Birds of Prey
On Friday, we went to our new trout customer's farm, only 20 minutes away. We went with Martin because he had been there before and knew the way. When we arrived, we were treated to a tour of the trout operation. He buys trout from other suppliers like us and holds the fish in his ponds while he fillets and packages his stock to sell to restaurants. My camera's battery died, so I couldn't take any pictures, but his set-up is really nice. He was telling us how the river that feeds his ponds never gets dirty (what a bonus!!) and the level of water doesn't change regardless of whether it's dry season or wet season (another bonus). He has a few concrete ponds and a few natural ponds like ours. He also has a building where the clean, gut and fillet the fish... all very professional. He's been in business for seven years and seems to be doing well. It was nice to visit his farm, and he seemed happy to share with us.
Yesterday, we woke up to two ospreys and three Great Blue herons hunting our trout. The Ospreys are like snipers; they perch up high and wait. Very patiently. Then in a gracious swoop, they glide down, skimming the surface of the pond water and snatch one trout in their talons. So skilled. They fly away with their catch and feast elsewhere... who knows where they go? And those Great Blues, well, they're more ground stalkers. They land near the bank of a pond and quietly inch their way to the edge where they use their long beak as a spear. They don't always catch the fish, but they often maim them with their sharp poke.
The Great Blue Heron has supersonic eyesight. It can see fish, flying from up above, looking down into dark ponds... even at night!! Incredible. So trying to sneak up on them to take a picture -- at a decent distance -- is impossible. Without a telephoto lens, forget capturing anything close up. So, yesterday, I camped out in the old cabin at the bottom of the property, next to the last trout pond. I sat around, waiting for nearly an hour, hoping one of the herons would land where we had spotted him twice earlier in the morning. Even though I was hiding inside the wood shelter, maybe my bright blue fleece gave me away? I didn't really think that one through. So, these pictures will have to do... taken earlier in the morning.
This is the same picture, zoomed in, hence why it's so blurry.
As I was sitting and waiting, I was expecting a heron... to land and slowly approach the water. I figured I'd have time to focus my camera and snap a picture without having to hurry. There's a window that looks onto the pond: it was the perfect spot. What I didn't expect was an osprey diving into the pond and snatching a fish... in what seemed like a nano second. It all happened so fast. I was flustered... I was scrambling to turn my camera on and focus... by this time he was out of the water and flying away with his catch... flying to the left of me. I ran to the door on the opposite site of where I was standing and saw him fly right in front of me. My camera wasn't set to the right setting and everything came out blurry, but if you look closely in the red oval, hopefully you'll be able to see it.
Gadget of the week!
Well last week's post received a lot of comments (here, via email and on Facebook). So if you liked last week's gadget, you'll surely like this one...
Depending on our trout customer, sometimes we have to deliver the trout killed and gutted and other times we have to deliver them live. When we catch and deliver the trout live, we have to set up our weighing station as close to the pond as possible. We use the net to guide the fish towards the bank, scoop them out into buckets full of water, weigh the buckets, record the weight, then transfer the live fish into a bigger oxygenated tank. This process needs to take the least amount of time as possible to reduce stress on the fish and to minimize the time the fish are not in oxygenated water.
So far, our most recent customer has wanted fish that weigh half a kilo. It so happens those fish are in the big pond just outside our back door. It has been fairly easy to set up a weighing station using the beams holding up our covered area on the terrace. But this won't always be the case. Different ponds hold different size fish and our customers require different size fish for different reasons. So Kevin proactively solved the problem for when we will need to catch live fish located in other ponds. He wanted to create a structure that is portable... something easy to assemble and disassemble... something that wouldn't destroy the grass (especially during the rainy season)... something solid and stable... all while using materials on-hand.
After a few hours of pondering all these requirements, this is what my clever husband came up with. The container on the ground (in the background) gets filled up with water (this particular container holds 50 kilos of water) and is secured to the long beam. The weight of the container is holding the beam in place. Kevin figured out the position of the fulcrum (the vertical support post) so that when another container (up to 50 kilos of water and fish) is weighed at the other end, the cross beam does not tilt forward (I wish I had paid more attention in physics class, but I assure you it all makes sense)
The structure itself is easily put together, stable and portable All pieces of wood and hardware were found in Kevin's stash, too. Nicely done. (Psst... this one is for you, Lawrence... Kevin felt he was falling behind with his creative endeavours)
Kevin and Martin tried it out last week and it works like a charm!
Oh, it's the little things...
No other month sees us wearing our big, black rubber boots more often than October. The daily rain makes the grass soggy at best, or a slippery, muddy mess at worst. We slip our boots on and off several times a day. Kevin made us this boot remover with some leftover bits if wood. Makes it so much easier!! Even after four years of living as farmers, there's always more to learn, and always room for improvement. So grateful. Thanks, Kevin!
