Monday, May 31, 2010

Chicken Problems

So we moved our old solar dehydrator down to where the chickens roost so we might possibly get some eggs from them. Well THAT hasn't quite worked out. We have eggs all over the place but we can't eat them since we don't know when they were laid. Eggs all over the place in non-obvious spots where we can't see them, and hens sitting in harms way that don't move and suffer "mishaps." (more about that later). This white hen was sitting on about 18 eggs and I spotted her when I was harvesting parcha. She is right under the parcha mound in what becomes a stream or raging river depending on the rainfall amounts. I start checking up on her daily and one day I hear a faint peep. The eggs were starting to hatch!

I could hear a faint peep and when I sat and watched saw the first little guy under her. There was another dead looking wet slimy one that would peep occasionally and then stop then peep then stop but wasn't under her. I moved it over and hoped for the best. So I spend the better part of an afternoon watching these things hatch out - the babies in the eggs peck a little circle, they move occasionally, she kind of rolls the egg, it pecks it's way out after a few hours and then lays there peeping once in a while while fluffing up.

To make a long story short, in the end there were six that were trailing her around the next day. 4 were dead in the nest (I think she suffocated them) - 3 fluffed up but dead and a few that never fluffed. There were some eggs that didn't hatch at all. I pushed the dead ones out of the area since ants were invading and hoped she would be a good mom. Today there are 5 chicks. Number six couldn't really keep up. I would hear it peeping and would go and retrieve it and bring it to its mom and siblings and it would be left behind again. I figured I either had to raise it or ignore it. If I raised it it would be heartache when it became a "pet" and something got it so I let nature take its course. Now there are 5. In the end there will be only 1 or 2 since the birds swoop down and take them. For now I enjoy watching them grow up.

So I am in the yard and see this thing coming up the driveway. It doesn't belong here. Turns out to be a mutant chicken that somehow flew in. It has a comb that flops to cover one eye, it doesn't ever stand upright, and only one tail feather. It also has a pathetic crow that doesn't even sound right.

I put out corn and it can't even see until it does the hair toss to flip its comb out of the way!

I swear - if it is mutant, pregnant, injured, sick or disturbed it makes its way here!

This hen was almost hacked with the machete. I was cutting down a platano and after it fell I bent down to cut closer to the ground and I saw her just sitting on a pile of eggs. She never peeped, squawked or made any effort to move. Her nest was in grass at the base of the platano. She sat on the eggs a long while and then I guess gave up and nothing hatched.

This nest is abandoned - no one sits on them.

Lots of eggs everywhere but none we can eat since I don't know how long they have been there.
A sad mishap in the yard happened yesterday. Jeff weed whacked the feathers off one of the wings of yet another hen sitting on eggs. He was using the trimmer (very noisy) and made a pass and the stupid hen was hit and flew up and away. She has a nasty bare spot on one wing and has left that nest for good it looks like. It wasn't even a nest, she was just sitting in the grass. If it were a pet hen we would take it to a vet but I can't pick it up so it is on its own. Eggs everywhere and none we can eat. None that will hatch. I even relocated a couple eggs to the base of trees to give them a similar but better location. Nothing. Oh well.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cueva Viento - One Convoluted Cave

This was a very fun and dirty trip. This trip was to look around. It was our first time here. It is easy enough to find from the trail (once you know where the trail is) after getting the key from Pipo, chatting a little, and gearing up. Once inside the opening you walk along in ankle deep clayey-mud for 20 or so minutes. There are a half dozen hand lines in place to help with climbing up slippery mud slopes. Jeff is holding one here.
There were muddy small passages and rocky slots and enormous rooms in this. This cave had a little of everything.

I thought Perdida was confusing but compared to this one? Doesn't compare. Perdida at least had a river that the side shoots came off of, this cave has enormous rooms and tiny tunnels and the most amazing thing is that they are at all different levels. There are rooms above rooms that lead to rooms below rooms and tunnels that connect them or go somewhere else.

There were Guavas and bats.

There were so many tunnels to explore that it was tough to just walk on by most of them. It would be very easy to get lost since there was no river to follow up or down. Everything led somewhere and came out somewhere you didn't think it would. After the first 20 or so minutes we got to the place we needed to rappel. Tom rigged the rope and dropped it into the darkness.

Tom went first, then I went and then Jeff. The drop was maybe 40 feet or so.

So now we were down below the entrance passage and in a large room. The room sloped down on all sides. There were bats and mounds of soft mud/dirt/guano.

We went down one of the slopes to go on a "loop" route that Tom knew. We tied our rappelling stuff to the rope and left it there to be retrieved from the top when we took a different route back. There was another hand line almost like a "caution" barrier since there was a little bit of a slippery drop to nowhere on the other side of it.

After we held on and slid downward a bit we went back up a little and then we came across this area of little dams. At one point in the adventure we did hear and see running water but didn't go down into it (another time since we could fit).

We ended up in a passage that had huge, deep bell holes and in my mind I pictured huge mutant bats that must have created them. We usually see bell holes but these were gigantic and deep and looked more like they were created by machines that drilled them into the rock.

