Música Navideña de Puerto Rico: Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas

Posted by Cassie

In the states right after Thanksgiving you start hearing Christmas music on the radio. Lots of old stuff like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. And a few newer contemporary Christmas songs too.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Sleigh Rides

White, snowy Christmases

We can tell a lot about a culture and traditions through its music. Those above are just a few Traditional North American songs about Christmas traditions, weather and food. There is a feeling of festivities, but not of partying so much. It’s about family and gifts, of somber reflection, relaxation. Sometimes it’s nostalgic or a longing for the family to be together since so many people live far away from one another. Many songs tell the nativity story. There are lots of songs about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. Also enjoying the snow and being outside in the cold or inside warming up near a fire.

Bomba Dancing
In Puerto Rico there is music and dancing outside all year long!

On the radio some channels are completely dedicated to Christmas music. The same thing happens here in Puerto Rico except that Christmas music, música navideña, is much different. And if you don’t speak Spanish or know any better you might not even realize that this fun salsa music is, in fact, Christmas music.

It’s not all salsa as you’ll see, but a vast majority is. Here’s just to give a little taste of what we hear on the radio nowadays at Christmas time.

Salsa! Lechón, lechón, lechón. Yes, pork, specifically a pig roast, at Christmastime is where it’s at!

In Merengue style. Dejalo pa Enero means Leave it for January which is basically the motto for everyone at Christmastime. It’s time to party and have a good time

Bachata style from DR. Singing about the Burrito de Belen -Donkey of Bethlehem

Esta Navidad. This Christmas. From a classic Christmas album by Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe. The whole album is a Christmas must in Puerto Rico

Christmas in Puerto Rico is anything but a somber time. It’s time to party! It’s time relax and have a few drinks. It’s time to dance. It’s time to be with family and friends and eat lots and lots of traditional Christmas food and drink like lechón, pasteles, morcilla, coquito, ron and more. And these songs reflect this. There’s not much if anything about Santa Claus. Maybe the three wise men. But definitely nothing about snow. And only a few passing mentions of Jesus and the Nativity story.

Oh and don’t forget that the classic Feliz Navidad is by José Feliciano, a Puerto Rican! After you’ve listened to all of these you can kind of see how this one song makes the jump and melds both the traditional American Christmas song sound and the party Christmas sound of Puerto Rico. We love Christmastime and the fun Christmas music of Puerto Rico!

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Half a Page of Scribbled Lines

Posted by Britton

I have come to know that I am very motivated by music.  When I start my days I usually listen to music and drink coffee before getting started on whatever project or goal I have set for the day.  One of these tunes that pops up every so often is the song Time by Pink Floyd.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

The song to me is about a lifetime and what we may want to accomplish before a our life slips past.  This idea has been important to us in general; we didn’t want our working lives to take up the entirety of our adulthood.  Not that we didn’t enjoy a lot of different aspects of it or that it wasn’t beneficial to us, but we had written down some goals.  Some scribbled lines… and that is what brought us to Puerto Rico.

Every year is getting shorter; never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

The scribbling of lines has continued!

Before we begin a large undertaking we write stuff down.  We make plans, we figure, we think and we try to create in our minds as accurate of a picture we can of what we want to create.  This is important because we have found out that being as specific as possible helps to manifest our dreams into reality.  We just completed the major part of the bridge and staircase leading up to the cabin and I wanted to show the drawings and the nearly finished product.

Drawing 2Full length bridge
Scribbled out Bridge Plans                                  Actual Bridge

We had even laid out some plans for the staircase on the other side, which we just completed a few days ago.  When I looked back at our idea book it was pretty similar!

Drawing 1Concrete Stairs
Bridge and staircase between Palms                 Actual Bridge and Staircase Different Angle

These were not easy challenges to accomplish.  It required leveraging both human and material resources. I hired some help for digging the footers and making the forms.  We used leftover wood from the wood house for 50% of the bridge and for making all of the concrete forms.  The wood house we took down has turned out to be a tremendous resource!

The concrete steps probably have more time left in them than my body does.

garden path
Path that leads to the Cabin

We continue to put trees and plants in the ground as much as we can because they also will require time.  It can take many years for even a grafted fruit tree to produce and we want to work with time in that regard.  Contrast this with our previous jobs where we felt we were working against time; when is the next vacation, what time do I get off?

Our lives are going to be over at some point regardless of anything, but we get to choose how we spend our time.  If we enjoy something we try to expand upon it and utilize time as one of our resources instead of something to dread and count down the moments until we reach the finish line.  It is also tough because one never knows when their time is going to be over, or when we may not be able to physically do the things we are doing any longer.  Both Cassie’s dad and my mom died earlier than anyone expected.  It has helped us to realize that all of this is fleeting and you’d better get out there and do what you can!

Your time is a personal thing.  Are you using it the way you want to?

