Thursday, October 29, 2009

Inside Work for Those Rainy Bursts

We seem to be in a pattern of getting a little rain each afternoon (usually 2 or 3 tenths of an inch) - not much but enough to stop mowing or dirt related activities. I guess I have to start considering inside things now like the bathroom re do that we have been putting off, painting the inside (just because - doesn't really need it), and re upholstering the chairs. I decided to tackle the chairs since it was a short project that would just take a few hours. I headed to American Fabric and Plastics and picked out the most sensible outdoor fabric I could. With 11 cats white was not working out.

The chairs were this off white color. Who can have that in their house? Who lives like that? Cats and people are the priority here so I wanted something that would hold up to cats sitting on them, me sitting there with dirt on my pants etc etc. There weren't too many choices but I did find one that would work and be kind of tropical as well. I loved the blue ones and blue/green striped fabrics but our cats vary from dark striped to orange to white and they all have muddy feet when it has been raining!

The hardest thing was getting all the old staples out (lots of finger work). After that I wrapped the new fabric right over the old and stapled it. Then I put the backing back over it and stapled some more.

Whalla! A clean-for-awhile chair cushion! I figured this fabric was bright enough but with the darker background it was a decent choice.

Here's the finished chair - $15 for a yard of fabric and $20 for a staple gun I will whip out again when I redo them at a later date.

When it is rainy the cats, if they are in the vicinity, come running inside and tear around with their little feet slipping on the terrazzo. They knocked over this little cat condo and Tuca (the world's ugliest cute cat) tucked herself inside.

Here's a little cat caboose with Chicken as the conductor and Tuca bugging him. Cats are amusing!

What a Deal! Run Don't Walk

The only person I can think of who hates shopping more than I do is Jeff. There for he is always dressed like a slob in rags he has had for years and years and I mean years literally. He has a shirt from when we went to Papua New Guinea (1995). He has a few others he has had longer (I did just re purpose his PNG shirt for the fruit catching device). Imagine my excitement (not) when my friend/neighbor called and said "you have to come to Kmart - all the clothes are $2.99". $2.99? I was skeptical but she keeps an eagle eye open for great markdowns and snagged some $5 cat loungers for us so I figured I'd go in and at least say hi.

Bright colored man shorts for $2.99 each!

Shirts that were normally 15-25 bucks for....$2.99

T-shirts (heavy ones) and cargo shorts $2.99.

More shirts. $2.99. They aren't the crappy kinds either. He's a large and they had a bigger selection for bigger people but I managed to find all this stuff for him and he didn't have to go there! Nothing for me, everything there is always too big. I get $6 shorts at House of Blue where the sizes are smaller and shirts at Kress for $3-10 bucks. It doesn't make sense to spend a lot on clothes here since things fade really fast and the elastic disappears but $2.99? That is just crazy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Espeleolimpiadas and 2 years in Puerto Rico!

Jeff and I headed up to Lake Garzas for the 2009 Espeleolimpiadas (caver's Olympics). We had some basic information but the announcement was in Spanish so we didn't really know the categories or what the weekend would really be like. We didn't bring camping gear since we didn't really know what it would be like and figured it couldn't be that far away - we'd come home Saturday and go back on Sunday. ha

Jeff said there was a way on our GPS TomTom that said to go through Penueles and up to Adjuntas. We headed that way. Let me tell you about the adventure we had... we drove through Penueles (not a problem) and then started winding up the mountain on roads about like the ones we live on. It then got a little narrower and started looking not-at-all-right. The TomTom (I'll just say Tom from now on) said to turn right up this implausible looking road. I told Jeff he would need to drive - I wasn't going there! We headed up (this is after 45 minutes or so of ok driving) and the truck started spinning its tires. No way this was happening! We could see the big pipes that were fed by the lake so we know we were REALLY close so this was disappointing. I told Jeff our neighbor said to drive to the Ponce letters and go on 10. First we had to get out - and I mean BACK DOWN literally this road to the other not-so-big road. We did a bunch more circles and then got on 2 and went 52 to 10.

10 started out pretty good and then turned into...once again...the implausible this-doesn't-look-right road. We went through Adjuntas and up and up and up on teeny tiny roads stopping along the way for directions - "go to the bridge" (there is always a bridge), "follow the river" etc etc. Things were really not looking right. This Olympics thing has a lot of people coming to it - could it really be up here? After about a half hour after passing through Adjuntas we arrive at the Gigante Fishing Club which is a private fishing lodge. There are other cars there so this is good.

