One of the great joys of our life here in Panama is that we are constantly meeting new friends. However, there is nothing like meeting up with your old friends!
Tim and Jess made the long journey from Washington, USA down here to our farm in Panama. There is no great direct flight options from the northwest states. After 3 different planes and layovers, they made it!
It was great to trade stories and spend a week with them, but it was also great that they came here with some fresh ideas and even helped get us started with some new products.
Of course there was playtime too. The beach, visiting monkeys and sloths, evening talks by the fireplace where the dogs wanted to join in too. We will miss them and were very happy to have them here. I think it is our turn next to go up and see them. :)
Unfortunately, there was a storm the entire time they were here. The wind was blowing everyday and knocking things off of the table constantly. At the same time, there was a virus or something going around town, so we avoided going into Boquete as much as possible. Over 400 people were sick with symptoms of the Norovirus. Thankfully, we did not catch it!
Now it is time to get our projects finished and get as much work done as we can while we do have good weather. The fields are being picked this week (last picking for 2018 season), the new storage shed is being built, our store items are being replenished and coffee is being sorted.
When someone leases a tree for the year, we generally do all of the work and send the finished product at the end. However, if you live in the area, you might be caught doing some of the work too! One couple came for the morning to pick and process the last of their cherries themselves. :)
All of our leased trees have now had their last picking and they are waiting for their beans to rest and move onto the next stages. It is a fun time right now. We get to see what the final product looks like after a year of work!
The rest of this month will be full of working on the road to get some more repairs done, finishing the storage area, getting ready for the last stages of the 2018 harvest, getting ready for the 2019 season and maybe fitting a few fun days in too.
First we have to order supplies and wait for delivery. This time it was 2 truck loads full. Bags of cement, blocks, gravel, sand.....
Next, the site has to be prepared and all of the tools needed to be set in place. Hector brought down his cement mixer with his truck as far as he could take it. They had to push it the rest of the way.
Today, the pad was poured! Rick is back on light-duty and more tree leasing signs and letting Melvin finish up today.
I did not help with this project yet, but I did take care of the food (including a brownie cake for Melvin's birthday) and this evening it is my roasting day. I will be hand-sorting coffee and packaging coffee for the next 2 days. :)
This project must be finished in the next 2 weeks, so I will keep you updated on how we are doing with our deadline. :) Tomorrow is day off from working on it, we will be picking up our friends who are coming to visit for a week....*getting excited*
They have already left their house and have started their journey here. :)
One of the things I love about my new life here in Panama is that I get to meet some amazing people! Here, I get to meet people from all over the world. People from small towns and villages to people that live in large cities from all over the globe. (U.S.A., U.K., New Zealand, France, Spain, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Canada, Latvia, Japan, Spain, Australia, Austria, Russia......) Some are professionals like engineers and doctors, while others are still finding themselves....plus everything in between.
I wanted to share a little bit about one of these families that we recently met. The family I am going to talk about today has 4 daughters, each as adorable and sweet as can be. One of the girls has a wonderful talent for making balloon art and she is still so young!
I do not know if you have ever attempted to make a balloon animal, but I have. Sometimes you need more imagination than normal to actually see what I had intended, sometimes it looks like an unfinished animal, but mainly they just pop.
This girl, can make anything and very quickly! She gets this look in her eye as she is envisioning what she is going to make and then off she goes.
Before the family left to continue their adventures at the beach, I was lucky and got a monkey and a ladybug to remember them by. :)
I am going to start at the beginning.
Our family has done small trips to the beach or a day off here and there, but my husband has not been out of the country since we moved to Panama. 2018 was a very busy year for us and we decided to take a 5 day trip to Colombia. We have heard many wonderful things about Colombia and have some friends that have actually moved there. So, we finally made some time to go have some fun and explore. However, there is still a ton of work to do around the farm, so it had to be a short trip.
The first thing we noticed as we got seated in the plane was that the safety instruction sheet has been modified. This made me feel much safer. :)
Next, our hotel room was spacious, clean and came with a hot tub. The bed was very hard and kind of felt like we were sleeping directly on plywood. However, the food at the hotel restaurant was very good.
We then made time to go to the local zoo which was very close to the store where we found vinyl that we needed to buy. The zoo was clean and it was hard to believe it was in the middle of a city with a population of 2.5 million people. We felt like we had left the city and were truly out in the wilderness. We met one of the zoo workers who started giving us a personal tour and even made us some origami animals. :) I think he liked practicing his English on us.
