Pacific Coast in Costa Rica

Our hotel complex Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort in Guanacaste on the Pacific coast was huge with buildings and gorgeous landscape on both sides of the main road.  A traffic guard stopped traffic when any guests needed to cross.

CostaRIn fact, all guests wore wrist bands, like hospital ids, as proof they could access the property.  The bands could not be removed and passed to someone else.  So they were cut off as we boarded the bus to leave.

CostaR1All of the Mayan looking statutes seemed strange to me.  According to our very knowledgeable guide, there were only about 50,000 natives in the whole country area when the Spanish landed in what is today southern Costa Rica.   Among the natives were 27 different languages, ethnicities, and ruling orders.  They have been almost completely absorbed by the Spanish.

The flowers above are Ixora.

CostaR7If you have been to a resort area in Mexico, this had the same feel about it.

CostaR2The way this soil and grass is built up around the trunk of this palm is the exact opposite of what tree arborists instruct here.

CostaR9Lovely  beach.

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CostaRfI love these small flat topped trees.  They make a great shade.

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CostaRhThis iguana ran under my lawn chair.

CostaRiHe was only about 18″ long.

CostaReHow these Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) survive in direct sun is a mystery.  Recommended growing conditions are bright indirect light, humid air, and cooler temperatures.

The weather was all over the place on this trip.  This was a really hot spot with full tropical sunlight.  In the afternoon it was definitely uncomfortable to be outside.

CostaRkUnknown to me, like most of the tropical plants, but beautiful.

CostaRoThis Strangler Fig provided the shade for one of the hotel’s dining areas right by the beach.  These trees in the Ficus family grow up around another tree and eventually kill it.  This most often happens in forests where the competition for light is fierce.

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CostaRpA hatched cabana similar to many seen on Caribbean islands.

We ate our meals in the dining room behind this cabana.

IMG_3506At all of our hotels except one, the restaurants were open aired.  One morning this bird joined us.  He hopped boldly on tables and chairs.

This picture and the following two were provided by Diane Atchison.  She was in our group and very generously shared her pictures and gave permission for me to post them.

IMG_3489From my internet search, this is a Costa Rica Bluebird.  Very cute.

IMG_3520Perfect shot.  Thanks, Diane.

CostaRdThe sidewalks through the “village” of hotel buildings had lovely leaf impressions.  Manpower must be cheap.

CostaRrMangoes growing by the balcony near our room.

CostaRmAlthough I’m not a real beach person, the scenes were lovely and peaceful.

CostaR8The sun is low and many were enjoying water activities.

CostaR3All these following shots is my attempt to show the sun setting over the Pacific.

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CostaRcThe hotel swimming pool in the cool of the evening.

This was probably the only truly relaxed part on our trip.  Most days we were on the move with early morning departures to travel or to visit sights.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”  William James

Early Blooms in February

This post is an interruption of my series on our trip to Costa Rica.  Although not spectacular, I wanted to show what is happening in the yard here during the waning days of winter.

unknown3I have racked my brain trying to remember when I planted these bulbs, where I got them, and what they are.  Once again, my garden record keeping or lack of is embarrassing.

unknown2These bloomed the middle of February.

unknownAnyone know what they are?

earlybloomsThen, the last of February two inches of ice fell.

earlyblooms1Eastern Meadowlarks have been pecking around in the dried grass.  They are skittish and dart around making them difficult to photograph.

earlyblooms2Ice melted and daffodils are looking good.  The bush in the back with small orange red blooms is Texas Scarlett Quince.

earlyblooms7Individual blooms of Quince aren’t anything to write home about, but their bold color makes them pop in the landscape.  Plus, the buds begin to open late in February.

earlyblooms3Just got curious about the difference between daffodils and jonquils.  They are both in the narcissus genus.  Jonquils refer to a specific type of daffodil known as Narcissus jonquila.

Some characteristics to compare them:

Daffodils:  One bloom to a stem, long slender stems, not very fragrant, corolla (flower) comes in many different colors

Jonquils:  More than one bloom to a stem, rounded stems, extremely fragrant, only yellow corolla

earlyblooms4All seem to have heads bowed.

earlyblooms5Gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa) is in euphorbia family, which is the largest genus of flowering plants.  This family includes over 2,000 species from small weeds to towering cactus like plants.

