The Tree That Bleeds


Posted by Britton

I was working in the yard the other day sawing down more trees (surprise!).  I came across a huge turpentine tree that we have been jokingly referring to as the “tumor tree” due to a huge break in the base of the tree where termites had setup shop.  The huge black nest and resulting area where the tree tried to grow around them was pretty ugly.

Due to the size of the tree I had decided to hold off on cutting it down until one day I got the motivation to do the deed.  So I started sawing into it with the chainsaw.  I was sawing away and all of a sudden I saw a huge gush of what looked like tobacco spit coming out from the cut.  When I say gush, I mean GUSH.  There was literally many gallons of this nasty liquid pouring out.  It really caught me off guard.  My first thought was something along the lines of “Wow…That is a lot of…sap?  No no…That can’t be sap…can it?  Maybe it is really porous honey?  I don’t see any bees….hmm..This is really gross. It’s still pouring out……wow.”

Once the tree was down on the ground I inspected it a bit and it actually appears to be water mixed in with the termite nest.  The termites had done a good job of hollowing out the dead parts of the tree and rain water had filled the cavity.  It was pretty disgusting to see especially since I wasn’t expecting it.

Tumor tree
Tumor Tree Down

We also noticed the other day that the avocado that we cut down when we first started clearing the property has shot up a few new sprouts just as some of you had predicted!  I think it may turn out that we did the avocado tree a huge favor by getting rid of all the termites and vines that had plagued it and given it a new lease on life.

Avacado Regrowing
Avocado Sprouting Back to Life

We also received our shipment of turkey poults today!  We will have more updates on them soon.

Turkey Poults
Day old Royal Palm Turkey Poults

Adventure at Río Tanamá in a VW Bus


Posted by Cassie

Our friend and neighbor Anthony invited us to join him in an adventure trip up to the Tanama River near Utuado in the middle of the island. He is a student at the Universidad de Puerto Rico en Mayaguez and he had off the week for spring break/Semana Santa (Holy Week) and thought this Friday would be a good day to head up there. He had the perfect vehicle for such an adventure: an old 70′s VW Bus decked out in all sorts of stickers and paintings including Taino and Puerto Rico symbols. When we saw it, we knew we were in for an adventure, but we had no idea how adventurous it would later become!

VW
Load up! :-)

It was Good Friday (Viernes Santo) and there was very little traffic on the road. We wanted to pick up some supplies on our way up there, but many stores were closed. We stopped in Walgreens which was open, but they restricted the purchase of roughly half the items in the store. It was sort of bizarre which items could be purchased and which couldn’t. I tried to decipher the pattern, but it seemed pretty arbitrary. The whole laundry detergent aisle was off-limts, but not the makeup. While we were hoping for a 12 pack of beer (yes, they normally sell beer, wine and even hard liquor at Walgreens -quite different from Colorado!), we at least managed to at least get 3 small tubes for floating in the river.

Ley de Cierre Britton in Walgreens

We stopped off at a local panaderia for a sandwich and at a grocery store for beer and ice (they apparently didn’t get the same memo as Walgreens) and were on our way! The drive was beautiful and the air became a little more cool as we headed higher and higher into the island’s jungly mountains.

Tall Mtns
Lush vegetation

 Anthony and Britton and the VW busAnthony and Britton

We were planning on meeting up with some of Anthony’s friends, but decided to start on the trek and meet them a little later. We found our way down to the river after having to cross from someone’s private property. At first a guy wanted to charge each of us $2 to cross his land to the river area and then he changed his mind and just let us pass.

Tanama River

It was absolutely gorgeous and was at one point in history a sacred place for the Taino Indians that lived on the island long before the Spaniards came. While we didn’t go to church or watch the processions of Good Friday I felt that we were in one of the most beautiful cathedrals of the world!

Cave Light
The river cuts a path into cave formations

cassie looking up
Wow!

We floated as best we could with the little tubes, but we found the water was so low that we could just walk through most of the river. The tubes were used more as resting devices and fashion statements!

