Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just a quick note!

Just a quick note. I removed the tarp over the garden and put it on the roof temporarily to keep any rain out of the garden so it can dry out. I will be working on installing a water spigot in the end of the garden so I’ll be shoveling the compost around and it is so much easier when it the compost is dry. The added benefit was seeing the air flow over the roof.  It is as I had hoped, I don’t foresee any problems with the wind raising the roof (pun intended).

 I took this photo just as the sun was rising over the mountains to the east, gave a beautiful contrast to my photo.

 At the same time I was out looking the roof over there was this Thanksgiving Day rainbow in the valley. This really set up my feelings for the day! There was just a light mist which gave us the rainbow. A few minutes later when I came out of the chicken coop the mist and the rainbow was gone (that is the corner of the chicken coop on the left). It pays to be an early riser!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"A good day for Juan getting things done"

Yesterday morning was not a good day to work or so I thought. I almost called Juan and had him stay home but it cleared up after a while and he went to work. It is a bad day for me, temperature of 100.4, it wiped me out. I wanted to at least do some small things but, nope, the body and mind said they were taking the day off so I might as well just sit and watch the boob tube or fuss with the computer. Guess what I did, sat on my butt and veggied out. Sometimes that is all you can do.

Anyway Juan was busy, busy as always, it did take him a little longer to do things as there wasn’t the extra pair of hands or a go-fer. I’ve never heard him grump about things, he just goes ahead with whatever and gets it done. I will say one thing, he does like the small electric chain saw that I have. I should get him one for Christmas!

We need to get 4 more 1X3s for the roof and then the corrugated clear poly roof can go on. I have searched everwhere but cannot find the wavy board that you can put under the corrugation to give the plastic more strength. Too bad I can’t bring some back in my luggage.

If I can, I will take the blue tarp and put that over the roof to let the compost dry out, plus it will allow me to start fussing with other things like maybe some place to store the few garden tools we will need. Now that you can see the results of the block garden, you can see that there is no need for a tiller, no need to dig the garden up in the spring so I don't need all of those tools and the back breaking work that goes with them. I also want to run a pipe out for water. I goofed, I was going to have the pipe come up in the end of the garden for water. I may just go ahead a dig it under the footing and bring it up inside the garden, much better than any other place for ease of use.

From our sunroom I get these awesome sunrises, OK, so I went out side to take the photo but it is what I can watch while I have the important first cup of coffee going over my plans for the day and changing those that have to be done later.

This morning I didn’t get to watch as I was trying to sleep in with my temperature. If it doesn’t drop then it is a trip to the clinic for the “cure”.

Well I guess I will try and find something I can fuss with or answer some emails. Then again I just might sit in the sunroom and watch the chickens, perhaps take a nap, who knows????

Monday, November 22, 2010

I am finally caught up with the garden construction!!!!

OK, this gets me caught up. It is surprising how far behind you can get without realizing it. The weather has been fair. Had to run to the saw mill and get more wood for the framing of the roof. Things are plodding along.

Look at all the blue sky, no rain in that. The weather gets better and better but then the wind has made its presence known. You can see the shredded leaves on the banana trees. Three banana trees have blown over already but they come right back, too bad they aren’t the good eating bananas.

Juan is doing a marvelous job of framing the roof out. Actually he does good at whatever he does, be it woodwork or cement/blocks. Once the roof is framed out then we wait for the poly sheets to finish the garden.

 I have tried to start some bell pepper seeds but I don’t think they are any good. Several gardeners that I know say they have problems with seed germination here in Costa Rica. Most agree that they think it is the high humidity that affects the seeds. Most now seal their seed in plastic bags and either put them in the fridge or freezer. The seeds I have are ones that I bought locally but kept on the shelf. They were inoculated seeds but whatever, they don’t seem to be germinating. Of course I am starting the seeds in the window greenhouse so they should really pop. I have a couple of other plants recovering in the greenhouse and they are doing great so I guess it is a seed problem. I will try and get seeds in San Jose next time I am there at El Semillero, all I have to do is to find the place in San Jose where the streets have no names.

