ARCHIVE Published Monday, September 3, 2018 - First news page


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E-Invoicing: Privacy be damned!

By Garland M. Baker

Costa Rica along with other Central and South American countries now requires the use of electronic invoices. These are called facturas electronicas in Spanish, the buzzword everyone is talking about. The government wants everyone to use them by the end of the year. There are a few exceptions but not many.

Health professionals, accountants, and lawyers were the first required to use the new system starting in January, February, and March. These groups are the most significant tax cheaters, according to tax department studies. Each month that goes by includes another business type.

The concept behind electronic invoicing comes from e-billing used by corporations and trading partners for many years throughout the world. The term describes any method by which invoices are presented electronically to customers for payment. Countries like Costa Rica have elected to bastardize the concept to collect more taxes.

Hacienda, the finance ministry, and Tributacíon Directa, the tax department have spent much money promoting the system as easy to use. It is not. They also say people will love it. They do not.

Let the facts speak for themselves. Only 9 percent of big tax contributors and 28 percent of professionals are using electronic invoicing at this time, eight months into the program. Most people hate it. The tax department is surprised and is sending out thousands of emails reminding people the tax penalties for not getting with the program. Penalties range up to 43.1 million colons (around $76,000). The numbers are correct. They are not typos.

They primarily are looking for those businesses not collecting and paying sales taxes and for professionals declaring far less than they make. That is the reason they were the first required to use the system.

One of the significant flaws in the strategy is that it requires an email address. Many people do not use one, especially older people and those who live in rural areas. Even younger adults have strayed away from using email and prefer chat and messaging. The government is building a system for the future based on technologies of the past.

In a nutshell, this is how electronic invoicing works:

1. Purchasing a product or service starts the process.

2. The vendor asks the buyer for identification and an email address then uses an independent service or the tax department's free interface to register the sale.

3. The customer receives an official tax invoice directly from the tax department in portable document format, known as PDF, and extensible markup language, XML.

4. If the purchase is a consumable and not deductible, the process stops here.

5. Expenses for businesses require an additional step for deductibility. The business customer needs to accept the electronic data interchange documents with the tax administration within eight business days to validate the expense for tax purposes.

The PDF file is for the human component. It is a file format developed in the 1990s to present documents across different media for people to read. XML is the machine language used so different computers can communicate with each other.

Hacienda's notion is to control every sale and purchase digitally. One does not need to be very smart to figure out the implications of their plan.

The XML data goes into computers based on identification numbers. The machines crunch the data, comparing income and expense information, and spits out who is buying things beyond their means and not paying their fair share to the government.

Hacienda wants sellers to deny customers the right to buy something if they do not supply their personal information. One optometrist complained in an interview about her telephone consultation with the tax support line. "It's tough to sell an expensive set of glasses and frames these days. The tax department wants me to tell an older farmer with little concept of computing he can't buy glasses because he doesn't have email. Are they crazy?"


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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
 
Only 9 percent of big tax contributors and 28 percent of professionals are using electronic invoicing at this time.


Will expats be affected? Yes, they will. Expats along with Ticos, even tourists, must supply their data upon request to buy something.

Some may have already experienced the questions at PriceSmart and have had a special sticker put on the back of their card. It indicates PriceSmart collected purchase data on customers in compliance with the law.

All this Orwellian Big Brother tax policing is disconcerting to most. There are a couple of groups jumping for joy besides the tax people. Accountants and computer programmers are delighted.

Hacienda's administración tributaria virtual system provides free invoicing for users. But its hard to understand and use. More than 20 groups are currently offering electronic invoicing services, some free as a hook to reel in accounting clients.

Most business people will need them. Recent tax laws and newer ones on the horizon are a maze of rules and compliance requirements. The eight-day regulation to accept invoices from vendors is a good example. Not adhering to the deadline means no expense deduction, resulting in higher income taxes.

That is the bottom line. All this gobbly goop with electronic invoicing means more tax revenue through increased collections of taxes and penalties. A tax official told an accountant at a seminar that the tax department is counting on them: the fines. They know many people will not comply with the new rules.

Hacienda is very active on social media, especially Twitter, with one theme over and over. "Denuncie Ya!" This Spanish phrase means "turn in tax cheats." There is even an app to do so.

Do expats need to worry? Not really. But if they came to Costa Rica for increased privacy from peering eyes into their spending habits, Costa Rica is no longer the place to live. The problem is there is almost no place to go anymore in the world for privacy.

Expats in business should work with a good accountant. One who knows the ins and outs of the new rules and keeps their senses on high alert for changes to the tax system.

