Tami’s Blog: The indigenous folks

February 12, 2016

From: Tami

Boy picking coffee (800x533)Around Christmastime there is a large influx of indigenous people (mainly the Guaymí – pronounced why-me) tribe in this area of Panama and Costa Rica.  Their biggest money making time is when the coffee beans are mature and ready to pick.  Even the kids in the family are often put to work. When Gary and I were living on the coffee farm from September through December, we saw scads of indigenous folks walking by our camp everyday.  Gary spoke to them a lot and I tried. Here we are more isolated and I generally don’t see too many of them except when I take the bus to town. 

One neighbor does have an indigenous worker who we do see occasionally.  He owns a female hound that was in heat around the same time Suni was.  The hound had puppies about the same time Suni did too;-). Courage took off after her one day and spent the whole day following her around.  The poor dog is very skinny, since her master can’t afford dog food.  The cheapest 40 lb bag of dog food is $25-$35.  That is more than 2 or 3 days work for an indigenous person or for most Latins.  Yet they all seem to have dogs.  The dogs scavenge for whatever they can get.  They are all generally very well behaved and in town they walk along the sides of the main roads.  They are very street smart and they have learned how to avoid the traffic driving by (the ones that weren’t probably didn’t survive).  They don’t expect much attention since they never get much. 

This girl was a bit shy about having her photo taken

This girl was a bit shy about having her photo taken

Indigenous ladies

Indigenous ladies

Some indigenous folks are happy to talk to a gringa but I have found many of them to be very shy and won’t even make eye contact with me.  There have been times when I asked an indigenous person a question and I just got a blank stare.  I found out later than some of these folks don’t speak Spanish.  They still speak their native tongue only. They choose to live in really remote parts of Costa Rica and Panama and many have to walk for miles just to get to a bus stop where they take buses to different coffee plantations where they are employed for the season (if they are seasonal workers).

We have had many indigenous folks ask us if we have work for them.   The gringos here are known for paying better than the Latins.  The indigenous people will also often ask for money or for “one dollar?”  You can’t really blame them.  It is hard not to feel guilty when you see how hard they have to work for so little pay.  Then, like the Native North American Indians, their land was taken from them by “more advanced cultures” who wanted to “civilize” them.  Many indigenous people have assimilated into Latin culture but there are still a lot of discriminatory attitudes towards them too.  

Beautiful indigenous dress

Beautiful indigenous dress

One of Gary’s ideas is to be able to sell indigenous dresses online.  The internet service here will have to improve quite a bit before we will be able to manage that though. The dresses are such a beautiful variety of colors and they would make a nice moo-moo or maturity dress.  It would be nice to be able to employ some indigenous gals to sew and pay them a living wage or give them a decent price for their dresses.   It is widely believed that the dresses were introduced by missionaries for humility’s sake (they traditionally wore loincloths). The dresses are usually adorned with geometric patterns at the ankles, around the waist and at the sleeve and neck lines. The classic Guaymi geometric pattern is called dientes, or “teeth”, and is said to represent mountains, animal teeth, the flow of the river, or dragon scales.

Indigenous schoolboys

Indigenous schoolboys

I was at a function at the local elementary school several months ago and I tried to communicate with these young indigenous boys.   They seemed to be fascinated by me.  I am sure they were wondering why a gringa was visiting their school.  They seemed happy to have me take photos.  I showed them their picture on my camera screen after I took it and they both gave me big smiles.

Some indigenous folks seem very startled when I talk to them.  I am not sure if they are shocked that a foreigner would be interested in them, or if I am butchering my Spanish so badly that they can’t understand me :-).  They often keep to themselves and I find that they don’t initiate conversations very often.  When Gary and I spent time with his indigenous friend, Kimberly, and her family (when we were camping on the coffee plantation) they were more at ease and they got to know us since Gary can speak Spanish really well.  Someday I hope to be able to have more than just a surface conversation with with the people here.  This will be inspiration to continue with my Spanish studies when I get back to the U.S.

Until next time…….

 

Gary’s Blog: A ramble about permaculture society

Making terraces

Making terraces

January 22, 2016

From: Gary

 
I have an ongoing 18 year permaculture project in Costa Rica.  I am thinking to write about things that I learned, and how a permaculture society might function.
 
First, it takes time and work, but it’s fun work that is rewarding, and it’s time better spent than working a job or watching most TV.
 
I realized years ago that it’s a process of transformation and often reclamation. I would suggest doing permaculture first on areas that have been devastated by humans.
 
The moral dilemma is the obvious criticism  that it’s not natural. Two thoughts on this: one, that it could be if one was a purist and only reintroduced native species; second, that introducing species now considered domestic would in fact be re-wilding such plants and animals, and could also produce new hybrid environments capable of supporting more animal life.
 
My personal perspective on it, is it’s a garden of Eden project. This was my own starting point on my permaculture, and I made the mistake of migrating towards commercialism, i.e. planting a fairly large area in a cash crop, citrus. Then I ran into all the usual problems related to commercial enterprises; labor, marketing, and middlemen. I regretted not staying with mixed areas and a focus on personal use food and resources. By personal use I include friends etc. 
 
