December 7th, 2019

Poco a poco... slowly but surely...,

The Jumanji room and the fig tree that pushed its way through the floor is no more! After weeks of waiting an excavator finally came and tore down the Eastern side of the house. Yay for progress! Now I get to deal with the challenge of building a super good wall for a minimum price to fill the giant gaping whole in the house. Its all slowly getting dealt with though – the securing and making safe the base camp has come a long way.

The Gaping Hole

I’ve jacked up the floor to the new mini-balcony so the next step will be to remove a few panels of the South wall, then build the East wall which is now temporarily covered to keep animals out.

The Eastern Ruins

Some days are overwhelming and I am learning to be less stressed about the giant task at hand and about the risks involved. Its an adventure, a costly one for me and one which I hope will bear abundance and ease for many in the future. I am committed to making my life here and making it beautifully enjoyable and am hoping I don’t need to return to work in the North for at least a year, if ever. Lots of small products and services are in the works to help support livelihoods ... a bit more time and investment and they should start to bear fruit... literally and figuratively!

I injured both my feet on separate occasions, once in town on an iron rod sticking out of the side walk and another on a rusty nail while I was distracted cleaning up the debris here. Neither have slowed me down much but it made me think and appreciate the other things besides work in life.

Bluff beach on the 3rd of December

I took a day of r&r (rest and relaxation) on Jessies birthday. We rode bicycles to the beach and we all hung out in Bocas town after 6!! The day was gorgeous and Bluff beach is really nice... actually reminded me of some beaches in Kauai! We will investigate a supposed 45 minute walking path to Bluff from our village through the forest in the coming weeks. Going for a weekly outing to some beach has been put forward as a new tradition that must be practiced!

Despite the good food at the Om East Indian restaurant in town, which I sometimes use as my office, there are some things I miss from India that I just can’t find, like some of you people... and some goodies like dosas – so I have so far experimented with two batches that apparently Jessie and her kids also like. For those unfamiliar, dosa is a style of pancake made of a mix of fermented rice and lentils – so its also a complete protein! We also made coconut cream with local coconuts we harvested that is exquisite, especially in a chocolate milk. Mmmm. Its incredible to me that all the stores sell coconut milk and cream that comes from Asia in cans?! Another opportunity for the community perhaps?

First batch of dosas

Jessie and Keyla have been helping loads, especially with all the painting. We now have a beautiful blue bathroom with it’s matching composting toilet, white walls in the hang out spots and the balcony floor is now a mandarin color and its sealed so there’s no more white dust kicking around!

Bathroom shower

Reducing the number of termites and bats has been a dance we do in waves. The ants for now are less of a problem as they act as a clean up crew... We’ve researched that nematodes can exterminate a population of termites by eating them but haven’t found a way to acquire them yet and the locals here think I am crazy for not using pesticides. Any ‘diy finding the right nematodes’ etc... that any of you have experience with, please let me know.

We have decided to turn one of the rooms into an eco-rental in the near future to off set the expenses in beautifying the base camp until we have many more tribes members joining us to fill the space. Check out the view from the future sleeping quarters in the photo below. And see some of the progress from 2 weeks back on videos at: East Side Down , Cleaning Up , Eli of the Jungle & A quick tour of some of the base camp in the last week of November 2019

West view from bedroom

3 weeks back I installed a solar panel that allows us to charge the battery, cell phones and laptops by day and have 4 rooms lit up by night. So far its been working well for us.

Wood concerns in general have taken up a large portion of my daylight hours in the past few weeks. With a large chunk of the house down I have been recuperating wood from the house for repairs, construction and firewood purposes. There is also a giant pile of garbage ready to go to the dump... this will wait however until I have completed rebuilding the East wall.

Cleaning and doing a triage of everything recoverable with Celestino

And just after our last update, I also walked the land with Nyopi and we saw a downed Sapote tree that he estimates de-rooted about 6 months back... it had some termites but most of the wood was good and since I can not invest in a $1000 chainsaw at the moment I commissioned him to cut the wood and save the material for coming projects and business projects here - plus Eli was bugging me for a table, so now we have a rudimentary one!

