Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seley's Hideaway - Tetuan, PR

the little dot in the upper center is the old coffee facility at Seley's
la casa de Seley

bar on the side, under the house opens weekends
Hola!  Toto bien? Que bueno!  Come with me on a little side trip up to the tipy top of Tetuan then!  Puerto Rico's mountains offers many wonderful  hidden pleasures. Seley's hideaway is for sure one of them. A fun experience during the day, touring the old coffee hacienda and her collection of exotic animals, at night under the stars, guests enjoy a restaurnat and bar that shares space with some exotic animals on this cattle farm like our local fresh organic chicken turning on a spit, and I am among the lucky ones to enjoy this simple pleasure.  On weekends when the San Juan-istas venture to the center of the island to escape city heat and city living and traffic and noise and stress and exchange that for the friendliness, gentleness and calm found of the  Cordillera Central mountains, this unique spot on the top of a mountain, where the electric stars sparkle and the rain forest is alive with coquis, our national treasure, and our country "jivaro" music fills the night, there is a magnetic pull toward the center of the island, Utuado - "La Buena".  For many living in the city, a place like this jewel allows a breath of fresh air, a connection with the traditions of the countryside - friendliness, good food, gentleness, calm, and all your senses come alive  - the joy of simple pleasures.  Back to the roots of Puerto Rican culture and the deep pleasure and feeling here in the mountains. No matter what Puerto Ricano you speak to on our island they have a connection somewhere somehow to Utuado.  
This is a place to Remember Who You Are.  Inner islanders know how to enjoy life, and have perfected it to an art - if you allow it, it will wear off on you, too, maybe with a little gentle coaxing.    
The art of life is in the Now. There may be a future tense in property spoken Spanish, but so seldom is it used here - a way of saying "be here now."  Life always happens in the now and there is never ever anything not right in this present moment - what a joy to live understanding that!  it's a charm; it's soft, it's laughter and to have a puerto rican friend is to understand that pleasure. when you visit they will ask you, 'todo bien?'  - is everything is good?  yes, everything is good in the now.  Country folk know that money doesn't bring happiness, but joy happens in the now, here, with you, because you are God's perfect creation, and part of this perfection happens all around us right now. wonderous things happen in the now always and only in the now, so if you need things to run on a Swiss train schedule, you will miss the point of being here.  Remember, 'don't worry-be happy' was written by one of our sister island neighbors.  It's our strong suit, not to let you get caught up in past or future - but the joy, gentleness and calm of the now.  I digress, so now up to Seley's, Tetuan, way up on the top of a mountain, a drive along a one-lane roadway winding alongside the mountain, passing and saying hello to anyone, everyone, enjoying homes, charming with profusions of tropical plants and flowers. I give a lift to a little guy walking, school let out early and the school bus seemed not to be going his way today. I was told to follow the road up up and up and at the baseball court I would find the bar.  At the top of the road, I found a little guy playing basketball in that court, and called to him, "where is Seley's", he said, "it's here."  Of course I am here, now, the sun was shining, it was beautiful, of course I was there. 
I see that Seley isn't around, but her friends are. The house is almost entirely covered with flowering vine, and a huge lovely guard dog sits.  Luis, who was sitting in the shade peeling fruit with a machete, comes over and explains Seley would be back any minute and seeing my wonder at finding this enchanting farm, takes me to wander the farm and see the animals, explains the history of this finca.  The animals residing on this tropical cattle ranch were, like the ostrich and ducks, hawk an swans on the ponds living in paradise, for most had their freedom and those that didn't - had the cleanest living quarters I'd ever seen.  So this male ostrich came thumping over - as they walk, they thump, very likely from air trapped inside this huge bird.  
