24/7. What triggered this project, were the experiences of some nearby friends. Before our Virgin Islands trip, we attended a dinner party. We were alarmed to hear that they their house had been robbed, while they too were out-of-town. Their neighbor’s home surveillance system indicated that the robbers had taken almost an hour to ransack their home. Based upon their cautionary tale, I made the appointment with AT&T the very next day.

Michael the tech was courteous, clean, experienced and everything else you would want in a service representative. We settled on a configuration, which he installed and then he explained its operation. Its day-to-day operation is pretty simple, but all of the what-if situations left me glad that he was there to explain and then later re-explain the processes. He informed us that AT&T will soon be discontinuing its home installation service, in lieu of a dropship, DIY process. We had to “take classes” that is watch half-a-dozen instructional videos that again reexplained how the system worked. This was required by the police, who will be none too pleased at having to answer any false alarms.

Now our front walk is flanked by two signs. The old one welcomes all of our neighbors, in Spanish, English and Arabic. On the other side of the walkway is the new sign that announces presence of the alarm system and basically says go away. Together, they make for an interesting dichotomy, but a necessary one.

In other home news, after taking the weekend and a rainy Monday off, the water company’s plumbers are back at it today. “They’re back,” I plaintively cried when I saw one of their number trundling down the block on some sort of motorized wheelbarrow. To which Anne answered, “Don’t you want them to get done, done?” Which she later revised to, “Done, done, da-done.” Being out-of-town last week, we missed the worse of their onslaught, as they connected our lateral to the new main. Evidence of this work was found in the hammering of our water pipes, when we first ran the faucets after returning, a sure sign that the water had been shutoff. I think that this phase of the job is almost done. Soon, the next and final phase will begin, road repair and after that, they will finally be done, done, da-done and then be gone.

Hermit Crabs

Hermit Crab

They are certainly an ungainly looking creature, even to look at, as in this photo. In motion though, its ungainliness is only magnified. Their shell is a hand-me-down, originally from a mollusk. They are land crabs that live most of their lives on the land. Once a year though, in a mass migration they journey down to the sea to spawn. Here is a video that depicts the Hermit Crab Migration at Honeymoon beach, St. John Island. It was created by Steve Simonson. We hiked to Honeymoon beach from Cruz Bay and then back again, passing through the area depicted in the movie. We saw Hermit crabs going both ways along the trail, even though the trail was hundreds of feet above sea level. 

Hermit crabs are normally solitary creatures and except for mating, their only other social interaction occurs during the exchanging of shells. As Hermit crabs grows in size, they must find larger shells and abandon their old one. The crabs will form a vacancy chain to exchange shells. If a crab finds an empty shell, it will try it on for size. If it fits, fine, but if not, the crab will go back to its old shell and wait for other crabs to arrive. New crabs will also try on the empty shell. A group is formed that holds onto each other in a line from the largest to the smallest crab. As soon as a crab arrives that is the right size for the vacant shell and claims it, leaving its old shell vacant, then all the crabs in the queue swiftly exchange shells in sequence, each one moving to the next size up. 

On our last day on St. John, we kayaked Hurricane Hole. At lunch, we stopped on a gravel beach, Our guide laid out the spread upon the rocks. No sooner was the food out then a bunch of Hermit crabs arrived to check it out. I took note of them and they scurried away, but after we left, I’m sure they were back again.

We returned home from the Virgin Islands late on Friday night. On Saturday and especially Sunday, the weather was relatively warm and pleasant. Not like we had become accustomed to, but nice for February in Saint Louis and we got a couple of nice walks in. The sunny and warm weather helped to ease our transition back here. Today though dawned, if you could call it that, both cold and rainy and not even a sign of the water company today, because of the wet weather. It is supposed to be cold and wet all week.

The restaurant where we ate our last dinner on the island was selling t-shirts that mocked the mainland’s winter weather. It featured a fake weather map of the lower forty-eight. It also featured the four-letter word, sh!tty. In Saint Louis, the t-shirt labeled our weather always sh!tty, as opposed to Canada, which is sh!tty, eh or Boston, wicked sh!tty, Northern California, foggy and sh!tty and Seattle, rainy and sh!tty. You get the idea, like any place other than the Virgin Islands.