Friday, February 27, 2009

Cortar una Last and Finally a Little Rain!

Just brought Stripes back from the vet. He had gone in a month ago to be neutered, but both balls hadn't dropped and they couldn't get the second one. So today he went in for the second one and now he is ball free! The Cabo Rojo vet didn't charge for the first ball. They have been very good to us. They help us out with worming medication and offer some things at prices less than the internet.

On another note, I am glad I finished sealing the roof - yesterday we got 1/3 inch of rain and today it is raining again. This is needed rain for the yard since we haven't had any rain for months and the hose won't reach most trees! The oranges have all been harvested now and I can see blossoms starting. After this little bit of rain they should really pop into action! The avocado blossoms on some trees are also starting. Hopefully the little parchas will start growing and we will have some fruit other than corazons and guineos and papayas - am I complaining? Oops. We are really lucky to have a succession of fruit with only small gaps between fruit. It'll be interesting to see how much new growth stuff gets with this little amount of rain. This is going to be a bumper mango year for the fiber less ones. Lots of little ones on the tree.

It'll probably wipe out the tomatoes (mildew) but I did a major harvest yesterday. The green beans are tough, but maybe they'll be better with the rain. I'll be a good time to plant some replacement papayas, some cantaloupe and other veggies. I'm trying swiss chard and can now put out the little starts! It's tricky to figure out what to plant when - too dry and the fruit cracks and too wet and things mildew and turn out weird. We will see....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Resealing the Roof and Other Upcoming Projects for the Dry Time

When we went up on the roof it didn't look that bad, but we've owned the house for a couple years and haven't sealed it since we've owned it. We haven't had any leaks but don't want any. Now is the dry time so this is the week.

This area is the worst. It is the area above the porch and there is a little standing water and some black stuff.

Here it is after cleaning the area - much better!

You can see the area that has been cleaned - much better! It didn't look that bad before but when I was blasting away it was windy and water was swirling around me, the False Man's Orchid was popping its seed pods all around me and it was dirty, grimy and like combat. The pressure washer was difficult to start but boy does it clean things! I think it is a "must have" machine. We borrowed it from our neighbor's Awilda and Edwin (thanks). I cleaned the roof in about 3-4 hours on Monday.

Tuesday I was able to paint about 2/3rds of the roof and today I finished the other 1/3rd and did a second coat on the first 2/3rds. That means tomorrow is the finish up day. So it took about 4 hours to pressure wash, and will end up being 2 and 1/2 days of painting. So now that the roof looks and functions great the house paint looks faded. The next big project is to scrape peeling trim, sand it, and repaint in a little darker green. I'll pressure wash the rejas in the front porch area and paint it green. Currently all the rejas is creme colored. The walls are going to be green (a little darker than they are now) and orange - happy tropical colors for our little jungle house. I'll spray paint the Miami Ventanas (storm shutters) and then spend hours brush painting the rejas. The rolling part should be easy. Do I have enough time while things are dry?

From the roof this is the water reserve that needs cleaning. I need to drain it, clean it, and refill it. Then I will paint it to match the house so it blends in with the green hillside.

After the house is painted the walkway around the house will look pretty bad so I'll fill the cracks and repaint.

There are probably other projects that need doing in this dry time, but for now I'll stick to the big things. It's a good thing I don't have to go to work - none of this would get done! I do take time to gaze off into the jungle and enjoy rainbows and other happenings that go on near our jungle house here in paradise!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Big Day for Mars and Blanco and House Insurance

Sorry, no cute kitty pictures this time. This morning I brought Mars (orange stick figure cat who was in the log) and Blanco (beautiful white one that was stuck in the log) to the vet for their big day!

Turns out Mars was pregnant. I had brought her in a month or so ago to get spayed, but she had a respiratory problem and needed antibiotics. I gave her those for 10 days. So now she is spayed and won't have visitors coming around pestering her!

Blanco is a little swollen but that is expected when you cortar dos pelotas!

Both kitties are inside (wanting to get out) at least for tonight but are eating and drinking.

CAICO. This is a good place to deal with. We have our car insurance for the old beater truck and the new Toyota with CAICO because 1) they could tell us about and print out in english policies 2) they are knowledgeable and pleasant 3) they have good rates. Our previous insurance was for the building only (earthquake, hurricane, structure) and now we have liability, a little for contents and the same for structure for around 70 dollars more. I have the policy in English! It will insure our caving and diving gear when it is in the car as well. So all in all it is a successful day. Now I just have to cancel the other insurance and deal with meowing kitties until I can't stand it and release them into the big world so they can sneak back in and snooze on the couch tonight! Oh the games we play.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beautiful Things!

Finally a nice harvest of color! Aji Dulce peppers, tomatoes, green beans and some hot little green peppers that I forget what they are.

The sun was behind this beautiful new Moralon leaf. You could see the tissue structure and veins and it looked like an aerial view of tributaries or something. My kind of thing.

