thepioneersofpanama

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

Category: Gardening

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:

https://thepioneersofpanama.wordpress.com/our-pastured-poultry/

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:

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/the-benefits-of-apple-cider-vinegar/

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.

BebeBebe

SamSam

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!

The Greenhouse Project (& The Plastic Dilemma) Part 2

On Tuesday this week , we made good progress with Steve and our two workers, Danilo and Constantino. We got over 20 bamboo posts in around the edge of the greenhouse structure. The bamboo is approximately 4 – 6 inches in diameter and is very sturdy. Rain threatened, so we did not work past 8 1/2 hours.

Bamboo posts

The first bamboo posts are in

Posts in around the side

The posts are all in around the side of the structure (They are hard to see with the perimeter fence posts so close in the background)

We already see where we would have done somethings differently… It was recommended to use plastic on the end of the posts to help them last longer. We started out placing plastic around the ends of the posts and then I read it can actually have the reverse effect and cause earlier deterioration of the wood. Sigh. So we stopped doing that, so about half the posts have plastic. We knew it would be a learning curve and it sure has been!

On Wednesday, we got all the vertical posts of the greenhouse erected. We also had a third worker come and help us for the rest of the week.  I started digging up some of the weeds in the greenhouse area, as I am not using chemicals and I helped out the guys a little when I could. (The “litter” around and in the greenhouse area is the cardboard boxes, I had placed to help deter the weed growth.)

Greenhouse All Posts In

All vertical posts are in!

Working Hard

Starting to place the top rails on the vertical posts

Beautiful Soil n Worms

The soil here is rich and fertile– There were three worms in this handful of earth I scooped up!

On Thursday, we got all of the top rails finished and started putting up the roof supports.

Preparing the Bamboo

Preparing the vertical posts for the top rails

Up Goes the Top Rails

Placing the top rails

Roof Supports going Up

Placing the roof supports

View from the Pasture

A view of the greenhouse from the pasture

On Friday, we morning we finished the roof supports and prepared to place the plastic for the roof.

Roll out the Plastic Carpet

The ‘white plastic carpet’

We bought the plastic this week, after we had already started the greenhouse. We realized as we went to put it on and checked the measurements, that the plastic was a little narrow and would not cover an entire roof section from top to bottom. Ooops.

Too Narrow Plastic

Is the plastic too narrow or is the roof too wide? Houston– We have a problem! See our dilemma?

We tried to figure out a way to get the plastic up, but could not think of a good way to do it, which made sense because of the shortage of material. The plastic is big and heavy because of that it is hard to keep square and keep pulled tight at the same time. We ended up taking all of the plastic until we know exactly what we are doing.

We are sending out appeals of help to our neighbors and locals, who have had experience in this– to help us come up with a workable plan. Until then, my planting of all of my packets of heirloom non-GMO vegetables will be on hold.

We are resting up today and tomorrow going to the local rodeo down the lane. It is a big event this weekend with cowboys from all over the province and even as far as Colon!

I pray all of you have a wonderful weekend.

Yours as always~Rose

P.S. I received fantastic news in regards to a new venture I am starting! I am very excited and will share more about that in the next couple of months.

P.S.S. I love my husband and all the work he put into the greenhouse this week. He was very disappointed over not being able to finish it for me, but really dear one– it is not a big deal! Remember we are in Panama now, manana! No problema!

My dear husband

The Greenhouse Project Begins Part 1

It was in early April when I painstakingly dug up all the weeds with the help of one our workers in the newly designated area for our greenhouse.Here is the picture I had posted back then of the cleared weed-free greenhouse plot.

Cleared Greenhouse Plot

Then in late April we had placed cardboard over the entire 4,000 sq ft area to prevent weed growth and to encourage worm activity.  However, due to Steve’s work schedule and vacation, the project was set on the back burner. Unfortunately the cardboard boxes have almost all deteriorated and the vigorous grasses have come back in full force. (But there are lots of worms out there now!)

Weeds Have Taken Over

Look at all the weeds! All my hardwork for naught!

