No this is not Boquete, Panama it is the Suburbs of the Eastern Seaboard in the USA. That said, from an inconvenience point of view the two are neck and neck.
Actually, I think mosquitos are worse than coffee flies and a bottle of gas and box of matches harder to find here when you need them.
However, the big difference I am noticing is that in the USA we have not only to deal with these inconvenient things but endure political opportunism from all sides of the spectrum.
Politicians and local officials demonstrating how organized and on the job they are. So well versed in dos and don'ts of natural disasters post Katrina and mistakes more recently underestimating snow storms. I am imagining they are now giving themselves high marks for, in my opinion, over managing the entire thing.
Back in Boquete, we get a good shaking from earthquakes often. We see inches of rain coming down in a matter of hours many days of the rainy season. Our rivers do flood as well and sometimes they move. The power cuts are horrible, frequent and for some last for days. These things are dangerous and inconvenient.
At least in Boquete, Panama........ we can get on cooking dinner by candlelight and dodging flooding rivers in private.
Yes, we did have some bad weather but I think the pudding was over-egged. It did affect a lot of people - that is really the most significant fact.
In our area, we did have power cuts, trees blocking roads and flooding. We are prone to flooding here on the Delaware and get it a lot, this was just another trigger. Power cuts here are more frequent than they should be because all the power lines are strung above the street. We loose more trees in ice storms.
Bees, damn bees. And it was the Italian ones back home in PA, not the Africanized ones on the coffee farm. Today, it was about 95% and the bees were out of the hive buzzing away keeping cool. They were dipping in the pond to cool off and just flapping their wings around and about out of the hive.
I was doing some weeding in my black sweat pants/lycra trousers. I was cutting back the grasses next to the pond. All of a sudden I felt an oouchy prick on my right thigh. Horribly familiar.
Really, I should know better, it has happened before. Bees do not like black and they do not like the smell of sweat. They confuse take dark colors + sweaty smell to mean BEAR. Bears, as we all know like honey and so are one of the
animals bees seek out to sting. Right now I am ready to do a second harvest having already 6 supers on the hives. They have something to protect and defend, honey.
Interestingly, these Italian 'docile' bees sting badly. At least that is my experience. The swelling may take 24-36 hours to reach its height but it is very pronounced. Socially awkward.
The Africanized bees on the farm are more frightening the way they chase you and sting multiple times. But in my experience, and it is early days, the Africanized bees do not sting too badly. More like bad mosquito bites - albeit 20 of them at a time.
The way my house is built it is sadly often a hummingbird trap. The hummers come in to look at cut flowers and then get stuck.
I have two types of hummingbird that regularly get into trouble. The rufous tailed and the snowy bellied. And, with plenty of practice, I have developed some strategies.
The rufous tailed are the easiest. This is the chap in the picture, apologies the photo is a bit out of focus. They fall for a bamboo stick with a bright green blanket draped on top. I just stand on a chair with the stick in the air pretending to be a tree. They fall for this every time and hop into the blanket. With a swoosh of the bamboo I can swing them down and out of the door.
The snowy bellied are harder. The stick with the blanket does not work. With these I have to put a feeder down low hanging on the open French windows. Eventually, they are so tired they are lured down to eat.
Not sure what the UVA and UVB radiation levels are exactly in Boquete, but they are pretty high at 8 degrees North and above 4000ft.
Optician informed me today that:
1. We both need to wear 100 % UVA/UVB sun glasses outside. Exposure will be less with high humidity as the water in the air absorbs UV.
2. Car glass windscreen may not be UV protective. Need to test with photo-sensitive lenses.
Always a challenge to find good ways of covering up: This trip, two gems:
- Neutrogena have a handbag or travel sized ultra sheer liquid daily sunblock it is an sp 70 and is pretty much invisible.
- bareMinerals have a mineral veil product with an SP25. Good paired with the above for super solid face protection.
A few more shopping days left - what else should I stock up with?
Went to wholefoods in Princeton today in search of something special. Wholefoods is a foodie heaven, I was hoping to find a delicious new coffee to try. After all, I have been drinking Boquete Valley coffees now for three months straight and wanted to try something else.
Firstly, let me caveat. The following are just my opinions and impressions. If I missed something, please invite me back to show me what I missed. I am not a professional, just an enthusiast who has been growing and tasting coffee on and around my farm in the Boquete Valley in Panama.
My pilgrimage started out at the coffee bar with Alex the barista. Actually, Alex was not immediately obvious but eventually showed up and the conversation went something like this............
Me: Hi, I would like a tall regular coffee, can you tell me about this coffee?
Alex the Barista: It is a medium roast from Small World Coffees (Great reputation Princeton roaster)
Me: Where is this coffee from?
Alex the Barista: Princeton
Me: Sorry, I meant origin
Alex the Barista: OK I think they are based in New York State
Me: Do you know where the beans come from?
Alex the Barista: No, maybe there is something on the packets
Me: Can we look at the packets?
Alex the Barista: Here, they are delivered in this big plastic tub everyday -oh just a clear plastic tub no label. But they do deliver every day.
The coffee was bitter and was darker than a medium roast! It was also served in an Allegro coffee cup with their mission and label.
Not the best of starts. However, I decided to move on to the coffee aisle and see if I could find anything there. Here is my video of the coffee aisle with my notes attached. Princeton people obviously care about the sustainability, organic descriptors and such like or at least they have labels and claims to that affect + almost all the labels also clearly describe the roast.