Will electronic invoicing based on old email technologies work? Will people give up their personal private information readily? Time will tell.  Some professionals are giving discounts to those who will pay cash under the table creating a black market of sorts. This new system may create more problems than it was designed to solve.



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Editor’s note: Garland M. Baker is a 46-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica. His team solves problems for expats. Reach him at info@crexpertise.net. Baker has undertaken the research leading to his articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info. A free reprint is available at the end of each piece. Copyright 2018, use without permission prohibited.




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Published  Monday, September 3, 2018 - Second news page
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Facts on human trafficking

By Jose Pablo Vega (America’s Network for Refugee Legal Aid), Alonso Mora (Costa Rica’s Women’s Research Center) and Victoria Torley (A.M. Costa Rica)


Lured by fake promises, deceit or violence, victims of human trafficking are recruited, transported, or harbored for the purpose of exploitation. They are most commonly coerced into sexual exploitation or forced labor. However, they can also suffer from domestic servitude, forced begging and stealing, and even compelled to sell their organs.

For the purpose of the 2018 World Day against Trafficking of Persons, the Costa Rican office of the International Organization for Migration invited Vanessa Bouché, an internationally renowned expert on the subject, for a series of activities with stakeholders working in the field of human trafficking.

Bouché is an assistant professor of political science at Texas Christian University in Forth Worth. Her research is at the intersection of political psychology and public policy with a particular focus on identity politics and human trafficking.

She has been a co-principal investigator on several federally funded projects from the U.S. Department of Justice and USAID totaling over $800,000.  She has developed datasets of human trafficking prosecutions in the United States at both the state and federal levels and is the principal investigator of HumanTraffickingData.org, an open-access, searchable database of U.S. federal human trafficking cases. She is working with an Indian non-government organization, Shakti Vahini, to replicate this web application in India.  Bouché has conducted public opinion research on human trafficking in the United States, Moldova and Albania and has also designed and deployed trauma-informed surveys with survivors of human trafficking in the United States and Honduras.

Bouché has published articles in the Journal of Politics, Politics & Gender, Journal of Public Policy, and Women & Criminal Justice, among others.  She teaches a variety of courses, including American identity politics, human trafficking in the U.S., U.S. intelligence bureaucracy, transnational human trafficking (study abroad in India), experimental methods in political science, and capstone in political science.

During her visit, in an exclusive interview for A.M Costa Rica, Bouché uncovered multiple myths that revolve around the issue of human trafficking. What follows is her assessment of the problem:

Human trafficking is something that happens very often. Every year millions of people become victims of human trafficking in nearly every country in the world, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims.

Most of the victims are women and children. The 79 percent of victims of human trafficking focus on what, the criminals think, is the most vulnerable people. However, adult men can also become victims, most likely by forced labor.

Even the person who voluntarily agrees to be exploited is still a victim. Traffickers are master manipulators of the mind. They make the victims think that they want to do the job and not that they are being forced to do it.

Not all cases of human trafficking are committed by large organized crime groups. Approximately 70 percent of the human trafficking cases are linked to mom and pop and crime ring organizations, which by definition are not large in size. However, their size doesn't´t affect the fact that they can be highly sophisticated and operate across international borders.

Not all the offenders are always grown men and women. In places such as Tenancingo, Mexico, boys are groomed from a young age to become traffickers so that they can learn how to deceptive and lure their potential victims with fake promises and a Romeo approach.


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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo              

Forcing the victims to prostitute themselves is one of
the main activities for human trafficking offenders.



Forcing the victims to prostitute themselves is one of the main activities for human trafficking offenders. Sexual exploitation is one, if not the most common case of human trafficking. Usually what happens is that the traffickers work alongside a network of brothels in which they lend their victim for a short period of time, a week or so, and then they will move the victim to the next brothel, and then to the next, and so on.

For criminal organizations, drug dealing is still a better business in comparison to human trafficking, but this $32-billion-per-year industry is flourishing because of two main causes: (a) the risk of getting caught is lower because there is less investigation and enforcement of human trafficking than of drug dealing, and (b) drugs are a consumable product that you have replenish whereas with humans there is no need to replenish because you can exploit the same person over and over again. Therefore, criminals are rapidly switching their portfolio from drug dealing to human trafficking.

Traffickers are not the only ones who benefit from the exploitation of their victims. We are all consumers of technology and fast fashion but we ignore the fact that by demanding extremely cheap prices we are all contributing to the problem - we are consuming on the backs of forced laborers. Like it or not, we are to blame for the suffering of millions and millions of degraded and exploited workers all around the world.