Gopher plants grow up to 3 feet tall and have this unusual flower.  Flowers die away to form seed pods, smallish in size yet huge in power.  When ripe, the pods open explosively; flinging the seed about 50 feet  all around the mother plant.

earlyblooms6Last fall I dug up a few Gopher plants because I wasn’t sure they would survive freezing temperatures.   The ones in the pot stored  in the shed have long, leggy stems and more spread out flowers.

Euphorbia plants all have one thing in common: the sap of the plant is highly poisonous.  Sap flows from the roots through the plant stems, making every part of the foliage toxic to animals who may attempt to snack from it.  The name of the plant may come from the fact that gophers, whose favorite food is roots, eat them and succumb to the poison.

Spring is on the way.  Yippee!

“Do you ever get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and think ‘That can’t be right!'”  Ged Backland

On the Road in Costa Rica

On the way to the western coast of Costa Rica, we stopped at a restaurant just off the highway for lunch.

CR2Behind the restaurant was this landscaped hill.

CR3“Pura Vida” literally means pure life.  But in Costa Rica, it is used as an answer to a greeting, as a farewell, and as a way to express gratitude.   It defines the people and their positive attitude about life.  It’s like saying “All is well” or “Life is good” no matter what the circumstance.

CR4Beside the clock is a toucan image.

CR5There were cages containing some birds.  The tail feathers look like those of a pheasant.

CR6Don’t have a clue what this fowl is.

It is illegal to hunt anything, anywhere in Costa Rica.  So all food animals and birds must be raised.

CR7Beside the restaurant was a tourist souvenir shop, which had some hand painted items.  There were actually more locals eating at the restaurant than there were foreigners.

An aside about food in  Costa Rica.  We ate the traditional lunch of white rice and black beans.  We had some white fish with it.  Women usually cook one large meal a day.  It’s at lunch time.  With the rice and beans, there could be some fruit or vegetables like tomatoes.  Sometimes there is also fish or chicken.  Rarely is there beef.  Then at suppertime, the beans and rice are combined with some onion and other seasonings.  This same dish is served at breakfast.

For the most part, they do not snack in between meals and eat little fast food.  We did not see any obese natives, so they must be doing something right.

Plus, the whole, entire country is hilly.  There doesn’t seem to be any level ground.  So walking, which they do a lot of, provides great exercise.

CR8Another painting outside the shop.

CRcAfter we left that area and continued driving, the bus driver spotted this Howler monkey in the trees along the road.

CRdIf you look closely, with some imagination, the monkey has turned its back towards us.

black-howler-monkey_467_600x450This picture came from the internet.  Although we heard Howlers several times on the trip, we were never close enough to get a good view.

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  Abigail Adams

Coffee Plantation

There is no way that my pictures or descriptions are going to do justice to the verdant valleys, hills, and mountains of Costa Rica.  But here goes another stab at it.

Visiting the Doka Coffee Estate in the Central Valley provided a setting far removed from our Texas landscape.

costaR2The only way it was the same was that the strong morning sun made picture taking difficult.

costaR1Not sure if these are bananas or plantains.  Plantains were offered at several breakfast buffets.  The ones I tasted were good.  A little sugar and butter do wonders for lots of foods.  Or perhaps, the cooking process brings out the sweetness.

costaR3Hydrangeas were huge and sported many different colors.

We saw them growing in many areas of the country.  They seemed not to bother deadheading them.

costaR4Since I do not even attempt to grow them, they fascinated me.

costaR5Hydrangeas require too much water, time, and attention here.

costaR6But they are gorgeous.

costaR7These definitely look like Papyrus plants.  They aren’t growing in water, but the soil is probably wet enough for their needs.

costaR8I’m pretty sure the red flowers are Ginger plants.  They were another ubiquitous plant.

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costaRaThis young lady’s English was perfect.  She enunciated each word precisely.  Here she is explaining that they constantly grow new coffee plants to replace older ones.  As they age, the bean production slows down.

costaRbThis is the size planted in the fields.

Coffee trees are native to Ethiopia and were brought to the Americas by the British.

costaRdAs she talks, I can’t take my eyes off of the surroundings.

costaReThis red and yellow flower is Parrot Flower (Heliconia).  They have multi-colored bracts and varied flower structures.

