Sunday, February 14, 2021

There's This Place... Finca De Rustica

Finca De Rustica

Sometimes you just get lucky... I have discovered that while my list of places to visit is long, there's always room for one more.  Through a stroke of luck, I was able to procure a reservation for us to visit this magical place ~ A flower farm ~ on Valentine's Day!  

I'm not even sure I remember how I found this place, but it was one of those mornings when  I was just following one lead after another.... and voilà!  Here we are.  Driving along the beautiful coastal and foothill roads of our beautiful Island on a clear, sunny morning.  Google Maps took us right to the entrance, although had it not been for a few other cars on the road, I would have been sure we were in the wrong place.  There are no signs, no indication whatsoever that this was it.  The road in was worn and muddy, but more like a private entrance to a property.  The parking was simply an open spot with the weeds cut back.  Somehow we just wandered into it and found this lovely little hut!

A young man in a wide-brimmed straw hat greeted us and we began asking questions.  We knew nothing about this place, other than that it is a flower farm.  Turns out, the story is very sweet, and there are big plans in the works!  Almost 10 years ago, this man bought 10 acres of land that was once a dairy farm, but had since been abandoned and fallen to ruin.  Unknown to him at the time, the land was more or less a swamp, and because of that, it could hardly be used.  Well, it was a done deal, so he and his cousins began to clear the brush and rubble from the property, and through the hand of providence, he picked up a book on the subject of draining swampland!  He studied the method and got to work.  

They built a series of drainage ditches, and drilled down into the water table, and literally drained the swamp!  It's an ongoing process as the water comes down from the nearby mountains, so they are endlessly working on it... but for now, they've drained enough to plant the beautiful fields of flowers we came here to see today!

They used the rubble from the dairy farm ruins to create the structures for drainage

After hearing about the plans for the future... the little hut will be a kitchen with a few tables behind it for dining, and a U-pick veggie garden... we scattered to wander amongst the flowers and bees! Each of us followed our own path through the tumble of flowers.  Of course I was lead by one photo to the next!  Bruce wandered off to discover more of the water management structure, and ended up talking history with one of the men on the property.  Guess he wasn't too interested in a bunch of flowers!  But our neighbors and I were!  Come see what we found!

White Globe Amaranth


While much of the US is in a dangerous deep freeze, we have the delicate breath of Spring!



Sometimes I could catch a bee on a flower!

Another busy bee!

Gorphrena is another name...

Sue's wandering out there...

One bee...

Joined by another...

Sort of reminds me of Spring in the Texas Hill Country...

Must have obligatory selfies!

One of a kind!

That COLOR though!!!

This was not the bee's favorite, but they were working these too!

Some kind of moth was enjoying these cosmos!

Very tiny thing... not many of these around!

Leonotis nepetifolia

Bruce, Kim and Sue winding their way through the field.

He's picking me some flowers!

Eventually we were done.  While I could have snapped photo after photo (after photo...) all day, enjoying the changing light as clouds came and went, the place was beginning to fill up.  More people arrived, so we made our way to the door.  But not before getting one of the men to cut some flowers for me to take home! 

So, if you want to come visit the flower farm, and help support these enterprising young people, the cost is $3 per person, and there is a price for the cut flowers according to size, but it's very reasonable.  I promise your soul will feel clean and free after spending time with the flowers, bees and butterflies!  

The Finca is open only by appointment, and only when they have flowers.  You can reach them easily by their Facebook page, and they are very responsive on WhatsApp as well.  There will be different flowers at different times, so we will come back for sure!  And, with the planned farm-to-table restaurant, and the U-pick veggies coming in the not too distant future, I can see this will be a fun place to keep on our radar!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Back To Exploring Our Island~Mid Pandemic

A huge part of the decision to move to Puerto Rico was fueled by the island's near endless opportunities for exploration!  This blog has been rather boring lately, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic that has kept most of the world in a grip of inactivity for almost a year.  Puerto Rico has done a relatively good job of maintaining at least some level of control, and the people here seem to simply accept their individual responsibility to help reduce the spread of the virus.  While tourism has not yet been re-opened completely, we have the good fortune to have the whole island almost to ourselves!  We can visit the outdoor attractions as they begin to reopen on a limited basis, and today, we invited our neighbors to tag along.  

These ladies are from the northeast coast of the US, where winter has their former home in a firm grip.  While we frolic in the sun and lush green of an endless summer, we wasted hardly a thought on those poor souls who are standing in snow today.  

My objective:  Return to the Efraín Archilla Díez Reserva Natural Humacao.  We found this place accidentally on our way home from a staycation back in February, 2020.  That seems like a lifetime ago!  I can't believe that it has taken us a year to get back to where we were pre-pandemic... but this is our life now, so be it!  I'm just deliriously happy that we can begin to get back to our normal life, even if it is a "new" normal...  So, masks firmly in place, we loaded up our sun protective clothing and our neighbors, and away we went!