BK Tube Top
Britton’s sexy tube

We hung out by the river for some time and enjoyed the fresh air and sounds of the river. We also found some really cool fruit laying all around the ground that looked almost like lotus flowers.

Strange Fruit
Any ideas what this could be?

Anthony C and B
Having fun down by the river

We hiked some pretty steep trails and found another cave that overlooked the river cave.

Cave

IMG_5870

It was starting to get a little dark and we thought we had better head back. We saw Anthony’s friends and they were going to be camping there, but we had planned only on a day trip.

By the time we got back to the bus, it was completely dark and we could see the stars shining over the mountain tops. We got all loaded up and started the VW back up the steep mountain side. We were putting a lot of strain on the poor VW’s low-horse power engine but it was doing pretty good. Then…we approached a long hill that had a probably 60 degree angle. We were climbing and climbing and climb…and stopped. Halfway up the road. The VW was hurting and we were practically vertical. All the loose items in the bus rolled or fell backwards. Anthony began to panic a little because if we slipped, we would be tumbling off the side of the mountain.

Mtn roadThis is part of the mountain we were trying to climb (earlier that day)

Britton and I got out of the bus and tried to calm Anthony down. Britton didn’t think we would be able to go backwards as it was so steep  the tires could start slipping on the concrete and slide down uncontrollably. And we would have to go around a huge curve. Anthony didn’t think he could ride the clutch and get it up. So we chocked the tires with rocks for a few minutes and Anthony made the call that he wanted to try going back down the hill in order to give him a running start up it.

We slowly helped him back down the road with Britton on one side and me on the other guiding him so that he would avoid the railing over the cliff. Carefully and slowly we made it to a semi-flat area in the road and Anthony got out of the bus visibly shaken and stretched out his foot that had been pressing so strongly on the brake.

We made a plan that both Britton and I would get out of the bus in order to lighten the load and then Anthony would gun it up that hill as fast at the bus would let him. I would wait at the top and Britton at the bottom in case he had to come back down. We crossed our fingers and Anthony sped up the incline and made it! We were all so relieved, but I think no one moreso than Anthony. Whew!

VW Bus in jungle
This old bus made it!

The bus was pretty quiet there for a while reflecting on the whole day. We got into the Lares area and had another sandwich break around 9pm and were thankful to have lived through another day and another adventure.

Best of the Rincón Film Fest


Posted by Cassie

This weekend we went to our first film festival! It was the 7th Annual Rincón Internationa Film Festival and took place at various locations throughout Rincón for about a week. We decided to go to the Best of the Fest night because it would showcase the award winning short films and we also wanted to check out the Casa Hines Mansion which we had heard about but never actually visited before.

Cassie and Casa Hines
Me at Casa Hines

We loved looking at the property and landscaping as well as the architecture. It is a beautiful place beach front and we enjoyed a nice sunset before the movies began.

mansion

Bill and BrittonBritton and our friend Bill overlooking the courtyard

Inside HinesUpstairs balcony area

We enjoyed the films from each of the categories: Fright Night, Comedy, Puerto Rican Film, Action, Date Night as well as the music videos.

Me and B at sunset

One of our new friends here even made one of the music videos called Johnny, that was featured and it was filmed almost entirely in Rincón and the music is by a local band called The Disfunction. We also watched two other great movies that were filmed in Puerto Rico: Chula and Mi CorazónMi Corazón was interesting as it had a sort of not-so-hidden message about the United States’ impact on Puerto Rico.

Overall, we had a great evening of film and fun even with a little rain thrown in.

Screen at Film

 

Face to Face with a Hawk and Our Food


Posted by Britton

The other day we had a chicken escape from the coop.  We can’t catch 1 chicken easily at first.  It takes about 10-15 minutes for them to start to miss the flock at which point I can grab one of the other chickens to use as bait and then the escapee will just walk over to me and I can pick her up and put them both back.

