Purchase a Home or Some Land to Build On

Many affordable options and the infrastructure is already in

Ideal Location Out of Harms Way

A tight community for support and protection

Food and Water Abundance

Multiple sources of water - Grow food without relying on chemicals

Safe Even in a Crisis

Surrounding locals are not dependent on the grid to live normally

Low Energy Costs

Cheap reliable elecricity and no need for A/C or heat

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tsunami Warning Initiated Then Removed for West Coast USA



This morning a tsunami warning was issued by the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center at approximately 2:30AM after a strong earthquake occurred off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska.

The tremor, which was originally classified as an 8.2 strength shaker, was later down rated to 7.9 and the advisory was removed.

The areas that were most thought to be in danger of being flooded were in Alaska, BC Canada, and the west coast of the United States.

Panama would likely have escaped the threat, which has historically been the case, as they have only had a total of 4 tidal waves that were classified as tsunamis in the last 140 years, since 1882.

Earth changes are likely to cause increased devastation in low lying areas in the future as the earth changes due to sunspot activity and other factors. Coastal areas are typically heavily populated, and that means many people could be affected by these, and other, weather related events.

That is one of the many reasons we decided to locate where we did, here in the mountains of western Panama. Even if we were to get an earth-shaker large enough to produce a tsunami, we would be well out of it's way because of our altitude.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

State Dept Travel Advisory Updated for Panama



As if you needed another good reason to consider moving to Panama to enjoy the great weather, lush vegetation and low cost of living (at least here in the Chiriqui province)...Panama is one of the safest destinations for travel according to the most recent update to the State Department information website.

The US State Department updated their travel advisory program, and Panama is listed as one of the countries with the least amount of worry for travelers abroad.

The site also contains links to other helpful resources such as maps showing how safe different regions of the world are, a travelers checklist to assist in planning before you go and how to enroll in the step program offered to travelers to help ensure their safety while traveling abroad.

The new levels of travel advisories are:

  • Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
  • Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 3 - Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Level 4 - Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Living the Good Life in Panama - Constuction Update

Construction is now complete on the first home at Finca Cazador. The process was very simple, and went like clockwork.


The house is situated on a hill, about 150 feet above the road into Finca Cazador. The views are fantastic from here, and the breezes are fresh and frequent. Pretty much ideal conditions weather-wise.



On this land we grow, coffee, cacao (cocoa), platanos, avocados and soon we will be growing guanabana and citrus as well.


The project was a labor of love. The efforts of the homeowner himself, his trusty mentor and previous owner of the land, one main Panamanian general contractor, and an amazing crew of young Panamanian workers, made this project such a success.


Despite weather delays, which were few, and the holiday festivities that take place in October and November, the crew was able to complete this project in just about one year, start to finish.


The end result?

A very comfortable retreat located on a bio-diverse piece of organic mountain farmland, sustainable into the future with water, electricity and an endless supply of healthy organic food, incredible views and fresh clean air.

Who could ask for anything more?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First Home Progress Report

The first home in our off grid organic farm community has moved to the final stages, and will be completely finished within the next few months.



What's amazing about this area is even though we are out in the boondocks, so to speak, you can still obtain the things you need for day to day life, as well as any and all materials needed for grand projects like the one our first resident has undertaken.

If you remember previous posts, the home is situated on an organic farm just over 1.6 acres in size, on terrain that is heavily wooded and gently sloped. On this farm, there are coffee, cacao, platano, avocado and citrus trees, as well as a large number of old growth and newly planted trees of many varieties.

The home was built tambo style (or tumbo if you're a gringo), meaning it is off the ground, rather than excavated into the hill. This was done for several reasons:

1) it allows for air movement
2) it does not interfere as much with the local vegetation, and
3) it does not require retaining walls in order to keep water from intruding into the home.

Our first post showed the road being created to access the property, and the beginning phases of construction.

In our second post, the walls were up, windows were installed and the floor and roof were completely done. Actually, as you can see in the photo above, the roof went up first in order to provide shelter from the rains that always come during the months of September and October.


Another benefit of building tambo style, is you get to utilize the space below the floor, which in this case was considerable.


This homeowner decided to fully utilize the entire front-facing 8 foot wide section that runs the full length of the patio. He plans to use it for storage and a shop. The space also was large enough to locate a water tank which will be used to store gray water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower, for use later on ornamental plants.


Also added was a rain water tank to store potentially potable water that is gathered from the roof and transported via standard, but large, roof gutters.

The rain water tank fills up pretty quick so the overflow goes into the gray water tank to help keep it clean by circulating the water. The valve controls the water flow to the tank, and allows an opportunity to have unclean (first rain) water bypass the tank.


Footers were poured by hand which will support short retaining walls to tie in the wrought iron security that will be installed later. These retaining walls also provide additional protection in the event of earth movement.


A larger wall was built to fully contain what would eventually be a spacious workshop and storage area.


