Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chapter 68 - Start of the Rains

            The past couple of days the clouds have come in the afternoon and a strong shower fell.  It makes the air so sweet and that is great after the sugar cane burns.  I thought there would be rules against that kind of think in Costa Rica because of their clean and green policies, but out here in the country they don’t seem so particular. 
            I must cut back my fingernails. They are getting in the way of playing the keyboard and typing.  I need a good manicure right now.  I was out scratching in the dirt trying to get some handle on the peanut grass that tries to creep into the flower bed.  I do have some nice roses that I tend.  My Amaryllis Lilly out front bloomed.  The flowers are spent now.  It didn’t last as long as I thought it would.
            I walked next door to the neighbours’ a few days ago.  She has a nice veranda in the front of their house on the north side.  It is well covered but has direct airflow through from east to west.  She has a large display of growing things.  I salivated over two orchid plants.  They are available at a little town not far from here, so that will be my next investigation.  She had aloes and two stag horn ferns growing on stumps and hanging from the rafter.  There were two plants that are like the Florida bougainvilla.  They flourish around here and make shrubs ten to twelve feet high with broad waving wands of gorgeous flowers.  There were other pots that I can’t remember right now.
            John, the neighbour’s husband, is making dirt.  The soil here is volcanic and very course.  It is all right for trees and shrubs, but altogether too rough for tender plants.  In North America one can run to a greenery and buy moss and prepared soil in bags by the truckload, but that isn’t the case here.  I wonder if that could make a business for some of the poor people around here. I should look into it.
            The negative side of the rains is that it will bring about an influx of insects towards the house.  I murdered three large beetles which were writhing on their back on my back veranda.  I don’t have any hesitation to getting rid of that kind of pest.  After the experience we had last week with the ants, I keep a pretty sharp lookout for bugs.  We also purchased a can of bug spray.  As a freebee to the can, there was a small package which contained an electrical unit that heats a pad of the insecticide (like the glade aerosol fragrances).  Mel claimed that for her bedroom.  Perhaps it will discourage the spiders from sending her into a panic. (No, it won’t. I will still panic.—Mel)

Chapter 67 - More Ants, I Think

           Yesterday afternoon, Mel and I cleaned the veranda.  I took a bucket with water and a brush and scrubbed the bird droppings off the rails that surround the veranda, and Mel swept.  We ended on the north side of the house at about the same time.  I don’t know why I looked up at the wooden cross beam on the underside of the roof, but I did and I didn’t like what I saw.  In a small cluster, about the size of a saucer, there were large black ants, I think, building a big nest.  It was so organized, with cells like in a bee hive and the workers were building around the edges of the structure.  The first thing I thought of was termites.  I thought termites were larger than what we saw, but these were large for ants.  Whatever it was, I wanted it gone, and I had no way of getting it there.
            Each evening, but before bed around nine, Mel takes Gigi out front for a final pee and she turns on the porch light.  I wait in my chair for them most times, and she called for me to come out and see.  Marching along the joint of the veranda and the house was a whole string of ant, going in the direction of the north side of the house.  I felt they were a part of the colony that was building.  I took the broom and swept along the file and killed as many as I could.  The crippled ones were picked up by the still whole ones, and they were going to pack them back to the compound, but I killed and killed until I got all of them and swept the remnants over the edge of the veranda.
            When we came back into the house we phoned Rita, and she said she was on a holiday with her girlfriends, but she would tell Victor about the ant problem.
            This morning, fairly early, Victor came out with his brother and took a look at the ants.  He said he would come in the morning and take care of them.  We told him we wanted them gone. I was concerned about the wood.
            At the other side of the house at the back standard holding up the corner of the roof, the water damage had rotted away the bottom of the wood.  I was so concerned about this, and told Rita about it some time ago, and she said that under the wood there was a cement post, so I gave up thinking that the corner of the roof would come down.
It is difficult to believe with all the erosion around the house that it is only four years old.  There are places on the surface that the cover plaster is peeling off.  Before long, a coat of paint won’t cover it.
            While sweeping at the back of the house this morning, I placed two large beetles, that had been writhing on their backs, into the land of Morte…..I don’t like bugs and we have so many varieties that I can’t count them.  I really thought they would be more in the wild jungles of Costa Rica, but there are bugs of all kinds here.  I guess I will have to invest in a big can of RAID…..

