Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good Day for a Blog Post - Finally Got a Break from the Rain

This morning greeted us with a little patch of blue and the hope (although not fully realized) that things would return to the regular warm, clear and wonderful weather we are so spoiled to have! I took the time to wander the yard and took photos for possibly one of the final times (yeah it seems like I've been saying that for forever). We've got a lot of fruit to harvest and process and I have to tour the yard or it drops off and goes to waste. I don't like waste. We've got guineos - manzanas (my fav) and possibly little ninos? The tiny bananas are perfect snack size. There are so many kinds of bananas I wonder why they don't have more selection in the states? I want to try and grow the red ones once we move. I may have to dry or freeze some of these.
In Puerto Rico they don't distinguish between lemons and limes, they are all limones. This tree is one I planted called limon de pais (country lemon) that is a small, juicy one that usually turns yellow. I freeze the juice in ice trays (thank you Amparo for the idea) to add to water or defrost for juice.
Here's our house from the upper part of the property. We put the solar panels down since Irene looked like she was coming directly towards us! The house is a unique design and we'll miss that about it (and the view).
The upper yard where I planted my little fruit arboretum is filling in nicely. In just 3 1/2 years a blank slate is now a producing fruit factory with shade and trails. The next stop was understory flowers but that will be left to the next owners if they keep up with the plan.

I remember when this Ceiba was 5 inches tall! Now it it probably 8 feet. 2 years worth of growing. Amazing!
The Ylang ylang is just bursting with blooms due to the rain and the high humidity really sends the scent wafting around the yard and house. I started the understory stuff around this tree - mani, which is peanut (not the legume). It makes a brilliant ground cover that you leave alone, can walk on and when it gets going can use the trimmer on. Holds the soil (prevents erosion) and in the end reduces yard work. A good plan I will continue with elsewhere.
Look at the little row of blooms! When they burst open it will be overpowering! In a good way!
The wind shook loose some of the meat coconuts. These few still have water in them so they will be tasty.
With the palm this tall the only way we get the seeds (coconuts) is when the wind or their own weight knocks them down.
The rain has been plumping up all the fruit in the yard. The quenepas taste sweet and wonderful and the avocados are getting bigger. We have been eating a bunch and making my favorite (this is for real) chocolate pudding out of them. In a food processor just whirl an avocado, water (or coconut milk or water if you have it or dairy if you want it), honey or agave (sweetener) and add cocoa powder to taste! It isn't green, it isn't bizarre except that it is because it is such a normal chocolate pudding!
Who knows, maybe we will still be here to harvest some oranges? Puerto Rico isn't working much - any excuse to shut down the government is taken. This of course holds up everything for house selling and buying.
The carambola are done, thankfully. It is a beautiful tree, has bizarre fruit and although it can be used it is hard to use a lot of it. I have made carambola pickles, pureed it and used it in baked goods (banana bread) instead of oil, and cut it up with almonds and chicken and baked it. Eating it off the tree is ok but it produces pounds and pounds of fruit at least 4 times a year. There is still fruit on it and already it has flowers again.

This was this mornings view of the grey but bright morning! The sun is still up there somewhere!

There have been bands of crazy-rain coming and going for the last 2 or 3 days and the cats have all decided to be smart and hang out inside. I took furniture out of the porch since rain was blowing all the way in and brought in the plastic cat chairs for their enjoyment. With 11 there have been some tussles as boredom sets in so I made tunnels out of some boxes so they would be amused. Mainly they are just trying to sleep and get irritated when someone else tries to join them in their nest to keep warm!
Two panels down - Then Jeff lowered the last one.
Sharing a cushy couch.
Cats in nests.
So on the home front everything is stalled because of the weather. The appraisal is sitting in San Juan somewhere and who knows what other paper things need doing. We can't do anything until we close on this house so we are in the holding zone that is called Puerto Rico - far worse than the Bermuda Triangle in terms of getting things done! We keep looking at houses - why not? We just looked at a peach of a property that was just wonderful and a total surprise. The house is a little one (2 bedrooms,1 bath) that needs some opening up and some tile work done but it is on the most amazing why-we-moved-here property! Unfortunately it is probably 45 minutes from Jeff's work (better than 1 hour 20 so it is still a consideration) but with its price that may make it worth it. It is on an acre of shear jungle kind of near Anasco, Aguada, though technically Moca. We saw pie-tailed Whaduh birds there and there were 20 foot tree ferns and a pine forest and jungle all around. Had an easement going past the house to an abandoned long building of what looked like a few rooms (potential problem? looked abandoned) but for $120,000 list price could be had for less I am sure. We still have a number 1 pick which we made an offer on just to start the negotiations. They don't seem to want to negotiate much though. When we have a check-in hand all that may change. So once again I am playing the waiting game. Waiting to close on the house. Waiting for the weather to change. Waiting for my elbow to feel better. Waiting waiting waiting. I'm not good at it at all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So What's Going On? I'll Tell You What's Goin' on...