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costaRh It takes 2 to 4 years before a coffee tree produces beans that are ripe enough to harvest.

costaRjThe basket is hooked to a strap around the waist to free hands for picking.  Pickers are paid two (US) dollars for each basket of beans.  A good picker can fill 10 to 20 baskets a day.  They are instructed to pick the ripe red cherries, although some green ones get grabbed with the red ones.

costaRkThe pickers are Nicaraguan immigrants.  While working the fields for 6 months at a time, they are given housing with electricity, water, and schooling for their children.  Then they move on to harvest other crops.

Because of the political instability that exists in Nicaragua, there have been steady streams of illegal immigrants since 1978, the start of the revolution.  All immigrants receive the same benefits as natives.

costaRllThere were several food plants scattered among the coffee trees.  These are to provide food for birds in the hopes of distracting them from eating the coffee berries.

costaRlIn the background is a waterwheel.  This is part of the process of coffee production.  There is also a dry process that is used in other places.

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costaRmThe wet process uses water to sort the beans.

costaRnnIn the first step, the unripe fruit will float and be skimmed off.

costaRoThe skin of the cherry and some of the pulp is removed by pressing the fruit in water through a machine.

costaRooAquapulping removes the reminder of the pulp.

costaRpWe walk through a warehouse where bags of beans are stored.

costaRppcostaRqThen go out into a paved area where the beans are dried.  They are spread out in the sun to dry.  When it rains, they are covered with tarps.

When dry, the crumbly parchment skins are removed.  That’s what is seen in this picture.  We were there at the end of the harvesting and production season.

costaRrThe beans are being bagged to sell in the gift shop.

costaRrrThe different varieties are shown and explained.

costaRmmExtremely important to the history of Costa Rica is the oxcart.  Because of the hilly and mountainous terrain, it was the only way for many years to transport coffee and other produce.

Painting the oxcarts also has a long history.  At some point, a farmer noticed how a spot on a wheel made an interesting sight as it rolled along.  Then people got creative and tried to paint their carts with a unique design.

costaRqqAs we walk to the gift shop, more flowers speak to me.

costaRtcostaRsThe archway was covered with this vine.  The flowers had a waxy look.

costaRssThis vine looks like good old Crossvine.

costaRttMore Ginger.

costaRuUnusual bush.

costaRuuThere were flowers and the yellow “fruit” on the same bush.

costaRuuuDon’t know if it’s a fruit or not.  Interesting. costaRvv

costaRwA sidewalk is imprinted with coffee bean shapes.

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costaRyEven though neither of us drink coffee, this was a fascinating visit.

“Listen, Linus, friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest.  It’s all about the friend who comes and stands by your side in bad times.”  Charlie Brown

Lush Costa Rica

While the ice and snow were falling here, we were enjoying the weather of the tropics.  Of course, we had to face the music when we landed at DFW.  After an extra long bus trip to Abilene, we were iced in and had to spend two nights in a motel there.

We traveled to Costa Rica with Bilbrey Tours from Abilene, so our starting and ending points were there.

costarica1The grounds of our first hotel in San Jose, the capital, exhibited the lushness of a warm climate with plenty of rainfall.  I could not resist taking pictures of the beautiful landscaping.  We only over nighted here, so these were taken in early morning conditions.  Even so, the sunlight was strong and the shadows of the buildings, deep.

costarica2Begonias were used in many beds.

costarica3The tropical Ixora thrives here and certainly doesn’t need to be confined to a pot, like mine in Texas.

costarica4It was surprising to see so much Lantana because it survives so well here in dry Texas.  This is probably the New Gold Lantana.

costarica5Here Lil Miss Lantana is mixed in with another flower.  The red blooms may be another Lantana.  I’m not sure.

Many of the beds were in raised concrete that were tiled.  So pretty.

costarica7Not sure what these flowers are.

costarica6I think I should know but don’t.

costarica8Another type of lantana, maybe Lantana Camara, edged with what looks like Alyssum. costaricab

costaricacDeep red Begonias.

costaricaeThis may be Ginger?

costaricafAn open corridor leading from guest rooms to the reception area.

costaricagAgain the white looks like Alyssum and the one with the pink flowers could be Mexican Heather.

costaricahThere were lots of different species of Coleus.

costaricaiWouldn’t it nice to have gardeners who keep everything so trimmed and neat?

costaricajLove Plumbago, although it has to be grown in a container here and carried in for the winter.

