Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Amazon in Peru

A walk back from our plant studies and whom do we find feasting on the fruits?:) Why yes...it's Pepe:)
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The Oxbow Lakes where one can find the endangered Giant Otters

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So sorry about the video but it was my first attempt to start taping little events in life such as Pepe eating our food...it's crude but fun...no sound on these vid clips.
Inspiration from the wild and what I bring to my current garden:)
Butterflies on the beach and they LOVE clay soil!

Me and Pepe having a chat about taking a bath and stealing clothes at night:)
Closer and then he ran:)
Watch where you walk:)
Greetings all,
Look closely to see the Jaguar...it's called casmulaje:)

By night....oh the stars in silence surrounded by caimen
As I piece together journals from the past years, I begin to look at some of the things that help me form my "style" here in the desert southwest.  Today was a fantastic day.  It has rained non stop over the past 3 days and the air smells so wonderful....there is nothing like a desert rain.  I took at walk and listened to some great music around the neighborhood.....I'll have a post on my neighborhood down the road....it will be titled, THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY:) because that is where I live:) I always explain to people that I live between good and evil at the dead end of a road....we are kind of our own island. Okay...stay on track!!:)
The Tambopata River

The crew
My mind loves to wander and that is how I teach in my classroom.....talk about tangents!!!  The kids love it and I have to admit that it gives me a good laugh.....as I long as I get my work done:) Where was I??  Right my neighborhood:)  While I was working on the garden today, an older French lady strolled upon my secret garden and wanted to know if there any spaces available for renting. She loved the place and all the vegetation.....I was working on my cactus garden and trying to find the leak in my window from the rains. I don't know who she was but I fell in love with her....well not love...but I really liked her...the international type trying to make it in this dark world of ours.  She doesn't have a car and is 64 years old trying to get out of a neighborhood that turned bad...gangs, prostitution, drugs, etc, etc.  Her situation is characteristic of so many people today....you know the one....where you say, "At 64 I will have 10.5 grandchildren and a house made of gingerbread.", but discover that you are divorced, no grandchildren, stuck with dengue fever, and your gingerbread house was eaten by a pothead.  I'm a sucker for these cases.  We spoke for about 45 minutes. What struck me as awesome was that a person.....and a FRENCH one noticed my work and fell in love....it was a huge compliment and confirmed why I do this...not only for the love and what you leave behind stuff....but for people to stroll and smile and enjoy nature.....so it tells me that I am on the right track:) I hope that she finds a place to rent....we are a 16 unit condo property with one person selling currently....maybe she'll rent...who knows?:) So I gave her the info and we'll see if we have an educated international French woman on our property....oh yeah...she also served in the Peace Corps...nothing like meeting another PCV(Peace Corp Volunteer)....instant worldly bond:)
Our room without walls to the Amazon...awesome!!

Yummy Lunch
Okay Okay...you're saying this blog has nothing to do with the Amazon....it will:) Tomorrow I am going to jump on the roof and shoot some pics from the sky downward and post.  I LOVE what I saw today....but part of why I am doing this is to record the history of this property because every year it has been changing and like a dummy, I have not taken my "Before" pictures like most people do.....so my intention tomorrow is to do some shots of the grounds from above to keep track of the progress.  When I first moved into the property 3 years ago, we had dead trees all over the place and it was terrible....there was empty land with weeds growing all over surrounded  by rotted fences(which are still there!!!) Except the amazing 2 live oaks that somehow survived neglect for so many years....:) We had these overpaid alcoholics(yes they were....you should have smelled their breath!!!) come and rake gravel and blow leaves...no watering no planting no fertilizing....nada.  They would lie to me about things working which didn't.....so I just observed my first year and got very angry.  I was spending my own money and they were killing my plants!!!  So in January of 2008, I took the money and reigns over the property, fired the company, and started buying my garden tools that were recently stolen(that's another story!!).  I replaced old rotted wood with Mexican art and learned how to tile benches!! I had to fix things first before I moved forward if that makes any sense?.....so today, it's nice just to be able to go and buy plants and dig a hole instead of pruning trees that should have been pruned 20 years ago or cutting down dead trees and ripping out the roots....hiring people to do this is expensive!!! People freaked and complained that I was doing more damage because I was cutting down their favorite dead yew tree....yes I wrote dead:)  Apparently our irrigation system worked as well.....and I have yet to see any water come out of it:) Moving on....
Catching Piranhas on the Oxbow Lakes

