Saturday, December 27, 2008

Missing Cats, Sad Outcome

I called Katrina last night from a camp site at the bottom of the San Cristobal canyon. She mentioned she saw a dead kitten down by the bottom of the driveway. When I got home today I went and looked. I am not 100% sure but I think its the little black and white kitten that we just started to feed. Its sad, but we really didn't get a chance to get attached to it yet. Katrina mentioned Puff 2 was missing. We just had him neutered and he did fine. Well, I found him but he wasn't alive. It was very sad. It's hard not to get attached to these little guys. After seeing these two kittens dead I now think that Junior may also be dead. We really liked him. We don't know what happened. I wish we did so we could try to prevent it from happening to our other friends. Now we are worried about them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cats - The Original Ones (an update)

Left to right we have Chicken (came to us with the real chickens), Bepo (mother to the rest), Puff 1, Mars, Pollo Pequeno (looked like a little Chicken), Puff 2, Blanco, and Princess. Not shown is Dakota aka Little Boy our fat cat from Washington. Junior is missing also - he has taken off or disappeared and hopefully is looking for love even though we neutered him. We hope he isn't dead (he is a nice strong sexy cat). As you can see, there are too many cats and I don't understand why they all get along.

It has been a year almost since Princess appeared with a barbed wire cut down her side. We had her sewn up and spayed and she hangs out inside and out and looks friendly but I still can hardly touch her. But she follows me everywhere. She likes to lay on my stuff and dig in my shoes.
Bepo is the mother of everyone but Chicken we think. She is spayed (thank you Kris) and has turned out to be a really nice cat to us...kind of a bitch with the other cats though.

Chicken was a tot when he arrived following the rooster and chickens around. To this day he still enjoys the chickens more than cats. He sleeps on the bed and we can hold him and carry him around like a normal cat. He is neutered and has all his shots.
Junior has all his shots and is neutered and currently is missing.
Pollo Pequeno showed up pregnant and I don't think is one of Bepo's. We took her in and had her spayed (abortion as well - sad but there are too many cats). She is rolly-polly and always around. Nice but not real bright. We are trying not to get attached. We are spaying and neutering any we can catch. We will feed them if they get along with everyone else. They get regular worming. If they stick around and we can pick them up we will get all the shots and if they take off at least they won't be baby factories. A single cat can have 4000 kittens in its lifetime and it seems that in Puerto Rico pets are not pets, they are disposable animals. It is a real shame and one of the only disappointments we have had about living here so we do what we can. For the price of a nice dinner out you can neuter 3 cats or neuter one and spay one. A much more lasting bang for the buck!

Bepo's Pre-spaying Stuck -in -the -log Batch That Need Good Homes

Who can resist this adorable neutered semi- feral male kitty? He took off after being neutered on Friday but we think he will be back...his family is here. This is Puff 2 and he is really a sweety.

Puff 1 we think is his sister and the one who was stuck in the log. She was spayed last Wednesday and has been hanging around even more. You can see her shaved tummy. She will make someone a nice companion (hint hint hint). She has a lot of fur and is cuter than the photo shows. She has a collar of white. All of these kitties will be nice once they are away from the others. They act like meercats when they are together.

How cute is he? This is Stippedy 1 (yes, he already has a duplicate stunt double we see sometimes). He loves cereal milk and is the pushy, bold little hunter. He has the most personality! He loves his head rubbed. He is like a mini-Junior, he may even be Junior's replacement (Junior was either overwhelmed by kitties and the lead male job or something bad has happened to him - he has been missing for 3 weeks and I haven't found a body).

This is Mars. She is on antibiotics that I syringe down her throat twice a day( not easy) in preparation for spaying in the next couple weeks. I am really partial to her. She is like a little stick figure and I gave her milk replacement and special treats. She is very sweet and small and will socialize nicely (she is on the couch next to me right now).

Here's Blanco, the most beautiful of them all! Snow white with peach on the tail, feet, nose and a touch on the ears. He is slightly cross-eyed with blue eyes (hears just fine). This one would be a good stay-around-the-house cat. He looks like a Siamese cat in a lot of ways, kind of exotic. He isn't neutered yet but will be soon. If anyone knows of a good home for any of them PLEASE let us know. We would like someone who will take care of them (give them shots and keep them safe with lots of love).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Puerto Rico and Not a Gandule in Sight

With our Maria tree loaded with xmas balls, our fake chickens and real cat in the background the day was as glorious as they all are here, but a little on the "cool" side - 72. It hasn't rained any real rain in weeks and weeks. Last year at this time had afternoon downpours!

