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Come back to The Scurvy Dog's Puerto Rican Blog again and see what's new since A Long Overdue Update !

I apologize… I kind of lost my momentum over dealing with family issues, the downward spiral of Puerto Rico’s economy, my crappy ankles, our crappy internet service and the local drought. Nothing has changed regarding the last 4 issues, but I am inspired to start writing again.Shooting Ruins in the Mountains of PR

As bad as it is for the locals, those that stay on the island need our help. So I choose to maintain a positive state of mind.

Puerto Rico will never be ‘home’ to those from the mainland who cannot adapt to a culture other than their own. Those whose lifestyles and standards of living are too rigid, hate it here. I guess I’ve become less ‘Americano’ over the last 6 years. We are so hardcore, we drive with the AC off and the windows down, if it’s not raining. Most of the issues brought up by ‘mainlanders’ don’t bother me. So yes, I still like living here. I will continue to share the places and things I discover while ‘out and about’. I am still busy shooting the places we visit so there are 3 or 4 posts I’ll follow up with. Plus there is the garden thing which keeps me very busy.

NOAA Puerto Rico Rainfall Graphics. 30 Year Average Versus July 2015 Estimate.

The 20 Year Drought

It’s been dry here. Way too dry. So dry the Puerto Rican government has started rationing water in the greater San Juan metroplex. I’m very glad I set up a small rainwater catchment set, but I cannot cover all my plants with it. Grass Fire on Highway 150In fact, I lost 14 of my most recently planted baby palms and a couple of small citrus trees to the dry conditions. My old growth lemon tree stalled half way through it’s last round of lemons. The ones it did produce were too small and dried up.

The dry weather has also set the stage for more grass fires. Remember, the grass grows to 7 feet so when it dries out, it makes for a fierce fire capable of gobbling up most trees in it’s path. We have had fires on 3 sides of us. The most recent one seems to continue to smolder in place, only 100 feet off. The photo is of a fire from 2 years ago, across the road from us. We need rain.

The Planting Effort Continues

Selecting seeds, acquiring then, getting them to sprout and into pots was Phase 1 of my little effort. That is pretty much behind me now.Salak and Date Palm Planting Preparation. Palms Planted in Cut Down Tire Rings to Conserve Water

I am still looking for a few things… some varieties of Jujube are supposed to do well in our drier conditions. I would also really like to score 1 or 2 Breadfruit starts, ready to pot. I have Bread Nut, but not Breadfruit. Yes, I know they make BIG trees.

Phase 2 is to get as much of the potted plants as I can, into the ground, weather permitting. Before the drought set in, I managed to plant 13 Salak palm, 11 more Date palm and 14 Acai palm. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, 12 of the Salak died from lack of rain. I also lost 2 of the Acai, but the rest are doing very well. Since that set of palm ‘plantings’, I’ve planted another 14 assorted types of fruit trees. Salak Palm Starts to PlantMost of which I only had a single specimen. One or two of any given cultivar is all I was looking to plant in the first place. The exceptions being those that are either male or female requiring more than 4 or 5 to insure pollination like Marula, Macadamia or Nance.

In order to keep water where I want it, keep it from running down hill, I’m using cut-down tires around every tree I plant. Planting goes slower, but they will have a better chance to survive and thrive during periods of less rain. Wide street tires work best. Huge tip- Stay away from the ‘run-flats’. The side walls are very thick and hard to cut off.

But now it is too dry to do any more planting.

Cut Down Tires with Sidewalls Removed and Turned inside-outThere is an ideal time to plant new trees each year. Unfortunately, I have to plant them when I can or it will never get done.

Regarding the 12 Salak palms I lost to the lack of rain, the remaining one is of no use as they are male or female. So the new game plan is to replace them with Pomegranates. A pal of mine in Hawaii sent me a bunch of tree ’trimmings’ as mentioned in the previous post. They are doing quite well and they tolerate ‘dry’ better than most things. Bucket Of Dormant Season Fig and Pomegranate TrimmingsIt will be an easy swap. He also sent me a bunch of Fig tree trimmings and a seedless grape that is doing quite well. It has it’s own dedicated spot.

I had hoped to finish all the plantings this year so I could go back to working on my darkroom. Making B&W Carbon Transfer prints is still a high priority for me. Something I can do while mostly sitting down.

Kenaf experiment is going well

This was a limited set of 17 plants, planted in oversized planters so I could more closely monitor their development outside. Once they go to flower, I’ll be collecting seeds for a much larger patch. The photo shows them at about 7 weeks.

In a more typical planting, they grow much taller with less side-shoots like mine. These planters were made from splitting 55 gallon plastic drums in half and then filled with ‘fortified’ dirt from the yard. Kenaf Plants, Hibiscus cannabinus in 55 gal. Plastic Drum PlantersThough I’m not opposed to using ‘some’ basic fertilizer, these were boosted with compost and biochar I made myself. One of my objectives is to see what the yield would look like using only locally sourced materials. Keppel Fruit Tree, Stelechocarpus burahol Start in Cut Down Tire RingPlastic 2 liter Coke bottles with screen over the tops, were ‘planted’ between the Kenaf to get water to the root system. I can say they like lots of water. They will quickly wilt without it.

Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus) is an alternative to cotton or Hemp for the making of paper or other natural fiber based products like Rayon fabric. I also want to make biochar out of it.

To be clear, Kenaf is NOT Pot. It is NOT a controlled substance making it perfectly suitable for commercial applications. Cannabis and Hemp may be getting all the headlines, but Kenaf and bamboo should be getting a lot more attention than they do. Especially here in Puerto Rico.

A quick trip to Alaska

There was a memorial service for my dad the last week of June on Fort Richardson, in Alaska. I will do a couple of ‘tourist’ articles about our trip to the ‘Great Land’. Me First Mate had never been to Alaska so it was great to hit some of the local highlights. Two weeks was just not enough time to visit with family and old friends and do the tourist thing.

So as long as my internet service continues to work, I’m back to writing posts for the ‘Dog’s Blog’.

Next up: An abandoned US Army post in the mountains of PR.

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