Ten most interesting things about ostriches: ready go  1. Ostriches are a true dinasaur - ostrich skeletons and fossilshave been found which date back over 120 million years;
2. The ostrich has the largest eye of any land animal.  It's eye measure almost five centimeters across. 
3. The flightless ostrich is the world's largest bird. 
4. Though they cannot fly, ostriches are fleet, strong runners - they can sprint up to 70 kilometers an hour and run over distance at 50 kilometers an hour. 
5. Ostrich kicks can kill a human. 
6. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.The old saw probably originates with one of the bird's defensive behaviors.  At the approach of trouble, the ostriches will lie low and press their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible.  Their plumage blends well wth sandy soil and, from a distance, gives the appearance that they have buried their heads in the sand. 
7. An ostrich will live to be 50 - 75 years old. 
8. The ostrich egg will weigh 1.6 kg and is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs. 
9. An ostrich hen can lay 40 - 100 eggs per year, averaging about 60 eggs per year.
10.An ostrich chick grows one foot taller each month until it is 7-8 months old. 
All ya need to know about ostriches, plus they're cute.                            
Back to our walk, Luis explained that the previous owner of this amazing hacienda was one of the large coffee producers, Utuado being in the heart of coffee growing country, and, bad news, coffee farms are disappearing due to the difficulty of finding local  pickers - coffee picking is difficult work; it's grown on mountain sides, terraced, it's hot work and lots of nasty little bugs like fire ants are attracted to the plant. The pickers need to carefully pick so that the fragile branches are not damaged for next year's growth.  Finding people who will do this - coupled with the giant coffee growers worldwide - make it a bit difficult for growers. Many of the haciendas in Puerto Rico have been plowed under and have become barren. This farm is now a cattle ranch, having succumbed to the decline of coffee production locally, but what it's tranformed to is a pretty amazing ranch.  As Luis and I strolled along, he told me he loved Chicago, Boston and the South, wished he were there working the farms and moving from place to place, but he agreed easily that life on the mountain is incomparable to anywhere; gentle, with a sense of community, clean water, air and always fresh fruit growing. As we passed the time with some easy conversation, I learned that on weekends the city folk arrive looking for some fun, tranquility and good food, and camp out on this 127 acre farm, kids even sleeping in the huge barn, once the center for coffee processing.  Seley will make - that is, butcher and cook however you want and whatever you want - an entire pig, cow, goat...... her hands will hand turn and roast on the huge spits, in the open outdoor kitchens, or "fogons".  If you've never had this kind of treat, clean meat freshly killed and roasting over an open fire,with some cold beer and good conversation, you my friend are missing one of life's great pleasures.   Even vegetarians would be tempted....our cattle are not treated with hormones. Poultry is processed without growth hormones and fatteners.  Puerto Rico is the only territory, of all the states, that has refused to artificially fatten or drug  healthy cattle.  How good is that.  Better believe our chicken, pig and cattle have a different taste. couple that with the easy going attitude of the mountain people - and all people are mountain people here - even the San Juan-istas - under the blazing stars on top of the mountain in the rain forest and you have bliss, or the nearest thing to it.    
Finding Seley's was one of those delightful things about living here. I'm lucky to live here! Enjoy the scenery at Seley's in Tetuan.  
This is Luis, one of ten brothers and sisters, living on this mountain, who kindly toured me around this happy finca,  when he saw my delight at all the animals.  See, friendly, happy.  Mountain folks.  and the guathaguaw - our largest hawk, this little one was captured being caught in fencing trying to make off with a chicken.  He's gorgeous. Thank you, Luis! 