We also did a lot of dirt work, carving paths and terraces. Some might criticize this as being unnatural, but if the Incas had thought like this, people would have been working, harvesting and traveling on steep slopes for hundreds of years since. And I suggest each person do their own project area exactly as they wish, instead of criticizing others.
This will create a secondary result of varied creativity and increased learning for all via the “what works well” test.
 
Another issue that will certainly pop up is using modern technologies and materials. If you want to clean around your plants with a hip blade of a cow, go right ahead. I prefer steel tools, and in some cases even mechanization. Remember, it’s a result you are after, not practice grafting with a flint knife. 
 
I tend to be a mixer, using modern tools and materials to produce neo-indigenous crafts etc. which might not be correct on the movie set for Dances with Wolves, but does create its own very beautiful effects.
 
On limits:
Basically there’s only so much that be accomplished by each person, and I suggest starting at a center point, and working outwards. My preferred central point would be my own living area and shelter, and using clean-up and cutting fire wood and construction materials and mix the new genetics with whatever natives you choose to leave…
 
Paths:
In our project in Costa Rica, we built a system of rocked paths. Where first we used pick hoes to shape the dirt, and cut a drainage ditch on the back side. Then we applied base rock that we mined by hand. Most of this was fairly large, two handed rocks placed carefully together, then we topped this with finer gravel also mined by hand. At first we carried it in farm buckets on our shoulders, and later when I could afford a wheel barrow, used that and it was easier and faster.
 
Basically, about all two people are going to be able to do, is a hectare of land. If you have more people, multiply accordingly.
 
I have 27 hectares, and a very serious 15 year project covered less than a quarter of it due to increasing maintenance due to rapid brush growth in the tropical environment. We used Manicillo (perennial peanut) for topsoil building ground cover, and also Yucca (Cassava) to cover some areas and rebuild soil by leaving the tubers, we couldn’t eat all of, to rot in the soil.
 
All projects will be limited by climate realities as to what plants you can use.
 
One tends to build more paths closer to your living area, and then an increasing web of access to farther areas and to civilization. But I many times wished I could close off the accesses to the roads… Problems are directly proportional to numbers of humans. Eventually we did let some accesses grow up to prevent entry of unwanted types. Thieves, Government Thieves, hound hunters, and other such vermin.
 
And only friends were told which accesses were open…
 
The most used path was from the living area to the spring.
 
I also planted my favorite food trees closest to the shelter. Literally had bread fruit fall into the outdoor kitchen area, and several coconuts. 
 
A rule of gardens; your garden area should be able to be seen from your shelter, and if in hilly terrain, make it up hill if possible, as it’s easier to carry produce down hill to the shelter. And above the garden your staple food trees. Humans often put animal pastures also uphill and let the livestock climb up as they forage…
 
Walking the countryside

Walking the countryside

The perfect shelter site has three main aspects; drainage, water supply, and view… Native Americans in Central America often like humps or small hills sticking out from the mountains for drainage and view that has a spring higher up right behind for gravity water. I copied them and it worked very well. Never any flooding, sunny and drier, and a stunning view.
 
All sites will vary, but always build on a well drained hump.
 
The most common and hardest mistake to not do, is planting trees too close. They are so small when you plant them, then they get soooo big!
 
I think permaculture projects are probably as good as it gets for couples. You can start with nothing and create beauty and security together using a division of labor effect.
 
It will take a mix of working together and also dividing up chores so that you aren’t trying to cook beat-tired and late…
 
The best time for a cold water bath is after sweaty work. So one’s lifestyle adapts to your reality. It’s not a sitcom where you have to do everything as you were programmed to do since childhood. Three meals a day generally turns into two. Harder work is done when it’s earlier and cooler, and craft work is done in the shady afternoons after your main meal which is around mid day. 
 
One thing you quickly learn, is that food from the leafy green super market on the mountain side takes a lot of work to gather and process before cooking. Usually about an hour gathering, followed by an hour cleaning and processing. Then at least an hour cooking. Meaning one person’s ability to expand the project and eat is limited by food-making time. and why a couple can each attack different jobs to get the food ready before you are starving. I spent years cooking alone, and it was a great diet plan. I could go to the US, fatten up, and come back and lose 40 lbs in 6 months working and trying to cook etc.
 
But I had lived several years on much less, and hunger had become a friend of sorts. So I was able to resist what most domesticated people would have needed a shrink to deal with…
 
I think the perfect community is everyone living with distance between them. In the 70’s in Oregon, the communes often consisted of cabins in the woods with natural forest left between them and systems of trails. This worked very well, and I think any planned community should follow this plan. That at least half the area should be wild, and that people have their own place and space. Anything else is asking for social issues. 
 
I also think that couples should be aware that each person having their own space is critical to the relationship.
 
The beauty of permaculture is that it can totally eliminate any need for the technocult on a personal level, if you also learn crafts that turn resources into utility items, clothing, and shelter.
 
I suggest that everybody plant more than they can use, for barter, for the animals, and for the people and friends that will eventually flee the cities. 
 
In World War II, refugees stripped a swath 40 miles wide along main roads of all food.
 
And even in Sun Tsu’s Art of War he mentions that a good General knows where all the orchards are.
 
