Fireplace is done! We will add a fire guard soon, but everything is done and the mosaic tiling job done by James and Maddy makes it even better.
Testing of the New Fireplace
We had to test the fireplace out a few times. Once for some marshmallows, once for our last night together "Hobo Dinner" and then for s'mores.
Hobo Dinner and S'mores
We asked the volunteers to prepare for an American camping tradition, The Hobo Dinner. Throw some food in foil packs, put it in the fire and we would eat hours later. The problem with this is telling a Brit who is an amazing chef to put together a simple meal is like herding cats....can't be done! He outdid himself and put together an amazing dinner, with just a little cheating. :) We had baked potatoes, seasoned peppers, seasoned eggplant, short-ribs and was topped off with wine in a box. :)
None of the volunteers had ever experienced a s'more, so this was new to them. I found Hershey chocolate and white marshmallows, but could not find graham crackers. We had to substitute a honey bran cracker instead. The crackers were a little smaller, but very yummy. James ended the night with a three layer s'more and yes, he could open his mouth big enough to eat it!
(sorry some of the pictures are dark, I realized later that my flash on my phone was turned off)
Solar Drying House
The drying house is not finished, but we have made progress. The fans took 2 weeks before they arrived at the store and we decided the shelves needed more reinforcements. However, the fans are up and we have the material to reinforce the shelves. Maybe it will be finished by the end of the week. Things will slow down now that it is just Rick and I again.
The volunteers found time to have a little fun. They watched the World Cup, played in the workshop, did some jumping and enjoyed some walks.
The birds have made nests all over the property. Many of the nests are hidden and we can hear baby birds chirping all around. Below is a picture of a nest on top of one of the coffee trees. I guess this bird gave up on finding a spot with shelter that was still vacant. :)
We have 2 new "volunteers" that are here on the Workaway program. They are from the U.K. and they are both very creative. Each group has had different skills and we have enjoyed each group more than we anticipated.
Maddie and James are on their 2nd week with us and have done incredible things around the farm. Maddie has actually resurrected the instagram account and is very good at remembering to update it each day. I guess I am going to have to continue her great work after she leaves. I will miss her for many reasons when she leaves, this is just one of them.
James and Maddie both contributed to the new Coffee Can sign on the wall. I think they both might still have a little paint on their hands. :)
Both James and Maddie are amazing in the kitchen. However, James gets stuck with more of the meal preparation. I should have been taking pictures of the incredible food we have been eating for months now, but below is James in the outdoor kitchen and a couple of the lunches we have had.
Other projects that have been completed in the 10 days:
This week we are working on an outdoor fireplace for the Coffee Can. We were lucky to have 2 guys from Canada come and help for a day too. Hopefully, I will have a pictures of it completed by the next time I update this page.
Maddie and James spent the evening with me at our large batch coffee roaster's house. Below, Maddie is frantically trying to sweep out the roasted coffee beans before the next batch drops down. I think they had some fun.
They have been doing small batch roasting on the farm and experimenting with different roasts and different ways to brew the coffee. They have been drinking iced coffee, cold brewed, espressos, auto-drip....
I had never seen a a guanabana bloom before. It is my understanding that it only blooms in the morning, but we finally saw this one in our backyard. We are hoping to have a few good guanabanas this year.
We tested our water with some petrifilm. On the right is the water that comes into our water tanks from the supplier. Pink dots are not really good. It shows how many coliforms, or possible contamination colonies that are present. Blue dots would show E.coli that was present. Thankfully, we only have lots of coliforms coming in. Our system then has water filters and even a U.V. filter before it reaches the house. As you can see in the 2nd test, the filters are doing their job!!! The water is 100% clean according to the this week's test. I had never heard of petrifilm until this year, it is kinda neat. Little petri dishes built in slides.
Bug of the week
I have shown caterpillars before, but unfortunately this kind of caterpillar attached himself to Maddie's leg while she was working in the coffee field. Her leg started getting hot with a large blister looking rash. The rash was in the shape of Panama, which was interesting, but I do not think Maddie thought it was cool at the time. After a shot from the doc and some strong antihistamines she is back to herself, but we are all a little more cautious right now when we go through the coffee trees.
