Category Archives: Weather

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 Here in Puerto Rico the electrical infrastructure is a bit outdated and with calls for cuts in the budget it is unlikely to get upgraded any time soon.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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Flash Flood Stall Out and Rescue


Posted by Cassie

We went to Aguadilla for an appointment and ended up in Aguada (watery-land)! Literally.

aguadilla
View overlooking Aguadilla out to Rincón

In Aguadilla we ran our errands, stopped and had lunch and then headed back home. On the way home it began to rain a little, and then a little more. We drove through Aguada and realized we forgot something and turned around splashing through a growing overflow of water on the road. We went to the nearest Farmacia. They didn’t have what we were looking for so we returned the way we came. This time there was a police car blocking the road with cars turning around. We could see that the road was flooded out, but we had just passed through there 20 minutes earlier! It couldn’t have risen that much more that we couldn’t pass, could it?!

The police spoke through the speaker and said in Spanish we could pass at our own risk to ourselves and vehicle. Britton took that as a green light! We went through one part just fine and then it started to get deeper and deeper. There was a slight hesitation on the part of Britton and then it was over. The truck stalled out in the middle of the road that was now a river…

poor-guaguaHow stuck we were! Look at that water flowing!

water-out-the-window-2
Like we were in a fricken boat!

water-in-the-truck
That was sinking!

britton-oops
Ooops…

We sat in the truck as it filled with water for about 20-30 minutes. People around us took pictures and video and yelled to us from the safety of the parking lot to make sure we were ok. Eventually the Emergency Rescue Management team showed up. The people in the military-looking Hummer first said they were going to look for a chain to tow us out and then decided to just get us out and we then would wait for a grúa (a tow truck) to get the guagua out.

It was pretty exciting to get extricated from the truck by climbing through the window barefoot. I’ve never had to be rescued before and I am so thankful these people are here! Everyone was super nice and didn’t give us a ticket or even a scolding except to tell Britton that he should be more careful since he had precious cargo on board (me)! Awww. I think they knew we had received our own punishment. They even said they were happy to make new friends with us even if it wasn’t in the best of circumstances. People here in Puerto Rico are so wonderful.

with-emergency-crew
With a few of the crew that rescued us! Thank you all!

The grúa came and towed out the truck and took us home. Now we are working on the truck to see if we can get it to run again…

checking-engine
Checking the engine

cassie-and-guagua
What an adventure!

Here’s a little video I managed to take in the midst of the chaos.

 

 

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Trapped in an Aguacero


Posted by Cassie

This time of year we just always must expect rain. It doesn’t usually last very long, but it can come down in sheets. One Sunday we went to the farmer’s market and then the grocery store, but we got trapped in a downpour AKA an aguacero!

Cassie Farmers MarketFun chatting and checking out all the wares and goods of the Rincon farmer’s market

Grocery Store blocked up

The rain was coming down super hard and we humans tend to not like to get wet. So everyone got backed up in the store by the exit.

Cassie in an aguacero at the store

We managed to squeeze through the crowd huddled at the doorway and wait outside under the metal roofing and watched the rain.

Wet Cat

When we got home we found poor Kitty ready to come on inside! Life in the tropics can be a bit moist in the summertime! Over by the cabin we have an intermittent creek that is usually dry but when an aguacero comes down we have a full-fledged river and waterfall! Check this out!

These rains can be a challenge to navigate and it makes things like the Fiestas Patronales a little muddy. But it also makes everything SUPER green and lush. Because of all the rain we have to keep things mowed a lot more but I just love the finca this time of year because it is just so beautiful.

Cassie mowing
Those big clouds usually mean more afternoon rain!

We both get out and mow the upper meadow area about once a week! It’s hot, hard work and the ants are out en force but if we didn’t do it things start growing wild and vines overtake the fruit trees. I actually enjoy mowing now that things are a little more manageable and there aren’t as many stumps and huge rocks to break the mowers. And I love how it makes the farm look like a park.

Yard workBritton and the chickens doing a little yard work

 

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A Summer Update: Chicks, Jams, Corazón and More


Posted by Cassie

It’s summertime and that means things are slow and hot. There are often afternoon rains and everything is super green and beautiful. Lots of fruits are ripe and the flowers are in their showiest state. We also have a few new additions to the farm.