An area was excavated to make room for a laundry and enclosed storage facility, also underneath the main level floor.


This photo shows the location of the laundry/storage room in relation to the rest of the house and the patio above.


Security screens were constructed and fitted into the openings created by the floor, posts and retaining walls. They are designed to fully open from the bottom for easy access to the shop area, and to achieve a more wide open feeling.


Finally, a floor was poured to tie it all together and make it a single unit.


Meanwhile, above on the main level, tile was being installed length-wise on top of the 3" concrete floor. The tiles were purchased in David, about an hour and a half away by car, and were made in Spain. They feature a weathered wood look and are gray in color.



The septic system was installed and the leach line was dug and filled in with a few feet of gravel.


Since all this construction was being done during the rainy season, a decision was made to construct a concrete stairway leading from the parking area below to the house. That way, workers could more easily climb up the hill to work, and the owner could get to the parking area below without sliding down on his arse, which did happen a time or two.


Later, a hand rail was added to provide some additional safety for the climb (which is sometimes a bit wet), and a gate was built to add to the beauty of the front entry.



A concrete path was built to take visitors from the front gate to the house easily, even if it is wet out. It was hand poured, of course, and the rocks were sourced in the local area by hand, and transported to the site in the owner's pick up truck.



I don't agree with what many people say about the Panamanian work ethic. These guys worked tirelessly on the project, often under adverse conditions. And of course everything was done without the help of any heavy equipment or machinery of any kind. These Panamanians rock!!


Not wanted to have electrical poles to spoil the view, the homeowner decided to have a trench hand dug to bring up the electrical service from the road underground. The trench is 18" deep and the 1 1/4" plastic pipe the wires are encased in was covered in a few inches of concrete. It was a short run...only 375 feet! The hardest part was filling the trench back in after the rains had come and left the ground somewhat unruly.


What's that you say? That's the bottom of the homeowner's shoe as he was trying to shovel the muddy clay-like dirt back into the trench. The shovel and his shoes kept getting caked with mud, so the job took a little longer than anticipated. Of course, attempting this when the soil had just received a good soaking was probably not the best choice of tasks to be taken on that day.



Back to the house construction...to save water and energy, the homeowner opted for a on demand water heater, which was located in the now-finished laundry room. A manifold was built and boarded so the homeowner could change out the propane tanks and use both available vendors for supply.


A patio roof was added to the front door and the stoop was extended. Security was also beefed up with the addition of a wrought iron decorative exterior door and roll-down security shutters for when the homeowner travels.






All the construction was accomplished under the watchful eyes of the two varieties of toucans prevalent in all of Finca Cazador.



The biodiversity brings birds of all kinds, and the many fruit trees planted by the homeowner (in his spare time), will only increase their numbers in the future.


Sign up to receive ongoing updates as they occur. Now that summer is on it's way, construction times are likely to be shorter and updates will be available more often.

And, if you want to secure your own little piece of paradise in the mountains of western Panama, where the air and water are both really really clean and fresh, take a moment to reach out and get some of our information.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Plastic Shopping Bags Soon to be Banned by New Law


Plastic Shopping bags will soon be banned in Panama, if a recent bill which just passed the first debate becomes law.

The assembly has approved law 492, during their first debate on the matter, that will ban stores from giving out plastic shopping bags to end users, and promote the use of more eco-friendly alternatives.

This is an attempt to begin to curtail the litter problem, and it is hoped that the new law, if passed, will create awareness of the problem these types of plastic bags cause in the environment, and curb their use nationwide.

According to the President of the Committee on Trade and Economic Affairs, this law should result in a reduction of around 20% once the bill is enacted and enforcement begins.

According to reusethisbag.com, there are currently somewhere between 500 billion to a trillion bags used in the world every year, but many countries are making an effort to ban them or tax their use.

The law was designed to promote the use of re-usable and biodegradable bags, by specifically banning the use of polyethylene bags.

Many other countries already have a ban in place, including France, who as of September 2016 banned the use of plastic plates cups and utensils.

Ireland, in 2002, began charging a 37 cent tax to the consumer for the use of the bags, reducing their numbers by 90% over a ten year period.

According to Greenpeace, “At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish. The scale of contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris is vast. It is found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar regions to the equator.”

The new proposal still needs to pass two more debate sessions to become law.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cultural Differences Between the US and Panama


Looking to relocate to Panama and not sure about the cultural differences?

I'm often asked what the cultural or social differences are between the people of the US and the people of Panama.

The Latino culture here in Panama and in general is typically very polite. For example, if you and I were in a theater and I wanted to walk between your knees and the seat in front of you, I would be using the phrase, “Su permiso,” which means “With your permission, may I pass in front of you?” 
 
Another example is when people get onto a bus or on any form of public transportation, they will look at everyone and say “Buenos días” to everyone. Panamanians are very amiable and very polite. 
 