This wood endeavor has been a steep learning curve and has still cost a bundle - about $600 so far! The wood is still a good deal for its quality and the timing for cutting was dead on but the timing for everything else was a bit off. Also, I had already committed when I realized that it would cost me more than I had planned because the local way of calculating cubed feet for pricing is not scientifically cubed feet at all - I believe its linear actually! Then there was the issue of having someone transport the cut wood out of the jungle, which was looking to cost just as much as cutting did but the guy who took the contract kept bailing on me so instead I have gone with two workers to put the wood upright with spacing, in hopes to cure and dry them in the forest. I have taken some of the pieces back to the house but I don’t have the man power or want to pay for more wood costs if I can help it. Hopefully I will have more hands to share the load in a few months once it dries and becomes lighter to carry out.

Sapote cut and stacked to dry

Ideally we could use more committed tribe members. We will start a Work Away profile soon and see if we can’t drum up more interest from the many travelers whom pass through. Anyway, back to the wood - it is a very beautiful, dense, heavy wood and will need to be turned into usable pieces – some destined for the balconies, some for furniture and others for future projects such as a communal timber frame kitchen on the land or even some for possible sale to recoup costs if other business avenues are not enough to sustain those whom are here. I think my cheapest option will be to get a small chainsaw and order a portable mill (as no one here is familiar with them) and then a planer to do it all ourselves.

Another crazy thing is that the wood in all the hardware stores here is strictly pine and cedro, coming from other places and other countries! Some locals and natives still use the wood from here, which is best for longevity and less costly if you do the work yourself, not to mention better in a global environmental sense. The woods in general in the tropics are super dense and therefore heavy and are not that easy to work with but they last long if you cut them just after the full moon (a period of about a week per month) and let them cure for two months which the remainder of the wood now cut, will do.

Some of the seedlings have sprouted and will soon need to be transplanted and I am refraining from planting much more until the beds and a nursery are in order... that could be weeks from now.

Often the priorities change as things pop up. For example, out of necessity to get on the roof for the solar panel, I built a ladder with some bamboo I had brought down a week earlier as a barrier to the entrance of the land. I then added the remaining good part of the aluminum ladder, the half that was not crushed when the East side of the house came down, to the bamboo ladder to get the 20 feet we needed. That took up half a morning. It is a permanent fixture for now.

Scoring the bamboo ladder

I also experimented on the roof with a ‘too good to be true’ diy signal booster and spent $20 on materials to no avail. Having no internet out here is one of the harder realities. We have no signal on the land and in the village where the house is the signal is super low and spotchy at best. The community will want to have a communication hub at some point and for now it seems its not possible without a $15,000 USD infusion - according to the local internet providers!! If we do have enough signal close by maybe a professional signal booster for $600 could do the trick... but money is tight and I can’t afford to try such things out on a whim. We will continue investigating options and any ideas are welcome. Ideally in the future we will have a fibre optic line as we are opposed to cell towers encroaching our air space.

Two days ago I planted my first plantains on the farm as well as bush whacked some new paths with Celestino, my 26 year old hulk native worker – he is very easy going and we have had a good time together when I hire him. He told me he would join the project - join the tribe but he is only on the island temporarily working for money as he has a place on the mainland with his mother and extended family in a cacao collective.

Exploring new pathways on the land (from closest to farthest Eli, Keyla, Ethan, Ivan)

The wood project has forced me to know the farm better... the land still has potential although parts near the front have almost inaccessible slopes... fortress IPC! The soil needs improvement but this was expected already. Although there is a lot of different things going on, I feel its slowly coming together.

More acquaintances and local friendships have been made in the last weeks too; one family gives us bananas now and then and another one brought us a batch of homemade cookies last week. We have sourced local plantains and citrus fruits and scoped out some of the other fruit trees around and Jessie and her kids are starting to meet other home school and unschool families in the archipelago.

Keyla of the jungle and Celestino guiding us near his village land

If you have enjoyed this update, please thank Jessie for having kick-started the updating process two evenings back. She also started a Facebook page for the project. I am now looking for someone who wants to take care of this whole updating thing altogether.

Loving energy to you,
Your correspondent,
Ivan Tattoli


Older updates can be accessed on our Archived Updates page.