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New blog, for now

I’ve just started a new blog. The premise is that I will take at least one (beautiful) photograph everyday and post it on this blog. So far I have just posted some from Panama and from the most recent wedding I attended. But in the future the idea is that I will post them more or less daily, on the same day (or at least during the same week) that I take the picture. Today I took pictures of tomatoes. I would estimate that we have 200 tomatoes in our freezer at the moment, along with another 300 ripening on the counter, and at least 60 still in the garden, but maybe more, they tend to hide in the mess of vines. Although, sixty might also mean less as squirrels and worms are getting a lot of them. So if you know my mother or father, you should call them up and ask them for some tomatoes. We’ve got more than enough. I gave away about 50 this weekend to friends who stopped by. Oh yeah, even if you don’t know my mom or dad, if you know my address (or their address, that is) and you stop by, then I will give you tomatoes. We really don’t have that much room left in our freezer and I don’t want to eat any more. 

Check out my photos, tomato photos to be posted soon.

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…and I was home!

Now what?

Well, it’s been a bit harder to write since I’ve been home. I’m doing boring things, like feeding my cat (Maggie) and my neighbors cat (also Maggie) and looking for apartments and jobs in DC, with no luck on either front thus far.

My family has all gone to Europe, and so I also have a mandate to water the garden and pick the tomatoes and peppers when they are ripe. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the garden produces way more tomatoes and peppers than I’d like to eat. I’ve been eating about three peppers a day in various forms, and I’ve been freezing about 20 tomatoes per day. I eat them too, but the vast majority go into the freezer. Soup and sauce of the future. 

I’ve been to one wedding and have another one on the way, and I’ve read 1.5 books out of the Stieg Larsson trilogy. While still on the first book someone told me the author died of a heart attack when he found out his books were getting published. I don’t think it’s true, at least Wikipedia didn’t confirm it. So altogether my life at home this last week and a half has been… um, slightly productive? I suppose I could continue this blog as I am heading north again in a month (DC here I come, employed or not!)  but at the moment I think I will take a hiatus. I suppose I already have, not being able to remember when my last post was.

Whatever, Roy.

Matt and I left PG on Friday morning, did a bit of whitewater rafting and planned to come back, pick up our bags, and head out. When I stepped onto the porch Rob and David were looking like someone had died.

My first thought: “Oh no! Sam!”

Rob told me I had better go talk to Jen. I didn’t even need to. I walked inside and saw the packing boxes piled on the living room floor. Sold. The deal should be sealed by now, I haven’t heard back since Monday morning. Roy, the absentee owner of the animal rescue (and, technically, all the animals that had been brought there) was supposed to get his money then, Monday morning, bright and early.

Supposedly the same couple came back with more money and this time Roy couldn’t resist. Yeah, I know, it is his to sell. They are his to sell. He really needed the money, said Rob. He was crying when he told us, said Rob. The day before Rob told me how Roy offered him a job. And offered to pay him to drive a new Lexus SUV down from the States. But that was on Thursday. On Friday Roy was poor again and had to sell the only animal rescue in Panama to turn it into a spa.

Rob was sympathetic. “Roy was upset, you ever seen a big man like that cry?”

What, does a big man crying need more sympathy than a little girl crying? So I can cry all I want and nothing. “Don’t worry, that crying sound you hear is just a little girl, she is just little-girl-crying, no need to concern yourself!”

“He even had his own house on the market, he had it at 200K below its value so that he could keep this place.” Said Rob.

Well, despite all of Rob’s sympathy for Roy, I don’t have much. Why does he think he’s in such a desperate place as he has to sell PG (and cry about it) if he is buying a Lexus and has a house worth more than 200k. Whatever, Roy. Look around Panama. Look around! Are you really that poor? Are you really desperate? Do you really need to put all these animals out of a home, just for the money? Whatever, Roy.