OK, you asked how the pups are doing, well here they are in all their glory. They are growing fast, if you could see their front feet they are large, so is their appetite.

Of course they do cooperate, ha, ha! They have grown some, Caroline can hardy keep them in one place.

The silkie chicks are doing great. Mrs. PJ has scratched the wood shavings all over herself, the water container and out from under the board the feed gets scattered on. You only see 6 chicks, one is under the board, camera shy maybe!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Catching up, one day at a time!

Got some more work done on the garden. I’m doing this in a daily progress report but not on the days they were done, I’m catching up. I should get things back to a proper daily update soon.

Juan got the batter boards all in place strung his chalk lines and set the roof support posts. Yes, I do help but the credit goes to him, he does most of the work with me being the once-in-a-while helper, the extra hands and also I get to be the go-fer, I go-fer this and go-fer that.

Each of the post goes deep and has rebar pieces put though crosswise to make sure that the wind doesn’t pull the posts out of the cement should they shrink a little allowing the wind to work them up and down till they pop out which happen to a neighbors patio roof. This wood isn’t supposed to shrink but I’m not taking any chances, the 6’ sheets of poly are $10.00 each and I need 20 of them.

All 7 of the silkie hens eggs hatched (her name is Mrs. PJ, the rooster’s name is PJ as Caroline thinks the feathers going down his legs makes him look like he has pajamas on). The little fuzz balls are doing fine.

Notice that the little guy has feathers on his legs all ready, I think they were there when they hatched. It was unusual in that it took 3 days for all the eggs to hatch, perhaps that is something unique to silkies, I don’t know but 7 out of 7 is very good.
The Fresh Step litter buckets make very good feed containers in that the tops snap down which keeps the mice out of the feed. It takes 5 buckets to hold a bag of chicken feed and 1 more for the cracked corn treats. I need one more bucket for a second bag of cracked corn so I can keep the two balanced when I buy feed. Fresh Step stopped putting the kitty litter in the buckets, darn it! I gave some away not knowing they were stopping using the buckets, oh well, things always work out, I’ll just have to clean out one that I use for storing something else and put that into a 5 gallon bucket.

 Here is a photo taken a while back of a sunrise ground fog developing. From the time I took this photo the fog filled the valley in less than 5 minutes. Where I was standing is where the wood/chicken shed is now.

More photos to come!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I didn’t realize it been so long since I posted an update.

I guess most of you are aware of all the weather happenings here in Costa Rica. Most of the month has been a real mess. We had a short period of dry between heavy rains, in one 5 day period we received 3 feet of rain, yes, 3 feet in 5 days. A slide took out our main water line for a total of 9 days. We now have a water tank up in the carport for emergencies, it will last us over 5 days and more with us being conservative.

In between rains, Juan got some work done.

Juan was busy getting the ground level around the base of the garden, you see the foreman in the foreground making sure the work is done to her satisfaction.

You can see that the rain showed up one spot that needs to have a little more work to get rid of any standing water. Juan just has time to get the batter boards in place, not even one chalk line, before the next rain came. There will be 6 posts that will support the roof. The roof will extend out 40” past the edge of the garden to help keep the heavy rains from drowning the plants. I’m still thinking about a water storage system being that I’ll have to water the plants and rain water would be so much better than water from the county.

The Silkie hen is shown here sitting on 7 eggs. She choose to lay her eggs in a nest she made in the shaving litter I use in the chicken coop. every day that I let the chickens out I give her some cracked corn, she scolds me but then goes right after the cracked corn.

Here is a little fellow waiting for his dinner to come crawling by. We hope to see more of these around, we don’t use any poisons that would keep them from living here. These will keep the bugs out of the cat’s cage as the chickens don’t get in there.
More photos to come, ASAP

Thursday, September 30, 2010

News: new puppies, rain, rain & more rain!

