Cabana Shower Tile Project

Posted by Cassie

When the wood house take-down finished, two of the guys who helped in that project were interested in continuing with anything else we could give them by way of work. Well, around here there is always work, so we started talking about some projects we could put them on before we start the big ones (the cabin on the other side and the bridge).

So we tried to think of things we either didn’t have the skills or motivation to tackle. We had them finish up a few things like plastering the new electric pedestal, taking out some of the fencing and general clean-up. Then I thought of one that is a bit of a luxury item, but something I have wanted since we moved in: Tile for the cabana shower stall! When we first moved in we painted it, but it was difficult to keep clean, the paint kept peeling up and it had little pink tile flooring.

Shower before

So our team of Jorge and Waldemar (and us as needed) were happy to do it. The hardest part was removing the paint from the walls before mortaring. Paint is considered a bond breaker, so while it was a messy part of the job, it was necessary.

Shower During
During/prep and paint removal

These guys did a great job and went above and beyond working longer than they had planned so that we would be able to shower soon. We only have one bathroom and it is extremely tiny so it was a challenge having all of us in there checking it out at various times. It’s always tough living in a construction zone let alone one without any bathrooms (since the bathroom is the work zone)! But we all got through it just fine.

Jorge y Waldemar
Jorge and Waldemar finishing up

Well, the tile, mortar and grout finished setting up and we were finally able to take a shower in there after 3 days and it was soo nice!

Shower done 1

Snapshots of Life Now

Posted by Cassie

Not many words are needed. Here are a few snapshots of our day yesterday.

Cassie and the turkeysJust hanging out with some particularly friendly turkeys

Swinging BK
Britton literally hanging out

Heliconia and palm
Surrounded by beauty

Pretty Kitty
A pretty Kitty

Tina Turner Singing
And a funny Tina Turner chicken named Grandma singing ”What’s Looove got to do with it?”

Mowing the Lawn

Posted by Britton

Mowing the lawn in Greeley used to take 40 minutes.  Now it takes several days after months of clearing and replanting. When we first arrived at the property we were greeted with lots and lots of overgrowth. It took quite a bit of work in order to just pull the car in, or for us to get to the cabana.  We were hacking and slashing our way thru the forest bit by bit.  Well that basically hasn’t stopped.

Britton on a ladder in a tree
Latest Section Being Cleared

We have been getting better and better at the art of cutting down the mess that one could call the forest.  We are better at seeing valuable (to us) trees and better at using less effort to clear.  In this endeavor we have also narrowed down our tools to just a few.  The chainsaw, the loppers, machete and once things have been whacked down we use the lawnmower and the shears. I don’t use the weed whacker anymore at all.

We hired a neighbor for a day a while back who was seeking work to come clear some areas that had become over-run with vines.  I watched him use his machete and learned that it is far easier to use on over grown slopes than a weed whacker.  It is simple, uses no gas and is easy to keep sharp with a file.  For the non sloped areas we just use the mower and when we clear new sections we clear to the point where I can actually run the lawn mower across it.  It makes maintenance easy(ish).

Burnt tourist tree
Tourist Tree 

We have a lot of these fast growing soft wood trees.  They are bursera simaruba also known as gumbo-limbo or turpentine.  The best name for them we know of however is the “Tourist Tree” because when the bark is exposed to sunlight it peels like a sunburn.

Tree Come along
Using a Comealong to Help Direct the Fall of a Tourist Tree

We have been working on an area ‘down below’ on and off for months now stopping for a while to dismantle the wood house.  The area is far larger than our whole property in Greeley was.  So from a landscaping perspective every section we work on is a massive project for us.  We start by taking down the brush (anything that can be cut with the loppers or machete), then we start taking down the larger trees.  Once that is done we have to clean the ground, plant grass then plant new trees and ornamentals.  In any given area there are hundreds of trees that are anywhere between an inch in diameter to a few feet.

Yard debris
To the Edge Cleared and the next section of brush

Cleared Area
Cleared and First Stage Replanted with Grass Seed and Fruit Trees -Next Ornamentals

In doing this we have also learned to plan for where all the debris will be.  If it can be downhill, all the better.  Moving logs any distance will quickly tire us out.  The debris piles start to become HUGE (usually 10-12 feet high and at least as wide).  I try to drop trees so they fall directly on the pile if possible.  The trees are almost always completely overgrown at the top with vines which connect all of the trees into one.  This situation makes planning and cutting more difficult and sometimes we have to drop 5 or more large trees at the same time in order to get them down.  It is a real mess but eventually you get through it all.

Rooster crow
Color, texture, depth and movement is what we like most in the gardens 

Once the area is cleared the hardest work is done and it quickly fills up with new trees of our choosing (mainly common and exotic tropical fruit trees) and grass so that the weeds and vines don’t start growing again.  We have also started to plant more ornamentals (heliconias and gingers, bromeliads, palms, trinitaria, cruz de malta, etc)  to add some depth and color to the yard.  The space goes from an impenetrable mess to a wide open usable and planted garden.

Truck plantsAnother Truckload and a Half of Foraged Ornamentals Ready to Plant

We have been lucky to be able to find gardens from friends that have started new growth which we dig up and bring home.  It will take many truckloads to fill in and replace what we cut out.  If you don’t replant something quickly everything you don’t want will grow back in short order.  This past year we have been mainly focused on getting fruit trees planted and growing and have only just begun to plant flowers, hedges, palms and other ornamentals, but we are slowly adding more and more.

All About Turkeys

Posted by Cassie


Royal Palm PoultThey go from this…

Cool royal palm turkey
To this…

…in about 6 months

But that is not the only surprising thing about turkeys.

