Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cats In, On, Or Under Containers

These are some of my favorite cat photos . Not all of them are recent but as I have been trying to put organize all the cat photos I have run across my favorites! Tuca is the most playful one when it comes to curling up in odd places. I keep foam peanuts for inside plant pots that are large and require too much soil. It keeps the pots lighter. When the peanuts aren't in the pots Tuca uses them like a bouncy ball room! She will find her way into the closet to get to them. Here she is again hiding under the cat pillows. These were comical pillows that had a cat head and tail and scared the crap out of the cats at first! 
We call this the "caboose." It was supposed to stand upright but the cats liked to sit in the compartments and pretend drive (yah, I've got an imagination alright). Another favorite spot is this mango wood bowl. All the cats except Dakota have spent time in the supposed-to-be-for-frruit bowl!
We went out one night and Blanco was curled up in a plastic pot that had some dirt in it. I still don't know how he fit! 
Jackie is kind of comical and creepy at the same time. She is the most normal except for here, where she looks somewhat crazed. I think her eyes are kind of human looking.

Pollo's turn in the box. Blanco sleeping on newly planted seeds in the cat pot. Even an umbrella is too good to resist! Rip is a monster, what can I say? He had attitude when he was small and still has it. He's a gangster!

Rip has got Chicken rights where he wants him. Now all he's got to do is roll the pot somewhere. Chicken had no intention of letting Rip get his way and he stayed put for hours. We love our cats. We didn't pick them, and don't know how long they will live, but already they have gone past the lifespan of a usual Puerto Rico cat. We know we have saved them and we have gotten LOTS of love and enjoyment from them!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cueva Cuerda- An Adventure

After a nice dive on Saturday we decided to cave on Sunday. Saturday's dive was nice but we were disappointed that we didn't go caving in Cueva Juan Nieves - a cave with LOTS of water and a 150 foot straight-down drop (and ascent). We didn't have enough people to do it. Tom, however, came up with a couple options for a Sunday cave trip. One option was to do some bolting so we could climb above the garbage slough in Cueva Mantilla (I didn't want to go) and another was to visit Cueva Cuerda, a cave Tom had been in many years ago. We opted to do this. The trip started when we met Julie and Tom in San Sebastian. We packed into Julie's nice clean Mercedes and headed toward Lago Dos Bocas. We ended up on "highway" 123 behind 3 large trucks that repeatedly (for 20 minutes) blasted their horns on every turn (which means every minute). One had a normal horn, one had a siren-like one and another had the train horn. Yes, all three blasting away at 9 in the morning unnecessarily. Great start. 123 is super windy and both Jeff and I start getting barfy - me more than him. When we finally get to the bridge to rendezvous with Bro I am pretty car sick! I am having a moment and not thinking I am going caving. We get back in the car for more twisty stuff and end up on a beautiful property with cared for land and animals - a first. We chat with the owners and then gear up and go! We had been warned that machete work was required but for a bunch of it there was really NO trail. Tom always knows where things are so we hack away in the jungle (the yellow pack in on Jeff's back) and get to the opening. Hmmm. Looks nice enough but not huge.

Inside it looks like a cross between Cueva Minga and later like a worn down Zumbo minus sthe water. The main cave is pretty much straight, but then Tom points out an unexplored (by him) passage. We start our way down it and quickly have to decide whether to go down and follow the floor or go up to another level. Turns out we end up heading up and down.

There are different levels that require climbing, crawling, squeezing, kneeling. We make our way through picking what ever way goes on. I go down a little muddy shoot, round a bend and see a sliver of green! I go back and send Jeff and Julie knowing Jeff doesn't want to crawl. Then I go back for Tom and Bro to give them the news. They have explored an upper passage that didn't go anywhere. We make our way out the exit and are looking into an unknown sumidero we call the Lost World Sumidero. In this world the trees are bigger, the limestone walls vertical and with GPS devices left behind in packs in the cave the overland trek back to the entrance was not advised. Back we go. By now I have gone up and down this little section 8 times and it is not an easy section. We make our way and then Tom says he found a nice little hole in the upper section that needs a quick peek. It involves climbing a steep muddy section to get up to it. I am the shortest person so Julie (5 inches taller) heads up there after Jeff.  She is able to get her head in I guess but it is too small. It is determined to be a "Katrina hole" and my presence is requested! I make my way up wondering how I will get down!