And with that;
The time is gone, this song(post) is over
Thought I had something more to say……

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Adventure to Papo’s Finca

Posted by Cassie

Our friend Papo is trying to sell his beautiful finca in the mountains of Puerto Rico and asked if we would like to see it and help him sell it. He said he doesn’t know anything about the internet and how that all works, so we said sure!

Main house view
View at Papo’s finca in the orange grove area -just spectacular!

We took the curvy drive up through the ruta panoramica and ended up taking the way to the place we nearly bought in Lares! It brought up a lot memories and thoughts of “what could have been” and reminded us why we were so drawn to the mountain areas as well as the beach.

We saw the Café Oro processing area and some interesting landscapes as we drove up. Café Oro is a great brand of local Puerto Rican coffee that we drink!

Landscape to Maricao Cafe de Oro building
Rolling grassy fields and Café Oro

When we arrived we got suited up in pants and our boots! How helpful they would turn out to be! We thought it would only be a couple of hours checking out the farm, but we spent the entire day there. Most of it in the jungle!

Trio  Begins adventure
The adventure begins

I took pictures of all the buildings on the property. I’ll post more of an announcement with the details of the farm later, but suffice it to say, this place has quite the potential! There is one large principal concrete house and three other small wooden ones in addition to a bateya (sp?) which I gathered is the coffee processing facility.

Main House and House 2
Two of the four houses on the property!

Bateyas (2)
Bateyas -coffee processing building still has functional equipment!

Cassie Coffee Equipment Bateyas
Me with a coffee miller I think and the big tanks were below

After checking out all of the houses and farm equipment we started our hike through the jungle. Although it is not very well tended there are still lots of coffee, bananas and citrus growing everywhere. There are other fruit trees like soursop, breadfruit, guamá, guava, avocados and mangos as well.

There’s even a banana phone!

Cofee Growing
Coffee growing at Papo’s farm

Fern Palm Forest
Gorgeous fern palms

Finca Road
Lots of roads and trails through the 17 cuerda farm

Probably the most impressive thing to me was the private waterfall!!! I love going to waterfalls but to have one in your own backyard is just amazing! It was a bit of a hike through the river to get there but it was just perfect! Completely secluded!

Waterfall and pond
Papo’s personal waterfall!

Cassie and Britotn Cascada
Britton and me at the waterfall

Britton was helping Papo to clear out a tree branch when he slipped and ended up shoulder high in the pond below!  Papo said this was the first time anyone had gone swimming at his waterfall! Haha. Poor Britton poured out buckets of water from his boots and sloshed around in soggy clothes the rest of the hike. But he said  at least it was refreshingly cool. Now I want to come back and bring my suit and jump in! :-)

Water is an extremely valuable natural resource and the fact that this farm has its own water source is awesome. We helped Papo to reconnect some tubes that fed into a large pozo or water tank that he had built.

Cassie top of Pozo
On top of the huge water tank

Cassie Machete
Along the way we picked grapefruits and oranges and ate them as snacks

Picking grapefruit
Britton and Papo picking grapefruit

I got bitten by some sort of bug and the Ortiga stung me even through my pants, but I still just love being out in the jungle climbing over rocks and boulders (Papo used a word that was something like escarambulando or something like that -climbing around like goats), through rivers, and looking at the weird plants and creatures.

Strange cool pink plant
I have no idea what this plant is, but it’s pretty incredible for a “weed!”

Cassie Tree Bridge
Fallen trees make great bridges!

And I even swung from the vines! I thought for sure it was going to break on me, so I was a little bit of a timid Tarzan!

Britton and I call our paseos with Papo “Tours with Coors” because no matter where we go with Papo there is bound to be some Coors Light and lots of fun to be had. Who needs a water bottle when you have a six pack of beer with you, right?

Tours with Coors (2)
Tours with Coors!
Lots of oranges
Crazy amounts of oranges!

After we had hiked to the waterfall, repaired the water line to the pozo, checked out the river, walked up through the orange grove and chopped up a ton of maleza we were tired and hungry! We didn’t realize it but we had spent about 5 hours hiking around!

Sunset View

Our friend Waldemar is Papo’s son and currently lives on Papo’s farm in one of the houses. So Waldemar and his wife Adelaida invited us to share dinner with them when we finished hiking up. We showered and enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the mountains and then had a true feast of delicious comida criolla!

Arroz con gandules, papas majadas, pasteles, y pollo a la criolla

Brindis with la nena
We had a brindis and even the little nena got in on it with her jugo

Another fantastic day in Puerto Rico!

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Let Food Be Thy Medicine: A Farm Update

Posted by Cassie

The finca is coming along great. Now that the air is getting a little cooler, it’s a little easier to be outside working. We are also starting to look more and more the part of a farmer, or I like the word jíbaro, than ever before. Britton finally broke down and bought some steel-toed rubber boots for when he was slipping all over the place building the bridge and then I got some too.

