Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some "Must Have" Trees

This tree is the "poor man's orchid" tree (I forget the real name - starts with a B...Bouhinia or something). It is a very nice looking tree with neat looking leaves that fold up at night and look like butterflies. The flowers are pink with a splash of red in the center. I have moved many seedlings to other spots in the yard. The doves like this tree. I really recommend it as a nice tree to sit under and have as a shade area in the yard. It isn't very messy - just the pods once a year. They do make popping sounds as they spray seeds around but this is 15 feet or so from the house and we love it.

This is the large Maria Tree in the front yard. It is a really large tree probably 30 plus feet across and taller than the house. If you have room for one plant it! It is a great shade tree (needs a hammock under it though) and has survived hurricane Georges and who knows which other ones so it must be strong. It is in front of our house. The cats climb it, I've got philodendron climbing it and orchids hanging on it.

You can see the nice open structure. It doesn't obstruct light but filters it nicely. It does drop little balls (seeds) that I occasionally rake up but it is these balls that the bats are after. The bats LOVE this tree. We sit in front and watch them swoop from the huge mango to the Maria Tree and back. When Jeff and I went caving there were Maria Tree seeds deep in the cave where there wasn't light. Just little albino shoots! A great tree. I've chucked some balls into the ground where I'd like to have more.

This is a Guava (Guayaba). This tree has a really pretty bark that peels a little and reminds me of Eucalyptus or rubber trees. It has kind of a sensual trunk design I like. The leaves don't matter much. I love the bark and shape of this tree but don't put it too close to your house. It produces loads of fruit (one of  two fruits I don't like) that drop and then you have that rotting fruit smell. It is 12 or so feet outside our bedroom window and I hear the fruit drop in the middle of the night. I try to collect it all before it stinks. Get this tree but put it where the fruit drop doesn't require constant pick up.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Day of Work and Mother Nature Conspired Against Me

I started my new job today at Honeywell. I'll be doing the same kind of work I did in the states, electrical test engineering. I have been looking forward to start working. It's a bit of a drive and I gave myself 2 hours today because I don't know what traffic is going to be like. It started raining around midnight and didn't stop. It was really really raining! All the past pictures of waterfalls and rivers in our yard don't come close to showing what was flowing last night! I left the house at 6:30AM. I managed to drive over some small streams and big puddles and got to the main highway #2. Then about 2 minutes later the traffic just stopped. I waited about 40 minutes then decided to turn around and head the opposite direction in the breakdown lane and exit the highway from the ON ramp! It's ok because other people were doing it. I tried three other ways to get past this section but each was blocked by flooding. It was now starting to get light and I stopped at the police station hoping they would tell me how to get around the flooding. They told me to go home and wait a few hours. I called work and told them the problem. I started heading home and decided to give the highway one more chance. Surprise surprise it was open. I got to work after 9AM but I didn't miss anything. Getting home was no problem but I did see a big cow walking down the median of HW 2. There was a police car following it. I think the weather reports said we got a foot of rain. What a way to start my first day. I hope the rain stops soon. It's still raining. At least we never lost power!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Things are Moving Along at the Kruse House

The mangoes keep dropping and we are kind of getting tired of them and the avocados are in full force. Here I BBQ'd tilapia and put a nice mango salsa (mango, green pepper, onion, garlic, hot pepper flakes) on it. I am at a loss about what to do with avocados besides guacamole so we slice them and eat them. Any ideas?

Our property has a lot of beautiful mature fruit trees on it and they produce well. There is a point where they will start producing less so we are planting some new varieties. Lining our driveway we have a slope with 13 or more orange trees (couple chinojas). I gave them a heavy pruning when we moved here so we won't get many this year. On the other side (the down slope) of the driveway I planted a couple small citrus - a blood orange and a mandarin orange. Between them is a variegated hibiscus that flowers red. It'll be interesting to see how fast they grow.

Here's a view of the terracing and bananas and papayas. All the papayas have got at least 6 papayas on them so our solar food dehydrator will be working continuously!

Here is a tamarind blossom and the first tamarind pods! I sure hope they plump up and we get a lot of yummy goo!

A while ago I had the calabaza bonanza - flan, yeast bread, muffins, cut up in beans and rice etc. Well, from the same seed/plant I now have a 32 pounder and 18 1/2 pounder. What am I supposed to do with 50 pounds of pumpkin? There is even another on the vine. The brown egg-looking thing is a parcha. I can't get enough parcha. During the Ike blow-by the wind broke off an avocado branch and down dropped 60 or more avocados. We've given away many many bags but look what we still have. There is ten times this amount on the trees still. Guacamole anyone? Please? Any one know how to freeze them?

Friday, September 12, 2008


Sometimes it is easy to forget that we have really done some things here. We've been here since October 25th and have made some good progress in the yard. Here is some vetiver I planted in March maybe? Note the eroding soil.

Here is the same vetiver keeping things from eroding further. It has reached its full height at about 5 feet or so. I will probably cut it back so it looks like a mini hedge pretty soon. It is a nice looking grass that stays as a nice line so far.

This was what the top area looked like when we moved here - a big tangle of "bad" trees, vines and more vines. Vines on stumps, vines in trees, vines overtaking bushes. You can kind of see the big mango on the right.

Jeff did some weed whacking and we cut some small trees and bushes and let the horses in.