I have to take the helmet off and decide which arm should go forward and which one back. If I had thought about it I could have taken the elbow/arm pads off but I didn't. I was able to wiggle on my stomach inside and then I could stand up! At the back of the room was a glorious, big, looked-like a tunnel. I walk back there though and it doesn't continue on. Bummer. I wiggle out disappointed.
Then we all continue out crawling, squeezing and climbing as needed. We make our way back by making new trails and clean up at the car. I have figured out I do not have shorts or pants other than my muddy ones. I try sticking my legs through the arm holes of my fleecy surfer shirt and it kind of looks like a skirt but is hot. I wear that in the car until we try to figure out where to eat. This is always a problem. Tom will eat anywhere, I don't want to eat anywhere and Jeff doesn't want to not eat, but isn't happy with the few disgusting choices that exist. After an adamant "oh please not THERE in the refrigerated meat locker that takes 2 hours to get a crappy too expensive for what it is meal" we decide to try taking the ferry over the lake to the restaurants there. This has been on my list for a long while.

We go there, park, and WAIT with a herd of others for something to happen. The boats are empty and without drivers. I go to the bathroom where there is no toilet paper, paper towels or soap (a reverse trifecta). I want to rinse my hands and the whole faucet lifts up when I pull up. Then a boat zooms up, drops people off and takes off empty. We start talking to people and apparently you wait, when there is room at the restaurant they will take a few people, you wait some more there to sit down, and then more to order, wait more to eat, pay the bill and at some point they ferry you back. No thanks. They decide to get gyros. Bro is following but doesn't arrive with us. Where could he be? We try calling and he is not answering. Has he gone off the road again? Is he sleeping on the side of the road? Then he does answer his phone...he stopped for a bottle of water a block away and doesn't know where we went! We give directions and all round up for the meal. I have brought a salad. We sit down at the sticky table with onion rings on the floor and every one digs in. No one is happier than I am when the feeding is done and we can get out of there! It is always an adventure. The cave was wonderful and not at all what we expected. At first we thought it was a straight, simple and short cave. Not true! I always like the Katrina holes...just hate the lack of food choices after. When I dream about the adventure I always add in a nice cafe with an awesome sandwich with melty real cheese, good quality meat, condiments and a big cookie. Some day I'll have the food and not the cave.
Hopefully Saturday is the big challenge- Cueva Juan Nieves. We've decided a picnic dinner will be the choice of the day so we get a nice end to the day! Big thanks to Tom, as always, for his amazing memory and knowledge. He gave us a lot more information when we were inside the cave than usual - really enjoyed hearing about the geological formation of Puerto Rico...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Then, Now and Around the Yard

It is always fun to look at what things looked like before you start adjusting things to the way you want them. Sometimes I have ideas and I can see the end product, but Jeff just thinks I am digging up lawn and has  a hard time visualizing the final "look." This of course isn't how I want things in the end, but it IS progressing! When we first moved in (a year and a couple months ago) we looked at an empty lot next door. I put up privacy ribbon which is awesome. Then I planted a few one gallon pots of different gingers I had moved from the other place. Now we see 14 foot torch gingers and ferns and irises from the window
instead of weeds!
The side of the house as well as the rest of the yard was just lawn. The lawn is fine but boring. It was lawn with trees sticking up out of it and lawn going all the way up to the house and the wall. I started digging up lawn and putting in a curved planting bed. I put in very small plants I brought from the other place. They are starting to fill in nicely. It helps that I painted the house as well.

I am a believer in fences and walls but don't like lawn going straight up to them. To soften them I have been propagating plants I already have and slowly moving them out to other places in the yard. This long stretch of wall will look great after a wet season I think.
After lots of misguided attempts at growing lettuce I have finally gotten it worked out! I tried direct seeding and it washed away or rotted. I built cinder block beds and the soil was too dry or wet. I finally got cement mixing trays and a rain gutter and seeded them in there and it didn't work.  I would come out and a flock of birds would fly out of the area or cats were curled up on top of the seeded soil ...curled up snoozing in my trays! What works is to start the lettuce in seed starter and seed starter plastic trays and then move them out into the big trays when they are crowded. Now we have loads of fresh lettuce and eat salads every night! I like bib lettuce the best.

The flower on the left is a rattlesnake calathea and the bottom one is a special dark red/black hibiscus. Lots of stuff in the yard to smell, to eat, and to look at!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Conquering Cucaracha

It’s about time! They say you only visit Cucaracha once. This was my fourth trip. On my first trip I got tired of waiting around so I left the cave. I did not know Katrina and the others were going to continue on. My second trip ended early due to a little mishap with some gear. The third trip had the group running out of the cave gasping for air and not because of someone farting.
This time was different.
Looking back at the T junction
It was mid March, cool, and the dry season was dry. I was apprehensive about going but Tom managed to convince me to go. We went with another scientist who is researching sand deposits looking for quartz and we also placed a data logger in the hot room. I was concerned about not being able to breathe and all the crawling involved (I hate crawling). Upon entering the cave you're hit with a blast of hot, humid, thick, and possibly caustic air (if you can call it “air”). You don’t even pay any attention to the cave's namesake (cucaracha) even though they cover the floor and walls in some spots. But this time it wasn’t so bad. You wouldn’t survive long but you could breathe.

