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Ship's Log: Updated September 27, 2009

What's To Eat?

Folks have asked about food down here: what kinds, how do we get it, how do we store it. Here is an assortment of local produce on hand one day in mid-August. The lobsters were a pleasant surprise!

The basil is from our herb garden, thanks to cuttings from Ursula and Janis, and the big leaf oregano in the jar growing roots is from our neighbor Mary. We all share cuttings. The cilantro/culantro grows wild; we just moved a couple of plants to the herb garden. The limes and oranges are from our trees. The mamón chino (rambutan) is from town, but we do have our own tree, and our fruit came in a few weeks later. The plantains are from Ken and Vonne's farm. The avocado is from town, but we have a small avocado tree that should bear fruit in a couple of years.

The dasheen (taro) is from the ravine below the bodega. We have tons of it growing. I gained five pounds trying to keep up with the harvest, and then gave up in favor of my waist!

Everything grows so easily down here, it is hard not to become a gardener!

As for the lobster...

A couple of local guys in a cayuco showed up at our dock near dark one evening, wanting to sell some they had just caught. Well. Dinner was pretty much already planned, but hey, be flexible! So at two for $10, there was dinner, and lots of leftover meat for a scrambled egg and lobster breakfast, and a lobster salad for lunch. Yum!!

Perishables are stored in the propane refrigerator/freezer (a tank lasts 2-3 weeks) and meals are cooked on the two-burner stovetop in the bodega. Two spare tanks on hand assure we won't run out, and empty tanks are swapped out easily in Bocas or Almirante for about $8.00 each.

One morning after a lovely brunch at Marilyn and Tony's on Isla Cristobal, we could not leave without some breadfruit. They also gave us two shoots that are now planted in the ravine and will become breadfruit trees, and bear fruit, hopefully within our lifetime!

Numerous small grocery stores in Bocas and Almirante supply our canned goods, dry goods and meats. While there are limited selections compared with US stores, there is still plenty to choose from. Super Gourmet in Bocas is tiny but well-stocked with gringo food, including lox and bagels, hummus and pine nuts, gourmet mustards, deli meats and cheeses, etc. The trips to David and PriceSmart allow us to really stock up with more "American" food.

We buy long-life milk and soft drinks by the case from a distributor in Bocas, and cases of beer are available everywhere. Bottled beer in returnable bottles costs about half the price of soft see where this is going?

And Over in Kandahar...

Tracy has been hard at work training soldiers and meeting with the local brass--in this case, a three-star Lieutenant General. According to Wikipedia, a Lieutenant General heads up an Army Corps, made up of typically three Army Divisions, and consisting of around 60,000 soldiers. George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman and George S. Patton were all Lieutenants General. Claudia Kennedy was the first female lieutenant general in the US Army.

Hmmm...lovely Kandahar...hardly the lush garden paradise, huh? More photos like these can be viewed here. (It's a large PDF file and may take some time to load.)

For a blissful two months, Tracy had the use of a lovely air conditioned SUV to get him around the base. Note the sailboat on the door? Must have known he was coming!

However, he recently discovered plans to take his SUV away! So on a beautiful lazy Saturday, he thought he would take a trip down to the local transportation mall to see what was available. Here are some of the options he found.

Think this one might work?

Guess they get great mileage, but maybe he should keep looking?

Meanwhile, his successful work with the MRAPs has not gone unnoticed. His work is described in detail on page 7 in the July Victory News. Good job, Tracy!

Tierra Oscuro Potluck Brunch

Back at home in Panama, friends Ron and Cynde Nystrom, who love to entertain, recently decided to throw a party "Just Because." About 70 people showed up! Their house is built on a mangrove island between Dolphin Bay and Tierra Oscuro. And with all our combined weight, their deck sank three inches! Ouch! Maybe we should all go on diets before the next big bash?!

Some of the ex-pat gang: Ken Hamilton, Lin Gillingham (of Finca Los Monos Botanical Garden), Jack ZumBerge (in profile, of Starfish Reef), hostess Cynde, Mary Anne Nash, Nathalie Fabré, just back from her home in Malta, Vonne (Ken's better half), Bruce (in back tending the bar), and Johanna Blumenschein, an Austrian transplant who, along with Bruce, is trying her hand at cow ranching on Isla Cristobal!

Sharon and Michelle, from near Loma Partida. Michelle had fresh tuna flown in from the Pacific coast, where the tuna are running, and presented the potluck with pounds of fresh sashimi. Yum!!