Personally I think permaculture should be done everywhere possible. I have gotten fruit genetics from homesteads abandoned during the great depression. Once established food trees continue to produce until drowned out by climax species forest or other natives.
 
Permaculture also produces the most for the least amount of work. and the best food security as trees are drought resistant compared to shallow rooted annuals. 
 
Permaculture is perhaps the ultimate social revolution, as it allows food and resource security that is decentralized and controlled by the masses. With zero dependency on fossil fuels or advanced technologies, and creates a situation whereby people can avoid control and manipulation. It eliminates the need for money, but would continue long distance trade due to climate differences and growing resources in climate specific areas. In a Just culture, public lands would be open to permaculture.
 
Permaculture also goes beyond food. One can, and most definitely should, plant trees and other plants for any useful resource traits they have, from medicinal to lumber or fibers, dyes, and for wildlife encouragement.
 
Now the controversial part:
Many organic types become purists, and purism is limiting by nature. We are also traumatized by corporate and government atrocities. And so there’s a reaction to negate anything not natural. What I am talking about specifically is GMO technologies.
 
Some consider GMO’s as Techno-Satanic, and many of them are. But there also exist many possible Sane and Wholesome GMO’s….
 
An example would be doing a cross between perennial peanut and normal  commercial peanuts to get a perennial peanut that produces food.  The plant called perennial peanut produces no peanut but is a perennial,
and the commercial peanut is an annual.
 
Which leads to a discussion on who are the high priests and guardians of truth? There are factions in the organic movement tweaking it to make it illegal to use animal manures as fertilizer. This is the logical and moral equivalent of saying wildlife must all be potty-trained and not shit anywhere natural. The logic is a direct violation of natural systems, and the result of academic idiocy…
 
We have too many impractical professors and not enough practical gardeners… Such concepts and control attempts are absurd on their face, and doing serious damage to the organic movement in the third world where local farmers who want to go organic only have government agronomy engineers for information resources, and are so misled into thinking that compost can only be made correctly from certain resources. An example is in Panama, in the mountains of Chiriqui, government agronomy experts taught making compost with ingredients like charcoal, molasses, bacterial cultures and rice hulls, also chicken manure. The local farmers have none of these resources in enough quantity to be meaningful at this point. But like everywhere, there’s an unlimited quantity of brush and it’s usually let go to waste. So I am teaching how to make compost out of just brush. Once this catches on, it will change the dynamic of local agriculture and allow transition to organic to continue and accelerate.
 
Luckily the locals understood that a beard and pony tail meant more in real terms than an agricultural degree. Farmers are not stupid, they just tend to know other things besides academics…
 
Another example was terrace designs. Government agronomy experts taught walled terraces, which are fine for flood irrigated rice, and working on the flats, but tropical rains do an amazing amount of soil compaction, and rice in the area is dry-land types. 
 
And other than the dry-land rice which actually does require compacted soil to grow well, most other crops do better on slopes that maintain natural tilth. So the correct terrace for Central America actually uses the slopes for planting areas, and the flats can be narrow, as they are for access.
 
If you are educated dogmatically, your thinking processes have been effectively blocked.
 
On Education:
In all fields, people should have to work first in maintenance and then go to formal education. One example might be the separation of car mechanics and design. If design engineers were to have to work as mechanics for a couple years first, car design would be entirely different, and cost to their owners for repairs and maintenance would drop.
 
Another example is space exploration. We have engineers designing Mars rovers with skate board wheels on them. They can cost millions to get to Mars, only to get stuck in the sand, as any illiterate farmer could have easily predicted. 
 
Basically our educational systems have created an Elite that are intellectually bankrupt. Too much focus on academics, too little focus on practical skills and application, which in fact need to come first and create a pre-feedback loop. Let’s call it a feed forward loop.
 
We have an educational system where academics create more academics, like a breeder reactor where errors are multiplied by dogmatic thinking patterns. All real education must start with doers and experimenters instead.
 
G

 

Tami’s Blog: The adorable, mischievous brothers

January 14, 2016

From: Tami

Gary’s still in Costa Rica waiting on bureaucracy. I spent a nice Christmas and then my birthday at the Purple House  with Andrea, who has become my friend.  I pay Yovany to water the plants and feed the dogs while I am gone (usually three nights at a time).  He does a very good job.

Frederick, Vivian and Yovany on their Uncle's horse.  This was taken last year.

Frederick, Vivian and Yovany on their Uncle’s horse. This was taken last year.

When I got home from my Birthday, I discovered that Beto’s younger son, Frederick, is visiting.  Vivian didn’t visit this time.  I can hear Yovany and his brother talking as I look out my window.  Their house up the hill is close enough for me to hear their typical brotherly rowdiness.  Fredrick often calls out “Papi!!” when Yovany is doing something he doesn’t like.  It is comical to hear Beto reprimanding the boys about their disagreements.  His normal auctioneer-like verbal tempo goes into overdrive and he rolls the words off so fast I wouldn’t have a clue what he is saying to them.  I can’t figure out what he is saying at his normal speed!  Beto does laugh a lot with the boys too.  He is a very good father.  I also find it humorous when I hear the boys making commands to the dogs in English.  “Out! Out!” or “lay down!”.  Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know,  or “Suni quiet!”  or “Suni, no chickens!” (Suni has gotten better about leaving the chickens alone).  

