Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas on the Island...

Xmas has been happening here since around November when we first saw xmas trees at Sam's Club. There was one tree outside in a kind of tree lot and the rest were in a refrigerated container. Not something we are used to seeing! After Thanksgiving the came the Ur ur ur ur early bird sale which started the shopping season off at around 5 or 6 am. When I first heard the ad on the radio it cracked me up because I understood it...it had rooster sounds and then some words that essentially meant "early bird" sale! Very funny! Then came the santa caps. Our neighbor lady was working in her yard (machete in hand as always) in 80+ degrees with a santa cap on. Here are a couple santa caps in action... the first was at an intersection with kids asking for donations for something (not sure what) and the second was in Mayaguez at Ricomini's "home of the jelly rolls" we are addicted to.

A few days ago we started just driving around to see what was up behind our house and in the general area. Then we took an evening stroll in our immediate neighborhood to look at xmas lights and decorated houses. There are some nice homes with very nice yards on our street and some of those yards have very unusual plants in them. One house has a strange gourd tree and a tree with some interesting hanging beads of fruit. This first house had lights everywhere and of course the xmas tree on the front porch. This house was decorated very nicely and I just love the lit up palm trees!

This pretty little house has really nice ironworks, a meticulous yard and poinsettias (which look like yucca plants to me) hanging under each arch. I like to stroll around looking for ideas for our yard and also to meet people who live nearby so we can at least take a walk and they will know we belong here.

We took an afternoon to tour our own city - San German. There is some wonderful architecture that is only seen by walking and on weekends there are fewer cars so it is easier to drive and park. The town has two plazas which is an unusual layout. There were xmas displays (trees) and the 3 Kings of course. 3 Kings day I think is January 6. One of the kings was taking a ride in the back of a truck to another location I think! It was odd to me that a xmas tree was in the plaza next to a live, beautiful tree that could have been but wasn't decorated!

The 3 Kings may be the inspiration for the creepy mascot that Burger King has. Kind of scary. So I had to include the creepy king head in some images just for fun!

The kings were very large (except the little statue in the first picture - bottom right) and kind of creepy looking.

One thing I love here is that there are colorful houses. In Washington everything was grisly grey, barf brown or some variation there of...here there is real color. Many people spend a lot of time on their porches and a lot of people have their xmas trees there.

Well that's it for xmas - we think - we haven't heard any fiestas today but boy there have been some loud ones. Lots of music and singing and instrument playing and fireworks going on for weeks now. I wonder what new year's eve and 3 Kings day will be like...musical I am sure!

Friday, December 21, 2007

We have Seen the Light (house) That is...

Me duele el cuello (I hurt my neck) so we skipped yard work and took a drive. Drives that should take us only 20 or 30 minutes end up taking more than an hour because roads are not marked well, maps don't have all the roads on them, and not all roads go where the signs say they go! The last time we tried to find the Cabo Rojo lighthouse we ended up driving through ranch land near Guanica in a big circle before ending up at Boqueron Beach. That is part of the fun of it, the drive will always bring you somewhere! This drive was no different. We drove around following the map and ended up going through little towns and ranch land and then down a long dirt road to nowhere - wait...it put us in the mangroves of the Boqueron Wildlife Area where people bike around and on a private little beach a couple bays over from...you guessed it, the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse. We worked our way back out and got on track, went down another long dirt, potholed road (seeing a rather large iguana in the road), and parked at the end with the Lighthouse in sight! We took a walk out to it and talked for a while with the caretaker Pedro. We strolled outside to take it all in.

Inside they have got views all around and Pedro put together a nice aerial video of the Island with historical information as well. Well done. From the top of the lighthouse you can see water in all directions.

On the north side of the lighthouse the seas are a little rougher than to the south. It was a pretty windy day and things were a little stirred up with some white caps in the far distance.

When you reverse tracks and head to the trails going south of the lighthouse you come out at a lovely little crescent shaped beach called La Playuela. There were a few families out set up under the trees with coolers and stuff, just sipping drinks and playing in the gloriously warm water. We have been here before when the water was flat and pure turquise. Today it was a little stirred up with the wind but just as warm and enjoyable.

So after our strolling/beach afternoon we were hungry and decided to head to Joyuda - we kept hearing people talk about how this is the seafood area with lots of good seafood restaurants. Well it was disappointing. The spot was wonderful, near the Isla the Ratones (island of the rats), the sun and light breeze were comfortable but...we have yet to find a good restaurant we like here. We have liked Amparo's (our neighbor lady) corn sticks and arroz con gandules, we have really liked Hamilton's sisters pastelles and his wife Guillermina's dulce con arroz, and we can eat rice and beans and roast chicken every meal but...where can we get a nice piece of broiled or baked fish that isn't swimming in a pool of oil? I love tostones. Yuca and yautia are decent starches. Fruit is absolutely awesome. But where is a simple piece of non-fried fish? I have heard of El Ancla in Ponce...is it there? On the up side the places we have enjoyed eating (sometimes we drive too far and don't bring food with us) are El Mezon (excellent sandwiches on good bread), Mr Special cafeteria (good and inexpensive as well), Ricomini Panederia and in a pinch Tropical Pollo (for Sancocho if it is a cool day). A real treat is a Mr. Pretzel at the mall. Soft and doughy and hot and salty. A nice surprise!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Too Much Pressure!

