A Journey in living simply, in living off the land and in giving back.

Month: October, 2013

Omg– Am I Raising Maggots or Black Soldier Fly Larvae…?

I shared a week and a half ago, how we ordered a batch of Black Soldier Fly eggs– which due to a mishap with the USPS was delayed and we did not get to it until a month later. Steve was surprised there were actually some larvae still alive in the little plastic bag, so he decided to bring them home and see if we could still raise them up.

I was not overly optimistic about the project anymore.  For one, the larvae had been in a plastic bag for over a month– how healthy were they?– and secondly–we were not sure exactly what we were doing.

I pulled out a plastic container and filled it with a little soil and put a little fruit scraps in it. I emptied the little larvae on top of it all. I then found the instructions, which had come with the larvae and it recommended putting a piece of moistened bread with coffee grounds in the bin and putting the larvae on top of that. So I scooped some of the larvae up and onto the bread and I hoped the others would get the idea.

Black Soldier Fly LarvaeThe Black Soldier Fly larvae after we first got them

Almost every day I have opened the lid of the container to check on the larvae and every time a little black cloud of tiny gnats with the occasional house fly have flew out.  I have been worried they have been disrupting the system, however the larvae still have been alive and wriggling.

But then doubts came in and a few days ago, I wondered if regular house flies had come in and laid eggs and all  we really had was handfuls of  thriving maggots… What exactly was I raising..???? Maggots— ? Ewwwww.

So I researched on the internet, about how to tell the difference between maggots and Black Soldier Fly larvae. I found this great article which explains the difference with great photos and detailed descriptions:

Here are a couple photos from that website:

Housefly MaggotsHousefly Maggots

BSF GrubsBlack Soldier Fly Larvae

I was still sorta leaning towards the thought I had young smooth white maggots in my bin.

I was disappointed. I was really counting on raising BSF up as a source of healthy, natural and clean protein to supplement our chickens diet.

However, after I went to check on the larvae after three more days– I could tell I definitely did not have maggots, but Black Soldier Fly larvae. They had grown so much, had started changing color and had even developed definite ridges, since I had checked on them last. It may seem odd to you all, but it made me very very happy!

Black Soldier Fly Larvae 2My beautiful fat and happy Black Soldier Fly Larvae

So our next step is to create a bin for the larvae to pupate and turn into flies.

I found a great video by NW Redworms on YouTube, who set up a pupation bin with great success.

A good example of a BSF pupation bin

I am hoping we will be able to make the BSF pupation bin and a BSF compost bin within the next month.

Our goal is to raise up a good sized colony of BSF and hopefully we will attract local BSF– so I can begin harvesting the larvae in the next several months for our chickens. We have perfect temperatures here for the BSF and should be able to raise them year round.

We will keep you posted!

I hope everyone has had a great weekend. We have gotten a lot done on the farm and I will update you more in a few days.

Much love, Rose

A Little Bit of Everything

I just wanted to share a little sampling of what I have been up to the last month.  I have had my hands in many various projects right now or what I tell our workers are “mis experimentos” (my experiments).

The Chickens

Our newest and biggest venture is raising up chickens not just for our family– but for the public. We are raising what the Panamanians call the “Blancos” or my neighbor calls “Granja”– or what is known to us in North America as the Cornish Cross.

So far we are off to a fantastic start in our new business! We appreciate the support of our friends, who care about where their food comes from, making healthier choices and for supporting their local farmer. Gracias, amigos!

Cornish ChicksThe Cornish Cross chicks pictured at a week old. Hola!

I also am raising up some dual purpose chickens for eggs and meat– which are called the “Negras” (Blacks) and the “Rojos” (Reds). I am not quite sure what breeds they actually are, but I will pull out the chicken book after these guys are older and see if I can figure it out.

The colored chickens will be raised after the Korean Natural Farming model.

The chicks eat mainly rice (which I lightly “salt” with starter mash), cut up bamboo leaves after day 3 and smashed egg yolk for two weeks to simulate the “Mothers milk”. These chickens will grow to forage on pasture, as well as eat organic fruit and veggies from the farm, whey and a diet of  no more than 30% grain as adults and hopefully less as we add more high protein greens to their diet over the next year.

NegritasMy little Negra fluffballs asleep on the rice hull bedding

I absolutely adore my role of being “Mother Hen”.

The brooding boxes are currently outside one of our windows in the carport. I can hear their little peeps when I am in our room and I can easily go out and check on the little guys and gals. Our plan is to put the brooding area in the big chicken house one day, but I really do not like the thought of my baby chicks being so far!!!

I am feeling “empty nest syndrome” already!