Lake Garzas is a man made reservoir at 2,400 feet. It is pretty large and we didn't get to explore as much of it as we'd have liked (competitions called). Jeff is standing on the kayak launch area ready to go! We did kayak for a bit and it really needs more exploring. There is a public launch area but we didn't see a public park area or anything (maybe it was further up past the lodge?).

The lodge had showers and bathrooms and the main level had cooking facilities and tables and rafters to hang the ropes from. Some people camped which would have been nice. We didn't know the food situation (I like hot food and coffee in the morning) so we had decided to go for the day. This lodge is WAY up in the mountains about 30 or more minutes out of town so there was no quick run for breakfast - next year if it is here we will come prepared to stay with camp stove and food things.

We kayaked for 45 minutes maybe with some other cavers from different groups.

Then it was inside for the competitions! I went for the 25 foot rope climbing and took first place for climbing in 35 seconds! I kept climbing until I reach 50 feet just for fun but had some confusion so my time was not great 1 minutes 26 seconds. I got all the way up to the pulley and when they didn't let out the rope I thought I was done but I wasn't. By then I lost my momentum and rhythm and when they let out more rope things were screwed up. Next year Jeff can feed the rope and I'll try to beat my 50 foot time. My time was great for 25 feet though so yah huu!On the next post Jeff places 2nd...keep reading...

Olympics Continued and Dos Anos Aqui !

Here is Jeff's 2nd place rope climb - he was moving pretty fast! What you can't really tell is that the rope is on a pulley so as the human climbs they let out more rope and it doesn't look like the person is going anywhere! It is hard to view this way but I couldn't figure out how to rotate the video - sorry. He missed first place by 2 seconds! If he practiced just think what he could do - that's next year. The competition was 25 feet of rope as fast as you can go.

This was a lot of fun. When the rules and categories were announced it was all in Spanish so we missed it all. We could have helped our team (SEPRI) if we tried the rope walker category but we had never done it before. Now that we know the categories and how it all works we can learn some other systems and participate in them next year. By then hopefully we will have gone in more caves, rappelled/ascended more and will be better at it!

We did participate in the Obstacle Course which I couldn't get video of because we did it in the dark! It involved running and sliding/crawling under survey tape that make an L shape on sloped grass that was only a head high. After that you dive into the lake and swim/walk for a bit, then come out (extremely tired) and walk/run up a slope, run on the flat area behind the building and then climb a spider like netting up and over and then a run down a steep slope in grass onto pavement and to the finish line. Each part was timed separately and amazingly I tied for first with another gal with a time measured to a hundredth of a second! There was another woman who was going to do it in the morning who might beat us though since she'll have the daylight advantage... This was great fun and all the events, as short as they were, were amazingly tiring! How can a 35 second rope climb tucker you out? The obstacle course for me was 3 minutes 26 seconds or something - how could it be tiring? I tell you though, after the swim (in boots and helmets etc) I was really tired. The best time on the course was one of the guys from a different caving group who did it in 2 minutes something! Wow - I won't be able to do that I don't think ever! Neither will Jeff, who beat my time by 11 seconds or something (he was in the guy category).

All in all it was a really fun Saturday that ended with bad Chinese food (served with french fries of course). We met many nice people - some we know from caves and others who we met in Cueva Zumba but finally got to talk to. A lot of other folks are probably interesting but our Spanish isn't good enough to really join a conversation. Lo siento for us. We drove back down the mountain and went home on a flat tire that we didn't discover until morning. Sunday was our second anniversary in Puerto Rico and we opted to go windsurfing at a friends house rather than drive up to Adjuntas again. I caught a glimpse of a manatee and kayaked around to get closer and never saw it again. Jeff windsurfed until the wind died and then we had waffles and strawberries and whipped cream (and coffee and conversation) until almost dark. A lovely weekend!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Waterfalls in the Back garden

Jeff was able to get this little video of Tuesday's rain onto the blog. It isn't that interesting but here it is! I've scooped out 6 wheelbarrows of dirt so far. Should we go up a block? The vetiver is doing well up top, but I need to add some more grasses and things to slow down the water! What would a hurricane be like? I don't want to know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday's Rain - 3 inches in 2 hours!!!

