Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brrr, it's been cold, and snowy!

January has been a month of extremes in the Carolinas (and beyond).  We've had the (normally usual for February) days in the upper 60's that remind me why it's so great to live in the Southeastern U.S., but more significantly, we've also experienced deep freeze temperatures in the teens and below. 

It hasn't been so COLD in decades. 

We visited last weekend with a naturalist/artist couple who've lived outside of Bryson City, NC since the 70's -- this has been the second coldest winter that they remember.  Telling.

Maybe some of the benefits will be reduced pest populations (introduced and native). It would be lovely if the hemlock wooly adelgids are slowed down, not to mention the emerald ash borer.

And I'm mindful, too, that this is the first year that I remember as a year-round vegetable gardener that I'll be doing totally new change-outs TWICE.  Hmm. 

First, summer was so wet and cool, disease issues with tomatoes, etc. were huge, so fall green sowings were in clean beds.  The fall sowings are all now "toast"- even the mache (corn salad) and creasy creens --normally capable of freezing solid and coming back.  Not this year with temperatures below 10°F for days.

So it'll be a new season again.  But that's what gardening is about, too.  There's always hope for the next season!

And we're still eating tomatoes from last summer's harvest, even it was skimpy.  That's a good thing.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cartagena market

Cartagena market scene
The produce/meat/fish market in Cartagena was far from the "old town."  It was a chaotic place (and definitely NOT on the normal tourist map either).

But, we're always interested in visiting traditional market places so we headed there in an ancient taxi, and were dropped off next to a garbage-strewn, but pelican-rich salt marsh across from the market.

An unusual Carribean mix of vegetables at a small vendor

Another unusual mix --peppers, yard-long beans, and winter squash - NOT the usual in Colombia
Fresh fish for breakfast was offered up by vendors - my gardening companion loved his.  I didn't want to risk it (being WAY too cautious).

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The amazing power of colonizing plants

Plants colonizing a tile roof in La Candelaria, Bogotá, Colombia
 It was remarkable to see plants colonizing a couple of (very old) tile roofs in the old colonial district of La Candelaria in Columbia's capital city. 

It meant that 1) enough organic matter had accumulated that seed germination and establishment had occurred, and 2) there was enough for these plants to actually flower (and probably fruit), too.

A closer look

Remarkable, actually

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fun hiking... in the Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora hiking (Los Montanas)
We had a great day hiking over the "Los Montanas" pass and down, in the Cocora Valley -- a great place to hike.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Yard-long beans in Cartagena

Colombia was not a trip for admiring vegetable gardens.  I didn't actually see anything resembling a vegetable garden (outside of a "modern" demonstration edible garden at the botanical garden in Bogota).

So not surprisingly, there aren't many vegetables to be seen in markets, either, aside from the "usual" corn, squash, onions, and tomatoes.

So I was glad to see these yard-long beans, offered up by a street vendor in Cartagena, a UNESCO-designated seaport (a centuries-old city founded in 1533).
Yard-long beans, eggplants, tomatoes, and shell beans (street vendor in Cartagena)
Yard-long beans (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis) have a long history.

Related to cowpeas, they've traveled the globe from their initial origin in Africa, moving to Asia, India, and South America, tweeked along the way in seed and pod color.

In Cartagena, they probably came along with enslaved Africans, and would have thrived in the humid and hot coastal climate.

Similarly, a vegetable vendor of Carribean extraction offered up some unusual (for Colombia) vegetables, too, in the large and sprawling Cartagena market.  She had okra, callalo, and hot peppers in addition to the usual mix.

Both were small-scale growers, I thought, just selling extra from what they grew for themselves.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Views from Salento

Salento view down the main street
We totally enjoyed Salento, a "tourist" town locked in a time warp;  the colonial buildings are filled with shops, but still evoke the feeling of a Zona Cafeterra town from years ago. 
Salento fruit stand
 It may have been an accidental time to visit -- on the cusp of explosive development - but there are apparently some historical standards that have preserved the amazing look and feel of the town. 

We loved Salento -- and especially the views surrounding the town.

Sunset was magical.

We were amazed that there weren't droves of folks at our "regular" sunset spot at the head of the main street (simply labelled Restaurante). Hmm, there's no way I can post on TripAdvisor if you don't advertise a name!  We loved the spot.

It's just before the path steepens significantly, before the steps up to the mirador.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Valle de Cocora

LW and decorated "Willy" jeep (a traditional form of tourist transport)
A primary "tourist" destination for Columbians and foreigners alike was the historic town of Salento and the nearby Valle de Cocora.

It made for some great hiking.

View from Los Montanas pass

Valley view

Looking down the valley

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wonderful tropical fruits

One of the delights of traveling in tropical America (especially Colombia) is all of the amazing fruits.  Mango, papaya, bananas, and pineapple were regulars on our breakfast plates.
A diversity of tropical fruits (from Uncover Colombia)
But maracuya (passion fruit), mora (blackberry), guanabaya, uchuva, guava, as well as a variety of citrus fruits, and grapes (a native grape something like concord grapes, as well as imported) were available as well.

Pears and apples made an appearance with street vendors (perhaps a holiday treat?)

Fresh juices in Colombia were always available (from breakfast to dinner), whether at a restaurant or on the street.  Hubby loved them.  They're not sweet, at all.

They're simply fruit pulp (of whatever sort), blended with water or milk (with ice, at times), to make a refreshing drink.  Nothing like our fruit drinks or smoothies at home in North America, as they're not sweetened.  Remarkably, frozen fruit pulp (mango, maracuya, and guavabuana) has made it to the frozen fruit section in one of our local supermarkets (catering to Latin American tastes).  It'll be fun to try them!

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Traveling in Colombia

Wax palms (Colombia's national tree) in the Valley of Cocora
Google thought it was "suspicious" that I wanted to sign into my blog account in Colombia.  Hmm. 

And the only way to verify my identity was to receive a text message on my cell phone (which didn't work in Colombia) or answer a series of largely (unanswerable) questions about my various Google accounts and when they'd started  (how are you supposed to remember the date of when you signed up for Google Calendar?)

So posts weren't going to happen while we were traveling!  So there's been a lapse in posting...
LW with a favorite activity (map reading!)
But, we had a wonderful time for the three weeks we were there, discovering some of the natural and cultural diversity of Colombia -- a fabulous destination (and totally safe and easy for traveling, too).

There are more posts to come, along with musings about gardening, too.  The deep freeze that we're currently experiencing makes me feel better about NOT having worried too much about planting extra greens (unprotected) or about the herbivores (woodchucks and deer) that were yumming up everything in the fall.

Fences and barriers are on my radar for winter and spring plantings, that's for sure (after the soil thaws out enough to sow early winter greens!)

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