While we had some experience raising chickens back in Colorado, we had never raised turkeys before, so it was all pretty new to us. We have learned quite a few things about turkeys along the way and I thought it might be fun to share some of them.

Turkey Poults
When they arrived in the mail

Turkey Imprinting
Unlike chickens, turkeys imprint onto humans quite easily. We received our poults through the mail and they were about two days old. We were probably the first humans to hold them for longer than a short moment and to talk with them. Therefore, when they saw our faces and heard our voices, they began to imprint on us. This means that they took us to be their parents. This was so surprising to us and really developed a bond going in both directions. From a very young age the turkey poults would follow us everywhere we went. We could take them on walks and know that they would all stay together. This would be very unlikely to happen with chickens.

Britton Turkey walk
Taking the turkey poults for a walk

Young turkey poult coming to my calls

Young turkeys are vulnerable
As their adoptive parents we learned all about their potential predators as well as health issues. We had lots of hawk attempts (but no successful ones…we had learned from the chickens), a few rat attempts (including one that was taken in the middle of the day), a screwed up leg and turkey pox. Of the 15 that arrived in the mail, 12 made it to adulthood. We had to keep them under constant wire “tractor” boxes until they were about 3 months old.

Turkeys displaying and warning of a hawk

Turkey talk
Turkeys have very specific calls. Some we can imitate pretty well and others we can’t. A trilling of the tongue tells them that a predator is very nearby and they will rush to find cover or protection. A contented chirping is the most usual sound. The males don’t start gobbling until they are quite a bit older, but once they get going it’s hard to get them to stop. They mainly gobble at loud or unusual noises, especially high pitched sounds like hawk cries. Turkeys like to bark like dogs when someone new comes to visit. They make a bubble sound when they find something they find unusual like a toad or turtle.

Turkey Intelligence
Turkeys somehow got a bad reputation for being stupid. I don’t know exactly where this came from considering that they are quite a few wild turkeys all around the world, so they must know something about survival! Turkeys will not drown in a rainstorm. Their eyesight is adapted to their needs. Turkeys do seem to tolerate water more than chickens and don’t mind getting sprayed by the sprinkler. Their eyesight is a little different in that they notice things high in the sky more than chickens seem to (a benefit when watching for hawks). They also can hunt and peck close up things very keenly. Because of these too extremes, it seems that their eyesight is not quite as strong at about 10 feet.

yard chickens
Chickens in the yard

Turkeys are to Dogs as Chickens are to Cats
I always tell people that turkeys are like dogs and chickens are like cats. I love them all! They just have different tendencies. Turkeys and dogs are very loyal and always want to be near you. They are great hiking companions. We can walk around in the jungle for 2 hours and they are right there underfoot. If we are sitting outside, they are right there. And if we go in the cabana, they want to go too! They climb to the roof and take turns jumping off…just waiting for us to come out and play. (And yes, sometimes this can get to be a little annoying.)  Chickens, like cats, will come to you only if they want to…and usually only for food. They like to be watched and do their own thing. They are less loyal and much more independent. Chickens put themselves “to bed” in the coop each evening, whereas the turkeys have to be guided in every time. The chickens and the turkeys both get along fine in the yard and like to raid each others’ coop for food.

iguana turkey time small
Turkeys are inherently curious about their surroundings

Heritage Turkeys
We have a variety of turkey called Royal Palm Turkeys. This is a heritage turkey breed. This means quite a lot including that (unlike most commercial breeds) they can move and breed naturally, they have a slower, more natural growth rate (unlike commercial breeds who have many problems even walking!), and because they are healthier, they can withstand outside conditions better. Royal palms in particular are slightly smaller, better mothers and great foragers. They are beautiful with their black and white feather patterns.

Poof turkeyBaby poof! 

Turkey Mating and Eggs
Both the males and the females can “poof” and they start practicing this fan display at a very young age. With time, the males will mainly do this poofing but the females still do from time to time. Males are quite a bit larger than females, but that doesn’t mean they give them a break. During mating the male tom displays until the female hen submits and sits down. Then the male climbs on her back and commences a long drawn out dance that culminates in the cloacal kiss. The mating process for turkeys is much longer than for chickens and it often draws attention of the other males who often then start fighting….

turkey snood

Turkey Anatomy
I have to admit that turkeys are pretty strange looking birds. They are both beautiful and ugly at the same time, especially the males. But they are also the most interesting to look at. The long flap of skin that goes over the beak is called a “snood” (how great is that?!), the warty looking stuff is called
“caruncle”, the “wattle” is the neck flap and the “beard” is this little paint brush feeling feathers that stick out between the breasts.

Turkey as food
I enjoy raising these birds as pets and egg-layers much more than for their meat. However, there does come a time when it makes sense to harvest some for meat. For instance there were far too many males and because they fight so much amongst themselves, we knew we would have to cull some of them. I believe that if people eat meat (or any food for that matter), they should fully understand what that means, and that means, of course, that you (or your agent, often the corporate factory food system) must take a life. Raising these birds, I know that our animals were raised much more humanely and with appreciation for their lives than pretty much any other animal in the industrial system and I feel good knowing I am more connected to my food and the cycle of a full life and death.

First Turkey Egg

Turkey Eggs
The turkey hens have recently started laying turkey eggs! They will get a little larger still, but they are about the size of a super jumbo chicken egg. The shells are a lot thicker, but otherwise, they taste just like a chicken egg and can be used in the same ways. We find that the turkeys don’t like the nesting boxes nearly as much as a bush in the woods and since they are always following us around they like to just pick a nearby spot and drop. We are still trying to figure this out. We would eventually like a hen to go broody and raise the next generation of these wonderful creatures!

Well, that’s enough turkey talk for now. If you have any turkey questions, feel free to ask! Gobble, gobble!

Three turkeys