We've been experiencing some pretty odd weather these past few days. On Thursday, it poured all day with strong winds. The river was crazy, too. Friday was beautiful with a bit of rain at the end of the day and today, it's been all over the place. It's been sunny and rainy at the same time. A strong gust a wind blew our Muskoka chairs into the river! Then it calmed right down. November is known as the transition month and the north winds blow the clouds away, but in the meantime it's a bit all over the place. Tomorrow is December 1st. I expect the wind to stay, but the rain to go. We'll see if I'm right.
We have sprawling chiverre vines on the property ... they are invasive and remind me of cucumber plants. They are strong and are happy to climb trees, too.
Gorgeous yellow flowers bloom and attract pollinating bees
The chiverre fruit looks a lot like a watermelon. They're huge (this one is approximately 45 cm (18 inches) long. It's hanging from a tree. Chiverre is very popular during Holy Week in March/April. It's unusual to see them this large so early in the season. We're not really sure what to do with them (we have a few). Preparing it is time consuming and complicated. It's not really something I care to master. We might give it to Clara to cook and she can share some with us.
Horses in our pasture
I went up to check on the three horses in our pasture. The mare (in front) is called Mentira, which means 'Liar'. We're not sure why she has such an accusatory name. The foal on the left is named April because she was born in April and the foal on the right (the mare's daugther) came to us without a name. She's a quiet, timid horse so we've taken it upon ourselves to christen her Hush. It seems appropriate.
15 month update
Today marks month 15 for us. Here's a little update on how things are humming along.
B&B: The guesthouse is ready for our guest. We have a few bookings and look forward to filling in the gaps
Bettys: Our hens were molting in September, but they seem to have recovered. Their bums are fully feathered again. The least amount of eggs they laid was six. They're back to laying between eight and ten every day. We supplement their food with eggshell powder, lettuce, broccoli and other greens. Their shells are hard and smooth. It's all good.
Trevorettes: We have 750 trout in the big pond and they're growing nicely. They weigh approximately half a kilo. They will soon be ready to sell to Roberto. Kevin has sealed and painted the concrete tank in the hatchery and we welcomed 1,500 fingerlings yesterday. And so the process repeats itself.
Derek the Duck: Looks like Derek was just a temporary guest. We only saw him that one day. He's not been back. It makes me sad ... I'd love it if that pond was home to ducks.
Flower gardens: We bought 20 new plants this week to encourage more butterflies and hummingbirds. I'm working at filling in the hot tub with filler material. I'm ready to add the soil and compost. Then I'll plant some flowers and herbs. I think it will look much nicer than an empty, dirty hot tub.
Vegetable garden: I've transplanted six tomato plants in the cylindrical tanks in the hatchery. We're going to give it another try. Hopefully, with the weather drying up, they won't suffer from that nasty fungus. One of the three red pepper plants has survived the winter. I've also transplanted seven cucumber plants in the outside portion of the island garden. I've started more squash, celery, strawberries, arugula, Romaine lettuce and sunflowers ... all from seeds. Kevin planted new runner beans and we found a lone sugar pea plant growing where I had sowed seeds a few months ago.
Pasture: Martin often brings his horse, Paloma, to graze in our pasture, and we love to see her. Unfortunately, one horse is not enough to keep the pasture groomed. Our friend, Luis Alfonso, from Santa Maria brought three of his horses to live in our pasture this week. They will stay with us for as long as it works us and Luis Alfonso. His horses are beautiful: a mare with her foal and another foal from a different mother. The smallest of the two foals doesn't have a name, so we're calling her Hush. Luis Alfonso likes it.
Our friend, Roger, who was clearing the blackberries in July and August hasn't been back since. The berries will be ripe in January, so we're expecting him to be back to pick them. We'll see how that goes.
New creature: We have an osprey hanging around these days. He's gorgeous. Unlike the blue heron, he dive bombs into the ponds and grabs the fish with its talons. The fishing line that Kevin has placed around the pond won't prevent this bird of prey from helping himself to our Trevorettes. We're not happy about it, but seeing this majestic creature almost makes it okay ... almost.
