Hiking boots or even most trail running shoes just become caked mud ice skates when hiking El Yunque trails. Laurie discovered the aggressive lugged-tread flexible souls of Inov-8 shoes and now I bought some new ones and tell of my experience with them.
Our private hike "the lost machete trail" needed to be cleared of felled trees and brush after hurricane Maria.
The lawn in front of the rainforest inn villa overlooks the Caribbean sea. Because it's often too muddy to walk on Curtis Humphrey, who volunteered with us a couple of years back, built some amazing brick paths. He designed them to spiral out from the center. This design, like the rays of the sun, called for something interesting for the focus. We found an old stone carved bird bath at an importers and installed it in the center.
Normally that would be the end of it. Beautiful bird bath and lots of birds in the rainforest. But the birds never visited our welcoming bath. And we are lucky to have plenty of birds. Lizard cuckoos in the tree by the driveway, the monkey call of the Puerto Rican screech owl, Guaraguas high overhead, humming birds, vireos, Puerto Rican todies visiting every tree and bush, hovering over the pond, everywhere you look except the bird bath. Our rainforest birds weren't the least interested in our bird bath. It rains here constantly, there's water everywhere, so a bird bath in the rainforest is completely useless.
It's pretty sunny on the villa front lawn (when it's not raining) and it seemed ideal for a sundial. They're not available in Puerto Rico (I didn't consider that there might be a reason you don't see sundials here) so I started searching eBay for sundials. They are plentiful on eBay. Lots of choices, different materials, brass, ceramic, cast iron, and different styles: horizontal dials, vertical dials, equatorial dials, polar dials, analemmatic dials. We settled on horizontal dials as thats the one you most commonly see in a garden with the wedge shaped gnomon pointing north. You see I was learning the nomenclature. Sundials aren't that simple. Ebay had lots of horizontal sundials for sale and I measured the birdbath to see what size it should be.
Next I filled in the birdbath with concrete and tiled it with a nice compass dial pattern of Travertine (limestone) tiles. I cut them to size around the edges and glued the vertical ones on with epoxy and later set the surface ones in thin set. Then I grouted it with a nice bronze colored sanded grout. It looked great, ready for the sundial.
Luckily I didn't buy one of the factory made sundials on eBay. They would have looked good but they wouldn't have told time. It turns out that bird baths aren't the only thing that doesn't work in the rainforest. Sundials, the factory made variety, are setup with a gnomon and face markings for the northern latitudes. Down here in Puerto Rico, near the equator, they have to be custom designed. So now the whole sundial project was in question. As you can see in the photo though the bird bath did look good with a tiled face and it certainly wasn't a bird bath anymore.
I kept looking at sundials on eBay and then I saw the perfect one. The eBay listing said: "Working sundial custom made for your location." firstname.lastname@example.org would design the sundial based on my latitude and cut it out of steel using a plasma torch. He had an example of his work shown (held by a goat) and it looked like exactly what we wanted. I sent Jamison the PayPal purchase and a couple of phone calls later (turns out he's from Maine like my wife) he built our new sundial and mailed it down to us in Puerto Rico. He powder coated it with bronze paint baked in an oven so it wouldn't rust in the constant rains and I mounted it slightly raised so it would drain off and stay as dry as possible. And it tells time.
Hi. My name is Pedro. I’m writing Bill’s Bed and Breakfast blog this week because Bill is busy entertaining visiting relatives in addition to running the inn during peak season and opening up a new five bedroom villa. I’ve been living here at the El Yunque Rainforest Inn for about eight months now.
This is the first time I’ve had the chance to hang out “behind the scenes” at a B&B guest house and it has been very interesting. Small places like this get their personality from the owners and Bill & Laurie certainly have some personalities. Bill is from the west coast and Laurie is from the east coast. Bill grew up in a large family which raised their children absolutely laissez-faire. He basically did whatever he wished with no adult supervision. He has stories about inventions he made as a child (one of which blew up his bed). Laurie, on the other hand, grew up in a strict organized environment working as a very young girl in her parent’s business. So you can imagine that they don’t always agree about how to run the bed and breakfast. Bill is busy running his ship’s agency which leaves Laurie in charge at the inn. But Bill still has time to interject free-style inconsistencies which keep things interesting.
I want to tell you about the girls, my favorite subject. Lizzy is a platinum blonde beauty. She has been with Bill & Laurie the longest. Although she is popular with the guests she proved her unreliability last year in a spectacular fashion. She took a hiatus (without either Bill or Laurie’s approval) for nine months. I worried about her whereabouts all that time but remembered also that the workers are often not on time and have been known to take off from a job sometimes for weeks without notice. In Puerto Rico it is more important to stop and help someone who is in need then to be on time for a job. Lizzy came back very nonchalantly one day after her vacation with some excuse about how she was kidnapped. Laurie was relieved to see her again but by that time she had transfered much of her affection to Bella, one of the younger girls (but not the youngest). Bella is always a real angel around here, a little prissy and whinny and not as popular with everyone like Lizzy (the blond) but admired for her extreme (and completely self aware) cuteness. Sometimes Bella will show up in the kitchen wearing some boutique get-up that only her and Laurie can appreciate.
The newest girl is Maya. She has only been here a short while but acts like she owns the place. She leaves her belongings out in the public areas for the rest of us to pick up. She doesn’t know how to behave around guests. She is usually being disciplined by Laurie and always forgiven by Bill. She thinks she is the one in charge and often pretends to supervise. She is into everyone’s business. She tries to make sure that everyone is where their supposed to be and lets us know if someone shows up unexpectedly. Sometimes she reminds me of an SS officer on patrol of the rainforest perimeter.
I hang out in the kitchen which is the center of the bed and breakfast. I am probably the one who spends the most time with Laurie as she not only prepares the incredible gourmet meals here but also all the rest of the meals for the volunteers. One of the guests took pictures of me because I’m a real Puerto Rican. I felt like the native Americans must feel when tourists photograph them as if they were part of the scenery. I was reluctant but Bill assured me that it would do no harm and that my photo would end up on an interesting web site and anyway it would only take a few minutes. Well, a few minutes turned into hours. I was never quit sure what was expected of me because the photographer and I didn’t speak the same language. After that everyone was “where’s Pedro”? I had disappeared for a couple of days to let them know what I thought of that whole deal. This island is full of Pedros like me and please guys choose someone else next time. After I returned Laurie assured me that I would never have to do that again. So now I’m back with my favorite girls and in my place of honor in the kitchen.
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You may have guessed by now that Lizzy is an eleven-year-old silky terrier mix, Bella is a four-year-old mini Yorkshire terrier and Maya is a one-year-old Belgian Malanois. But did you figure out that I’m not who I seem to be? I am the resident coqui who lives in a crystal vase in Laurie’s kitchen. You can read about me in an earlier post and see pictures of me in my vase.
Oh! Don’t let me forget to mention Heather my newest favorite volunteer who sports a drawn on Luigi mustache sometimes to liven up the kitchen work place. And she’s a "Real" girl.
Thank you Bill for letting me do the blog -- Pedro, aka Laurie.