The Spanish language as a whole isn’t offensive or direct, unlike how English can be. English is great for math and businesses, but some people in other parts of the world are almost offensively direct. 
 
Spanish isn’t that way. Spanish goes up around the bend and out the back door. People here in Panama will typically never tell you anything you don’t want to hear, and that is something I don’t really like. The Panamanian culture is a culture of non-offense. 
 
Here in Panama, when somebody comes to your property, it’s considered very offensive to walk up to the door. You have to stand on the road or at the yard and say, “Hola! Hola!” to get permission to enter into the yard.  
 
The rural culture that came out of the ghettos of East L.A. is a culture that is seen throughout the world. When I was in Eastern Europe, I could see that culture there. It’s what you and I call the culture of rap, or the gangster mentality, and it’s here in Panama. It’s everywhere in the world and it’s a very loud, abrasive, in-your-face type of culture typically involving younger people with loud music that I don’t resonate with. It’s something that’s come in the last 10 or 15 years through music. 
 
By American standards, the driving of Panamanians is aggressive. They use the horn too much, but it’s because there are too many people. Their traffic flow is superior to ours in the United States because they’re always inching forward, and when you have a lot of cars in a small space, nothing moves forward if everybody waits for everybody else. 
 
In general, Panamanians don’t stand in lines well. They don’t get the concept that you take your turn. It’s really a mixed bag: on one side they’re very, very polite and almost non-contact, and on the other side, it’s what you and I take for granted coming out of our culture, like the distance and space. People get closer to each other and talk louder than what normally you and I would see in the United States. It’s cultural difference.   
 
 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Can Regenerative Farming Save Our Food Supply?

Your own Panama land is a great place to practice sustainable regenerative farming!

At Finca Cazador, we only practice regenerative farming. The reasons we opted to not use chemicals on our land are many, and the following story illustrates the importance of using organic regenerative farming methods, such as the methods we use here, to grow food crops in a sustainable manner.

Farming has sustained mankind for millennia. Industrial farming, on the other hand, has managed to create a series of unsustainable situations in less than 70 years, and evidence suggests we will not make it until the end of the century if we continue along the path of degenerative food and farming.



If you’d walked up to a farmer 100 years ago and told him farming would one day threaten life on Earth, he probably would have laughed in your face, saying such a thing simply isn’t possible.

Agriculture is necessary for food production, and therefore for life, the farmer would have said with firm conviction — and farming the land or raising cattle is not going to unduly harm anything or anyone.

Today, however, such an impossible scenario is precisely what we’re facing. Virtually every growing environmental and health problem can be traced back to modern food production. This includes but is not limited to:
  • Food insecurity and malnutrition amid mounting food waste
  • Rising obesity and chronic disease rates despite growing health care outlays
  • Diminishing fresh water supplies
  • Toxic agricultural chemicals polluting air, soil and waterways, thereby threatening the entire food chain from top to bottom
  • Disruption of normal climate and rainfall patterns
The good news is there are viable answers to all of these problems that do not merely scratch at the surface, and the answers hinge on the widespread implementation of regenerative agriculture and decentralized food distribution.

It’s easy to forget that at one point, not so long ago, all food was organically grown in a way that supported the ecosystem and environment as a whole. This all changed in the 1940s when the Green Revolution took hold and industrial, chemical-dependent farming techniques quickly spread to become the norm.


Industrial Farming Has Proven Itself a Failed Experiment

Farming has sustained mankind for millennia. Industrial farming, on the other hand, has managed to create a series of unsustainable situations in less than 70 years, and evidence suggests we will not make it until the end of the century if we continue along the path of degenerative food and farming.

Topsoil destruction, erosion and desertification are exacerbated by tilling, monocropping and not using cover crops. Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned that at the current rate of topsoil degradation, all the world’s topsoil will be gone in less than 60 years.1

At that point, it’ll be “game over” because without topsoil you cannot grow food no matter how many chemicals you add to it. Closely related problems are the loss of soil fertility and biodiversity, which is directly related to the loss of natural carbon in the soil.

An estimated 80 percent of soil carbon in heavily farmed areas has already been lost,2 due to destructive plowing, overgrazing and the use of soil-destructive, carbon-depleting chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Industrial monocropping has also led to the loss of diversity. Seventy-five percent of the world’s crop varieties have gone the way of the dinosaurs in the last 100 years, and another 20 percent of all plants worldwide are threatened with extinction.3

Toxic contamination adds to the problem. According to studies by the Chinese government, 20 percent of arable land in China is now unusable due to pesticide contamination,4 and important crop pollinators such as butterfly and bee populations have collapsed, thanks to widespread pesticide application.5

Modern agriculture also promotes water waste through use of flood irrigation, destruction of soil quality and poor crop choices.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 80 percent of U.S. consumptive water (and more than 90 percent in many Western states) is used for agricultural purposes6 and, worldwide, groundwater is being used up at a faster rate than it can be replenished.