My chicos lindos (cute boys)

My chicos lindos (cute boys)

The boys get along well a lot of the time.  They have come over to my house two times already today.  They are curious about everything and they get into lots of my stuff, as you can imagine.  They love turning on my flashlight, my electric razor and my percussive massager, my sweater de-fuzzer and my battery-powered vacuum cleaner.  It is heartening to watch their curiosity even if they do wear me out sometimes. They are so much more easily entertained than most American kids who have everything.  Yovany loves to know how to do everything and I appreciate his desire to learn.  My place is like a treasure trove of new and exciting things to observe and to play with.  Yovany has been in my house many times and now he likes showing my things to Frederick. 

Last night the boys were over and I had just made a batch of popcorn cooked in coconut oil. I just discovered a bag of popping corn at a grocery store in David.  I have never seen it in Rio Sereno, except in microwave form.  I had put a little nutritional yeast (brought from the US) on the batch along with salt and a little more melted coconut oil.  Boy was that a hit!  I had been watching something on my laptop as I sat up in bed and I was eating my bowl of popcorn before they came over.  I offered for them to share the popcorn. They were gratefully munching away and Yovany said, “muy rico” which meant he liked it.  He wanted to know how I made it.  I ended up giving that batch to the boys so they could take it home and share it with Beto.  I made myself another pan of the delectable treat!  It had turned out really good.  I am almost out of nutritional yeast though, and I don’t think you can get it here. 

Tami getting a massage from Frederick!

Tami getting a massage from Frederick! Now this is the life!

This is the next morning.  The boys are over again.  They wanted some hot tea with powdered milk and sugar. I gave them some crackers and some peanut butter too.  This is a treat they rarely get and Yovany was rationing the peanut butter by spreading a very thin layer on a cracker and giving one to Frederick and then making one for himself.  They are now having a boxing match while each boy wears a pair of my gardening gloves.  They are laughing one minute and Frederick is crying the next! Before that the boys grabbed my percussive massager. Frederick wanted to give me a massage.  Eat your heart out gals!!!  

I have decided to forgo visiting Traverse City or Detroit, Michigan on this trip home. I will be flying into Chicago. Then I will take the train to Kalamazoo to see my daughter, Jade.  Some of my TC friends might come down and visit me there. I thought of coming through Detroit but there is no good direct public transport from the airport like there is in Chicago.  By stopping in Chicago I will be able to visit with my oldest friend, Cindy, and her husband before I head out to New Mexico. That will be a real treat since I haven’t seen them since I was pregnant with Jade. Sorry to those who hoped for a visit from me, but my kid comes first and then looking for a job is next!  I hope to visit when things are more stable for me.

The boys are making another cup of tea!  Yovany lit the stove, boiled the water, and is pouring the hot water into their cups again.  It is good Spanish practice for me to listen to the two of them chatter to each other and try to communicate with me.  I am lucky to have such adorable, eager boys who want to come visit.  

Until next time…

Tami’s Blog: Gary in CR dealing with tree thief while I am getting water from my spring, etc.

Fun at Eders (800x533)

Gary at Eder’s place in Costa Rica

Gary is presently in Costa Rica. He is visiting with Eder (his son-in-law), Angie and their daughter Lauren while he gathers evidence against a thieving neighbor (Juan Carlos) who cut down one of the only old growth trees on his farm two years ago.  Gary had filed a complaint with the local authorities and was waiting for some resolution.  The tree has been lying there this whole time. Juan Carlos must have gotten tired of waiting (and he figured Gary was in Panama) and so he paid an engineer to falsely say that he was entitled to have the wood from the tree (I am not sure of the details of the transaction yet).  Juan Carlos was so brazen that he had paid another guy to start chopping up Gary’s wood and carting it away in broad daylight!  We will see what the outcome ends up being. I will leave the details for Gary to tell you in a future blog.  So far, it doesn’t look good for Juan Carlos. 

I have been home alone for a month.  I enjoy my alone time just fine. Suni is contentedly enjoying her empty nest since all the puppies have found homes. Gary is handy to have around but it sure is nice only having to clean up after myself.   I don’t have any arguments with myself either ;-).  I have been updating my resume and checking the job posting links online.  I also try to listen to some Spanish lessons every day. I have also been watching movies and listening to podcasts of NPR’s Fresh Air that my friend Steve sent me on a micro SD chip.  I always have enjoyed Terry Gross.  She really does her homework and she asks the most interesting questions of her guests.  The show brings up good memories.

The long rainy season is finally changing into the dry season.  Now my main concern is getting my irrigation tubing attached to the spring so that I can water plants when it doesn’t rain enough.  As a farmer, you always seem to be battling one extreme or another.  Beto chopped a path up to a very high point on my land where the spring starts. I bought some 1” tubing a while ago and Beto installed it in an 8” ditch that he dug all the way from the spring to the shed.  This should provide me with gravity water to most of the farm during the dry season. The water should also attract more birds that will help keep insect numbers down.

Parrots in Pejibaye (535x800)

Blue-headed parrots in Pejibaye tree. Can you spot at least 3 of them?

