The Barranquero: A frequent companion at Finca el Arroyuelo

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Pleasures of the Countryside

I headed down the trail to buy some corn fritters (torticas de chocolo) earlier this morning.  A couple of days ago we bought some very good empanandas from a lady who has a small stand near the El Arroyuelo trail head about 0.5 kilometer from the house. I found out yesterday that she makes torticas and Nubia said go, you have a mission. So I went.

Mission accomplished. The walk was beautiful.  The trail leads along a singing stream. It rained a lot yesterday afternoon and last night but the creek was clear and bright. Our forests are mossy and this morning the moss was bright green and gave the woods a rich carpeted look.

The torticas turned out to be among the best we have found. They are made of ground or blended whole, fresh field corn. The batter is given a consistency that allows it to be spooned into deep fat for frying. If you like corn you will be hard put to find a simpler, tastier way of eating it.

In addition to a nice walk, and some treats was an opportunity to greet and get to know a neighbor better. People here are very friendly and they always are glad to see you and pass a few chatting. Good way to start the day. Hummm… later today I just might have to go down and get some empanadas…

Humming Birds at Finca El Arroyuelo (Piedras Blancas)

The humming birds have taken to our feeders in a big way. Sometimes it looks like La Guardia on a busy afternoon.

For years we had just one small feeder hung on the front porch. During a recent trip to the States we got a larger one and set it up in May.  Although there was always action, neither attracted a lot of attention until about a month ago. Suddenly the rate at which the birds are taking the sugar water jumped. Now I am refilling both once a week. It may be that the larger one is hanging next to a sietecueros shrub adjacent to the porch. This gives them a staging area where they can wait for an opening. Some of them are very aggressive towards others wanting to use the feeders.

We have four species visiting our feeders. They are:

White-bellied WoodStars,

Bronzy Incas (?)

Greenish Pufflegs.

Green Violetear.

Finca El Arroyuelo

An arroyuelo is a small stream or brook. In Colombia it has a special meaning rooted in the love of natures beauty. A finca is a country property which may be a farm or residence. We named our place Finca El Arroyuelo for the beautiful brook which forms our northern property line. Located in a hollow at about 2400 meters ( nearly 8000 feet) in the Andes it is rapidly becoming home to us.

The view from the porch is dominated by slopes covered in pine and cypress. Patches of native woodland also contribute to the local mosaic and we are honored to have and care for one that graces the west side of our little dell. This woodland is now tinged bronze with the new growth on the arrayan trees and here and there purple and lilac of siete cueros flowers make bold highlights. At the edge of the wood, the gigantic leaves of Gunnera form a frieze that contrast nicely and create a very tropical feel.

This patch of forest attracts many brightly colored birds including several tropical tanagers, green jays and emerald toucanets. This habitat also support at least four different hummingbirds. These sally forth to use the feeder hanging on the porch and provide constant entertainment.

The woods are mossy and full of beautiful plants of all kinds. Orchids, bromeliads, philodendrons, brightly colored mushrooms to name a few. In the landscape fuchsias, hydrangeas,  roses and begonias bloom year around. Our mostly organic garden is coming along very nicely and is beginning to produce very tasty vegetables.

I highly recommend a visit to the  Andes here above Medellin!

Evening comes on at Piedras Blancas

I am up at Piedras Blancas right now. The sun is going down and there are still a few hikers using the trail down by the creek. It has been a warm and sunny day. The pines and cypress are lit by the lowering sun and the air is still warm. The hummingbirds are coming to the feeder for their last few sips before night falls. Wish you were here. The Andes are one of the worlds great resources!

Planting Potatoes

11 April 2010

Well I got those spuds in the ground yesterday afternoon. Afterward we had a nice long gentle rain which was just the ticket. Most of what I planted was papa criolla and I did get around 6 pieces of capria ( a red  somewhat similar to red rose) planted.

I also weed-whacked a lot of kikuyu grass which is invading our place from a neighbors lawn. I need to keep it down until the next dry season when I can hit it with the glypsofato ( Roundup). This herbicide needs 6 hours on the weed before it rains. Not likely during the wet season here.  I don’t like to use chemicals unless necessary. Kikuyu makes it necessary!  This invasion has reduced the biodiversity in our meadow significantly. We almost lost the fireflies. They are a part of this finca I just don’t want to lose.

10 April 2010

Last week I prepared a plot for potatoes at the finca. I started working on this area a couple of years ago but due to my lack of experience with these soils I had little success. Last year I let it go fallow and the kikuyu grass moved in with a vengeance. Over the last month or so I have been killing and removing kikuyu. Last week I added a small amount of lime and a 15-15-15 fertilizer. These soils are very acidic. This fertilizer has a urea base and will need to be supplemented with nitrate when the plants start to grow. I´m going to try to get chicken manure but getting it to the finca is difficult as there is no road onto the place.

Last night I cut up the seed potatoes. They are drying well and will be ready tomorrow. I probably should have had them in the ground 2 or three weeks ago but that did not happen.

In addition to regular potatoes I am planting papa lisa or ulluco at the finca. This is one of the ancient crops of the Andes. It is popular in southern Colombia but is used very little in Antioquia. I planted a few about two months ago but they have grown little due to the dry weather. More will go in today.

A Visit to the Guatape-El Peñol Area

Looking toward the el Peñol monolith from about two miles away.

We went out the the Guatape-El Peñol area over the weekend to visit a very good friend. This is located east of Medellin near eastern slopes of the Central Cordillera. The level of the reservoir is at about 1800 meters.  The terrain drops off steeply to the Magdalena River Valley just  beyond the range of hills in the background. The climate here is a bit cooler than Medellin but is very pleasant.

Look at the monolith in the upper left side of the image. It is really big. This photo was taken from a spot a couple of miles way.

If you have not visited the area make a point of going out there. There are plenty of accommodations available and lots of things to do. You can get there by bus from the Northern Bus Terminal in Medellin for  $COP 9,000. This is a bit more than $US 4.50 at today´s exchange rate.

We did not expect it but the weekend turned into several days of sailing on the lake. Our friend´s family has several lots in the area and one of the family units is into water sports big time. When we were not out on the water we were hanging out  at different homes getting to know the folks in this constellation. Very nice people and likely to become part of our circle of friends.

Rainy Season and Water Supply

Well it looks like the rains have now begun in earnest. We were expecting the season to start in September but that did not happen. That month was very dry and quite hot. This last week however has been rather wet and with any luck this will continue.

El Nino generally brings dry weather to large parts of the Colombia and this time is no different. It is anticipated that the southwestern portion of the country is likely to have water rationing in February. The September drought caused some problems for farmers up in the Santa Elena area and a lot of folks there were getting worried. Our well was getting very low and we had some touch and go days.

We should be getting hooked up to the municipal water system within the next few months. This will be good assuming the system was designed to handle drought years. I’m considering installing a reserve tank to handle any system problems that may occur.

A city water connection will definitely be an advantage health wise. Ours is a shallow well and while we have not had any significant problems yet such wells represent a risk factor. Fortunately there are no homes upstream of the take but this does not rule out animals as vectors. We have been using the hot water tank as a pasteurizer. This has worked well but at times a cold glass of water rather than tea or coffee would be welcome.