The color of this photo makes the food look funky, but I made roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (hoard the fresh fruit if you can find it), gravy, candied yams with mini marshmallows on top, bread, stuffing, sugar cookies with almonds and a pecan bar I really didn't like that was made with walnuts because I couldn't find pecans! Anyway, a traditional meal for us. No rice, no gandules (my shrubs got scale and are pretty ratty looking). We did have some wonderful arroz con dulce that Hamilton and his wife brought over (previous home owners and friends) Canela, raisins and yum yum yum.

Our friend and neighbor Awilda came over for dinner. Her husband is in the national guard in Honduras right now. Her house is at the bottom of the driveway and is very well kept with the best christmas decorations!

Xmas brought us all the caving gear we need - harnesses, rope, crolls, racks, clips and clamps and ascenders and figure 8 rings etc. Stuff we are learning to use so we can rappel into bat shit filled holes in the ground and travel in darkness for miles! We are very excited. A HUGE thank you to Ivan for coming with us to the gear store (Adventuras Tierras) after rappelling practice. He prearranged some pricing that met and beat on line prices. He guided us through the choices of things that we really know little about. Just a note about Adventuras...they offer some really neat day trips. When we bought our house a couple years ago we did the canyoning trip where we rappelled, rock climbed, zip lined, dropped 50 feet into the water from a cable and it was a blast! Highly recommend them as safe and super fun!

    Awilda took some shots of us together (we don't have many since one of us is usually doing the activity and the other is photo-ing). So take a look Washington State friends...5pm in Puerto Rico in December means skimpy clothes, bright sun and flip flops!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Downs of Caving - More Equipment

The rappelling practice had some poles for going up and then a bunker for practicing going down.
We used a "rack" to descend and there were a few kinds to try out. There was also a figure 8 descender. Jeff and I each had a different preference.

Now it is my turn to go over the edge! I really like it! I think I like going up better because it is a little more challenging. I will admit I really liked hanging in place and kicking off the wall.

Ivan was the first to practice and demonstrated the rigging so we could see how it is done. We are lucky to have a couple really good guys (Ivan and Julio) to literally "show us the ropes."

Rappelling Practice in San Juan

We were fortunate enough to have semi-private rappelling instruction from Ivan and Julio (two very active and generous SEPRI members - cave society). We went to a park where they had a nice set-up - telephone poles and a cross-beam just ready for rope slinging! After multiple tries Julio got the rope over and started securing it to the other pole so we could prepare to ascend. There are a variety of knots and safety type double-rigging that I watched but cannot yet repeat. We will need to practice practice practice before dropping into and ascending out of caves.
There is a lot of gear, and since it isn't mine it all needed adjusting to get it snug enough. Lots of clips and straps and fortunately a lot of help.

Here I am climbing up the rope using the frog system (think that's what is it called). It involved a hand Croll rope gripper thingy and a strap your feet fit into.

Here's Jeff getting all adjusted. If you are back in Washington - check out the kayak water polo helmet with all your signatures!

The whole while that we were practicing this little car/ "ice cream truck" was cruising the parking lot selling drinks and stuff out of the back end!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Red Max Trimmer Update

I had a chance to use the new smaller 4" head last weekend. It lasted almost two tanks of gas or about 2/3rds as long as the 6" head. Good enough. It worked better than the old one like they said it would. I was concerned that since it held 1/3rd of the line the 6" one held that it wouldn't last even one tank of gas. I think the line lasts longer because I don't have to keep tapping the head to put more line out all the time. With the 6" head the line would break off or melt together inside the head. Constantly tapping the head (wasting line) would keep it from breaking and melting. I should use a lot less line now. The head also gets up to speed much faster since the mass is half as much as in the 6" head. This trimmer cuts faster than I can move it. I still think after only 5 months that the head should haven been covered (if only in part) by the warranty. After all, this trimmer is sold to be used commercially all day long. Thanks Katrina for doing a good job getting the trimmer fixed!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Stuff

Shopping is NOT something I enjoy doing. In fact it is top of the list for things I absolutely hate. Christmas shopping is something I had to do since Jeff is working and I am the one who always does it. In the states I sold my photography at art fairs and traded with other artists (or bought really cool things) to give as gifts. This year it is hard since there is Sears, Walmart and Kmart and nothing uniquely "Puerto Rican" to give as gifts.