Last but not least, after living here for almost 2 years, we finally bought our own lawnmower. It is not as fancy as Hector's riding lawn mower, but we did splurge on the self-propelled and push-button start. Rick actually can mow the lawn in the about the same amount of time and he can get into the smaller areas now. The downsides:s not as cool as the riding lawn mower, you can drink a beer while mowing the lawn and it takes more energy now.
Our 2nd group of Workawayers just ended. We have enjoyed getting to know them and learning from each other. Having a french cook here for awhile was not bad either! I have been spoiled for weeks now with both groups having an awesome cook/chef, I am not sure how I can go back to eating my own meals. The Workaway Program has been very good for us, not only are we eating well, we are getting a ton of stuff done on the farm and having fun while doing it.
Bugs and Creepy Crawlies
Lots of caterpillars this month!
Our next group begins on Tuesday. We still have a lot to do before the harvest, but I think we are still on schedule. Tonight we are going to have a family movie night and enjoy some popcorn before we start a new week of work.
I thought the rain was bad here in Panama! I was in Oklahoma for the week and one of the days that I was there, the phone kept beeping with messages. Flash floods in the area and warnings to avoid those areas. Not quite sure what the actual flood areas are, but I stayed in that day. :) The 2nd picture was posted by one of the news channels. I guess they were pretty serious about the floods. Some people ditched their cars in the middle of streets to wade through the water to safer areas....
I came home and was surprised at how much the coffee cherries grew in just the 10 days that I was gone. I am starting to get excited for harvest time, but still a little nervous. We have so much more work to finish before we are ready for the harvest this year.
Work that was done
While I was gone, my husband and Melvin got some more work done. As you can see from the picture below, the dog was not helpful. We have many more gravel areas this year, we have learned from the past rainy seasons, that the ground gets very muddy this time of year. Hopefully, the new pathways and covered areas will make it more pleasant.
When Dad makes Lunch
This is what happens when I leave Rick to make our son's lunch. Sandwich, Doritos and a banana....
Bug of the Week
No clue what bug this is, but it has a cool pattern to him.
We tried the workaway program and we met some great people!!!! Braden, Martin and Flor were awesome. Our to-do list is now half the size it was. :) Not only were these people very helpful, they were fun and great in the kitchen! We not only ate good food with them, but we even have food in our freezer for later now......I am so going to miss them.
List of projects we could mark off of the list after 1 week:
I just had to show a before and after picture together. The before picture is the area where we had old roofing material and other stuff. We now know where the dump is and we have organized all of the stuff that we still might be able to use later. But more importantly, we have a clear area for the solar drying house to process all of the coffee in the next harvest.
Rick and I had given up on getting our cedulas. We have resident cards and the cedula cards are just another form of identification. The process to get them seemed daunting and the only benefit of having them is that they are an official form of identification and would allow us to not carry our passports and resident cards all of the time. However, to get them, it was more bureaucratic paperwork, more money and a day in Panama City (7 hour car drive to get there.) Our attorney had never provided us with the paperwork to actually get the cedulas and there is a time-frame of 1 year from the date of your resident card.
So, Rick and I decided we just would not get them. Then, 2 weeks before the deadline to get the cedulas, we magically got the paperwork from a friend of our old attorney. We then hired a person in Panama City that provides a service of getting everything together and making the cedula process quick. Deciding to get it done quick and painless, we flew up and back to Panama City in 1 day....It turns out that the service we paid for was worth it. We flew in and 45 minutes later everything was done. However, our plane back to our side of the country was still 7 hours away. So, Rick and I spent the day at the mall. :)
We spent a little time in the casino at the mall. Just enough time for Rick to see his 1st vending machine that holds beer and for me to see that they tax you on all money put into the slot machines. Not on just the money you win, but also on the money you put into the machine. My $20 in the machine, even after the tax at least paid for a sushi lunch. :)
It is now semester break for kids in school. My son and I flew to Oklahoma for the week and left my husband to keep working on the farm. I was excited to have some good bar-b-que ribs last night and pick up some online shopping orders. This week is going to go fast, so trying to fit everything in. :)
After such a long dry season, I was glad to see some rain. However, the last 4 days have been too much rain!
The first 2 pictures are the ditches that we cleaned out by our house to let the rain flow under our driveway. We got them ready just in time!
The next 3 pictures are of the road to our house. 5 months ago we had road work done, but there were a few sections without any gravel. They started working on putting the gravel down 2 days ago, but ran out of gravel and were going to start again today. I do not think they did anything today though. What a mess!!!!
