Written by Stephen Bliss

Making Changes

Our Arrival
Tammy and I arrived here in Caldera on the 18th of August.  The house and farm were being taken care of by someone here in Panama but things seemed a bit un-managed when we arrived.  The items we deemed in immediate need of attention were the chickens, goats, and grass.

The chickens were not producing eggs and their large chicken pen looked like Haiti. Wet hard dirt with no sign of any life.  There were no roosting or laying areas either. They were being fed grain only and massive amounts. So we did a complete makeover on the little chicken shed and furnished it with 6 roomy laying areas and an eight-foot wide roosting rack. We added sand to the area in front of it and placed a feeder above it. Grit is a critical part of chicken digestion. Then for the hard wet dirt, we trimmed the overgrowth to let in some sunlight and breeze. This would allow the area to dry out a bit. We then took our grass clippings and made an eight-inch deep bed across the pen. This would introduce bugs into their pen area and create a habitat encouraging more to take up residence. Then we decided to thin the flock. When we came we had eight roosters and eighteen hens. We choose the best two roosters to keep and butchered the remainder. We also took three hens that we were told were the oldest, turned out they were just obese and actually about ten months. We went to Finca Selah and, with the help of Cesar, his wife Jaqueline and his daughter Stefanie, we began butchering. Tammy jumped right into it. When Jaqueline took the first one and wrung its neck Tammy was shocked and, being a bit taken aback, started to tear up but she quickly pulled herself together and became a farmer. It was quite the thing to watch. So now we have chicken in the freezer.

The goats are as goats will be, fine.  They eat everything and seem to be quite content.  We have three males, two which have been castrated, and one female.  I noticed the female was pregnant and pretty far along. I mentioned it to the worker and he said, “no, she is just going to make some milk”. So anyway… best I can tell she is pretty far along. I would need my daughter Ellie to tell me exactly how far along she is but she isn’t here right now.  She is amazing with animals.  The goats all share a small room at night so, in preparation for the kid coming, we set up a separate space for the momma. Eventually, we need to get a couple more females and butcher the two castrated males. Then, we’ll get a big box of curry and… I’ll have to find some goat recipes.

Grass may not seem to be that big of a deal but here tall grass can be deadly. Tall grass here IMG_9169becomes a habitat for small animals and that becomes sought after food for snakes. Snakes here, like anywhere, can be venomous. Our first day out we walked down to the river on the overgrown road and found a hefty sized Fer de Lance, or as the locals call it, Eckies. (That’s just the Spanish pronunciation of x’s as the back has an X pattern down it.) The flower beds IMG_9340around the house were overgrown and while we cleaned them we found some mice and eventually, if left unmaintained, you will find snakes too. But just like anywhere, if you keep the grounds maintained you are fine. Now granted, this area of the world happens to be the home of the largest pit viper in the world so you do want to be careful wandering around in the jungles. In Costa Rica, I would see quite a few Bush Masters but here I saw my first one three days ago. It was only a picture from a farm about 8 miles away but that’s enough for me.

General Repairs
When we arrived the motorized equipment didn’t work.  A common practice in Panama is to use something until it quits and then just leave it.  I guess it’s their approach to maintenance free.  We got the Mule (side by side) back together and working, the mulcher and hopefully the chainsaw and cement mixer by the end of the week.  Then we can get back to our work of developing the center for sustainable development.

I recognize that everyone goes through different life stages at different times in their lives. For Tammy and I, we are both at this same place where we want to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world.  It will take a lot of hard work for a couple years but it should be rewarding and beneficial. Our hope is to equip others with knowledge and the tools to live a more self-disciplined and intentional life in order to reverse the horrible destructive lifestyle patterns established by the western all consuming world.

That’s all for this post. I’ll be writing again soon.
Until then, Godspeed.