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Monday, June 18, 2018

Sugar Cane Production, Costa Rica

Sugar cane is a vital part of Costa Rica’s economy and it seems that no part of it is wasted. It is made into granulated sugars (white, refined, white special, raw). The canes can be burned for heat, processed into agricultural mulch, and the stalks used in cardboard and rough paper. It is used in ethanol production. And let us not forget guaro - some say the national liquor drink of Costa Rica!

In the 2016 season, there were 7,074 sugar cane producers and 13 sugar mills around the country. Where we live now, we are surrounded by hectares of sugar cane fields. When the cane is flowering, the effect is beautiful - fields of white flowers.

Harvesting involves burning the fields before cutting to get rid of dry leaves and venomous snakes. This is important for the safety of the cane cutters. The cutting is done with machetes or cane knives and it looks to be very hard work.

The Cacique brand of guaro is produced near Grecia. Here’s an informative article on guaro: Tico Times.  Learn how sugar is processed in the mills from Sugarcane.Org.

We often find ourselves behind a tractor pulling cane trailers headed for the mills. There is a sugar cane mill not far from us and we stopped there one day to watch what was going on. I made a video of the mill, including photos of the cane fields and the Cacique factory.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Grecia, Costa Rica, Countryside

Today we decided to drive some of the roads that lead out of and into our nearby town of Grecia. We meandered around, climbing ever higher. We drove through many small towns. I’ve seen pictures of Switzerland and what we saw today looked a lot like some of the photos. Perfectly manicured fields with dairy cows. The air was cooler than where we live. 

Hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed our drive today.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Snake Encounter

In the seven years we have lived in Costa Rica, I have seen only two live wild snakes. One was a false coral - which I wrote about in a previous post some years ago - and yesterday I saw a live fer-de-lance or terciopelo as it is known here.

It was in the middle of the road just outside our laneway and our condominium complex guard was trying to convince the snake to move off the road and into the jungle area across from our house. He managed to eventually do this without harm to the snake. It was so amazing to actually see a fer-de-lance and this one was large. They are, however, not pet worthy. Here is what Wiki has to say:

I made a video of our guard encouraging the snake to move off the road. He was able to do this without harm to himself but, really, these snakes are so dangerous.

Here is a screen snapshot of part of the video. You can see the snake with wide open jaws. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Seven Years!

May 31, 2011 - on this date seven years ago, at 8:30 pm, we landed in Costa Rica. We had met our goal of moving here and arrived with six suitcases and one cat.

We had never been to Costa Rica before but had done a lot of research on line for some years before our actual move. We became interested in Costa Rica when a friend of ours visited here and raved about the country. Costa Rica looked more and more appealing for many reasons. It was time for a change and our motto is, “If not now, when?” 

Don’t get me wrong, Canada is a great country but we had driven every highway and byway on the Pacific Coast, been across and up and down Canada and the U.S.A. numerous times and just wanted to experience something different. We gave up the leases on our house and car, downsized our possessions, put what was left in a storage locker and took off. We had our cat Genny shipped by World Pet Travel. We cleared out the storage locker last August. Genny was an old cat when she came here and we lost her two years ago. Now we have another cat - a story for a different time.

We have never regretted our decision. Now we have moved from Atenas to Grecia (in the Central Valley) and are experiencing new roads, a new town, restaurants, markets and so on. We bought a car and are looking forward to road trips to see more of this beautiful country.

Every year, I post this photo. I did this NY Times crossword puzzle on the last leg of our flight here - San Francisco-Dallas-Costa Rica. I keep it as a reminder of how happy we were when we finally arrived and how happy we still are with our decision.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Garden Shops and More Breakfast

Today, we decided to go to a vivero (garden shop) in La Garita, Alajuela, for some bags of soil and orchid supplies. It is a trip of about 23 km from where we live in the Grecia area, depending on which route one takes.