I tried to put the video here of the rain chaos but the files are too big so I've just done a couple stills. If you look at all the other photos of our hillside it is dry and there is NO RIVER. With this much rain though we had waterfalls and rivers all around us! The thundering sound was just amazing as it came crashing down the hill from Maricao and down our property onto the road below! I'll try to grab some stills of the road from the videos later but for now...
Our cement table is just to the left of this image and you can see the Ylang Ylang tree where the top of the water is. The water just came like a roar from above - Maricao is a mile above is if you could travel in a direct line (by car it is 40 minutes).

The big mango is above the parcha mound at the top of the frame. The water is disappearing under the Troll Bridge which had water a couple feet deep roaring under it! It continues down the usually dry gully at the edge of the property. The ground is eroding down there along the fence we share with the neighbor. The previous owners of their house did like many Puerto Ricans - they dug the gully deeper to channel the water - this is a very BAD IDEA. You want water to spread out over a large area and absorb in. With rain like this I don't know what you can do but I can tell you that where the water got channeled and narrow a human could not stand up without getting knocked over. I keep putting debris and grass in the natural channels and during the dry season will try to fill them in and level out the ground before the next wet season. I will also plant vetiver in the channels (the ones that are in the sun) in an effort to slow down the crazy water! I'll post some more stills of the deluge and if I can get the videos smaller (doubtful) I'll post them - they even have the sound!

Monday, October 19, 2009

On the Road

On the way home from diving we saw what looked like two trees driving south on Highway 2. We always see interesting things on the road. This though we couldn't quite believe - two pick ups full to the brim with tree cuttings.

The little red stripe on the left is what you can see of the pickup through the trees.

A happy driver gives us a wave (is his tire a little flat?) You can see that all these limbs are tied up into the truck bed.

We live only 6 minutes off highway two but it feels like miles and miles away. This little group of horses was just strolling on the roadside looking for nibblies.

Here's the little horse family doing their best to take over the road. Always something interesting that you see only in Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stairway Clean-up and Young Kitty Photos

I was looking at photos of how the yard looked when we first moved here and came across kitty photos from when they were young. For the last week it has rained a little in the afternoons which sends me inside or out into the world to resolve things that Puerto Rican government never seems to resolve (CRIM, Seguro, Hacienda). Here is a photo of Mars, Stripes and Blanco when they first appeared and were eating avocados under the tree at night. It was around this time last year and I remember wondering where they went when it rained? What did they eat besides geckos and avocados? How can they survive? At least they had each other.

Puff we think had a different mother. The trio above were stuck in the death log (Mars and Blanco anyway) and belong to Bepo. Puff we think was Bepo's sister's offspring but Feo (the sister) disappeared and never did have anything to do with any of her young anyway. We think Feo and Bepo were the two baby "factories" - we spayed Bepo and Feo was set to go in the week she disappeared. Puff is drinking from the lid of one of those yogurts that have granola on the top little cups. She was all alone and crying a lot. We put her on milk replacement but could never pick her up. That has changed a little but she doesn't like to be held.

Blanco and Mars were so tiny. They were on replacement too. At one point I took 5 or 6 cat litter buckets and lined them up outside so all the kitties had a dry place to sit when it rained. It took a long time for us to build trust with them.

Stripes still has the same perplexing little mouth but is happily sleeping on the bed (the people bed) right now. When you pick him up he plays dead and goes totally limp.

Chicken came to us with the real chickens and still remains a kind of solo cat. He is no older than 2 but doesn't have the bright eyes any more. He is still adorable.

The stair area (to the left) is redone now - I got tired of tall grass everywhere and of the solar lights getting buried. I got new pots (plastic is a bad choice - next time clay) and flowers better for that spot (Trinitaria/Bougainvillea was there). You can see little Tuca on the stairs.

This is the stair area before - lawn all the way to the stairs. In this photo it looks neat and clean but in real life it was messy all the time. My goal is to do things once - think through permanent solutions for problem areas and make them maintenance free (or at least require less maintenance)!