I got his attention! so this is what the bird that grabs my chickens looks like.

the male ostrich made a drum with each foot fall - from   air in his tummy.  each of the animals was curious and gentle.  Note:  I skipped the photos of the boa constructor - UGH.  he was shedding anyway.
The honking watchdogs.

a solitary swan

These cute piggies have a tidier house than me. they scooted into a corner, one is refusing to look at me, and the other is overcoming his shynes to peek.

Two-year old Paso Fino

swans and geese cruise the pond, in the background cages of rabbits proteced from the sun, whose fate may be a stew called conejo de guisar, totally delicious!  I mean, how often do you know where your dinner came from?  uh-huh.  
I love driving the one-lane winding road up, up and up to get to Seley's at the tippy-top of the mountain.
One of the joys of living in puerto rico is discovering by accident a place like Seley's, only five miles from my finca here, yet it's remained a well-kept secret of a few adventurers.  

if you would care for directions or more information, just email me, it's my pleasure to share adventures of this lovely and amazing place.  

stepping off the beaten path with you, 
jungle jane

                     'be yourself before somebody else beats you to it' 

Friday, October 1, 2010

a jingle from jungle jane

Mi Chimchorito

Getting here - paradise - might be a challenge, unless, like me, you think life is an adventure, and like driving on mountain roads with the top down and windows open, as opposed to freeways and think of your ride as a Time Machine, and where it takes you.....once you're here you may never want to leave.  If you're in a big hurry and expect everything to run like a Swiss clock, then you'll miss the point of being here.  Because in this part of the island, the Enchanted Island, La Isla del Encanto, we value friendliness, gentleness and calm - and a good sense of humor.  So slow down already, take it easy, baby.  Take a deep breath of fresh air, relax - we know you'll come here with your city cares  but it won't be long til you feel right again.  that's a promise.  We'll tell you over and over again til you get it, "con calma", relax, sit, and remember who you are.  Stay calm, everything is always all right.    remember the song, "don't worry - be happy" was written by a neighbor on a sister island.     
a pretty stallion make a stop at a any little bohio, like Mi Chimchorito, for a mojito, a cerveca bien fria, and smile, because when you're here, you're home.  Friendly, gentle and calmly, locals will ask you where you're from, and then will tell you where they've got cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and friends in every state of the usa.  They're eyes light up as they talk about their times in up north there.  Our populations are intertwined by working conditions, many have spent years in school and work outside.   but as much as they miss being north, make no mistake, Puerto Riacan's have passion for their island, my island.  You'll find aside from a massive sense of humor, there is so much pride for this beautiful island paradise.  for making people feel at home, for our relationship with the north, you're treated as an honored friend, notice please, the display of excellent manners and grace, as gracefull and complex as our music, the salsa. 
Mi Chimchorito  happens mainly from wednesday through sunday night and is probably the smallest bar in all of PR. always lots of people on weekends, lining up for their pinchos - and a cocktail.  the crowd is a mix of local hipsters, musicians, artists, and even a politician or two.  super friendly and rockin  - it is the place to meet up, find the local scene.  Traditionally bars are a meeting place to find out local events, activities and gossip. Music is played good and loud; salsa, meringue, local artists, and our more famous local boys.  the place is so cute and rockin.  Outdoors on the BBQ meat is marinating in a secret pineapple salsa scenting the air.  Note that our chickens are tiny critters - clean and wholesome and locally grown.     Puerto Rico is the only 'state' (really a territory or Commonwealth) that  does not auto-drug cattle, chickens or piggies.  So unless you've had this, you haven't tasted meats at their freshest and best.  they are better....healthier...meat on a stick...get the salsa picante, too.  This amazing place is on rte 111, left hand side.  
Viernes Social or social Friday in Latin countries means lots of calbalgatas [parade is the translation],  what is going on is a lot of people going from place to place on fine-stepping Paso Finos.  bar hopping...did I say on horses?   I love horses, and have a few (can you have too many?) love the paso fino, or fine-gaited horse.  Alongside a group of guys and gals riding you'll see a chaser truck keeping the riders covered from the front and the rear, keeping everyone together, that's also the truck with the six foot speakers and coolers of cold beer and rum.  It will make your heart beat fast to see these amazing fine stepping Paso Finos all shined up and the Amazonas (women) and Jinetes (men) prancing along.  more about those fine horses in a later blog.  
stepping off the beaten path with you,