Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Casita Video Online

I just posted a video tour of our casita on our casita website. It isn’t very slick or professional production; I just walked around the house used our handheld camcorder.

It’s on the reservations page here: : www.norm-collie.com/casita/reserve.html

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Casita is Ready for Guests!



The kitchen cabinets were installed last week, and we were able to unpack dishes, pots and pans, linens, etc. The casita is now fully furnished an ready for guests! When we’re not hosting good friends and relatives from the States, we’ll be offering it as a short term vacation rental. I’ve built a website for it, and I’ve listed it with Vacation Rentals By Owner (VBRO.com).

It is a 500 sq ft, one bedroom house, completely furnished and ready for guests. We're offering it for $65 per night, including continental breakfast for two.









For more information, photos, and reservations CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Green Season Gardening, etc.

Rainy season, aka green season has been much drier than normal. We don’t have any hard data because our weather station was struck by lightning a few months ago! Usually at this time of year plants explode with growth. Our plantings are doing well and are established, they just aren’t growing as much as one might expect. Not a problem, we have time. I am starting impatiens, geraniums, coleus, and portulacas from cuttings. Our bromeliads are making babies! I’ve read that it is okay to cut off the babies when they reach one third the size of the mother. I’m keeping tabs on them, most aren’t ready.

Besides planting and some general clean-up we are having Mario (our gardener) create trails on the property. We have about 4.5 acres and much of it is accessible, although hilly. He and his cousin are paving paths with gravel and steps where the terrain is too steep for a regular path. Norm was guessing that we currently have up to a half mile of graveled path, but our GPS says we only have .11 miles done, but we have lots more planned.

Django weighs 55 pounds at 6 months. We expect him to weigh 80 pounds at his full weight. He is good on the leash and generally obedient.
Sometimes he is just too excited and distracted and is less responsive. We’re working on it. The cats tolerate him and when weary of his puppyness retire to their boxes. Sometimes we see them stalking the same bug. We bought a dog house, so he’ll have a place to get out of the rain if we aren’t here, but Fred (one of our cats) has taken it over. Fred hisses at Django when he approaches and Django backs away, not entering his dog house. We are trying to shoo Fred out whenever we see him in there. We are also feeding Django in the dog house so he’ll get the idea that is his place. He does run in and out with his bone as he careens past. However we have not yet seen him try to get out of the rain via the dog house. Fortunately it never gets cold enough here to get him chilled. We hope that eventually he’ll have enough sense to get out of the rain.


We have lots of Guava trees on our property. Since we don’t use chemical sprays, the fruit can be quite wormy so we leave it for the birds. I have only seen the Brown Jays eating it, but no doubt it attracts insects, thereby attracting small birds. This afternoon, we spotted this coatamundi eating the fruit on the ground. Norm was able to snap his photo before he spotted us and scurried off.

A few days ago, we spotted this ugly fellow. He's about 6" long and 4" wide. We believe he's a Bufo marinus or cane toad. They are the poisonous toads and and one of the reasons why we have the cats enclosed. The small green frog is likely an Emerald glass frog. The gecko is a house gecko and lives on our veranda.


Mario planted a couple dozen wild tobacco tree branches or trunks around the property. They are the same kind of tree that we covered with orchids. He just stuck leafless sticks in the ground.The first one that he planted a few months ago now has branches or shoots that are 12-18 inches long. The trees support orchids and attract up to 40 different birds. We are trying to build habitat as we continue to plant the property.

The agave spikes (see August 18 blog notes and photo) now have hundreds of baby agave plants where the flowers were. The wind blows them off and many root where they land. I wondered about the large agave scattered about the property. They are a natural phenomenon and were not planted by the previous owner. Very cool.

We have resumed our Spanish lessons (long overdue). We have made the acquaintance of a young Tica who has good English and we are helping her as she helps us. Norm is much better. He learned French as a first language, so he has more of an ear, plus there are many, many similar words.

This week we’ll be getting cabinets for the Casita kitchen and the day bed cabinet for the studio. That means more boxes will be unpacked and off the floor in the studio and the casita!