Chapter 66 - Kindle Technology

            Mel went to the airport yesterday to pick up a parcel that she had ordered through the internet.  It was for my birthday coming up at the end of the month.  She had only a little complication getting it, and I won’t go into that because I stayed at home with Gigi. I knew it was for my birthday, and when she got home the parcel was about the size of a book, which she knew that I would be delighted with.  The books that I gave away are the one thing that I miss the most of all my worldly goods.  I had been collecting for almost 70 years. 
             She was quite secretive when she got home, and went directly into her bedroom with the parcel.  Later in the evening I asked if she was going to share the info about the parcel.  It took her a little while to finally come out with a new electronic gadget, of which she is the expert.
            She said, “this is the newest in Kindle Technology”.  I had heard the word before, but actually knew nothing about them.  It is a small black unit about the size of a paper back book with the screen covering most of the size.  It has a little tiny alphabet pad at the bottom and a few other buttons on it.  It weighs less than a small paper back book.  It hooks up to the computer to charge it and it will hold 3500 books.  Can you believe a library like that?  She downloaded about 150 into her computer from Amazon at zero cost and if you can believe, one old Wilbur Smith called Cry Wolf that was the only one in his collection that I could never find.  This one cost just under $10 and all of this done by way of the internet.
            Once the kindle is charged, which supposedly takes four hours, it is good for a month of reading. 
            Most of the books at no charge are my special old history and very old author books, which are the ones I like to read. 
            I will be hard pressed to read all the books that she has put into the computer, but I am surely going to give it a college try.  I believe when our internet comes back on (yes it is off again) we will try to download the scriptures onto my Kindle.  She has them on her ipod and that is so much easier than packing those big books to church.
            The Kindle is a gift for my birthday, and yes for Melaney’s use as well.  I promised to get her a new calculator for her birthday, and we will begin looking for one next week.  I have to let her pick, because she knows just what she wants in a calculator.  She brought three from Kelowna in her baggage, but not one of them works.  They are all quite old, and the jostling probably didn’t work for them.  They have fresh batteries, so that isn’t the problem.  The old calculator that I used in 1980 when I was in Real Estate still operated at the time of our departure.  It had a special battery in it that was top line when I got it, and I never replaced it.
            I am so fortunate and we share such a lot of joy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chapter 65 - By Candelight

           Many years ago, while working in the bush building roads, I finished my day by candle light.  I have also used the practice with some lovely candle lit dinners with fine food and better friends.  That has been a while too.
            Last night Melaney and I ate by candle light.  We were about to have our meal and watch a little TV when all the lights went out.  We aren’t impressed with the utilities so we had bought a hand full of candles some time ago, and they came in very handy.  We had been in the dark for about half an hour when our neighbour came by with her flashlight to let us know what had happened to the power.  About two miles to the left of us, near Chillimate, someone had failed to negotiate a sharp curve in the road and took out a power pole.  Our neighbour had been coming out in the bus and all traffic was stopped.  She got out of the bus and walked home.  We now had an idea that
someone would be attending to the electricity but didn’t have any idea how long it would be.
            I didn’t have a proper candle holder.  I gave at least a dozen of them away in Kelowna.  I couldn’t put the candle in a plastic dish (of which I have several saved from cream cheese and yogurt).I did have a small glass bottle.  I lit the candle and turned it on its side to let some wax drip into the bottom of the bottle so as to hold the candle upright.  Dripless!!!  The candle was sitting in the bottle a little above the lip of the bottle, but on a slight angle.  By the time it had burned for half an hour it did melt enough to send a stalagmite into the bottom of the bottle and I figured it would prop the candle up till it had burned out.  WRONG!!! By the time the candle was well below the lip of the bottle, it was burning right on the edge of the glass and in very short time there was a bang and the side of the bottle shattered.  It blew glass in shards over an area of the floor and tiny table we had it standing on.  It burned better now, but I got another candle and made a good stand for it with some aluminum foil.  We didn’t stay up very much longer.  I thought we would be more comfortable waiting for the dawn in bed.
            We turned the TV and the fan off, so there wouldn’t be a loud noise in case the power came back.  I got up at 11:30 and noticed a light under my bedroom door.  Good going, that was a fast fix considering the damage.  It could have taken them three or four days, but everything is working fine, including the computers.  We played them on battery last night until they powered out.
            Today it was business as usual.  As a precaution, I have some large ice blocks in the freezer to keep the food frozen in case of short shut off.  I still think that’s a good idea. We are now looking into the prospects of buying a generator. As we know, Melaney must be entertained.