The last picture is how much rain they are getting off of the hill and in some places it is going over the roads. The rain storm has lasted 2 hours now and it appears to be getting a little better now.
I sent these 2 bug pictures to Sarah, who really likes bugs, and here is what she said:
"Cutest little beetle! And a colorful stink bug"
"If you boil them in water the stink bug water will protect you from mosquitos!"
"....and then you can eat the leftover carcasses"
Ummm...I am not going to be eating stink bugs, don't worry!
Starting with the creepy crawlies first today.
The first 2 pictures are of the same bug. It was a cool color, most of them are just brown. These are the ones that keep bumping into the walls and windows until they die.
The 3rd picture is of one of the top 5 most dangerous/poisonous items in Panama. It is the white caterpillar that sends people to the hospital for days.
The last is another random bug on the wall outside.
Some sort of gooey mushroom looking stuff growing just in one area.
Here is what you get for $12 at the fruit/veggie stand. Tomatoes, watermelon, pineapple, apples, bananas, passion fruit, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, leeks and bell peppers. I am set for the week. :)
Widow-Maker Retrieval Day
Each year we and by we, I mean Rick, goes through the field and tries to get all of the dead broken branches that are stuck in the trees. These limbs would seriously hurt somebody if one of them fell on someone as they were walking through the field. This includes people that were taking a tour, the pickers at harvest time, a puppy playing around or just someone walking through to get to one of the fruit trees.
Rick says it took about 20 tries to get 1 widow-maker. He retrieved all 4 that we found.
Below is what his attempts looked like. :)
After the Retrieval
Next, he broke them up to burn them. There is not enough time today to burn them all. They were all pretty big. While breaking one of them up, a ton of very large ants came out. As far as I know, there are no Panama ants that do not hurt when they bite you. These are larger than the ones we normally see, so I am just guessing that their bites are worse....
Everything is turning really green. The trees are very happy about the few days of rain each week. :) Oh yeah, we also got 6 more items crossed off the to-do list!
It is now the slow season for us. Harvest is a few months away and the rain is here a few afternoons a week now. So, while we were not super busy with everything else, we sat down yesterday and made our to-do list. It was 2 pages long and I think we both were too sad at how much there was on it to continue adding things.
Last night we signed up for the workaway program. It is a way for people to travel around the world and learn new things and meet new people along the way for cheap. We provide food and lodging and our wonderful sense of humor (okay, so it is supposed to be adding cultural experience and not so much my sense of humor, but hey!) and someone travelling through helps us out for a few hours a day. I will let you know how it goes, but I am feeling very hopeful after the depression of seeing our huge list of stuff. :)
Today, Rick and I accomplished 2 items off of the list. I was the lucky one. I just had to refinish some wood in the outdoor kitchen. I forgot to take a before picture, but the first picture is when I was halfway done sanding it.
This area used to be exposed to the elements outside and the wood started getting black and pretty gross. Now that it is under a roof, it was time to spruce it up. I am not a wood-working kind of person, so I think I did a pretty good job.
One of the cameras went offline this week. While trouble-shooting it, another one went down too. One of the issues that we found is that waterproof items made for places other than Panama and not-so-waterproof. The box that houses the wires was full of water from the last huge downpour. Then we found out that the wire that is buried underground got water too. Which might not be so bad, if it had not been the fake CAT 5 wire we had purchased our first year. So, he had to dig up some of the pipes, try and take out the old wire (1 of them broke inside) and then get new wire through the underground pipes. Then he had to get it through all of the pipes into the house where all of the magic happens...haha. Here are a few pictures of the mess. He fixed it and still had time to fit in something that was not even on our list and 1 other item that was!
Mowing the Lawn
We normally use our neighbors mower, but it was sadly not available today. So, Rick mowed our lawn with a weed-eater. The lawn was getting a little out of control...maybe not the lawn, but the weeds growing in the lawn were!
Recycling Milk Jugs
Since we have learned that waterproof does not really mean waterproof for Panama, this year Rick is putting shields over the cameras. I cannot tell you how many outdoor, waterproof cameras we have had flood with water. Maybe his milk jug hoods will help save a few of them this year. I took a picture of my sweet husband fixing the hoods over the cameras from the live-feed camera app on my phone. Maybe he won't read this post and won't see this picture...haha.