My husband has not been to a real mall or anywhere with serious shopping options in a long time. It was fun to see him at all of the malls, it was even like watching a little kid at times. He loves lighting and at the Home Store, he was so excited that he could turn light switches on and off and they actually worked! Each mall we went to, had some sort of inside park area where people were gathered and hanging out. We had never seen something like that....and we went to ALOT of malls. :)
It was great seeing displays and stores that were completely new to us. :) The Beer Store logo looked like Starbucks from far away....haha.
One of the malls had an amusement park on the top floor. We had to go in there and have some fun too. :) Rick and I vowed to destroy each other on the bumper cars, but before we knew what was happening this teenage boy was ramming each of us.....and hard! Haha. Then it was off to the ferris wheel and other activities.
The city was very, very clean. It was also fun to walk around and see all of the graffiti art. Everywhere we went, there was graffiti art on all of the walls. We saw that they even offered tours for this.
There were exercise parks everywhere! These were free parks with equipment there for people to keep in shape. It must be working, because most people that we saw appeared healthy and seemed active.
The traffic in this city was crazy! There were taxis everywhere and streets with no stop lights, but everyone understood how to navigate it. Hardly any of the cars had dents in them (not like where we live :) and it was fascinating to watch! There were scooters, motorcycles and mopeds everywhere.....they drove between lanes, in lanes...it was insane! There were even bicyclists hanging on to the backs of buses and trucks getting a free ride and no one seemed to care.
While we were away, we get a message from Hector saying that there is a fire on the hill. With it being the dry season, things can burn easily here. Thankfully, after the firefighters found our hill (they did not even know our road existed) and with the help of Melvin and maybe others, the fire was contained.
(Message from Hector: Bomberos are working with mochilas/back pack and Melvin is a volunteer. Don't worry) Eeek!
All in all, we had a great time and it was great to get away for a few days, but we were glad when we were home and sleeping in our bed. It is now time for us to catch-up and get back to work!
One of Rick's best friends since he was a kid is coming to visit us with his wife. We can't wait until they get here! They actually have been here once - it was before we moved down here though.
Those that know me, know I am not a very good cook. It is one of the reasons that I loved having Workawayers here that spoiled us with good food.
For my upcoming birthday, my family sent me an Instapot. I am not one to normally promote a product, everyone has their own favorites...however, this might be the answer to some better meals for us.
I opened up my present yesterday and found a recipe online that ingredients that I actually had in my kitchen. I threw everything in the pot and we had dinner! Okay, there were a few learning curves in there...but the dinner was not burned! So, I am going to make tonight's dinner with it too!!!
Rick was at a store that had household light fixtures clearanced for $5 each. By the way, Rick is addicted to ALL kinds of lighting projects. Since the day I met him, he has been obsessed with improving our lighting needs. Whether it is the color of the bulbs we are using or the fixtures or well...anything lighting related. After many years of working on lighting problems, he has become very quick and efficient at making modifications. That is, until he tried to change 1 in our living room. It turns out that the electrical box was set back about 2 inches from the finished surface of the wall. It appears that a large hammer was used to open the wall to originally access the box. None of the holes lined up and my husband quit his project after an hour to reassess the situation. The next day, he was back at it and we now have a bunch of lights to still do, but only the 1 finished!
Our farm frog is still alive and very interested in hanging out around the coffee. :) I think my husband is playing a new game of "where is the frog today?"
The next 2 pictures are of a very strange red bug and my son's cat that may look innocent, but she is a bug and lizard terrorizer.
We are trying to make coffee tea this year. Not to sell, just to see if we can. Our first batch was a failure. We washed the coffee skins too well and removed all of the sugars. Melvin was kind enough to tell me that the tea tasted like dirt...haha.
So, we are doing a batch of natural processed coffee, so that I can take the dried skins off and try again....I will let you know how it goes!
Our storage issue of all of the dried coffee in the "resting phase" has gotten out of hand. We are building a new storage house, but in the meantime there are bags and bags of coffee that I have to deal with. :)
The last 2 pictures are just a few of the new leased trees for 2019. Part of the fun is making the signs and knowing what each sign is symbolizing. :) Some are romantic, some are funny and some are just reminders of special moments....Emma's sign was designed by a little girl that has a bird and wanted to include our dogs (Karma and Dante) because they fight over sticks and she thinks that is funny....haha.