There were a couple collapsed holes on the ground and I crawled under and stuck my head into one for scale. I couldn't fit my shoulders in, but my head fit just fine! That is one huge bell hole!

There were formations a lot like what we saw in Balcones but there were a lot of others that reminded us of other caves. It was really a diverse cave that consisted of many individual large caves within it - one had a ceiling about 60 feet up. It is really strange to be underground and to drop down down down, crawl around for a few hours and find rooms bigger than our house down there.

We used another hand line to climb up another slippery slope.

More tunnels, crouches, bending and contorting.

This cave has it all.

When you are underground it is hard to tell what direction you are going. A compass would be a necessity for a cave like this where there is no real main passage and no river to provide direction. It would be something else to try to figure out how to use it in a useful way though. Underwater we have sun and a depth gauge to find the way up but down here you have neither. Underwater there is usually a pretty clear direction in - the reefs run parallel to shore mainly and a compass will lead you in if there is no obvious slope to the sand. Underwater there are clues but underground if there are clues we don't know them yet. In this one maybe you could follow bats out at night or know where the entrance is if you are close enough to feel the wind. Other than that it is almost like a bunch of individual caves connected in unexpected ways. I like this formation...reminds me of Dr. Seuss stuff or the carnival stilt walkers.

After exploring only a few rooms and tunnels for only a few hours we finished up the loop and headed round to where we had rappelled down. we were now 20 minutes or so from the opening and we could hear the rain as we got closer.

It was pouring outside and thundering. We headed down the trail and took a detour to Volcan so we could see where it was and then peeked over the ridge to the general area of Balcones. Since it was really slippery and really raining we went back to the known trail to head back to the cars. This cave was really interesting because of all the different levels. At some points we were up on top of mounds of soil looking up 60 feet and also down into other rooms we hadn't been to. Traveling around between them was not obvious which makes the discovery part of caving fun. And of course there was mud...lots and lots of mud that made me a very dirty girl indeed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A-mazing Vientos

Let the fun begin. I am beating Katrina to the blog post this time but she will have more to say and better pictures.Thanks again to Tom for taking us to Cueva Vientos. It was literally A-maze-ing (although to Tom, the cave was geologically a big main passage with some side passages). I was lost just 20 minutes in! This cave is BIG. Big rooms and so many twist and turns. Not only left and right but up and down. It was very muddy and there were lots of bats.
The entrance to Vientos. Tom gave us a great loop tour. Tom said we could leave our rope climbing gear at the car because we would only be rappelling down. We entered the cave for about 20 minutes then came to a 35’ drop. We rigged a rope and down we went. We left all our rappelling gear attached to the rope so we could pull it back up when we came back for the rope. We were committed now and had to find another way out! (in reality since I am a nervous Nelly sometimes I brought a set of climbing gear with me, just in case)

The passages are big. Huge room after room with so many little side shoots to explore. Left, left, right, up, down, up, left, right, right, where are we? I didn’t know. Around and around we went for a total of 4 hours. Just as Tom said we were back at the top of the rope pulling up our gear and out we went.
A fungus among us. (Hope its not Hystoplasmosis) This may be my favorite cave and there was no danger of drowning. We couldn't do Zumbo because of all the rain. When we got out of the cave it was pouring. We also did a side hike up the top of the hill to view the Volcan entrance of this system.
We got a little muddy.

The wet hike out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Things Around House and Yard

We have gotten a little rain in the last few days and when it comes all the cats (all eleven) pile into the house. If they are there for a while they get restless and tear out around the house with their wet feet slipping out from under them on the terrazzo floors. It is pretty hysterical. I had this Cheerios box sitting in the porch area waiting to go out to the recycling bin when they spotted it and started playing. It amused them (and me) for at least an hour!
The cats bring in all kinds of "treats" for me. They love the nighttime little blind snakes, they love little June bugs and grasshoppers and of course...geckos. I just sweep them out the door and if the chickens are around it is a huge ruckus as they grab it and run! All the other chickens want it and there is a lot of squawking.

The mixed greens and basil are providing some greens, but the lettuce mix is a little heavy on the mustard - quite peppery. Green food at last so I'm not complaining! The zucchini look great, don't they - I know they aren't making fruit though.

It has been a down time in the yard for food. Lettuce if finally ready...waiting for guineos...papayas are dwindling...but wait, here's a pomegranate.

The pomegranate (grenada) is big enough for me to plant stuff under it so I don't have to weed as much. This stuff grows great and makes a nice ground cover for free since I've got it by the driveway. It is purple so it is more interesting than more green things.

These wimpy little starts are Stevia. My sister's boyfriend is in a commercial Stevia business. We'll see if it works well in our little part of the Caribbean.

The pink ornamental bananas are interesting but not as fun as I thought they would be. The plant is kind of short and unimpressive. I think I'll relocate it to a better place so we can see it better. Maybe inside.

I put this flowering ground cover under the Canistel. It'll keep the weeds down, add to the arboretum effect I am going for and is a nice surprise when walking around.