Farmgirl

Not your typical farmgirl. I spent today sifting sand for the cement the boys have been laying down in front of the house. A patio, or just a floor, will be the end result. I sift the sand out of a big rock pile, my arms hurt and then I make a pile of sand. Payal, a world history teacher from NYC is working with me. She tosses shovelfulls of rock sand into my sifter and I shake. Meanwhile she tells me about her life, her job her students. One student IM’d her: Ms K, wanna read my new lyrics? He looks like Biggie and wants to be a rapper. She reads them and then asks: why haven’t you been in school the last week? Biggie wannabe: Wake and bake Ms K, and then I’m too lazy. Ms K: Can’t you wait until after school to smoke up?

Apparently not, as half the time her students arrive to class flying high, giggling at every word she says. So Napoleon invaded (giggles). What is imperialism? (more giggles). At least they don’t throw things at her. And she’s never had a student stab her or anyone else.

At lunch we were still on the subject of high school. I was a pretty good highschooler, as I recall. No detention, no suspension. Boring. But them Matt brought up getting suspended, or detended or something, his ninth grade year. He said it was good, after that nobody messed with him. Well, nobody messed with me either, must have been just a fierce look about me. Then someone asked what he got in trouble for. “Stabbing someone in the neck,” he said casually. I was a bit surprised I hadn’t heard about this. And a bit surprised he hadn’t gone to jail or something. At first everyone thought he was joking. Nope. He stabbed a kid in the neck with a pencil. Apparently the kid was annoying and Matt went over to take some slingshot thing away from him. The kid hit him and Matt stabbed him with a pencil. Unfortunately the pencil broke off in the kid’s neck, preventing Matt from finishing his problem set in class that day. And then Matt’s DSA reputation was established: don’t mess with me, you don’t wanna know how many pencils I’ve got in this bookbag.

Anyway, farmgossip aside, farmgirling really isn’t my thing. My arms hurt. What I have done so far has all been machine-like physical labor. Dig holes 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep, about 2 feet apart. Dig trenches six inches deep two feet apart. Mix cement. Sift gravel to separate the rocks from the sand. bring these rocks over here, put them here. Cook, but not even your own way, just the way I tell you to. Anyway, if someone is going to do all this digging and sifting and rock hauling I think it ought to be someone with bigger arm muscles than I. In fact it is not only much more efficient if boys with big arm muscles do it, it is much more enjoyable to watch. I don’t mind the chatting with other farmgirls bit, but let me do it without straining my deltoids. If those are the muscles you use for shaking gravel through a screen anyway.

Mica

A elderly gringo couple, with too much fat and too little hair (including a complete lack of eyebrow hair on the female half of the couple, poorly concealed by light  brown pencil swipes) stopped by Paradise Gardens the other day. They also had thick southern accents. Initial impression: bleh typical expats of the variety I don’t care for. I know, I shouldn’t judge people by their looks but hey, I am honest, at least here. To their faces I was very nice. And that was just an initial impression and I would have changed it had they showed me any reason to. For a moment I thought they would. He told me “We’ve got a donation for you. If you’ll open the gate I’ll pull in, it’s in the back of the truck.” Well, awesome, I thought, and walked out to open the gates. Bananas was my first thought. Often  people have way more bananas than they can eat on their property. Or oranges or mangos or palm nuts. And we can use them, our animals eat 90 bananas a day. And loads of the other fruits as well, the bananas is just an easy stat.

I got to the truck and he lowered the gate back to reveal a kennel with a shit covered howler monkey in it. If you’ve ever had any look at central american monkeys they are very easily distinguishable. White faced capuchins have white faces. Howlers are all black and, well, they look different than capuchins. Some people say they’re scary cause the have these beards and they howl and bark. They look much more gentle than capuchins to me, maybe because they move slower and more gracefully. They also have very different teeth and longer limbs. Tamarins are tiny and multi colored and have angry, mean faces. Squirell monkeys are small and orange and have a funny head. Spider monkeys I have never actually seen wild but they are supposedly not like the others in that they have super long arms and legs. Well anyway, this couple said they had gotten the monkey from another expat couple in Colon. This couple told them they had a one year old female white-faced capuchin who they didn’t want. So the too-much-make-up, too-little-hair couple sent a taxi to Colon to pick it up. That was a year ago. They brought the howler to us today saying that they discovered it wasn’t actually a capuchin, it wasn’t a female and it was too expensive to feed. Did it take them a year to figure all these things out?