It has been so windy lately that some of the new, baby mangoes are flying off of the tree like little bullets. :(
We have been busy keeping our coffee travel mugs in stock. We electro-etch each one ourselves and it turns out that most people have never seen it done. So, I am attaching some pictures from our last batch of mugs. By the way, Rick's hand is all healed and he is back to working on everything as if he never burned it in the first place!
I will update more later, but I have coffee to process now and I doubt Rick will wait much longer for me!
Coffee, Coffee and Even More Coffee
This has been our best harvest year since we have owned the farm. Just as we clear the drying house of dried parchment coffee and get it bagged, it is time to load the drying house with fresh soaking, wet coffee. It has been non-stop and a little hard to keep up with. I feel like we are always 1 day behind right now....
People that are not used to driving on back roads or steep roads are starting to have a hard time getting up our hill. To do a "real" fix, we will need to restrict driving up the road, or at least control where they drive while we set some concrete. However, today we ....and yes that means Rick, Melvin, Simone and Hector....implemented a temporary fix. We will have a more permanent solution in place next month. The road is technically a public road, but there is no fix coming anytime soon unless we do it ourselves. We have already scheduled the work in February and are formulating our plan of action now...yay!
A Coffee Tour and a Surprise
One of the great things about our jobs here on the farm is getting to meet new people. This cute couple are now officially engaged....yay! It was a beautiful day!
With the rain gone now, the dogs are outside all day getting filthy. Both dogs were so dirty that we had to take some time off to bathe them and cut out the mats of embedded seeds in Dante's ears. Dante was so not happy!
Rick was going around the farm knocking down the widow-makers (dead branches that could easily fall and hurt someone) and accidently disturbed the wasp nest. It turns out that most of the wasps were actually inside the nest at the time. They were not happy, but no one got stung!
The frog spent the day watching us process coffee. I kept expecting him to move along, but he was pretty sure we could not see him and did not even mind when we accidently spilled water on him.
I get to wake up to views like this each morning. It keeps us going and is a great start to our long days right now. :)
I used to think that I knew what busy was, but these last few months have been non-stop.
This week, I flew to the States for a quick up-and-back, while Rick was in charge of the harvest, hoping to help out on road repairs and helping out a neighbor with a big project.
Last month we had many visitors. Some of my family came down to visit and then we had a T.V. crew here filming for a little while. As exciting as both of those visits were, we are a little behind on work. I even made them each do a little work while they were here. :)
During all of this, we have met some some wonderful people and had some good times.
I found a hat for Rick!!!!
I think my husband should wear this until Christmas. :)
It has been a month since I have sat down and had time to update this blog. As you can see below, we have been very busy!
New Patio Floor
It turns out that we now remember why we gravelled the outside eating area in the first place. Living on a sloped hill is great for the coffee, but a ton of work when you try to level an area. The original gravel dining area was great for any extra rain that tried to come in and being not level was only really noticeable until you were sitting at the table and items would slowly roll down the table.
We decided this was a good time to finish the dining room floor. We had a few extra hands around and how hard could it really be.....
The slope for just the dining area was actually 13 inches and required 2 days and 4 people just to prep the area. We had to add a step up from the kitchen to the dining area to help offset the 13 inches.
Next, we started pouring the concrete. Then, last but not least, we all spent a few days tiling and grouting it. We were unable to buy more of the tile that we already had on hand, so we had to make do with what we could find.
As you can see, the dog is always ready to make our work harder. :) In the picture below, Rick is trying to negotiate with the dog to find a new spot for his nap....haha
Before and After
Then we graveled the walkway to the tour stations. During the rainy season it just stayed muddy and a person could easily slip. Each time we walked down the row, our shoes would get wet and muddy, so with Melvin's help....problem is now fixed!
I did not have a good before picture, but the benches were on grass before it rained so much that it just became a mud pit!
Under Sink Cabinet
Then we finally finished the sink area in the Coffee Can. It has been on our to-do list for a long time now. The sink was functional, so it was not too high on the list. :)
But we (okay, so it was really Rick that did all of the work on this one) finally finished the cabinet under the sink and it looks way better!
The Bug Section
As you can see in the last picture, even the butterfly liked Rick's tour hat, silly creature!
I have never seen tangerines so big! We put the tangerine next to a normal sized apple and I could not believe the size difference. We have to pick the fruit a little before they are fully ripe or the birds will claim the fruit before we can eat it. :)
We do not have pumpkins for Halloween this year, but maybe we can just decorate the tangerines....
While I am talking about fruit, I thought I would add these 2 pictures. The one on the left is a tree tomato (tamarillo.) You cut off the top and use a spoon to scoop out the inside.
