Category Archives: Homesteading

Ron y Cloro: 8 Ways to Solve Your Problems in PR


Posted by Cassie

There is a joke people sometimes say here. What’s the solution to Puerto Rico’s problems? Ron y cloro. Rum and bleach. Rum, because well everything is just better with a little buzz and bleach because it will wipe everything clean again! So I thought I would write a little about how we use each of these to solve our daily problems in Puerto Rico.

Cassie drink (2)
¡Salud!

1) Things just break down and get so much dirtier here than it ever did in Colorado. We have to keep a cover over our washing machine because the dust settles so heavily over the course of a week and then makes the clothes or sheets dirtier than they started! So you must use more bleach! ¡Más cloro!

Washing machine cover
Washing machine cover

2) I always wondered why so many people had a broom in their hand whenever we would drive around Puerto Rico. Now I know! I must sweep the house at least 2-3 times a day. And it still gets grimy. So…then I need to mop! Más cloro!

3) Not only are we near the sea, but it is constantly humid and so anything metal starts rusting and corroding very quickly. We have learned to buy most metal things out of aluminum or galvanized steel because it is much more rust resistant. But, even still, never trust anything that is held together with metal. Here’s a case in point when the deck to the cabana completely broke!

Broken deck
¡Ay, bendito! The screws rusted out on the ledger!

So you learn that you need multiple back-ups. Especially because on this island you NEVER know if you’ll be able to find the part you’re looking for. Even if you buy online don’t expect it to arrive anytime soon. Britton ordered a part for the Mustang from Ebay and it took nearly a month to arrive because they put it on a ship rather than airplane! ¡Caramba! No wonder things take so long to get fixed, if ever! Island time…means you often have to wait and be patient, so why not go have a drink. Más ron!

Deck repair
To repair it we added two more legs to the wall and cross-braced. Must be prepared for the inevitable future breakdown

4) Even clothes break down faster here! The elastic in our underwear breaks down and the clasps on swimsuits rust out! When I was in Colorado I had clothes for 10+ years! Not here! Plus you have to clean clothes with bleach which breaks down the fibers even faster! But at least we don’t need to wear as much since it’s always warm out! Más ron =menos ropa! :-)

Dirty windows
Even aluminum windows start breaking down after a while! And windows constantly need cleaned (Más cloro!)

5) Bugs! Of course there are bugs everywhere, but here there are a couple that most people who are not from the tropics are not as familiar with: termites and cockroaches. ANY wood you use here including for cabinets, furniture and of course structurally should be made with pressure treated wood! (Madera tratada). We bought some beautiful eucalyptus doors for the cabin, and it said they were insect resistant. What it should have said was that this wood was the most delicious food ever for a termite! Bleach will kill them, but you have to get to their main hive and so we had to take the whole door apart and put it back together again. Más ron!

termites
Termites in the doorframe

As for the cockroaches, unless you live completely sealed in an air conditioned house surrounded only by concrete (and even then), you will have some. They especially love any kind of fresh produce or old food. They poop and are just plain gross with those long antennae and I do not want them around! So this means you must keep your kitchen super clean and no dishes in the sink and everything must be organized and reorganized on the regular. Easier said than done!

Roach
Look, a paradise beetle! haha

6) But they do not like bleach! So bleach floors and counters often to keep cockroaches somewhat away. Another trick we learned with cockroaches is to grab the spray bleach bottle and spray the heck out of then. It slows them down enough that you can then smack them with your chancla (flipflop). (Haha, yes, this is part of our life!) Más cloro!

Spray cloro
Not just for toilets anymore!

7) Bleach also takes away most of the mold that will grow on all sorts of things. Even our pillows, behind framed pictures, anything leather and plastic trashcans! It is just amazing how much life there is here!

8) Rum or rather its boring cousin rubbing alcohol (as well as H2O2 and Neosporin) is the preferred method for all the infections and scrapes we get here. A simple splinter can cause a pus-infested swollen finger in a matter of days because there is just so much stuff always growing here. My skin always breaks out from the various forms of life -whether plant, bacteria, fungi, whatever! Alcohol neutralizes the poison in carrasco, it also helps clear up the stinging red ant bites. We also eat copious amounts of garlic since it is a natural anti-bacterial/anti-viral/anti-fungal agent. It’s no wonder garlic is the main seasoning in Puerto Rican cuisine!!

Haole Rot
In Hawaii they call it Haole Rot because it affects white people more I assume -tinea versicolor

Todo tiene solución. Everything has a solution. And for these problems, and more: Ron y cloro! But don’t forget a nice course of Vitamin Sea with a rum piña colada and a good sense of humor to help these problems and others just melt away!

Beach Sat
Ahhh…Rincón balneario

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Random Update: July 2017


Posted by Cassie

Once again it is time for the slices of life that don’t necessarily deserve a post of their own but have been fun and/or interesting.

