Trail Blazing

Posted by Cassie

When we first arrived at our property, we hadn’t even walked the whole perimeter. When we finally did, we took a machete and a spider stick and just hacked our way along. We got lost multiple times. We looked for flattish spots to place our feet and eventually as we walked it over and over again, a few trails became apparent. This was true trail blazing. Since then, our trails have become more and more refined.

Trail to the cabinOne of the more “raw” unworked trails

Most people would probably say that we should have built trails (or better yet, a road!) BEFORE we got started on the cabin in the woods. And that would make sense. But, we took the old wooden house down before we had selected the site of the cabin. So therefore we had basically set the timer on using the wood since it was sitting outside on the ground. However, since the shell of the house is basically done we are doing some of the trail building and access-work now, in between major projects on the house.

Working on trails
Single track path as it has been for a while that turns into the wider, flatter, more accessible trail

Building trails is important because most of the property has a slope to it and when it gets wet it can become super sketchy to walk on. Britton and I are used to slipping, sliding and occasionally falling, but if we bring over people who aren’t, well, results vary wildly. Plus, when we live in the cabin and need to walk there in the rain with groceries or whatever, we’re going to want to make it as pleasant and easy as possible.

Britton turkey trail
Britton standing on the newly flattened area and turkeys on the graveled area

Here’s how to build a trail, or at least how we do it:

First, we bring over some of the wood that remains from the deck of the old wood house. Wood that is not structurally as great as the stuff we used to build the cabin but that will work for outdoor projects like this. They are about 12 ft long 2x8s. Then we stake them with some cut rebar. Next, we dig out the side of the hill a bit and flatten it to the wood.

Turkey and pile of rocks
Britton loads the arenon into the truck and brings it to the halfway point where he then wheelbarrows it over to the trail

And finally, we bring over some sand/gravel to pour over top. In the future we may concrete it, but probably just put pavers to keep it rustic.

Turkey trail
Turkeys are enjoying it so they can walk side by side

There are other parts of the trail that dip down with a more obvious incline and so we also have also learned how to make steps.

Garden copy
First steps we built. Need a little more work

Steps are basically the same idea except you want to keep the rise pretty standard at around 7-8 inches and the landing on the steps should be flat. Some of our first steps we are going to have to re-do a little because they slope downward and/or are too steep. They can be made with fallen wood, boards or cinder blocks.

Working it
Moving cinder blocks for steps (with more wood to move!)

To make cinder block steps, just place them where you need (they are naturally about the right height for a step), place the rebar in the holes to stabilize them so they won’t move. Then just back fill the top and inside the holes. Concrete them if so desired!

Cinder block steps
Cinder block steps

And, eventually, the biggest part of the trail/access to the cabin will be a bridge. It is actually not necessary since the quebrada rarely has any water in it, but it would cut out a lot of the up and down walking and we wouldn’t have to make as many stairs. And if it DOES rain enough to have flowing water we wouldn’t be without access (or have to wade through muddy water). We had been considering a huge suspension bridge that would be about 100 feet across the whole property, but now we are thinking of just a smaller 20 -30 foot span down below that could either be of wood or wire suspension. We are thinking of doing this once the exterior of the house is completely finished (with siding/windows/doors) but before we start on the interior.

Once the trail to the cabin is complete there are always lots of other trails to build throughout the gardens and jungle. And we love that we’ll probably never truly be finished.

Hibiscus and banana
Red hibiscus with banana along one trail

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Goal Setting Works! 4 Year Review

Posted by Cassie

Tar paper
Britton putting on tar paper at the cabin

Recently a commenter noticed an old post we had written about our goals in moving to Puerto Rico. We had just bought the property in 2011 and were planning the move. I thought I would show how well we have or have not achieved those stated goals which were:

-Pay off our short-term personal loans we used to purchase property
-Fix up the existing studio cabana
-Tear down the wooden house
-Build a couple of small cabanas on the property that we can rent out to people as another form of income.
-Build a larger house for us -we are thinking around 2,000 square feet which is approximately what our house in Greeley is
-Build a pool (optional) not a requirement
-Pay off at least one more rental property
-Save up enough money to buy a car, furniture, and living expenses for at least 1 year

Obviously we moved here far faster than the 5 years* we thought it would take and we updated the timeline to a Two-Year Plan, but it is interesting to see that we are still doing many of the things we listed in these goals of the 5 year plan. We came here undecided about the wood house and ultimately did take it down. The major difference as I see it is that it will be more than five years (from 2011) before we build a new concrete villa, but otherwise check out how closely the goals have come into being.