The rain has halted work on the garden. Tuesday Juan and I went to Palmares to the coffee co-op and brought home 10 bags of abono (compost). We had the impression that the bags of abono were about 45 pounds, wrong, they are 46 kilos each. They sure made the ol' Amigo squat, best ride ever on the rough roads. Almost a 1,000 pounds behind the front seats, good load for the ol' thing. Juan has no way to get here, the autopista between his home and San Ramon is washed out as well as the road north to come the back way. He may make the trip tomorrow, the autopista should be open today. A mud slide broke the main water line between us and the lake that supplies our water, they think that will be fixed today as well. We have been catching rain water for in home use. 
We have two new puppies. Many have asked about what happens after we lost Bella, well the answer is above. These young fellas were just weaned. We thought having two would help keep them occupied and not whining at the door. They are very active, they have met the cats and chickens who are bigger than they are. They appear to all get along (as best as can be expected). Oh, their names, well so far the brown one is Buddy (Muddy Buddy) while his brother is Pal (Ol' Pal). Nothing exciting but easy to remember for those who have CRS!

Perhaps tomorrow we can do some work with the garden. Right now it is covered with a tarp to keep the rain water from washing out the nutrients in the compost already in there. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Rainy Monday For A Good Day 8

Monday started off like all days of late, rained most of the night. Juan arrived at 7AM for coffee and to discuss what we would do for the day. His brother-in-law had some one month old puppies of which we were ready to adopt 2 as they were from medium sized parents but it wasn't to be, Juan called and they were all spoken for. Before we started anything else Juan wanted to pull the forms off the cement seats to make sure that was all set. He will plaster (with cement and fine sand) the exterior of the block when the is a sunny day.
Here is the final results, basically the garden is done. You can see the results of last nights rain and it isn't over yet. Someone said we've had over 17" of rain so far this month. The creek on the way to town has the most mud in it I have ever seen.

Here is the start of the filling, the first 10 bags is composted sugar cane after the sugar has been extracted. It is not only an excellent product but it is very reasonable in price. Another great thing, no weed seeds. I will be going back for more of this good "abono" (Spanish for compost).

Here are the bags of the toping for the garden. this is bags of well composted cow manure. It is black and has virtually no smell, the main thing is it doesn't smell like manure and won't attract flies. A few blocks left over, at $.45 each in quantity they can set there till needed. Order any less and the price jumps a lot.

When we were at Juan's sister-in-laws, Gisele, the other day she took us to her neighbor's place where she had many bantam chickens that Juan was interested in getting. I told Caroline about them, "oh, I want a pair", so here they are. Why are they in a cage in the coop, the answer follows.

When we got back to Gisele's home she said that we should go to this other neighbors just down the street as she has some really special ones. Now we have two pair, these Silkies are real mellow. The other rooster crows a lot and is just as loud as a regular size chicken. Actually I don't mind as long as it isn't 2AM when he goes off. I particularly wanted the Silkies as the hens are excellent brood hens which when we get ready for new egg layers she will get the job of sitting on several eggs and hatching them out. Even thou they are mellow I understand when she has chicks she will be a ferrous mama.

I consider this to be the start of a very good week, if the rain will give us a break then the whole week should be a "gooder". Just got a pone call from the coffee co-op. my abono is ready for me to pick that up tomorrow. The week just got "gooder".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It was a long week, it was a good week, it was a sad week!

This was one of those weeks that was good then ended up sad. One morning I was running in and out getting ready to go a get some compost with my trailer, I stopped and grabbed a cup of coffee and didn't close the front gate, my mistake cost Bella (our dog) her life, she had never gone out the gate till then. My wife really took it hard.

The garden really came along great. I got behind with my days end posting then the week was over. I will post all of the weeks work and just note then by days.

Day 6
The block work is done, the seat framing started.

