Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cuevas de Isabela (Shacks)

I went diving today with David up in the north at the caves (really underwater caverns). The surface had a lot of chop from the wind, but the waves were small and underneath there wasn't much movement. No surge, just a small pull to the west. We went over the top into the second hole and then followed a canyon to the outside. Visibility was very good. We could see the entire sand circle from one side to another and all the rocks going across it. We encountered a nice lobster which we left behind and at the end saw a group of 6 eagle rays! No turtles, manatees, sharks, sting rays or barracuda but the 3 giant puffers were in the usual spot and the group of eagle rays was awesome! We spent 102 minutes down with a maximum depth of 54 feet. I can't think of a better way to spend my time (unless it is underground)!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Re-visiting Cueva Viento with Old and New Friends

All the activities we do are kind of rainfall dependent. You can't cave when there could be rising water...diving sucks if it has been raining...don't want to kayak or hike if it is stormy. Yesterday was originally going to be a 10 plus hour hike on the Tanama River to do a different section than what we had done before. It has 7 or so cavern things you float through and of course lots of hiking. It was going to be a very wet trip with floating and swimming and walking. Lately the weather has really sucked and it has been grey with flash flood warnings in the afternoon. The trip was cancelled and a trip to Cueva Viento put in its place. Dallas organized everything and Anthony was the leader. Jeff and I went here with Tom before and did a circular route with a rappelling and lots of hand lines. This trip was gear free and a first cave for several people we did not know. Like this guy who seems to enjoy it!

There are some formations in the cave but mainly it is interesting because of the mud and climbing and ant-farm layers of mazes. Here is a hand line that helps a lot when the feet start sliding. Some of the drops are big drops and the hand lines keep you from falling all the way down as long as you can hold on! Our friend Ivan is on the left and I'm not sure of the names of the other people.

Jeff likes to pose near tunnels and formations.

He's really posing now! Anthony is acting as a human anchor holding the hand line with his waist so others can get up the muddy slope. The guy in the background is crawling off to another spot.

The first time we came here it was very confusing, probably because of the route we took and the rappelling (we still have to think when we rappel). This time it wasn't confusing at all - but we stayed on one level. We did wander down to the river but didn't venture upward.

Bro is contemplating the long, slippery drop down.

Ivan is using another hand line.

The stone iguana points the or out? Who knows?

Sorry I don't remember your name - a new caving guy.. I have another blog post about Cueva Viento that you can find by looking at the side bar. More pictures there!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Remembering Wally - It's Been 3 Years

Wally was the best boy ever. We got him from Purebred Rescue and he was our life for almost 10 years. He was an English mastiff and we loved him. He was huge, sensitive, serious, gentle and really goofy! The cats had him whipped into shape and he did what they wanted! He loved whipped cream from the can and would pull Asian pears off the tree. One time I went shopping and put the bags on the floor and went outside for a minute. When I came back he was kind of making a muffled whimper but his mouth was shut. It took me a while to figure out what happened, but when I pried open his mouth he had a whole bagel in it and his teeth were pressed down into it and it was stuck! Crazy boy. Another time we gave him a cow leg to carry around and he tried to get out of the house with it and the sliding glass door wasn't open enough. He was a really dumb dog and wouldn't drop it, didn't think of twisting it, he just kept pushing and pushing in an effort to get out. We loved our boy.

He had his own mattresses but he was really a lap dog - all 170 pounds! He only wanted to be with us. Another time we took him camping and it was raining so he tip-toed (picture it, he was huge) and calumped right between us in the tent. As he got warmer and relaxed he stretched his arms and legs and almost pushed me out the tent! Here I am sleeping on the very edge where it is a little wet with a huge dog stretched out in doggy bliss!

He loved to sit in the sun on the grass and hang out. When we were at work he slept by the window or in the closet where his mattress was. He would tip toe to his closet and put himself to bed around 9 at night. Where's Wally? If it was after 9 he had slipped out, around the hall corner and gone to bed. We loved him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Double Comb's Big Day and Misc Cleanup 'n Stuff

I don't know how it happened, but there has been an explosion of chickens on our property. Hens are ok, but currently (until this afternoon) there are 4 roosters which is about 3 too many. They start arguing in the morning as they try to pimp each others hens and they scream all day across the property. Double Comb has the worst voice - staccato and urgent sounding. Big Red has a low voice so it doesn't matter, Abby Normal has a squeaky voice but I doubt he could survive outside our compound and the other rooster is really bad. We finally couldn't take it anymore and borrowed Amparo's cage. When I finished mowing I came up and Double Comb was in the cage ready for relocation! Ha ha! I was sooooo excited! The worst one on the first day of trying - yah! I tied the cage in the truck and took a little drive and opened the cage near a big field (and some houses). I was gonna take a photo of him running up the road but a car came. He is gone and we are happy about it!