Last night around 11:30pm I went to bed. As I passed by the living room I heard some noise in the laundry room. The new hot water system was venting water through the pressure relief valve. Early that evening we noticed that the water dispenser in the fridge door was dispensing water much faster than normal. No long wait for your glass to fill. So I shut the water off and went to bed. Our neighbor, Amparo, came over in the morning and conveyed the message that there was a problem with her water last night. It was the coupling I fixed after I ran over it with the lawn mower. It was spewing water like a fountain. The coupling came off. I repaired it. Then I was off to get a new pressure reg and pressure gauge. I was already going to Mayaguez to pick up my vice at Sears. One thing I learned is every time your going to go to Sears, bring all your receipts for the last 30 days, and any receipts for items you have on order. After leaving the DMV yesterday we were at the mall when I got a phone call from Sears saying my vice was in. No, I did not have the receipt because I was not expecting the vice to be in! It was too funny. Here is a picture of my new pressure gauge. Note the pressure!!! 160PSI, I saw it go to 180psi!!!!! Needless to say the water is off now until I put the new regulator in.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Driver's Licence Trip Number 3 to the DMV (CESCO)

Ok, here is the story so far. We drove home and had lunch. After lunch we drove back to CESCO with our Marriage certificate. This morning we took a number, it was 21. We didn't have to wait long. We left a little after 11AM to go home. When we came back it was a little after 1pm. The number being served was 22!!! The new number we picked was 46!!!!!! I contemplated leaving and coming back but the guy next to us had two numbers and he gave us one. It was 40. Then a few minutes later the numbers climbed from 22 to 30 real quick. We wound up waiting about an hour. Not too bad. We try to explain where we were at to the new person. She goes away for about 10 minutes. She comes back and tells us to follow her. We go into a back office and the woman behind the desk starts to tell us we need a statement or something from Washington ST DMV. WHAT! We explain that we were getting a learner's permit and we wanted to take the written test. Then things were ok and we went to take the test. We go to a class room and sit down with a paper test! I thought I was back in High School taking my first drivers test. That was when we didn't have computers! We get the test, 20 multiple choice questions. Some of them were confusing. I did my best. Katrina finished a minute before I did. Katrina's test was checked by hand. She passed by the skin of her teeth. I got them all correct. So we passed. Now it's time to get the drivers permit. Katrina had an issue again with her last name but got it resolved after 10 minutes and another copy of the Marriage certificate. Then we go wait in another room for our cards. I get my card and my mothers maiden name is on it! Katrina's name is correct. Mine has my name correct but my mothers maiden name added to the end. I don't know what kind of problems this might cause but I am not going to change it. Now all they need to do is put my SS number on the card and if someone ever steals it they have everything needed to steal my identity. And they use the SS number here for everything! So now we go back in 31 days to MAKE AN APPOINTMENT for the Drivers test, buy another stamp, give them two more photos and wait in line. That will be trip number 4. We need the 30 days to learn how to drive...

Now get this, for trip number 5 we have to bring someone who has a Puerto Rico Drivers license with us!!!!!!!!!!!! Thats so we can take the Driving test. Thats a big favor to ask someone to come with you to the DMV while you take your drivers test!But it was a successful day, we got our learners card and some book shelves from Walmart. Oh, to make the card they used scissors to cut the photos and used a small plastic laminator. Not very secure or hi tech. No holograms on this card. Lets hope the real card is more secure.

Getting a Drivers Licence Trip number 2

A few weeks ago we went to Crash boat beach in Aguadilla. As a side trip we stopped at the CESCO (DMV) office to start the process on getting a driver licence. We learned about some of the process from Stefan and Summer's blog (http://ca2pr.com/). We got the form from CESCO, we went to the Dr's and had them fill out the form saying we had two arms and legs and that we had a head. They stated we could walk and said I had 20/20 vision (because I don't wear glasses) and that Katrina has 20/25 vision because she wears contacts. Then we went to the IRS dept and each bought a $10 stamp and a $1 stamp. Then off to the barbers to get our photos taken, yes I said barbers. Then to the pharmacy to pick up the $3 English version of the driving manual. We thought we were prepared so today we went to the CESCO office in Mayaguez and wanted to take the test. We brought our Washington Drivers licences, our SS cards, our Passports, our Birth certificates (THEY KEEP THE BIRTH CERTIFICATES) and then we stood in line. We didnt wait long, about 10 minutes and then the POWER went OUT! We were next in line! When the person in front of us finished we walked up and said hello. We asked about the process and if we could take the test. While we were learning the process the lights came on. That's good we thought, we can take the test. But as the CESCO employee checked our paperwork and documents she said she needed our MARRIAGE Certificate! So we just drove back home and are eating lunch right now. In a few minutes we drive back to CESCO and try again to take the WRITTEN test. (The driving part of the test is a whole nother story to be continued)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Tropical Research Station and Montoso Farms...