A while back a flock of blue-headed parrots were eating the orange-colored fruits that hang from my Pejibaye palm tree (pe hi buy yay).  I don’t see parrots land here all that regularly, so I enjoy them when they do come for a spell.  More commonly, flocks of parrots fly overhead.  They are very talkative birds and they squawk and chatter to each other constantly even while in flight.  They seem so content and enjoy living free so much. Their life in the wild may be more fraught with danger, but the quality of their lives is immeasurably more fun and exciting than spending their lives in a cage in captivity.  When I hear the parrots arrive and I observe how they behave in their flocks, it reminds me of how I enjoy the times I get together with friends and family.  Parrots are quick to squawk their displeasure but quick to forgive and move on. The birds are also generous in their chirps expressing the shear joy in living.  They seem to be consummate social creatures and I rarely see a parrot flying solo.  And if I do, it’s in a major hurry to catch up to its flock as it chirps frantically….. as if to say, “Wait for me!!”

Tami and monster squash

Tami and monster squash

 

I am growing tomatoes, onions, beets, basil, passion fruit, and hot peppers in bags.  I am transplanting them into the garden as they grow.  Here is a picture of a huge squash I grew a few months back.  Once you cut one open, you have to eat a lot of squash (even the dogs get some) since I have no refrigeration.  Squash is a very welcome treat when they finally ripen.  I think it took around six months for this one to ripen in this climate.  Generally, things seem to grow much slower here than Michigan, which has a much shorter growing season.

Anyway, I would like to wish all my friends and family a wonderful holiday season.  I hope that I will be able to spend some future Christmases with Jade again! 

Tami

 

Tami’s Blog: Lots to think about

November 1, 2015

From: Tami

Well I have had a lot to think about for the last month or so.  I have been hoping that we could get some business going here before the money gets too tight.  Gary is still in the midst of working on the vacuum food dryer project and so hasn’t had much time to help me get my greenhouse, chicken house, or bathroom completed.  I really need green houses since I haven’t had the greatest luck growing things during this rainy season.  The fungus gets to most of the plants.  I need to be growing enough food to feed volunteers if I want to advertise to have others help me work the land.  I can’t work this farm alone, especially since my hip acts up on occasion.  I don’t need to tell you all that I ain’t a spring chicken! I began to think….why stay here and wait when I could be doing more to keep things going?  I could go back to the United States and get back on the hamster wheel to bring in some cash.  I have several more years before I am able to collect any social security and working more before I am eligible would hopefully reset my SocSec rates at a higher level when I do collect (if it is still available for me)….

I was watching Beto work chopping brush and planting corn. He is amazing.  He has been doing this kind of work since he was a small child.  He is able to get more done in one day than I can in a week! And I am not exaggerating.  I thought….why not go back to the US and work for a while instead of physically killing myself here.  Then I could send some money down to Beto to have him help me keep the farm going while I am away.  Even if I paid Beto for only a couple of days work a week, it might be well worth it.  I pay Beto $15 a day when he works.  In the US he would be getting $15 an hour!  

I was thinking of going back to Traverse City to look for work (which is a possibility).  Then I was talking to my friend, Steve, who lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico.  He offered to help get my feet on the ground there if I wanted to.  That area of New Mexico is really beautiful and I have always wondered what it would be like to live there.  I would be exposed to a lot more Spanish speaking people too.  I don’t want to lose the Spanish I have picked up.  It is also a bigger town with hopefully more job opportunities. Well…maybe I will get the chance to see for myself.  Looks like I might be off on a new adventure in the Spring while still keeping my old dream alive back here in Panama. At least I am leaning toward going to New Mexico at this point.  

Once I have retirement income, it will be much cheaper to live here than in the US. It would be nice to be able to go back and forth between the two.  I know how to live pretty cheap and that is what I plan to do when I go back to the US.  I am actually looking forward to it now that I have made that decision.   Spirit Airlines has reasonable flights (including one way fares) and I could fly through Detroit or Chicago, do some visiting in Michigan and then fly the next leg into Denver (Spirit only flies to certain cities) and take a Greyhound  bus into New Mexico.  Life is full of detours and surprises so you need to be able to change tacks so that you can navigate the waters without capsizing.  I am sure things will fall into place as I get closer to leaving here (in the middle of March).

Gary and kids at dryer project

Gary and kids at dryer project

Gary is hoping to get some type of crowd source funding for more of the same projects once he gets the dry project finished.  I have that video clip animation that Brian (the Argentinian) did for us and I have a video of Gary talking to the locals here about the project.  I have sent those clips to a young American gal (the daughter of a friend) who is working on a ranch in Australia.  She seems eager to get some extra online work and she has some really good ideas.  First the project has to be completed before we can finalize that though.  Beto is helping Gary with sanding a lot of the metal for the dryer chamber tops and the workbenches and they are working on it daily but everything is time consuming.  Gary can explain more in a future blog.

