After living here for 16 months, we still find new insects. For those of you that do not know, I am terrified of spiders! So, I hope my friend Tambi appreciates these pictures, because I normally would not get this close to an 8 legged....umm....anything!
These caterpillars sting and hurt, or so I have been told. This one curled up in a ball as I was trying to take his picture. The spiny things are hard spikes and hurt if you touch them.
The road is being upgraded. The first picture shows our single lane road up to our farm. There is a ditch on each side to let the heavy rains flow down the hill. The second picture is where they have widened the road to make it fit 2 cars. It is great to drive on the new sections, but still hard to get up and down the mountain as the heavy machinery is working on the parts that only fit 1 car.
The 3rd picture is the truck that broke down on the "s-curve" section of the road. This picture was taken a day after they widened that section to move the broken truck over so that cars could safely get by it. But, more than one vehicle had a hard time getting up the hill when the drive-line was broke and it was in the middle of the road. Right now we try and schedule any trips up and down the road to either before they start work or after. Once in a while, we have to go during the day and you never know how long you will get stuck behind one of the 4 big trucks or if you have to hurry and backup really fast as the trucks finally have momentum to make it up the hill and are coming straight at you.
My Husband's Bottle Packing
Let's talk about my husband's packing ability. I offered to take the empty bottles down the hill to the store and get refills. He put the crates of empty bottles in the backseat and when I finally went down the hill to the store, they fell. I heard a big crash and the sound of glass clanking. I could not stop on the road, so I stopped at the bottom of the hill and cleaned up as much of the damage as I could. It is not fault that his truck smells now of Coke and beer. :) This picture was part of my text to him telling him he knows how steep the hill is...haha
End of School Year!!!
At the end of the year, we celebrate by letting our child burn all of his school papers. We had a rather large fire that night!
We hear birds all day long, but we still enjoy trying to get pictures of them. Today we had the toucans eating figs.
Enjoying Farm Life
So, 16 months has gone by since we moved from the States. Panama feels like home now even though we are still navigating through new stuff all of the time.
We finally have a few pictures on the walls (my husband is putting up artwork in the first picture below) and the puppies have grown up and are just part of our family. By the way, they no longer try to eat chickens and we have collars that we can use a remote to beep them when we need them to come home. Lately they have been going down the side of the ravine to swim in the river, which makes them pretty stinky!
All in all, we are all happy, healthy and doing well.
Update on Parades
My son has finished his 3rd and final school parade this year. His school took 1st place for Secondary Schools. The trophy is as big as he is!
I had never heard of mirror devils before and some of the characters in the parade had actual mirrors on their head. There were some with faces like wolves and some just plain scary.
“During the colonial period, liturgical dramas in spoken verse were common in Latin America. They instructed the illiterate population in the wonders and mysteries of biblical narratives.
In Panama, the Mirror Devils (Diablos de los Espejos) and Big Devils (Gran Diablo) respectively from Garachiné and Chorrera, portray variants of the Christian theme of the eternal battle between good and evil. Musicians accompany the Mirror Devils as they enact the defeat of the devil by the Holy Spirit.” Lingua Franca
Our neighbor's horse has decided that our grass is greener on this side of the fence. She has started using brute force to get big bites of our lawn. We had to do some modifications to the fence, we will see how long it lasts. :)
Butterflies, moths, caterpillars and jumping grasshopper type bugs all over!
I can find mushrooms hidden around the farm if I look hard enough. Here is my favorite one, it looks like it is upside down.
Things have been very busy lately. Summer vacation is about to start and we are quickly going through all of the end of the year activities. Besides the parades, there was a field trip, prep for exams and the end of the year formal school dinner. There are weekends with friends that my son will not see over the summer break and planning of trips to do with this time off!
We celebrated (U.S.)Thanksgiving with our friends and neighbors, I went to my son's school to celebrate Mother's Day, since the holiday is actually the day after school lets out this year and now we are working on Christmas. I think tonight we will put up our tree. It is different putting up a Christmas tree while wearing shorts and flip flops, but I do not miss the cold.
November has many holidays
We started the month out with Day of the Dead, November 2nd. This is a day where people remember friends and family that are no longer with us. They take flowers to the grave sites and clean up the cemeteries and plots. No alcohol is sold in stores or restaurants. This really is a day of remembrance, not really a celebration.
November 3rd. Independence Day, separation from Colombia. All of the local schools participated in the parade and wow, I had no idea there were so many!!!! The kids all dressed up, some in the "traditional" Panamanian costumes, some as jesters or some kind of monster, or the more traditional marching and drum band outfits. It was pretty fun seeing each school and what themes they chose to represent.