We went up to the cabana for a while and I decided that I should go put the chicken away before we forget.  I walked down and as soon as I turned the corner I saw a huge hawk standing at about 2 and a half feet tall on the ground next to the coop.  It took my brain a few seconds to realize what was going on.  As I looked I saw that the hawk is probably the ugliest monster I’ve seen out here so far.  It was actually shocking at first and I think that is what took my brain the longest to react.  “What the hell is that?!?” On the ground they are not the soaring majestic creatures they are in the sky!

I finally figured out what was going on, that the hawk was on top of our stray chicken and was staring at me and giving me that “What are you going to do, human?” look. Well I grabbed the biggest rock I could find, threw it while yelling at the stupid thing.  I missed with the rock, and it tried to fly away with the chicken.  The chicken was too heavy and it fell into the brush.  I yelled for Cassie to come out and she showed up happy to see that I was ok, but she was confused as to what was going on.  I gave her a short version of the story “Hawk, big, I scared it, it flew away and dropped the chicken over here somewhere!!” she helped me to find the chick and when we found her she was still alive.

It didn”t take long to figure out that the chicken couldn’t walk.  She could move her neck and her legs, but sat mostly sideways and couldn’t stand up.  We have read that the hawks know how to paralyze their prey and it appears that is what it did to our chicken- or immobilized her at the least.

Hawk Chicken Attack
Chicken In Sick Bay

We waited a day and it just wasn’t doing any better.  She just layed there on her side and looked unhappy.  Not eating, not drinking.  I decided that rather than having it suffer and die in the house, it was an opportunity to learn how to butcher a chicken, something we haven’t done yet.  So I got my supplies ready, read up on how to butcher and skin a chicken and did the deed. We skinned her rather than pluck her because there is so little meat on a 8-9 week old chicken.

BK First Chicken butcher(2)
Preparing an Old Stump for a Chopping Block

It was fairly easy to actually kill the chicken once it had been decided. The hardest part was that we didn’t actually want to cull her; we were caring for her and were hoping for her eggs! But we were doing it because it was necessary. We thanked the chicken for her life. There was very little blood and it was over very quickly. The skinning and removal of organs was very quick as well. Within 10 minutes after the first chop we were grilling the small amount of meat that resulted. Talk about fresh!

After we ate the little meat that there was we reflected on the entire event that had unfolded.  We, for the first time in a long time, came face to face with the fact that when we eat meat, we are eating a formerly living breathing creature. That life must eat life to live! The chickens, the hawks, us! We all are in a cycle of life and death. We also reflected that we are so far removed from that basic fact that it seemed so strange to kill and eat our own food -or even grow it for that matter.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Shouldn’t it feel weird to NOT be connected to the food we eat?  The food that incorporates into our body and forms us? I have eaten a lot of chicken, but this was the first time I felt that I understood the emotion that is involved with taking a life to feed ourselves.  The chicken we buy in the stores is totally sanitized of life, even though it too is killed.

I can see why people raise factory chickens and buy butchered processed meat.  It’s easier.  It is easier to raise a chicken in a 100% controlled environment where hawks and predators cannot get them and the chicken itself can’t get away.  It is easier to not be faced with killing, with death.

Chicken Dinner
Our Small Meal

In the factory model, part of the plan is to remove us from the killing.  Another part of the plan is to control the chickens’ environment as close to 100% as possible to avoid hawks, skunks, foxes and whatever else may want to kill and eat them from doing so.  It removes the emotion so that we can treat life like a sterile factory component instead of the full down and dirty details that make life, life.

I can’t treat chickens like that.  I can’t leave them cooped up all day, they LOVE to peck and forage in the dirt for their food. We only let them out when we can watch them and protect them from hawks until they get bigger, but occasionally they might escape like this unlucky chicken. And I suppose this means that a hawk or me, might catch and kill one of them from time to time.  So be it. The chickens live a life worth living and I have a meal worth eating that I appreciate so much more than those factory chicken meals.  I am glad that I was able to learn and prepare my own food and I am glad this chicken got to be outside often and forage for food and do what a chicken does.  We are learning a lot out here and are growing as people. As for the other chickens, our hope is that as they get bigger the hawks will leave them alone and the roosters will do a good job of protecting the flock. It is all a big learning curve.