We bought a jungle!!

Well, 2 acres of land that feels like a small jungle but its mostly just overgrowth. We’ve also officially become residents of Rincón, Puerto Rico.
Our initial plan when we moved to Puerto Rico was to come take care of the property that Alejandro’s family has here in Rincón, but as we all know plans change. We weren’t going to be able to live in the family house in Rincón like we thought so we’ve spent the first three months here in a beautiful condo in Carolina. While its been a great introduction to Puerto Rico and a perfect home base for exploring the island, we’ve still longed to be on the west coast in Rincón.
<google earth> Rincón is a small beach community who’s claim to fame lies in the 1968 World Surfing Championship that was held here, but its so much more than that - its a mixed community of US mainlanders (some here full-time, some not), original Rincoeños, and mainland Puerto Ricans that have come back to the island. There is a a sense of pride felt from everyone we’ve met here about how wonderful a place Rincón is to live. Even when I went to open an account at the electric company in Aguadilla, the gentleman helping me told me how lucky I was to live in Rincón and how it was the best place in all of Puerto Rico. I’m sure there are other wonderful places throughout the island, but we tend to agree with this man.

In the three months we’ve been in Puerto Rico we’ve driven the 2.5hrs out to Rincón at least 5 times, sometimes staying the week, sometimes just making the drive for the day. It is the part of the island we are drawn to and agree it’s where we want to be. Since before we moved to PR we’d been discussing buying our own home for various reasons: tired of always renting, never sure how long we’re going to be somewhere, will the rent will go up next year, not having a place to grow plants. But everywhere we’ve lived, while beautiful and wonderful, has been ridiculously expensive to buy - SF, NY, DC. We realized that here, we could buy what we wanted, we could build what we wanted, and we could plant what we wanted. So that’s what we decided to do!
Buying property works a little differently here than in the states. You don’t need a real estate agent to represent you in transactions, although having a lawyer is helpful. You can just call around to local agents or view listings online, then set up appointments to view. There is no MLS, or if there is no one uses it, the selling agent will show you any properties you’d like to see that they might have listed and you put in an offer directly with them which they will present to their clients. Point2Homes.com is a very popular site to use to view what’s listed for sale in PR so we started looking and setting appointments to see a few properties. We saw a number of large plots of land around Rincón, some as big as 6 acres - all very beautiful but we decided to go with 2 acres as it seemed much more manageable for a couple used to renting 600 sq ft in a city. We wanted something up in the hills where its a little cooler and not in the tsunami zone (you never know). We also wanted to be able to buy without financing, which most of the time here means just land.
We found what we were looking for up in Barrio Jagüey, Rincón: 2 acres of land with a flat portion for eventually building a house. It's absolutely beautiful with 4 avocado trees, a number of banana trees (they might be plantains), a couple of mango trees, a breadfruit tree, a few coconut trees, and a small creek at the bottom of the hill that runs when it rains. While the flat plot has been cleared for the most part, the rest of the property is covered in vines, tall grasses, and just general over-growth. Our plan is to clear some paths so we can venture down to the bottom of the property line and get a feel for the terrain, then ultimately we’ll build a small cabin, then a house up top. We’ll definitely be growing fruits and vegetables galore possibly even terracing some of the land to have a small farm for growing.

In the meantime, since we aren’t able to live on the property, we’ve decided to do what we’re good at and rent an apartment in Rincón. We’re in a cute furnished apartment just a block from the balneario (public beach) and about 3 blocks to the pueblo (the town square) - its perfect for us at the moment. If we can’t be living on our property we’re happy to be walking distance to the beach, bars, restaurants, and panederias. It's also only a 15 minute drive up the hill to the property so we can go up daily and keep clearing and start planting.
This Thursday the property was officially ours and we decided we shouldn't wait at all to explore it, so we headed to Home Depot to buy a MACHETE (!!!) and a weed whacker and some fire ant eviction notices. Saturday we headed up to the property with a goal of getting down the hill to the creek and back up the other side of the property…we made it about 30 feet down the hill.
We found out a few things, weed whackers don’t like tall grasses and vines, and macheting is beyond exhausting. We went out in the morning so it wouldn’t be so terribly hot, and got a couple hours in taking turns macheting our way down the hill and weed whacking what we could. Alejandro impressively took down a banana tree that was dying with three whacks of the machete as well. After making a little progress we decided to take a break, get some lunch, and come back in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t as intense. Around 3pm we headed back up the hill to machete some more and liberate some fat avocados from the trees. We were only able to machete for about another hour before we were too exhausted to go any further. We’re going to need some other tools to help up make it down that hill…

The banana tree we chopped down had a bunch on it that we brought home and Alejandro fashioned an avocado liberator to reach some of the lower hanging fruits but we’re going to need a longer pole to get the higher ones, but not bad for 1 day old farmers I’d say!! Some pictures from our first cosecha (harvest)!!

It’s been a whirlwind of a week with navigating, getting cashier’s checks without having a bank here, signing paperwork galore for the house, finding an apartment before tourist season starts, and getting to know Rincón! We’ve met tons of lovely people already, been introduced to new places we’d never seen before, gotten tips on how to clear the land, who might be able to help us with building a casita, who we should call to go diving… It truly is a wonderful community here and we’re so happy and so lucky to be able to be here.

P.S. Day two of being a farmer means we have very sore arms, shoulders and backs...

Here are a few fauna spottings from the property: