Our Balcony Garden

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We decided to try our hand at growing green things this year. Ideally we’d love to have a whole garden and grow things in the ground, but our apartment living has relegated our experiment to our balcony and pots. This is our second round of growth. The first round of basil, mint, and cilantro was wiped out my some kind of aphid infestation.

All of our plants have come from seeds. We have used a miniature plastic greenhouse to start growing the seeds which has worked great, although it might have led to the demise of our cilantro by making them grow too quickly and getting top-heavy. When the seedlings reached the miniature greenhouse lid, we planted them in real pots and left them outside.

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This second round of plants consists of basil (in the two small rectangular planters), purple tomatillos (in the large rectangular planters), and tomatoes (in the large pots). Hopefully the basil will grow big and strong and we can make some yummy pesto and the purple tomatillos sounded like they would make an excellent and visually stimulating salsa. The tomatos were given to us as seeds of two different types already planted in small pots. Of course we now have no idea which type is which because the cat knocked the pots, soil and seeds off the table before they could make it to the balcony. We were still hopeful and pushed the soil back into the pots and put them outside. Despite their rough beginnings they have grown big and strong!

Oh yeah… and our little aloe plant is as happy as can be, even if we do forget to water it!

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Montevideo Botanical Gardens

Yet another adventure to blog about while my parents were here! We decided that it would be nice to take the bus up to the area around the Prado. This is apparently an old and affluent neighborhood in Montevideo that boasts a very nice and large park, rose garden, and the botanical gardens.

We hopped on the bus and rode the 20 minutes up to the botanical gardens. The botanical gardens is yet another Montevideo attraction that is free to enter. The day was a little cloudy, but the temperature was nice.

The gardens are nicely arranged into areas of flora from certain parts of the world and specialty areas. Our tour took us around the outside of the gardens. Our first stop was the greenhouse that housed numerous potted tropical plants. The pots and their plants were so uniform that I wondered if they raised them in the greenhouse and sold them at the local markets once they were big enough.

Next we walked through some of the different regions of the world including: Africa, Uruguay, and Japan. The gardens have signs for most of the flora, but the writing on the signs near the walking paths were either worn away or scratched off (one of the downsides of free entry). We found a nice climbing tree, which Asa made short use of.

We then found ourselves wandering through a collection of medicinal and “utility” plants, which included aloe, rosemary, oregano, and lavender. The lavender was especially attractive because of the butterflies.

They also had a section for water plants, which contained some cattails and some very beautiful black and neon orange koi. The fish were clearly used to someone feeding them, as they followed us when we wandered by.

There is also a museum on the grounds, but it was closed for renovations. After we made our way back to the entrance, we relaxed on some benches and enjoyed the relative quiet. The botanical gardens would make a great place for a picnic, or just a nice walk on a sunny day!

The Little House

Yep, that’s what Raul calls it… “The Little House”. When we finally made it to The Little House Raul had about 2 hours of instructions for us on how to take care of, and live in his house. He seems very nervous about renting his house out for the first time. Quite understandable. We assured him that we would take good care of his property. During our orientation he took us room by room telling us all about what we needed to do. Here is a brief recounting…

Entryway: There are two keys that were given to us for the two doors. There is a door that opens to the street and another door into the apartment. Between the two doors there is an atrium of sorts with a stairway up to the roof and some plants and such. Raul told us to be respectful of the space between the doors and to be quiet.

Looking out the window into the entryway. The doorway you see leads to the street and the stairs lead to the rooftop.

Living room: The living room has a cool tile floor, a couch, a chair, and a coffee table. There is also a TV with DVD player and cable which we’ll probably never use. There is also a stereo which Asa has promptly set up with our airport so we can play music through it from our computers. There is also a fire place which we’ll definitely never use, as its way too hot. Raul also directed our attention to an antique drum, a “candombe” drum, which is a traditional Uruguayan drum used during carnival. He told us under no circumstances, especially when we were drunk, were we allowed to play the drum.

The living room from the front door.

Atrium: The atrium is a great little place open to the sky and contains numerous plants. Raul gave us specific instructions on how to water the plants. This might be my biggest concern about The Little House. Asa and I have been known to kill bamboo (of course we didn’t tell Raul this). We’ll do our best. There is a beautiful table and set of chairs to use in the atrium but need to be brought in from the rain. Thus far, every day we’ve been here has had a chance of rain greater than 50%, but we’ve only seen a couple of drops. Guess we’ll figure out when it’s actually going to rain once we’re more familiar with the weather patterns.

Table and chairs out in the atrium.

View of the atrium from an upstairs bedroom window.

Kitchen: It’s tiny. There is a new, small gas stove with burners, a sink, minimal counter space, a small fridge, a microwave, a toaster, and a hot water pot. The Little House  and its water tank are almost 100 years old, so Raul recommended not drinking the tap water and instead buying bottled water. There is a large ceramic jug with a spout on a stool for this purpose. Raul also has a collection of glasses and has requested we use the ones that are not part of any sets, that way its not so bad if we break them.

The kitchen featuring the new little gas stove and the door into the atrium.

Yes, this is all the counter space we have!

The water jug and our half-size fridge.

Bathrooms: There is a full bathroom upstairs and a half bath downstairs. Both toilets have a holding tank and flush on the wall above. It takes forever for the tank to refill after its been flushed. We’ve also been warned not to put too much paper down the toilet. What “too much” is, is a mystery I hope we never solve.

This is the upstairs toilet and shower. Yes, that is yet another live plant we'll try to keep alive!

Bedrooms: There are three small bedrooms upstairs. A somewhat larger bedroom has a queen bed and a somewhat smaller bedroom has a twin bed. Both beds have a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling, although we’ve only seen a couple of mosquitos. We keep the windows open all day and night so the house can “breathe”, so the mosquito nets can’t hurt. Both of these bedrooms have windows that open to the atrium. The third bedroom is an office with a desk. Its’ windows open into the entryway and it’s darker than the other two rooms for most of the day.

The master bedroom.

This is the office.

Rooftop: In the entryway there are stairs leading up to the communal rooftop (there are two other apartments in the house). The stairs have a locked gate at the top so that no one can get into the house from above. On the roof there is a table and chairs, a place to hang a hammock, and a space to grill. The grill is old-fashioned and necessitates building a fire and placing meat over the flame. There’s not much of a view from the roof, as all the buildings are about the same height and the streets are lined with trees.

The rooftop. The gate on the left leads down the stairs into the entryway.

All in all… It’s a pretty awesome little house.