Well, actually, they didn’t even get it right after a year, it turns out the monkey is a female after all.

We brought her up to the cage Arjento had recently moved out of (by the way, Arjento loves his new place, even though he is next to the tamarins and they squeak at him and try and swipe his nose through the barrier). She didn’t want to get out of her kennel, she was terribly shy and seemed upset, she banged her head against the inside of her kennel. They hadn’t any blanket or food or toys in her kennel. Just her and her poop. I asked what they had been feeding her. Something called “monkey chow” apparently, that they had to bring in from Miami. Why not feed her what howlers would eat in the wild? Leaves, fruits, bugs? They hadn’t brought any  “monkey chow” with them. So we had to add to the stress of moving the stress of a changing diet. Although we did give her a massive bowl of fruits, as well as a coconut and she ate it all. She ate as much as Monty and Billy eat in a day, and they are super active, she barely moved, only coming out of her kennel to poop three or four times. So she must have been hungry.

I asked about her living situation and they said she was tame (yeah, she just seemed terrified and hid from us, and the couple wouldn’t get near her, maybe because of her terrible shit smell) and that she had lived with capuchins previously, since they thought she was one (how how how!?). The poor girl, she was probably so confused, howlers are so gentle and capuchins so rough, she must have been totally out of her element.

Luckily on Friday she was taken to Allouatta where, after a quarantine to make sure she is healthy, she will be introduced to other howlers, both rescues and wild ones. And soon she will be totally free to eat leaves, climb, play, leave and come back, but also have a safe place to come to and get some food and protection or help if she needs it. When you see her you just think, how could people treat such an amazing animal so terribly? Buying and selling her because she is not what they thought or too expensive or whatever? She has so much expression in her face and movements and people that treat animals like that I can only imagine are terrible people and have little respect for anyone or anything. No love for anyone but themselves, if that. Hopefully they never had any children. Or if they did, hopefully their children were treated better than their pets, way way better. Ugghh, I see so many good things, good people doing good things here, like Jessica’s awesome birthday wish, and then people go and show me the terrible side of humans, like this.

Also, a totally different note: the dude at the top of the page (handsome, no?) is now traveling with me. His name is Matt. He is my brother. We are at a farm in Costa Rica, but hopefully will soon be able to visit Boquete and Allouatta. More on the farm and Costa Rica and the in-between adventure coming soon.

Yesterday was exciting. It was sunny and nice too. We did laundry and it actually dried.

Jen was in David to pick up fruits and veggies and new bird seed for the animals. And meat. I spent the evening bagging meat, yum. You too can chop up and bag and freeze various mystery cuts of slimy raw meat if you come volunteer at Paradise Gardens.

So while she was in David I had about ten volunteers. Three younger kids, one Panamanian American woman, an Argentine, a Brit and a Texan and two other Americans. So nine. Not ten. But lots anyway.  We got all the basic maintenance and care done, one of the kids, Isiah fixed a hole the jaguarundi kitten had ripped in her cage that morning as I was feeding her (she is still very small, smaller than the house kittens who live with her, but she is wild as wild can be. While she was ripping the hole, and growling and drooling, trying to get to the meat, the house kittens sat looking on, the white one licking her paws and the brown one just patiently waiting for me to swing the swing feeder back around).