So yesterday Steve (bless his heart!) started the greenhouse project in full force. We started with the cutting of the bamboo to use as posts for the structure.  We will be using over 100 pieces of bamboo in this project.

Beautiful Bamboo

One of our beautiful bamboo forests– Bamboo is a wonderful renewable resource!

Cutting Bamboo

 Danilo cutting a bamboo tree, as Steve supports it

Timber!

Moving the bamboo into a pile to move across the creek

Pulling Bamboo Up the Hill

Danilo and Constantino tying up the bamboo to the winch of the four wheeler (Can you see the border collie in this picture?)

Gettin Bamboo to the Garden

Steve pulling the bamboo up the hill and across a field to the greenhouse area

Pullling Bamboo on the ATV

My baby working up a sweat

Bamboo on the Truck

Some bamboo we harvested from another bamboo forest near the driveway

Will update you tomorrow of how the beginning of the construction of the greenhouse went today!

Orange Tree

The orange tree in front of the house has sweet juicy fruit right now

Delish Oranges

These taste so good squeezed fresh in carrot juice!

Well, good night my dears. Tomorrow we have a full work day ahead of us. We are trying to get the greenhouse 80% complete by the end of Friday.

I pray each and everyone of you all had a great day! (I know one of my dear cousins is, as she is celebrating her honeymoon on a cruise to Alaska! The best to you and your dear husband!)

Always yours- Rose

Digging in Our Heels

As some of as you may know we have been trying to sell our farm here in Panama since August 2012. We have had a lot of interest and one very serious buyer, who needed some time to sell some of his assets. He just emailed and told us he and his wife would be ready to buy this winter.

However, we made the decision two months ago to dig in our heels here and stay in Panama.

Smith and I never really wanted to leave Panama. We knew the advantages of living in the states, being close to family the best reason, but we felt there was so much we had not done here to leave so soon. For Moms sake, we were willing to move, if we could find a nice farm in the states and do what we were doing here, there.

When the decision was made to stay, we all three felt very peaceful and happy about continuing our lives here. It was good just to have a definite plan and begin work here, which had not been done or had been left uncompleted.

Things have really started coming together.

I was blessed with one milking Saanen and one Mama goat with three triplet half Saanen girls. The same day we picked up those five  girls, we saw some goats in a field and stopped by to see if any were for sale.

Those goats in the field were not for sale, but a lovely Panamanian woman next door, had Toggenburgs and Toggenburg cross for sale for a decent price. I bought two pure Toggenburgs and one Toggenburg/Alpine cross.  These girls were around three months old. I have invested an hour every day and to date, all of the young girls are very friendly and come up to me for scratching and rubbing. I am so happy, as this is so much better than our first herd, which most were a bit cautious to downright loco with only a few tame girls.

So the goats we raise up now, will all be friendly. I love that. (Special thanks to Mike, the goat man in Boquete, for loaning his Big Mama to our farm and letting us buy her babies and in the future we also plan on letting his Saanen doe go back as well to him, but right now she is our only milk goat. And also to Idania for parting with some of her Toggenburgs. I am in love with these sweet spirited gentle little goats.)

035

Big Mama and her triplet girls– Ruby, Nellie and Madeline

032

Anne, Bebe, Julia and Pearl

If any of you remember all the time and trouble we had finding goats in Panama before, will know how blessed we feel to be the proud owners of this little herd, which came about so very quickly.

Mom also went to the auction and bought two cows… A bit of a fiasco. I will not go into details, but it was a discouraging moment. But as angry to discouraged to frustrated as I was– all in the matter of 15 minutes, all I could help but see was the clear hand of the multitude of good things which were happening in our lives and paving the way for us to make a life here once again. Quickly, all of the negative feelings disappeared and all there was left was a peaceful feeling.  So on the way home that evening, our worker told us he had met one of our neighbors at the auction, who would sell us ten of his young cows for a very fair price. This was the confirmation of the feeling I had earlier, that indeed we were being watched over and good things were being given. Not to lose faith.