Imprisoning the trafficker is not the only way to address the issue. Victims tend to see justice differently from the general public because what they really want is to be made whole again. When you frame human trafficking predominantly as a criminal justice problem then you are automatically going to look for criminal justice solutions. However, this is not just a criminal justice problem. We all, as a culture, as a global community, are contributing to the problem.

Victims of human trafficking are not going to overcome their traumas easily. When you have endured five years of exploitation, it is going to take at least double that amount time to be made whole again, and in some cases a lifetime. Victims will need a safe place to live, psychological counseling, educational and vocational training, financial literacy skills, and jobs, so that they can live and be independent on their own.

We can all be part of the generation that decides to put an end to the suffering and have a heart for victims of human trafficking.



__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________





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Published Monday, September 3, 2018 - Third news page
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5 millionth Costa Rican is born

By A.M. Costa Rica staff


Costa Rica is celebrating its 5 millionth citizen. According to a Social Security report, and due to simultaneous births in different hospitals, the 5 millionth citizen could have been born in one of three public hospitals on Saturday.

In contention are: San Carlos Hospital in Alajuela, San Vicente de Paúl Hospital in Heredia, or the Enrique Baltodano Hospital in Liberia. Each claims to be the birthplace of the 5 millionth Costa Rican.

"Between 9:20 at night and 9:30, 40 babies were born in the hospitals of San Carlos, San Vicente de Paúl and Enrique Baltodano,” said a press release made by the Social Security health statistics compilers.

"Although they knew in advance the institutional impossibility of determining in which hospital and who is the 5 millionth inhabitant, there was great expectation in all the delivery rooms: from Buenos Aires from Puntarenas to Guanacaste, from Ciudad Cortés to Turrialba," said Ana Lorena Solís, head of the Department of Social Security Statistics.

As indicated in the National Institute of Statistics and Census, the birth occurred after 9:27 p.m. and it could occur in any medical center in the country, whether public or private.

According to the Social Security statistics, there is a possibility that the baby is from a foreign mother. National birth statistics indicate that 81 percent of births are births of Costa Rican women, but 19 percent are from foreign women. Most of the foreigners come from Nicaragua.


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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo             
     

The country must wait 27 years for the birth of
the inhabitant 6 millionth, officials estimate.


The statistics report indicates that in case there more than one baby born at the same time, the one considered five millionth, would be the first one to be register in the National Habitants Register at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

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Published Monday, September 3, 2018 -  Fourth news page


Spain cares about Nicaragua crisis

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Carlos Alvarado received the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, during Sánchez’ official tour of Latin America.

Costa Rica was the only country visited by the Spanish president in Central America and the Caribbean.

President Sánchez arrived on Thursday afternoon. In the evening hours the two presidents and their delegations held bilateral meetings.

President Alvarado highlighted the common interest of the countries, saying: "It is my wish that the government of Spain see in Costa Rica, based on our political and social stability and the credibility, that we enjoy in many areas of common interest, are a strategic ally of Spain in our region, and will work hand in hand on issues such as the defense of democracy, the protection of the environment and the effort to achieve sustainable development, " said President Alvarado.

On Friday, the presidents had a meeting on issues like environment, climate change, de-carbonization and the political situation in Nicaragua.

Related to climate change, President Alvarado said that Costa Rica has policies promoting the protection of the environment and the thesis that all countries should make important efforts to mitigate climate change. He also urged Spain to become a partner of Costa Rica in its effort to promote sustainable development.

According to the president, Costa Rica is successful in the conservation and management of forests and electricity generation, with virtually 100% renewable sources.

For his part, the president of Spain focused on his concern on the situation in Nicaragua and said that Spain will maintain its cooperative actions as they have done so far, as long as this aid does not influence that nation in favor of acts of repression.

Sánchez added that his nation views what is happening in Nicaragua “with extraordinary concern,” and that Spanish commitment and concern is not about the regime but about the people of Nicaraguan who have lived with their governmental problems for decades.

Spain had to deal with the migration issue, resulting from the crisis on that country.

According to the publication of the National Institute of Statistics of Spain, the immigration to Spain increased significantly in the beginning of the 21st century.


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Casa Presidencial courtesy photo       

Sánchez described our country as synonymous
with stability, democracy and progress.


In 1998, immigrants accounted for 1.6 percent of the population, and by 2009, that number had jumped to 12 percent — one of the highest in Europe at the time.

