Monday, May 12, 2014

A Walk to the Finca!

 One of the things I love about living in Berlin is my walk to our finca where we are looking forward to living in the not too distant future!  :) Today I want to take you along and share some of the wonderful sites I see.  My walk starts out with Skeeter in the lead.   We pass by the neighbor's little barn where a cow and her calf lived when we first moved here.  It now sits empty and the property has been planted with coffee and banana plants.

The views along the way are spectacular and, depending on the time of year, the sky may be full of clouds or bright sun, rain, thunder, lightening and many times wind.  To the left, heading to the finca, I can see Palmares in the distance.  The spot of bright blue near the fence post is a water meter.

If I look to the right, I see our friend Dario working in his family's new coffee located in front of our rental with Punterenas in the distance.  

Along the way, there are so many different kinds of trees, flowers and plants.  In the picture are examples of plants that attach themselves to the trees as a parasite.  There are many varieties of these Epiphyt and Bromelaids, each flowering in their own special way.  As much as I would like to think they do no harm to the tree, I'm afraid the opposite is true.

As I proceed down the road I have "friends" that come to the fence to say "hi".  These two little Brahama's are very curious and love to have their nose scratched.
  In about the same location on the other side of the road are two very well cared for and beautiful horses that also enjoy a little attention.  Unfortunately, my visits are short as Skeeter tends to be a bit jealous when someone else has my attention, so we move on.  On the road it is not uncommon to see horses with and without riders go by.  Alone, they have escaped and are looking for greener pastures while those with riders, are beautiful to watch as most have perfected the art of riding.

As Skeeter and I get closer to the little village of Berlin we see the newly created "Welcome to Berlin" sign.

Along the way the sides of the roads show signs of slides here and at other locations along the way. During the rainy season it is not uncommon to discover new slides on my walks.

Looking back I can see how far I've come.  The house just left of the small red roof in the photo is our rental. It looks very small and white with black spots that are windows!  Can you see it??

The metered water in Berlin is owned by Costa Rica and consists of many small wells strategically located to afford water to the people who live here.  These are just a couple of the wells I pass by and they are all painted the same blue.  Not only are the "wells" painted blue but all the individual meters in the ground are painted blue also.

Periodically these tanks need to be cleaned out.  With no notice, you may suddenly be without water for a few hours and it always seems to happen at a very inconvenient time.  The last time, we had company and had just finished breakfast!

This particular water tank is a favorite place to stop for a drink and take in the spectacular views.  It is also at the top of a very steep long grade coming home which is why it is a perfect place to visit!

Bananas grow along the way in among other local plants and flowers.

 Below are two flowers that are some of my favorites!  They are from the Heliconia family of which there are many varieties, all of which look very tropical.  I've always been a fan of Bird of Paradise and these plants are somewhat similar.  There are no Bird of Paradise growing wild on my walk to the finca, however, I see them in people's yards and hope to have my own once we have our house built.

This particular plant and is seen all over and many are found in coffee farms.  The white flowers are in bloom now, the end of dry and the beginning of rainy season, and the Ticos pick them and eat them.  We have had them a number of different ways, usually fried with herbs and eggs, and they are very tasty .  The plant is called Yucca Guantemalensis.  Like the Cana that we have mentioned before this Yucca plant is also used for natural fencing although they have sharp points which can be painful if encountered.

Once I've passed the "Welcome to Berlin" sign there are more houses, businesses and other places of interest.

Flowers are everywhere in peoples yards.  One of the houses has many Hydrangeas which are very common here and grow very large.  Bougainvillea are seen many times along the way and we hope to have many growing in our yard and at our gate.  The colors sometimes seem endless from white to pink, red, fushia, peach and everything in between.

Another typical house with Bougainvillea, a cross and shroud in the front.  During what is our Easter season, here called Semana Santa,  many Ticos place a cross on their property.  When they first start showing up they are wrapped with a purple shroud which is changed to white after "Easter".