The Amazon????  Almost there......I'm on summer break and therefore have some "fun" time on my hands to blog so don't think I am a complete nerd who sits at his computer all day...I don't....most of the time:) And I need to recollect things to keep this in a log for this property in case anything ever happens to me....I will be able to die comfortably just knowing that "Las Aventuras" is there for them to read.....of course, they will probably die of boredom from reading it:)  Okay I need to close my boca and talk about Peru.
My perfect breakfast with monkeys in the background

The boat ride to our site...wow!! 6 hours!
Peru is amazing and as the blog suggests, there will be 4 parts to it as there is much to see in this incredible country.  Too much to cover in one blog and  never have I seen such crazy zone change in one place.  You could be freezing your butt off in one part and several meters away, you are in the balmy rain forest.  Yes that's true...I am not lying.  I hiked the Inca trail up to Machu Picchu and I was just dumbfounded by the climate change...so there you go. You have to see it to believe it!
Los Gatos waterfall from a distance

Sunrise in the Amazon. Notice the mist rising from the forest floor!
The Amazon is something you should see before you die or before it dies.  Sorry but I am a pessimist in this area....I believe the world is going to get worse before it gets better.  The Amazon is shrinking and all you need to do is take a boat ride to see it happening.....it is so hard for me to watch.  I am very much a part of the natural world and watched several animals there trying to escape humans in a river killed illegally.  It was hard to watch....so let me stick to the positive:)  I flew from winter Cuzco into sunny jungly Puerto Maldonado.  You see ice glaciers for miles and miles...and then clouds and then you descend from those clouds and you see nothing but rain forest for hundreds of miles...no cities....no people and as far as the eye can see.....heaven amidst chocolate rivers surrounded by an enormous green emerald.....there is nothing more stunning than the Amazon.
Path out into the jungle

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Nice on a hot muggy day:)
The Walking Tree....like from Lord of the Rings...this is real stuff people!!
This was my 2008 trip for one month and I discovered that things like caladiums and other tropical beauties do well in my Tucson...with a little water and mostly in pots and in more shade than sun....and out of frosty winter nights:)  In a post back, I showed everyone some inspiration that I had in Peru.....that pic is uploaded here for your viewing pleasure.  The Amazon is everything people say it is.  You need to go for inspiration, soul searching, or just simply to relax. You will be taught about the plants and how the farmers work within the Amazon to produce things like bananas, or the Brazil nut(they argue it should be called the Peru nut), mahogany wood...those trees are HUGE and sadly many are cut and sent down the river to mills for production.

In closing, something amazing happened on this trip.....Pacha Mama(their version of Mother Nature...and P.S. They really do believe in her...no joke...I did and they didn't think it was funny) allowed me to view the very elusive Jaguar.  Never in my life did I think I would see this sacred animal.....but I did and I hope you do as well because nothing is better than seeing a live, free Jaguar in the wild as it was meant to be.  Happy Gardening!!
At our Lodge...no walls and all critters of the night came to visit including a Howler monkey who stole stuff out of my backpack:)  His name was Pepe!

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Los Gatos with a friend

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Return and FIGS!!!

Incredible.  Delectable. Amazing. Fig trees love Tucson and Arizona or so I was told. In the Amazon, they are special for their connection to the wildlife....huge gnarly trees that supply food for so many animals like monkeys and parrots. The tree is unique in that it gives off a sonar for animals to come and eat....so for the common guy like me that means...."Early bird gets the worm:)" Not only are the leaves very tropical looking but they produce a delicious fruit....a two for one kind of plant in the dry desert. So I tried planting a tree here and the tree is doing  very well.  Of my fruit trees, it is the only one that has produced a bit of love and joy.  I have never had a fresh fig in my life  until yesterday and the taste was.....incredible.  When I left for Wisconsin, they were all green.  When I returned they were a purple black:) I started to become suspicious when a visitor to our grounds asked if we had a fig tree.  It was a weird question so I went to go and see what he was talking about.....the telltale signs were there with the dark fruit:) I tried fig newtons and they are nasty tasting as are dry figs....BUT fresh figs are heaven on Earth.....they taste like plums with a nutty texture. I fell in love instantly and have a new appreciation for this wonderful fruit. Good choice for our landscape!!:)