BUT what exactly is inside? None had the type of bean, none had the way the beans were processed. Some did have flavor descriptors like 'fruity' which implies natural processing, but that was all. Only one of the Mexican coffees had clear origin - ie Country and coffee growing region or at least altitude descriptor. Also, freshness was an issue for me. Most recent roast I could find was over a week old, that was good - most had a 'use by' date - 90 days!
So...........I went on to the bins. These are bins of coffees that labelled with roast dates in the last 24hrs - GREAT. They are beans out in the open, getting oxidized by the hour. They should still be very fresh though, wonder why they don't have a nice coffee smell? Here you did get country of origin and approximate roast - but no other indication of quality at all. The wholefoods own blend was suspicious looking, admittedly at between $8-9 per lb this is cheap. BUT the roast is very uneven. Dark beans and the light ones all mixed in. Would not be surprised if this is an unintentional blend.
At this point, I was asked to stop filming. Apparently, all filming should be approved by the manager 'for marketing' reasons. Well, I was about done anyway. Back home to the same beans I brought with me - will continue my search for good coffee next week.
This is the heavy rainy season. It gets chilly up here in the mountains. Nothing more cosy than lighting a roaring fire and sitting in a rocking chair with a nice glass of wine. Out there in the dark, in amongst the coffee, you can hear the drumming of rain and the chorus of insect life.
Yes, peaches are possible in the sub-tropics growing next to the coffee. Initially, I was dreaming of the pink blossom and expectations were low re. the quality of the fruit. The trees are now between 4-5 years old. The peaches keep getting bigger and tastier as the branches get bigger. They taste of the best New Jersey white peach, maybe even better. Such a treat to have some stone fruits here. Beatrice likes to eat them warm from the tree. Eventually, I have plans to do things with them, like making pie.
This was the scene last week: We had windows being cleaned by the small light slim relation of our maid (milky coffee with sugar); Our maid was cleaning the fridge (Very milky coffee with even more sugar) and she really should not do this. Like many local women she is very round in the middle a diabetes risk and more, on a high carb diet of corn, rice and sugar with everything; We had someone helping me understand why the coffee on one of my lots is not growing right and my husband was working on the water line (regular with milk).......Nothing like cups of coffee to get things moving.
We have a great little local restaurant close to the farm. You can choose from fish, chicken or beef sometimes fried pork. FYI: Fried pork is for the brave, those who are braver than me. It is served with a vegetable dish, beans and rice and comes to $2 a plate.
It is the kind of place all folks go and so the kind of place someone like me usually finds other deals from the other customers, mostly gentleman eating lunch there.
The fish man has his lunch here, so sometimes you can find him and get fish. There are builders and salesman of all sorts. In fact most of the working men this side of town seem to stop by. On this occasion there was a gentleman selling DVDs 3 for $4, he had a good selection of things suitable for young Beatrice in Spanish.
This was a first, I'm not too adventurous with a four year old as a rule. This time, it seemed to make sense to give it a try. In the rainy season the flights can be scary in the afternoons and that is if they leave at all. So, we decided to take the 10am express that should get us into the City in time for dinner. If for any reason we missed the bus we would have the whole day to figure an alternative plan.
We left the farm about 8am in the end as our driver was delayed with rush hour but still made it to'check-in' at the bus station by 9am. Our place, like most here, is old fashioned. It is like going back 50 or 100 yrs. Back to the days when houses with their staff just ticked along most of the time 'unoccupied' with lives of their own . There is a good staff, including living on the property, and things just keep things ticking along. The birds get fed with bananas, the rabbit with grass, the garden weeded, house de-humidified and secure. There is no mail, so no worries there.
This might be why so many people that retire here travel a lot. At any one time maybe about 70% of your friends are actually 'in residence'. The rest of the time, like in July for instance, they are all over the world - Africa, India, Singapore, Borneo, USA............and so the list goes on and on. Remote though it often feels, this is a cross roads of the world with easy flights just about anywhere.
Well...the bus, from David to Panama City. I liked it, I liked it a lot. Getting on the thing was easier and quicker than the flight. Much less trouble with over size bags and amount or type of luggage either in 'hold' or on the bus. It seemed anything goes - lots of big very heavy bags, cardboard boxes, a surf board, sacks of beans and so on under the bus; In with us, what ever you wanted to take, not restricted to two pieces each.
Once on, about 2.5hrs until we stopped for lunch in Santiago. We had a Police check where we showed passports about 1 hr out of David. We were treated to a fabulous movie in English with Spanish subs about a little girl and her horse which kept Beatrice better occupied than usual. Then there were the little fat old ladies sitting opposite. Their astonishing stash of candy did not go unnoticed by Beatrice, who charmed her way into more than a fair portion of it in her best Spanish.
Lunch was OK in Santiago. It was nice to stretch our legs. We had quite a choice in a cafeteria type place of all sorts of different cooked hot dishes. The same little fat old ladies were very helpful looking after our food and bags while I took Beatrice to the bano. There were actually lots of older and younger people on the bus, most seemed very approachable and helpful. Good atmosphere. I had some sweet and sour pork, Beatrice some chicken with rice and good vegetables. Bathrooms clean and nice.
Then back on the bus for the next 3 hours. Another movie. Glad to get to Panama and be picked up by our usual driver. I saved about $200 doing this. It is approx 10th of the price of the flight. Beatrice goes for half price. The total bill was $28 plus about $7.50 for lunch.
It does take longer. However, partly because there are no mid/late morning flights it equates to a much smaller inconvenience. That is, it gets you in a couple of hours earlier than the late after noon flight and a couple later than the early afternoon flight.
On arrival at final destination, enjoyed a couple of cold Panama beers in a chilled glass (love that they chill the glasses here and give you one for each bottle), ready for an early night.