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Spring has Sprung in the Cloud Forest


Click on the link to read the latest musings from The Cloud Forest Queens on Life, The Universe and Everything.

  • Why is our turmeric the best?
  • What does it mean to be in balance?
  • What is Repulse Monkey, Hold the World?
Dianne teaching visitors about plants 300x225 Spring has Sprung in the Cloud Forest
Dianne teaching visitors about plants
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Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014.

In this week’s El Visitante ( the weekly bilingual periodical in Panamá) they reported that according to national polling, seven days out from the national elections, the three primary candidates for president are separated by a mere 6% points. In Panama this near dead-heat is considered historic. No one seems certain of the outcome. No election in recent memory has been this close.

panama flag2 Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014.So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to conduct my own poll. Now, to be clear, I am not (yet) a Panamanian citizen and I can’t vote or even, really, participate in any political activities. But, once an activist, always… or something. Seems I can’t help myself. I want to know why people are supporting one guy or the other—there being no females in the current top positions—unless you count the wife of the current president, Ricardo Martinelli, who is running as vice-president on his Cambio Democratico party ticket, despite constitutional challenges, but then, she did resign her ‘position’ as First Lady and isn’t a blood relative…oy vey…

First thing this morning, I asked my taxi driver who he was going to vote for and why. Varela, candidate of the Panamanista Party (though he was elected five years ago as Martinelli’s vice-president, until they had a falling out and he switched parties, mid-term…whilst continuing to be vice-president. Ojala.). Why is my driver going to support him? “Because he is less of liar than the others.” Really? (Perhaps I misunderstood, my Spanish being somewhat less than perfect). But no, that is what he said. Varela is a liar, but less so than the other guys. Ok, then. Moving right along. Try to keep up.

Second in my polling, my physical therapist. He was less definite. He told me how all his life, since age 7, he had been a devoted follower of the PRD (Popular Revolution Democratico). He had an early age encounter with Omar Torilljos at his grammar school and it made a positive and indelible mark on his young mind. A die hard PRD supporter was born. But then, a few years ago, a Chiricano (resident of the province of Chiriqui) told him about The Black Hand. According to this friend, under Omar Torilljos, the Black Hand made swift work of any and all who opposed the populist military dictator, including tossing reluctant folks out of helicopters from high altitudes. It changed my therapist’s mind about the PRD—which is the party that supported Noriega, after all. So, come election day, he may, or may not, vote for Navarro, the current PRD candidate who espouses all the correct populist ideals, but is still tarred with the brush of the Black Hand. He kinda likes Varela, the vice-president splitter, but doesn’t trust him because he was once hand-in-glove with Cambio Democratico Martinelli. How does one keep track?

Third, in my utterly random quest for information, was the manager/bartender at one of my favorite restaurants where I took myself for some post physical therapy food therapy. The answer there was unequivocal and emphatic. “José Domingo Arias! Of course! Look at all the good things that have come to Panamá under Martinelli! Panamá progresses!” And he ticked them off: roads, super highways, hospitals, canal expansion, metro, agricultural distribution centers, minimum wage pay raises. Not all of these project plans originated under Martinelli, but he has, in fact, made them happen. He could have pocketed ALL the money as his predecessors have, but, no, he actually did some things. You can drive on the roads, ride the metro in the city. The clinics are soon to be open for business. The farm/agricultural centers are expediting the distribution of food throughout the country. And while the price of basics has gone up—a great source of discontent for the poor—so have wages. “You know,” he challenged me. “You’ve lived here for more than ten years. Under Mireya? Under Martín Torilljos? Nada. Nada. Never mind that Martinelli, who has anointed José Domingo and given him his wife as vp, is a global joke. No importe.”

So, my poll, actually, pretty much mirrors the nationals. A three way split, with a few percentage points making a big difference—if you can trust the polls, which most say can be bought.

My point in all this? I live in Panamá. It’s now my home. And I care what happens here. I have strong opinions about things. Health care. Education. Water quality. Indigenous rights. Domestic and sexual violence. I cared about these things in the US, before I left, too. I’m happy with that choice for many reasons. While I still retain, at least for the moment, US citizenship, I no longer vote there. And, I can’t vote, here, yet. But in two years? Oh yeah. Sign me up. But which party? No sé.

Then, there’s this, which I probably shouldn’t mention, but can’t help myself. A few weeks ago ALL of these three candidates signed an agreement saying that they fully and exclusively support marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. Great. Sound familiar? But here’s the kicker, as explained to me by a couple of well-connected Panamanians: ONE of the three is known to be actively bisexual, though married with children. The other TWO each have mistresses and/or illegitimate children…and their wives have, hmmm, consorts? The two really far left wing candidates, who no one takes seriously, each refused to sign. Called it by its name: hypocrisy and cheap vote buying.

panama flag3 Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014. Really. How’s a girl to choose?

