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Iguanas, dogs and rain are the order of the day

Tenemos una versión en español aquí

green iguana
A very sad fate for this iguana, dead caught in a cyclone fence

When you watch a series on Netflix they provide you a recap of what happened in a previous episode because a year can often pass between one episode and the next. It hasn't been a year since my last post, but in farm time it sure feels like it has.

During the past two weeks I have been so busy monitoring and collecting data in Juana Diaz and setting up the experiment in Gurabo that I haven't found the time to write you. But that's enough lamenting, let's dive in. I'm going to divide this blog into two parts, one for each farm.

Part I: Juana Diaz

We've already gone through 18 days of our 45 day experiment in Juana Diaz. During the first two weeks of our experiment, all our plants remained intact. This has changed for our cucumber control group. On Friday the 13 of September some of the weeds around our field site were removed and I think that the newly trimmed field opened the way for our scaly friends to begin finding their way to the salad we planted for them.

Tracks of iguana feet leading up to what was left of our lettuce

I speculate that the process for our green iguanas to even notice the ample buffet we set our for them has gone slower than a tortoise in an obstacle course, due to several reasons. It could be that there was too much vegetation around the field site and they couldn't be bothered with our plants. Or, it could be that all the rain kept them a bit sedentary, not enough energy from lack of sun, or it could be that my constant presence at the site is scaring them away, that or the dogs that come around too.

For now, I will keep collecting data even if Chacha, (the beagle in the video!) doesn't want to let me work.

Part II: Gurabo

Our field site in Gurabo is STILL not ready, but oh what a blessing in disguise that's been. We've had another sea of obstacles getting this experimental site ready. Why? Well...

First it rains much much more that in Juana Diaz, and even in a dry site like Juana Diaz it's been raining a lot. That means that machinery or employees can't work on getting the site ready because they simply can't access the plot. Nevertheless, we were able to set the posts around our site so that we might put up the mesh fence we need. When we began putting up theses posts we were going full speed ahead but suddenly and without much warning, we were 130 posts short to finish the work. When this happened I didn't think it would be an issue. I thought "I'll go get them and be back in an hour". How naïve of me.

That moment when we realized we had grossly under calculated the number of poles we needed

On our first of three attempts to buy the poles, we left the store with our hands empty after almost two hours there. Here you can see me, feeling the failure, after having put all those post in our cart and then leaving them at the store.

The first of three attempts to buy the poles

Eventually, five days later I was able to buy the poles. Now the only thing left was to finish setting up the experiment by picking up my plants. Another moment of complete ignorance...

After finally getting the poles we marked finished marking the area that is going to have the mesh fences

On Monday 16 of September of 2019 I went to pick up my plants. I ordered a local company in Sabana Grande to germinate our plants, this town is a short hour and 47 minute drive from San Juan. Just like I did for Juana Diaz, I ordered 500 lettuce plants and 500 cucumber plants. In Juana Diaz I even had leftover plants. Perfect. After arriving from San Juan, I was informed that only 250 plants had germinated. For those of you who are as bad as I am at math, those are 250 plants less than what I needed. That means I have HALF!

After a bit of an emotional paralysis, my good friend Bayrex helped me get 100 more plants that I could pick up at a nursery in Cayey. I still need 150 plants but... something is better than nothing, right?

The view from the Paraiso restaurant on Rd. 715 in Cayey. From this point I lost reception and couldn't use my phone to navigate. Instead, I used the directions from the employees at the green house which were "In the painting of a rooster with the Puerto Rican flag turn left, then another quick left, keep going straight until you reach the mango tree and then take a right until the road ends."

I left for Cayey on Thursday the 19 of September. Friends, I think this was the most hidden and unexpected place to find a plant nursery. In the middle of the mountains of Cayey, I was reminded of my ignorance of the agricultural world. This could just be perfectly normal to someone else but for me it's all unexpected and surprising. After going up and down steep narrow roads in the gargantuan 2013 Ford explorer, I was able to finally find a small sign telling me I had arrived (for you, I'll provided the GPS coordinates 18.070735, -66.205008).

The sign for the plant nursery...which was right at their gate.

The wonderful people from Plants of Puerto Rico were able to set aside and sell me 100 plants for my experiment. Tomorrow I will try to find another 100 plants, which I'm really really hopeful I will find. I'll catch you up on how it goes. If you know a place that sells black seeded simpson lettuce (lechuga del país in Puerto Rico), I want to thank you ahead of time for putting me in contact with them.

Our plants are safe and sound waiting to be planted in Gurabo

until "next week"

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