According to James Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the majority of our global groundwaters “are past sustainability tipping points,”7 which means it’s only a matter of time until we run out of fresh water.

Without food or drinkable water, the end of civilization as we know it is pretty well-assured. The question is will enough people have the foresight to change course?

Read more>>>

A Safe Harbor for Uncertain Times

 

Why you should consider building a retreat or bug out location on your own Panama land.


Like the Bob Dylan song from the 60's, the times they are a changing!

It seems with the advent of the personal computer, time has begun to exponentially speed up. Change happens so rapidly now, that before one tech product becomes popular, another one rises to take it's place, rendering the original product useless, often before the original investment is returned to the people who funded it's development. Even the term "state of the art" has become outdated.

Technology surely has had the widest impact on society as a whole, but it's certainly not the only field in which vast changes have taken place in just the last few years.

Who would have thought, in an election year with all the issues that face our country and the world, we would be arguing over which political candidate has the prettiest wife? The "news" has surely gone AWOL when a story of such silliness is talked about, and analyzed to near death, on all the major television networks for a solid week!

Hell, JFK's speeches didn't get this much airtime!

There is one place change is not coming fast enough, for economists and statisticians, especially. Our consumption based economy, which has fueled our GDP growth over the past 60 or more years, seems to have come to a screeching halt.

Eight years into a recession and we're still trillions of dollars in debt and nobody seems to be able to find a solution to the problem that we are not spending enough. Not driving the kind of growth needed to continually enrich stockholders and the others at the top of the food chain, without pumping in federal tax dollars in alarming amounts. We're spending tax dollars like there's no tomorrow, and it's not helping the economy one bit.

And monumental events like this are becoming commonplace all over the "free" world. What will happen if France or Italy leave the EU?

There's even been talk about completely doing away with cash, of all things, and replacing it with "digital" money. And now, several countries are requiring banks to charge their customers for the privilege of keeping their money on deposit. Forget earning interest on your checking or savings account. You'll have to pay the bank if you want to keep your money in their "virtual" vaults. And if there's no cash being used, how will you be able to prevent it from being hacked into oblivion?

What about cars that drive themselves? Huh? Seriously? I get it that we're too lazy to look at a map, but do we need that level of simplicity in our lives? Are we that incompetent? Have you made your travel plans for Mars?

The bottom line is change is coming, for better or for worse.

For the sake of the American people, who one could almost say are "innocent bystanders" in the future plans for the world, I can only hope the nightmare scenarios that any number of analysts are predicting don't unfold all at once.

Not to mention what would happen if the electrical grid went down because of a solar storm, like it did in the mid 1800's.

I can only hope that my loved ones and friends all are able and willing to take the necessary steps to prepare a place for them and their loved ones to go if (or when) the stuff hits the fan, figuratively speaking.


That was pretty much the thought process we went through when our own personal situation forced us to decide how to market the organic property here.

We certainly could have taken the "gated community" route, and divided this amazingly revitalized land up into really small pieces (lots) and had what quite a few westerners seem to have been looking for in the past. A place to go where you didn't have to learn the language, and you could live an isolated life with other westerners, without having to really alter your lifestyle that much.

There are a lot of those gated communities out there, and for a price you can live that way. But most of those places have serious drawbacks that become obvious once you think about what could happen in a crisis. Most of them are close to major metropolitan areas, or are known expat establishments which have already become targets for theft and other criminal behavior. Many are in the lower elevations, and would be unbearable without air conditioning.

Or, we could have chosen to just split up the land without going to the expense (twelve years and countless dollars spent) of reversing multiple decades of nutrient-killing pesticide and chemical fertilizer use, and sold it to anyone willing to buy it. We could have sold the land without improving it with a 140 foot well, and a 12,000 gallon holding tank, gravity fed, and electricity from the neighboring town.

But, we wanted to create something special here.

Something not available anywhere in Central America. A community of like minded people living in harmony with the land, so it will continue to provide a rich growing environment, without the use of petroleum based or other dangerous chemical additives, for generations to come.

Something sustainable and lasting.

If you are looking for a unique special place to call home full or part time, "pre-crisis" or no-crisis, where you can easily grow delicious fruits and vegetables without using any chemicals, you have found the place and we welcome you.

Give us a call or email us for more information, pricing and farm configuration details.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Many Ways Organic Farming Techniques Improve Bio-Diversity



There is little doubt that organic farming methods improve bio-diversity and long term sustainability.

The benefits to farmers include:

Lower costs
Improved soil conditions
More species of plants
More species of animals
More species of helpful insects

From Wikipedia:

Organic farming and biodiversity

The effect of organic farming has been a subject of interest for researchers. Theory suggests that organic farming practices, which exclude the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, may be beneficial for biodiversity.