 

Puppies at 6 weeks (800x533)

Puppies at 6 weeks

I did sell two male puppies so far.  I paid Beto $10 to drive me up to the bus stop with the two puppies (Beto’s mom just bought a beater car and Beto is the family driver).  I put the “cachorros”  in a cardboard box and took them to David on the bus.  They were pretty good puppies and all the folks on the bus were smiling at them.  I gave the third lighter male puppy (the one that looks like Courage) to our old neighbor Jorge since I had promised him one if he helped us find land (which he did).  I will take the two remaining females into David in a week or so.  Mauricio, the owner of the petstore has the puppies vaccinated at the Vet next door.  Then they hire a young indigenous fellow who bathes the dogs and cats that get sold there.  My first male puppy sold to a Chinese fellow who wants a guard dog.  A big German Shepherd will certainly be perfect for that job.

I now officially own this land!

I now officially own this land!

After ten months I also finally got the title to my land!  The lawyer I found did a very good job for me.  He didn’t speak much English but we were using Google translate to help us communicate.  The brothers who sold me the land met me at the Purple House and picked me up in their truck.  We then met the lawyer in a parking lot and then walked to a nearby internet cafe so he could produce some documents.  Sounds a bit shady 😉 But it actually worked nicely.  Luis charged me only $150 to do two afternoons of work for me!  I had to pay the notary $170.  He is the person who organizes the paperwork and puts it on file etc.  Notaries here do more than just witness signatures it seems.  Two weeks later my lawyer even picked up the completed title from the public records office and delivered it to me at the Purple House!  I have heard so many horror stories about Latin Lawyers and the scams they pull on gringos, but I seem to have found a good one.  I did have Gustavo (from the Purple House) read my paperwork before I was willing to sign anything.  So now I am officially a land owner here!

Until next time….

Tami

 

Tami’s Blog: Latin visitors to the farm

October 1, 2015

From: Tami

At the Purple House in David I met two interesting young Latin men who ended up visiting the farm.  Beto is 25 and from Mexico.  Brian is 30 and Argentinean.  They heard that I was trying to set up a permaculture farm and both (who had also just met each other at the Purple House) had great interest in such topics.  Brian heard about the food dryer and had been involved in some way with food dryers himself.  They both came home with me on the bus and they got to experience the steep walk home first hand.  We all had our backpacks on but Brian was loaded down the most.  He ended up giving me some of the stuff he didn’t need that much so that his load was lighter on the way home. 

Beto from Mexico and Brian from Argentina

Beto from Mexico and Brian from Argentina

Brian has worked in the professional world specializing in 3-D animation.  He is an amazing artist and he volunteered to do a short video clip of the food dryer for us!  The short clip turned out really nice and I hope to get it on my Youtube channel and link it to the blog.  I first have to learn to use video editing software and we will see how it goes….gulp!  I have a video of Gary explaining the food dryer to the locals and I hope to ad that to the clip. Subtitles will be needed on that one. So far I am having an issue creating folders on Windows.  I think it is a glitch in Windows 7……heavy sigh!

Beto majored in Biology and Genetics in college and was very interested in the Manicillo we are using as a cover crop.  I hope he helps spread the word about the advantages of using this plant on farms and pastures.  

It was nice to have new visitors to the farm.  They both appreciated the land and the creek down below.  Brian said I have to think of a name for the farm.  Terrace de Tami???  Let me know if you have any ideas that are better.

The fat and sassy pups!

The fat and sassy pups!

Suni is weaning the puppies and they whine and cry when they see her.  I have started them on puppy chow softened with hot water.  The pet shop in David is going to help me sell them since I haven’t received any serious responses from the internet ads I placed online.  Someone is already interested in the light colored male.  I may have to take them to David two at a time on the bus.  They will be ready no sooner than the end of October.  

That’s it for now…

Tami

Tami’s Blog: A house full of puppies

Suni and Puppies

Suni and Puppies

Three puppies

Three puppies

Courage Jr.

Courage Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 18, 2015

From: Tami

Suni had 5 beautiful pups on September 3rd.  Three males and 2 females.  I woke up at 3 am on that night and was able to see all of them being born.  Suni took to being a mother right away.  They are growing like crazy.  Four of them are Suni’s coloring and 1 male looks more like Courage.  Suni is eating 3 times as much as normal.  The puppies are very fat and sassy and they look like little bearcubs. They were just starting to open their eyes before I took the bus to David to check my mail and use and internet cafe.   Registered dogs are hard to find here so we are trying to figure out how much to sell the puppies for.  I have gone on to a couple of expat sites to advertise them.  Hopefully we will adopt them into good homes.

My computer screen did arrive at Mailboxes Etc. in David and so did a couple of envelopes so I am relieved that mail does seem to be getting to me so far!  I sure hope I am able to install the new screen on my laptop.  The reason I need to replace the old one is because Courage stepped on it!!  

That’s it for now….Sorry so short….

Tami

 

 

Gary’s Blog: 1500 lbs of steel and a chop saw

Gary and kids at dryer project

Gary and kids at dryer project

September 10, 2015

From: Gary

Morning,

Awaiting day break, and we have a social function invitation this morning, so I realized I would have time to do a blog entry.
 
Yesterday I spent the morning on the chop saw turning one inch steel pipe into 3 inch hunks with 22.5 degree angled ends… the first pieces for the heating system for the vacuum dryer project.  Victor and I did a run to David, Panama and bought 1500 pounds of steel for the project. I have to make a couple three work benches out of that
also. We are going to go 15 inch plastic city water main pipe for the chambers, with steel end caps due to plastic caps being unavailable here..
 