After some disappointing trips to regular nurseries looking at ho hum regular stuff I began my quest for some unusual plants. I am a hard core gardener into the wild and weird. In Duvall, WA I had a windmill palm, hardy banana, bamboo, 2 types of kiwis, fig, passion flower, jujubee shrub, musk strawberries and much more...all stuff people in Washington usually don't see let alone grow. Our yard already has spectacular tropical fare, things I've only ever seen as houseplants, but the possibilities for a gardener such as myself are truly endless here. Besides that, with 2 acres I have an arboretum full of specimen plants already sketched out in my little mind! So the quest began with a trip to the Tropical Research Station at the University of Mayaguez so I could begin to identify the types of specimens I would like to have in my little arboretum. They have got some huge trees, many different palms and best of all lots of things are labeled with the real name. The folks sitting where you check in were very helpful and passed along some fruit info I could keep.
Then a week later Jeff, myself, our friend Toni and her neighbor/friend Lourdes all went to a true find -- Montoso Gardens! This fabulous spot specializes in Heliconias, gingers, exotic fruits, palms and bromeliads. The knowledgeable leader of our pack took us on a tour through the farm pointing out interesting species along the way and answering many questions I had. He recommended a book I had already seen but not gotten yet (I have it now) called Arboles fruitales exoticos y poco conocidos en Puerto Rico by Juan Rivero and Bryan Brunner (Montoso Gardens owner). The book is in Spanish, but is set up like all plant books with mature size, spread, years to fruiting etc and is a great inspiration for me to learn more Spanish! After the tour I bought a few things and am plotting which things to get next! The Gardens are only 4 miles above our house in Maricao, but it is at least 45 minutes and an elevation gain of 1000 feet. I forget the exact name of the Heliconia below, but it is something like Rostata or something, an absolute must even though it is one of the more common ones they had. I love that color scheme and it is flashy and big and bright! Below that is a consideration for the area near our gate. When Toni and Lourdes missed our house someone told them to go to where the coconut trees and garbage can are...that just won't do. I'd rather be located by "go to the really weird thorny tree trunk - they live up there!"

Here's our little group with pack leader David Brunner on the left, myself, Lourdes, Toni and Jeff is taking the photo. Back to the thorny tree - it was a scary, thorny, evil looking way cool tree! It might be hard to have in the front though due to pruning issues. While it is small it could be difficult to weed whack around and open and close the gate. Back to the drawing board.

The photo below is at the research station with Jeff in front of a huge palm. We actually
have room for things of this size and I will have to really plan distances between things now that I see their full potential. I have also figured out that I can stick a stick in the ground and it will have leaves in a week as long as there is rain - things really grow here. The plan is to plant specimen things, and then more understory type plants once the main plant creates a little shade.
Here's Jeff holding a machete bean from the tree behind him. I forget the machete bean story but remember the name since it is a cool one. Look at Jeff and that bean - he looks so natural.

This photo is another "must have," it was a King Kong Heliconia. The flower was about 20 inches long, furry, and the little hairs were really soft! Maybe it was the she - Kong, I'm sure, but a "gotta have it" for sure. It is on the Montoso website http://www.montosogardens.com/ under pendulous heliconias.

Here is another Heliconia. There are many many color combinations, styles, sizes etc. Expect a Heliconia book from Bryan soon!

Look at the fur! I just love nature.

This is one of the purchases we made - a Cannonball Tree! It gets to be 100 feet tall and gets these odd gourd-like fruits on it. The flowers smell heavenly and look like really big orchids. The balls grow on the trunk which is divine and interesting. Ours of course is a little pencil right now but it will be bigger soon, and is in a prominent spot as you come up the driveway. Out of all the things we saw this is the one that Jeff was most interested in!

This is the other purchase we made. These are beehive ginger flowers. The flowers start out gold and as they mature turn red. The more sun there is the redder they get. I've decided to conquer an 80 degree slope by terracing a few of these in. Once they create shade a ground cover will go in and our hill will be transformed! They get to be 6-8 feet tall. Many Heliconias and gingers get taller than that. I got three which are staggered on the slope. Can't wait until they bloom! A tree on my list is rambutan and another is mangosteen. We are clearing areas a small bit at a time so we can maintain them planting as we go. All in all very exciting and I recommend trips to both spots!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Fence and That Cat

This first photo is of the right hand part of the property - we cleared the fenceline! Yahoo! In the 10 months the house was vacant trees and grass and vines pulled down the barbed wire and horses were now travelling who knows where. We walked the entire property (2 acres) with a tape measurer and with a weed wacker (over the course of a week) unveiled the "surveyed" corners - paint on trees. 2 acres is a lot of land! Our plan is to let ranchers have horses up there to keep the grass down and slowly select trees to keep. We will move the fence progressively up the hill as we clear and maintain and plant things. That way the horses won't eat the good stuff! Today was the first day in a week that we had a horse up there - I miss them. It is great to visit a little herd of them hanging out under the 50 foot mango tree - nice I guess until they eat the mangos. (I think there will be more than enough to share - two 50 foot mango trees and another in the fenced in part of the yard.) No mango blossoms yet but they fruit starting in march so they should be blooming soon.

This photo shows the scale of everything - big! The flower is an ornamental ginger. We visited a farm that specializes in gingers, heliconias and exotic fruits. More on that later. Here's Jeff standing in front of one of twelve mature and producing citrus trees we have. We are drinking lots of "jugo" or juice and using the juice to marinade meat in as well. We have several types of oranges or "chinos," a chino-grapefruit mix, limon (lemon) and lime and sour orange "naranja agria." Anyone have any good orange recipes? Reply to this blog if you do...I've made orange cake, ambrosia (with fresh coconut of course), juice, a crushed ice-juice-sugar mix (I think they call them "batidas" here), in our brand new hi-powered blender/food processor (thank you Gary and Mary for the wonderful gift). I have been pruning off fruit laden limbs to accomplish pruning and harvesting at the same time! Sometimes the fruit drops and takes off down the long and very steep driveway and we never see it again!

Oh Dakota, I had such high hopes for you and now you are in cat prison - "no mira afuera nunca" - you will never see the outdoors again. This was one of his ten trips outdoors where we accompanied him and all was well. His first unescorted trip? I wrote about that earlier. He could have been happy and made outdoor friends but instead he disappoints.

Dakota was having another excursion here - in the good old days last week. We all happily wandered around the yard...well, not exactly, Dakota would hiss and run and hiss and run all at nothing. I think at 10 years old he is simply better off inside where the roosters can't get him and he can't pick a fight with the horses!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


After lots and lots of sunshine tropical storm Olga came to Puerto Rico and the Kruse household. Everything in the house was damp, the temperature dropped 6 degrees to 72 in a half hour, and the skies opened and dumped lots and lots of rain! The wind was howling and we actually had to close up some of the windows and the kitchen door. We felt like we were in a zoo exhibit and someone hit the rain switch. Lots and lots of rain in giant drops, banana trees falling over in the yard, seed pods flying around and coconuts dropping. We had a mini waterfall coming off the hill, around the house, around the tree in the front and then down another hill to the driveway. Very wild and kind of neat. It was warm and the house was mainly open. The lights flickered a couple times before going off for a little bit.

These views are from the enclosed porch area. Look at the size of the drops!

The activities went on most of the night and most of the following day. It lightened up by around 3:30 or so in time for our visitors to come by. Boqueron Beach is park of the Puerto Rico system of beaches where you actually have to pay ($3) and there are facilities. Of course there are many beaches that are free (most) but the balnearios have changing rooms, bathrooms, lifeguards, a rip tide flag system, BBQ areas etc. The ground was a little hard (rained the previous night) but the sand was sand (not cobble like in Seattle) and the water was a glorious 80 something. The sun was out, the beach was pretty much empty and it was a nice day!

No one on the beach...no one in the water. Pretty weird for December in a warm, tropical place.

My style of beaching is to get my little green air matress, blow it up so it is soft and go float and daydream in the water! With it soft I can be partially underwater but still have my head out and I can just simply rest. That way I get a little sun, a little water, a few little bobbing waves...but first you have to get warm enough to get in the water. Jeff doesn't like to sit for long so he went in the water and then took a jog on the beach snapping these photos.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Days Are a Blur

All the days are a blur...they start out for me early in the morning when the roosters ur ur urrrrr and the giant ball of a sun pops up from behind the mountains in the front of the house. (One second you see a glow and then up pops the ball.) I have myself a nice cup of Puerto Rican coffee - yummy - and some fresh orange juice and usually coconut and oatmeal or something and then I am off in the yard to do my thing. We have got a wonderful home and yard, but after 10 months of not being here it is a jungle! I am stretching to prune what I think is a quenapa tree to let more sun get to the carambola (star fruit) tree on the right. A short while after the pruning, I saw dark pink blossoms on the star fruit tree! Everything needs pruning, and I do part ladder and part climbing to try to do it. I broke the handle off my hand saw pruning an orange tree so now I have Jeff chain saw some of it...
This is a jobo tree and there was a cluster of ripe ones pretty high up I wanted to get. Standing in the back of the truck with the 12 foot pole wouldn't reach these suckers, so up I went and I was able to climb up high enough to pull down two of them. They were different than I expected - kind of crunchy like an apple, orange like a mango with lots of fibre and a big seed with a melon-like papaya flavor (something is blooming outside and only at night I can smell it wafting into the house - I think it is papayas).

After this climb I pointed out where Jeff should prune the semilla de pan breadfruit tree - after hauling away branches I ended up with a wad of latex in my hair. Breadfruit it ready to eat when beads of latex appear near the stem. You can harvest it at different stages depending on how you want to cook it. Tonight we tried a soft one that had turned kind of brown in the oven with brown sugar and butter in it. It was rather odd. This big greenish bumpy ball tasted just like banana. The previous night we sauteed it and it was just like potato. We also fried plantains and they tasted like potato. When is a plantain not a plantain? More on plantanos and bananas later.

The neighbor lady is always in her yard whacking away at large trees or something. Today she was digging up roots and offered me one. I recognized that plant and knew I had it in the yard so I invited her over to help me harvest from my own yard. First off, this is Puerto Rico, things are not what they seem. Oranges are not orange, I put "cholesterol" on my hair, and what looks like a pointsetta happens to be what everyone calls yuca, which is actually cassava. We do some digging and come up with these. She only speaks Spanish so we bumble along and she is telling us something about some of the roots maybe being "bitter." That is what I understood anyway. I figured it made sense that the big roots wouldn't taste as good as the small ones just like larger carrots suck. No big deal. I boil the roots and we have them for dinner and they were pretty tasty. Just another starch. The next day she tells me they are not bitter and I am just not getting it. I do an on-line search for yucca, or yuca and read all about how there are the bitter ones and the not bitter ones and how incomplete processing leaves you with enough cyanide in the root to "kill a horse." Hmmm. Since then I have read up on how the prepare this root and am waiting for the seizures to start!