We’ll be posting pictures and a link for the casita within another week or two. We plan to offer it for short term vacation rentals when we’re not hosting friends and relatives.

Collie

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Living Close to Nature

Living close to nature is easy in a tropical environment. We have had a couple of natural experiences lately, or unnatural depending on your perspective!

A week ago I was startled to see hundreds of bugs crawling over the veranda. With a second glance I immediately realized that they were army ants in formation! About half a dozen columns were streaming across the front yard and onto the veranda. They were moving quickly in search of anything alive to chow down on. I quickly closed all of the doors preventing them from entering the house. Most people here simply leave home for a few hours to allow the ants to march through and clean out any insects in the house. Since our house is tight enough, they can’t get in and we can live with a few bugs inside, we didn’t let them in. It would have been hours for them to clear out. We watched them work their way around the exterior. We thought that we’d need to bring the animals in, but it started raining and the ants disappeared. There were tens, maybe hundreds of thousands! We lost count.

At 6:30 the other morning Norm heard a thump at the front door. He discovered a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and a Mountain Gem Hummingbird lying on the sidewalk. Unfortunately the owl died within a minute or two. After a few minutes, the hummingbird recovered and flew off. Being partly diurnal, this species of owl also occasionally hunt birds.

The only four legged critters that we have been seeing are our own pets. Django, the puppy is growing rapidly. He is 15 weeks and weighs over 30 pounds. Yikes! So far he and the cats are doing okay. The cats still chase and bat at him, and he thinks it is wonderful fun. He loves to run around them with his rawhide bone in his mouth. We had to move our papyrus, lipstick palms, a few other plants and Collie’s rock collection (don’t ask). He is a busy puppy!



Mario is bringing great loads of plant every week. This week he brought a couple dozen Bougainvillea in three colors, 150 heliconias to border our whole front yard, eight good sized agaves, and white lilies. There is no way we could do all of the landscaping if we were buying plants. He’s bringing us plants from his yard and family finca (farm). The plants grow like mad here, so dividing them is a great way to get plants. He is happy to have the work and we are thrilled to be making such progress on our landscaping.

Speaking of agaves, we have a dozen or so very large specimens on our property. Three of them have 20 foot flowering stalks towering above them. The flowers are yellow, waxy, and fragrant. The photo doesn’t do them justice. This morning the yellow flowers seemed to be bright, sparkling, and dangling gems with dew in the morning sun.




Norm discovered this saddle backed caterpillar crawling along a sidewalk. Lots of interesting bugs.


Night time brings crystal clear skys and lightning shows. Many nights we can see lightning flashing every 30 seconds in 3-5 areas over the ocean and in the mountains South of us. It is too far away to hear the thunder. Speaking of lightning, we had some violent storms this early Spring. Unfortunately our Davis weather station was struck and severely damaged. I really miss knowing the rate of rain, the cumulative rainfall, and the wind speed. It is on our list of items that we’ll have visitors bring from the States.

Collie

Monday, August 17, 2009

House and Garden Update



Our plans for major landscaping seemed to have been thwarted by the stock market. Until the market recovers, our spending will be limited to our Social Security income, which unfortunately doesn’t allow for major expenditures like landscaping or international travel.

Fortunately, Mario, one of the men who helped build our house, has been helping us with various odd jobs. The biggest bonus is his resourcefulness in his access to plants! We needed hundreds of clumping grass to place on the banks around the property; the amount of rain we get in the rainy season is astonishing and torrential. Grasses are really key in preventing erosion. We have been revising drainage pathways since the rainy season started in mid-May, but knew that we needed to do major planting. Mario has divided the grasses he has on his farm and those available from his neighbors and friends. He has planted between three and four hundred grass clumps and another one hundred or more clumps of lemon grass. One day he brought a sample of a variegated grass to show me and suggested that we plant it along the driveway. It was exactly the plant that I had on my list of landscaping projects. He again came through with hundreds of small clumps which are planted along sidewalks and the driveway. If that wasn’t enough, he also brought a dozen or so ginger rhizomes and three Cana lilies. I had a vision of Bougainvillea and ginger in the area adjacent to the casita. Last week he brought 8 split leaf philodendron cuttings of 1-2 large leaves with nodes that will root, another dozen or so Cana lilies, a variegated “canna”, and 30-40 verbena bush cuttings. So my landscaping plans are happening thanks to Mario!