We have:
-Paid off the loans. Property is free and clear.
-Fixed up the studio cabana and lived in it now for nearly 2 years straight
-Taken down the wooden house
-More than half-way built a new cabin with all the reclaimed wood!
-Begun thinking of plans for a larger concrete house
-Begun planning where and how to build a pool and koi/duck pond
-Paid off another rental property before we came
-Saved up enough to buy a car, furniture, and living expenses for at least 1 year plus enough to build the cabin
-Got chickens and turkeys and built them coops
-Cleaned the property/cleared weedy trees brush
-Planted at least 50 new fruit trees plus ornamental palms, flowers, etc
-Created walking trails
-Begun discussing plans for a bridge

That’s the power of goal-setting. It helps to focus your energy and manifest it into reality! Think about what you want/need to bring into your life. Write it down. Make it S.M.A.R.T. Then take a step every day in that direction.

*I am so glad we moved here when we did. If not we would still have a year on our 5-year sentence -err- plan. We managed to save up enough to be able to do what we want and live “comfortably” knowing we had very little bills to pay and hardly anyone to answer to. It still took some time (since our initial dream before our honeymoon in 2005) and we had to give up some level of comfort (a nice new house), but we did it to a level we were comfortable with which was to be here and then we could make it what we want! But it is different for everyone. For instance, ”comfortable” to us is much different than it is to other people (we can live with very little money/stuff).

I KNOW people think we are crazy living in this tiny studio without a stove and just a mini-fridge and I KNOW people think we are crazy bringing things by hand in the woods to our cabin. But it works for us and we were willing to do it because the trade off was so worth it. I am so happy to be living a self-directed, free-range life rather than the opposite. We might have been able to come with a little more money had we stayed working/saving longer but towards the end we were just counting the days  and so excited for this new adventure that even the two years was hard to wait for.

factory farmed free range
We saw this somewhere and it rang true to us

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Island Birthday and Anniversary

Posted by Cassie

What is so fun about living on a “vacation destination” is that you’re already here! So when we go out to celebrate something like my birthday or our (10th!!) anniversary, we didn’t have to go very far at all. We were just talking about how if we were in Colorado and planned a 10 year reunion trip to Puerto Rico in memory of our honeymoon that we took here, how much of a hassle that would be. Researching, buying tickets, getting time off, packing, arranging someone to take care of the house/animals, getting to the airport, getting screened, waiting, cramming in to the seats, waiting, cramming in again, getting unfamiliar food, finding a rental car and accommodations and then getting to the destination and fun that awaits. The reason for the trip!

Sand dollar sky
Sand dollar!

Instead, now that we live here we just get straight to the fun! We just get in our truck and head out to the beach, small island (like Desecheo that we went to last year), waterfall, cliff, cave, garden or new restaurant/club/bar/event of our choice. And we get to know these places and people who live here (friends!) much better than we would if it were just for a week or two.

Here’s how we spent a few special days on our “vacation” island we now call home.

Cassie Bday
Corcega  Beach on my Birthday

For my birthday this year, we decided to keep it low-key and just spend the day at the beach and then go out to a nice restaurant that we’ve been wanting to check out for some time. First we stopped by our favorite little food truck: Jack’s Shack which serves up local organic goodness. Then we headed to the beach. Even though it was a Saturday there weren’t very many people out and we enjoyed the long sandy beaches of the Corcega area in Rincón.

Britton even did a little spearfishing, though he didn’t see much

We dressed up a little (hey just wearing clothes sometimes has become difficult with our new lifestyle) went out to Mahi Mahi in Añasco for dinner and I enjoyed, surprise!, the fresh caught mahi mahi AKA dorado. Then we went out to the little ice cream parlor in town called Tip Top. They even make some of their own ice creams with things like local mangos and tamarind.

Mahi Mahi Tip Top
Mahi Mahi and Tip Top

Ice cream
Mmmm ice cream in the Rincón Plaza!

Our friend Ariana also shares the same birthday as I do and planned another get-together at Borinquen Beach in Aguadilla as we did last year. Everyone brought something to the potluck and we were enjoying the day but the sky looked a little foreboding. People took a swim out to the rock caves and munched and talked. Then it started to rain a little…and then it dumped! We all huddled under the tiny little tent and laughed and thought that it felt like we were on Survivor, living outside in a torrential downpour. Everyone was soaked. We all shared towels and hugged each other for warmth. And it truly was just so much fun.