The glimmering bottles of fermented fish (fish sauce) that arrived in the mail today from Jeff's parents are going to give us some new food options. Now if I could just find egg or rice wide noodles. One of our caving friends told us there was an Asian Market up north and when we are practicing rappelling we are going to have to stop. So far I made a pork thing with cucumbers (I am planting some), pork, tomatoes and fish sauce of course. Very good and a different flavor palate (nice change). Puerto Rican food is very flavorful but I really crave spicy stuff or just more variety. I like the labels - the baby gripping the bottle, and the other baby riding an ox or something. I appreciate the different types of fish sauce - two are Thai and the other I think is the stronger Vietnamese kind.

Our fat Washington cat Dakota is old. He doesn't understand why the little cats want to follow him around, and in the morning when he is on the bed he hisses at his own reflection in the mirror. Chicken herds him around and tries to rub on him and he doesn't like that either. So this is a beautiful thing to see them catching a snooze on a drizzly day TOUCHING on the chair. Beautiful!

Flores Dos

Ylang ylang is such a weird flower. I've had entire gardens of things that bloomed green (and another of black blooming things). These flowers are very nice smelling, but a little more subtle than I thought they would be (I could have put it closer to the house.)

We have got parcha (passion fruit) blooming again! Hooray! Parcha and quenepas are the only two fruit I can't get enough of! First I bought 3 foot high plants. They gave us fruit that I planted the seeds from. Those plants gave fruit already once and here they are blooming again! Yippee!

Orchids - I don't really know what to do with them so they hang in the Maria Tree neglected. A few times a year I soak them in a dilute orchid fertilizer and before you know it they pop into action!

Another orchid in bloom.

Yet another.

Gandules - Hamilton (previous owner of our house) gave me some gandule seed last year with instructions on planting it with a certain moon phase etc. I planted them into a hedge and typically they all came up and things were crowded. They grew like gangbusters and then had a serious scale infestation. Instead of spraying 4 foot bushes I cut them to the ground and did an oil spray. The plan was to have gandules by xmas, but here they are now on the new growth. The flowers look like little orchids. A lot of people have problems with worms in the peas etc. I haven't popped them open yet to check for that but they look like they will be something different to cook with! (thank you Hamilton)

Flores Uno

Aguacate (avocado) blossoms, about the same time as last year, but this time on my half knee high new grafted tree. All the big trees should start blooming after another rain or two.

In late summer we went to the Agricultural Fair in Lajas and bought 3 coffee shrubs - sun loving types. To my surprise they are blooming already!

These are buds on our Pixie Mandarin tree that is barely knee high.

This is going to be a great mango year! The smell of blossoms is overpowering when it wafts into the TV room.

This is a Pajuil or cashew tree that is pretty tiny but blooming!
We have gotten a tiny bit of rain over the last few days and things have popped into bloom. A lot of these blooms probably won't set fruit or the fruit will drop off because the trees are young. But it is still exciting! I am waiting for the peanut butter fruit to bloom. The pomegranate has had blossoms over and over again but no fruit. It is a good size shrub already so maybe abono is the answer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chain Link Fence

First Jeff weed whacked so we could see what the ground was doing. Pretty uneven. Pretty steep. Pretty much a pain in the ass. We shot a line following the old fence line (barbed wire with part chain link) and tried to stick with it as best we could. The fence kicks out a little in one spot, and we made a diagonal on a problem area into our property and left the old chain link doing the straight line as a double dog prevention obstacle!

Jeff pounded and pounded with the post hole digger to make holes for the posts and then had to haul cement down the slope after mixing it on the sloping driveway. Oh, we also don't have water down there or electricity and need lots of extension cords to cut the posts to height. So the posts are in!

The rolls of 50 foot chain link have to be attached and then hung on the top rail and then stretched with the come-along. Then the posts trimmed, the chain link reattached in its new taut position and the tighteners put in. Lots of finger work.

Wuu hoo! The first stretch is in!

Here's a view through the vetiver grass which is holding the slope in place pretty well so far. I'm going to take the old chain link and drape it over the debris/slope between the vetiver and chain link to help stabilize it.

Looks good, huh! Mostly it will keep the nasty Boxer from next door out. Behind this the land sinks down around a large palm and a couple other trees. I put old chain link half on the ground and half up the tree trunks so there is a double barrier. Next stop? short chain link up the driveway side. We are trying to encourage the kitties to stay in and trying to keep wandering dogs out. We haven't had problems in a long time, but still don't know if poison or dogs killed our two cats. So we are doing what we can.  The short chain link will also be a prime parcha growing structure. This next stretch of fence will be much much easier. The posts are there (in cement as well) and we will leave the barbed wire there. The only thing that needs doing is that Jeff will move Amparo's water line over to her side of the fence (currently runs up half way on our side). This way we can't hit it with the mower or trimmer (again). Amparo loves parcha so we will plant loads of it and be in parcha heaven! We are going to put a little gate in too so when we chat we don't have to crawl under/through barbed wire anymore! I betcha the cats will walk around the fence to Amparo's and then wait for us to open the gate for them! Chain link is the best kind of fence to put in - it really blocks animals from coming in or out and is sturdy and holds up well. Barbed wire is really nasty stuff but is cheap. We can't chain link our whole property, so some barbed wire will remain to keep horses out. Chain link itself doesn't cost that much - it is the fasteners, caps, posts, stiffeners etc. For some areas if you can tack up chain link on wooden posts it is a great solution to keep worrisome plant eaters or cat killers out! What a project!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stars, Chickens and Cat Naps