Disclaimer: I have only reported what others have told me. They may well have reason to believe what they have said. As for me, I couldn’t possibly, personally, comment. (Thank you, House of Cards (British version).

Ramblings from the Mountain meets Cloud Forest Botanicals

(Note: Ramblings from the Mountain will now be found monthly in the Cloud Forest Botanicals Newsletter. Unless I am moved some random midnight to expound on an unrelated topic!)

February 24, 2014

 Ramblings from the Mountain meets Cloud Forest Botanicals Ramblings from the Mountain:

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Cloud Forest Queens!

Yes, Valentine’s Day was last week. We missed it. We apologize. We were thinking about you. Really. We’ve just been really busy here on the farm with visitors from around the world walking The Medicine Way Trail, making products to keep up with the growing demand, and caring for the plants during this VERY dry season. (Our own Valentine’s celebration was a quiet night at home with a movie and in bed by 9:30 PM, dead asleep, if that gives you any clue!).

But, we have been thinking about this whole hearts and flowers and love thing.

A good article came across my desk the other day about the ancient Greeks’ six different words for different types of Love… read the whole article from our February Newsletter here.

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Boquete, Panama – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday on the mountain in the highlands of Boquete, Panama, listeningBlue Morpho Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday to chorale singing composed by J.S. Bach on WQXR out of New York City. I LOVE my NPR! Outside, the soft breezes of this changing season promise rain later in the afternoon. I’m so glad. It’s been a thirsty three months. The baby chickens are happily sunning in a corner of the coop, while the Big Black Bitch clucks angrily outside. (She earned her moniker when she killed two babies from another mother). Charlie the Dog is yapping down by the pond. A blue morpho lit on the snowy coffee blooms by the terrace. I’ve spent way too much time on Face Book today, under the guise of connecting, networking and marketing. Not sure why I do that. At any rate, it’s a lovely day on the farm.

So, what’s going on?

dianne teaching visitors about plants1 300x225 Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Dianne teaching visitors about plants

Well, it’s been really, really busy. High tourist season means lots of visitors to Finca Luz to walk the Medicine Way Trail to learn about medicinal plants. We’ve met doctors, botanists, Chinese herbal practitioners, large scale agri-farmers, students, backpackers, teachers…all interesting and all a pleasure. The Tuesday Market has been a weekly source of amusement, revenue and new faces. (Check out this short video for a giggle. http://youtu.be/zy72vF763D8).

Lots of ongoing research for Cloud Forest Botanicals products—I’m working on a new pain relief salve and it just isn’t quite ready to test drive, yet, and Dianne is digging deep to find remedies for thyroid related issues. We spend time servicing existing clients (more every week) and promoting to future customers. We are hoping for our first significant international order next week. Busy. We love our jobs!

Life has its dramas. There are the daily chicken dramas. Fighting hens, bullying roosters, neurotic adolescents, happy growing hens-to-be and a bevy of new little ones. We love them and like to think they love us, but really, it’s all about the food. It is amazing how quickly they learn that at 4:30 every afternoon they can come begging to the kitchen door and one or other of the Food Giants will come out and toss them handfuls of corn. They feel entitled to it and scrap and fight and complain if they don’t feel they are getting their fair share. A lot like some people and most politicians.

Ripe coffee cherries 300x224 Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Ripe Coffee Cherries from Finca Luz

Then there’s the coffee fungus, La Roya, which is threatening coffee fields throughout Central America and decimating the crop for 2013. It has been declared a national emergency in Guatemala and Costa Rica and Panama will follow shortly. Finca Luz is surrounded by coffee fields that are neglected and I watch daily as the leaves on those neighboring plants shrivel and drop.

I am very irritated with fair weather gringo coffee growers who come here, think growing coffee is a romantic hobby and then don’t follow through with good stewardship. They are irresponsible. The wind spreads the air borne fungus onto my trees and others. May they choke on their Starbucks latte. If they don’t want to do the work, then cut the coffee down and plant blackberries that can be ignored.

Those of us who are  serious about this coffee thing–whether large or boutique farmers–  are vigilantly treating to both prevent and control in accordance with recommendations from the local MIDA (agricultural extension) office. So far so good. Now the rains have come and the spread will slow. I think I will plant another 1,000 trees this year to replace my oldsters and get a leg up on a shrinking market.

I’m looking for an alternative crop to plant in one area of the farm that gets lots of heat during summer and rain during winter and is difficult to reach for irrigation. Ideas? I’ve considered rhubarb, tea, chili peppers. Needs to be a high end product to be competitive, hardy to thrive in challenging conditions, and relatively low maintenance. Hmmm. Blackberries?