Chicks
Mail arrival of some new chicks

The chickens and turkeys are doing a pretty good job at reproducing, but we wanted to add in some new genetics to the mix. We shared the order with some friends who are new to chickens and it’s been fun to watch them enjoy chickens for the first time. They are just so super cute when they are recently hatched. Pretty amazing that a little more than 21 days before, they were just eggs! What life energy!

Baby chicks
Three of 12 new additions!

We love to eat eggs around here and there is also quite a demand for local, pasture raised chicken eggs. So we thought we would put more of a focus on that side of the homestead.

The rain this time of year can also mean power or water outages. One afternoon the water, electricity and internet went out for about 3 hours. So we decided to go out and have a beer and watch the sunset. Reminds you not to worry so much. Worrying about infrastructure and thinking you could surely do it better than it currently is handled is a classic sign you are still stuck in the old Type A mindset filled with watches, schedules and to-do lists. When you are here things go much smoother if you just go with the island flow. Do what you can, let your voice be heard but don’t worry; they’re working on it. It’s just a little harder on a very mountainous island with limited resources, high heat and a more even work/rest balance.

Aguada sunset
Enjoying a gorgeous sunset at the balneario in Aguada

When these services go out, it’s a reminder that it’s all man-made. They certainly make life more comfortable. It’s pretty darn hot without even a fan blowing on you. But having them go out reminds you that you should probably have a backup water and electric plan and it definitely helps you appreciate them more than when they are just a given.

We have also been having some really great summer jam sessions with the band. It’s so laid back and chill and we’ve been making some really cool grooves. We jam with new people sometimes that just pop in. Our jam space at Mark’s is very unique. We even made a song called Jam Space, and as you can see in this picture below, Mark’s wife, Robin, made an awesome record for the wall of the song. ~~When the lights go down, you can hear the sounds, of eerie moves and funky grooves. It’s a rather magic place, that we call our jam space.~~

Jam Space crew
Such a cool jam space and crew of people

The finca is doing well. Summer is the most fruitful season of all. More and more fruits are coming on board. We recently harvested our first corazón fruit (annona reticulata). Very interesting! Semi-sweet with a grainy pear like custard consistency. I’ve read that it is related to guanabana or soursop which makes sense because it looks similar inside. At first it is so weird we didn’t want to eat it, but once we started we just couldn’t stop. Such a Willy Wonka world of fruit here! We’ve found that like children your first inclination is to not like something, but the more exposures you have to a certain food the more you begin to like it and then eventually love it. I would say corazón will soon be a favorite of ours the more we have it.

Corazon fruitIMG_3098
Corazón does sort of look like a heart - whole and half eaten

When we are out working on the farm we have to watch out to not step on iguanas! They are so fearless of humans, sometimes we see them AFTER we have stepped on their tails and they run off! I know they have become invasive pests of the island, but it still gets me every time that we basically have fricken dinosaurs just roaming free everywhere! Not to mention an easy source of clean meat if it came down to it!

Iguana
Iguanas are still out en force! Our finca is an uncaged zoo of them really!

It was also recently the primary election season here in Puerto Rico. Mostly it was related to senate and mayoral races, though people can vote in the primaries for the US. Too bad we can’t actually vote in the generals though! There were major caravanas (groups of cars with lights and speakers) and you wouldn’t want to accidently get stuck behind one of them or your plans for the day will include a caravan party for a few hours! A different sort of summer jam!

Elections
Elections mean posters, murals and speaker trucks of the candidate

Though Zika messaging is getting out, it doesn’t seem to really have changed anyone’s behavior that I have noticed. I thought this billboard in Mayaguez was kind of funny and misleading. Do you want Sex without Zika? Such a funny question in and of itself. Yes, the Zika virus can spread through sex, but no, they don’t put mosquito repellent in condoms!  

Zika
Do you want sex without Zika? A lot of funny assumptions in this question

We are currently working on the water hook-ups for the cabin. Britton dug a trench and placed water line from the turkey coop all the way to the cabin. He is now working on the copper interior water lines.

Turkey and waterline
Water line connects at the turkey coop and travels 300 feet to the cabin

It’s summertime and the living is easy. It’s a nice pace. Not many people on the road. Most everyone who is here is here because they want to be. Full-timers. There are some tourists, but they are mainly from other parts of the island and so there is less confusion and hiccups. There are events like the caminata of some guy to raise money for a children’s hospital and the Rincón Triathlon and of course the hot sauce contest coming up. And the flamboyans are majestically fantastic. Summer in Puerto Rico is a special time.

Flamboyant moon
Flamboyan tree and the moon

 

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