This is generally shown to be true for soils scaled to the area of cultivated land, where species abundance is, on average, 30% richer than that of conventional farms. However, for crop yield-scaled land the effect of organic farming on biodiversity is highly debated due to the significantly lower yields compared to conventional farms.

In ancient farming practices, farmers did not possess the technology or manpower to have a significant impact on the destruction of biodiversity even as mass-production agriculture was rising.

Nowadays, common farming methods generally rely on pesticides to maintain high yields. With such, most agricultural landscapes favor mono-culture crops with very little flora or fauna co-existence (van Elsen 2000). Modern organic farm practices such as the removal of pesticides and the inclusion of animal manure, crop rotation, and multi-cultural crops provides the chance for biodiversity to thrive.

Benefits to biodiversity

Nearly all non-crop, naturally occurring species observed in comparative farm land practice studies show a preference in organic farming both by population and richness.

Spanning all associated species, there is an average of 30% more on organic farms versus conventional farming methods, however this does not account for possible loss of biodiversity due to decreased yields.

Birds, butterflies, soil microbes, beetles, earthworms, spiders, vegetation, and mammals are particularly affected. Some organic farms may use less pesticides and thus biodiversity fitness and population density may benefit.

Larger farms however tend to use pesticides more liberally and in some cases to larger extent than conventional farms. Many weed species attract beneficial insects that improve soil qualities and forage on weed pests.

Soil-bound organisms often benefit because of increased bacteria populations due to natural fertilizer spread such as manure, while experiencing reduced intake of herbicides and pesticides commonly associated with conventional farming methods.

Increased biodiversity, especially from soil microbes such as mycorhizzae, have been proposed as an explanation for the high yields experienced by some organic plots, especially in light of the differences seen in a 21-year comparison of organic and control fields.

Impact of increased biodiversity

The level of biodiversity that can be yielded from organic farming provides a natural capital to humans. Species found in most organic farms provides a means of agricultural sustainability by reducing amount of human input (e.g. fertilizers, pesticides).

Farmers that produce with organic methods reduce risk of poor yields by promoting biodiversity. Common game birds such as the ring-necked pheasant and the northern bobwhite often reside in agriculture landscapes, and are a natural capital yielded from high demands of recreational hunting.

Because bird species richness and population are typically higher on organic farm systems, promoting biodiversity can be seen as logical and economical.

Highly impacted animal species

Earthworms

Earthworm population and diversity appears to have the most significant data out of all studies. Out of six studies comparing earthworm biodiversity to organic and conventional farming methods, all six suggested a preference for organic practices including a study at the pioneering Haughley farm in 1980/1981 that compared earthworm populations and soil properties after 40 years. Hole et al. (2005) summarized a study conducted by Brown (1999) and found nearly double the population and diversity when comparing farming methods.

Birds

Organic farms are said to be beneficial to birds while remaining economical. Bird species are one of the most prominent animal groups that benefit from organic farming methods. Many species rely on farmland for foraging, feeding, and migration phases. With such, bird populations often relate directly to the natural quality of farmland.

The more natural diversity of organic farms provides better habitats to bird species, and is especially beneficial when the farmland is located within a migration zone. In 5 recent studies almost all bird species including locally declining species, both population and variation increased on organic farmland,.

Making a switch from conventional farming methods to organic practices also seems to directly improve bird species in the area.

While organic farming improves bird populations and diversity, species populations receive the largest boost when organic groups are varied within a landscape. Bird populations are increased further with optimal habitat for biodiversity, rather than organic alone, with systems such as Conservation Grade.

Butterflies

A specific study done in the UK in 2006 found substantially more butterflies on organic farms versus standard farming methods except for two pest species. The study also observed higher populations in uncropped field margins compared with cropland edges regardless of farm practice. Conversely, Weibull et al. (2000) found no significant differences in species diversity or population.

Spiders

Ten studies have been conducted involving spider species and abundance on farm systems. All but three of the studies indicated that there was a higher diversity of spider species on organic farms, in addition to populations of species. Two of the studies indicated higher species diversity, but statistically insignificant populations between organic and standard farming methods.

Soil Microbes

Out of 13 studies comparing bacteria and fungus communities between organic and standard farming, 8 of the studies showed heightened level of growth on organic farm systems. One study concluded that the use of “green” fertilizers and manures was the primary cause of higher bacterial levels on organic farms.

On the other hand, nematode population/diversity depended on what their primary food intake was. Bacteria-feeding nematodes showed preference towards organic systems whereas fungus-feeding nematodes showed preference for standard farm systems.

The heightened level of bacteria-feeding nematodes makes sense due to higher levels of bacteria in organic soils, but the fungus-feeding populations being higher on standard farms seems to contradict the data since more fungi are generally found on organic farms.

Beetles

According to Hole et al. (2005), beetle species are among the most commonly studied animal species on farming systems. Twelve studies have found a higher population and species richness of carabids on organic systems.

The overall conclusion of significantly higher carabid population species and diversity is that organic farms have a higher level of weed species where they can thrive.

Staphylinid populations and diversity have seemed to show no specific preference with some studies showing higher population and diversity, some with lower population and diversity, and one study showed no statistical significance between the organic and conventional farming systems.

Mammals

Two comparative studies have been conducted involving mammal populations and diversity among farm practices. A study done by Brown (1999) found that small mammal population density and diversity did not depend on farming practices, however overall activity was higher on organic farms.

It was concluded that more food resources were available to small mammals on organic farms because of the reduction or lack of herbicides and pesticides.

Another study conducted by Wickramasinghe et al. (2003) compared bat species and activity. Species activity and foraging were both more than double on organic farms compared to conventional farms. Species richness was also higher on organic farms, and 2 of the sixteen species sighted were found only on organic farms.

Vegetation

Approximately ten studies have been conducted to compare non-crop vegetation between organic and conventional farming practices. Hedgerow, inner-crop and grassland observations were made within these studies and all but one showed a higher weed preference and diversity in or around organic farms.

Most of these studies showed significant overall preference for organic farming preferences especially for broad-leafed species, but many grass species showed far less on conventional farms likely because pesticide interaction was low or non-existent.

Organic farm weed population and richness was believed to be lower in mid-crop land because of weed-removal methods such as under sowing.

Switching from conventional to organic farming often results in a “boom” of weed speciation due to intense chemical change of soil composition from the lack of herbicides and pesticides. Natural plant species can also vary on organic farms from year-to-year because crop rotation creates new competition based on the chemical needs of each crop.

Farmers’ Benefits from Increased Biodiversity

Biological research on soil and soil organisms has proven beneficial to the system of organic farming. Varieties of bacteria and fungi break down chemicals, plant matter and animal waste into productive soil nutrients.

In turn, the producer benefits by healthier yields and more arable soil for future crops.

Furthermore, a 21-year study was conducted testing the effects of organic soil matter and its relationship to soil quality and yield. Controls included actively managed soil with varying levels of manure, compared to a plot with no manure input.

After the study commenced, there was significantly lower yields on the control plot when compared to the fields with manure. The concluded reason was an increased soil microbe community in the manure fields, providing a healthier, more arable soil system.

Detriments to biodiversity through organic farming

Organic farming practices still require active participation from the farmer to effectively boost biodiversity. Making a switch to organic farming methods does not automatically or guarantee improved biodiversity. Pro-conservation ethics are required to create arable farm land that generates biodiversity.

Conservationist ideals are commonly overlooked because they require additional physical and economical efforts from the producer. Common weed-removal processes like undercutting and controlled burning provides little opportunity for species survival, and often leads to comparable populations and richness to conventionally managed landscapes when performed in excess.

Another common process is the addition of biotopes in the form of hedgerows and ponds to further improve species richness. Farmers commonly make the mistake of over-using these resources for more intense crop production because organic yields are typically lower. Another error comes from the over-stratification of biotopes. A series of small clusters does not provide adequate land area for high biodiversity potential.


Here is the Wikipedia page

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nearing a Point of No Return




Are we headed for a societal collapse?


I've been trying not to concern myself with things that are out of my control lately. One of those things is the thought that society as we know it could possibly someday collapse. And maybe someday is not that far away.

However, as much as I try to pretend the recent events throughout the world, such as the wars in the middle east, weather related earth changes and the rise of a seemingly different political order are just cyclical, I find myself wondering what a collapse of the monetary systems of the world or a general societal collapse would look like.

Many think a collapse of the financial system started in 2008 and has never fully recovered. The ever increasing stock market seem to signal a recovery, yet why are so many retail outlets closing? If the economy was recovering why would companies be laying off employees and closing branches?

Could this be the beginning of the end for western economies, who seem to survive on consumers making purchases even when it means going into debt to do it? Have people simply stopped buying unnecessary items and are now hoarding cash, or have online sites like Amazon made it so convenient people simply cannot help making their purchases from the comfort of their kitchens?

Could that change in buying habits happened that quickly?

One recent article authored by the BBC does a great job of explaining how societies have historically collapsed, and what it looked like when they did. Here's an excerpt of that article:

...there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification. The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognized path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labor. 

Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labor. The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined. Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day. 
 
Although the man made climate change narrative is still up for debate, the widening income gap is certain and quite obvious to anyone paying attention. Financial enrichment of the folks at the top of the food chain, caused primarily by their ability to participate in a soaring stock market, is well known. Being at the right place at the right time, with resources, has it's advantages. What is not known is how long this rising gap in income will go on, and what will happen when it can no longer be tolerated by the other ninety nine percent.

Whatever causes the collapse, one thing is for certain. There will be many people at or near the centers of government and commerce that will say it came as a total surprise and was totally unexpected.

History tells a different story.

