Sorry for leaving you all on a cliffhanger! My plan from two weeks ago (to go an pollinate all the flowers that I saw blooming and budding AND trap bees) fell through since Pachamama (or Atabey here in the Puerto Rican Taino culture) was still playing tricks on me. Unfortunately all the flowers that looked perfect for pollination had bloomed and were dying by the time we returned to the farms…so we just set traps out. I’m actually pretty glad we didn’t have to hand pollinate and set traps out, because it was a heck of a long and tiring week, with some days consisting of 12 hr work days.
On the 13th, I got to go with one of my lab-mates and good friends, Amarilys to the coffee festival here in Maricao, Puerto Rico. It’s called “la fiesta del acabe” since it was meant to be a celebration of the end of the coffee harvest (from last years flowers), but now it’s become more of a cultural event where artisans, food vendors and musicians get together to just celebrate. There were a few coffee booths, so when we wandered to those we were surprised and also really happy to see one of the farmers I used to work with when I first started on the coffee project, in 2013. Luis Roig is a farmer who was kind enough to let me sample three of his farms for bees, and let Amarilys do her bird surveys on two of his farms for the past two years. He’s a great man, and has now started roasting and processing his own coffee beans for sale at small coffee shops around the island. We tasted some of his coffee and it was absolutely delicious 🙂
Last week I went back to Raleigh for my green card interview (I got it, by the way! Yay for being a resident and not a “non-resident alien”!) and I’m so glad I did. Spending 5 weeks away from family and friends, and living alone in the field house really took its toll on me, so I was glad to be able to get some real socializing in with my friends and to see my husband and dog 🙂 So, although it was smack in the middle of all my field work, and I was a little nervous about falling behind on pollination, it was perfectly timed for me, emotionally. And, I came back this Monday, feeling completely refreshed and energized!
Actually to give me some peace of my, Monday, my technician was kind enough to go an hand pollinate one of the farms on his own. Tuesday we returned to the same area and pollinated a second farm. So, things were looking really good! A couple of the farms had buds, which we were hoping would flower by Friday, but Pachamama decided we should wait until this coming Monday to go back. The upside of hand pollinating is that it’s kind of relaxing. We just go to our plants and pollinate…so you can kind of zone out, as opposed to setting traps out and having to walk up and down mountain-sides. The downside is that it takes A LONG time. Like 2-3 hours per farm…especially with the C. canephora which can sometimes have up to 50 flowers per node (we pollinate around 5 nodes per branch – two branches per plant – on 5 plants). So, although we were able to pollinate some coffee plants this week, I sort of felt like we were ‘wasting our time’ when we drove out to farms (1-2hrs away) and would just have to turn around when there were just buds.
This week, the field house is going to start filling up with the birders, one is arriving on the 2nd another on the 6th, and their technicians will also be staying here…so it’ll go from just me to about 5 people here! And, most importantly, my husband Adam will be coming on the 1st to spend the week with me. On the weekend we’ll go to Luquillo, in the north of the island, to spend some time at the beach and celebrate his birthday. So, I think as of this point, time is going to fly by, and before I know it, it’ll be the end of the month and I’ll be back in Raleigh!
As for field work, I think we’re going to have to focus on pollination this week, and hopefully finish up all my farms, and then set out traps for one final sampling. Then, I’m going to have to call all the farmers and remind them to PLEASE not cut down the tree or branch or remove the beans on the plants that we’re hand pollinating. The worst would be to come back to the farms in October-November, when it’s harvest time, and not find the branches which we works so hard to pollinate.
Hoping Pachamama/Atabey helps me out this week.