This is the neighbor lady - I want to be like her when I grow up! This is our side yard where yuca kind of lines the base of the hill. Of course after harvesting the tuber it is like the rest of gardening here - hack up the stem and stick it in the ground. In 6 months you will have more! Note the machete in her hand. I don't think I have seen her without it!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

That Damn Cat

We have been letting him out on little supervised excursions. It gets him off the couch! So yesterday we gave him some un-supervised time. No less than 20 minutes go by and Katrina hears the screams of a cat fight. That's right, in just 20 minutes he picked a fight with the neighbor's cat. Now he is stuck inside for good and all he has to look forward to is catching and eating the occasional gecko that gets in the house. And the many neighborhood cats come by every day and taunt him through the front screens. Katrina is befriending one particular cat.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sorry Mr Eel

Since I was going in the water Gerd asked me to unwrap the chain to his buoy and boat. I tried a few times without my mask on with no luck. I got my mask and snorkel and tried again. The chain was wrapped around a pipe a few feet under water. I dove down and grabbed onto the pipe. I put my thumb in the end of the pipe to gain purchase and begin pulling the chain free. As soon as I moved my thumb it exploded in pain!
I stood up and looked at my bloody thumb. I was confused for a minute until Gerd said I was bit by the Moray Eel living in the pipe and why did I stick my thumb in the pipe? It was a small eel and the 4 bite marks were small so as soon as the pain stopped I tried to move the chain again, this time being careful of the end of the pipe. I never was able to get the chain around the pipe.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Of Roosters and Little Potatoes

This fine fellow was strutting up the citrus hill to the upper end of the lawn area one morning doing the ur ur ur ur urrrrr thing. Our fraidy cat "Little Boy" went to the screen and growled a primeval growl at him. Sometimes the chickens and roosters stroll up into our area to give us the wake up call. There are thousands it seems around the hills and valleys and we hear them all at dawn, dusk and when a cloud rolls past and it gets dark. The leader of all commotion is down the hill from us and when he starts up every one else answers. They sound like babies, or witches or just weird cries. Makes for some odd dreams.

These lovely looking things are breadfruit. The one on the left is a regular breadfruit that can be cooked a variety of ways depending on the ripeness (pudding and cakes for the ripe ones and frying as a potato-like fry). The one on the right is a "seed" pan, or a semilla de gran. It is a very spiky green basketball that turns slightly yellow to brown when ready to harvest. You will hurt your fingers pressing on unripe ones, but there is a smuushy give to the ripe ones. The fun begins with tearing it open and fingering out the seeds that look like chesnuts. They are hard seeds embedded in a spongy, sticky goo. You rinse them and boil them in salt water, take off the outer skin and toss them with salt. They are like little baked potatoes! The neighbor lady told me how to cook them. She doesn't speak english and my spanish is crappy but I caught the main verb "hervir" so I knew to boil them. If she hadn't shown me how to get the seeds out I never in a million years would have looked in there or thought anything in there was edible. Very tasty! Most of the fruit here has spikes and looks bizarre. More later about that. Look forward to a few photos of the stingy stuff in the next post...I've got pan grans to eat!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Cat Just Ate a Gecko, We Have Hot Water!, I Ran Over the Neighbor's Water lLne with the Lawn Mower!

The cat is adjusting well. We have let him walk around outside for a few minutes. He likes it but is very jumpy. Stomp your foot on the ground and watch him jump straight up! It's hysterical. We finally got a hot water system hooked up. Its a gas (LPG) instant on hot water heater. We weighed going "green" vs the gas hot water system. First the economics really don't add up to go solar. A good solar hot water system would cost $2100. There is a $500 tax break so it would really cost us $1600. The gas system cost $200 and $30 worth of connections. $1400 can by a lot of LPG!
My second thought was that the solar system was not completely without environmental impact. The thing is big. It took a lot of metal to create and it may only last 10 years before major repairs. Another thing is it uses a 220V electric heating element when the weather has been cloudy for a couple of days or if it gets too cold at night. The gas system doesn't give us super hot water but it should be fine. We might break even in 10 years with the solar system but we really don't plan on using that much hot water in the first place. We could change our minds later but lets see how this works first.
Well, I was mowing again and I did not see ourneighbors water line and I ran over a coupling with the mower. Water sprayed up and I followed the line until I found a shutoff valve. The water lines here are some times above ground and sometimes just below the surface and are usually a combination of both. I called for Katrina because the neighbor doesn't speak English. She is a very nice lady and Katrina spends a lot of time with her going over plants in the yard. I said Yo soy los siento and Katrina conveyed the rest of the message and then all we had to do was point to the broken water line. We then needed to convey that I would fix it within an hour or so. So off I went to HQI pluming. Then the neighbor starting picking giant grapefruit in her yard and handing them to Katrina. They then started to make a bunch of grapefruit juice. Then when they were done with that she then started to make us lunch at her house. I arrived just in time and put a new coupling on then had lunch. Hows that, I break her water line and she makes us grapefruit juice and lunch! I then got the chainsaw out and asked her what she wanted to cut up in her yard. She has been hacking away at some 10 inch trees with a machete! I made short work of all the old trees in her yard even though she was reluctant to ask for help. Then she told Katrina that it's OK to cut the breadfruit tree back so the fruit will be lower. I cut some big branches off the tree and the neighbor started to help me drag them away. It's not some thing you see a woman in her 60's do.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Truck is Stuck and Other Car Related Adventures!