If you want to insulate yourself from some of the troubles ahead, consider investing in a piece of paradise here at our ranch. You can grow vegetables and fruit an live a pretty uneventful life, which might be as welcome a change for you as it has been for me.
 

Airlines Offer Cheap Flights to Panama



United airlines has some of the cheapest flights to Panama City from Los Angeles LAX airport right now.

I don't know if it's because of the news lately, but in the 12 years I've been traveling here, it's never been this easy to find a cheap flight to Panama City with the domestic US carriers. That's especially true if you don't mind taking a quick stop off in Houston, and want to fly during the day.

Normally, the cheapest flights to Panama from LAX have been 'red eye' flights, meaning you get no sleep whatsoever if you are like me and can't really get comfortable flying coach while listening to people shuffle around, cough and whatever else people do when they sleep on planes.

I'd much rather fly during the day, after a good nights sleep, thank you!

Now, that being said, it's pretty hard to beat the excellent service I get when flying the Panamanian airlines. The cheap flights I usually get from LAX flying Copa are well organized, clean and the attendants are very friendly, so I will still take my in-country flights with them. However, when the prices are this cheap, it's hard not to give their sister airline a chance. Since I can still use my United frequent flyer miles on both airlines, that's not an issue either.

In addition to cheap flights to Panama, I noticed that cheap hotels (the kind that are really nice but don't charge much) are on sale now too, at least through the newly discovered booking.com site. I was able to book 2 nights in the center of Panama City for just $40 a night...wow! That's a really good price for a good hotel in Panama.

The bottom line is if you are thinking about taking a trip to Panama by air, now is one of the best times I've seen to book a cheap flight to Panama.

While you're in the country, make sure you take an extra day or two to take a tour of our organic coffee community. Simply send us an email or give us a call. We have comfortable accommodations for as little as $25 a night, and you'll experience the real Panama here in the rural mountains of Chiriqui Province.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Expat Guide to Panama Household Help



Thinking of making a move to Panama, but don't know if you can afford it?


Hiring household help is one thing worth considering and adding into your budget for retirement in Panama.
 
In Volcán, you might get a good gardener for $25 a day, which would be a fair amount to pay someone. In Río Sereno, $10 or $15 would be the norm to hire someone to work on a farm, because it is a much more rural community and there are fewer, almost no, expats there....yet!
 
In Río Sereno we call a gardener a “farm man.” They typically charge about $10 - $15 a day for general help. Specialized help like welding, construction management and finish carpentry are generally more, but nowhere near what you would pay in the U.S. for that same help.
 
Finca Cazador is 12 acres.We have a subcontracted farm helper available for all sorts of household help, heavy lifting and gardening help. He charges by the hour or by the day, and is available early in the morning, all day, and into the evening.

Much of the work he does here is related to keeping undergrowth controlled.
 
The problem with Panama is not getting stuff to grow, it’s keeping everything under control. Here in Panama, things grow where you don’t want them to grow. 
 
In some parts of our off-grid community here at Finca Cazador, we have 10 feet of black topsoil! That means you can grow almost anything very easily, but you have to spend a few hours a month cutting back the overgrowth. Because labor is so inexpensive here, you can plan on a minimal expense for household help, who generally have the tools and years of experience managing plant life.
 
One of the other things to consider is the quality of the work the person you get does. Is that somebody you want in your house? Is that somebody you can trust? 
 
It’s a relationship just like everything else. The biggest problem with most expats who come here is that we’re talking about hiring Panamanians, but the expats don’t take the time to learn Spanish.  
 
Maybe you're thinking of moving to Panama and you want to find a place that's comfortable, inexpensive and safe and you don't want to have to do all the work yourself. 
 
Maybe you want to spend your time experiencing the beauty and fresh air abundant in this area. In this part of Panama, the cost of household help is very low, and it helps the families, and the local economy tremendously when you hire them.
 
If you'd like to come take a tour of the farm, simply send us a message. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Gas Prices in Central America Lowest in Panama



According to data taken from Acodeco.gov.pa, gas prices in Central America are lower in Panama, compared to other Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

According to that report, the price of regular gasoline in Panama is $2.65 per gallon, $3.82 in Costa Rica, $3.40 in Nicaragua, $3.32 in Honduras, $2.86 in Guatemala and $2.84 in El Salvador.

From a statement issued by the Ministry of Economy of El Salvador:

The price trend is due to factors that have prevailed in recent months such as decisions taken by the OPEC, inventory accumulation in North America, demand, and unconventional oil production.
 Looking to buy property in Panama?    Look no further than Finca Cazador for your land acquisition.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Building a House in Panama: How Difficult is it?



I lived in Volcán for four years as I was building my place here. The construction standards in Panama are extremely stringent. Not everybody follows them, so the responsibility lies on the person to work with a good builder. I have built four houses in my life, and on all of them, I oversaw the entire construction process. 
 