Lucky for us we got so much done early, and that we had so many volunteers. About half way through the morning a woman pulls in and she and her daughter start unloading bunches of bananas. I help them and she tells me that her daughter’s 12th birthday was on the 24th and that in lieu of birthday presents she asked for donations for Paradise Gardens. She got bananas, rope, palm nuts, and cash and brought them all over to us. What an awesome birthday wish! Inspiring.

Then a massive group came in, three different families. I was telling them a bit about the park and most of them wandered off but a tall blonde woman with lots of make up and an overly active cellphone asked me “So how do you get the animals in here?”

“Well, they come here all sorts of ways, some are injured or abandoned by their mothers and people bring them in, some are pets that people have taken out of the forest as infants and kept as pets but then they grow up and are not as sweet and cute anymore and are quite hard to take care of so they bring them here.”

“So you accept peoples pets?”

“Yes, that is how a lot of our animals get here.” I was about to go on telling her about how many animals, especially monkeys and big cats, seem like great pets as babies but rarely are people able to give them the environment they need and that they get rough, not necessarily aggressive but they are naturally rough and pet owners don’t get that when they buy a baby. But she interpreted me.

“I have an ocelot. Can I bring him by?”

I was shocked. People are such idiots. But that wasn’t even the beginning.

“He used to be tame but he has just gotten too wild. I only live here part of the year and so my gardener was supposed to take care of it but he wasn’t aggressive enough in keeping it humanized. So now I come back and it is just too wild. Can I bring him here?”

Someone who only lives here part of the year thinks they can have a pet ocelot?!

“Yes, we have had ocelots before and released them, but you would have to get in touch with us and let us know more about him so we could get ready to take him.”

“Yeah, well, I had one before and he was great but then when I was back in the States he escaped and ate the neighbors parakeet. They sent him to the zoo.”

She had two ocelots? And neither worked out? Because the were too wild? Am I using too many question marks? Well, they are wildcats, dummy. They are called wildcats because they are not tame, they are WILD. Not cool to try and put them in a cage. Not cool to take them out of the forest.

Anyway, she kept talking and I kept nodding  and restraining myself from tackling her and locking her up in a cage or putting her on a leash, or just giving her a good knock on the head and seeing if it could jiggle some of her brains into the “on” position.

She left and took a self guided tour, and when she came back she told me “Oh, I think the one I have might be a margay as well, he looks more like the one you have, and he is always hanging from trees.”

Yep. Could be a margay. She got our number and left, saying she would call us about bringing in her un-tame pet margay/ocelot. Unfortunately a margay that has been kept in captivity for the first couple years of his life will not be able to be released, at least not without far more preparation than we can give him. Humans will be the biggest threat to him in the wild yet he already associates them with food and would approach a human or a household and be killed, out of fear or for meat. We’ll see if she actually brings in a margay. Or an ocelot. I mean, we would rather have it here than have it be released and eat somebody’s cat or parakeet and them be shot. And I’d rather have it here than having living in neglect at her house. But really, why don’t people figure it out, these are wild animals. Don’t take them out of the forest! Don’t buy them from people who take them from the forest!

So tally of the day: 1 awesome kid, 1 idiot adult.

I’m back at Paradise Gardens (check out what’s going on here). We are a rescue. We rescue all animals. And while we are at it we provide food for millions of mice. And then we turn the mice into food. Not for us. For the animals. The cats, the falcon, the tayra. Sometimes the monkeys get one, but that is without our help.

We also provide food for loads of squirrels. And doves. The squirrels are these shiny black, huge things with bushy tails and a taste for bananas. We leave bananas out daily for the local wild birds, the macaws, the monkeys (although I don’t think the squirrels venture into the monkey’s territory) and pretty much everything else. Even the big cat, Lottie, eats bananas. In fact every animal here treats bananas as if they are specialist delishistist yummyumist fruit there is. We use 90 bananas per day here. And the shiny black squirrels probably get about 5 of those. So not bad. But sometimes I just wishe I could catch one of those squirrels and let the tayra have a go at it. The tayra’s name is Tyrone, by the way. But for some reason people call him Chester. He’s an adolescent tayra, learning to hunt, and quite good at it, still playful (I’ve seen him chasing his tail) but ready to be released soon. Or so we think. There isn’t that much information out there on how and when rescued tayras can be released. But he’s full sized, healthy, and can hunt, so it seems he should be about ready.

