... and a happy new year.
What a month!
We have had guests in the Casita (some friends, some partners, some travelers) all but one day this month! Its been fun having company to hike with, fish with, paint with, and build with.
But having pleasant distractions hasn't slowed the farm down any.
The frye in the hatchery tanks have officially become fingerlings. They still require ground up food, but theyve definitely grown in size.
They will soon be ready to move to the hatchery pond. The advantage to this is that our ponds are mud bottom. This adds a degree of health to the fish as they have access to natural growing nutrients versus the concrete walls of a hatchery tank. It also allows the fingerlings to grow bigger, faster, with more room to spread out and get some swimming space.
The disadvantage is- though the pond is empty, there is a reason for it.
We have been having an issue with a Blue Heron the past few months. She has been shopping the Hatchery pond for every meal. Unfortunately, fingerlings are very friendly. They flock to whatever visitor they can see on the bank, thinking they are going to be fed, not that they will be the food.
We have tried using a fake owl, a scarecrow, and poles hung with empty bags. This heron is tenacious.
Finally, we found a simple deterrent. The incoming water was supplied by a culvert, into a low waterfall directly into the hatchery pond. We added a two inch pipe, lifted, so that the incoming water would continuously break up any surface tension and obscure the view of the Heron. Herons are wading fish that spear their prey with their long bills, but they have to see the fish to catch them. This change up worked.. for about two days.
The heron then just moved on to the hatchery tanks. She figured out out to spear the fish through the mesh covers we had, but she couldn't get the speared fingerlings out of the small hole she had fit her bill into. We were finding a dozen or so fish per day, dead in the tank with holes in their sides.
A simple changeover to a smaller mesh was completed and we have seen less Heron action since. Of course, now there is a small hawk watching the 'teenagers' in the Cedro pond.
Its always an adventure.
The fish aren't the only things growing.
The chicks we got in the last week of October, are huge! In ten weeks, they have outgrown the red laying hens we have.
Dave and I have incubated chicks in the past, and had successful hatches with generations of chickens. But neither of us have ever seen such awkward, hungry, fast growing chicks. They literally sit at the feeder all day, everyday, and eat. So we decided to do some checking on their breed. .
One very distinguishing trait is, they have massive feet and legs. It sort of explains their awkwardness, but it doesn't really explain their mental deficits. They aren't smart. At all. The red hens are rather crafty, and seem to have it together, but these big white ones..just don't. After a quick internet search, it appears they are meat hens, not laying hens as we had anticipated. A hybrid Cornish hen cross. Unlikely they will lay normal sized eggs, if at all. They grown fast and are basically ready to butcher now, which is great, but we aren't really chicken killers.
We will need to get a fresh batch of hatchlings, as we are now ten weeks behind for new layers.
The gardens are getting big too! The tomatoes and corn have flowered, melons and zucchini are growing, and we have already harvested peas and green beans. There is a healthy amount of onions, leeks, and herbs ready too.
We are readying two more beds for planting now, Hopefully, they should be ready to go when these current plants are exhausted.
This week, we adopted two cats about 4 months old. They are still getting acquainted with their new home, and Bobbie, but will be nice working additions to the farm.
Casita season is in full swing now, though our spring break week booking, did just cancel. Anyone needing a bit of summer in their lives?
Happy New Year to all of our valued clients, neighbors and friends. May 2018 be exactly what we all aspire it to be.
Hush Valley hosted our first guests of the season!
We were thrilled to be enjoying the company of Bernie, Bernie, and Joe.
After a harrowing trip, they arrived in the dark, hungry and tired. They were still interested in our legendary trout dinner though.
Unfortunately, fish dont eat in the dark but we were able to net us a few beautiful trout in the dark.
They werent staying but one night, so we packed as much action as we could in a few hours.
This included a trip to Roberto's place.
Roberto uses our Hush Valley trout to smoke, and sell at market.
Roberto has also recently been using our trout roe to create trout caviar!
I think we were all hesitant to try it (Especially Joe!), but it was truly a delicious treat.