Since then, however, immigration to Spain has decreased and immigrants now account for 9.8 percent of the Spanish population. As of 2017, there were over 4,572,807 foreign-born people in Spain, 9.8% of the total population.

Spain attracts significant immigration from Latin America and Eastern Europe. The fastest-growing immigrant groups in 2017 were Venezuelans, Colombians, Italians, Ukrainians, and Argentinians.

"The three main issues of my experience as president is in immigration policy. The first must be a conversation, a dialogue in the countries of origin (...) Second, there must be a policy of border control. Third, a policy of integration of political migration in the country," explained President Sánchez.

"What we can do with the government of Costa Rica is [share] the experience of the migratory flows that we are having,” he said. He added that what is needed is orderly migration.

The last Spanish  president visited Costa Rica was José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2004.

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Let’s discuss your tax situation.

Marlene
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The IRS has become more aggressive and if you have not filed, you must do so. 

However, there are solutions to problems and your situation may be better than you think.

If your filing is not up to date, Streamlined Filing can be used with no penalties.
Including disclosure of foreign corporations to avoid serious problems.

If tax payment is holding you back, the IRS has options to solve payment problems.

You can file current or past due FBARs without payment to meet IRS  requirements.

If you have yet to file, do it now as there is still time.

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n
Specializing in all matters of concern to U.S. taxpayers residing abroad including:
n
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U.S. Tax International
Plus Costa Rican taxes, accounting, and legal
 services. Over 16 years in Costa Rica

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  • Quarterly and Annual Payroll Tax Returns
  • Corporate Tax Returns
  • Tax Planning
  • Corporate Formation
  • FATCA Compliance - Form 8938
  • FBAR
  • Report of Foreign Corporations - Form 5471
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  • Take advantage of the Foreign Income Tax Exclusion
  • Applications for ITINs for non Resident Alien Spouses
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Published Monday, September 3, 2018 -  Fifth news page


2019 government budget to increase

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2019 government budget was presented to the legislature and shows a growth of 17.5 percent, the highest since 2015, due to the 53 percent increase in the payment of external debt.

If the budget is approved, the government would spend $19 billion next year, of which 41.6 percent corresponds to the payment of interest and repayments on the debt.

Another increase is the amount allocated to the National Emergency Commission.

The Finance vice-minister, Rodolfo Cordero, said that the fund is at its minimum and there is an urgent need for more resources to attend to natural catastrophes that occur in the country. The decision is due to a clear need to have resources that allow an early reconstruction of the affected roads and services in an emergency.

"If that amount is eliminated, what was assigned to the Presidency would have a growth of 0 percent. However, we are aware of the needs that exist," said Cordero.

According to the Finance minister, Rocio Aguilar, the budget of 19 government institutions is not higher than the amount for the previous year, so they have the growth rate of zero.

She added that the salaries of public sector employees has increased, but at less than the rate of inflation.

Another change, according to the minister, is that the budget decreases 0.4 points in percentage in relation to gross domestic product.

GovernmentBudget090318.jpg 
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo     


Finally, according to the minister, the budget shows the lowest growth in public employees considered as part of government staff in relation of the last eight years.

According to the minister, only five of 24 public employers increased the projection of expenses for next year. Among these five is the Ministry of the Presidency, since these increases are intended for the attention of special projects.

In total, the budget expenses are 21.7 percent of gross domestic product (+0.3 points) offset by limited revenues of 13.8 percent of gross domestic product (-0.2 points), for a final estimated budget deficit of 7.9 percent at the end of next year.



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Costa Rica: Remarkable Tales from Our Super Vacation Spot
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A.M. Costa Rica celebrates its 16th anniversary with a compilation of classic news reports geared to the needs of foreigners living here and those elsewhere with personal or business interests in this vacation paradise.
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Bohemian Road Trip
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"Makin' it Real--a Road Trip," is basically three themes running concurrently: A motorcycle racer who betrays himself by quitting... who looks at his watch one day... and realizes he's thirty now... and if he was going to be a star, he would be by now. So he quits racing and takes a year long trip to see who else might be in his reflection.
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Trapped In The Damas Cave, Costa Rica
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The Dark Side of Pura Vida: Murder, Betrayal, Abduction and Revenge in the Vacation Paradise
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Life is a Tropical Garden
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A quirky look at gardening in the tropics. What happens when a "Northern" gardener moves to Costa Rica? You have no idea.
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Running out of gift ideas? Author Dusty Pilot has just released easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for turning bills (dollars or colones) of any denomination into unique gifts such as flowers: roses, daffodils, daisies and poinsettias; shirts and blouses, and birds with flapping wings. Preview or purchase at Amazon. Click Here

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The Trouble with Cash
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Published Monday, September 3
, 2018 -  Sixth news page

Special dock for hydrocarbon transporters

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new dock in Moín, Limón, is the first in the country to be built with the duques de alba technology at a cost of $112 million.