I received a not-so 5 star review of Risking Everything: Coming Out in Coffee Land by a Kiwi writer for a New Zealand travel blog. She loved the story and wants to come visit us. But…she called my writing ‘turgid.’ Ouch. That stings. But, perhaps it’s true that any publicity is good publicity? Still. Turgid? I’ll have to consult my buddy Webster about that.

The manuscript for my new novel is proceeding, in fits and starts to be sure, but I’m almost 2/3 of the way through the first draft. Working towards climax and denouement. Chasing Tropical Ice. Watch for it…sometime next year.

hotei god of contentment happiness 1 Boquete, Panama   Palm SundayI’m casting about for some significant thread of thought to follow here. Can you tell? I’m a bit all over the place. What I feel, however, is a bone deep soul contentment. I’m not dwelling on the past. I’m not anticipating the future. I’m very much in the moment, today. I’m here, now, mindful of how much I am grateful for, how blessed I am. I’m healthy. I’m prosperous by the standards of most of the world’s population. I’m interested in and challenged by my work. I’m in love, still. I am loved, still.

profile photo Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Elizabeth Worley, author and medicinal plant farmer. And yes, coffee is medicinal!

Perhaps that is significant enough for this Palm Sunday. “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart.

What are you grateful for? To whom? Do the people you care about know that you are grateful for what they have brought to your life?

I say, now, to all, ‘Thank you!”

Boquete, Panama: Manana…or why nothing is getting done today…

Boquete, Panama. Finca Luz. A sunny Sunday.

I love my dictionary. Seriously. I’ve had this copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary since 1965. The gold lettering on the faded blue cover is completely obliterated by the desk side detritus of spilled drinks, potato chip grease, and the sheer dust of the ages. The spine vanished decades ago. The thin pages are yellowed. The print has grown so small I now need glasses to read it. This book has lived in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Washington and now, Panama. I love this book.Dictionary Boquete, Panama: Manana...or why nothing is getting done today...

When I was in high school, I would read this very same dictionary during boring classes. I remember the day I discovered the word mellifluous. Say it…mel-li-flu-ous. Just kind of rolls off the tongue like honey. I was in civics class with old Mrs. Coldren, being driven to distraction by the particularities of the North Carolina State Constitution. I mean…really…at age 15, who cares?? I got caught.

“What are you reading, young lady? What is that book in your lap?”

Smiling sweetly, I held up my lovely blue dictionary. “I’m looking up a word,” I explained.

“Oh.” Not much else she could say.

That day I went on to lyophobic, and to the thirteen distinct definitions and fifteen sub-definitions for shot. Who knew?

The word for today is procrastination. “To put off intentionally and reprehensibly the doing of something that should be done.” Ouch. Reprehensibly? That seems a bit harsh, but there it is in black and white on page 679 about mid-way down the first column.

I admit: there are dirty dishes in the sink from last night. The tomato plants should be sprayed for powdery mildew. The chickens need to have their water changed. The bougainvillea are dry as bones, the basil is going to seed, the bed isn’t made, and…honestly…I need a shower. Worst, there is a character in my nascent novel who is hanging on tenter hooks in Icabaru, Venezuela where he is fixing to get into seriously deep shit over some diamond smuggling and I haven’t the foggiest clue how it will come out, and here I sit eating tortilla chips, drinking a beer (in the middle of the afternoon, no less!!), and messing around with web pages and blog posts about everything from the Embera indigenous of Panama, botanical plants, recipes for pain reliever salve to…my dictionary.

Maybe reprehensible isn’t so harsh. Let me see. Reprehensible: “Worthy of or deserving reprehension.”  Reprehension: “Reproof.”

Okay, I get it. It’s not good and I should get on with what needs to be done and quit procrastinating.

But wait. This is interesting. Reprehend, from the Middle English and dictionary1 Boquete, Panama: Manana...or why nothing is getting done today...Latin, to hold back, and the French, reprehendere (to grasp, see prehensile.).

How did we get from prehensile (as in a monkey’s tail) to a morally suspect postponement of tasks? I have no clue. Do you? Any linguists out there?

That’s it, then. I’ll start with the chickens’ water, progress to the bougainvillea and basil, wash the dishes, take a shower and THEN I will see about the poor bugger in Icabaru. I have a feeling it isn’t going to go well for him. The tomatoes will have to wait. Manana.

Manana. (spanish. lit. tomorrow. french, earlier, as in early tomorrow.). An indefinite time in the future….. And that’s it for today, from Boquete, Panama. Hasta manana.