By Erika Hope Alvarado
Sunday we took a little field trip off the farm to visit a life long friend of William. A tiny little light complexioned guy with natural red hair that everyone calls “chocolate”; not sure what that is about, but his kooky personality deserves an odd nickname I guess. We drove clear cross to the other side of the valley and then up this narrow tightly wound road that I am sure was planned out long before cars were part of daily life. Carts pulled by oxen were probably the transport of choice for crops and supplies when the land was settled. Chocolate works his family farm with his now retired father and mother, they have a collection of animals and oddities on their coffee farm, but what stands out most at their place are the massive tilapia ponds that are built into the slope of their farm. Each one or sometimes two ponds are on a terrace, all are fed by spring water from the mountain above keeping the ponds clean and aerated. They have collected a variety of tilapia species from other farms throughout Costa Rica, some even transported in a 5 gallon bucket via bus. If there is a will, there is a way. Chocolate is a real smart guy, but definitely a rare character, I would never have the balls to drag a bucket full of tiny fish on the bus halfway across the country. They also have collected lily pads and other water plants to keep their fish happy and safe. Yes, I wrote safe. The lily pads and their underwater branches not only provide shade and hiding places for the fish, but they also help to protect them from air born predators and land bound critters. We have had a problem in the past with critters cleaning out a pond over the course of an evening. It is really difficult to efficiently fence in a natural pond with grasses and marsh surrounding it, so we needed an alternative. We hope that the lily pads will do the trick. Chocolate offered us some, and then fully dressed he climbed right into the pond and fished us out a few plants to take home in an old feed sack. William planted them this morning. A couple in the natural pond below by parent’s house and we are going to try and grow one in the cement tilapia tank near the nursery. We hope that a bucket full of earth is all that plant will need to prosper in the tank. Won’t know until you try, everything is a learning process here on the homestead.
More adventures with Chocolate to come, we’ve invited him and his mother to pay us a visit in the near future, we can’t wait.