On Saturday there was a big, strong wind gust that blew over a bunch of bananas and snapped off a gigantic tree on an adjoining plot of land. We started to look at a couple of our huge trees and decided to do some chainsaw pruning of large ones around the house. The Tamarind tree got really tall and all the pods were way up where I couldn't get them. I decided to cut it pretty drastically to make it lower, bushier and try to harvest what I could. The pods were either green or too old, but the tree is pruned and should be nicer soon.

I'm gonna finish off with heavy duty large loppers to pull in the branches and even things out. Last year we cut about half of the Maria Tree pretty drastically. We only wanted to do half (the half that could shade the solar panels) last year and finish up this year. We cut quite a bit off and didn't want to cut too much and damage the tree (it is beautiful!). The right side is all full and bushy where we pruned last year. You can see the taller parts in the middle and on the left.

Jeff got quite a bit yesterday but there are still a couple huge branches that are tall and were waving around a bunch in our little storm. They have to go, but we want to wait until we harvest the avocados on the tree nearby or the falling branch will most likely take them out. It is the only tree this year with a lot of avocados. A very disappointing year for fruit. We don't have any little oranges, either (I did fertilize...they did bloom...we had odd weather...they didn't set fruit.)

I am waiting for the carambola to get a little riper and then I will prune/harvest them. I plan to cut at least a third off the tree to lower it and reduce the amount of fruit! This tree is loaded and already has blossoms on it. It gets fruit 4 times a year or more and there is only so much you can do with this much fruit.

Another hen with another group (7) of chicks. She paraded them around on days 2 and 3 and now we haven't seen them. With the number of chickens in the yard (more than 20) I think that is ok.

Goats on the road when I was driving Double Comb to his new home.

A father/sons outing - the dad was weed whacking the side of the road and his two sons were making grass piles I assume were going to be taken home for the horses. At least they had a truck - we usually see small cars packed inside the trunk and sometimes inside the car!

Finally - I have been making some "raw" food lately and found that now when I eat processed food it well, doesn't taste like just sits in the stomach and tastes like salt or sugar or chemicals. It is kind of strange. I will always have coffee in the morning (with milk and a little processed sugar) and I love yeast breads. Occasionally meat is fine (once or twice a week and no meat for me is really better). Uncooked food has a tremendous amount of flavor in it but you have to have access to lots of different vegetables to make it work. Compromise is what will happen in our house but this evening's meal was a first stab at beet ravioli and a nice mango soup. The soup was really flavorful and the ravioli was really good but I lot most of the sauce (pureed peppers) when my pastry bag blew up. None-the-less it all tasted good, felt good in the stomach/intestines and for me is a better way to eat!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More on St. Croix

After a week of aquaponic lectures the grand finale...a snorkeling trip to Buck Island...didn't happen. A weather system moved in and the boat trip was cancelled even though the island is a mere 1 mile off of St. Croix. There was not a back-up (why the hell not is what I want to know) so they came up with a sucky back-up -- they will send one taxi-van to Christiansted and one to Fredriksted and everyone in the vans had to decide on what the return time was. (this was so they only had drivers doing one trip to and one from). I was not fond of this sucky plan and since the weather sucked what were we gonna do? Sit on the beach in Fredriksted in the rain or "shop" (not my thing and no where to really do it) in Christiansted? I came up with another fast plan. Fast enough that we could get the free taxi and everything and make a worthwhile trip. I had two pals willing to go along with the scheme and another sociable gal who was willing to help us pull it off. I had been looking on line at places that were of interest and remembered a Sustainable Living Farm. I gave a quick call and we were off! The spot was a lot off the beaten track meaning there was not a city publico van thing anywhere nearby (hey I can walk miles) but I worked it out so that the van would drop off a gal who did want to shop and take photos and then deliver us a short walk away from the place. I gave the shopper gal $3 for the public transportation and she let us take over the van so we wouldn't have to pay the horrendous cab fees to get back. The driver agreed to do it so all was good!