This year we got 3 carambolas from our little trees. They are really pretty, taste alright and are the stars of the fruit salad!

It is also chick time again. First you see one chicken with 11 babies, then later in the day it only has 9, then later 6. Then you see all of them together and realize that when all the duplicates and stunt doubles are there they are indeed different chickens! Why the cats don't chase and eat them I will never understand...

Here's a combo of real and fake chickens. It cracks me up to see the real ones hang out with their cement friends!

The kittens are becoming cats now, but still act like kittens rolling balls around in the night, swinging on towels hung up to dry....but in the afternoon they just pile together and snooze. One-ball Strippidy needs the other ball cut, Blanco hasn't been neutered yet and needs to be taken in and Puff 1 has been spayed. Unfortunately Puff 2 was neutered and we found him dead a month ago. That's why I haven't taken any one in lately.

Puff 1, Strippedy, Blanco and Pollo Pequeno (who is built like a tank and already spayed) lounging just outside the screen they pulled slightly open so they can sleep inside, escape others and play numerous "door" games. Stripes will sleep half in and out to control the opening and make the others walk on him to get in. That ball needs cutting! When I took him in earlier they could only find one, he was a little young, but the ball has dropped.
Here's little Mars snoozing. I really worried about her. She had a lung infection and was on medication (a real treat trying to get in down her throat for 10 days) but it has cleared up and she needs to be spayed. She is a sweety.
And Dakota - the biggest, fattest of them all. Now that Junior (the dominant male of the group) disappeared (we know he is dead) the little ones sometimes try to follow Dakota around and rub on him but it freaks him out! He hisses, and runs and they just hang as close as they can to him. Somehow they think of him as protection I think! Comical!
How they can pig pile when it is hot I will never understand. I don't really understand how 10 cats can all sleep together and play together and get along either but they do. There are the occasional misunderstandings, but for the most part they enjoy each other and don't like intruders to the group - except new little Mini. Mini is a duplicate of Stripes, who was the duplicate for Junior. The replacements and doubles just keep coming.

Weather Station - Data Coming to This Blog Soon!

Jeff just got and installed a wireless weather station on the roof. He is pretty excited, and when we start getting some rain it will be very interesting! Last year we had a day with 13 inches or so, and probably some days with more than that. Now we can tell for sure how much has fallen. It measures wind speed/direction, humidity, temperature in and out, barometric pressure and when we install the software we can keep track of these things I suppose (Jeff knows all the ins and outs of the thing).

My next big task is to pressure wash and reseal the roof. We went up and removed a large antennae we don't need, removed anchor wires etc in preparation for my big week (next week maybe). Once things were tidied up we could see where to put the weather instruments. This box has the pressure/temp/humidity doodads in it and we mounted it in a shaded spot on the direct tv dish mount. Even so, the roof still measures about 10 degrees hotter than inside.

This is the rain collector. When this mini scoop fills up it dumps and measures, refills, dumps measures. What I'm not sure about is what happens if there isn't enough to dump? It is very small - does it evaporate and not get added to the next time it rains? It seems mechanical, so I don't think it dumps automatically to start the day. I don't know. This is just sitting up there for now and we will mount it after I take care of the roof.
Here's the little wind turbine. We stuck it on part of the old antenna mount and put a pop bottle of cement around it for stabilization (no anchor ties required). The rope holds it for now until the cement dries. Then we have to get our compass up there and make sure it is pointing in a true direction. So fairly soon we will have some interesting data about our little jungle here. We did have a little over an inch of rain on Sunday which was the first rain in weeks. And besides that, we will have a newly sealed bright white roof before the next hurricane season! Haven't had any leaks, but it has been a little over two years that we know of since the last sealing. Better safe than sorry even though it looks pretty good.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chicken's Back

No, I am not talking about the backs of chickens. Our cat Chicken came home. We were really worried about him yesterday. There have been four dead cats lately (one that was ours and another possibly) and we were really afraid that Chicken was going to be number five. He has missed a meal or two in the past but never three. But then last night we found him. He was soaking wet because it just rained an inch in the last hour but he seemed happy to be home. We had guests for the last couple of nights so maybe he just wanted some time alone. Maybe he got tired of the other 10 cats?