Living in a country with over 500 rivers, one might think that water would not be an issue. We go 4-5 months during the dry season with no rain. I might expect water rationing during these dry months, but the issues seem to come more during the rainy season. There is too much pressure in the lines during the rainy season, or a mudslide happens when it is too wet and things break the water lines....whatever the reason, we can go days without water. It is hard to see so much rain in the rainy season and know that we have no water at the house. In the first couple of years we just relied on more and more storage tanks, but when you see 4-5 inches falling from the sky each hour it is silly not to try and use it.
I can honestly say that having to create a rainwater catchment system is not something that either of us were anticipating when we moved here. Thankfully, Rick is good at coming up with solutions.
The rainwater goes into this little barrel which is then plumbed to take out debris and fill up our larger water tanks. The tanks are then filtered (including a UV filtrations system) and we are back with full water! This system has already saved us multiple times since he installed it. We even have a lighting system to tell us if our tanks are not full, since we are not in the habit of making sure there is water every day.
Very exciting!!! Not only is there water issues here, there are power issues too. For whatever reason, either poor maintenance, lack of planning or insert any other excuse here....the power is not as stable as one might expect when paying a monthly electric bill. One day this month the power went out 6 times, sometimes they are short outages and once it was a 3 day outage when a tree went down on a power line. You just never know!
We do have a cheap generator that was getting us by, but mainly was just strong enough to keep some lights on and run the refrigerators. Gosh forbid, we wanted to take a shower or run any water that is connected to an electric water pump! The poor generator would bog down and so we are really careful when the power goes out.
Once a year or so there is a store in David that has this generator (seen below.) They normally only stock the 1 generator and I don't mean 1 model....I mean only 1 single generator. For a couple of years now, we keep threatening to come up with the money for it and if we were still living in the States with regular paychecks it would have been purchased a lot earlier. However, we live very differently now and having a big generator for power is a luxury that we went without until now.
Rick saw the generator for sale again this month and after some budget discussions, we decided to buy it this year. Yay!!!
Melvin helped him get it set up in place and Rick spent a couple of days getting everything else set and it was time to test it. White smoke.....more white smoke....
We started researching all of the things that could be wrong. Most of the articles made it clear that there was something broken in the new generator. We started thinking about how we would have to take it back and due to the store only having the 1 generator there would not another one that we could exchange it for......well, it was depressing to think about.
Today we learned (through a bunch of trial and errors) that Rick has made our house too efficient. He has tried to limit the amount of power in the house to the point that we are not using 60-75% of the generator's capacity and the generator is not working hard enough, hence the white smoke.
This is not a fancy, high-quality generator. It does not even have a gauge to tell you how many hours you have used it.... The white smoke goes away when we have everything on and even run the microwave. If the microwave turns off, the white smoke comes back....so Rick is back to thinking about what to do next.
He just told me that it also could be a high-altitude issue.....I guess we will be doing some more testing.
Worst Flying Experience Ever
Cole and I flew to the States for a week. This is not something new, we do this a few times a year, so we are fairly prepared now for these long flights. Before we left, we downloaded a bunch of shows and movies for the long flights and layovers. We had our 1 blanket to share while we dozed and watched our movies.....we were ready!
Starting from the top:
After a day in California, my sinuses and ear start hurting. By the 2nd day it was so bad, I went to an urgent care. Turns out that I had a bad ear infection and blew my eardrum, along with a possible sinus infection. I was miserable for awhile. :(
The return trip was just as bad!
I love when Cole and Erik get a chance to see each other. They are not only brothers, but good friends. We all got together at the Star Wars themed party that Erik was hosting, where yes I wore a Princess Leia wig for a while, even though I felt miserable most of the time with my sinuses and ear issues.
There was lightsaber fighting, eating cake with black frosting (that did not go away for hours!) and we even had some hot springs-pool time. Cole and Erik could not be more different and they make the most awesome brothers!
Flowers not Bugs
Orchids grow on ALL of the trees here. I keep forgetting to look up and see them, but Rick took a picture of one of the orchids and Melvin took some pictures of the flowers in the front of the house.....seemed like a good day for flower pictures and not bugs this time. :)
I had to go back to the doctor here in Panama to get another round of antibiotics for the ear/sinuses that are still not better, but everything else is back to normal now.
It is good to be home!
I have had many people ask me what was it really like....
It has been many months now since that show was filmed, but what I remember most was really liking the crew. They were funny, super sweet and loved dogs. :)
Here are some things that people might not realize:
I try to show the good and the bad on this blog. There are many good things that have come out of our relocation to Panama. However, there are also frustrations that we have to learn to deal with too.
