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. :)
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!