We are now closer to the "center" of town and the first business I come upon is a little super located in an upstairs location of the Chavarria's house.  They offer just about anything you could need as well as a number of video game for entertainment.

"Comidas Rapido" stands for "Fast Food", just like McDonald's in the states, however, the food is quite different and very typical for Costa Rica.  This business is called a Soda and is run by our friend, Flor, and is where we go for hamburguesas.

Another home along the way set back a little from the road.

Here we have the edge of someone's fenced yard, a house where pickers often stay (the first re building), the Clinic (the second red building), and the green roof which is the primary school.  We are pretty sure the clinic is open every Thursday, but we have also noticed people there on other days.  Both Don and I have been there since becoming Residence of Costa Rica.  Our health insurance covers our visits and most of my medications which is wonderful! Although the process is slow and still very confusing for us with no Spanish to speak of, we are determined to figure things out!

The Catholic Church sits across from the other little market in town and is next to the Community Center/Roller Skating Rink.  Most all activities in town take place at the Church, Community Center or School, but mainly at the Church.

The last business I pass on my walk to the finca is a small bar.  Parked in front of the bar is one of the regular buses that take us to San Ramon and on the left across from the bar is a receivedor.  On my walk I pass 4 different receivedors belonging to different coops.  The one we use is beyond our finca and not one of the ones I pass by.

This is the receivedor across from the bar.  The blue one below is farther down the road.

One more receivedor which is further off the main road surrounded by the gravel pit or tahoe as they are called here.

Once we pass through the town, the next point of interest is the work being done to save our friend's, Errol, Angie, Gilberto and Jose, house from having the road cave in on their roof.   The work has been going on for some time and I have enjoyed watching the progress and marveled at how everything has been done by the hands of a few men.  Truck loads of river rock are dropped on the main road and wheel barreled around down the side street to the bottom of the project near the house.  The rocks are then loaded into the wire baskets you can see in the photo and stacked into a terrace to hold back the side of the hill.  There are a number of places we have seen this method used and it seems to work quite well---but what a lot of work!

Once the basket terracing is finished ditches are created to deal with the rainy season.  As you can see, the water is routed around the terraced area stopping erosion.  As we are learning, erosion control is a full time job here.  My next blog will cover some steps we have taken to protect our new driveway from the torrential rains of the rainy season.

This cute little building opens up on occasion, especially during picking season, and it is full of clothing for sale!  Our own little thrift store!

To say the least, this house sits very close to the edge!  So close that written on the cement block is "Old House Demolition" because, we think, it may not be safe!  The person who owns this house also owns the next one.  He is Gringo and she is Tico.   They began to build the unusual house with the $1,000,000 view however, it has never been finished.  Now it is up for sale and, of course, Don wants to buy it and turn it into a restaurant!!!

The close up photo shows the unique shape of the house which sits way out on the edge of a hill with an incredible view in every direction!

As I continue to meander down the still gravel road I
see one of my favorite trees!  It is huge and sprawling and has all kinds of interesting plants growing up the trunk.  I love the huge twisted trunk,  the beautiful, shiny oval leaves and the way it spreads over such a large expanse. When the day is sunny and I'm quite warm from climbing hills, it's a wonderful place to stop and just enjoy the shade and, if lucky, the breeze. Skeeter stops and falls to the ground, even if I do not!

Isn't the trunk incredible.  It has so many facets it almost seems alive!

As I walk past the grand tree I have a similar view to the one the unique house shares.

And then the road becomes paved!!  Something new and exciting since our move here.

The sides of the hills along the road are covered with many kinds of vegetation that help with erosion and landslides.  Each time I walk to the finca the types of flowers and vines appear in different stages.  Sometimes not apparent and other times in full bloom.  Below these road banks and beside the new road is a large ditch to guide the water in a less destructive manner.

Although this part of the road is recently paved it is still steep but less treacherous than trying to walk on loose gravel down a steep hill.  