The system called duques de alba, or alba dukes, are external structures separated from the shore, which are used as berths and mooring of large ships.

The work was carried out by two companies, ICA from Mexico and Meco from Costa Rica.

The new infrastructure will receive ships that transport hydrocarbons which will speed up the importation of finished products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel A-1 and bunker, among others.

According to the Ministry of Transport report, having two port positions and a greater berthing capacity, will streamline all fuel import logistics and asphalt logistics.  This will allow national fuel demand to be met efficiently. Currently, fuel demand increases on an average of 2 percent annually.

The port is an innovating engineering work, allowing a berthing length of up to 200 meters. This extends the breakwater and adds to port capacity so that it will be possible to dock ships of 80,000 tons dead-weight carrying 560,000 barrels of product.

This could generate savings in the payment of import freight, since the current receipt capacity, which is 40,000 dead-weight tons, is doubled.

The current berth is in Position 5.1 in Moín. It will continue to operate to facilitate the berthing of asphalt and liquefied petroleum gas ships, the ministry said.


MoinDock090318.jpg 
  A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo          

The new dock will receive ships that transport finished products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel A-1 and bunker.


The extension of the breakwater, one of the main components of the port, generated an area of protection for the structures of the dock and gives greater security to the maneuvers of docking and undocking. This is important considering that adverse weather conditions that may occur at any time.

As an added environmental value, the breakwater also protects the western reef of the Isla de Pájaros, which in turn protects nearby islands that were previously affected by the sediments carried by the Moín River.

According to the ministry statement, among the main points of this new port are: improve the logistics of fuel imports, have two specialized berths for docking ships and unload fuels, reduce berthing delays caused by weather conditions, and reduce the cost of freight rates by using larger ships.

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Jaco Oceanfront Furnished Condo
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Colinas Del Sol
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Published  Monday, September 3, 2018 -  Seventh news page

Projects and the stuff in between

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When you are a gardener, you have big projects and little projects and everything in between. Projects usually start out like this:

“Honey, you know that little strip of land where nothing will grow? I’ve been thinking . . . .”

This is where your spouse groans or hides his head under a pillow. Or her head, either way, same reaction. Anything that starts with, “I’ve been thinking” cannot end well.

Big projects can include just about anything from building a greenhouse to digging a pond to moving in several tons of topsoil and spreading it around where nothing will grow.

Little projects are things like transplanting a small shrub, trimming a hedge, or throwing some fertilizer on the rose bushes (Metric Man does not believe in little projects. He thinks every project is big).

And what about that stuff in between? That, friends, is the really boring stuff, and gardening includes a lot of it. For me, the most boring part of gardening is weeding, and we have a lot of weeds. When faced with weeding, I will do almost anything to disappear. And so it was that I went down to the bottom of the property the other day to pop a few plants in along the fence line which is ugly barbed wire. We have a lot of fencing, and I thought I had a lot of plants. But I was wrong. Less than a quarter of the fence was done when I ran out of plants. For a while, I thought I would have to go back to weeding. Then I remembered the flowers I pulled out because they had invaded the driveway. So I grabbed them and put them down by the fence, too.

Well, that kept me away from weeding for a while, but not long enough. This is the rainy season after all and weeds grow faster than anything else in the rainy season. I happened to glance at my pebbled path in front of the house and realized that it now resembled lawn more than path. Sigh.

Actually, I blame my wonderful greenhouse for the weeds (have to blame something) because it is such a delight to go out there in the pouring rain and water my orchids and tomatoes even if I do have to wear earplugs against the noise. Last year, I would have donned a raincoat and attacked the weeds, but not now.

Maybe I am just getting lazy in my old age?


Plant for the Week

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Victoria Torley photo          


This one was a real surprise for me. It was growing in moss around an orchid, and I couldn’t identify it. So I put it out there for the big brains on the net. It came back as a species of Utricularia a funny little carnivorous plant that eats with its feet! You heard me. No Venus flytrap here. This one has bladders on its roots that capture prey and eat them. This one is a pretty yellow and white, but there are a lot of other colors. Check them out on the net and look for them out in the wild.

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Editor's note: Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at victoriatorley1@gmail.com