Broody Birds


Posted by Cassie

Spring is in the air, even here in the tropics. And what does spring mean? Renewal! New life! Babies!

Little nest
We saw this little wild bird nest. The mama bird flies off every time we come near, so we try not to disturb her too much

We have 4 out of 6 female turkeys out in the jungle, we presume, sitting on nests. At first we thought something had happened to them, but then we would see them occasionally come out of the forest and get a bite to eat and evacuate their bowels in a HUGE way (yes, they hold it for hours and hours!). They preen their feathers and roll around in a dirt bath and then head back to the nest. We have tried to watch where they go so that we can check on them and the eggs, but they are smart. They wait until we are not watching and then just disappear back where they came.

Garden tropics
One minute they are there, the next they disappear back into the jungle

Then just a little over a week ago we noticed one of the chickens wouldn’t get out of one of the nesting boxes in the chicken coop. I didn’t really think anything of it because it was a Leghorn and they are known as the least broody type of bird. But lo and behold, she stayed put! And she stands her ground when other chickens try to get her to leave the box. This is actually the second time we’ve had a Leghorn go broody, though in Greeley she was sitting on unfertilized eggs.

Broody leghorn
The mother Leghorn on her nest

Going broody is a huge commitment for the birds. They must sit and incubate the eggs for 23 1/2 hours a day rain or shine (and we’ve had a lot of rain lately!) with just a few minutes of break to get a bite to eat, drink and do their business. They also must rotate the eggs and remove any broken or rotten ones from the bunch. It is pretty incredible this innate knowledge and the willingness of the mother to do this for the future generation. Upon discussing broody birds, a mother of a couple of children asked why would any bird sign up for that job? I just smiled and said, “Why would any human?” For some, the sacrifice is more than worth it. It is how nature works, perpetually giving for the next generation as their mother (and father) did for them.

The turkey eggs take 28 days to incubate before they will start pipping (breaking out of the shells) and chickens only take 21. We are anticipating a bunch of little baby birds in approximately one week or so. We are still not sure how hands-on we will be in the raising of this 2nd generation since we know how vulnerable the babies are to hawks and rats. I am curious to see how well the mothers and fathers do in protecting them. The roosters and turkey toms will get to show their fatherhood skills once these little peeps pop out. To me, it is so fun and interesting to be both an observer and a participant in the life stories of these creatures.

Royal Palm Poult

Column Construction: Rebar, Footers and Concrete


Posted by Cassie

The guys are making some great progress on the cabin foundation. The concrete stuff is all new to us, so it has been quite the learning experience. Since we can’t actually drive to the cabin site, we opened up the fence in order to be able to drive the truck halfway there. This saved a lot of time, labor and heavy breathing going up and down and up and down with just buckets and a wheelbarrow. Though there was still some of that too.

Loading the rebar
Driving through the formerly fenced area

They worked a few days on the rebar for the columns, then they loaded them onto the truck as far as they could go and then carried them to the site.

Cutting rebar Stair work benchBending and cutting rebar for the column skeletons

Then they set and measured them to make sure everything was level again.

Rebar columns
Rebar columns

Truck down below
Unloading the truck and taking the sand two buckets at a time

Truck loaded up
Good thing we have a truck! It was super filled with sand, boards, and concrete

Finally, they had unloaded everything to the flattest part of the quebrada under the canopy and by a pretty mango tree. Here they built a mixing platform and began to hand mix the concrete. Luckily the three hoses reached because we had hooked up water to the turkey coop!

Mixing concrete
Mixing in the shade


Sounds like the start of a good joke: Four guys and four turkeys make concrete in the jungle…

And then they were able to load up the buckets once again and haul them up the hill to the site where they dumped them into the holes to make the footers.

Footers
Zapatones/Footers

We had a huge rainstorm that caused a bit of a delay, but they were able to finish all the footers in one day. Next in line will be the column molds and repeating the hauling and mixing process for them as well.

Construction Jargon and Batter Boards


Posted by Cassie

In addition to the Puerto Rican Spanish I am learning, I am also learning Construction Spanish AND English vocabulary! :-)  I am learning all about rebar (varilla) and these things called aros (not sure in English what these little squares of rebar are called) and all the varieties of sand (arena and arenon), concrete (concreto, hormigon, concrelisto), lumber (madera, palos), sizes and types of nails (clavos galvinizados o de acero), sweet wire? (alambre dulce) saws (sierras), hammers (martillos) and sledgehammers (marrón o majón depending on the person), pickaxes (picotas), cutting shovel and others (pala de corte y otras palas) hoses (manga o manguera) etc.

This is because we spend a lot of our time in hardware stores (ferreterías) and with the guys that work with us on our projects. Our most recent step in the cabin project has been batter boards (Spanglish: bater bors). I had never even heard this term in English, but apparently it is essential to assure a square and level structure. That would have been nice to know when we built the chicken/turkey coops, but instead we have very “custom” coops, haha (hey, they ARE level at least!).

Site
The cleared site

Britton (and sometimes I) worked every day for a couple of weeks cutting and clearing the space. It was hard, hot work! The site was finally deemed ready and cleared of enough trees and brush that they could start building the batter boards. So the first step in the batter boards is to set about measuring.

Measuring
Measurements

The next step is to build a wooden frame around the actual footprint of the structure that is level and squared. And finally, it is to drop the plumb bob (plomada) to determine exactly where to place the columns.

Building on a slope, we knew we would need poles/columns for a foundation because excavation and a slab foundation wouldn’t be feasible in this remote location. We even figured that we wouldn’t probably be able to use the poles from the wood house because they would be too short. What we didn’t figure was just how steep the slope was. We have learned that anything with walkable land in Puerto Rico is not considered steep. People often remark at how “flat” our land is. Flat is relative. On the plains of Colorado, we know flat. Flat as a fricken pancake. Here, though flat just means you can walk it without slipping over a cliff. So even though this site was “flat” by Puerto Rico standards, the batter boards don’t lie. Our front columns will be 8-10 feet high and the deck even more.

Height
Way above my head  

Batter boards
And Britton’s too!

Site with batter boards
Batter boards, complete!

Next up, diggin’ holes in rocky soil under a hot sun for the columns. I am sure the vocabulary for THAT will be quite enlightening! :-)

Fiesta del Acabe del Café en Maricao


Posted by Cassie

This weekend was the 37th Annual Fiesta del Acabe del Café or the Festival of the Coffee ’End’ (Harvest) in Maricao, PR and our friends Ben and Missy invited us to go with them there on Sunday.

Bienvenidos

Britton and I have been to quite a few festivals around the island, but this one was by far the biggest. There were lots of venders of all sorts, live music and nice people.

Coffee lady
One of the coffee vender displays

There was also lots and lot of Puerto Rican coffee. We love the coffee here. In the mountainous areas where it is slightly cooler like in Maricao, coffee grows extremely well and with a great flavor. You won’t see Starbucks any time soon here! This stuff is the real, local deal!

Coffee berries
Coffee berries in various states of ripeness

We walked around and checked out most of the booths and had a little of the carnival style food and drink.

With friends at coffee fest
Enjoying some chicken pinchos and fresh-squeezed Maricao orange juice with our friends

Coffee plants
An agricultural display showing various coffee varieties

As we were walking around we even stopped to enjoy an impromptu group of drummers, singing and swaying to the beats. It was pretty cool.