New Chicken House

Here is a snapshot of the new and improved 1,300 sq ft chicken house under construction

If you have not read about about our plans on how we will be raising our chickens and why– check out this page of our blog:

Making Homeade Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother

My Mom takes apple cider vinegar or ACV on a regular basis and I do on and off… Because unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the “mother” is hard to find in Panama and I am adding it to my chickens water as a “natural mild antibiotic”, I decided to make some of my own.

Homeade ACVMy jars of apple cider vinegar in the cupboard fermenting

The MotherThe apple cider is cloudy which is good-– the mother is there– a host of good bacteria and living nutrients!

For information about the many and varied health benefits of apple cider vinegar with the mother:

Kefir Goat Milk

I also am preparing kefir  goat milk again. I was making kefir a year and a half ago, but I accidentally threw my grains down the sink, so needless to say we have been without for a long time.

However, I am really pleased with my kefir this go round. It has a very pleasant mild flavor.  In fact two of my Russian customers gave my kefir rave reviews stating it was “excellent” and “sheer bliss”.

For those of you who do not know what kefir is– it is an ancient Russian drink– like a liquid yogurt, but with many more strains of good bacteria and beneficial yeasts. The probiotics  in kefir can actually colonize your gut instead of just “passing” through like yogurt.  Kefir is a rich source of many different vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids– as well as assisting in regulation of the immune system, prevention of gastrointestinal disease and aiding in bone health.

I have currently been trying out recipes to make a perfect yogurt, Greek style yogurt and a soft spreadable cheese. So far I have been very pleased with my results.

Goat Milk KefirMaking kefir yogurt– Letting the curds and whey separate naturally

Kefir Greek YogurtThen you strain off the excess liquid and you are left with a healthy great tasting thick yogurt!

In the next couple of months, I will trying out some hard cheese recipes. I am very excited about this! Most of the rennets are made from GMO sources, but with kefir I will not need to use rennet. I am also dreaming about a dairy cow and making homemade kefir butter!

048Greek style kefir yogurt with fruit, almonds and sprinkled with cinnamon– Delish!

Projects in the Greenhouse Area

Rose ArborMy rose arbor at the entrance of the greenhouse area

My climbing rose that Steve bought me two years ago finally has a permanent home!

Banana CIrclesBanana Circles

We also made six banana circles– interspersed with dwarf banana plants, lemon grass and sweet potatoes. I have placed cardboard in the center of the circles to prevent weed growth, until the sweet potato plants and compost can deter them. My workers cannot understand why I do not want to use chemicals to kill off the weeds. They think it is funny I am so adamant about it and they just laugh and laugh– like I have completely lost my mind. I tell them I have enough chemicals in my body from all the foods I have eaten that were not organic in my past and I do not need anymore in there. Maybe one day they will understand.

New Banana Trees

The bananas plants are just now starting to shoot up

Sweet Potato StartsSweet Potato starts in the banana circle given to me by our  friend Shirley of Volcan

Rabbit CageThe Bunny Cage almost complete… It is awaiting a bunny and I am awaiting fertilizer!

We are hoping to get the plastic on the greenhouse in the next week. We would have had it done, but we are still trying to figure out the best way to apply the plastic on the roof because none of the plastic is wide enough to go on in one piece.

Sigh. Big lesson learned.

However, we will get it on one way or the other. I just pray I will be planting my little stash of heirloom and non- GMO seeds within the month! I am dreaming of various colored salad greens and speckled lettuces and fresh little sweet tomatoes for my salad.

The Black Soldier Fly

I ordered a starter kit of black soldier fly eggs last month to try to raise up and get a good colony going in our area, so we could feed the larvae to the chickens. They are an excellent source of healthy and free protein for the chickens, as well as great composters for our garden. A win-win situation.

However, the box of black soldier fly eggs got shipped up to Pennsylvania from Florida, instead of heading straight over to Texas and we were not able to get the package in time before Steve returned home four weeks ago.

The box sat at my daughters house for a month, but when Steve checked the box last week, he found some larvae alive and well in the starter kit plastic bag, so he brought them home.

Black Soldier Fly LarvaeHere are the little white black soldier fly larvae in their new home– a little compost bin

I will keep you posted on this project.

The Puppies

And last but not least the puppies… I do not think I posted pictures of them here yet, but here is Bebe our rescued street dog from Volcan and Sam a little Cocker Spaniel pup I got as a present.



Well dear friends and family– there is so much more I have not shared that we are doing around the farmI will try to get another post or two out in the next week. Suffice to say we have been very busy– but very happy in our adventures!

I pray you are each well, happy and blessed.

Thinking of you all– those near and far!

Yours always, Rose

P.S. Molly Rose– see I have been very busy and I have not shared all! I love you!