For those that are not familiar with the Northwest - USA....
We moved here from Oregon and that part of the world is very into recycling and environmental responsibility. Recycling is part of everyday life there.
It is just not part of the culture here yet. There are recycling containers in the city, but people just put trash in all of them and the barrels all go into the same garbage truck at the end of the week.
There is a group of expats that have started a recycling program. However, you must be able to go down to the fairgrounds on a certain day between certain hours once a week or so, and it changes on what they take from time to time. There is no permanent structures in place that you can put recycling when you go to town yet. Hopefully, the country as a whole will start to make recycling a real thing here.
Today, the school had their Earth Day and they have been teaching the kids about recycling for a few weeks now. However, some of the obvious recycling efforts are not even touched.
This country is a paper society. Everything is paper and more paper....things in triplicate and the system for making payments to agencies is even worse. There is no online payment options for most things and after you drive to the office, you might then have to drive to their bank and bring back a paper receipt and then get another form.....
The one thing they do have going for it as far as recycling or reusing is beer bottles and Coke bottles. These are sanitized and then reused, but only for the few companies that have bottling plants locally.
Below are a couple of pictures from their mandatory, Sunday Earth Day celebration. The first one was a display made by the kids, which was probably fun for them to make assuming they did not cut themselves, but at the end of the celebration, I can only assume that it all is going in the garbage, hopefully not though. The second picture shows how they used plastic ties that will be thrown away instead of reusable rope or something biodegradable.
At least they have started talking about recycling and I just have to remember that even in Oregon, they probably did not recycle in the beginning.....although, they have recycled as long as I can remember. :)
We are not perfect, but we do try to recycle or reuse as much as we can. There is always room for improvement!
Here are a few of the things we currently do.
There have been many posts about shipping here. It is one of the dreaded tasks that we do frequently because of the coffee business.
I am not sure that I could ever truly explain how complicated and painful it really is.
In this last shipment, we had to get a total weight of just the coffee. Instead of weighing the box empty and then again full, Rick had to stack all of the coffee bags on the scale in front of the postal worker. The bags kept falling and some where actually not really on the scale when they took the weight.
The brown box had to be wrapped in brown paper, you cannot just use a plain brown box. The paper has to be glued to the box, so we do this 1 to 2 days before we ship anything, to allow for the glue to dry properly.
But, you have to leave the top open until you get through with all of the postal processes in the office. Then you finish glueing the top while you are there.
We never know the exact price until they give it to us, it changes all of the time and I think some of that is depending on what scale they are using that day. But, you have to come prepared with exact change or very close to it. Sometimes they have required exact change and they only accept cash.
I totally understand why most places here will not do small shipping. Most coffee companies will only do large container orders and go through a shipping broker. Thankfully, some months we are allowed to use the yellow/brownish large envelopes for really small shipments.
The good news is this is the lowest price-per-pound we have ever been charged. No idea why though....
We have both cars working right now. (Although, both cars were at the mechanics this last week.) Here is one of the parts off of Rick's truck. He had to have the clutch assembly replaced....sigh. This is the throw-out bearing. Luckily it did not actually grenade while it was in the car. The clutch was shot also. It was a hassle, but it's hard to complain too much when the total labor bill was $150 and this is a very difficult vehicle to remove the transmission.
Road Ditch Work Round #1
The work to clear the ditches for water runoff is done for now! There are pipes running under the road for the water to drain down the hillside properly. Here is a before and after picture of one of the pipes that Rick and Melvin cleared. If you look closely at the after picture, you will see Melvin's face. :)
One of the farms near the bottom of the road has moved in cattle and started planting fast growing grass for the cattle. The problem is that it has over-taken the runoff ditches too. The crew had to spend hours cleaning that up. I can only hope this does not require cleaning it up every month. :)
Bug and Eggs
This little green guy is smaller than a dime and is a very bright lime green. Grasshopper or cricket??
The bird nest in the workshop has more eggs now. They are very spotted. A few of the nests around the farm already have baby birds in them.
We love getting pictures from customers showing us how they make their coffee at home after coming on a tour here and learning all about how to get the perfect cup of coffee. However, sometimes getting coffee to our customers is a real challenge.
I went to the post office one day to mail out coffee and the post office looked at the packages and said, "No." I was confused and asked what the problem was and was then told no coffee to North America right now. What?!? I could ship to every other place in the world, but nothing to the USA. This went on for over 2 weeks. It turns out they told me no coffee, but it was all mail. No postcards, no letters, no packages of any kind.