We have also had another huge gardening problem solved. Our friends and neighbors up the road have a trailing yellow daisy like ground cover. They have been clipping it and spreading it to areas in their yard and offered us clippings. Dario and Cesar, two other local workers have been clipping it there and planting it here. We have some very steep banks along one side of the driveway and between the house and casita. These are now covered with hundreds and hundreds of the clippings. Within a few weeks the first plantings are already perky and growing.

There are many plants that only require a cutting to be stuck into the ground. That is true of hydrangeas (we recently planted a couple hundred), hibiscus, the trailing ground cover, and apparently Bougainvillea.

Speaking of plants, we have many more orchids in captivity! The same workers have brought orchids from their homes or from found orchids on our property. These are now mounted to a large branch from a tree that is an orchid host. Once that branch was stuck in the ground it started sprouting leaves and flowers! I was very worried about where to place the branch with regard to the amount of direct sun. Dario kept telling me not to worry, and know I understand why! The branch will grow and create the correct environment for the orchids! I have taken to walking around with binoculars looking into our trees for orchids. We have no fewer than six varieties.

Here is a recent photo of the area with bromeliads along side the garage.. We added some grass and small anthuriums, coleus, and various other bedding plants. It has been only a few months! Not quite immediate gratification, but not terribly far off.
Of course I still have a huge list of plants and layouts/designs in my head for yet to be planted areas. We should have good planting times for the next month or two. The wet season ends in December and if the plants are in the ground for a couple of months they should be well on their way to being established.

We received the remainder of our shipped furniture and household goods several weeks ago. It was in storage since arriving in the country over a year ago. We had part of the container delivered last year, but didn’t have room in the rental house for everything. We have been slowly unpacking the boxes and getting organized. The furniture is set up and in pretty good shape. A few pieces sustained damage, but nothing major. We were really worried about a china cabinet with lots of glass. One of the mirrors in the back broke, but Norm easily replaced it. The shipment was handled multiple times between loading at Bainbridge into trucks, then into the container, then through customs, into the warehouse here and finally to our house. We have everything unpacked and have very little damage. We’ve started to hang paintings and art. With cement walls, we need to be sure of the placement because Norm needs to drill into the cement to place anchor screws for each picture. Very time-consuming! A few days ago, Norm was drilling a hole to hang a picture in the powder room. Unfortunately, he drilled into a water line! He then had to chip away the concrete with a chisel to expose enough of the line to repair the pipe. Mario has since patched the concrete, but of course we don’t have any of the matching paint. We’ll be done eventually!

The house has been done for a couple of months now, except for a couple of not so minor items. The dormers have leaked from the start and the roofers have not had the knowledge or experience to resolve it. After multiple failed attempts to remedy the problem, Norm had to find diagrams on the internet showing the proper way to handle the angles. It has been quite a trail, but fortunately our contractor has come through. He has withheld final payment to the roofers; otherwise we probably would never see them again.

Our three boys, Jelly, Fred, and Django are doing well and for the most part, the cats are tolerating the over-active puppy.
He is much larger than they are now, but they’re definitely not afraid of him. When they get fed up with his antics, they chase him around the yard, which of course he LOVES. Eventually, they give up and retire to their little houses which are on the wall, and out of Django’s reach.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Houdini Contained!

It was a long process, but Fred is now safely enclosed. What follows is the process that finally got us there.

Thursday: We’ve added an overhanging shelf to the cat fence and we can now relax knowing they are safe. We have also installed another frog barrier along the top of the wall to be sure that frogs don’t jump or fall in. They are very poisonous and can kill an animal within an hour.