Chapter 64 - Day By Day

           We enjoyed the program of American Idol and the music was comparably good.  I was disappointed with the choice of the woman that was turfed, I kind of liked her, but I guess the American public didn’t agree.  It is going to be a difficult task to weed out eleven of the players and leave the most popular.  There is a terrific amount of talent in the group this year.
            As a guest star last evening, they brought out Lee DeWyze who was the winner last year.  I was more impressed with his singing when he was in the contest.  He does have a nice voice, but not spectacular as I thought it was going to be.
            It’s a quiet Monday today.  I put on a machine load of laundry, but I am going to let it soak until one this afternoon.  There is a peak time overcharge on the electric bill for the use between 10 am and 1 p.m. and also between 5 and 7 p.m.  Consequently, we almost always have our dinner at five, making advantage of the lesser priced electricity.  You can take the girl from the city but you can’t take the Angus out of the girl.  I do support anything that lessens the pressure on the circuits.  Some of the utilities are sporadic at best and I don’t want to add to that pressure.  We do have a little fun trying to keep our internet on line. 
            Take this item for instance.  We got the internet company out to rectify the last problem (and it carried on for nearly two weeks) and a new wire was stretched into the house which is also on this orchard.  That is where the original internet hook up went in and our line runs from their modem to our router.  If this is too much electrical talk, just skip this paragraph.  Well, the new wire running into the next house was run over with the lawn mower last week and severed.  How stupid can you get to lay lines on the ground.  The company is a government monopoly and they claim that covering that wire isn’t their problem. With all the wiring running across the yards, we can just hang bobbles on them next Christmas and have the basis for our decorations…..Ha Ha, I didn’t even decorate in Canada when I had a couple of boxes full of great decorations, so I won’t be making any effort here. (We are more likely to celebrate Cinqo de Mayo now - Mel).
            Yesterday, Sunday, we went to the chapel as usual.  Both Melaney and I work in the primary, so that keeps us at the Church for the full time.  I do get pretty stiff by the time I have been sitting for three hours.
            In the primary, we have one little boy named Jose.  He is small for his age of eight but he is very bright.  He is also extremely active.  The teacher is a good friend of mine, so last week after primary ended, I made a couple of suggestions about letting Jose help her with the white board.  When it needs wiping, let him do it.  Let him pass out papers and collect them, and also the books.  Keep him busy and helping.  This Sunday I could see a marked improvement in his behaviour.  I mentioned it to the teacher, and she agreed.  I hope it helps for a long time, until Jose can mature into the fine boy he can be.
I taught primary about sixty years ago, and I had a similar child in my class.  My method worked with him, so I was confident it would work with Jose.

Chapter 63 - Saturday

            Yes, it’s Saturday today.  We had plans for company.  Two of the ladies from church were coming over this morning, so I got up early and put together a banana muffin cake with walnuts.  The bananas in the little bowl that I had been saving in the fridge  looked just awful when Melaney came out to walk the dog.  I wanted to get them whipped with the eggs before she came out.  She is such a visual person.  Well, I put all the dry ingredients together, and whipped up the banana mush and eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl, waiting for the ladies to phone.  They were going to take the bus from Grecia out to Poas, and when they got here, they would phone and Melaney would drive into town to pick them up.  To come all the way to the house, where they hadn’t been before, would require a bus change, and that is too time consuming.
            We waited, and waited.  Finally I decided to bake the muffin cake anyway so I mixed the two bowls full of ingredients together, scraped it into the little pan that goes in the toaster oven, washed out the bowls and dried them.  I knew the cake would take about 20 minutes to bake, so I showered and put on fresh bright clothes.  This melon coloured top and pants always looks cheery.
By the time I came into the kitchen again and looked in the oven the muffin cake was a little over brown.  Melaney thought it was probably burnt on the bottom.  I took the cake out and put it on the rack on the cupboard.  After it had had a chance to cool, I cut it and dished out the very centre piece for Mel.  She likes the ones without any edges…..I don’t spoil her much, I just like to give her the part that she likes best.  It wasn’t burnt on the bottom, and I was pleased with that.
In short order we had finished the first square.  It really hit bottom because we had been waiting for the ladies so long.  We had a second piece, and this time I put it on a plate, split it and poured syrup on Mel’s and liquid honey on mine.  As the cake was a little over baked, it was drier than usual.  By the time we finished that piece, we both felt better, and the phone rang.  I am not sure what the problem was, but the ladies didn’t arrive.  We couldn’t have them in the afternoon because Mel was waiting on a call from a man in San Jose to set a time this afternoon for a business meeting.  He hasn’t called yet and it’s after one.
Well, I said to Mel that today was turning out to be a complete bust.  No ladies, no business conference, but we did have our banana cake and it made us so content that we decided to nap.
It’s a good thing that American Idol is on tonight.  We can look forward to that.

