November 12th, 2019

Writing from my restaurant office in Bocas,

I have had many feelings in the last three weeks... from desperation to glee, from disillusionment to steadfastness. Good surprises and bad. There is nothing simple about this undertaking and yet there are many hidden beauties and adventure. I think my biggest concern is still financial.

There is also the balance of the house versus the rest of the project. It has overshadowed everything until this week. As the house gets reinforced, secured and cleaned I am starting to think about the land and permaculture community to come and the micro businesses to pursue to make it possible. There is some comfort to be had and different opportunities for people who come in having a deluxe base camp (the house), and yet it was not on the original agenda and therefore is a larger hidden cost in the plan. I have invested communal funds of $3000 USD so far, much of which are tools to be able to repair the home and some hardware and materials. We have termites to contest with as well as ants and water damage to name the big ones. It is getting easier daily but some of these things will not be regulated under my watch as I will be shifting gears to other necessary engagements. Regardless, I am always puttering around and have really only taken 1 morning off since I have arrived!

termite nests and rotten wood in the kitchen

replacing the middle wall with concrete with my nieghbor

kitchen wall finished for now

I picked up Jessie and Kayla and Eli her kids 3 weeks ago and on the way back went to Malena and in Las Lajas where we picked up stuff Georgia and I had left there 2 years ago. It was good to be reunited with some treasures; a dutch hoe head, the fermentation bible, 2 hammocks and kitchen stuff to name a few of the dearer things. It was great to see Anna, Lisa and Gama again. Jessie and I and her kids enjoyed the beach for the first time since I landed and it was grand!

It has been great having them here with Jessie and Kayla helping out loads. We had a hand from Alias (a plumber from Sweden) for one day too this week which was much appreciated but he seems to have disappeared!? Ethan is now in Bocas working and we meet up from time to time to discuss future plans.

Eli playing while Jessie rests

Kayla and I working on our first harvest

There is still a big part of the house to deal with – a gaping hole in fact! I have asked for an excavator to come and knock it down and twice now the operator has engaged a date and hasn’t shown up... perhaps tomorrow?! Once its down, we will scrounge over all the debris and pick out the good wood for other projects, the electrical cables etc... to reuse and them, then remove the debris and build a new wall – reducing the size of the house to normal.

Preparing for the tear down of the rotten side of the house

Recouperating as much as possible

Another ongoing thorn in my side has been the drinking water. We get it from a spring that has a tiny reservoir about 20 minutes into the jungle and up a stream, and since I have been here the line to the houses in the village never works! We have tried a few things and now until the neighbours get involved I have resigned myself to fetching the water for the household every second day. One neighbour doesn’t seem to care one iota and the other has tried a few things but they often have more pressure than us and anyway they tend to drink the rain water collected in their tank which me as a purist finds hard to swallow.

The back wall had an entrance that was unusable and unsafe

Mixing mortar

The back of the house with the new wall and one of the two columns that reinforce the roof

Yesterday we started planting seeds that I have had with me for years and seeds that good friends Julian and Sophie had left over from their farm in Quebec. We are still looking for good heirloom seeds – especially tomatoes and certain greens from the North and of course all the variety of fruits, nuts and greens from down here. Scouting the latter is set to begin in a few days as I have set up a day hike with an indigenous man who will take us to his village and show me the plants he is intimate with.

Bamboo planters with soil from the land mixed with various composting materials

Today I hope to complete the small solar system so that we can have some light at night and charge devices by day. We bought a generator a few weeks ago but we rarely use it... I needed it for the power tools mostly and we charge our things at the same time. We have been frugal and we sort and collect many things from the site and have already reused much. Especially in the last week, each time we feel we need to buy something I often find alternatives with what we have around – for example, transformed bamboo off the land as seeding trays and piping, used coconuts for bowls, scouring pads and food. Everything has a place and a reason! Efficiency in the chaos... its a good starting ground for the permaculture community to manifest from. Even the expenses of the solar system and generator weighed over to maximize our efficiency while being ecology minded – we will be using both systems to help us on the land in the future once this house is on the grid – possibly a year away due to legalities.

We have painted in a black board!

Would you like to join in this adventure? We have rooms! Its a work in progress but I guarantee you it won’t be boring.

With aches and pains and smiles,
Your corresponent,
Ivan Tattoli


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