Saturday afternoon: Two days after the new overhang was completed Fred Houdini Astaire got out again. Fortunately he comes to us and Norm found him just outside of the fence. The bars on the overhang are only 3 inches apart, but he squeezed through. As Norm was putting the mesh on the bars, Fred kept looking up and crying. He spent the whole afternoon walking along the fence, looking up, and crying. He’s climbed up a few times and tested it and can’t get through. He keeps looking at the wall. We hope that his Houdini like skills don’t include extra length in jumping. We should have brought our Purrrfect cat fence from the Bainbridge house.

Sunday morning Fred Houdini Yoda Astaire was out again! “Do or do not... there is no try.”(Yoda). Norm was convinced that he couldn’t do chin-ups. Well it wasn’t exactly a chin-up, but he very easily managed to do a paw over paw up, around the new netted barrier, and over. He had probably been out all night. Norm found him hiding at the base of a tree close by . He responded to our call with very small tentative meows, and then came out. He seemed to be very happy and relieved to be back inside (ahh, yes we are anthropomorphizing). That lasted for about an hour. We stayed outside drinking coffee and waiting. Finally his tail starting twitching and he went to the fence crying and eyeballing it like he did yesterday after the new netting had been installed. Then we witnessed him climb up and over! No problem. He walked along the top of the wall and then plopped himself down in the loose dirt and was rolling around contently when Norm picked him up and carried him back in. So we have draped netting loosely, although anchored and he climbed up again and didn’t get out (she said hopefully).

Thursday: The shelf overlap now has bars only two inches apart. The mesh is removed, so his little paws should slide right off!

Saturday: He did it again! He was able to get enough purchase and apparently move quickly enough to get over. He was not happy when Norm brought him back in. Next solution (we hope) is a 4 inch plastic pipe hung along the edge of the shelf. We don’t know if he tried to go out while we were not watching, but he has been doing his visual inspection of the new barrier. Our friends say he is too smart of his own good and we should add Pauly to his name after Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Another Yoda quote seems apropos: “Size matters not, look at me. Judge me by size, do you?”



The pipe worked and we replaced the plastic with metal pipe. Mario, one of our workers is welding it in place with assistance from Bernardo.

All of the above saga took place in April and was resolved by the end of the month. After a week, Fred stopped pacing along the fence and crying as he looked up, no doubt analyzing it for any potential escape routes.

PUPPY!

Two weeks ago we brought home an eight week old puppy. He is a mix of Lab, German Shepherd, and Retriever. His behavior seems predominantly lab. He is a very happy boy and smart. His name is Django Reinhardt. He and the cats Jelly Roll Morton and Fred Astaire seem to be making progress. Much nose sniffing and occasional bats (without claws) by the cats. It is probably like having a toddler----very active, have to watch him every minute, everything goes into his mouth for a vigorous chew, and we look forward to his naps.
Collie

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cake at 4700 feet!

Cake at 4700 feet! And it came out perfectly. Baking at altitude doesn’t just entail adjustments in temperature and time in the oven. Cakes and breads can come out like hockey pucks. I bought Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G Purdy quite awhile ago and finally after being in the house for over 3 weeks I baked a cake. We were without an oven until moving. The cookbook is very cool. The author baked each recipe at sea level, 3000 ft, 5000 ft, 7000 ft and 10000 ft. With lots of trial and error she determined the very precise measurement changes of ingredients and adjustments for each recipe. The adjustments required include increases in liquid or flour or baking soda/powder or using buttermilk instead of milk to increase the acidity of the batter. Since I don’t have an oven thermometer I am not sure of the temperature of our new oven. I made the conversion from Fahrenheit to Centigrade and kept my fingers crossed that it would work. I was worried up until the first bite. We have a beautiful devils food cake with chocolate mocha frosting. Well, here’s what’s left of it. Norm wasn’t fast enough with the camera.

I am going to bake more from her book before I try to adjust some of our favorite cake, cookie, and brownie recipes.

CARS

We’ve been having lots of vehicle troubles. The Galloper has been in the shop for 2 weeks and it will be another 2 weeks. The engine is being rebuilt because coolant water got into a couple cylinders. We’ve learned that most people here do not use coolant (anti-freeze) in their radiators which causes multiple problems.