Then we pulled vines and cut trees and removed sticks and stuff and booted the horses out. I left some trees for shade while I started better things under them.
I took this photo today! Freshly weed whacked the area is a lot more uniform without sticks and stumps and fallen trees and bad trees. The tree on the left is a canistel, to the left of the red bush is a pomegranate, to the right of the red bush is the ylang ylang and the agave has grown. Everything I plant is around 6 -12 inches or from seed. Any fruit that I purchase and eat (canistel, mamey, papayas, rambutans) I plant the seed. In general grafted fruit trees will fruit much sooner, but in the case of rambutans the ones you purchase are from seed so what the is 7 years if I buy one and 7 if I plant the seeds and seeds are free and fun! We bought a mamey de pais (country mamey - smaller fruit and supposedly not the "quality" of the sapote) but I planted a couple mamey sapote from seed. It is really fun to watch them sprout. Some seeds take months to germinate so you have to be patient. I was surprised to have the rambutans and some mango seeds germinate.
Here's a different view that shows my vision of an arboretum kind of happening! Most things are planted at 20 foot centers so there should be plenty of space so things don't compete. Some things like the peanut butter bush, cashew, pomegranate and coffee bushes are 12 feet apart because they are much smaller shrubs. Now I need to work on the paths - a nice flat trail would be wonderful to walk on! I've started trails below in papaya/banana land and really need to do some up top but it is a lot of work. I try to make them after it rains when the soil is soft. Much easier. So that's how things are progressing. Now I am motivated to go out and do more!

Monday, September 8, 2008

How to Get a Tetanus Shot in Puerto Rico

For some reason you decide you need a Tetanus booster, maybe it's because of all the barb wire in your yard... Step 1, go to your doctor (Time & $) and have him give you a prescription. Step 2, find a pharmacy that has the Tetanus vaccine. (It seems to be hard to find) If you had the prescription called in (to save time) you can just go pick it up ($). When you pick it up did they take it from the shelf behind them?
If the answer was yes (like in my case) you need to inform the pharmacist that the vaccine needs to be refrigerated. They might tell you its ok because the store is air conditioned. I told them that 76 degree air conditioning is not the same as being refrigerated and could they please get me one from the refrigerator where it is stored. It might be fine that its not refrigerated but the packaging said it needs to be refrigerated so I wanted it that way. Step 3, Return to your doctor (Time & $) so he can administer the shot.
That's the cost of two Dr visits and the cost of the vaccine. Fortunately I didn't need to pay for the first visit. Seeing a Dr here can be very very time consuming and frustrating but I can also be very easy. We have just about figured it out. I needed an eye exam. I waited till 2pm and then drove to the closest Dr on my list that took my insurance. (It's easier for me to drive in and make the appointment then it is for me to call since my Spanish is very bad). I asked for an appointment and asked how it worked. I was told to come to the office between 5AM and 7AM. Sign up on the list on the door. The office opened at 7AM. Then I would be called to fill out paperwork between 7AM and 9AM. At 9AM the Dr arrives. Some point between 9AM and 5PM I would be called. I said that's CRAZY I cant wait all day. He assured me it wouldn't be all day. He said all the Dr's work this way. I drove to the next Dr on my list and they said they could see me in 20 minutes. No appointment needed right then. Had I come in at 8AM I probably would have had to wait until that afternoon.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rainy Weather Water Features

When you walk our property in good weather you can see some mini ravines where rocks are exposed and you know water has gone through there a lot. Until now we just haven't seen it. With the torrential rains of the last few days we now know what dug those ditches....water.
It's a good thing we've got a troll bridge - we could hear the roar of the water and needed the bridge to explore. Wow. A lot of water has moved through here. When the rain stops it is dry but with the rain of the last few days we had a private stream.

Here's a view of the "creek" from up under the big old native mango.

Look - a waterfall!
It's hard to see but the dirt came down and up and over our little wall - guess we need to go up a block! Good thing the landscape blocks are easy to work with - just plop the new ones on top!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stuff We See Diving

We had a nice dive on Saturday, but conditions were such that we had a rough current and rough surface waves. We opted to skip Sunday and this week looks like it will be very very bad - too much rain and wind. So here are a few images of things we see when we do go diving. Sometimes we see hundreds of these blue tangs schooling. We've seen them going in a huge ribbon in and out of the reef holes out at Jobos (the caves). We see them on the outside and they always look like they are urgently on their way somewhere. I photographed this one in Bonaire.

Almost every dive site here has hard coral and you can always find little gobies and blennies scooting around on the coral highways between individual polyps. This was photographed in St. Croix.

A real treat here is the gigantic sponges that seem to be everywhere. They are not beautiful colors, but are a permanent part of the reef "cityscape." Some of these sponges are larger than washing machines and have brittle stars embedded in their tissues or crabs stuck on the inside. Fish are usually resting at their bases or giving chase around them. This one was in St. Croix.

Here is a tiny Blenny the size of your pinkie fingernail peeking out of a hole in hard coral. I always look for the small things, the strange little movements that don't seem right, the little heads that pop in and out of openings. (St. Croix)

This is one of my favorite images of the lowly worm. There are many different types of worms here and this one is really common. I am mesmerized by the swaying and feathery movements of these creatures and they are one of my favorite subjects! I haven't taken the camera out here yet - not sure what I want to photograph yet. I am enjoying not carrying anything, since in Washington the water was 48 degrees and I had lights, and dry gloves, hood, dry suit etc etc. Here it is 4 pounds and nothing! Little snorkle fins, no hood, just a 3/4 wet suit, surfer shirt under it and that is all. Our last dive was in water 86 - 84 degrees. Very very nice!

Our last dive was in current, so I would stop at anemones like this one for a manicure. The cleaner shrimp will come out from between the tentacles of the anemone and use their little purple pinchers to clean your fingers! It feels really weird and is fascinating. They have little "drive throughs" for fish to pull up to for cleaning. They scoot in and out of fish gills. I guess my fingers are close enough!