Selling the house. What that means is lots of cleaning (dirt blows around and the cats and I track it all over), more cleaning, keeping the yard looking great (we are slackers sometimes but can't be right now) and being ready to respond to strange Spanish phone calls and emails. No one expects a gringo to answer the phone number so there is always hesitation. Some people want to look at it RIGHT NOW, as in they already in San German. Yesterday someone called and they were already in Guama! I had to hide the cat beds, put away a couple fly get the idea. Exciting times. It is great that people want to see it but I really hope the current offer goes through. So some of my time has been waiting for appraisers and surveyors to directions in my mangled Spanish (why don't they use tax records and a GPS?) and the whole situation has me exhausted, anxious, and full of dread and excitement all at once. It is Puerto Rico so one never knows what to expect. Lots of things can go wrong but I have started to put some stuff into boxes, which means finding boxes etc.

The other part of this is the horrible house hunting mission. We can't really make an offer on anything until we have ours sold, but if we wait until it closes we are homeless with 11 cats, so I have started looking and it is interesting, kind of fun and kind of disappointing and kind of lets you open yourself up to different ideas. We moved here to do all our adventure stuff and to be in the jungle. But being in the jungle means jungle mentality in regards to animals, garbage and noise (the dark side of Puerto Rico). Our current house is an unusual design (high ceilings, totally open, all solar powered with a couple acres) that is only 6 minutes off highway 2 but seems like the middle of the jungle! Unfortunately it is 1 hour 20 minutes each way to work for Jeff. He's sick of it. Then we drive 2 hours or more, cave for 10 hours, and drive home another 2 on the weekends.  If only we could take our house and property and plop it in Moca, Isabella or Aquadilla! We haven't been able to find anything near as nice for near the price. Or at all. It is either a crappy house that needs a lot of work with a spectacular view, a nice house on no land, nice neighborhood with a crappy house or nice house/nice neighborhood but priced too high. We aren't going to live here forever so we don't want to "buy up" and get stuck with something when we are ready to leave. In 5 years I don't think things will be better here. We don't want something we have to put time and $ into to make it livable. If we buy something in Aguadilla prices are higher, things will resell easier (lot of professional work up there) but it is not "jungle." So we look at houses and are waiting as things chug along. So I clean, box a few things, talk to people when I show the house and wander around picking and processing fruit. The Mano de Buddah is something I may want to plant again since it is just plain bizarre and great to "zest."

Lemons I would say are on the "must have" list since they are great for everything including drinks, marinades, and dressings.
I was hoping the figs would grow faster than they did but maybe at the next place they will. Kind of a stunted little bush but hey, I like figs!
I think I'll plant a Santol again because it is such a nice looking tree. I don't what the fruit tastes like, but the tree is very nice.

The Longan is kind of an ok fruit but not worth planting again. Not great looking either.

Here's Rip's creepy stare-down. He was watching as I was potting up cuttings and starts of some of my favorite flowers from the yard. I'm just digging up little starts to bring with us of things I don't recall seeing in nurseries or things that are pricey (like agave).

Rip is kind  of a teenager and is starting to assert himself...but when he is sleeping he is adorable!
This flower/shrub is kinda cool and I think I like it a lot. It was only a dollar so I am sure I can find another one. The flowers are kind of fiber-optic looking.

I've been doing a lot of laundry, too. Whenever everything starts to happen Jeff ends up getting sent somewhere for work or goes on vacation. After Mona Island we thought we were going to close on the house so he requested NOT to be sent on travel. He kind of likes going on travel because he gets to eat great food and only drive 5 minutes to work! He also is scoping out places we may want to or not want to move to. After Mona Island he was sent to Clearwater Florida (we may want to be swamp people for a while) and I was going to go but all the house stuff started up again. Sigh, I'm tired just thinking about it! Lots of wash keeping cat beds clean, towels looking good etc etc. Stuff from our Mona trip, stuff from Jeff's two weeks away...At least I get comic relief from the kitties. Tuca investigated the washer first and then Chicken decided to take a peek. Why now after 4 years of having the washer I will never know, but Rip was interested too!

Something I will definitely plant again is Mirto- it makes a thick hedge and has flowers that really really smell! This hedge was only 4 inch plants a couple years ago and now it is a wall about 6 feet tall! You can shape it or not - looks nice either way but gives more blooms and stays fuller if you whack it!

Tuca's big investigation!
I don't know what this plant is but I am taking a start - Big coral flower. Other "must have" fruit will be covered in the next post I think... so that's what's happening!