Farmer Jibarita Cassie
Me, the turkeys and my boots -also a huge wild papaya (aka lechosa) and plantains above

They get a little hot and sweaty, but to avoid slipping and all the ants out there, they are great. I still have a tendency to just want to wear my flip-flops, but at least I have some protection if needed.

We are still growing a lot of food:

Bucket of avocadosNew Avocado
Bucket of avocados and starfruit and our “new” avocado

Since August we have eaten avocados EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Not that I am complaining! I love avos. We even found another tree that is a different variety and super smooth and creamy. So we have a very prolific one that is great for guacamole and a less prolific one that is nice for pretty slices with the eggs in the morning. There are other avocado trees as well, but they are little deep in the jungle. We constantly harvest lots of bananas, coconuts and passionfruit. Occasionally we can reach a breadfruit before it drops, but it’s a super tall tree. Besides all this great healthy food, though, we also grow our “medicine.”

Medicinal plants turmeric ginger garlic
Three of the most important medicines you could have: ginger, turmeric and garlic

The famous quote by Hippocrates is still true today: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. What you consume is important to your health! Junk food makes for junky health but on the other side, there are so many great foods out there to help it! In fact, at least 50% of pharmaceuticals were at one point derived from plants!

turmeric plant Ginger plant
Turmeric and ginger growing -notice the small flower on the ginger

Here are some medicinal plants I wouldn’t want to be without:

This is just an all-time super star. A powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s used to treat or help with just about everything from heartburn to diabetes! Many diseases are caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, so this root helps on both fronts. What I am most impressed with are the studies showing it could help in preventing, treating, and possibly even curing cancer! I use it any time I cook. It adds a great flavor to meals as well as a yellow color. Some of the oldest people in the world drink a turmeric tea daily. Just be careful as it can stain.

Recently Britton got a splinter in his finger and over the course of a couple of days it swelled up huge! He said it was hurting and beginning to spread. We were just about to the point of going to the pharmacy for some antibiotics, but decided to try garlic first. He ate about two raw cloves a day as well as placed some chopped garlic under a Band-Aid on the splinter area. Within about 4 days, he was completely healed! Garlic is a great antibacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-viral agent in addition to antioxidant and general health tonic. It is also super great for the cardio-vascular system. In addition to the turmeric, I always add garlic to our meals. Cooked is fine, but it’s a little more powerful raw, such as in our guacamole!

I just love the smell and taste of ginger. Another great general health tonic, ginger is probably most well known for helping with stomach aches and nausea. And like turmeric it is also useful for inflammatory issues like arthritis. I often add it to our meals or make a tea or juice mixed with carrots out of it.

We aren’t growing this yet, but I would like to because of all the great health benefits, especially to the digestive tract and antioxidants (more even than the powerhouse blueberry). It has the best fatty acids and is super high in fiber. Everyone should eat a spoonful of chia daily or make chia pudding for a refreshing and healthy snack.

Milk Thistle: We grew this in Colorado but I don’t know of a tropical substitute, so I use a supplement for this. I mention it because it is one of the best treatments for a hangover or any type of liver problems or just to maintain a healthy liver. When our young little dog Schnoodle nearly died of jaundice, this saved her life. It was what got me interested in herbal medicine in the first place!

Recently, I have heard of another plant that I was super interested in. It is called Moringa and is often called the Tree of Life.

Moringa sapling ready to be planted

This sounds like the most useful tree ever! You can eat just about every part of it. The leaves can be cooked or eaten like salad greens. The seed pods, called drumsticks, can be cooked as a vegetable. The seeds themselves make a great oil and the root is supposed to taste like horseradish. You can even use it for water purification! In addition to all of these fantastic qualities, it has a ton of health benefits most notably increased vitality in general.

Cabin planting trees
Britton and I planted the moringa and maví trees (as well as a durian) by the cabin

I haven’t had the famous Puerto Rican drink, maví, yet, but I’ve heard it’s a little like rootbeer or sarsaparilla in flavor. It’s also supposed to have great health effects including lowering blood pressure. Like cinnamon (another powerhouse mainly for lowering blood sugar/avoiding diabetes), you use the bark of the tree and then make a sort of tea out of it!

I love plants of all types and there is a place here at the farm and in the gardens for them all! From the showy and ornamental to the common fruits and vegetables and all the way to the understated beauty of the medicinals.  They are all welcome here!

Plumeria flower: a beauty and edible too!

Our new lifestyle suits us well. We love being outside in nature and with all the plants and animals. We eat food from the land probably close to 50% of our intake. Some of this food we planted or raised, some were here already and others like papaya just show up as a gift from the wild. We get a lot of movement naturally working and sweating outside and we eat food as medicine. We are much more social and also much more relaxed. Living this way, without really trying we have both lost about 15 pounds more or less (we don’t have a scale, so not exactly sure) and thanks to all of these factors we feel healthier than ever. Yep, I’d say green acres is the life for me!

On the farm with turkeys and a papaya
Tropical farm life is the sweet life!

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