Here is how wikipedia describes it: The flesh of the tamarillo is tangy and variably sweet, with a bold and complex flavor, and may be compared to kiwifruit, tomato, guava, or passion fruit. The skin and the flesh near it have a bitter taste and are not usually eaten raw.
The next picture is an orange blossom. The tree is blooming again as we are still picking fruit off of it each day.....I love it and orange blossoms are one of my favorite scents.
My Husband's Weedeater
My wonderful husband bought un upgraded weedeater. The one we have is too short and hurts his back as he has to bend over to use it. He was very excited to get a more powerful one that was also bigger in size. However, it is heavy and comes with a back harness and straps to distribute all of the weight. He says it actually does distribute the weight pretty well.
Now lets talk about the bad parts of this new weedeater. It actually doubles as a bush whacker and is so strong that it flings everything it touches and makes them flying projectiles that can hurt you. After the first time using it, he learned that he needs a face mask. He actually had a few injuries the first time around.
The second bad thing is that it is a little complicated to setup. After he gets all of the straps and back harness on, he has to clip the weedeater to the harness. I had to take pictures of this procedure....words just does not do it justice. :) Silly boys with their over-complicated tools or toys.
We have a ton of things happening in the next few weeks. My family from Oregon is coming for their 1st visit, we will see how they do in the tropics. :)
Melvin has decided we need a rock wall, much like our neighbor, Hector. Melvin is sure that our wall will not fall each time there is a little earthquake....we will see.
We have move visitors coming after my family returns home and we expect the coffee harvest to start anytime. It is late this year and we keep just waiting...
Here are the 2 cuties on the farm this week. However, the caterpillar is not good. Who knew that one of the most harmful things we could encounter down here in Panama was a caterpillar with bad hair. Just a side note, while I was researching the name of the caterpillar online there were many references to a certain U.S. president and that this caterpillar now has a secondary name too....lol.
Below are pictures of:
Each day we are picking ripe cherries off of a few trees, the harvest is not in full effect, but some of the trees have started producing a few ripe coffee cherries.
We found out that the water pipes were never glued together when the plumbing on the house was done....then encased in cement. Along comes a small earthquake and the pipes just pull apart! We (okay, it was really Rick) had to break up all of the cement to figure out why there was water on the side of the house. All fixed now!
The second picture is how you can tell when you are experiencing a true Panama rain shower.
The girl dog had a 1 inch gash in her leg. The vet gave her 4 stitches, but those only lasted a day or so before they were ripped out. So the Cone of Shame was put on her and she was miserable. Her leg is healing now and the only part that was good for her was taking the antibiotics wrapped in cheese. :)
My son does not really enjoy making art like some kids do. He is more of a math and science type of kid. :) However, he had to make this at school and it really adds color to our house. I love it! He even added his name in the form of black spots. I hope he has to make a few more in art class, because I have a ton of bare walls!
As I am going through the results of the Rick Hat Poll, this is my husband:
We are sitting in front of the fire (tonight is s'more night) and he is still trying to justify the hat.
As far as the results go: #6 gets to stay and #1 is the back-up hat. The rest should go away.
I loved the comments. Especially the ones that said they were looking for new hats for Rick and the ones that suggested very bad things should happen to these hats.
Is there any 6 year-old out there that would like wearing this hat while they chase butterflies???? Let me know. Rick says, that I should not make this so restrictive and that you do not need to be 6 or chase butterflies to receive this poor hat. :)
Trip to the U.S.
I spent time with my son!!!! I enjoyed the time with him, but was not too excited about the hot desert.
Coming home, my youngest son and I were put on a plane that had a leak behind the left engine. After having us deplane for a few hours while they supposedly found a new plane (which did not happen, because a wrapper that fell on my seat when we deplaned, was still there when we got on the "new" plane.) Thankfully, we did get back to Panama, but missed our connection and had to stay in a hotel in Panama City. We did take this time to go swimming and play with the outdoor games.
I came home to chores and more chores! More of the trees had red cherries, we needed more drying trays, it was time to rake and mulch leaves and there was packaging green coffee beans. Thankfully, we have some volunteers here. Riga, Molly and Diana have been awesome and have kept the streak of great Workawayers.
Bugs and Bugs
Lots of little critters to see if you look hard enough. These were all taken by Rick, but my favorite is the last picture of the butterfly. :)
I am now back into the swing of things here and will post an update soon. :)