Friday, 19 November 2010

From morning to night....

This is how my day starts....the view from the balcony at five thirty in the morning.

Why so early? Because by six thirty at night it will be dark and there is a lot to pack into the day.

First, breakfast. I have not and probably will not adopt the local pinto with either eggs or sour cream. Gallo pinto? Precooked rice and precooked beans spiced and mixed together to give a speckled appearance, like a cockerel's feathers, thus the name. I've eaten it with pleasure, it is tasty, but I'm stuck in my ways so it is bacon...bought in the slab and sliced on the commercial slicer we bought years ago in Belgium...and eggs from our own ducks and hens, or porage, or just a soft boiled duck egg. And then it all gets going.

Let out the young hens, keep the layers and the laying ducks inside, let out the obnoxious bird...and try to chase the 'ostriches' - bantams with naked necks and absurd topknots - out into the fresh air. Like sulky teenagers they will resist this with all their considerable guile.

Washing into the machine in order to get it out as soon as the sun hits the washing line.

By this time the man who keeps the finca working has appeared.
He has boiled up maize overnight on his wood stove and takes it down to the pigs....who jostle and grunt with delight as it hits the troughs which he made by laying large pumpkins in wooden moulds and pouring cement round them. Ideal for cutting down on feed wastage.

Morning coffee to discuss the day. Washing out on the line.
American expats find this idea of hanging washing outside most odd. They use dryers. I find this most odd.

The skillsaw needs repair so we are taking it into the capital, San Jose. Danilo drives us into town to the bus station where, as it is still relatively early, the buses are filling up and driving off in rapid succession to get the commuters to work and we are off for an hour's scenic drive through the hills at the cost of the equivalent of one euro.

Guide books do not wax lyrical about San Jose, grizzling about its traffic and its air of dilapidation, but I like it. It has a certain manky charm. However, it behoves you to keep your eyes open. You can be walking along here
and end up here....People have an unfortunate habit of removing the manhole covers and selling them for scrap.

Manhole covers are not the only hazard. Unlicensed street sellers lay out large plastic sheets of knock off DVDs on the pavement, while on the kerb somewhat derelict gentlemen sell strange assortments of items garnered from sources I would rather not know about, so keeping the eyes down rather than up becomes a habit...which is a pity because San Jose has some interesting architecture.

Skillsaw put in for repair, shopping in the Central Market for fish and meat and in the wholesale Mercado Borbon behind for vegetables, topping up from illegal street vendors for coriander and sweet peppers, then back on the bus to be met by Danilo at the bus station.

Lunch at home...a stir fry....Danilo has cut sugar cane for the pigs and fed them again.

The sky darkens and I get in the washing before the afternoon rains begin, let out the layers and collect the eggs. 
The postman arrives, we all have coffee and it's time for Danilo to go home with the maize to boil for the next morning.
I pick any ripe papaya before the toucans can get at them.

The rain starts, and it's reading and internet time until it eases off, at which point it is time to feed the pigs again...maize meal with molasses and sticks of peeled cane...and try to get the poultry in before the rain starts up again in earnest. As always with poultry at least one group is recalcitrant and the wretched drake always manages to appear at the wrong time and send all the rest fleeing in squawking confusion.
Inevitably, if the rain has started up again, the ducks will descend to the ponds and will have to be driven up again by which time I'll be drenched.

Wet or dry, the time is getting on, dusk is setting in and it's time to close down for the night. And this is what I see from the balcony as I bring in the books and the papers.

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  1. You describe parts of my childhood in this post...We had neither pigs nor poultry, but there was always laundry to be done and hung before the rains came. We had help in the house and a gardener who would come monthly to do weeding, trimming and planting, and there was always competition for the papaya, bananas, pineapple and peppers my mother grew. She also had some roses. I miss the smell of gardenias and sometimes, her empanadas. You have two beautiful photos here.

  2. e...glad it brought back good memories for you.
    At the moment the canna india is flowering...a really sweet piercing scent especially when the rain has gone over.

  3. Despite the missing manhole covers I can see the attraction...!

  4. I love your blogs. And I seem to have missed several lately so am sat down with a cup of coffee to enjoy.

    I love hanging out washing, it's my favourite job of the day. When the children were small it meant a bit of early morning solitude which is always welcome.

  5. Steve, no chavs for a start....but Mr. Fly missed an armed robbery by minutes in our local town.

    Rosie, Blogger has been playing up again, not updating.
    Fingers crossed that it is sorted now....
    Americans look at me askance when I say that I say I hang out washing.
    What about all the dust?
    They ask.
    A question that would never otherwise have crossed my mind.
    What they should be asking is about the mud as with the usual male sense of priorities, concrete has been laid between the house, the tilapia tank and the chicken shed - where the men go - but none by the washing line - female territory.
    So in the rainy season it's out in wellies with the mud up to the ankles!
    There will be changes....

