Cool Sights: Golden Basilica, Lightning Show and a Gecko with Chrysalis

Posted by Cassie

We have seen some interesting and strange sights lately, but they are all sort of random. So, rather than making a separate post for each one, I thought I would just share the photos of them in this post.

The first sight was of a golden domed building off in the distance as we were driving to the nursery in Cabo Rojo. I asked Britton to go off track and so we checked it out.

Basilica small

It turned out that it was called Basilica Menor: Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate in Homigueros, Puerto Rico. We climbed the numerous steps to the top and looked out over the city and beyond. It was a beautiful little detour.

Jesus Hormigueros

The next cool sight was an awesome lightning show over Aguadilla bay one  night. I probably snapped about 100 photos before getting the timing right for this one.

Lightning show

And finally, we were walking around checking on all the plants when I noticed a big green worm on the underside of a papaya leaf. We fed it to a turkey who had fun running around with it like it was a football. Then we looked under some other leaves and saw this fluffy chrysalis. We weren’t the only one to be interested in it. One of our ever-present gecko friends was checking it out as well.

Gecko and crysalis small
Gecko lizard and Chrysalis

Our Biggest Find…So Far.

Posted by Britton

The other day we bought some new trees while we were out and about.  We have been in the habit of finding free plant sources thru friends and have had multiple truck loads full, but when you dig up sprouts and hijos you are somewhat limited to what varieties are available.  For instance bananas, plantains, ginger, heliconia some spreading ground covers are fairly abundant but citrus and other fruiting trees usually are harder to find.  We came across some Buddha’s hand, kumquats, tangerines and various other harder to find stuff at one of the plant stores and of course we don’t have anywhere cleared to plant them!

The areas we have planted with trees we have actually had to go back and rearrange.  We have found that a lot of the varieties of trees we bought grow to enormous sizes so we decided we put them too close and in an area that will one day block the view unless they hare heavily pruned.  Moving forward we will take that into account, but when we first arrived we were just excited to plant the trees as soon as we had cleared enough area to do so.

We haven’t cleared/cleaned up even 1/4 of the property yet.  A lot of it is still wildly overgrown.  When the forest gets tall, all the trees start to compete to stay at the top of the canopy.  This causes trees to grow very tall and slender with a huge bush at the top.  We have cut down a lot of trees shaped like this that are nearest to the house because they just block out the entire view of the ocean and Aguadilla.

So anyway, we started to clear out another area of the forest and we came across this:

Avocado reach
Pulling Off Vines

We learned a lesson in our biggest mistake and so we didn’t saw this avocado tree  The avocado tree we cut down in that post is, as commenters posted, growing back.  It is however going to be a long while before that tree will have avocados again.   This new find has lots of nice big fruits on it and we have started to pick them up off the ground as they fall.  It is amazing that we have walked by this area quite a few times and haven’t ever noticed the tree!  It is just a testament to how over grown the property is after 20 years.  Hopefully we continue to find mature fruit producing trees.  It is fun to have our own sources for food.

Avocados up aboveAvocados Getting Ready to Drop

A Trip to the Dentist in Puerto Rico

Posted by Cassie

This month has been a doozy on the health care front. To top off our visits to the emergency room, I also happened to chip a tooth and needed to have an old filling removed and a new one filled.

Going to the dentist in Puerto Rico is remarkably similar to going to a dentist in the states. This is probably due to the fact that they are trained under the U.S. dental standards. They were all very professional and did a great job. The biggest difference (besides Spanish being the preferred language of most of the staff) was the cost!

Drilling and Filling

We are still just so shocked and thankful that Puerto Rico has not succumbed to the ridiculous prices of health and dental care as the rest of the United States. The cost (without insurance) for a full set of dental x-rays, an evaluation and a restoration filling was a total of $118. Since we don’t have a phone, we just stopped in and were able to make an appointment for that day. It was super efficient and affordable. Another reason to smile about living in Puerto Rico.



The Tortoise and the Pear

Posted by Cassie

Here’s a little story about two new life forms in our little slice of jungle.

The first one was the “pear”. For the longest time we had never quite figured out what type of mystery fruit one of the trees up front was bearing. Whenever we would pick one of the kiwi looking fruits, it would start weeping lots of latex white sap. We tasted it and it was very astringent/bitter and super sticky.

What fruit

What in the world could it be? We recently started noticing a few of the fruits on the ground had been chewed on, we assume, by rats. So we looked in the tree and found that some of the fruits were actually soft! We picked some of them and cut them open.

Sapodilla nispero

They had about 3 shiny black seeds in each little fruit.  They smelled very sweet and no longer had the bitter taste or white sap leaking from them. I tasted it and the first thing I thought was that it tasted like a brown-sugar flavored pear. The skin was soft enough to eat and like a pear it had a sort of grainy, sandy quality to it. I was so excited about my find that I took a few slices down to Britton where he was chopping down some weedy trees. When he tasted it, he also exclaimed that this was probably our favorite “exotic” or new-to-us fruit we had ever tasted.

So I looked it up because we had heard from various visitors on the property (anyone and everyone, what type of tree is this??!) that it could be a mamey, a sapote or a nispero. I searched and searched and finally found what I believe it is. A manilkara zapota, commonly called sapodilla or nispero in Puerto Rico! Yum. Now we just have to figure out how to harvest them when they are ripe enough to pick, but not so ripe that the birds and rats eat them first.

turkeys and turtle

Our second find of the jungle recently was a big surprise! We were working down below in the quebrada (gulley). The turkeys were of course with us, as they always are when we are outside. I heard them making their bubble sounds which mean that they have found something they don’t understand but that it isn’t something dangerous to them. I looked where they were beeping and found…a beautiful turtle!


I was so happy about finding the turtle (well, ok, the turkeys found it) that I again had to yell and show Britton. We both enjoyed looking at and holding him.

Cassie and Turtle

I am still not exactly sure what type it is but I think I have narrowed it down to an Eastern Box Turtle. I didn’t even know that Puerto Rico had wild land turtles! So cool! I hope we see him and his family down in the quebrada again.

We live in such a magical place. We absolutely love it.