Although it's wet here, we have nothing to complain about. With hurricane Nicole ferociously smacking the island of Bermuda on one side... and a typhoon hitting the west coast of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon on the other, we've been thinking of our dear family and friends who have been affected by these severe weather systems this week. Stay safe... and may I suggest buying some big, black rubber boots. They do come in handy!
We decided to take the SUV for its regular maintenance check this week. We asked the technician to give it the usual oil change, but also to change the transmission oil, the differential oil, and to grease up all the moving parts. An hour later, everything was done and the bill came to $104 U.S. What a deal... I shudder to think what that would have cost us in Canada. The transmission oil change alone runs over $300 (depending on how many litres is necessary). Although we never like spending that kind of money, it always feels good to know our vehicle is running well and remains reliable. It's totally worth it.
We sold more trout this week... that's always good. And October is living up to its usual promise... it's been raining regularly. Kevin has been busy cleaning the gates to each pond. And this morning, he cleaned out the sediment pond.
When I was in Canada, we learned that one of our dear friends, Sister Gloria, had gone into the hospital. She and her sister, Sister Gladys, have been incredibly kind to us over the years. We met them the very first time we were visiting Costa Rica in 2011. They took us in and made us feel so welcome. Since living here permanently, we try to make a point of visiting them as often as we can. They come to visit us here, as well. Sadly, Sister Gloria was unable to recover from her poor health. She passed away September 14th. We are devastated by this sad news, but especially for Sister Gladys. They lived together their whole lives and were joined at the hip, as the expression goes. We can't imagine the loss she is feeling.
This is Sister Gloria, as we remember her so fondly... some of her favourite things: fresh butter, trout, and swinging in a hammock. Rest in peace sweet Sister Gloria.
In the balance of everyday life
With all the selling of trout we're doing these days, Kevin decided to buy larger scales. He ordered two (one for us and one to give to Martin as a gift). The package was sent from the U.S. and we received a notification on Thursday (hand-delivered by our postman). We discovered that we had to drive to San Jose to the central post office to pick the scales up. We thought this was a little unusual since we've ordered other items from the States before and only had to drive as far as San Marcos to pick them up. Not this time.
So, we ventured out early on Friday morning and drove to San Jose. We found the central post office without too much trouble, parked the car and walked to where we thought we'd be picking up the package. Apparently, our package had to be picked up at the customs office. The kind gentleman pointed to the gate where we had to go.
At the gate, another man asked us for our residency card number and for us to sign in. He then told us to walk through the gated area, down the sidewalk and through the door on the left, a few blocks down. We did as instructed. The woman at the door asked if we were there to pick up a package and we said we were. With a quick scan of the room, we noticed there were three distinct sections with signs that read "posición #1", "posición #2", and "posición #3". The woman guided us to the area that was clearly "posición #1" and told us to have a seat and wait our turn.
We waited, hoping the three sections were designated for separate reasons. As is the custom, we sat in a row of chairs, and as the next person went up to the counter to be served, each of us got up and moved over one spot. This process brought back memories to when we first arrived to Costa Rica four years ago and it seemed like every appointment we had went something like this. We had forgotten the process still holds fast.
After being seen by the man at "posición #1", he told us to wait for Kevin's name to be called in the ""posición #2" area. So we sat and waited. We were called up and different man checked Kevin's invoice, opened the package to check the items were indeed as stated on the invoice, and calculated the duty to be paid. Once he had calculated the fee, we had to then go pay it at the bank teller down the hall. Once paid, we brought the receipt back to the man (thank goodness we didn't have to wait all over again... we were allowed to go straight up to the counter). He checked that all was in order and told us to go wait in the "posición #3" area for our parcel.
As we were waiting to be called up to pick up the package, I couldn't help notice that there was a young lady who walked from "posición #2" area to "posición #3" delivering each parcel -- one by one. I can only assume this convoluted process is a means to create employment. And maybe it reduces the possibility of corruption? No one person is responsible for an entire transaction, making it impossible to buck the system. It's possible.
After a good chuckle, we were reminded that living in Costa Rica still has its lovely little quirks in the balance of everyday life: these scales will surely be useful in the end.
Yesterday, as I was reading outside, I heard a squeak. I saw a baby hummingbird on the ground. As I approached, he tried to fly. He flew only a few feet away, but managed to get up onto the herb garden wall. He looked a little stunned... it seemed like his wing might have been hurt or maybe he had fallen out of the nest and was still wobbly. He then flew up to one of the aloe vera branches. He was holding on for dear life, chirping and squealing, opening his little mouth as if waiting for his mother to feed him. It was heartbreaking. I didn't know what to do. I showed Kevin and he gave him some water, then set him down under a bush, allowing him to rest and catch his breath (grasping a branch takes a lot of energy). We wanted the little hummingbird to have a chance to call out to his mother and maybe all would end well. He was quite weak, but one never knows. Sadly, an hour later, Kevin went to check on him and he had lost the battle. It never stops being sad. We always feel the loss.
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
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