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. :)
I have had numerous discussions with my husband about his attempted "new" look since moving to Panama. He is very sure that there is a good hat out there made just for him in his new career. In the meantime, we have to suffer through his hat choices. So....I am going to ask everyone reading this to fill out the survey below. The boy and I are sure that they should all be burned, but I am giving him this one opportunity to get people on his side. To be fair, I made him wear the same shirt and all of the pictures were taken in the same location with the same lighting.
Poll was closed due to my husband cheating. :)
Now, assuming that you did the survey before you got to this paragraph.....if not, go back and do the survey before continuing. It is completely anonymous, but if I get 100 answers back saying he should keep them all, I will know my husband was busy filling out the survey all day. :)
I do not want to influence anyone, but here are just a few stories on hat #9.
1. We were on a Caribbean island and he was wearing that hat. We went into one of the stores on the main strip and the clerk started giggling. When we went over to talk to her, she said she would like to keep the hat. Rick objected to selling it to her and gosh forbid he give it to her for free! The lady did not want to re-sell the hat, she just thought it would be funny to have in her store.
2. He wore that same once again when we went to the Pacific-side beach. We were camping at Nelly's Beach Bar and 2 Swedish girls were sitting next to us in the restaurant. The 2 girls wanted Rick to give them his hat. When we asked why, they explained that there is a show in Sweden where a guy named Bobo goes and does dumb things. Some examples were: Bobo getting sick on TV eating one of the world's hottest peppers, Bobo riding a bike and getting hit by a car or bus.....things like that. They said if we gave them the hat, they would send it to Bobo, so he could wear it in another episode. They were laughing so hard that tears were streaming down their faces as they made their case for Rick to give up the hat. As you can see, we still have the hat.
I personally think that hat 3 and 4 make him look like Pinocchio. :)
Alex and Ashley
We had 2 wonderful Workawayers stay with us for a week. They even made a little herb garden for us! They continued the trend of being great in the kitchen and making lunches for us all. They were very busy with projects on the farm and with their own online business, I am not sure how they did it all! These 2 California surfers were fun to have around and we hope we hear how their adventures on the rest of their trip goes.
We have our fuzzy caterpillar, our interesting moth and a beetle that really wants to be a ladybug on the first row. The second row starts out with what happens when someone leaves food on the floor for 1 day. Our guest house had been invaded with ants and I could not get rid of them fast enough! I finally found some ant bait and within minutes they swarmed the 2 drops of bait! The ants here all bite, so watching this was both a little frightening and fascinating. I could just imagine what it would feel like if they swarmed me like they did the bait....yikes!
The last two pictures are of a moth or butterfly. I cannot always tell which is which here. The black, red and white picture is what it looks like on top and the blue and black is what it looks like underneath. These must have just hatched because there are many of them floating around.
Chocolate and Coffee
We had a customer who wanted coffee and chocolate shipped to him. Sounds easy enough...right? The Citizens of Chocolate company sent their chocolate to me from Bocas, Panama, which took 2 couriers. I roasted the coffee and we packaged the chocolate and coffee together. My husband went to the post office to find out what the shipping cost would be, but that day the post office was pretty sure that the country we were shipping to did not really exist. They could not find the country name in their old book of places and therefore, the country is not there....sigh.
A few days later, my husband takes the package with him and paperwork showing that we have shipped to that country before. The package is now off to be delivered, but it took over 50 postage stickers and multiple forms all over the package. But first, he had to finish gluing the brown paper to the box after they inspected the contents.....shipping is so not easy here!!!!
There are not many pictures of the work that I do around here and there are a few reasons for that.
I am also not one of those graceful people. If I fall, it is not poetry in motion, it is more like a train wreck coming right towards you. When I cook, there is normally smoke and ingredients plastered all over, these are just a few examples. :)
However, I am posting this one where Rick took a picture. You cannot see the green paint all over my legs and feet and my work area still looks fairly clean. :)
We had 2 wooden pallet benches made by a friend in Panama City that he overnighted to us here in Boquete. Since the bugs and humidity here ruin wood quickly, I had to treat the benches and then paint them really well to help preserve the wood. Job done and now the benches live in our coffee tour area. :)
Rick is one of the hardest working people that I know. Unlike me, he never looks like a mess while he is working, he just looks goofy in his hats. This week he pressured-washed the outside of the house for me. I am not sure what was laying eggs all over the house, but the walls were covered with these small little cocoons. I could just picture myself coming home one day and a million tiny spiders hatching all over the house. Thankfully, he did a great job and the walls are clean again! *very happy wife*
My husband is also very funny, not just his hats. He had to make our son food one night while I was busy working with the roaster. Here is his version of how a dinner sandwich plate should be made. :)
With that, I am going back to work now, but will update everyone again soon!
The first picture below is where I left off from my last post. Since then, Rick and I (mainly Rick) added the plastic roof, lights, light switches, electricity, doors, latches (fabricated by Rick) and some other little touches. We have started testing the drying house on a small scale with the cherries picked by a couple people on coffee tours. It is working beautifully!
International Living Magazine
We were interviewed by the magazine International Living. So, if anyone has a subscription you can read about us in the July 2018 edition.
Besides the regular caterpillars and butterflies right now, we are seeing some very small bugs. The first 2 pictures are of the same bug. It would fit on the tip of a toothpick. The 3rd picture is a spotted bug that would not sit still long enough for me to take a good picture....sigh. The last is just a picture of one of the many butterflies that floats around all day.
1. This is how the girl dog tries to make me jealous at night. She lays her head on my husband's leg and stares at me. She thinks this will make me so jealous that she is with him and I will then beg her to cuddle on my lap. :) Okay, I do let her cuddle most nights.
2. We had to make a new batch of coffee rub for grilling meat. This is what coffee, sugar, chili, paprika, oregano and some other spices look like all mixed together.
3. We have cleaned the outdoor kitchen area up and it is all ready for the next people to come and stay in the Coffee Can. The inside is clean too, but I only had a picture of the outside for this post. :)
Most of the big projects that we wanted to accomplish before this next harvest, are now done. However, there is still a little time to improve things.
1. We have a new, larger de-pulping machine and will be modifying our de-pulping station to accommodate it.
2. There are still a few areas that could use some landscaping fixes.
3. We have decided to relocate our water pump, so it is easier to prime and less noisy.
4. We would still like to make a cabinet under the sink area in the Coffee Can, but we are waiting for inspiration on what we should do....so it might be awhile.
The fun never ends......
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.