In general, Panama has better building techniques than most of the United States. This is because most of what is done in the United States, especially in the Southwest, is what they call stick. This means 2x4 boards with foam and stucco sprayed on from the outside, which are aesthetically pleasing, goes up very quick, and are very well insulated, but not a real formable structure. In some walls that I’ve seen, you can certainly drive your car through them easily, or even punch your hand through some of them, especially if it’s drywall. 
 
Most construction here in Panama is built with a thin wall with a 22-gauge metal. We call it the C-channel which is similar to metal studs but are much thicker than what we use in the States. In the States, we use metal studs, and put on gypsum or drywall.  We had this in the United States in the late 20’s. 
 
It’s dry cement, not stucco, has no lime, and they put it on with a trowel and polish it, usually on top of cinder blocks. They’re what you and I would call regular slump blocks, depending on where you lived in the United States. It’s like a regular slump block, cinder block, etc. 
 
Here in Panama, they use a high-density foam that comes in two, three, and four inches with a metal grate on both sides. They take the cement and then apply it with a trowel or shoot it in under pressure, a process that you and I would call “shotcrete” or gunite. 
 
Not everyone in Panama does this as this is certainly just one of the options available. You can have something built here with steel and cement and find that these are commodities that cost the same everywhere in the world. The price that I would pay for a sack of cement in my little town here in Chiriquí is very similar to what you’ll pay for in Phoenix, Arizona or anywhere else. 
When the Chinese were building the dams on the Yellow River, cement and steel prices were astronomically high because that increased worldwide demand, and now those constructions have stopped.  
 
The variable in the building costs in Panama is the cost of labor. Here in Panama, a person working with cement, electrical, plumbing, or something of that nature, is probably going to charge $25 - $45 per day. In the United States, they would charge that per hour. You’re going to pay the same for your materials but the labor will cost much less in Panama. The quality depends on who you’re working with, how much you know about what you want done, and your contractor. It runs the gamut from “excellent, great value” to “unacceptable.” I’ve seen it on all levels. 
 
The house that I built here in Finca Cazador is made of solid, poured concrete with 18-inch thick walls and has 1-inch rebar welded. I built a bunker because that’s what I wanted but most people wouldn’t do that. Looking back on it, it probably isn’t necessary.
 
Bottom line is if you have a good contractor, your construction can be completed in a reasonable amount of time, and for less than what you would expect.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Forget Global Warming We're Headed for an Ice Age



I've been trying to wrap my head around the idea of a warming planet due to an overabundance of something as benign as carbon dioxide for a long time. The conflicting evidence is almost overwhelming.

While it makes sense that there would be some danger in a warming planet, far worse consequences could ensue following a significant cooling of the earth's surface.

When I think about the damage to crops and the potential for starvation and famine if the world temperatures continue to drop and throw us into another Ice Age, a shiver (no pun intended) runs down my spine.

There is a ton of evidence that the earth is actually entering a new ice age, rather than heating up. Even though reports of record high temperatures persist, much of the evidence points to just the opposite.

Take, for example, the rise in CO2 levels. This apparent sudden and 'shocking' rise in a natural element I have always thought to be a beneficial force of nature, is quoted by some as the cause of the planets warming over the recent past. But, can an increase in carbon dioxide, a necessary ingredient in photosynthesis, be a bad thing?

Long term historical studies indicate we are experiencing a dramatic draw-down in CO2 levels, and currently sit at around 400ppm, which many consider to be dangerously close to the 150ppm minimum levels that, if crossed, would result in the end of all plant life on earth.

According to other scientists, temperature rise is not a result of a rise in CO2 levels, but rather a rise in temperature is the cause of higher CO2 levels.

According to Burt Rutan, a well known engineer and one of many 'climate change deniers', the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gasses are made up of mostly water vapor. Only 3.62% of greenhouse gasses are CO2, and a miniscule 3.4% of those CO2 emissions are human caused.

Clearly, there are many respected scientists that do not agree that man made CO2 emissions are damaging to the environment. So many that a petition has been signed by over 31,000 scientists endorsing this statement:


“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

According to this group of highly esteemed scientists, many of them PhD level environmental specialists, the threat of CO2 increases causing harmful effects on the human population is overblown and incorrect. Quite the contrary, according to them. CO2 levels are dangerously low, and an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere would only result in a continued increase in plant biomass on the surface of the earth.

And, as we speak, there is an investigation underway at the NOAA into a whistle blower's contention that studies were conducted in a way that exaggerated the threat of climate change.

Clearly there is a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of man-made climate change.

One thing is certain, world food availability will surely become an issue in the future, as climate does change over time historically.

Whether or not food shortages are a result of increasing greenhouse gasses and man made global warming, remains to be seen.

Owning a small parcel of land in a rural area where organic food can be grown in abundance, might be one strategy for food security that makes sense to you.

If it does, feel free to contact us for more information about how you could join us in organic sustainable paradise.