Chapter 62 - Some New Birds

             The birds of Costa Rica are many and such a variety.  This morning, I was in the bedroom and taking a pill, so I missed a toucan that flew over.  Mel said it honked almost like a goose, but it was definitely a toucan.  She goes down into the orchard to walk Gigi, and has seen one before.  There are also small ones that they call toucanilla.
             A couple of days ago while we were on the porch we saw a beautiful yellow bird sitting on one of the branches of the dead tree in the front yard.  It is about sixty feet tall, with only a few branches near the top and Victor left it stand for the birds.  They often perch on the branches.
            We have one that is common that is called a mot mot.  One flew to the tree in front of the living room window two evenings ago.  It was almost dark, and I was surprised to see birds still active when the sun was gone.  I remember as a child we did have big hoot owls in our cottonwood trees.  They were out after dark, but I thought as a rule, birds have claimed their nesting area by dark.
            The fruit on the trees is getting bigger all the time.  I know when the mangoes ripen there will be many birds contesting ownership.
            I brought some binoculars with us, and I really should get out on the porch and take a good look for some birds.  Although I have never been a bird watcher of anything more than what flew into my back yard, I may be able to view a few.  I had an experience years ago in the countryside at Winfield.  I was viewing an old man’s house, and he had a large open deck at the back door and the land went up the hill into wilderness.  He fed birds of all kinds on this deck, and if he didn’t get out early enough with the food, they would come and peck on the window to get his attention.  That is remarkable for wild birds.
            At the time I lived in Scotty Creek, we had a number of hummingbirds in our yard.  I always kept a feeder going and I had a lot of flowers planted that hummers really like.  One green rufous got pretty tame.  He would buzz up to the porch where I had the feeder hung, even if I was sitting out on the deck.  He often buzzed over to the apricot tree to keep and eye on the feeder, and if another hummer came in to feed, he would buzz right back.  They make a lot of noise if they are determined, and he was determined that no other hummer got his feeder if he was in the area.  He often buzzed his reflection in the big sliding glass doors.
            I still have hopes of getting a few flowers to hang in the trees. Speaking of flowers, I pruned my roses this morning and took two sturdy lengths of stalk and planted them in the flower bed.  They may grow. The stick that Victor put in the front is growing nicely.  Also, while I was out tidying up weeds and stray grasses from the flower bed, I noticed a beautiful large bud on the amaryllis.  It should be blooming for my birthday next month. 

Chapter 61 - Mowing For Real

            Rita brought the new mower, and a young lad to operate it early in the morning.  He was mowing under Melaney’s bedroom window at about six o’clock and she didn’t appreciate that. We get a lot of bed time, but with the interruptions of neighbourhood dogs, passing vehicles, Horatio Hornblower, birds at dawn, etc. etc. she only put up with mowing at six AM. We were glad enough to get it mowed.  I insisted that Rita had told us there was a gardener to keep the place presentable and reliable internet when she was bargaining with us to rent her place, and I expected those two things absolutely. The mower had been in her possession for two weeks, and it was about time it was used.  I said, “at least 50 feet around the house”.  It was looking like some barrio.
            The boy mowed and mowed.  The new mower worked wonders and Rita had him mow through the biggest share of the orchard.  What a difference.  Gigi and Mel could take their ablution walk and not come home all festered with insect bites and grass seed picks.  They were really bad, and Mel had to inspect Gigi from top to bottom on the porch in front before bringing her into the house.
When we came to Costa Rica I had intended to start a garden, but have since decided to leave that chore to the local farmer.  This earth here is so compacted it would need forty years of mulching before it could become friable garden soil. 
            Right now Rita and her spouse are at odds.  They have so many abodes in operation and she won’t reside with him.  That doesn’t change our attitude toward Victor.  He is still friendly with us.  He came out on Saturday to put the weed eater together.  We chatted with him for a little while.
            Mel found a site on Craig’s list of someone who had a Techniques five slot CD player for sale for $25.  They were going to go back to the States, and were selling everything off.  We got a small map from her and some directions to find her in La Uruca which is just outside San Jose.  We hopped into the vehicle and took off.  It is about a 45 minute drive from here, but at noon on Saturday the traffic was choking.  We took a little over an hour.  We drove around the city for about another hour, and never saw the place she was describing.  The only landmark that we found was the Hospital Mexico, which was close to the highway.  I get so frustrated with not knowing where we are so when we were finally on the road leading back to our neck of the woods and I persuaded Mel to just keep going and we could find a player another time.  It just wasn’t worth the aggravation that I was feeling.  I’m not as adventurous as I used to be.
            When we arrived back at home, Victor was gone.  Mel wanted him to take one of the Chill Bills to test on the refrigeration units where he works in the cheese plant.  Fortunately he came back, and she was able to give it to him.  Another story later.
If anyone wants to know about The Chill Bill see Mel’s website at