To the left as I  walk down the steep grade, I see a group of houses that are on the street just before ours.  It's a neighborhood of families who also have coffee fincas.

As we reach the bottom of the steep grade and across from the left turn with the houses, we come across an unusual site.  TURKEYS!!  Not a something you see a lot of around here even at Thanksgiving!  There are maybe 5 or 6 and they gobble and preen as we pass by.  In addition to the turkeys, there are also a couple dogs that live on the opposite side of the street.  Although Skeeter would like to play or tangle with them, I am happy when I see that they are tied.

  This is where one of the dogs resides and Skeeter always stops to say "hi" and "naner naner you're tied and I'm not."  There are many dogs on my voyage and most just bark, however, I often carry a stick, just in case!!

The Turkeys signify the worst part of the road that we need to travel....and it is bad.  The wire grid that is used to stabilize the concrete is coming to the surface where the concrete has worn away.  Not only is the wire showing, most of the road consists of pot holes!  Hopefully this section will also be improved!

The positive note on reaching this stretch of the journey is that we are almost at the point where we make a turn and will soon be at the end.   Our left turn is at the top of this hill!  And, Skeeter is anxious to get going.

Skeeter knows we are close now!

This is where we make our turn.  Technically a "Public Road".

Although still public road when we first turn left, it feels like ours after all the time and money we have spent to bring in our electricity.  Notice our electric poles!!

 The steep hill leading down to our driveway is the most difficult to maneuver.  Carefully, I usually stick to the sides where there are few loose rocks and a bit more stable ground. This part of the road still needs work, although, the rains have helped hold it together a bit.   To the right and left are our neighbor coffee farmers.

We are getting very close now.  As we continue down the public road we can now see the colums and gate which are the entrance to our property and the beginning of our driveway.

On the opposite side of the road to our entrance is this pickers shack which is empty except for a few months during picking season.  As the owners said to us when we were thinking of purchasing it to live in while we built, "It isn't the Ritz."

Just to the right before you go through our gate, we have planted a number of Hydrangea cuttings that we will eventually plant around the house.  Unfortunately, we planted them just at the beginning of the dry season and have had to water them the entire time. Another lesson learned the hard way!  Now that the rainy season has started, we expect them to grow quickly.

Yeah, we are at the gate and now we will climb, once again, up our new driveway to where we are planning to build our home.

After a lot of work and much money, our driveway is wonderful!  Of course, just arriving from the U.S. where driveways are paved, etc., you may not be as impressed! However, being here from the beginning and seeing how far we have come with the improvements on this driveway, to me it is beautiful!

From the gate at the beginning to the top where we are building, the driveway is approximately 200 meters.  At the present Cana runs along the right side and is going to be replaced with Amapola (a type of Hibiscus).  The left side belongs to Graziano, our neighbor coffee farmer and friend.

As we continue up the driveway, we pass by our future lights.  There are three lampposts in all and hopefully one day they will light the way up the driveway.

Past the first light post I see our water tank on the right.  We do have a water spigot there but do not use the tank to store water at this time.  At some point, it may be our Talapia pond or not.

Once I'm past the water tank there is an area in the driveway that is wider to allow for a place to park or pass another car.

Just to the right of the "pull out"  is one of our burn piles that a few months ago was close to 10 feet high.  This low spot is where we direct a lot of water during the rainy season.

As we get closer to the top Skeeter trots ahead knowing Don is on top with water and a nice cool place to rest.

There he goes!!

As I crest the top of the drive I see yet another burn pile and the collection of rocks we have saved for landscaping.  On the left side of the photo are our banana trees and on the right are an Avocado Tree and a Mango Tree!  Still pretty small but growing!

Behind the large pile of topsoil I get to see the flowers and trees we have planted and nursed through the rainy season by watering everyday.  We were very happy to see the rainy season this year!  I hope you have enjoyed my journey. Unfortunately, as long as this post is, there are many more things I get to see and experience that  I have not been able to share.  Guess you will just have to see for yourself!!