This Canistel (egg fruit) is one of the first fruit trees we put in and we are getting fruit now. I harvested one the other day and another is getting regular visits from me since it is just about ready to pick! I really want to cut off this lower branch but it had the big fruit on it and I hate to cut off a fruiting spur.

I'm watching it...if I wait too long the birds or ants will get will fall or who knows what. If you haven't had it before it tastes like the sweet egg you get with sushi. The texture is like a hard boiled egg yolk and kind of like a more powdery Mamey. Yum, very good but very rich!

So that's what's going on at the Kruse's.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today's Guajcataca Adventure

Diving has been really nice up until this week's rains. Currents finally pushed the mud out of the Mayaguez area and up toward Aguada. Jeff's dive Thursday night sucked even though Tuesday night's dive was very clear (but we had loads of current). We have seen a manatee up at Shacks, had 100 plus visibility and were able to dive outside the holes at Shacks. Today the surf was supposed to be up to 8 feet and we could see the mud from recent rains murking up the water. Tom called and proposed a hiking adventure along the Guajcataca River. We hadn't been there yet and decided to join in the adventure. He and Diana had gone a certain distance and wanted to continue to explore. I hate "hiking" when it is on old road beds or roads but I do enjoy wandering in the jungle. We parked in a neighborhood near Lake Guajataca in a place where people often tube in the canals. We got permission from the owners and headed off down the canyon into the river. It was very beautiful.

The water was clear and it was lush with vegetation. We followed what I call the Name trail (pronounced gnawme with double dots over the N). We saw the vianda all over and the trail was old and not well traveled. We crossed over the river several times.

Jeff and I tried to forge a path rather than cross the river and double back, and had a heck of a time and ended up in the water anyway! We had to try though, since taking uncharted pathways sometimes leads to new discoveries. (this one led to a ball of baby spiders in my hair and a bunch of bites under my shirt)

We have not seen a white one of these lovelies before.

There were a lot of waterfalls and pools. The rocks were pretty slippery so we had to be kind of careful.

We came across this rock with vines cascading over it - looked like a monkey cage to me. It would have been really fun growing up as a kid around here.

I had Jeff make a "mean" face - he doesn't do that well.

There were all kinds of neat plants and even some animals.

We heard a lot of birds but never saw them. We came across this large snake trying to heat up by sitting in a sunbeam.

We pressed on for a couple hours getting past where Tom and Diana had gone before.

There were mating snails...

and a strange noise that sounded like a generator to me. We walked toward the ruckus and then Tom heard it too. Then we saw a dam and the powerhouse of the Quebradillas water supply. We found a nice lunch log, had our lunch and then made a critical decision. We had one car at one location. This meant that we needed to go back the same way we came. Tom wanted a beer and also wanted to see where the road was so it could be an exit point in the future...a place to put a second car so the trip could continue further into uncharted territory or at least be a one-way trip. As soon as everybody else decided we were going up...our fate was cast. Up we headed, and up and up. There were power lines and Tom had a GPS so we knew there was civilization ahead but like many Tom adventures there was no way to know exactly where we would come out. Up and up and up on a road (not my favorite thing). There were no cars since it was the road to the powerhouse...but this road went on and on and on. Then we ran across a little hole.

Well, any hole you encounter demands exploring so out came the lights and in we went!

This was not a large cave and didn't go anywhere other than two small rooms but the formations had never been touched and there weren't footprints so we are pretty sure this is not somewhere many if any people had gone.

We looked around to make sure there weren't other passages and unfortunately there weren't any. The formations were pretty neat and unexpected since this little cave sits on the roadside.

The little white blip in the lower left is the entry/exit hole as seen from the inside.

So after the cave the real adventure began. Like I said, everyone else decided we should head up toward the road. It ended up being a long walk out and we ended up near 111 and 119. There weren't many cars and the ones that came by moved fast. We talked to one guy at a house and a few at a bar to try to get a ride to the car. We called our friend David but he wasn't able to get us. So we wandered around on the road with me campaigning to go back the way we came (before dark and rainstorms) and the others thinking we could get a ride with someone being that we are white novelty items with an attractive Puerto Rican gal in the middle of Jibaro country with about 10 bucks. We were sent to a little store that appeared closed and then bit the bullet and started to head back. That is when the guys at the bar told us we hadn't gone to the right little store. They also said there was a Publico taxi driver they knew that didn't work on Saturday or Sunday but they would go try to get him. Next thing we knew the miracle vehicle appeared on the road...just like in the movies! It was a car from another time...a big white boat of a car that drove smoothy and the driver was well dressed and had on a nice aftershave lotion. He had a kind face, professional attitude (that didn't match the area) and the car was very very clean (I felt bad getting in since I was kind of dirty). It was kind of like a scene from Cuba maybe or of a movie where the Gringos are taken into the woods and shot by a well dressed man that they didn't suspect would do that. He brought us for what seemed like miles and miles (about 20 minutes) to the car and before I could get the camera out took off back down the road with a wave. Our knight in the big-white-car saved the day (or at least hours of walking) and it was still daytime! Living in Puerto Rico is just like living in a movie. Most of the time I feel like the movie is Mad Max, but other times....