Our first car related adventure was all about trying to figure out how to get a driver's license. We were told to expect it to take all day, and had heard various chatter about the requirements so we figured we better start investigating - we also heard that the car sticker (which is similar to a car tab) includes collision/injury insurance but is only good if you have a valid license. What does it all mean? We still aren't sure... We headed out to Aguadilla to find CESCO (Puerto Rican DMV). We went there instead of Mayaguez because Crash Boat Beach is there and we wanted to have some fun time. Just our luck, the system was down and there were no lines! That meant I could bumble along with my labored spanish and get the forms. The forms we hoped would enlighten us and they sort of did. We need the take the drivers written exam and an acutal driver's test. Where do we get the english verison of the drivers test? At the Pharmacy of course. We also need fotos - ?Donde busceamos la tienda por fotos? They told me to go to the barber shop. "No, no, no necesito una pelo corto...necesito fotos " They kept telling me to go to the barbershop and I kept telling them I didn't want my hair cut. We got photos at the barber shop! They sent us to the glass doors down the hall for a $1 and a $10 stamp needed for the licensing paperwork. We collect that. Now we have to get the medical exam...yes a medical exam. For $10 and no waiting they fill out a form that literally had "piernas, brazos, manos" on it which means "legs. arms, hands" and I told them I had contacts and they made up that I had 20/25 vision. So for less than a co-pay we had the last part of the form completed so all we have to do is study and drive. We are hoping we just have to stay in the lines! It'll have to be on another day...
This next adventure happened after our successful day at the beach (the following day).
This is a photo of Jeff chainsawing a banana tree on our upper driveway. After bringing my desk to the top of the house so we could get it in he decided against my advice (my advice is always "do what the locals do"-- Eddie the gas guy drove around our tree so he was pointed in the right direction) to back down the hill. Well he went off the driveway, broke the water pipe and got stuck! Just 5 minutes earlier he had called our friend (and previous owner of our house) to see if he had recycling that need to be taken in. Now he was stuck. After spinning tires and burning rubber the thought was to cut the dam bananas and gently back the truck onto the flat area before he tips it into the gully. But he keeps spinning and spinning... and it gets more and more stuck.

What a surprise. He shuts the water main off and we stack up palm leaves for traction. Not gonna work.

The truck is now two tires off and this is not good. Lucky for us Hamilton decides to rescue us. But his truck is 2 wheel drive also. (just cut the damn bananas) They don't want to cut the bananas so they concoct this "I'll pull you out" scenario which fortunately for us works out just fine.

I am very happy I convinced Jeff we didn't need a new truck...and we are extremely thankful that Hamilton came by to help us out! We had a little beer and the guys were off to recycle! Jeff would have to stop at our local supermarket "Mr. Special" to pick up some pvc pipe to fix the water. Everything here is very practical - water lines are where you can see them so when they break you fix it easily (under 5 minutes this time), supermarkets have pvc pipe and glue, paint, pipe fittings and other hardware-store-type things. It all just works out great... what's gonna happen tomorrow? Hmmmm

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we went over to Toni and Gerd's for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time. While Katrina was helping Toni in the kitchen I went snorkeling with the guys. I had the pleasure of spotting a Manatee. Thanks a lot Toni for the most excellent dinner!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Yard is Shapping Up and Every Time We Step on the Scale We Lose a Few More Pounds!

The yard is starting to be under control. I almost have the lower section all knocked down. So far I have spent about 15 hours and figure I have about 5 more to go. It sure burns a lot more calories than sitting at a desk all day! So far I have lost 12#'s and I am not watching what I eat. Katrina doesn't want to admit it but she has also lost a few pounds. Soon all the real intensive work will be done. Then its just maintaining it. It was almost a year since some of the yard was worked on. It looks good.
Katrina cleaned up the front yard. The debris filled the back of our pickup 3 times on just the front yard alone!

This is what I have been tackling. Some of the weeds are over my head! Yesterday I got into something very itchy! I couldn't stand it. It was like someone put itching powder in my shirt. I had to shower immediately and use soap 5 times! It drove me crazy for about 30 minutes. Today I got a little itchy but was able to go through 3 tanks of gas on the weed whacker before I had to shower.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Pictures

Here are some pictures we took yesterday. Katrina wielding a mean a machete. Bananas beware. The driveway is lined with Bananas and coconuts.

Dos Caballos in our back yard. Sometimes there are 4 horses in the back yard munching away. Sometimes we are woken up to there whinying. Katrina with her orchids.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where is the Proof Where the Money Came From...

Hurray we finally got on line. DSL and cable were not available, we had to go wireless. It's a bit expensive ($60/m) and isn't as fast (only 256k) as cable but we (I) am happy to be back on line.
The picture above is yesterdays harvest. There is the meat from only two coconuts in the container on the left. We made rice with the coconut water. It tastes wonderful. We could harvest a lot more every day if we wanted to but there is only one avocado left to pick. Now that we finally got our mailing address worked out (the first address the post office gave us was wrong and our mail went to a relative of the previous owner of the house). It was time to get a bank account set up. Up till now we have been paying for stuff with $100 bills. We get funny looks and increased scrutiny when we do. Now we know why, even the bank won't accept $100 bills from new customers without proof of where the money came from!!! It's absurd. We came in with a check from a very well known financial institution. We didn't want to cash the check we just wanted to put it in our new account and when the check cleared we wanted to have access to the money. Sounds reasonable right? Well, we were in the bank for an hour getting it ok'ed. They wanted proof that we sold our house and the check came from that sale. We had to show them passports, SS cards, and Drivers licenses. Now it could be up to 3 weeks before they clear the check.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Katrina's First Impressions