We recently went to a beautiful celebration of life at a boutique resort in Añasco called Yukayeke. It was very touching.

Sunset
Amazing sunset

Beach Memorial
Gathering of friends

Yukayeke pool Playing music at Yukayeke
And a pool party

Crab cage
It’s still crab (Juey) season here and a few people are out on the street offering them for sale

Abandoned
I love to stop and see the abandoned buildings and the fantastic graffiti art

Cassie mural

Doorway

Flamingo
Even a flamingo!

Closet
We finally hung the closet pole and shelf!!

The cars on this island are almost as fun to watch as the people! So many questions…

One car
From this… a custom car that could never clear most of the potholes here

Two car
To this…a makeshift moving van?

Car balneario
To this…an abandoned and stripped out car. Why are there so many jugs of water?

Harvest
Back at the farm, we’ve had quite the abundance of food and beauty!

Breadfruit
Breadfruit – Pana in Spanish is also an expression here that means pal or friend

Peace Lily
Peace Lily is blooming

Limes
Our first limes from a tree we planted!

Bridge
The cabin side of the property is filling in nicely with plants and the afternoon rains cause the quebrada to flow beneath the bridge

Ms Puerto Rico
The clothing selection in some stores is pretty fun -I had to try this one on: Ms Puerto Rico!

Broken Piraguas
Even the piragua cart breaks down sometimes!

Cassie and Britton
And the beach is always awaiting us

 

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Random Photo Update: June 2017


Posted by Cassie

It’s that time again to sort through all the photos that have no other real place but in a random photo drop. All the little moments in life add up…

Cassie Abandoned Cassie in the window
I love checking out old abandoned buildings!

Cassie abandoned 2
Front

Britton and the tree
Yard work is always humbling in its scale

Baby Hawk 2
And its rewards like seeing this young hawk up close

Bird on a banana leaf
Or this little guy

Cabin in the jungle
Back side of the cabin as it is currently

Abandoned House
At another cool abandoned house

Vikinga
Randomness of life here…Viking helmets and old nuclear reactors

Buena Vista 2 Edit
So breathtaking -Spanish wall overlooking Pools Beach in Rincóñ

Pare sign
You know it’s a surf town when…

Turkey
At the international folkloric music/dance night in Rincon -people from all over the world came like Turkey!

Jenn Cassie Culture
Slovenia! (With my funny friend Jenn! haha)

USA
I thought the fiddles, overalls and square dancing was a funny representation of the USA, but somewhat accurate I suppose for folk dancing

Junk in your Trunk
Now that’s what you call a lot of junk in your trunk!! ;-)

Mushrooms
Check out these cool mushrooms growing on rotting wood

White gingers
White torch gingers at our finca

Caterpillar
Plumeria caterpillar munching away

Moth
Sphinx moth

Boqueron
Beautiful Boquerón -standing

Boqueron chillin
And laid out (thanks to Amanda for this photo)

Horny Cassie
You never know what you might see…ram horn helmet and a skeleton at a restaurant!

Crazy VanThat’s quite the paint job!

wreck 2
And that’s one heck of a wreck!

Jeff and Britton Cassie fedora
Laura and Trevor Salsa night

We went out salsa dancing with fedoras at a place called Hydra and had a lot of fun! It’s a cool, hip place and while I love salsa dancing and music it does seem to be dying off as a popular music style here on the island. Bachata, merengue and reggaeton are far more favored at most bars. Salsa is like 50′s sock-hop music would be to most people stateside.


We got some moves- haha!

Piramide Pyramid
Yah, you know there’s just a random pyramid in Aguada

Shell
Such beauty! Hermit crabs abound

Motorcycle ride
A nice guy at a bar gave me a ride on his motocicleta!

Crabby
And these guys found a land crab at this place! Apparently it is juey mating season!

Britton and Roberto
Good times with friends like Roberto

Cassie up
Fun at Spanish Wall

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Do You Need Air Conditioning in the Tropics?


Posted by Cassie

Do you need air conditioning in the tropics (particularly in Puerto Rico)?

This is a question that is perhaps best answered by you, but in my opinion, the answer is no. Even though it can get pretty hot and humid in the summers of the tropics, here’s why I say no.

heart in lights
We all love electricity, but it’s pretty expensive!

1) It’s really expensive. In most areas that are tropical including here in Puerto Rico, electricity is very expensive. Electricity here costs about double what it does where we were from in Colorado, but because we don’t use much here our electricity bills are actually less. The two big items that pull the most electricity and therefore increase your bill are air conditioners and electric dryers (and swimming pool pumps, but that’s a whole other demographic). Even the most efficient air conditioners such as an inverter that can cover maybe 1000 sq ft will increase your bill from a base of $20 (what we currently pay) to about $100/month. And if you jump into another rate tier it can be even more.

electricity bill
Our last month’s bill without air conditioning

2) It is hard on the environment.
When a lot of people are pulling electricity to run something like the luxury of air conditioning it uses a lot more resources. In the case of electricity in Puerto Rico and most places really, it is still mainly powered by non-renewable resources such as old dirty coal and oil products. The less people use in general the better it is for the environment because less has to be mined, processed, shipped, etc.