Just to give you a good idea of how well the seat will be strengthened by the rebar. if this seat gives way it won't be from people sitting on it.

Just an early morning view to the northwest from our back yard.

Day 7

Juan hard at work putting the finishing touches on the cement.
Juan hamming it up a little. The feathered inspector crew making sure everything is up to scratch.

The cement work is finished. The day we went to get the compost the cement was 48 hours old so Juan though he would pull the forms off, the wet weather we've had has slowed the cue down so much that it was still to green to remove the forms.

A look to the northeast gives a view of the soccer field next to our yard. you can barely make out the goal on this end, it is the two upright pipes to the left of the centered fence post, hard to see.

Tomorrow, Monday, the rest of the forms come off and we'll start filling the garden with the compost. I'll have to keep it covered till the roof goes up.
Juan works for others in our neighborhood so he isn't here every day. the day after the cement work was done we went for the compost. Friday he worked (free) at the school close to his home where his daughter attends.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Well day 5 was a banner day, more photos!

Well it was a good day yesterday, I had to wait till this morning to get photos, got rained out yesterday for photos. The block work is done and it is awesome, Juan is a whizz with the blocks and the seat rebar.
Juan not only finished the block work he also cleaned up the trenching dirt and put it inside the garden. In Costa Rica the blocks are not 1/2 as wide as long so blocks need cutting to do the staggered block construction like in the states, they are also metric, 12cm X 20cm X 40cm (4.72"X7.87"X15.75"). Also the blocks get filled with cement top to bottom which with the rebar makes the whole thing really strong and in wall construction makes them more resistant to earth quakes.
Someone ask for a photo including my wife so I asked my lovely lady to sit on the blocks to show how the height of the blocks are for sitting. The cement seat top will only add 2" to the height of the garden. Again the whole idea is to not only provide a retaining enclosure for the raised be garden but to save bending over to save the ol' back. You can also see that she could easily reach the middle of the garden from the sides.
Well just goes to show you, she couldn't resists hamming it up with one of the girls. The hens like the attention, they come running just about every time the door opens. Caroline likes the milk from the small coconuts called pipas here. She cuts the end off the pipa then drains them, then splits them to get the meat. You don't get all the meat out so they are tossed in the backyard for the chickens who love to peck the meat out, good for their health too. Once the pipas dry they are added to the wood in the stove as they burn very good.
The next page will show the wood framing for the cement seat top, that should be day 6 of the project. I number the days which are not days of the week consecutive but just a way to keep track of how many days for construction and to make some sense here. That is the way people can ask me questions and I can tell which part of the construction they are asking about.

Here is the location of our home north of San Ramon, we are about 6 kilometers from downtown San Ramon. Anyone wants the Google Earth pin location for our home, send me an email.

Here is a photo of the village north of us, Los Angeles Norte. Our local police department has the local office there.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day four of garden construction.

Yesterday would be day 4 of the gardens construction. Just getting things ready wasn't all that easy. My touch of gripe is still with me so most of everything will be done by Juan again. I try to stay away from him as much as possible, don't want him to get my affliction too. Something I had done before the construction started was to punch a hole in the laundry room wall and run a pipe out for a hose faucet for the back yard, that turned out to be a very good idea. It is not only very handy for the construction work (had ran a long hose from the carport before) but also for washing out the chickens water dispenser and hosing off the sidewalk where the chickens have left their calling cards. Juan was real happy with that as it has much more pressure and made it easier to wash out the little cement mixer we brought here from California. Using that old mixer he was able to pour the whole footing before the first batch had setup, much much stronger that way.

Boy, this blogging is a learning experience. I tried to place 2 photos side by side, no way, I couldn't re-size them, while trying to do that I ended up with two columns where I didn't want them then I had to delete both photos and the columns then start putting the photos back. You can see my little 4X4 diesel tractor in the left background with the ripper and grader blade behind it.

