Tierra Fria Gardens

I made a quick list of garden plants growing in gardens in the Santa Elena area. Please see the Tierra Fria Gardens page.


Return to Colombia?

It appears that many people who left Colombia during the past years of violence are beginning to return. This based on friends who went to the States and now are deciding to come back home. Not a demographically valid sample but it appears to be trend. Colombians generally love Colombia and if they live somewhere else, they don’t forget home.

The Health Care System

Colombia has a health care system with a social orientation. I have recently begun to use it under the health insurance from work. So far my impression is positive. I am soon going to have some fairly minor surgery and went for an interview with the surgeon this morning.

He was friendly and interested in medical services I may need beyond the matter at hand. I had taken a test for prostate cancer several weeks ago and had not heard back. He took the time to look it up in the system and told me it came out clean. He also spent about a half hour discussing my health in general and the procedures for the surgery. I came away with the impression that he was interested in my health and did not feel pressure to rush me out the door.

We talked a little about the level of medical services in Medellin. These are generally considered to be among the best in South America. When he was a resident the problems with Pablo Escobar began. This of course led to many grave medical emergencies. He said it was like working on the front lines of a war. His professors and supervising doctors said Ok, get in there and save these lives. He got a lot of experience with really difficult surgeries very early in his career.

He also said that he gets paid about $US 50.00 for the work he will do on me. This is mind boggling when compared to the US system. In general doctors salaries are much lower that in the US. Many are trained and this probably helps to keep down costs. My total cost should be $US 20.00 co pay. The waiting period with be between 20 and 30 days to schedule the surgery.

All-in-all my impression remains favorable. I will report on my impressions and experiences as I continue living here in Medellin.

Cats and the Garbage Pail

These alley cats are a pain in the neck. As the house has windows and a patio door of cast iron grill work (no glass) the cats have free run of the place. They also have the bad habit of spilling over the garbage pail to get at items of interest.

I thought I had the problem fixed by putting a heavy stone on the lid of the pail. Last night I was disabused of this fantasy. Garbage all over the kitchen floor. Perhaps the next step is just to give in and put attractive scraps out where they can enjoy them without causing a diplomatic incident.

This would be safer than Dutch’s suggestion of finding a chupacabras…

ENSO/El Niño

NOAA’s weekly forecast summary is as follows:

•El Niño is present across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
•Sea surface temperatures (SST) remain +0.5 to +1.5 above-average across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
•Current observations and dynamical model forecasts indicate ElNiño is expected to strengthen and last through Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-10.

It looks like the October to December wet season here may be drier than normal.


Gunnera is a fantastic plant for large areas that need a bold touch. It has VERY LARGE leaves and likes wet conditions. An apparently native species graces the stream course that crosses our finca. Here it is called “hoja de pantano”which can be translated to English as Swamp Leaf or Marsh Leaf. This because it occurs in very wet habitats. I have not identified the species occurring at the finca yet. I am learning to be careful about this as the diversity in our area is high and one can easily make a mistake. Later I will make a page on this plant with images of our plants.

News of Colombia in English

The newspaper El Colombiano has an English news service. There is a good story on folkart at the bottom of the page today.

Kikuyu Grass

Our finca (country home/farm) is being invaded by kikuyu grass. An upstream neighbor uses it for a lawn and it has worked its way down the drainage into our meadow. This was once a high diversity gem and is rapidly becoming a single species stand of kikuyu. From the meadow it is extending down the stream. It also has invaded the strip bordering our lawn-loving neighbor’s fence.

In addition some people we had care taking the place decided we needed a lawn at the door step, kikuyu of course. From there is has spread to adjacent areas. The finca borders a nature reserve that includes some patches of remnant native forest and would like to preserve at least some biodiversity.

Enough is enough. Last weekend I started an eradication program with Roundup. This is phase I of a restoration program. 

Phase II will be to plant some native species on the meadow that will shade the area and reduce the vigor of the kikuyu. Right now I am thinking about using Gunnera and native alders and perhaps bamboo (guadua). As they become established spot treatments with Roundup and hand digging will be used to control the weed from hell. Most of the upland areas will be planted first to clover as the soil is rather poor in some areas. Then they will be dedicated to landscape and heritage crops. The strip boarding the kikuyu source will become a demilitarized zone until the neighbor sees the error of his ways 😉

Phase III will be monitoring and maintenance, in perpetuity I fear.


I went up to the finca to do some photography this morning. On the way back down I stopped at the Placita de Florez to buy flowers. I got 4 bunches of Alstroemeria, one of yellow Chrysanthemum,and one of a white filler. All for 6000 pesos (about $US 3.00). Not all were usable as it was late in the day and 1000 pesos per bunch is very inexpensive. Generally they would be 2000 pesos but even that is around a dollar. What the heck, we don’t have a vase that would have held all of them.

They are now in a vase in the kitchen and with any luck will be for several days. Nubia is trained as a florist but I am not. I guess it is time to learn.

Rain, Tiles and Cats

Well the rain was great. Just one small problem, semi-feral cats. The critters move the roof tiles around and then leaks develop. Cats of this nature are not appreciated in Medellin. In fact a friend who was visiting last night discussed the use of a 16-gauge to deal with the problem.

Personally I like cats and would not resort to leaden soultions but I am going to have to do something about them.

Any suggestions?

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