The drive along the south coast heading east, is sprinkled with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.  Sue and Kim have lived in Puerto Rico for more than a year now, but since most of that has been subject to the Covid Lockdown, they have seen almost nothing of the island.  I plan to rectify that, so today, we took many detours from our route so that I could show them some of our favorites! We stopped only briefly at each place, but I did pause long enough to get this Moment of Zen from Playa Los Bohios, where, by the way, we are happy to see some infrastructure improvement happening...

Eventually we did arrive to our intended destination... so take a walk with me!

The trail begins wide and clear, but there are parts that are more of a challenge...

One very strange mushroom!

These leaves make wonderful umbrellas!

The view from beneath a papaya tree is always fun!

Leptospron Adenthum or more commonly "Snail Flower"

We set out on our hike, enjoying the cool February breezes that made our decision to hike this trail now, instead of waiting for the hot summer months ahead, such an easy choice.  After months of relative inactivity, we could all use the exercise!  We had no idea where this trail would lead us, other than to say that our destination is the ruins of El Morillo.  But first, we encountered a ruin of a different kind.  

We learned a little bit more about the history of our island home, and the sugar production that fueled the economy for decades.  Prior to the decline of sugar production on the island in the early 1900s, more land was needed to grow sugar cane, and these wetland areas needed to be drained.  Huge pumps were installed and a series of lagoons and canals were built.  These are the foundation of the activities found here in the Nature Reserve.  After the fall of king sugar, nature reclaimed these wetlands and we are now free to enjoy them once again.  You can read more about it here.

After wandering around marveling at these huge specimens of a bygone era, we continued on along the forest path.  After a short distance, punctuated by photo breaks, we came to a sign that showed where the trail diverted to take us to El Morillo ruins.  The view from Google Maps seemed to show that we could get there by another way, but this path looked more adventurous... so of course, I took it!

We could hear the breaking waves through the trees, and followed a well-worn path that opened up onto an un-named beach.  Wow, this was unexpected!  Looks like we have found yet another wonderful place to walk along the Caribbean sea!  The views of the stunning multicolored waters, with the island of Vieques and nearby Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island), that holds such wonderful memories for us, make exercising easy!

I love the wild, natural beaches of Puerto Rico!

Look daunting?  Little bit!!
We enjoyed the views and the breeze for a while, then turned back to pick up the trail where we left off.  The trail took a steep upward turn, and the ground was wet and mostly rock-studded-almost-mud. (is that a thing?) But I figured if it got too rough, I could always backtrack and take the more sedate route.  Turns out, it was easy enough.  Along the way, there was another path with a decision to make...Kim took that trail, which turned out to be the more interesting route.  We took that one on the way down.  But we all ended up in the same place, with the same sweeping view of the east coast and Caribbean Sea beyond.  

C'mon everybody!!

One last push and we're there!

Delicate flowers from this tree littered the path.

Finally, maybe huffing and puffing a little bit, we reached our reward!  The trail opened up onto a ledge, where we found the ruins of the bunkers known as El Morillo, strategically built against possible attacks during WWII. 

The beach we visited is down below

Of course this is the perfect photo op for Susan and I!

Bruce stands on top of the upper bunker.  I'm going to look inside...

Looking inside the bunker, I can see how to get inside...

Hmmm. Although those bars look pretty solid, there were no volunteers for climbing down!

We climbed all around these two bunkers, peering inside from the front, and then looking down into the interior from the top.  There are some solid rungs leading down into the bunkers, and while they appeared to be pretty solid, they lead straight down and we couldn't convince anyone to be the brave one today.  

So we stood, gazing out across the Caribbean Sea that surrounds our island home.  The hazy view of Vieques can easily be seen from here, and it has us thinking about a future excursion... But today was not over yet!  We followed Kim back down from the hill, and took a look at the surprises she found on her way to the bunkers.  While our route was adventurous, her route was by far the most fun!

We could not see anything extraordinary from the top, but once down... there's this!

Walking out onto the flat area, we looked around and found this, almost hidden by vines!

I LOVE the little unexpected murals we find all over the island!  Especially the wings!  The artists of Puerto Rico can make any kind of eyesore into a work of art!  

Puerto Rican pride is evident by the Banderas painted everywhere!

Bruce gets in on the fun!

Extraordinary view from here!

Super-fun interactive mural!

I even wore a flowered outfit!  A little watering makes the flowers grow!

We walked around and through these buildings, marveling at the talent and imagination, and the fact that all of this wonderment is simply free to be enjoyed by all!

But it's getting warm, and we're getting hungry!  So, although there are still many paths to be walked, we will leave those for another day.  We're off, back down the trail to the park entrance, and then on to another favorite place!  

Fallen Maga flower.  This is the national flower of Puerto Rico

Burgers as big as your head!

I love showing our friends these little favorite spots we've found!  I know, I know... seems like EVERYTHING is my "Favorite"!  Well, be that as it may, La Finca is near the top of our list for a lovely place to enjoy a breeze, a view and a delicious meal!  What a way to end a great day!  And now that we've finally convinced our friends to tag along on our little excursions, I don't think this will be the last!  While Bruce and I do have fun together, it's always better when you can share it!

A CHEERS to end the day with a refreshing pomegranate-coconut mojito!