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.