We also have a Silverado pick-up that we bought from a young man who drove it here form Colorado. He basically beat the hell out of it. Fortunately we bought it at a good price, since we have had many major repairs. Some of the repairs we have had done twice since the Chevy dealer here was a major rip-off. This week the rear shaft bearing went out on it, so we were without both cars for two days. Our mechanic scrambled to get a replacement and got it back to us quickly.

PLUMBING

We had a flood! One of the risers in the master bath sink let go. Luckily we were home and caught it before any damage to furniture etc. Norm used the wet/dry shop-vac to pick up about 5 or 6 gallons of water in the master bath and master bedroom. We have ceramic tile floors everywhere, so it didn’t damage the floors. The box spring got a little wet, since it is still on the floor (until we get the rest of our shipment) but it quickly dried on the veranda in the sun. Juan Carlos and Carlos (the foreman) went through the house and have replaced most of the risers. It turns out that some of them are not stainless steel but an inferior pot metal, prone to letting go under pressure. Again we are so happy that we have such a great builder. He is making things right that are problematic.

THE CASITA, ETC.

The casita ceiling is done ceramic tile has been laid, is being grouted this today and the exterior is painted. Windows and doors are being fabricated in San Ramon.
The cement sidewalk to the casita is done and they are working on concrete parking pad in front of our garage today. We have an iron gate at the entry to our property, and we hope to have the opener installed this week.

LANDSCAPING

We got more grass last week. The additional sod should help keep the exposed ground from blowing around. Rafael, our landscaper, likes to bring me plant gifts. He got my number right away! He brought me a dozen lantana and another dozen coleus. We also had him plant 50 hibiscuses that will serve as a windbreak along the north side of the house. They’ll form a thick hedge and the height can be easily maintained.

SNAKE


I thought Norm was being a bit anal when he asked me to leave the sliding screen doors either completely open or closed when the glass doors are closed. The other morning there was a small snake in the house right by one of the sliding doors. Another tropical experience! The best we can determine is that it got between the screen and the door, and when I opened the door in the morning it came right in. I think it was a littersnake, although we didn’t take a lot of time indentifying it before shoveling it outside. It was 15-18 inches long and about as thick as an index finger. Definitely not a poisonous snake. Because of our high elevation, there are few if any poisonous snakes here. Norm was too busy getting it out of the house to take its picture.

Fred (AKA Houdini)


Fred has been giving us fits. He’s been climbing out of the safe fenced area! Fortunately we’ve been to get him back inside. We’ve made multiple modifications to the fence, but he keeps figuring it out. So for now, we’re keeping an eye on him when he’s outside, and bringing them both in at night. We’ll be posting a blow-by- blow account when we finally have him secure. SOON, we hope!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We're in the house!

We are in the house. We have been in for three weeks and have finally finished unpacking most of our stuff. The first load of stuff anyway. Most of our shipment from Bainbridge is still in storage in San Jose. We’ll get the rest once the casita is finished in about 3 weeks. We purchased a table and chairs and a sofa and side chair for the casita on Craig’s list. It will be easier to not have everything in the house.

Norm got the ice maker hooked and installed up the other day. He spent a day and a half installing it and the trim kit around the freezer and refrigerator. It looks great. He had to make some modifications to the trim kit and the upper cabinets to make it all work. Nothing is simple or straightforward here.



Except for hanging artwork on the walls when we get our container, the master bath is completely finished. It’s huge; vanity cabinet with two sinks, large open shower, Jacuzzi, toilet, and bidet. The big window over the Jacuzzi opens to a completely private yard –no need for curtains anywhere in the house.

We had a couple of unseasonal downpours about a week after we moved in. We found quite a few roof leaks caused by some screws which weren’t properly installed. We knew that the dormers were not yet adequately sealed and they too were leaking. The next day the roofers were back and fixed all.
The following day we had rain again and found one missed screw and a new leak. Those have been fixed and we are hoping for another rain soon to test it before the rainy season. The house is really beautiful and we are very pleased. It will be nice to have all of our furniture and rugs.