These guys had a sense of adventure! Bernie Sr., and Joe had no idea where they were going or what they were doing- just that they were headed to Costa Rica.
Roberto gave them a 'trout 101' course, the morning they were departing.
We all bought some smoked trout, and we made smoked trout Quesadillas later that day. (Smoked HVL trout, cream cheese and cilantro spread, pico de gallo, onion, tomato and sour cream- delicious! ).
At times, its hard not to interject when a guest only books for one night. There is so much to see and do in Rio Blanco. All natural entertainment and real, rural Costa Rican living happens up here in the mountains. Far from a 'tourist' type area.
If you are thinking about joining us at Hush Valley lodge, our recommendation is to stay at least two days- you wont regret it!
We welcome Bernie and his fun crew back to Hush Valley anytime!
After the hurricane, we had a fair amount of downed trees on the property. Rather than let them sit, we chose to integrate them into our current project.
Using an Alaskan chainsaw mill, Jonathon, Martin and Dave milled up some beautiful lumber!
The colors in the wood made some beautiful boards.
We aren't loggers, and have no desire to harm any of the fabulous flora/fauna here, but downed (non-native) trees are fair game for projects here.
With all of the rain we have had, followed by several beautiful weeks of sun, the flowers are out in full force. Check out these beauties, and then check out Quinns latest blog post at www.thecostaricakid.com
Something fishy going on
David and I were able to return to the States for Thanksgiving. I come from a large family and holidays have always been important to us. We were very grateful to have such proficient help at the farm-Martin, Jonathon and his wife Jessica. It made leaving, even for a short time, much less stressful.
Of course, given that we live in paradise, it isnt as though we needed a vacation. So we made the most out of our time and visited a fish farm in our local area in Oregon.
It was fascinating to me for several reasons. Legend has it, that the origin of trout in the mountainous regions of Costa Rica, was from trout eggs imported from Oregon directly to our Hush Valley ponds.
I also found it interesting that though we passed Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery (while living in the States) at least once a week, I had never been there.
What a great place! We had a very well educated staff member show us around and explain how/what they do there.
They specialize in supplementing the Salmon runs, but they also have steelhead and sturgeon.
They grow the hatchlings from eggs, in large trays with a gravity fed water system.
Fun fact: Egg bearing female fish are called Hens.
We really enjoyed our 'fish hatching 101' course, so when we returned, we jumped in- both feet, and bought 5000 fry. Martin and Dave went to the hatchery here in Costa Rica, and also had a tour of their facility.
The process is a bit different, but so is the scale.
This hatchery is a business, supplying fry to many/most of the mountain farms.
Gnat Creek supplements natural runs for release into the wild.
The trout fry here are kept in tanks. They are shocked with electricity while in the zygote stage , to make them all female (or try anyway). Females are advantageous as they have more capacity for meat, and grow to a larger size. They are shocked again later in their development in an effort to make them sterile. Sterile females are ideal because their abdomen fill with trout meat versus eggs.
The fry are sent home in large plastic bags, about 1000 in each. We then transfer them to our hatchery tanks, and grow them the rest of the way
We had noticed that our trout meat is more pink, like salmon, even when cooked . I asked the guide about the difference. I was told that the color comes from an algae containing astaxanthin. This chemical compound is a keto-carotinoid. Its the same algae that shrimp and salmon eat that give them their pink color. Mountain trout in Oregon do not have the same access to this algae, and thus their meat is much whiter in color.
Armed with our new information, we decided to give it a go. We selected 20 adult hens. Hens must be at least a year old to be able to spawn. We also pulled several males. The hens are kept in a new/old pond that hasn't been actively used in a decade or so.
We are hoping to do our first batch of Hush Valley 'start to finish' trout in March.
We will keep you posted on that.
Next blog, we will talk about our first guests of the season! Spoiler alert- they were great!
We will have updates on our new project (its a big one!) AND possibly, a guest blogger too, as partners Peter and Jo will be joining us in just over a week.
Thanks for reading!
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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!