So I got the shopping done and everything mailed off after Thanksgiving but in my shopping journey found a couple goodies for us. A crock pot! Crock pots are great because you can chuck a whole chicken and chopped up veggies into the pot and it does it itself while you do other things. This is a name brand 4 quart crock pot for 19.99 - a deal!

Jeff built a solar dehydrator when we couldn't find one after looking for months at every store imaginable. When guineos are ready, all 250 are ready at the same time and the solar dehydrator can't dry that many. Also, this is Puerto Rico - when you see something you THINK you might need don't hesitate or it won't be there. There were eight of these at 39.99 (on sale reg. 59.99). So I got it. Run don't walk, I've never seen one here before! (Which seems strange given the excess of fruit everyone has).

This is a brand new Toyota Corolla - NOT a deal...there are no deals on cars here and very little negotiating. After driving the truck back and forth on Jeff's crappy commute he wanted a car with shocks and a smooth ride and good gas mileage. Here it is. A nice sparkly blue and the truck is reserved for sports stuff and my driving since I don't care.

So the most important things are: ABS brakes and automatic and is has shocks (at least for now). With a new car there is a 3 year warranty which is another big point. At this point it even seems like Puerto Rico might be a location where "extended warranties" may in certain cases make sense (I'm still thinking about it). So I don't want to get into the "shopper's nightmare" discussion about finding the car. I've ranted enough but have my rewards! Now if I could only find cherry tomato seeds and jicama seeds. Anyone know of a mail order company that will send seeds here in an envelope...good seeds? It is bizarre to me that in the land where everything grows there is a limited and apparently "seasonal" availability of seeds. Humph.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

PR Wire and Red Max Trimmers

I have been really happy with my Red Max trimmer these last 5 months (I should be because it costs more than 2x the best trimmers at Sears cost) It cuts almost as fast as I can move it. In the very tall thick grass I have to slow down but I can trim more than 2 times as fast as I could with the best trimmer from Sears.

It took a while for me to figure out how to use the trimming head. The key was to use Red Max trimmer line (.130). All the other line I bought melted. Even with using the Red Max line I would need to rewind (50 feet of new line) the head every two tanks of gas (over 2 hours run time).

Now 5 months later the head breaks. Katrina takes it back to PR Wire (I can’t because they are only open during working hours). They put a new smaller 4” head on and charged her $40! I think the head should be replaced under warranty. The new smaller head might look nice and it will last longer but it doesn’t hold enough line. It won’t hold enough line for even one tank of gas. Katrina told them the new head is smaller and she doesn’t think it will work but they insisted it would.

I think they took advantage of her. They should have replaced the head with the old style and probably should have done it under warranty. I probably only have 30 hours on this machine. If I have to replace the head every 6 months or so, so be it. The trimmer still cuts great but we need the original 6” head because our grass is so thick.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tubing the Tanama River

Since Jeff and I arrived here a year ago we have been trying to get involved with the caving group SEPRI. We have gone into one cave in Florida, PR and really enjoyed it. We'd love to go caving in the South or West, but the most active group appears to be in the North in Karst country. We need to practice rappelling and get our own gear before we can go into any others. The gear is expensive and there are two types we need to decide between. But...the group does an annual river float that we were lucky enough to get invited to. Here we are at the put in -helmets, life vests required. This group is very organized and safety conscious which is something we appreciate.

Jeff is having a good time and looky - he's wearing the water polo helmet sent to us from the Washington kayak water polo guys - thanks guys for signing it and sending it to me!

Here's a spot that was a little shallow - hit-your-butt shallow. The water level on the original weekend the float was planned for was extremely high so it was rescheduled for the following weekend. There were probably 50 or more people that came. People had tubes, tubes strapped to plywood, rafts and inflatable kayaks. Some water craft didn't make it all the way down.

This is the last little rumble on the river before the take out. We were on the river for 3 hours and 45 minutes and drifted through wild gingers, bananas, tree ferns. We picked some guineos and had a little free snack along the river. Jeff shot this as I was whizzing down the rapids.

The take out was above the falls that feed into the Arecibo water plant. Scouts drifted first to watch for snags and big rapids and other dangers. They were also at the take out to rope it off so no one could shoot the falls! A short hike out and our day was over. The float was stunning with really neat geology and waterfalls and undercuts and stuff. Wild plants could amuse me for hours if we could stop longer. We really enjoyed this float and look forward to caving in the near future and of course to next year's float. Next year we will devise some better seats in the tubes and cruise the river in Santa Hats!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Guanica's Dry Forest

There are a couple ways to get to the Dry Forest - one is on the long and windy road following the signs that leads to a parking lot where there are several trails and a guy who can give you a map of where they go. They will give you a little book of drawings of plants only if you ask. Or - you can follow the signs to Copa Marina and continue on the road past the marina which will end at a parking lot which is closed right now because it is underwater and the endangered toads are emerging to mate. This is where we went since it is close to our friend's house. The scene is like this.