I searched the internet, newspapers....no one was talking about it. After the 7th day, I did see a notice on Facebook from another expat that was unable to ship anything. No one is exactly sure why there was a hold on all packages. Now, it seems to have been cleared up at least for the immediate future.
However, there are limits on how many packages you can send in a day. TWO....that is it. So, we are now trying to catch up on shipping out all of the packages that had to wait for 2 weeks. We are doing the 2 packages a day, each day....but wait...this is Holy Week, so there are some closed office days in there. If all goes well, we will eventually get caught up.
The hardest part is telling people, "I am sorry, but Panama is not shipping to your country right now." "No, I do not know why or for how long this will be a problem..." It is just not something North Americans have really had to deal with. I just can't imagine going to the post office in the USA and them giving me a limit on what I can send or to what friendly-countries they are not sending that week.....there are still times here that we have to step back and remember patience and the rules here are not always the rules we expect. :)
To make things even more complicated. There are problems in Miami right now with the USA post office or Customs. Again, I cannot find out what the actual problem is, but when I track all of the packages we have sent, most of them say they are in the US Customs Office. From there they just sit and sit. However, I get pictures from some of our customers that actually have received their coffee, even though the tracking of their order still shows that it is Miami. I am hoping whatever issues Miami has, it clears up soon too!
When I worked in the States, there was a lady that sat at the next desk over that loved her antique typewriter. I could not believe she had one when we had access to computers. :) The lady at the post office here reminds me of her. She has this old typewriter and no computer on her desk at all. They use paper books to tell them the postage fees and use forms in triplicate here....I think my old co-worker, Sharon, would have been in heaven here....haha.
We had our first real rain, so that means that the dumb beetles are back. They run into everything, fall on their backs and then die. In the meantime, they make a ton of noise and their bodies will fill up the window sills and walkways each night.
The first picture is me having a pork chop outside and one of the slow flying black fly/bee came and tore a chunk of it off and flew away!
The second picture is of a spider we have not seen before. Thankfully, it stayed outside and left us alone. :)
Rick worked on balancing the load to our generator this weekend. As he was working, he kept running into nests. They are in the workshop, in our electrical panel...everywhere you go there are nests of some sort right now. We are lucky that there does not seem to be any damage to the wiring at the panel box!
This weekend we also gathered up some of the mangoes that are almost ripe. I am going to try making mango cobbler this week. I have heard it is really good, so I am very hopeful!
Rick has been working on a device to sort the coffee beans. The motor he is using right now needs a little adjustment so that it does not shake the beans so hard that they jump off of the rack. Sorting the beans into different sizes is important for roasting. You want the beans in each batch to roast evening and that will only happen if you have similarly sized beans. :) Last year we had another farm use their sizer on our beans, this year we are doing everything in-house.
Now that the rainy season is about to come, it is time to remove all of the debris in the ditches along the road running up the hill. We are lucky to have 2 Workawayers here to help (Lizzy and Karina.)
As they were working today, a branch from one of the trees above them decided to drop. Melvin barely had enough time to get out of the way before it would have crushed him. No one was hurt, but if it had been a someone walking that road at night, they might not have escaped like Melvin did.
My car is working for today! But we had to trade the mechanic my car for the truck. The truck is worse off than the car right now, but at least we have one working vehicle! Some day we hope to have 2 working vehicles......one can hope!
Can Rick teach a dog a trick?
Rick is tired of moving the dog beds from room to room (depending on where we are.) So, he has decided that Karma is old enough to move her own bed. He says there is no reason she cannot do this herself, she drags logs and everything else around. When he asked me why she did not do it herself, I explained that no one had taught her...haha....still laughing....
Here is Rick trying to teach Karma how to move her bed...
Leaves and Water
Melvin has been busy mulching all of the leaves from the shade trees and Rick has been busy chasing water problems.
He found roots growing in the pipes, but even after clearing some of those roots, the water pressure was pretty bad. :(
Melvin has been endlessly raking up leaves and throwing them in the chipper/shredder. He thinks he is making progress, but I am pretty sure the pile just keep getting bigger.
I am not sure what is going on with the postal service, but this week there is no shipping to the USA. It appears that all other countries are okay, just cannot send anything to the States right now....hoping this gets resolved soon.
I take my car to the mechanic to fix some bushings or something in the back of the car. They test drive the car and the engine light comes on and the car keeps stalling out. The first 3 computer testers will not communicate with the car, but the 4th diagnostic tester shows that it is the MAF Sensor. Rick drives 45 minutes to the city of David and they want to charge him $190 for the part and they will have it the next day. OR for $100 they will order it online and we could get it in 10 days.
