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

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.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

US Taxpayer Abroad Filing Automatically Extended to June 15th

When and where to file your taxes when living abroad

 

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

When to File

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien residing overseas, or are in the military on duty outside the U.S., on the regular due date of your return, you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return without requesting an extension. For a calendar year return, the automatic 2-month extension is to June 15.  Note that you must pay any tax due by April 15 or interest will be charged starting from April 15.

Where to File

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien (including a green card holder) and you live in a foreign country, mail your U.S. tax return to:
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX 73301-0215
USA

Electronic Filing (e-file)

Taxpayers with an AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) within a specified threshold can electronically file their tax return for free using Free File. Taxpayers with an AGI greater than the specified threshold can either use the Free File Fillable Forms or e-file by purchasing commercial software. A limited number of companies provide software that can accommodate foreign addresses. To determine which will work best for you, get help choosing a software provider.

This was taken directly from the irs.gov site located here

 

 

 

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.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sustaining Life in a Divided World



There's no question, we are officially divided along a multitude of fronts.

The most obvious and far reaching division today, at least in American society, seems to be along political lines. There are far left leaning liberals and far right leaning conservatives, and they rarely get along or feel they should have to compromise.

There are "centrists" who appear to be more moderate in their views about how the world works and how it should be run, but still grasp incessantly at any opportunity to bash "the other side" anytime they don't act in accordance with their values and ideals.

Last but not least there are libertarians who believe in a smaller constitutional government and more individual freedom, and that both of the major political "parties" are really just a different way of executing the same overall goal of expanding the state.

Those on the left accuse those on the right of being uncaring and callous. Those on the right consider the left leaning crowd to be whiners and weaklings.

Neither side cares much for the libertarians, and would like nothing better than for them to just go away.

What starts out as a pleasant conversation between co-workers can rapidly turn into an ugly battle for control and acceptance. Friends can instantly become enemies. Common sense seems to magically disappear out the window the moment politics enters the room.

One thing everyone paying attention to political events seems to have in common, including us if we are participating in it, is the need to feel superior in some way to your fellow man.

But, do we really need to take sides?

Is it possible not to care about politics in a world where, on a daily basis, it dominates the news and much of the media? Do we, as individuals, actually need to choose sides in a conflict where we really have little or no influence, personally?

Are there alternatives to swallowing our daily dose of political maneuvering, plundering and backstabbing?

Yes, there are. I can tell you that if you turn off the programming (TV), and get back to nature, it is quite possible to have a beautiful life without all the stress and conflict.

You see, in nature, all things work together. There's no conflict, because there's no need to be right. All things have their place in the fabric of life, and there are no higher and lower quality creatures. Everything has a place in the natural world, and one creature does not feel the need to criticize or oppose another.

I suspect that eventually nature will force us humans to focus on truly important things, rather than trivial issues presented as critical by the media.

Until then, if you've been looking for a place to go to get away from the stress and conflict present in so much of what makes up life today in America, get back to nature. Go to the woods and have a picnic. Take a vacation at the beach or go to a foreign country you've always wanted to visit.

Get a dose of nature when your perspective gets out of whack. You'll be a better person, and able to see your fellow man not as your enemy, but as an integral part of the bigger picture.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Work Continues on First Community Home

It's been a while since we posted last on the progress of this, the first home to be built in the sustainable organic community we call Finca Cazador.

This super sturdy house is just one example of what can be done with the right crew and a solid plan. On your property you might want to build something similar, or completely different. It's up to you.

After pouring the floor, the next step was to frame in the walls. Much of the framing was already in place because of the posts, but there were additional horizontal frame pieces built to accommodate the sliding glass door frames that will run across the front of the house.



 The 4x4 posts and the connecting steel provided an exact fit for the glass door frames, as well as a strong place to hang the roll-down security doors that will cover the outside of the glass doors when the owner is away.


Next, the walls were erected between the posts and around the vertical frame members. The walls were created from 4" M2 (pronounced emi-dos) and welded into place using locating pins made from rebar.


Electric was run throughout the house and held in place behind the M2 wire, as well as the plumbing to the shower. The rest of the plumbing will be run under the floor, for easy access. This is only possible because the entire structure is off the ground, in a style commonly used here called 'tumbo' style.



Then, the m2 was covered with a mix of cement and sand called rapello. The windows were cut before the rapello was applied, with force, onto the walls.




This was the most time intensive part of the project to this point. Rapello application is an art, and the crew did a fantastic job. First a scratch coat is applied. Then, once that has dried, a smooth coat is applied.








Walls are done and now we're ready to install the security doors.


The installation was a success, meaning the measurements were correct and the doors were hung straight and plumb for perfect functioning. The process consisted of a one day evaluation and a follow up installation appointment. 

The crew showed up on time and ready to work, which was amazing, considering they had to drive up to the farm from 3 hours away, in the rain.

The door frames were installed next using large lag bolts directly into the steel posts.


Meanwhile, the plans were being drawn up for a screened porch for outside eating, off the main room. A wrought iron security enclosure was designed to provide an impenetrable place to attach the metal screen material.



The owner wanted to bring in a tree theme, and he designed the enclosure to reflect the beauty of the surrounding area.