  6. Fly: This is my favourite post. I am sitting here at 6.38 a.m. with my morning cuppa and picturing that wonderful scene you just depicted and your day unfolding. Lovely. Sounds fantastic. :-)

  7. Clippy Mat, It's a beautiful place and we're lucky to have a nice man like Danilo to take the hard work off our shoulders.
    I didn't realise how much we were doing until we stopped doing it!

    There can be days where the whole place is enveloped in cloud, days when the thunderbolts sizzle past the balcony and days where it just pours down steadily from morning to night...but mostly it's as described.

  8. I would love to have poultry in my garden, so I'm a little green with envy right now. Sounds like a wonderfully simple, relaxing kind of day.

  9. What a terrible view; don't know how you stand it, I really dont!

    Mind you, five thirty get up... no thanks, bacon or no bacon.

  10. You've got quite the farm there! The pigs sound like they're very well fed. Do you plan to butcher them or are they pets?
    Fantastic view! I would love to try one of your ripe papayas.

  11. Another Day of Crazy, we've always had poultry.....wouldn't seem right without them so we're hanging out life in the country as long as possible as we'd have to have a pretty big garden and tolerant neighbours if we moved to a town, as we will have to at some point of future decrepitude.'s always been the best part of the day for me...I was up then in the U.K. and in France, so it's no hardship.
    Could tempt you with a bit of Costa Rica streaky bacon, I reckon - a bit fat but so well made that I don't have to make my own any more.

  12. Dedene, sorry. Blogger swallowed you!
    We have six hectares...three down to coffee, the rest to grass.

    While it was still our holiday home we agreed with Danilo to go half and half on the pigs and poultry, which we are still doing, but we plan to kill one pig to share for for Christmas and keep the other for breeding, just as in France, buying a piglet to fatten is quite expensive and puts up the overall price of the meat considerably.
    With our own piglets we can make that initial economy and, with luck in the future, be able to give breeding females to the ladies who pick our coffee to set them up too.

    Apart from papaya we have coconuts, bananas, plantains and guinea..and any amount of tree and bush fruit for fruit drinks.
    I will try to put photographs on the blog later as most of what is here I've never heard of before!

  13. At last..I've found the time to read all the posts on this blog, and now it's appearing on my reading list so I won't miss any in future.

    I am so enjoying this Fly. And your adventures here just have to form the basis of your second book..don't you think? And what's happened to the first one by the way?

  14. Gosh - I must have missed a chapter ... have just found your new blog but that's okay as I will have some Sunday reading and will book the flights at the end of the day!

  15. Ayak, Blogger has been playing up...what a surprise!
    Still, I'm glad you've found it.
    The book on France is a whole mass of stuff and I keep thinking of more, but now we're a bit more settled I'm going to make the effort to organise it.

    Enjoy yourself with your daughter and Billy!

  16. Return of the Native, I think blogger swallowed you as well, but you have emerged unscathed, luckily!

    Book flights via Spain....the U.S. transit is a nightmare, not to speak of having your luggage ransacked.

    So good to be back in touch!

  17. Hadriana's Treasures, trust me to cock something up!

    I'm not sure about the figures, but being on the north south migration route must make a difference.

    Mr. Fly loves birds...loves having them for him it is very special.

  18. I can't help but feel that you have moved from one life to another life with amazing dexterity. I so admire the pair of you. If we do win the lottery I'd love to bring the family over to visit you!

    Enhorabuena en vuestra nueva vida maravillosa!

  19. I've been half watching the cricket. What a great result!

    Trescothick is due to earn £1m if he can hit a six clean out of Lord's with a new fangled bat. I'd love to see and be there for that!!

  20. Hadriana's Treasures, and you would all be very welcome!

    It helped that we had had the holiday house there - here? - for a few we knew people, had some idea of how things work...weren't total numpties, though we have a lot to learn yet!

    France just wasn't cutting the mustard for us any more, but the experience gained there has certainly helped here!

    We're both adaptable, I suppose.

    I had the Test Match on by finding a proxy called Expat Shield which is a free download....oh, what a nit Strauss was to put Australia in at the tail end, to allow Ponting to claim that a three toed sloth could have made runs on that pitch...

    Yes, I'd like to see Trescothick and his new bat too...what a loss he was to the England team!

  21. Funny how this cropped up in my reader today, a month after you wrote it!

    Sounds a very healthy, full life you have out there. I like to hang washing out too. Nothing like the smell of fresh air-dried laundry.

  22. Sarah, I will never fathom how Blogger and Google reader work...
    It's fine as long as you don't fall down an open manhole...

  23. What a day! I love the new look, and Costa Rica tales.

  24. Alison, glad you like the new look.
    I saw a template I really liked...really rainforesty...but I couldn't get it to work on Blogger.
    Probably me.