We decide to pick another option and order from the States and pay $30 and have it here in 7 days. I do not understand the ridiculous over-charging that we seem to see here a lot. So, for the next week, I do not have a car and I am really hoping that this part is really the only thing wrong with my car.
End of Last School Year
At the end of each school year, our son gets to burn all of his school stuff from the year. With traveling, work and the weather being too windy to have a fire, we did not get to do the paperwork burning until this week.
There is new life showing up all over the farm. There are nests all over with eggs in them, baby lizards running all around and then there is this bee nest that thankfully is actually not on the farm, but on the road to the farm.
Last of all, the t.v. show that was filmed about us and the farm now has a date to be aired. April 30th :) I will post pictures later....
We have been enjoying all of the Airbnb guests and coffee tourists from around the world. The dogs are happy and healthy and so are we. It is a pretty good week. :)
The coffee storage shed is done for now. It has a door and has been painted, but when we sell out of this year's coffee, we will still need to paint inside.
We are almost done pruning the coffee trees and mulching all of the limbs and leaves. A few more days of working on that and it should be done. However, there are other projects we are trying to fit in too. For the next 2 days, we are back working on another section of the road up the hill. The first section is dry, so as we open that part up, we are now going to close another part of the road to fix it.
While the paint sprayer was out, Rick painted the roof of another shed that we are trying to "leak-proof" before the rainy season comes again.
Some of the coffee has finished the "resting phase" and is ready to be de-husked and roasted. We have been processing a few of the tree's coffee as we have time. Paige, has been learning how time consuming the de-husking can be. He is processing and roasting his own coffee from his tree this year. :)
We have only finished 8 of the leased trees so far and hope to get a bunch more done this weekend. :) We are limited on how many packages we can mail in a week, which helps us set our goal of being able to process that many each week.
Today has been the first day where it has not been windy in weeks! I am hoping the wind is gone for now...
When we do take a break and look around, we are reminded just how much beauty there is here. Everything from the wonderful sunrises, to the wildlife and to all of the new growth and greenery around us.
The coffee storage area is almost done. It just needs a door, some paint and eventually a few more shelves. :)
We have started pruning the trees and raking the leaves. The pile was over 3 feet high at one point and that was only for a small section of the field. While pruning the trees, Melvin and Rick found this little green lizard hanging out on one of the trees.
It was a very productive afternoon.... Unfortunately, the rest of the day was not as good. Some debris flew into my eye towards the end and then I was busy flushing my eye out with water, while Rick and Melvin finished cleaning up.
Then around 4pm, Karma and Dante took off towards the jungle in pursuit of something. (Probably a bunny) Karma yelped and they both ran home. Karma had a gash on her leg which had nicked a vein and blood was spurting out like a fountain. Rick bandaged her up, I called the vet and we got her there just before she was closing for the day.
Her bandage keeps slipping off and will not stay up after she walks a few steps, so we are relying on the Cone of Shame right now to keep her from messing with her stitches. Right now we are dealing with a vomiting, very sad dog. She lost a lot of blood and had to have 2 shots of anesthesia. The 1st shot did not last long enough for the vet to her patched up, so she got a bigger 2nd dose. She is showing a little more energy today and has kept a little chicken rice down so far today.
She was sick in the middle of the night and then jumped up to snuggle with Rick for the rest of the night. Between her twisting and turning on the bed and my husband snoring, it was a long night last night! I am hoping for a more peaceful night tonight. :)
However, Karma was not too sick to try and protect us from our neighbor's horse. She ran out of the house with her Cone of Shame and was going to make a stand against the horse, but I finally got her back in the house and Rick was convincing the horse not to bite him as he was trying to get her back to her own home. (This horse likes to take little horse bites at Rick.) It seems that our neighbor's animals think the grass is greener on our farm. We are constantly chasing their chickens and occasionally dragging the horse.....such is life on a farm!
We have also been working on restocking for a month now. I can say that it was finally all caught up for an entire day! We now also have beach bags, totes and new castile coffee soap.
We had to say goodbye to our new friends, Dale and Shane. They have moved on to the U.K. to continue their great adventures. It was fun spending some time with them and they were a huge help with the coffee storage area and even spent the last 2 days helping us work on the road. We wish them well and hope they make it back to Panama in the future.
Then we just met a new couple that is buying some land on the hill here and will be building a house here. New neighbors...yay!!!
Each day is different and that is what keeps life here exciting for us. The airbnb was closed in February for our friends and guests, now it is back up and running again, coffee tours are still going on and it is time to get ready for our son to go back to school. Here is hoping for another great month!
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. :)