Survivor birthday edition
Borinquen Survivors!

Next up was our anniversary. Ten years is a pretty big deal and we had thought that maybe if the cabin was finished we might throw a party, but that was just not in the cards.

10 years yep
2005-2015! Where has the time gone?!

So Britton and I decided to just enjoy another day at the beach and out and about. We spend a lot of time at our property (we love it!), so when we leave it always feels extra special. I wanted to go to a beach we either hadn’t been to or hadn’t been in a while. Maybe Table Rock? Crashboat? But we decided upon Tres Hermanos in Añasco.

This is a HUGE public beach with a nearly equally large parking lot. The whole thing is fenced in so cars can’t drive right up to the beach but you can park along the road and there are little pedestrian entrances all over so you, or your horse, can walk right in.

Tres Hermanos fence and horse tied with a hose

It was a cloudy day, but no rain. We hung out and swam for a while and took a walk to see this old boat. From a distance we thought it was possibly a ditched Yola from the Dominican Republic, but it wasn’t.

Boat and Anasco 3 Hermanos beach

This beach is really cool because you can see the Rincón peninsula from a distance and it gives you that depth that you really do live on an island! Plus, there are tons of coconut palms!

Bird flying
Pelican (I think?) soaring the palm-lined skies

Anniversary 10 years
The obligate selfie at the beach on our anniversary!

Since it happened to be a Thursday, later that evening we also went out to the Art Walk in the Rincón Plaza, had dinner at De Bocas and saw a few friends. Art Walk is always the social event of the week!

Me and Jessika
With my creative friend Jessika at the Art Walk

We love our never-ending summer vacation and on special days like these are reminded even more so how fortunate we really are to live here.

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Turkey TV: Turkey Catches a Mouse and Baby Turkeys Hatching!

Posted by Cassie

The turkeys are a constant source of entertainment here at our little farm, but lately even more so.

Turkey toms
Two of our pretty toms

The first thing was when I noticed a turkey grab something in the grass and start running around with it. At first I thought it was a gecko lizard, but really fat! Then I looked a little closer and it was a mouse! The turkey had caught and was eating a field mouse! They are really good at grabbing bugs and the small tarantulas that make holes in the ground, but that was a first to see one snag a mouse like that!

Turkey and mouse copy close up

Apparently chickens aren’t the only ones to eat mice if they can catch them! Check out the video:

The next turkey surprise happened as Britton was getting ready to walk down to the cabin. He heard some chirping sounds next to one of the piles of wood. As he looked down he saw a turkey hen sitting on a nest of hatching turkey poults. He pulled one out to check on it and the poor thing was just completely covered in ants stinging and biting at every part of it. Even the eyes! Poor baby finally hatches out of the egg and is met with a harsh world! So we cleaned them off and tried to remove any other egg shards and ants that we could and then put them back with the mom, but the next time we checked they had died. Probably from the ant bites or the mom standing up trying to shake off all the ants from her body as well.

So we decided to bring the remaining ant-covered eggs into the house. One of them was rotten and luckily we noticed BEFORE bringing it inside. You can tell a rotten egg because it is super light and with just a light tap it exploded like a lightbulb with a POP. Three of them had little beaks pipping through (and ants crawling in and out), but the other one had no sounds coming from within, so I placed that one under a broody chicken. We cleaned up the three beaky eggs, set up the heat lamp and waited not knowing if they would survive or not. But lo and behold, here they come out of the eggs! What a process of pushing and chirping and resting. The first one came out about 6 hours after bringing them inside and the other two not long after that. Of those three, two have survived and are again living inside with us. It was a hard start for them but I am glad we could help out or I am not sure there would be any survivors.

Just Hatched
The first one not long after hatching: a sleepy, worn-out baby 

Watching the eggs hatch was so interesting and heart-wrenching. Such a difficult thing to do: coming into this world. It was so hard to not help them remove the shell, but all the experts say that they need to do it all themselves. The hatching process is important to make sure they bring all of the yolk inside and are strong enough for the outside world. So we were sad to see so many of the babies perish but at the same time we were overjoyed by the new little peepers.

Second baby turkey hatching

We get to watch all of these little mini-dramas going on right outside (and sometimes inside!) every day. And while these two examples may seem worlds apart, they are actually connected. They are great reminders of the circle of life, the struggles to survive and the beautiful fragility of it all.

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