The three of us quickly and quietly (as not to disturb the bats) passed through the bat room in just a few minutes. We waded through the 3 foot deep puddle of dead bat stew and arrived at the “T” junction. The temperature dropped 10 degrees and remained about 80 degrees with 96% humidity. We took a left and headed “upstream”. The passage is somewhat decorated but very muddy. It gets small and requires some belly crawling in spots. We looked at some deposits and checked out more of the rarely visited upstream section.



We also tried to take some CO2 readings but the meter just kept flashing error. We had a hunch this could mean very high CO2 levels. Turns out that the meter only goes to 10,000 ppm and the meter was quickly pegged. We went back to the T junction and proceeded to go down stream to wash all the mud off in the clean water and cool off a bit before going into the Hot room to survey and place a data logger. It was after 8pm and we had expected all the bats to have left the cave. The bats mostly had left the Hot room.

Nice little clean waterfall
It was over 93 degrees, 98% humidity, over 10,000ppm CO2, low Oxygen, high Ammonia, and who knows what else. But this is going big borehole passage! We came to a cliff with going passage on the other side. We did not have rope or vertical gear with us. It was 4 hours in the cave and 30 minutes in these conditions. We placed the data logger and took only a couple of survey shots then proceeded out. I was in the lead (I wanted out) but either because we didn't wait long enough or because of the full moon there was a bottleneck of bats at the exit. I hunched down low and made my way out into the fresh night air. The data logger should last 11 months if it doesn't get eaten by rats.

I was in the lead (I wanted out) but either because we didn’t wait long enough or because of the full moon there was a bottleneck of bats at the exit. I hunched down low and made my way out into the night time fresh air. The data logger should last 11 months if it doesn’t get eaten by rats.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Recycling PR Style

When we first moved to PR it was a real shock. We couldn't believe garbage pick up was FREE and we also were shocked that people don't put their shit in the cans for pickup - they dump it all over the roadsides, off their porches etc. In San German I went to the "recycling" center and found that people just dumped trash outside the gate, or inside the gate (if it was open) and there wasn't any one there to sort it or any labels on the bins so you know where to put stuff. Even the people who DID really bring things that could be recycled couldn't do it effectively. I was shocked even more when I brought an old refrigerator to the dump (and I don't mean the side of the road - this is a real municipal dump) and the guys pushed the refrigerator off the truck and didn't separate it out to remove the freon. I was pleased to find this recycling place in Moca/San Sebastian (not sure) about 8 minutes from our house on highway 111. Let me tell you all about the involved procedure required to get your 15 cents a pound - this could explain why people just give up and throw crap everywhere. The building has a real sign which is always a good sign. They also have a list of prices so you know what to expect. So here's how it works:

You drive up and are greeted by the guys who will bring a bathtub via forklift to your vehicle or will tell you to drive in. They check to see what is what, weigh things, figure out what you get for each, add it all up and then get your "customer number." Yes, to recycle you have a card with a number on it. They also get your license plate number (each time) and have to see your car registration and driver's license. You push all these papers through the little window in the bottom right of the screen to a person(?) you cannot see. You push it in and it disappears and a piece of cardboard blocks the hole so you can't look in. dudududududududu (that's the Twilight Zone music playing). Then you stand around (usually in a line) and wait for your name to blurt out of speakers. When it does you go to the window, collect your paperwork and in my CHECK for $9.67. Yes. A check. No cash, even when it is for 5 bucks. One of these white notices on the windows even says it - NO CASH. So now I have my check that I have to stand in line at the bank to cash. Why not drop it in the ATH (ATM) window? There are never any envelopes and the lines are long.
Well at least the place is clean, they really take and sort things and you can see they make aluminum blocks so things can get shipped out somewhere for real. I don't even care if I get paid for the stuff...just want it out of the landfill and reused if possible. The guy crushing aluminum into blocks looks in my 3 garbage bags and gives me a confused look. "Comer para muchos gatos" I say and he laughs. That alone was worth the trip! Still though I am wondering why they make it so hard. If I were selling copper or other "theft" items I could see the need but really, they can't tell copper wire from aluminum cans?