The last but not least was my son's school. :)
And, tomorrow is Flag Day, November 4th. This is the holiday where Panama celebrates the adoption of the national flag. We will be attending another parade tomorrow!
Then there are 3 more holidays after that....lots to do!
In the 6 years we have been coming to Panama, we have never had a place to deposit our trash near our house. This might seem very trivial, but trust me....finding the trash truck, dump or community area was very difficult at times.
Realistically, there is no trash truck that would come up the hill to collect trash, so Hector (and Rick) fabricated a trash receptacle and placed it at the bottom of our hill. YAY!!!!!! It is the little things in life!
Wildlife here is always interesting! I only know that the first picture is a rain frog, or so my gardener tells me and from there....no clue on any official names. :)
We only have a few variations in our weather. The temperature is pretty consistent, it never freezes, we never have to worry about icy roads and it is never too hot here where we need to have AC. Our issues are rain, wind and lack of rain.
It is our rainy season, so we should expect rainy afternoons, but we had about 10 days of no rain and it felt like our summer season (lack of rain season) was here. We were spoiled with full days of sunshine and no muddy dogs, but that ended the other day. The rain came back with a vengeance. The road up our hill has ditches on each side to let the water run nicely off the road. But, dead leaves and debris had accumulated in areas and when it started to rain, the ditches were plugged and water was overtaking the road. In the pouring rain, Rick went out with his trusty shovel and cleared the worst of the congested areas.
In the time it took him to clear the ditches, our wheelbarrow filled up with water. I am not sure how many inches an hour we were getting, but it was many!!!
While walking through the farm and checking on everything, we noticed an orange tree that had a large web. We do not use pesticides around the farm area. But, neither of us were going to pick oranges from this tree with spiders taking it over, so the tree had to lose part of a branch. :(
Things are starting to ripen! The coffee cherries are turning red, the bananas, oranges, limes and plantains are ready to eat, watermelon can be found everywhere....it is good times!
We have been super busy! We all had a bad sinus cold, but we could not get it all at once, no....we went from our son, to me, to my husband. We each had a few days were our energy level was low and our sinuses were not behaving. However, the work did not slow down much and we are getting back into the groove again.
First, the entry to our road from the bottom of the hill was getting pretty bad. Rick was leading the fixing crew because he had the truck and the most of the tools. That was Rick's first experience with heating asphalt and fixing road holes. :) I don't think it is his calling.
Then, tropical storm Nate came. Tons of rain and our driveway was muddy and flooded, which means the dogs were muddy and there was no stopping the mess all over! I am not sure if the pressure from all of the rain is what caused a water line to break or if it was a mudslide and a tree fell on the line, but Rick, Simon and Hector went searching for the leak. After lots of machete chopping to follow the water line, they found one and repaired it. Rick is out again today with Simon to find another one, since the first repair brought some water to our tanks, but not enough to be normal.....must be another leak somewhere. :( Last year at this time, we did not have water tanks up and running. It was nice that we continued to have access to water, even if we did have to ration our usage for awhile.
There were also a few mudslides on our road that had to be dealt with. I am just so glad that it is over and we are back to our normal rainy season weather!
Our backyard monkey (Homer) has been actively watching us, he loves to watch the kids outside playing, but we also have some Toucans that are joining the party. Below is a Fiery-billed Aracari (Toucan) who is with her mate. However, the leaves were covering any good pictures we could get of the mate.
We finally got our Country Coffee Store area finished. Below is the before and after pictures. We have added a covered sitting area that will be nice to enjoy all year. :) There are still a few minor things left, but it is functional now. Yay!
My youngest son and I went to the States for the semester break. We were able to see family and spend time with my oldest son, his wife and both of the grandmas. It was nice to see family and see that they were all doing well, but I was ready to go back home by the end.
The boy dog was missing us or maybe just my youngest son. He would stare at my son's bedroom door or just lay his head on the couch while we were gone. He is very happy that we are home again!!!
Last, but not least, the coffee harvest has started. The coffee cherries are turning red and this marks the beginning of the busy season for us! We will be picking cherries every 7-10 days through January now. :)
One of our favorite Navel Orange trees has been going downhill all year. The branches have been dying off and the poor oranges were small if they existed at all. We finally took the tree down and found these grub-like icky things eating the root way beneath the ground.