We had a coffee tour with a person that actually is doing the workaway program. Talking to her actually helped us decide to try the program out. Anyways, she was a Entomologist and really, really likes bugs....
I have asked her to go through the blog and add comments on any of the bugs that she knows the names of - if she has time. I am hoping she does! We were talking about the Whip Spider that day and she was hoping to see one while she was down in this area. Of course after she left, that night we see a Whip Spider! I sent her the picture, but no more talking about creepy bugs or spiders with people for me....just rainbows and butterflies from now on!
I was responding to someone's email this morning and took these pictures to better show what I was talking about. The first picture below is a different coffee farm's trees and the second picture is a picture of some of our trees. After putting the 2 pictures close together, it reminds me of what all of the hard work is for and how healthy our trees are.
Last, but not Least....Bathtub Update
One of my dearest and best friends just sent me a picture of what arrived for me in the mail today. I will be seeing her in a few weeks and had my new tub sent to her house!!!! YAY!!!!!
Some may still think that my blow-up bathtub is just silly, but I will take silly over no bathtub any day. :)
For those that have read this blog from the beginning, you might remember how excited I was about my inflatable bathtub. I am sad to say that this picture is after we found a hole in it and fixed it. I am afraid the tub is done for, but there is good news for me. The price for a replacement has gone down, so bathtub #2 is on its way.
Living in a place with 3 showers and no bathtubs is just not right! Actually, we have 4 showers on the property, but yesterday I converted one into a storage area for me. I figure if my husband gets to have a shop and 3 sheds, I can use a shower area that is no longer used. :)
The mail system here is very slow. My son just received his Easter card from his grandmother that was sent 1.5 months ago. At least it finally showed up at the post office though and was not lost in never-never land.
This is about how long it takes when you do not use a freight forwarder. The entire envelope (front and back) has stamps all over it, and it is kind of impressive. If we would have used the freight forwarder to get this letter, it would have only cost $3. But, when you add that up for each envelope a person gets in his mailbox in a day, it starts to get expensive.
Below are pictures of a stick bug and a moth. It amazes me how camouflaged creatures can be. The moth picture is a little blurry, but it was hiding out on the side of our house by the roof-line and my phone just would not focus on just the moth. :(
My phone is only 4 models behind....haha
One of the frustrating things here is that property owners that do not mow or cut down their empty fields, tend to set them on fire to remove all of the brush and weeds. Sometimes these fires get out of control and melt the pvc water lines, burn through internet/cable wires, extend to other properties...the list goes on. The fire department here is not like that in the States. There was one truck that did show up, but I am not sure if they had water in their truck. The fire ended up going through acres and acres of land.
This one was a fire on Friday that was just across the street from my son's school and was not one of the bigger ones that we have seen, but it still surprises me when I come across one. Now that the rainy season is almost here, we should not see any more until next year.
During the rainy season it is even hard to start a fire using paper and twigs, so wet fields would take a ton of gasoline.
Rings Around the Moon
A few nights ago the night sky was amazing. There was this beautiful ring around the moon and the sky was so clear! The first two pictures below are from my phone and it did not capture the ring. The 3rd picture is from an actual camera and you can barely see the ring. :(
Below are images from the web that look similar to what we saw that night.
Caterpillar and Moths
Here are the bugs for the week. The large moth was over 3 inches and had a cool camo-look going on. :)
The dog can make anything a pillow!
We went to see the monkeys and sloths in Volcan. There is lady there that treats orphaned and injured animals and exotic animals that people had kept as pets at one time. (The sloths love to be fed almonds!) She even has a hyperbaric chamber that was used to help one of the sloths recover from an eye injury.
The trip started off with a drive that was a little over an hour and would have been a little quicker if some cows had not decided to block the road that day. :)
After our outing to see the animals, we went the Boquete Bar-b-que Fest. They were having a competition for the best bar-b-qued hamburgers, chicken, brisket and ribs. Live music and wafer cookies filled with caramel. Mat decided the cookies were pretty good.
We were rooting for one of our guests in the Coffee Can to win the competition, who sadly did not win the competition, but he still had fun.
Coming up soon
We almost have the new shed done and then it will be on to the solar drying area. In between those projects, we have some tile work to finish and flashing for some new gutters. Our to-do list does not seem to be getting smaller.....