I forget the exact name of the place but believe it was the St.Croix Sustainable Living Institute or something like that. Ricardo, Ciso and I are all interested in permaculture and farming/gardening of all sorts so this was a nice excursion. When we started the muddy walk in someone happened to come into the farm with a truck and we piled into the truck bed and got a ride. On the phone they had said we would have to do a self guided tour but when we got there someone was able to give us a tour which was much better than if we had wandered around ourselves. It was Ricardo's idea to pop some bucks for the guided thing and it was a great idea! The place is kind of run down and overrun with weeds at the current time but we could see what their intentions were, got some good narrative about the reasons for structures and arrangements etc. I didn't take any photos of companion planting, the vertical gardening with mulched beds in between, the "hill" gardening etc but focused on a couple of the structures since I don't really have any structures (besides benches) on my land. They had a great tree house that was great fun! It had benches, a table and several covered spots. I am thinking that my husband and I have a couple trees we could make a tree house in - and the cats would love it too!

Ricardo is on the left, I'm in the middle and Ciso is on the right. We have come down from being in the tree house. We went into the tree house after looking at some hill-style plantings of medicinal, fruit and veggie plants.

Ciso is having way too much fun on the swing - who doesn't love a good swing? This structure was made of bamboo found on the farm and the design was a Indian design. The thatching was pretty neat.

I like the idea of making something from natural materials you have on the property and using a design that local people's have used for many years. Our guide explained the orientation of openings, the reason for the shape of the building etc etc. and we really enjoyed finding out about this stuff.

Our tour ended up back at the main living area. We did go through a grouping of about 4 or 5 huts in a cluster on the property. If they had more people staying and working they could be really nice (like on the website) but things were run down. Back at the main area though there was a lovely porch area and that is where I would be spending my time if I lived there.

After a few hours we got the taxi back to the dorms, changed and headed out on the city transportation to Christiansted for dinner. Ciso disappeared but while Ricardo and I were wandering around trying to figure out where a couple restaurants were we ran into Stephen and he knew exactly where the sushi place was (Dashi). We had a good meal (a first time sushi eater Ricardo even enjoyed it). Then we scrambled around for a public taxi back but it was after dark (you know, when people usually eat) and lucked out and were able to do the $3 each thing instead of the $12 each taxi trip back. I packed everything up so I could scoot out early for my flight in the morning. I woke up and discovered that they didn't have breakfast or coffee available, again, and since I was pissed about that and the weather was really bad I decided to go to the airport early to try to get an earlier flight before the rain. I joined someone else's cab so it was a little less and arrived to an empty airport. Nothing was flying.

There were a few of us waiting around - one guy had been trying to get out since Friday (it was Sunday). I was very ready to get home and dreaded the thought of having to stay one more night at the dorm without food in the morning and paying for taxis to nowhere. Turns out that Liat had workers on strike, Seaborne doesn't fly in rain (no wipers), and Cape Air doesn't have lightening protection. American Eagle cancelled a few flights and anyway, no one was going anywhere.
I got to the airport at 7:30 thinking they'd have a couple flights before my scheduled 9:30, but nope...and 9:30 came and went, and 10:30, 11:30, and finally around 12:15 we see a little Cape Air Plane! Whuuuu the excitement! The four of us piled in and crossed our fingers and in 3 minutes were air born on our way home.

There were a lot of clouds but they were not menacing I didn't think.

30 minutes later we are over San Juan...

After a short break myself and one other passenger board a different Cape Air Plane and headed to Mayaguez. Jeremy, the pilot, and I talked about diving on the 30 minute hop. My husband has flown with him a few times.

Then the runway comes into view and I am finally home! My throat is sore from talking (my first chance to speak English continuously in 2 years). It was nice to get home even though I wasn't far away at all!

Friday, July 9, 2010


Jeff got back from Atlanta and we just LOVE the Mayaguez airport - no lines, no hustle-bustle, just a little plane and the 2-6 other people who are there for it. You can arrive 20 minutes before you leave and get there right on time to pick people up. For $60 to San Juan it saves hours of driving which at 5pm on a Friday night is a very good thing! Here's his plane...

There he is with an older passenger.
Look what treasures he brought with him! Sticky rice (enough for a 1000 people - didn't come in a smaller amount), my favorite chocolates and look!!! chocolate with bacon!!!!! Is there anything bacon isn't good with?

Then I whipped out the first no-bake "raw" dessert I've made and we pigged out on that after we had zucchini "pasta" with a fresh no-cook sauce. The dessert is rich and yummy with cashews, walnuts, dates, coconut oil, carob and cacao powder, orange zest... a sweet and wonderful dessert without eggs, milk, butter, and no sugar (it is in the dates). The white layer was like whip cream and the chocolate area like a mousse with a cookie like layer surrounding it all.