There was a little more rain than usual in the forest this year and cacti are showing a lot of growth. They weren't flowering but some were ready to and others were done.
There are a lot of neat cactci including some that have flower stalks 20 feet high!
This one looked to me like a cityscape with tall skyscrapers ready to bloom.

We followed a trail of sorts and then came back along the water of the old coconut plantation. I love how organized and symmetrical nature is.

The seas were calm down south (very different story from what is going on up north) and the blowhole wasn't blowing. We could walk on the beach where you usually can't. The dry forest is a really neat place that you can't appreciate the first few times you go there. I love plants and am into knowing names and such but when you walk around it doesn't look like anything special until you do some research.Not everything is a cactus or succulent, there are a lot of hard wood trees. Everything is very stunted and very old. There are skinks with fluorescent blue tails that look fake. If you go early you can see some unusual birds. It is one of only a few "dry forests" that exist. Pretty cool. Puerto Rico has got Dry Forest, Cloud Forest, Rain forest, a huge cave system, reef systems and for an island as small as it is it has amazing diversity. The only problem is trying to decide where to go and what to do!

Windsurfing the Day after Thanksgiving

After a nice thanksgiving with Toni and Gerd we headed back to their house in Guanica for an early morning hike this morning. The Dry Forest is a pretty neat place. After the hike Jeff helped Gerd fix their electric gate, I helped Toni design and thin out her Agaves and then it was windsurfing time. Jeff is pulling up the sail here.

There wasn't a whole lot of wind, but there was enough for Jeff who is getting pretty good at it. Here he is cruising along.

From the balcony this is the view looking at Gillligan's Island with Jeff on the left and Gerd on the right windsurfing away!

Gerd pulls up the sail.

Gerd looks back at Jeff who is up and away. Gerd again- he is REALLY good at this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dallas' Kayaking Cat

Sunday we planned on tubing down the Tanama river but after a bunch of late night phone calls and a call at 5AM the trip was cancelled. Too much rain in the mountains caused too much water in the river. The trip is postponed until next weekend. So our friend Dallas kindly offered to take us kayaking in La Parguera. His kayaks were already in La Parguera so we left ours at home. The weather was great, very little wind. Katrina wanted more sun though. The water could have been a little warmer for her but she didn't get too cold.

Dallas showed us around some mangroves. We briefly saw a manatee. Dallas also has a cat that likes to go kayaking.

Katrina with her new friend.
We stopped and did some snorkeling. The visibility wasn't very good but we could still see some nice fish. We didn't see any jellyfish. Just as Dallas was showing me what fire coral looked like we heard Katrina shouting. Looks like she found a bunch of it the hard way. Leave it to Katrina, if it bites, stings, or just plain irritates she will find it or it will find her.

Nice butt cheek. These welts looked like they hurt a lot. She even got some on her back because she was swimming on her back when she brushed into it. It's funny that Katrina get so upset when she gets bit/stung by a tiny tiny ant and she makes such a big deal about it. Then she gets all these welts and hardly says a thing about it. These looked like they hurt a great deal, much more than any ant...
Thanks again Dallas for comming up with plan B.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Plant Progress

These are mini carambolas (star fruit). I'm anxious to try a fresh one since all I know is the shriveled supermarket ones in the states.

Our grove of papayas have grown from seed to splendid trees that already have a whole lot of fruit on them (we are eating our second one). The seeds were from 3 or 4 different types of papayas so it is interesting to see the different shapes and flesh colors. We've got more than 20 trees. I figured some would die and 1/3 would be male and then I would be left with a reasonable amount. Nope. Most were female, all lived and it is a good thing we have the dehydrator!

The dragon fruit has gotten all kinds of new growth on it (light green parts). I wonder if I'll ever get fruit from it?

Our coconuts are producing way more than we can drink as coco frios! We've got probably 5 or 6 trees all full of coconuts - the kind you drink, not the meat ones. Of the meat type we have only one tree and we keep getting gifts from above. Coconut is evil though - totally saturated fat and lots of it! (that's why it tastes so good - sugar and fat hold the world together!)