Immigration: We received an email a couple of weeks ago stating that our temporary residency has been approved. Yay! We have an appointment in January to sign all the paperwork.
Healthcare: One of the expectation that comes with temporary residency is we have to pay into the healthcare system. After a scare with the amount we were originally told we had to pay, we sorted everything out and we only have to pay $53 per month. Kevin applied and got his card ... then Thursday, I applied and got my card. Now we're just waiting to hear back from our lawyer in San Jose about getting our fingerprints taken.
Teaching: I gave my notice in September. My last English class will be December 10. It was a good year, but it's time to move on.
Book: Yes, I'm still editing my book, but I feel the hard work is worth it. I have my ISBN, which is a number that is assigned to every single book that is published whether it be a paper or electronic version. It feels so official. I also received permission to use a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. That's exciting in itself. I hope to have the book done and uploaded onto Kobo by the end of the week (we'll see).
Kevin finds this cool caterpillar
We've had a busy day ... mostly working in the garden. We're also getting ready to receive 1,500 more baby trout so Kevin has been sealing the tank. While he was in the hatchery, he found this cool caterpillar. It was huge! Just compare it to Kevin's fingers. It was black with green prickly 'trees'. We were sure if it was poisonous, so we didn't want to handle it with our bare hands. Better safe than sorry. After I took this picture, Kevin released it in the tall grass. I tried looking it up on the internet, but couldn't find its name. If anyone knows, please let us know!
A bit of health care for me
Last week, when Kevin and I went to get our health care card (the Caja), the official said one of us would get the card first (normally the husband ... it's still a patriarchal society, but it's slowly changing ... they did give us a choice) and then the other would need to go to the health care office the following week and they would have a "dependent" form signed ... and that would be that. Well, nothing is quite that simple. That process is perhaps what happens for citizens of Costa Rica, but for foreigners, it's a bit different. When I got to the office on Monday, they asked me for our marriage certificate, which I didn't bring with me. I left the health care office a bit worried. The original documents, which have been translated and authenticated, are with our immigration lawyer in San Jose. So as soon as I got home, I emailed our lawyer and asked if it would be possible to get a copy scanned and emailed back to me. If he couldn't or wouldn't, I'd have to order another original from the government of Canada and then get it signed by Foreign Affairs and the Costa Rica consulate. This would be such a pain and more money. Our lawyer replied today and attached a copy. What a relief!
I went back to the health care office with my passport, proof that we paid the Caja fee, Kevin's health card and a photocopy of our marriage certificate. When I got there at 11:30 am there were 7 people ahead of me ... it was going to be a long wait. The person in the office left and the next person went in. After fifteen minutes, that person stepped out of the office and the other six people got up and followed her out of the building. I guess they were all family members. Bonus. It was my turn. I walked in through the door and I could have sworn I saw the guy behind the desk roll his eyes when he saw me again. (The office is no bigger than a cubicle, but with floor to ceiling walls. There are two doors, which when they're both open nearly touch. One door is for the public and the other is for the staff.) He asked me if I had the marriage certificate. I handed it to him. He scrutinized it. He was expecting an Apostille, but Canada has not yet sign the Hague treaty, so instead, he had a pile of papers: translation of the original marriage cerfiticate, authentication pages from our lawyer in Canada, Foreign Affairs and the Costa Rica consulate. He was bemused. He said he had to get his boss to approve it. He excused himself and I end up sitting in his office for the next 45 minutes. People were lined up outside his office and sometimes they'd poke their heads into the room to see what was going on. I just sat there and shrugged my shoulders. When the health care office guy came back, he quickly shut the door, which the public uses. He told me after he was finished processing my application, he was going to lunch. After he handed me my new health card, he quietly ushered me out the back door. I felt badly for all those people still who had to wait even longer, but I was thrilled that I got my health card.
