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As Time Goes By


I came to Puerto Rico in 1984. At thirty two I had no idea I’d be writing this story forty years later. I had planned to stay six months to put an addition on the “vacation house” I bought with my sister. My ‘casita del campo ‘ sat in the center of the island on 42 acres of jungle. After a year in the mountains, my vacation house became my permanent home.


Tony lived in Boqueron. He worked in restaurants all over town and had his own restaurant, Tony’s Place, when we met. By 1987 he was ready to leave the beach and restaurant scene and come to the mountains…and that’s when our journey began. We became farmers. We planted citrus and coffee and raised pigs, chickens, rabbits and goats.


Farm, Kids and Guests

We started a family and had two children. Friends came to visit; friends told their friends who told strangers to visit. Starting with a loft in our house and later in a separate cottage, vacationers came to stay with us when visiting the center of the island. Tony, always the “chef extraordinaire”, would feed our guests at the family table. 

building the cottage
From guestbook #1

Pool and Camping

We had a pool, a camping area and a cottage….that’s how it all began. TJ Ranch was more than a farm; we were hosting people.

pool construction
down the road to camping
camping area

From Farm to Hospitality

In 1998 we cleared the area of the coffees and built three cottages and a restaurant.  

construction...clearing coffee

By 2001 we were open and  ready for business.

under construction

It’s hard to remember how people found out about us. We had a website. Local bird watchers booked with us. We were excited when we got into Lonely Planet and the Moon guidebooks. I think that Trip Advisor was the link that helped us the most. Even our bad review, the foul mouth pot smoker whose food was good, brought us customers. It took a while before we could accept credit cards because of our telephone line. In those days people even paid with traveler’s checks. They didn’t mind that they didn’t have wifi or television. It was a chance to detox from technology.

returning guests 1994 and 2018
birding at TJ Ranch

Many of our guests became lifelong friends.

Hurricane Maria

September 20, 2017 changed all that. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.  Buildings were damaged; electricity was out for seven months. In the seven years since then, we have rebuilt damaged buildings and maintained the land, but we didn’t want to reopen. We were tired.

To read my story of Hurricane Maria, press the hurricane picture below.


Times are different now. Things have changed…post Maria, post Pandemic. How business is done has changed. Airbnb, Venmo, Instagram, selfies…reviews are everywhere. It’s a new world.

It’s time for new blood. Our kids are great and they’ll figure it out. I hope they enjoy the business as much as we did. It’s time for the next generation to take charge.  It’s time to pass the baton.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sarah Ratliff

    Joan, OMG! I love this! You gave me chills. You’ve shared TJ Ranch’s backstory before but never with this many photos. It’s just lovely to see the history. Paul and I are so glad that six months turned into 40 years. Otherwise, we would never have met you all and found such good friends to love.

  2. suzanne garnier

    While i was reading your post I found myself ‘reminiscing’ smiling all the way. . . great journey. . .thanks again for your gracious generosity. Does this mean you get to travel out west sometime;-)

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