November 22, 2014
It must be near Thanksgiving in the U.S. but you wouldn’t know it here in Panama. When you don’t have to punch in to work, it is hard to keep track of what day it is. We are still treading water….awaiting word on a possible hectare (close to 2 ½ acres) of land that might be in my price range. Jorge is going to take us to see it when he gets a break from his hectic schedule harvesting crops.
We can’t unload the truck until we get a place to put it. Many of the tools and things we might like to use are buried in the truck which is frustrating. Gary and I can still only go places one at time since we don’t want to leave the truck and the dogs unattended. We very much look forward to being able to park this rig somewhere permanent, put up an electric fence and let the dogs be off the chains permanently.
My days vary and yet have a routine to them too. I take the bus to Rio Sereno every three or four days to pick up a few supplies. I can get on the internet from the internet café in town (if it works). Jorge lets us use his wifi too but it only works when he is home with his cell phone. Then we have to sit near his house to get a connection. We are often asleep by the time he gets home. Also, it gets dark here around 6:30 pm or so almost all year round. I don’t like to bother him and his family too much since they are busy raising a family and farming the land. So if you are wondering why it takes me a while to answer emails….that is it. I don’t want to buy any type of package internet deal until I know where I am going to be living. Since we are right near the border…we don’t know if we will need to using a cell tower that accesses Costa Rica or Panama.
We have been eating a lot of beans, cracked corn, split peas and rice in different combinations. We get tomatoes from Jorge and I buy onions, bell peppers and local white cheese to dice up and put on most meals. Gary still does most of the cooking since he is so much more experienced than I on cooking over a fire. It does seem to be easy to maintain your weight here. My pants are all loose and I have to make sure I eat to keep weight on! Gary has lost most of the 30-some lbs he put on when we lived in Oregon.
Jorge just gave us a small bit of land to use to plant some stuff. I am paying a guy to machete the brush off of it for about $10. I look forward to when my veggies ripen so that our diet will be more varied. I also just planted several squash seeds scraped out of one I bought in town. I don’t know if they are hybrids and I am not sure what type of winter squash the plants will produce. I found some green onions, red onions and brown onions with a bit of root on them. I have those planted in bags and they seem to be surviving so far. I also found some red indigenous corn mixed in with the common yellow corn. I picked out the red kernels and Gary wants to try to get back the real red corn genetics by planting only the red kernels.
Gary has been giving Jorge lots of great tips on how to garden more efficiently. Jorge seems to appreciate Gary a lot. The other morning, as Jorge and his workers were getting ready to dig potatoes, Gary noticed that Jorge’s workers shovels had never been sharpened. He questioned Jorge about having the shovels sharpened. I could hear a grinder running next door this morning and Gary chuckled as he noticed the farm workers filing their shovels like professionals. I am sure those workers are having a much easier job digging up potatoes now. Personally, I had never heard of sharpening a shovel…but it does make sense! Gary has also shown me how to sharpen my kitchen knives with a piece of 200 grit wet/dry sandpaper. It is amazing how such a simple tip makes cutting veggies so much more pleasant. I bought a machete which Gary sharpened (a good machete from El Salvadore costs under $4 here!). He had me peeling the bark off the poles we are going to use to support a tarp to put over the barbeque. It took me a couple hours to peel each pole. A campesino would have cranked out that job in a couple of minutes ;-). I have also been doing most of the firewood gathering. Gary chops the big logs with his axe while I focus on the smaller kindling with my hatchet. I never knew much about using a hatchet and now I know that cutting the branches on the diagonal is more effective. To hack through thicker wood you need to cut V-shaped notches in both sides of the branch. I am getting lots of practice.
My daughter, Jade, is now 18! She is finishing up high school (possibly early) and she might be able to get some additional funding if she stays in college or trade school. I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to take advantage of that. So….I am not sure if she will be coming down soon or going back to school for a while. She is an adult now and it is up to her. It will be good to see her whether it is sooner or later.
Even though our situation is a bit trying right now….I feel so blessed that we are living in the most beautiful climate I have ever experienced. Even though it is the rainy season, the rain comes and goes and we have lots of sunshine too. The temperature ranges between 60 and 85 degrees so far. I wake up to a huge green valley, planted in coffee and dotted with banana trees. The green mountains and hills are in the background on all sides. The clouds on one side of the road are over the Caribbean Sea and the other side of the road the cloud formations are over the Pacific Ocean. It is a real unique spot. We are parked in Panama and if I walk across the street to Jorge’s house, we are in Costa Rica.
Gary and I feel that there is real potential here to make money in organic agriculture. With a year-long growing season, cheap labor and the need for improvement in the lives of folks living here….we may be in the right place at the right time.
Until next time….