We did plant new trees to compensate taking this one down. We planted: Cacao, Pear, Lemon, Lychee and 2 others, but I forgot what they were. Hopefully, they all live and I will get to find out what the other 2 trees were!
My neighbor Hector has family that lives in St. Maarten. As many of you know, the hurricane Irma recently hit the island and demolished many of the buildings and has devastated the lives of many. Hector's family is safe, but they lost their businesses and home. As I watch this family start to accept what has happened and work through the process of grieving for their old life and having to figure out next steps, I am in awe of their compassion and selflessness. They started a GoFundMe page, not for themselves, but for their employees that lost everything too and no longer have jobs or the family support that they themselves have. Below is a picture of their Zee Best Bakeshop and some other pictures around the island. They are trying to raise a little money to help each employee, so if you can afford a few dollars, I hope you consider helping all of these families out. Thanks!
Roasting and Coffee Tours
This week has been busy with coffee tours and sorting the coffee beans that were just roasted. I really enjoy the coffee tours, we get to meet people from all over and it is just fun!
I used to love the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, but this week has been so hectic, that the smell just reminds me how much work I still had to do before the beans were bagged. I finished last night, so maybe in a couple days I will like the smell again!!!
Rick and I decided to use the chipped and cracked coffee beans and make things out of them. Like most things, I went into making coffee-soap thinking "how hard can it really be?" Apparently, it can be difficult as you can see from my first picture below. After many failed batches and lots of educational experiences...we finally got the hang of it!!!! Finding the correct supplies here (no crafts stores) has been like chasing after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. :)
These 2 birds have decided to perch on one of the tallest trees and squawk as loud as possible. :)
In the meantime, the monkey is howling as loud as he can in-between all the squawking from the birds. Add in the barking dogs that want to play with the monkey....then the crickets chime in....it has been a little noisy this week!
The schools are getting ready for their 2nd trimester exams. Kids are getting excited for their upcoming break. (It is the equivalent of Spring Break in the States.) The school year is 2/3's over and they know the Summer break is not far away.
We have been busy giving coffee tours and trying to fit in time to finish our To-Do list. We have 2 working cars right now, but have decided to sell them and upgrade a little. It appears that most people do not do maintenance on cars here, they only fix something when it is really broken. So, after getting our 2 vehicles in shape, where they should have been when we originally bought them, we are ready to send them on their way to a new home. :)
While sitting in my car waiting to pick up our gardener, I realized there was a cow statute looking down on the road. I had never paid attention to it until that day. The things you see when you open your eyes!
This yellow bird has some lungs! He sat in the tree yelling at us as he posed for the pictures. I hardly ever get to take pictures of the birds around here, because they move too fast, but this one was content to squawk and pose. :)
The monkey is much louder than the bird. He has been blessing us with his presence for quite a few days in a row. He seems to enjoy being super loud around 6am and then taunting the dogs in the afternoon. The puppies are not that smart, so they fall for it each time and try chasing after the monkey. However, he just swings from tree to tree taunting them. :)
Another perk about living in here if you like avocados, are that they are not only yummy, but very large!
While we were waiting to pick up a delivery in Boquete from a delivery service store (which advertises that they open at 10, but in reality it is more like 10:30ish) we went into a store that sells American Clothes. Rick found a ton of shorts in his the style he likes ranging from $2.50 to $3.50 each. When we saw a shirt from Sisters, Oregon, we were reminded what a small world this really is. I am sure that whoever manufactured this shirt, did not imagine it being in a small store in Panama. :)
Bugs and our Bug-eater
No words necessary here. :) Rick took this picture the other day, I have no idea whose car this is, but it is nothing like the Mustangs we have owned.
Sometimes the Best Solution is to Give-Up
The washer was making some horrible noises. My husband found the part that was causing all of the troubles. We took the part to the city of David and spent the morning going to different part stores. At one store, we found a similar part, but it was not quite a match. After giving up for the day, we put the part back in the washer and figured that we could get a few more loads of laundry done before the part was completely shot. However, the part now works perfectly and there is no more noise!!!! Yay! I am going to call this one a win.
Yum!!!! I am not even sure how to describe this fruit. Inside it has segments like an orange, but it tastes like strawberries, peaches and a maybe a tangerine. I know that I can not eat just one though! If you ever have the chance to try one, you should!!!
We have been making Finca Casanga shirts. I think we have a good process now and are getting faster at making them. :)
After my last post, my husband decided to show me his true fire making skills. So, here are the pictures from today's round. :) I have to admit that with the wheelbarrow full of small twigs, it did go a little smoother. The fire is just a little smoky...cough...cough.