The pigeons do get fed to Tyrone, sometimes. And the smaller ones go to the kittens and jaguarundi cub. They sneak into the bird cages (they are smallish brown pigeons) and peck away at the seed and fruit that the birds get. They make a mess, but the birds we have are the messiest eaters on earth anyhow (it seems like 90 percent of their seed ends up on the ground) so the pigeons contribution to the mess can be overlooked.But once they are in the bird cages, they have trouble getting out. So we go in, with a net and gloves, and capture the birdies. And then release them. Into the kittens’ enclosure. Or the tayra’s. Sometimes they survive a few days, one in the tayra’s cage survived almost a week. But in the end they always become food. And a lesson in hunting for the kittens and tayra.

The real problem though, is the mice. And a few mouse-rats. I’m not sure if they are mice or rats, we have seen two that are definitly rats but some of them just look like really really big mice. Maybe their just fat mice, or pregnant mice. We did find one that was pregnant (we know cause we saw the babies) but it still seemed pretty big for the mice we have here, even a pregnant one. Ususally the mice are just about the length of my pinky and actually quite cute but this one, although it still had a mouse-ish look to it, was about the size of my whole hand. Maybe she just had a very heavy pregnancy. Two of her babies were born, but maybe she was in the middle of it, they usually have more than two babies, right? So maybe she had some more inside of her making her expand from pinky-size to hand-size. Whatever.

The point is, the mice get into everything. Every single cage. And they eat everything. Even plastic. And they poop everywhere. And most of the animals wont catch them, even the supposed hunters. I think they are so small that the bigger animals can’t  be bothered. And we have trouble catching them, we can’t use poison since they could eat it, stumble into some cage weaked by the poison, be caught and eaten by a monkey or a falcon and then poison their consumer. And we cant use regular traps for fear of catching the paw of some other animal. So we just set out buckets. Buckets and buckets and buckets. And we put seed inside of them, the old seed swept up off the ground from the macaws and galahs and cockatoos. And we wait. And in about 8 buckets we get maybe two mice every third day. It seems they always jump into the buckets in pairs. Maybe one jumps in, realizes it cant jump out, calls the other one who jumps in to help and then they are both stuck. One time we got three mice in one bucket. So in the bucket they have a pretty good life. They have a nice comfy bed of seed, which they can burrow in, eat, sleep on. One, the mama mouse-rat I mentioned before, even thought the seed bucket was the perfect place to have her babies. The only problem is when we discover them and they get a terrible death by cats. Or turtles. Did you know turtles eat baby mice? Yeah, we didn’t either, but they sure do. It might seem cruel, to release a mouse or mouse-rat into a cage with two kittens and a jaguarundi cub. Not much chance for the mouse, you’d think. They pounce and, although at first some mice got away, now they all are caught, played with, and then eaten. Unlike most house kittens these little kitties (Artemis and Hestia) won’t be the kind to leave dead mice or moles or voles by your doorstep as a present. They like to eat any mouse they catch. The whole mouse. I don’t know if they learned from the jaguarundi (Athena, and she is growing into her name, she is the fiercest kitten you’ve ever seen) or if they developed a taste for raw meat (since that is what we feed them) but they eat every bit of the mice. Anyway, it might seem cruel, and hypocritical, an animal rescue that catches and kills mice. But if the jaguarundi is going to be released someday, she has got to be a good hunter. And really, the mice have a pretty good life here, they get unlimited amounts of seed and fruit, and their predators, other than us and the two lazy house cats (not the kittens) are all in cages. It is just the few unlucky ones who jump into buckets and get a terrible death by kittens.