Then I was out and about and encountered another odd site on the road. This time it was kind of in our neighborhood. A really big Pig! Trotting in the road, until I stopped to take a photo, the giant hog was on a mission of some sort. Maybe it was an escape mission or foraging the garbage cans for more food maybe.

The scene was something else you just wouldn't find in the U.S. We lived in a rural area of Washington and saw raccoons, opossums, bear, deer etc all the time but somehow it just wasn't the same. Yup - like living in the movies (or a third worldish country).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tortoise and the Bear and Other Rainy Day Stories

Only in Puerto every day like living in a movie. I have seen cows in pick-ups, goats, roosters in the front seats of cars, horses and owners full speed on the main highway, horses without owners on the highway, milk cows in trucks, cars stuffed with cut grass, meat cows attached to tow balls on vans on the main highway (2) going 5mph at night...but today it was goats, horses, and then a flatbed truck with a BEAR and a TORTOISE heading to the zoo I assume. Couldn't really photograph the scene since I was driving...

Since it was going to be rainy all day I figured I'd make a food run to all-the-places-I-could-think-of-in-the-west that might have some of the ingredients I need to make "raw" recipes. First stop was Naturo Centro in Mayaguez, then the Ann Wigmore center in Aquada (hopefully for a spiral slicer - nope), Superfoods in Rincon and home. This was a few hours since I got caught in Aguada in the middle of a funeral procession - cars with speakers on top blasting out crap and a parade style car decked out in flowers - they do death kind of over-the-top here. Sometimes wailing people walking in the streets behind...  Back to the food. I found nutritional yeast and Sriracha hot sauce...

Raw cashews (should have gotten more since they will be gone in 2 recipes), two kinds of dates...
liquid smoke that you add to young coconut and dehydrate to make a crispy bacon like texture, oat grouts and carob powder, silken tofu (for desserts and sauces - can't eat too much soy though), and seaweeds for rolls and crunchy stuff.

Other goodies for cooked stuff (don't think we will go all raw) - corn pasta and sun dried tomatoes and green chiles!

I got back and it was cold and windy and rainy. The cats were huddled together and stinky - I just washed all the cushion covers and their beds yesterday during the hot morning hours... Rip was snoozing on his own.

6 of them took over the couch...

Tuca picked the basket...
Princess takes a stretch...

The house is like frickin Dr. Doolittle's with chickens all over. 3 of them have babies trailing around. There are 4 roosters (about 3 too many).

This hen has been sitting on in a ridiculous spot that became a waterfall and is due any time now. More babies if they really hatch.

When the rain let up I discovered more coconuts while I did a quick yard tour. Gifts from above that I now need to process - 3 more to add to the pile.

The pile gets bigger and bigger and I really need to crack them open, food process them and dehydrate them.

While I was sleeping the Pitaya bloomed again - and the one a few miles away in the trees had spent blooms on them as well.

It was raining so hard last night I didn't check so I didn't get to see the flowers.
I did a quick-peek harvest of parcha, a papaya, guineos (bananas), mangos (the "good" ones aren't ripe yet), and a few carambola. I know what I'll be doing tonight and tomorrow. I'll dehydrate stuff tomorrow if there is sun and make purees tonight.

The sky was very very black.

Then the mail guy called with a couple packages! One I was expecting and the other a total surprise! I got an early birthday package!!! With my very favorite only-chocolate-that-matters kind of chocolate bars - World Market Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt. Enough bars to give me a heart attack. Also our favorite rice noodles...and a book Jeff has been listening to on tape (I much prefer reading but then again I am not in the car 3 hours a day) called Blind Descent which is about caving of course. Glad we canceled the cave trip scheduled for today!

The other package was caving stuff! I can not find women's size 6 work boots here. I took a risk and ordered a couple different kinds (one expensive and the other less expensive) hoping one would fit at least and I lucked out and they both fit! Currently I am down to one pair since the sole separated on the other pair and won't even work taped up! Panic set in since I can't go caving without good boots! I haven't wanted to use my only boots in the yard! The other thing is neoprene pants that fit really well and will be perfect for caving but probably won't last. They are only 1.5mm which means they will get torn up pretty easily. The nice thing is that they have a drawstring waist, are form fitting, provide a little padding and warmth. In caves stuff falls down when it gets heavy and wet and muddy, things get torn up easily and it is easy to get cold in wet caves. I wear a 2mm full wetsuit usually which keeps me cleaner (it is one piece), is flexible and gives padding but sometimes the pants will be nice if the cave isn't very wet. Looks like Jeff ordered another dry bag which we really needed.

Well, that's enough procrastinating....I've got fruit to process before I go out tomorrow and REALLY harvest things!