She said... (Katrina's view)
We've been here for a bit now so I will hit the highlights!
JELLY ROLLS - The old owners of our house brought us a Guava Jelly Roll and Queso Jelly Roll. These little goodies are delightful vanilla cake rolls with filling that everybody here loves! When we went to Ricomini Bakery to get some more we ran into Elvin...the guy who sold us our house. Jelly rolls come in seasonal flavors and always queso (cheese). I am looking forward to mango and passionfruit.
BIG HEAD PINEAPPLES - The old owners brought us a Lajas big headed pineapple that made great pancakes, and just plain good eating!
NIGHT SOUNDS - At 6 am and pm all hell breaks loose as the sounds of our jungle/barnyard come alive. There are insects, and coqui frogs, regular frogs, birds, cows, horses, roosters, pigeons...the orchestra plays together so completely it is hard to distinguish individual voices. Sometimes the sounds crescendo and decrescendo and then we can hear popping sounds or just the coquis.In the morning it is like the Wizard of Oz when the roosters start. The first rooster starts up and the the others join in and it is like a round or like the "wave" in the stadiums - the next rooster ur ur ur ur urrrrrr, then ur ur ur ur urrrr and it goes all around the mountains we now call our jungle home. I had dreams of the monkey scene in Wizard of Oz since the roosters get hoarse after all the "ur" ing.
PUERTO RICAN SCREECH OWLS - The call of this owl has been our ringtone for months, but we never ever thought we would hear one for real. In the middle of the night we get up and answer the phone but it is a screech owl outside in our yard calling to another one in our forest! Just lovely and exciting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

10 Days Later

It’s Sunday and we have been here 10 days. My sister had a baby boy. We are very happy for her and her husband. Everything is going as planned but we still don’t have internet and haven’t received our mail. Hopefully we will get cable internet tomorrow but I don’t think there is a cable that runs to our neighbor-hood. I don’t think we can get DSL either. Other than dialup it might be possible to go wireless. Wireless costs $60/month vs. $25 for cable.We bought a 2000 Chevy S10. So far it seems to be running well enough. Searching for a car was a lot of work but we were able to find one in less than a week and return the rental car on time. We are having fun starting over but it’s been a lot of work. We are not big shoppers so it’s an ordeal for us to go shopping for the day. We did get a HE clothes washer from Sears. It works well and uses very little water or electricity. A good solar hot water system was going to cost around $2000. Now that the weather is more normal (the first few days we had a tropical storm) the water entering the house is almost good enough for showers. So instead of a solar hot water system we are going to go with a simple instant on gas (LPG) hot water heater. They cost $220 at Sears. Since we don’t need to heat the water up very much we shouldn’t use too much gas. We are trying to go green but the solar hot water system is physically big and probably took a lot of energy to make and will need to be replaced in 10 to 20 years. The gas system is quite small, about the size of my lap top. If it looks like were going to go through a lot a gas then we can install solar later. We have been eating avocados from the yard every day. We bought some yard tools from Sears and finally have had some time to tackle the yard. Wow! It’s going to take a few hours every day for many months to get things to where they should be. We took some time off and went to the beach today. The water sure is warm. The days get also get a bit warm. We don’t have a thermometer so all I know is that is it hot. I have my Direct TV installed but my TV is on back order and won’t be here for 3 weeks! Also the Direct TV Latin satellite doesn’t carry the Sci Fi channel yet. Big bummer! We found some furniture we like so we will be buying it next week. The cat has adjusted well but we still haven’t let him outside. Katrina’s Spanish is coming along very nicely. Most of the 63 boxes have arrived. We are still waiting on the rest. This week we plan on getting internet, furniture, finding a bank, installing the gas hot water system and more yard work every day.

We are in Puerto Rico!

It’s Friday night, we have been here one full day. My sister went into labor just about the time she was going to drive us to the airport. We had already set up a backup plan just in case and we are glad we did. Dave came to the rescue and was our chauffer for the trip. Just before he came over our cat decided he was going to be a problem. We have kept him indoors for months now because the last fight messed his eyes up so much. His eyes have been fine now for weeks. We don’t know what happened but one pupil was dilated and the other was all goopy. He was messed up but we were going despite him! The people we have met have been very nice. The previous owners have really been wonderful and they are great people. They have really helped us with the PR house while we weren’t living in it. They had the yard cleaned up before we arrived. It was a jungle before they cleaned it up. INTERUPTION: A Puerto Rican Screech owl just started calling in a tree near by! How exciting. When I get internet access here at home I’ll post a link to the sound that the PR Screech Owl makes. I have the sound as my ringtone on my cell phone. END INTERUPTION What were we expecting, leaving the house for 9 months, a house that’s in the jungle! Actually I wish we had pictures of it. I thought the grass might be knee high and a bunch of rotten fruit and leaves would be on the ground, not vines covering the porch iron works and 6’ bushes all over. The flights were easy. Seattle to Washington DC to San Juan. Then a 2 ½ hour drive. We took the cat on the plane and put him under the seat. It counted as a carry on and still cost and extra $85! We had his health certificate, rabies vaccination, and a form for PR that wasn’t even looked at. There is no quarantine for cats and dogs to PR, thank goodness, otherwise he probably would have had a stroke. Heck, he probably had a stroke just before we left. He is already the dumbest cat I have met so he really couldn’t get any dumber. I‘ll let Katrina write about all the sounds we hear at night. All I’ll say is that it is loud and the sounds aren’t from people. Tomorrow we look for a vehicle. Even though we shipped 63 boxes US mail we are basically starting our lives over. We do have a bed but only one cheap plastic chair. We haven’t showered yet because there is no hot water. We have someone coming on Monday to price a Solar Hotwater system. Untill then we will be taking short showers in the afternoon when its warm out. The mornings are in the 70’s. That’s enough for now. I’ll let Katrina write a post or two.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Half Way There