We are anxious to do more landscaping. The exposed areas are a constant source of dust and grit, even in the house. We are about a month away from the “green season” (read 9 feet of rain last green season). Starting some time in May we’ll have afternoon rains. The rain will keep the dust down and also make it much easier to plant. The afternoon rain continues until September when the length of rain increases. September and October are the rainiest months. The rain then tapers off through November and December leading to the next dry season.

The cats have been very happy in their new outside home. They haven’t been very interested in lap time, since it is much more exciting to be outside in the dark. The birds wake us up at about 4:45 each morning. Today when I rolled over to go back to sleep I saw a small animal on the front veranda. It took me but a couple of seconds to recognize Fred. I jumped out of bed and was out the door instantly. He was trying to figure out how to get down the steep bank to go after the birds. After about five minutes I was able to get him to come to me and grab him. Norm was inside their enclosed area looking for a gap or a tear in the fence. Once Fred was back in he climbed the mesh fence and was about to go over it again when Norm grabbed him. Foiled by Mr. Houdini again! On Bainbridge the mesh fence worked without a problem. We think the difference is in the stiffness of it. Norm has spent a couple of hours researching and designing the next level of security fencing. Tomorrow we’ll have to get the new solution built. In the meantime, the cats are in the house.

Another orchid on my branch is in bloom. The pale yellow blossoms disappear. We had to hold a t-shirt behind the plant to make them more visible. Here is a photo of one of the bromeliad blooms from above.



We have some trees on the one edge of the property that a keel-billed Toucan finds attractive. We’ve seen him/her out there several times. This one is about 20 inches long, including its five to six inch bill. Norm took this telephoto shot without a tripod, and its not as clear as we'd like. Hopefully we’ll get better photos in the future.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This Week!

No, we are not in the new house yet. The stove was delivered last week, but the granite was overhanging a couple of millimeters from the cabinet edge, just enough to prevent the stove from sliding into the space. We had to wait for the granite guys to come back and then the stove folks from San Jose. Finally yesterday the stove was installed. It is a SMEG stove with 4 gas burners and a griddle. It’s a European model that we had not heard of before, but is rated highly and is less than half the cost of a WOLF or other high end gas range


The gas water heaters are in and they pressure tank is being plumbed today. We’re using demand heaters and have one for the master and guest baths and another for the kitchen, laundry, and powder room.

We will start moving on Thursday. We should spend our first night in the house by Saturday or Sunday at the latest.


A week ago, Rafael, the landscaper came with a tree branch to stick into the ground. I had asked him about an orchid that blew out of a tree that I found in the driveway and if my plan to mount it on a piece of wood was a good idea. He said that he would come with a branch and a few other orchids the next day. He and his wife showed up with seven different wild orchid species. .
As we walked back up to the rental they pointed out multiple orchids in the trees. We are in the mountains and have the perfect climate for orchids. He also said that we are in a bird corridor.
We have discovered that we have quite the wind funnel between the house and the retaining wall. So now we have bamboo windbreak.

They are removing the hibiscus bushes that are in front of the house and will plant them along the side. I plan to have a flower garden in that area. We will replace the hibiscus with a border of low growing heliconias on the edge of the grass so the view is clear. Rafael brought several lobster claw heliconias to plant behind the hibiscus. You can see me admiring them on the veranda.collie


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Progress and Flora & Fauna

All of a sudden the house is really looking like it will be finished! A million last minute details, but it is really close. The cabinets are installed except for the laundry room and medicine cabinet in the master bathroom. Granite is down in the kitchen and master bath. It looks beautiful. The landscaping in the back of the house, which is really the front entrance is in progress. We want to finish the area where the cats will be fenced in before moving. The fence is up and we still have to install the mesh over it and close up the bottom. The corner of the cat’s area has four clumps of papyrus, part of them broke in some strong wind today. One of three Christmas palms is in the ground. We also have two large Bird’s nest anthuriums planted. Along the garage wall and the retaining wall are 8 or 9 bromeliads and a couple of dozen small anthuriums. It wasn’t exactly what I had discussed with the landscaper, but close. I was so excited to see the bromeliad variety and they really look good, so I’m happy. There are a few more plants to go in. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, the main landscaping will not be started until May. We are still planning to put grass in the front (the view side, along the veranda) to the edge before moving. That will keep some of the dust down.