Rain rain rain. Today is just plain grey - was bright sun until about noon. Jeff used the trimmer this weekend since the grass was 4 feet tall. Hopefully with today's rain the little trees will shoot up a foot and be easier to see! It is easy to forget how small they all were. We have been here almost 2 years, but many trees have gone from seed to 12 feet! Most of the special fruit trees haven't grown as fast but still have gone from being 6 inches or so to being 3-5 feet. Now that we are getting rain I expect an explosion of flowers and new leaves!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some Tidying Up of Old Beds

First off here is a photo of my new favorite plant - the "firecracker" plant. There is a plant for every location and plants that should never go in certain locations. This one has a couple nice features when in the right spot - 1 they flower continuously in sun (often in less sun) 2 everywhere the flower laden branches touch down they root (free plants). What is nice is that the blooms are striking and a good color for dark spots and they are great for erosion control because of the rooting system! That is why I put them along the upper driveway under the Robellini palms. There used to be all bananas there that would take out a chunk of ground when they produced and fell over.

This area (under a large avocado) was a big mess when we moved in. There were lots of plants but they were out of control. When it rained dirt ran off onto the driveway also.

About a year ago we built a small wall, and while Jeff was vacationing I tried my hand at plastering. After that I painted it to match the then color of the house and started moving plants from other spots into this one. I really didn't know what would work and what I wanted to do. When you drive up the driveway and finally get to the house it is the first thing you see. I put in a gardenia (didn't work) and hibiscus (is growing alright) and took starts of gingers and birds of paradise and put them on the upper part of this area. I tried a ground cover above the little wall and it just never took.

While Jeff was vacationing this time I think I finished the area (I have great hopes anyway). I painted the wall the match the new house color. I put firecracker plant as a front row where there is the most sun and where I need the erosion control most. Behind the firecracker I put in three groupings of a dark maroon/pink cordaline and left the birds of paradise, gingers and hibiscus alone. The little hedge of yellow on the right is from cuttings I started. Yellow and white show up well under trees. The thought is that the coral color of the firecracker plant (which gets to about 4 feet) will look great against the slightly taller dark cordaline which is the color of the ginger flowers behind it - and the gingers are the tallest. I think this is the solution so we'll check back with a before and after once they take root and get growing! There are also diffenbachias in the back mix which are a nice green.

Another area I tidied up is the front ginger bed. I like the look of the big rocks but wanted less maintenance (got weeds between the rocks and soil would come between them). This bed needs some clean up still of old ginger shoots and some begonia trimming.

I replaced the boulders with landscape blocks because they are easy to work with, look nice (a little formal though) and you can add blocks easily if you need to or want to. Once I get some plants spilling over the blocks it will soften the wall. For now it just cleaned it up some and I changed the curve to make it easier to mow. I think it looks pretty good and I won't have to mess with it anymore. Man were there a lot of rocks there though. I moved them to the upper lawn area and finished off the rock wall. That wall will stay more rustic looking for a long time. It doesn't cause any problems at all. So that's some of what I've been up to. Mostly I am cutting the grass around all the little trees we planted so Jeff doesn't whack them with the trimmer and so the tree isn't competing with 5 foot grass for rain (if we get any) and sun. It is a lot of work, but putting a lot of trees in at once means they will mature into something sooner. Since I've got the vision of what I want it to be I work toward that even though it is hard to do so much at once. It is really nice to just spend a couple days rebuilding a wall - it is a project that gets done from start to finish and makes a noticeable difference. The other stuff I do around here is hard to notice!

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Washington St Visit

I have been having a great time visiting my family and friends. I got to meet my new niece and play with my nephew. He loves watching TV now. I say "TV Caiden" and he says "ok" and either stands in front of it or climbs on the couch with me. I timed my visit with my mom's visit so I could see her as well. One week is too short but I do miss Katrina and the 11 cats. We had a few good days of weather. Tomorrow its going to be cold and rainy but I'll be scuba diving from a boat so I'll be cold and wet anyways.

Shelly and Chloe

Caiden in his scuba gear.

Oops  Here's a picture of last Sunday's dive trip in the San Juan Islands. We found a "new" dive site of Blakely Island with huge rock fish and ling cod. Lots of big rockfish, much bigger than the fish we see in Neah Bay. Good terrain but the vis was only 15 feet. We dropped right down to our MOD of 120'.

Self portrait on Mt Pilchuck.

Anthony unprepared for a hike in the snow
Here's the gang (Anthony is taking the photo)
What you can't see is the howling wind. We took shelter in the lookout tower. No one wanted to go outside.

Kayak polo on Wednesday night. The weather was perfect, nice and still.

We played a little late in the evening. It got dark so we had to turn the big lights on.