004

Danilo and Ebenor working with the cows

Ebenor moving our calves into another pasture

I have cleared (with the help of one of our workers) a 4,000 sq ft area for our future greenhouse. Now we just need to design a plan and get that built.  We also are working on cleaning the pastures, adding pastures, moving fences, and improving some of our pastures. I have plans for a moveable chicken pen, worm bin, Boshaki compost bin and a rabbit hutch. A lot of work here. But that is nothing new! Welcome to life on a farm.

020

One day this area will house a very large bamboo greenhouse supplying our family and animals with fresh vegetables

025

Our new horses– Emma and Chespita (Just waiting for our saddles to get here  from the states) –I love my Emma!

So life is very good here. For the first time in many months, I feel  hopeful and happy. So joyous in fact, my little seed of faith which was buried so deep inside of me, seems to have been revived and renewed. The Most High still has his eye and this girl and those she loves. Thank you, Great Mysterious One.

I have not forgotten any of you at all. You are in my thoughts and in my prayers, my family and my friends… I have much time to think and reflect about all those whom I know, while being kissed by the sun and working in the quiet of the outdoors.

Love, Rose

The Greenhouse: Getting those Greens Under Control!

Our worker, Danilo, had been in charge of starting and tending the vegetables in the greenhouse for my parents the last several years. He had planted some tomatoes, green peppers and Romaine several months ago, but after that the garden had been sorely neglected. The whole greenhouse was overgrown with weeds and the established herbs were overgrown.

It had been my plan since we first moved here, to make the greenhouse my “baby”, but due to priorities and time constraints it was low on the priority list. During the last two weeks however,  I have started taking control of the greenhouse.

 The “Greenhouse”

Our greenhouse is made of bamboo and covered with plastic. It is not beautiful but it works. Its main function is to protect the vegetables from the heavy rains during the rainy season. (My cousin in Hawaii has a fancy greenhouse and maybe one day we will have one like his! Something to aspire to!)

The Tomato Plants

A Closer View of the Tomato Plants

Our First Green Pepper

Our little bunches of Romaine

Lines of Green Pepper and Romaine

Starting Seeds in Egg Cartons

I am excited about the garden! I am looking forward to harvesting some green peppers and tomatoes later this week. I am also hoping all my little seedlings will sprout right up and I get all of the assorted lettuces, cucumbers and beans planted as soon as I can.

 And meet Dina our new calico kitty-She is watching me work in the greenhouse

 

An Update on My Father

I took my Father back to the doctor today, a week and a half after his second surgery to get the pathology results.

The doctor told us he has grade III angiosarcoma. Angiosarcoma is a  form of sarcoma, that can occur anywhere in the body but generally in the soft tissues near the blood or lymphatic vessels. It is a rare, reoccuring aggressive type of cancer. Of all the cancers my Father could have gotten, he got one, we are really going to have to give one helluva fight. (I think it may have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange…???) The doctor was also able to feel another mass near where he just removed the mass a week and a half ago… So in such a short time, it is already growing.

We are going to make an appointment tomorrow and  plan on taking him to the Oncology Institute in Panama City next week to meet with the oncologist and radiation oncologist to discuss treatment options. I am all for natural and alternative treatments, but I think we need to be as aggressive as this cancer is and give traditional medicine a go as well. In the meantime we are keeping my Father on a “detox”, by continuing a raw food diet with of carrot juice and green smoothies, as well as several different herbs.

Several Rainforest Herbs I harvested out of our yard that help fight cancer!

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers.

If you are interested to learn more about angiosarcoma click here: http://sarcomahelp.org/learning_center/angiosarcoma.html

The New Kids on the Block

I did have good news when I got home tonight…

Check out the Queen of the Goats-Miss Fanny and her two new daughters!

Meet Francis and Fern-Check out their royal “Neck Jewelry” (The neck waddles!)

I love each and every one of you.

( And let us aim to-Live well… Love much… Laugh often…)

Yours~Rose