The photo (blog entry Nov. 20, 2008) of the little white flower that I had initially thought was an orchid is! A friend who is active in US orchid societies sent the photo around and it has been identified as Masdevallia chontalensis. It was “snooped out” by a friend of his who is an AOS Judge and orchid taxonomist. Speaking of orchids, we met a couple from Florida who have lived in CR for about eight years. They have a beautiful yard at 6000 feet elevation (we are at 4700 ft). She has many orchids from downed branches in her orchid house. She gave me a petite yellow orchid. Since seeing her collection I have been peering into trees and inspecting downed branches. The trees are loaded with mosses, bromeliads, and orchids. The orchids are very small and usually deep within the tree for shade. Unless they are in bloom, very difficult to see. She showed me one bloom that was less than a fingernail’s width and perhaps 2/3rds of an inch long. The flower was a rusty orange and probably would be impossible to see if on a branch.

In the last 6 weeks the trees here are blooming with a hot pink flowered epiphyte with branches so large that it is hard to sort it out from the host tree. It is in the Ericaceae family, Satyria meiantha. An epiphyte is a form of growth, in which the plants grow on trunks and branches of trees without requiring their roots to be in the ground. They are not parasitic, except for some mistletoe.

We recognize the calls of the keel billed toucans and the emerald toucanets, so are seeing them more often. The skies in front of our house are filled with soaring vultures, swallows, and occasional white collared swifts. Robins, brown jays, several different tanagers and hummingbirds and geckos are in the yard.

Last week the cats alerted us to something in the yard. With the lights on we recognized an armadillo! It was small, probably 18 inches from snout to tale. Upon reading about them we have learned that there were nearly extinct here in the 1950’s due to leather trade. They are nearly blind and forage at night for ants, beetles, and larvae in the soil and leaf litter. They give birth to identical quadruplets (never more or less).

We have also seen Coatimundi, an animal related to the raccoon. They are about the same size as a very large raccoon with an elongated body and much longer tail. The tails vary and some are ringed like a raccoon but not all. They are insect eaters as well, but are mostly diurnal.

And last night we had a gray fox in the yard. The CR Gray fox is smaller than the red fox and the California grey fox. Its average size is 20-24 inches from snout to rump. The one in the yard was in the smaller range and a bit scrawny looking, but definitely a fox. Our neighbors saw one with young trotting across their driveway awhile back.


Our cats are doing well. Fred likes to hang over the railing of the loft and Jelly is pictured eating a sample of decorative grass that the landscaper brought.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The House is Almost Finished



We have been remiss in getting a posting on the blog. Mostly we have not had much that is photogenic. The house is nearly ready for occupancy and the last few weeks have been very busy. We purchased all the shelving for the master closet, linen closet, pantry and laundry room this week. We are going with wire shelving by Closet Maid. The toilets, bidet, bathroom sinks, and shower faucets are installed. Final coats of paint are nearly done.
The chandeliers and wall light fixtures were built by a local craftsman and are mostly all installed. The cabinets are ready and will be installed next week. Landscaping in the cats’ area and the front of the house will be done before we move, but the bulk will be done when the wet season returns in May.
Construction has gone very smoothly for us and we are so happy in our choice of engineer/builder, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, and cannot recommend him more highly. We have heard many horror stories about building a home here, but our experience has been very positive. Our house is very well built using high quality workmanship and materials. The plumbing system is a hybrid of Costa Rican and US methods. The electrical wiring meets US standards.
Other exciting news: we have our cedulas! Cedulas are the national ID card. This means we are officially Pensionado (retired) Residents of Costa Rica. We do not give up our US citizenship, but have all the legal rights of Costa Rican citizenship except the right to vote. In three years, we will be eligible to apply for Costa Rican citizenship, still without surrendering our US citizenship.