Just finished the red eye segment. The cat is stressed out. Our ride to the airport (My sister) went into labor just before she was going to pick us up! We are very excited for her!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Goodbyes: Being a pragmatic, non-weepy person I am kind of amazed at the difficulty of saying goodbye to people. I had a nice brunch with a couple gals (Sandy and Linda) I have known since we all worked together on the Kitsap Penninsula in the 1980s. Could it really have been the 80's? I don't even remember being in my 20's and it is odd to think of how long I have had these friendships... Marriages, divorces, illnesses, kids getting married, relocations, losing pets, all of it accumulates until you forget it really has happened. Then I went to one of the final meetings with my every--other- monday night photographer friends. My salvation. I have known this mini group for 9 years! When we first started meeting together I had never shown a slide to anyone. Now suddenly I am eating Ron's wife's infamous gingerbread (for the last time), laughing about Joe's creative card (what was he like in his 30's?) and seeing people I feel I was just starting to get comfortable with drift to the outer edges of my life. Then there is Len. I don't even know what to say here. Knowing Len (fellow photographer and my biggest fan) gave me confidence, computer skills and a great appreciate for doing what you love whatever it is. The man is passionate about flying, soaring, building things, photographing everything and living life in general the hardest you can. Saying goodbye made my face fat with fluids - they oozed out on the drive home. So for the people in my life - know that I appreciate you. One regret - I wish I'd made more effort and time to attempt to know people better. It is scary, I'm not good at it, it doesn't come easy or natural to me but that shouldn't be an excuse. But it is mine. So most goodbyes are floating in my mind as I sit in an empty house looking ahead...

More Bubble Wrap and Boxes Please... Shipping a Compressor...

Sending a compressor, scuba tanks/gear, and personal effects can add up. I constantly find myself bringing more boxes and bubble wrap home from work. Good thing its free and re-using is green. Strapping tape however, is expensive. I keep running out and having to buy more.
The compressor system will be about 8 boxes, each box close to 70 pounds. 70 pounds is the max weight the post office will ship. Try sending a 5HP single phase motor. I had to remove the rotor, end caps, and even cut the 20' cord. Even then the Stator weighed 60#'s! Include 8#'s of packaging and your right up against the limit.
Sending two AL80 scuba tanks in the same box also gets you right up against the limit.
So far we have shipped about 30 boxes. I still have a lot of packing to do.
We took the cat to the vet to get the required health certificate. He is finally all healed up since we have kept him inside for the last few months!
We sold the van yesterday. I started the price at 7K (book value and what the DMV is taxing the buyers for!) No interest, then 6500, this time a few emails, then 6000. I had about 6 people respond and we emailed back and forth but only one test drive and one no show. Then I listed for 5500 and had a bunch of people respond on the Second day after the price was reduced. Why the second day? Anyways a nice couple came at 9pm, looked it over and tried to find a way to get me the cash. The called the next morning saying they were on their way and stopping at the bank for cash. I canceled the other people that were lined up.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Past Few Great Dives, Only One or Two Left...

10/07/07 Dalco wall and minesweeper.
A unknown dive legend once told me that "Dalco is diveable on any flood current". This is counter to what all the books, internet, and word of mouth advise. Yesterday we tested this advice. The first team dropped in at max flood. There report was 40 - 50 foot vis and very little current. Then it was our turn. Same awesome results. With the vis so nice we were able to clearly see the bottom of Dalco wall over 150' down!
Our next dive was the minesweeper near by. The vis was good and this was a good dive to do once or twice. We did this dive at predicted slack at the narrows. There was current here so I think we were late by an hour.
10/06/07 Alki Marker bottle hunt.
In the Stroke were Rob, Bob, myself, the X, Bertha, and Mildred. With the loud thunder echoing from Frankenstroke (the 40 year old 2 stroke mix and match motor) we were up and on a plane! 3 minutes later we were at the dive site. We knew not to anchor in ferry traffic so we picked a good spot and dropped anchor. Geared up we scootered over and down to the anchor to make sure the boat would still be there when we surfaced. We zoomed over to the slope and began our hunt for old bottles. Vis was so nice we had no problems staying together when we zoomed all around. We spent most of the dive at 80' since some of us were diving air (gasp). I found a nice embossed medicine bottle and gave it to Bob.
09/30/07 Matts Matts bay and Possession Pt fingers.
Since Alan's boat is so fast and the weather was fair we decided to try Matts Matts. We arrived in an hour. The dive was like Cove 2 on steroids, maybe. Then we hit the Possession Pt fingers on the way back in. Vis was 40'. The dive was excellent.
09/22/07 4 mile Barges.
Vis was 50'. You could see both barges at the same time. Jeff W and I circled them twice.

Friday, September 21, 2007


We are now waiting to close. 34 days and counting.