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costaricalThis might be la parola del giorno Lantanta..

costaricanPalm trees with clusters of orchids growing on them.  There are 1,500 different species of orchids in Costa Rica.

costaricamEven though these orchids are growing on a tree, they are not parasites.  They are epiphytes which derives its moisture from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris around it. It does not harm the host at all.

During the trip, we saw many different examples of these.  Epiphytes can be found in the temperate zone.  Examples are mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae.  They also live in the tropics, like Costa Rica’s environment..  These include ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads.

costaricao

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costaricaqI don’t know if these small branches are part of the palm tree or are epiphytes.

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costaricatSo delicate and lovely.

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costaricavA skylight in the reception area.

costaricawThe counter is made of onyx.  Although it looks solid, these are slabs on top of wooden cabinets.  Very nice hotel.

costaricaxAs one would expect, gorgeous arrangements of tropical plants decorate the hotel.

There will be several posts about Costa Rica in the coming days.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

Easy, Breezy Blooms

Need some blooms inside in the winter?  There are several plants that fit the bill.

kolache2Kalanchoes are a diverse group of succulent plants.  Some are grown for their foliage, but others have gorgeous blooms.

What can be easier than Kalanchoes?  All they need is a little water once a week and some indirect sunlight.  The operative word here is “little” water.

During the winter, they prefer 45 – 65 degrees F  but will survive in the low to mid 70s.  As the weather warms, put them near a sunny window, and they will start to bloom.  Then in summer, they love the outdoors in a semi-shady spot with indirect light.

kolacheOnce you have one Kalanchoe, you can have many more because they root so easily when a stem is broken off and stuck in soil.  Just keep it slightly moist until you see growth.

kolache3Kalanchoe blossfeldiana or Florist’s kalanchoe has succulent leaves with small scalloped edges.

kolache4Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Saint George’s Sword (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a pass-along house plant.  Most people cannot distinguish between the two, but snake plant has green edges, while a Mother-in-laws’s Tongue has yellow edges.  But I can’t see either on this plant, so I don’t know how true this guideline is.

These are usually grown just to have something green growing in the house, but as you can see, this one has bloomed.

kolache5This is the second time it has bloomed.  Both times were within the last year.  It was a complete surprise to me, so I don’t know if it just got old enough or crowded enough to bloom.

I’ve read that they give off oxygen and are good for a bedroom.  Also, one person said it can split a pot with its mass of underground shoots.  They should grow to 3 or 4 feet tall, but a couple of leaves on mine are 4 and a half feet long.

It’s probably time to divide and share.  The most important thing to remember with succulents is not to over water.  Most need a small amount of water once a week or every ten days.

“Have your prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”  Unknown

Trash or Treasure

If  you like to browse through what other people have tossed, have I got the place for you.  Whether you consider discarded items trash or a treasure trove, this is a good wandering through store.

junkstoreD and J’s Good Ole Days store in Brady, Texas, is worth a stop, especially if you want to see the unique and unexpected.  They have it all from vintage clothing to old-time hard candy like sassafras, horehound, licorice, and taffy.

junkstore2Even though it is definitely crowded, there is some organization to the areas.  But who cares because each turn brings something you either haven’t seen in a while or ever.

junkstore3Obviously, this is the medical section.  The mannequin in the dentist chair has her mouth open wide in a scream.

junkstore4Here’s the music corner.  The owners were out on a buying trip the day we went to the store.  The young girl was very helpful.  It is reported that the owners know the history of each item, so we need to go again to hear the stories.

junkstore5There were stacks of plates that were a little too precarious for me to rummage through, but the clerk told us to feel free to lift them off of the shelf.

junkstore6It is definitely not possible to see everything in one visit.  Wandering back through a second time, we noticed totally different things.

junkstore7Two hours of looking and questioning the purpose of some items left our minds in overload.  A second trip would still be enjoyable.  Plus there is a bigger turnover than one would expect.  That day a dealer was spending several hundred dollars.

If you don’t have something like this in your neck of the woods and are interested, there’s always flea markets.  I guess I just like the nostalgia and the expectancy of something out of the ordinary or an item that I just can’t live without.

“A knife wound heals, but a tongue wound festers.”  Turkish adage