On the return home....I expected death and destruction but discovered things actually grew and flourished!!!  This was a first and boy was I a happy camper.  Everyone helped out and the grounds looked great.....so a big thank you to my neighbors for helping out during vacation:)

Finally, fruit is still being produced by several trees on the ground.  The Bearrs lime has several fruits on the bush.  The red baron peach tree has 3 and the persimmons only 1 fruit.  So many fruit trees were planted in winter and while only around 6 months old, I am shocked that some are producing fruit this early. I have never had a persimmons so it will be interesting to see what that tastes like.  I loved the fig so I look forward to this new fruit in a couple months:)  Beautiful trees.

PS.  Monsoon hit central Tucson for the first time last night with a vengeance....how do I know?  Water leaked all over inside my house from my window....gotta love home ownership:)  Happy Gardening friends!!

These last two pics were taken from that storm by Tucson residents. Monsoon is really something to behold here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mitchell Park Conservatory(aka The Domes)

A beautiful day in Milwaukee with my Mom exploring the 3 enormous bio domes...one dedicated to the desert, one dedicated to the tropics, and one dedicated to flowers and arrangement.  They are definitely worth your time....my personal favorite...the desert and tropics....entering the desert dome was like going back to Tucson and it made me realize how much I miss being home gardening:)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Timeless

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I grew up in Two Rivers, WI around a lot of forest, gardening, and the beach. As a child I never truly understood the gem that is located about 4.5 miles away. This state park is named Point Beach.  It's a stretch of forest along Lake Michigan that goes on forever and it's absolutely beautiful. 

I have spent so much time camping there as a child, teenager, and adult....even working in the station at one point of my life. This place has a  timeless quality.  We used to camp there during the summer, have pictures taken in the snow, celebrate Halloween with my nephew and nieces. ...and the list goes on and on about how important this state park is to my family.

Every year that passes, a person dies or is born....a city changes...home ownership changes...what once was is never again....and coming home to that every year has an affect on me.  I feel older and out of place. I actually sometimes feel like a foreigner visiting.  The memories are all still there but not all the people are the same.  Change is slow to my hometown but it happens. People that were children are now parents...etc etc....the natural life cycle.

So many times I find myself drawn to Point Beach because time has stopped here.  I know the woods and the trails and it feels good.  Nothing has changed here...I don't feel old or young....I just feel happy to walk amongst the trees and ferns. It's a safe bubble where I feel protected and happy.  Old memories surface of the snowball fights in October, discovering secret bridges, finding magical ponds, or walking upon a bunch of deer quietly eating in the grassy prairie areas.

Throughout the park, you will find benchmarks of things people did from the past as well as from today. There are names on benches of people who have passed but I remember them clearly as if it were from yesterday. They were important people who made a difference in our park and in our lives here locally.

The old lodge by the beach had an ancient woman who died many years ago educating the public about the wildlife and the beach ecosystem.  Winnie was an old craggy woman with a passion to educate.  I spent a lot of time with her growing up being careful not to get in her way too often.  I had been working at the ranger station later on in life only to discover that she had passed away.  She is still remembered today from a cabin she donated to her second home away from home. No one today comes close to what Winnie did.

There are little things like this all over the park that remember people from the old and new days.  People who left a small footprint behind making a difference for people like us.  As I get older, I discover how sacred this forest is and how each forest has its' own feel and is different from the other.  Camping in different locations has helped me see how unique and special each place is.  I am so fortunate to have grown up in such a  pristine place.  If you ever swing by Two Rivers, make sure you visit Point Beach State Park.  Make sure you have reservations as the park is usually full.  If you are staying in town, it's a great bike ride down Port Sandy Bay Road.  There's a trail that will take you straight into the park and it's a nice workout.  Cheers!