I am building a propane powered thermo syphon heating system in the chambers, so that we can get the product temperatures up to hopefully 130F so our 80 kPa of vacuum will actually boil the water out of the product, rather than just relying on accelerated evaporation rate.
 
So I will be on the chop saw for the forseeable future, and then on cutting torches etc. but luckily I can pay Beto to help me on the grinding, as I turn out all the pieces necessary, and then get them to Victor’s house and use his electricity to weld it all together into a device about 24 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds.
 
I will be using the heating system also as part of the base structure to support the chambers at about 45 degrees of angle so that they can be loaded easily with five gallon buckets of product stacked into them.
 
They should take at least three buckets each.
 
There will be eight chambers.
 
I think we will be able to process about a thousand pounds of tomatoes etc. at a time..
 
I did a word search this morning on Google of gravity water powered vacuum food dryer and came up with just our own blog. Basically this is a first on planet project,  which is amazing considering the simplicity of the concept…
 
After we get it operational I may add a wood fired heat source to the system.. but for now just going to do propane because it’s cheap and expedient..  And because if the project makes money, I can convert it to methane, and use plant matter, and also make organic fertilizer at the same time..
 
Basically making the project 100% alternative energy powered…
 
At this point I just want to get it operational so I can help end the cycle of poverty here in the area.  I am thinking that once proven, we can probably get crowd source funding to build duplicate projects here and elsewhere..
 
And I am also thinking to market an affordable fabricated vacuum head (Ben Linder Device) in various sizes. so others can have the tech off the shelf…
 
I have learned plenty so far on the project, and can incorporate that in improved versions…
 
Anyway, I am enjoying the work, and knowing that the locals are in a bit of shock, that I am building something so simple that will change their lives..  It’s like I tell the kids I teach english to, that I want to teach them to not endure poverty when all it takes is using your heads and working together…
 
I also enjoy knowing that it’s being talked about, and some saying it’s bullshit etc…
 
So now the gossip system knows I bought 1500 lbs of steel for something that some think is impossible…
 
I’m not stopping until I see dried tomatoes by the truck loads…
 
And I have also figured out some other simple tech solutions for major world problems. which I won’t discuss here…
 
But I will be working on them after I get this project booted.. perhaps as part of my crowd source funding attempt. I think I should be able to do OK there once the gravity water dryer is going. It will put me ahead of the pack, and if I can get the funding response, I will go on to more such things. If anyone has any advice on crowd source funding etc. feel free to contact me. Also any ideas on ways to publicize the project once completed. It needs to get into appropriate publications etc. so that it can be duplicated world wide…
 
I will need some help doing a short video for you tube, and for the crowd source funding proposal…
 
Right now, I am looking forward most to showing the kids the project when it’s operational.  I have a lot of young friends who have heard about it, and I want to show them in person. that their volunteer English teacher did something that was a first in the world, right here in their own little valley..
 
I love the kids here, good group, and this will most likely be my major contribution to a better world for them.
 
It will be an honor if I can pull this off.
 
G

Tami’s blog: My mini vacations and dog news

 
 

Soon to be proud parents!
Soon to be proud parents!
 
August 27, 2015
 
From: Tami
 
Well… My dog Suni has had a major weight gain since she finally has a bun (or several) in the oven!  There had been some major hanky panky going on around here for several days.  The party for two is long over now but Courage and Suni were “inseparable” on several occasions.  Beto’s little male dog came over a couple of times to try and join in the fun.  Courage was good-natured but refused to let Morsi have a dance alone with Suni.  So, in a couple weeks we hope to have some new little furballs about the place. We might have to get the help of the owner of a petstore in David to sell them since we are so remote and folks here don’t use the internet much.
 
I am at The Purple House Hostel in David for a few days.  It has become my home away from home.  The owner, Andrea, is an American woman who came here originally with the Peace Corps. We both agree that it is a much less materialistic and stressful life here (not that it doesn’t have other frustrations). I think The Purple House is the best value in the country.  I stay in a shared dorm with 3 bunks in it (6 people) and a shared bathroom for $9 a night.  That includes breakfast of oatmeal, banana, and coffee!  The place is very clean too.  It is within walking distance of an Internet cafe, a large grocery store and many places to eat.
 
Last night I met a retired guy from Omaha who had just finished a 5 week language immersion program in Panama City. He joined me at my table on the front patio and shared a glass from a bottle of some Venezuelan rum that had cost him $36! Then we were joined by a young man from Barcelona Spain.  His English was better than he wanted to admit.  We talked about the political climate there.  He loves Barcelona but does say that over 20% of the population is unemployed….with some PhDs working at MacDonalds.  Hmmmmm sounds a bit like the US.
 
By the way….remember that I was still trying to get a month sticker for my truck license plate a while back? Come to find out,  they couldn’t get us a sticker and we were given a signed letter that states we are allowed to drive Whistler without the sticker.  So Gary finally installed the Panamanian license plate on the truck!!! Six months from when we started the process.
 