3) It’s hard on the infrastructure. Here in Puerto Rico the electrical infrastructure is a bit outdated and with calls for cuts in the budget it is unlikely to get upgraded any time soon. Locally, in Rincón there is one barrio called Puntas which is very popular and probably the richest neighborhood. It is the only barrio in Rincón within walking distance to the best surf breaks and so it became a gringo haven and more gentrified than some other areas of Rincón. The houses cost the most and there are probably more houses with 3000 + square feet, swimming pools, multiple units and multiple air conditioners than elsewhere. This also means it pulls WAY more power from everyone else to run those pools, A/C units, dryers, etc. We can almost guarantee a local or widespread power outage on popular tourist weekends when everyone is using these resources because the infrastructure can’t handle this type of load.

4) You never acclimate. Before deciding if you ”need” air conditioning you should live here for a full year. When we would visit the tropics in the winter coming from Colorado where it was negative 20 degrees we would step off the plane and just be amazed at how hot it was! It could be a 100 degree change! Now in the winter we are both under the covers at night because it can dip down to a chilly 72 degrees (it’s funny but true!). If we had rushed out to install air conditioning right away we would have never allowed our bodies to acclimate to this tropical environment. Now when I go into the Econo grocery store or the movie theatres where they blast the AC to the max I am freezing and have to either bring a jacket or go outside to warm up. I think our bodies acclimated in a different way as well because I have lost over 30 pounds living here without trying (here’s how)! It doesn’t make sense to carry that much extra weight and heat if it’s hot.

5) It’s another thing you have to maintain. Things break. Everywhere. But in the tropics the rate of entropy seems to be much more rapid. Things just break and break down faster here and then have to be either fixed or replaced. If you don’t have it, you don’t have to worry about it!

Tres Palmas Day
There’s nice warm weather year round! So enjoy it!

How to avoid roasting in the tropics without air conditioning

In Colorado we did have a fuel-efficient air conditioner that we ran for about 2 months out of the year and kept at about 80 degrees to take the edge off. This was because it would get up to 100 degrees in the summer and our house had a wall of west-facing windows that heated it up like crazy. Some people here in Puerto Rico have houses or live in apartments or condos that are devoid of all trees and get hit with that full afternoon sun and because they are concrete boxes they just heat right up like a cooking stone. To avoid the negative consequences discussed above it’s important to look for a place to live that will be conducive to living without air conditioning. These include:

Cool tree cassie

Shade and Trees/vegetation. Do not underestimate the power of shade. Shade from any source will do, but shade from a large tree will give you the added benefit of the cooling water respiration effect. Shade can drop the temperature by 10-30 degrees. When you are surrounded by vegetation such as a small yard this will help as well because the heat from asphalt and other concrete building radiates. I think I read somewhere that San Juan is about 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the island due to the roads, buildings and the density of people.

Wall Ceiling and Fan in Cabin
We built our cabin with high ceilings and lots of airflow because we knew we wouldn’t install A/C

High ceiling with ventilation. Heat rises, so a high ceiling that is ventilated with windows or vents will help keep the air flowing and the hot air away from you.

Breeze. Look for a place with a natural sea breeze or trade winds. If it’s too high up it may get a little too windy, but often places on hill tops tend to be a bit breezier than lower. This also keeps the mosquitos away a bit more.

Britton and beer
To stay cool, drink lots of cold fluids!

Fans. In the middle of the summer we have our ceiling fans running as well as a box fan. Moving air makes a huge difference.

Cold showers. We also take more cold (70-75 degree) showers in the summer. Then we stand in front of or lay under a fan for the double effect.

More time at the beach/pools. You don’t have to be a genius to know that spending time immersed in water will cool you down even if the water here never gets too cold.

A/C luxury time. When all else fails and you are just hot and cranky, go see a movie or do your grocery shopping in the middle of the hot afternoon. You are sure to cool down using someone else’s air conditioning.

cassie-hammock
Hang out and relax in the shade

I am not completely opposed to air conditioning, but it does seem to be a luxury that people over-use and think of as a necessity when it clearly is not especially when considering the above factors. Once you’ve been acclimated to the tropics I would say it only gets “too hot” for about 2 hours in the afternoons of the summer. During those hours, take a siesta, drink an icy cold beverage, take a dip in the sea or rest under a shady tree in a breezy spot. That’s how humans have handled heat for most of human-time and also how the majority of people in Puerto Rico (including us) still live.

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