Windows were installed, and the three custom hand made doors and door frames were treated with insect-proof protection, then oiled to bring out the natural grain.




A hand made steel security door was built that matched the outdoor patio enclosure, and installed on the main entrance. While the paint was drying, the front door was installed.


The sliding doors were installed, and a coat of paint applied to the interior walls to add some color.





The end result will be a small but comfortable sturdy home, with a spacious patio (and great room) offering fantastic views of the surrounding tropical forest and hills.



Next, the entire area will be cleaned up, and some landscaping will be done.

Stay tuned!



Sunday, October 16, 2016

First House is Well Under Way in Our Organic Community

Construction continues on the first home in our off grid organic farm community.

Ground was broken in late August, and after a bit of a slow start things have been progressing very quickly and right at or under budget.

The first article about this house construction showed the road being carved out of the farm's main road on the farm the new buyer purchased, and the foundation being developed to support the roof and floor.

That foundation was 20 steel posts sunk 5 to 6 feet into the ground, surrounded by concrete and connected together with rebar and more concrete to create a "seismico" which is a Spanish term used in construction to help prevent seismic movement of the foundation.


The next step was to install the main beams and substructure for the roof. The main beams are constructed out of doubled up 2" X 6" welded "carriolas" which are galvanized steel C channel shaped and 20 feet long. The beams form the main substructure and are welded on top of the concrete filled steel 4" X 4" posts. The beams are 35 feet long to accommodate the roof and the 3 foot overhang in the front and the two foot overhang in the rear of the house. 

The cross members are also doubled up carriolas, and they are 2" X 4" members, also welded together and welded to the beams on 12 inch centers. This may seem like over-kill, but the new owner wanted to make sure the roof structure was heavy duty. Normally, you would use single 2" X 4" carriolas, space about 18" apart, laying on their sides and supported by welded rebar cross braces every 5 feet or so. 


The concrete filled posts are then also surrounded by concrete which will add to the dramatic appearance of the home, but also provide additional strength for the floor substructure. These concrete posts are tied to the steel uprights and the foundation seismico with 3/8" rebar before they are poured into the PVC molds.


More steel 4" X 4" posts are used to create the floor substructure and support the heavy gauge tin that will be added on top of the supports. Those supports will be leveled to provide the level floor with the ability to shed rain off the porch. Rain on the porch will only be present during a wind driven storm, and they are rare. Most of the time the rain falls straight down and will not ever hit the porch because of the overhang, but the owner wanted to make the home as maintenance free as possible. The tin will provide a strong surface upon which the 3" concrete floor will be poured.


In keeping with the new owner's desire to have very solid construction, the home has two roofs. The first one is typical for the area and is made of heavy gauge galvanized tin, and the second layer on top of the tin is a fiber concrete composition roof. The two roofs and the airspace below them, above the finished gypsum ceiling, will provide an excellent watershed surface, but also sound proof the roof to minimize the sound of rain inside the home. The new owner plans to redirect gray water for irrigating ornamental plants, as well.


PVC tubes were cut and placed through the tin surface prior to the floor being poured, so plumbing can be run to the different rooms through the floor. That will provide access to all the plumbing for later additions or changes.


The 3" concrete floor turned out better than expected. A cement mixer was used to mix the cement and allowed for a single "hot mix" to be poured in a span of about 6 hours, one wheelbarrow at a time.

Now, with the floor finished, the roof up to protect us from the rain and the plan in full swing, the remaining tasks of putting up the walls and installing the glass doors and windows will be pretty quick. 

All in all, the process has been very quick and hassle free. The only things that remain are the finishing details, which will be reported on in future articles.

If you are interested in building something like this or something less or more elaborate, give us a call or send us an email for pricing and availability.









Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Community is Growing!


We broke ground on the first new home here in our off grid organic community. The new owner is excited to be starting the process, and has been on site for much of the time to provide input and ideas.

First a road had to be cut from the secondary road that feeds that part of the property. It was a one-day event, and the cost was less than a good meal for two in most of the U.S.



Next, material was brought in by truck and unloaded by hand onto the dirt road in order to provide a surface suitable for driving on when wet, and strong enough to survive the rain and reduce the possibility of unwanted erosion.


The process so far has been quite easy, with the help of the contractor Luis and his connections, as well as the founder of the community himself. Things go a lot smoother when you know someone who is in a position to help pave the way for you, and everyone connected with the construction planning and fabrication has been very professional and courteous.


The view from this particular farm is amazing, and the breezes are cool and refreshing. Birds and butterflies are abundant and this acre and a half farm is situated in an area that will provide plenty of privacy even when the farm community is completely sold out.


The house is a one story steel and concrete house "tumbo" style, which means it will be off the ground to optimize air movement in and around the home. The foundation consists of twenty steel posts, sunk 5-7 feet into the ground, covered and filled with concrete. The floor and roof will be supported by this integrated foundation.

So far, everything is going as planned, and will be a very affordable, yet unique first home in the community. It is expected to take another month or so to complete, and when it is finished the new owner will be able to take in the view from an expansive front patio area.

We're excited to see the community grow and we know the new resident will be very happy with the home as well as the low cost and quick time to build it.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of home ownership in our organic farm community, send us an email or give us a call and leave a message.