Today Gustavo (who works the night shift at the Purple House) directed me to a health clinic three blocks from here.  I have been having hearing problems in my right ear for a week or so.  It feels clogged and I can’t hear very well from that ear now.  I figured since I was in town that I might find out if they could flush my ear out or something.  After waiting in line for 5 hours I was finally seen and it ended up that I had some inflammation in my ear.  I was given to a worker who knew a bit of English…which was nice.  The bill ended up being $2.70 for antibiotics (which I don’t like to take)..and I might just try not to take them and put them in my emergency stash for a major emergency.
 
Oh…some good news…I bought a small washing machine in David the last time I was here.  It was $155.00 for a small 14 lb load small Frigidaire model.  You fill it up with the hose to the level you want.  I had a taxi take it with me to the bus station.  They had to put it on one of the seats in the bus to haul it home.  I paid $5 for the almost 3 hour busride home and they charged me another $5 for the washer since it took up a seat.  I thought that was a deal, especially since this new piece of equipment is making my life much easier!
 
This place also has great WiFi and I am enjoying catching up on Youtubes.  I thoroughly enjoy my little mini vacations here in David.
 
Hasta luego,
 
Tami

Garys blog: Progress with the project

IMG_0341 (1)

Happy Annie

August 24, 2015

From: Gary

Morning,

 We had a co-op work party up in the creek to create a better protected pool for the inlet of the gravity water system. We had about 20 people show up and assist in moving boulders in the creek, which we used to fill between two large rocks on either side of the creek.  Basically moved literally tons of rock using community power. 
 
Mission accomplished.
 
I also gave a demonstration of the Ben Linder device. Everyone was amazed and happy, and saw for themselves we were getting over 80 kPa of Vacuum (25 inches) which is really good for a system with one moving part, and that runs for free off of ambient energy…..  
 
Some in the village had claimed that it couldn’t be possible, or that it was bullshit. Now there are a lot of happy campers who know otherwise……that I am working towards a system that will change food and economic dynamics here for everyone in these mountains.
 
If they work together and put in copy cat systems, thousands of people can have better lives.
 
I am hoping to eventually get Crowd Source funding to get booted up with tools appropriate to helping this happen, so I can have a crew that builds systems of all sizes and gets them up and running. 
 
I am also working on an improved design, with a fabricated steel Linder head that will be affordable, more efficient, and last for generations.  And I am also working on ways to adapt the system to varying supply flow rates and various drop tube distances etc.
 
Also I am working around the inevitable minor bugs that I’ve found.  This is normal in any first off design process. I am trying to make it all automatic and still stay simple, and use available common  resources so it can be copied by anyone.
 
It was personally very rewarding to me to see all my neighbors grinning in astonishment when I opened the valve and the system came up to speed in seconds,  make impressively powerful noises, start whistling with suction, and then to see the gauge climb rapidly and top out at over 80 kPa, and hold steady. Actually the real numbers are higher due to being at over 3600 ft of altitude. And I think I can milk a bit more out of an improved model now that I’ve gotten to see and measure the variables accurately.
 
What I found really rewarding was that even the illiterates in the group could understand how it worked, and knew they could easily build similar systems. 
 
You dont need an engineering degree for this one. Its about as complicated as a flush toilet in its physics…
 
Anyway, the guys are working on the building site for the small processing plant, its mostly done after a couple of weeks of pick hoeing.  I am planning on a quonset hut like building, using Tami’s Harbor Freight tubing roller, to roll large diameter conduit, and cover the arches with corrugated roofing, to create a strong and affordable building that can stand the local winds….
 
I am planning on setting up processing in plastic buckets that we drill holes in, that slide into the angled chambers, and want to have enough chambers to do 32 bucket batches..
 
I also am thinking about ways to heat the chambers using Solar and propane to bring the temperature up to the 130F-140F boiling temp at 80 plus kPa of vacuum.
 
I am thinking to fabricate up steel caps for both ends of 15 inch city water main, and do a pipe loop thru the chambers that doubles as a set of rails the buckets rest on.  and do these with large enough diameters to thermo-syphon  from the heat supply.  which can be a solar flat plate or focusing collector, or a small propane burner…
 
My goal is as passive a system as I can design and build.  And one that can do serious production. I want it to make money for the co-op and growers, so that others will build similar systems.
 
So, it was a defining moment of my life, to see the happy faces of people given hope of better lives for themselves and their children. And it was an honor to accept the Co-op’s hand written letter of appreciation for Paul Uy of Walnut California, who’s heart and generosity made it possible. Paul has helped start another “One Straw Revolution”, and even Tami was emotionally affected taking the letter. 
 
Faith and generosity can change the world. And I am looking forward to explaining to my English students that we got good results, and are going forward with the construction and vacuum chambers end of the project.  Tami did get some photos and a video of me explaining to the people in Spanish how it worked. Hopefully we can find someone computer literate enough to volunteer help us get it on you tube.
 
We will also do a video of the building and chamber system, so it will be possible to spread this idea planet wide.
 
I also explained the Ben Linder story to these people. That the system was named after a fellow Oregonian who had been killed by his own government by proxy war when he was only helping others less fortunate.  Oregon is highly represented in the peace corps etc. We believe that a better world requires doing it yourself, and in places the vanity heads rarely go.
 
People in Central America know this. They all have known volunteers from Oregon.
 
Let Ben Linders legacy not be forgotten…….
 
G