Derek the Duck
We had a visitor this morning: one lone duck swimming in one of our ponds without any fish (it's the one beside the old historical shed). I crept up very quietly, trying to take a picture, but every time I cam a little closer he would dive head first into the water and pop up on the other side of the pond. We played this game for several minutes. This is a close as I was able to get to him. I went into the house to get some bread and fed it to him, but he kept his distance while I was there. Maybe he'll feed when he's alone. We're hoping he becomes a permanent resident of the pond ... ane move his whole family in, too. We'd like that! For now, we're calling him Derek. It could just as easily be Denise, but we can't tell, so Derek it is. I don't know why, but seeing this little duck makes me giddy. I'm so happy.
After driving Karin and Alan to the airport, we drove straight back. We didn't linger in San Jose ... besides it was too early to go shopping and there was nothing we needed. We drove to San Marcos to sort out our electrical bill.
On Friday, while we were gone to San Jose to pick up Karin and Alan, the electric company sent one of their technicians to shut off out electricity. There was a message on our phone when we got home. It was our friend Catalina explaining the situation. Clara had seen the technician drive up to our place and knowing we were out all day, she followed him up to our property. She caught up with him and asked him what the problem was. He said we hadn't paid our bill and he was sent to cut off all power. Clara told him it must be some kind of mistake and pleaded with him not to turn the power off. She explained we were having guests this weekend and so on. Thanks to Clara, he decided to wait until today to see if we would sort things out. And thanks to Clara we didn't have to entertain our guests by candlelight and cook over the fire pit. Clara called Catalina and asked her to call the electric company to assure them she will get in touch with us and will explain to us that we have a problem.
This was all very surprising to us. Our phone and electrical bills are paid monthly through the bank. We had issues several weeks ago with the phone being cut off and now this. What's the point of having automatic withdrawal if it's not automatic? We needed to sort this out right away. We were second in line so we didn't have to wait to be served. We saw the bank manager, Juan, who has been very helpful in the past and also speaks English. He invited us into his office and we explained the problem. He summoned one of the tellers to come in and check on the situation. The young man leaves for a few minutes and Juan, Kevin and I catch up. He tells us he'd like to take us to a beautiful place in the south of Costa Rica where there are mangroves and birds and more. He seems very excited about the possibility to take a trip down there with us. The teller comes back into his office and explains that although we have money in our U.S. account, we don't have enough to pay the bills in our Colones account and they are now paying our bills (suddenly) from our Colones account. We find out that we are four months behind in our payment to the electrical company. No wonder they were ready to cut us off. We're completely perplexed since they've always withdrawn from our U.S. account. Juan can't be sure why they've switch, but that the bank needs our authorization to be able to transfer funds from the U.S. account to the Colones account. So we sign the form giving authorization and we ask that they put a note in our file that if ever there's a problem, they should call us to let us know (we're not mind readers).
We thank Juan for his help and ask him to please call the electric company to let them know we're all paid up.
It's one thing if Kevin and I have to live through the inconvenience of no power due to a misunderstanding, but it's certainly isn't good for business if our guests are affected while they're staying with us. We were lucky Clara was around to convince the technician to wait and we were lucky the technician had a heart. We hope there won't be any more billing surprises.
We were up at 3:15 am and in the SUV by 4 am. We drove Karin and Alan back to airport and made it to San Jose in record time. We got there at 5:45 am. It seems like they just got here and we're already saying goodbye. Although the visit was short, it was lovely to see them both again. Kevin and Alan reminisced about the good ol' days back in England while Karin and I had time to get to know each other better.
This is what they wrote in our guestbook:
Anne and Kevin,
Thank you so much for having Alan and me for this amazing long weekend. The casita is bright and charming - just right! We truly enjoyed every moment. You have made your little paradise of Costa Rica a permanent place in my heart. We will look back on our time fondly and look forward to our next visit (with the girls).
Both of you have worked so hard to make Hush Valley Lodge an amazing place - a home away from home and so much more. May your trout keep growing and your Bettys keep laying. Pura Vida!
Karin and Alan
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
Click here to pick up your copy of Anne's book! It's all about their adventure and the establishment of Hush Valley Lodge: from leaving their middle-class suburban lifestyle in Canada to reinventing themselvess in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. Check it out and if you enjoy it, please spread the word! Thanks!