Thank you, Mary, for remembering to bring your camera, for taking our pictures, and for sharing them with us!

Bats in the Belfry

Back at Cerro Velero, scritching and scratching and scrabbling noises and little logs down below were the giveaways that something was living behind the siding over this pole. That, and Mandy's dogged insistence (pun intended) that something was in there! But what?

Well, it wasn't mice as first suspected. Oh, no. Joe took off some of the smaller siding pieces to get at the sounds while Sharon watched, too timid to do the deed herself. As he peered in, Joe said, "It's bats. Boss, you got a heap of bats in there!" Oh, great.

Fortunately, it only took a day and night of repeated flashlight awakenings and vocal cajoling to persuade them that there were more peaceful places to roost, and they left in search of them. Of course we love having bats around, for all the bugs they eat. But living in the house, well, that's just a little too close.

The Dogs Go to David on an Adventure

Ok, maybe a trip to the vet's would not be considered an adventure by the dogs, but it sure was for Sharon and Mary! We left our dock in Cricket with Gellie, Indy and Mandy at just-light 6:15am, headed for a 10am appointment in David. We planned to meet our taxi driver, José, in Almirante, at 7, and he would drive us to David. He was late arriving, and we were left waiting at Paulie's dock with three anxious dogs...

Indy is really not sure about this harness thing..."Mary, take it off me, please?"

This was Indy's first time for so many things! First time off the farm (except for the spay trip to Bocas when she was 3 months old, and then she was in Tracy's arms the whole time), first time with a harness and leash (well, we did practice on a walk here the day before the trip, but still), first ride in a car, first time in a city. She was a real trouper, too, despite being car sick on the winding, bumpy road up the mountain...and José learned a new English word--puke! As in..."Pull over, Indy is going to...!" Except that since he didn't know the word, he didn't react quickly enough...and she deposited it neatly in a corner by the door....

Gellie, who had been in a car as a puppy in Gulf Shores, knew to keep looking out the window--can you tell what she is using for a booster seat?

Or should I say, who she is using? Sharon, sitting in back with them, arrived covered in drool and fur, but, oh, well. And Indy, smart puppy that she is, learned to look out at the horizon for the ride home... Thank you again, Mary, for remembering to bring a camera along!

While the dogs were being attended to by the vet, Sharon, Mary and José did some power shopping, and then we all raced back to Almirante in time to get home just before dark. Long day! And the dogs were certainly happy to be back where they belong!

The Tree Falls---Again!

When we last left the big broken tree in the ravine, it was a huge tripod over a lemon tree that we expected to last for years. But one day recently, boom! No warning, no wind, nothing, just Boom! Down it went. So glad no one was near it!

The dogs raced to see what caused all the ruckus. Indy mounted the fallen parts, while Gellie observed from the safety of the ditch.

Once satisfied that it wasn't going to move any more, Gellie commenced her own closer inspection.

Cerro Velero Flora

Flowers and plants are putting on a show in our yard. Here are some of our more common plants. This one looks a lot like a heliconia, but it's actually a Calathea, also called rattlesnake plant.

With long, broad leaves.

This heliconia is a volunteer.

and keeps spreading.

This is some kind of Costas

and the leggy stalks it grows on.

A bromeliad. They are ubiquitous, though Joe wired this one to a tree by the walkway. That's a hamelia below and to the right.

We have lots and lots of them. We call it the candy corn bush, since that's what the flowers remind us of. Between these and the Porterweed, we have hummingbirds and butterflies all the time for the flowers, and when they go to fruit, the seed-eaters love them.

Pretty Croton (Codiaeum variegatum).

More pretty leaves. Maybe a kind of dracaena?

Hibiscus flowers. Red,



These hibiscus flowers (malvaviscus penduliflorus) never open up. They bloom, stay furled, and drop off. Weird, huh?

The hummingbirds and butterflies just love this Porterweed (stachytarpheta frantzii).

A closer look at the Porterweed flowers.

And look what sprouted down by the dock!

An Emotion Kayaks Exhilarator! Ok, actually, it came from a store in Almirante. But, still, Yippee!! Finally, we have a kayak again!

More Bugs

No update is complete without at least one picture of the bugs we encounter down here. These critters "bloomed" one night and were waiting above the porch swing in the morning.

Spectacular Sunset

Well, it has still been raining a lot, but not as much this month as last. And the sunsets are still spectacular!

Stay tuned...

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