Our plan was to stop for breakfast enroute and when we saw that Restaurant Café David at Rescate Animal Zoo Ave was open, we decided to try it. A good choice - not just for the food but also because of the surroundings and the peacock who gave us a display for most of our meal. He and his peahens were just a few feet away from us. In fact, one peahen strolled into the restaurant (open air as as usual). The peacock was absolutely stunning. He tried so hard to impress the ladies but they were totally disinterested.

Restaurante Café David is on the grounds of Rescate Animal Zoo Ave - a must see place. This is not a zoo in the traditional sense but a rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured Costa Rican wildlife. We’ve been there a couple of times. Some of the animals/birds can never be returned to the wild so they live here protected and so well looked after.

They we headed to Vivero Central La Garita  not far from Zoo Ave. I think it is the biggest vivero in the area. I have been told that the reason why there are so many viveros in La Garita is because the area has lots of aquifers and so there is plenty of water for all of them. The way it works at garden shops here is that you will be approached by a worker who will be your helper during your visit. We asked for bolsas de tierra (bagged soil) and our helper took us to where they were piled up. We selected two. No need for us to move them to our car. Next I needed orchid bark mix and he took me to that aisle. Bought three of those and then two bags of coconut coir, which I use to line the wire orchid baskets. Couldn’t resist buying two plants (not orchids) because the colour of the flowers was so lovely. The underleaves are purple. I forgot to note the name. All of these purchases were taken by our helper and when we reached the checkout, everything was piled up for us and he was writing out the prices and totalling it all up.

He gave me the slip, which I took to the cashier and paid. Back to the car and our helper was loading everything into it for us. This is such a great system  and as usual everyone is friendly and helpful.

Here are the pretty plants I bought:

My orchid supplies and the two bags of soil:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Air Conditioning, Breakfast, and Fruits and Vegetables

The air conditioning in our 2006 Subaru Forester has been unreliable for the past few months. It would operate just fine, then stop, then start. We don’t always use AC in the car, but it sure is nice to have it when needed. Last Saturday, we took it to Frio Grecia - a shop that specializes in automotive air conditioning. We were immediately ushered into a diagnostic slot and in a short time we were told part of the problem was a dirty filter (it was, we saw it being removed) and some minor repairs to the compressor. We decided to wait for the work to be done, which took a little over an hour. Final cost: 45,000 colones (about $80 USD). This includes a two month guarantee. We highly recommend Frio Grecia. I wonder what this would have cost in Canada.

Notice that I am called “Diana Florence” on this invoice! I get that a lot here. My full name is Diana Florence Miskell. I think it may have something to do with how females are named in Costa Rica. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe they think “Florence” is my father’s last name and “Miskell” is my mother’s. Anyway, when waiting for my name to be called in lineups, etc., I always listen for “Diana Florence” or “Diana Florence Miskell”. 

Then we went to Cafeteria Arte Latte for breakfast. This popular place is conveniently located near the Grecia church and park. Friendly service and a good breakfast. We had a ham and cheese omelette, a tomato and mushroom (fresh, not canned) omelette, a mango smoothie and Lance ordered a cappucino. Price: 9,030 colones (about $15 USD). The omelettes were large and came with a slice of toast. Some of the dessert items on the menu looked amazing.

We discovered a new (to us) place in Grecia to buy fruits, vegetables, organic eggs and lots of other things. It is called La Gran Bodega and they also have another store in San Ramon, about 32 km from Grecia. Although it is fun to go to the weekly feria, La Gran Bodega is really convenient and they have lots of parking. We went there today and loaded up on eggs, granadilla (passion fruit), chard, sliced almonds, apples, potatoes, papaya, sweet red peppers, tomatoes and a small bag of parmesan cheese. Apparently some of their prices are cheaper then those in the feria.

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11, 2018 - Green Season Storm

Yesterday afternoon was the first real rain deluge we have experienced at our new house in Hacienda el Paseo. Over 2.5 inches of rain fell. It doesn’t take long for the land to really green up after the dry season. Here’s a video I made of the storm:

Note: If your browser does not support full screen, then click on the “YouTube” link.