This view gives you a good idea of the height of the 3 layers of block sides. The seat that will be cast on top of the block will be from the inside edge to about 6" from the outside edge. It should end up about 2" thick, good and strong to accommodate my posterior should it expand in my old age. Some of the area around the garden will be graded again so that the whole area will be one level instead of high on one end and low on the other. you can just see 3 of the hens on the opposite side inspecting the work and giving their cluck approval.

Someone ask me why no photo of myself, Caroline and Juan, well there isn't one yet, this will have to do until we can get one maybe Monday, I will use it for the photo on the main page. This is a shot from our back yard of some of the houses in Rancho Lobo for some of you that have asked where we are. I will try and get a copy of the Google Earth satellite view of the pin location of our home and San Ramon. That will then give you a better idea of where we are.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What is behind this garden in Costa Rica

Two and a half years ago after we retired we moved to Costa Rica to enjoy "Pura Vida" the Good Life.
 It took us a while to remodel the home we bought and to begin to redo the yard. I had a chain link fence put around the backyard so we could keep our animals in and unwanted animals out.
This was the first backyard project after grading, you can barely see the chain link fence with the barbed wire on the out side. We began to plant a tree (about 30 of them) called the "Golden Dew Drop" which will grow to 15' high and at least 10' wide. It is a dense bush/tree with foliage from the bottom to the top. We choose this tree as a windbrake, for the blossoms that butterflies and humming birds like and the golden berry that comes after the blossoms.
It is a great multipurpose plant for us.
Our second yard project was a wood shed/chicken coop. I get wood trimmings from a local sawyer for the hauling which we cut to lenght that will fit into our small wood stove used to break the chill on rainy days at our homes elevation of 3,800 feet. The chicken coop houses 7 very good hens that not only patrol the yard for bugs but provide us with the most awesome range eggs, yummy!

This white chicken showed up outside the fence one day, he was maybe 3 or 4 weeks old then. Juan and I went and got this hen to keep him company. The white rooster turned out to be one of the meat chickens which grew to big for the hens so he was put in the stew pot.This photo was taken inside of the coop where there is about 8 inches of wood shavings litter on the earthen floor.

The wood shed is in the left half while the hens occupy the right half of the metal shed. That is my friend Juan coming out of the wood shed getting ready to do more work on the yard. You can see just behind some of the extra blocks the chickens door into the coop. The yard is coming along, we are trying to get peanut grass to take over the yard, it does not require mowing and the chickens love it.

Peanut grass always has these little yellow flowers.
Last week we finally got started on the garden that I've wanted to build for many, many years. Many years ago I started reading Organic Gardening, MotherEarthNews (when it was still a good magazine), books on Permaculture, French raised bed gardening, companion gardening and then Square Foot Gardening. What I have done was to combine many of the features of these books on gardening into what I wanted to build. I keep saying "build" as that is what I am doing now. I am building a concrete block raised bed garden, 2 foot high (with an 8 inch seat on top) by 4 foot wide (so you can reach the center from either side) by 16 feet long. It will be filled with "abono" which is composted skins from coffee beans (no weed seeds in the abono). In time it will have a 10'X20' clear poly corrugated roof to keep the heavy rains we get from drowning the plants. I'm thinking of a small gutter to fill at least one 55 gallon plastic barrel for me to use to water the garden. That is the only way I can control the amount of water the plants get without them being drowned.

Day 1 the trenching is done (you can barely see the hens back by the banana trees). I must tell you that I got the flu about this time and was resting while Juan (my good friend and helper) was doing the digging. Somehow I did something with day 2 photos showing the rebar in place they aren't on the camera or anywhere else.

Day 3 finds the footings poured, I did manage to hand truck the blocks around and use my little tractor to haul around the sand and gravel. You can sort of get the idea of how high the sides will be by the stack of blocks in the foreground. I'm hoping that my flu will be gone over the weekend so I can do more to help with my project.