13 July 2014

Big Dog, Bigger Tree

Blue is a good sized Red Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) but he looks tiny beside the huge tree in my yard, about 300 feet from the house.

All 4 of the dogs and I again recently explored the river about 6 km down the road (see previous post).  

On another short adventure, Blue and Rex (the really big dog) went with 2 other men and myself a short distance up the park trail toward Volcan Baru volcano.  The dogs were concerned when I stopped to rest and the other guys went on ahead.  So first Rex and then Blue stayed with me (without asking) as the other dog went on ahead with my companions.  They are very protective of me and I appreciate their concern.

So far the rainy season has been short on rain and long on clouds.  Good weather for photography.

01 June 2014

Sniffin' New Photo Sites

It was a sunny Sunday morning after 2 inches of rain yesterday.  So, the 4 dogs and I decided to go to one of the rivers nearby and sniff out some new sites for my Photo Adventures.  

Below, Blue and Sol discuss the possibilities, while Rex sniffs ahead.  Later we found some really large rocks that move down the river when it floods.  We had a great morning!  I hope that you have a nice day also. 

08 May 2014

Going Bananas

I've just eaten the first banana from one of the trees in my own yard.  It was small to middle sized, sweet and delicious.  I live on the side of Volcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Panama.  I'm at 4,700 ft. ASL and the top of the mountain is 11,400 ft.

It is really too high and cool to grow bananas at my place.  However, a part-time worker transplanted five banana trees 3 or 4 years ago.  The first tree to produce was blown down by a gust from a freak wind storm before the fruit could mature.  The second bunch has been hanging on another tree for several months.  It takes a long time for them to mature, especially at higher altitudes.

Two and one-half weeks ago a local friend pronounced this bunch ready and cut it off of the tree.  I hung the stalk on the back porch.  They were very green and I thought that they would never ripen. However, today I noticed that many are showing some yellow.  There are over 40 bananas on the stalk.  The question now is; what do I do with so many?  Anyone want to come down and make a banana creme pie?  Fried bananas?  Banana pudding?  A banana and peanut butter sandwich?  A banana split?  Ideas ??

I don't think that my 4 dogs will be able to help, so come on down. I'll even meet you at the airport in David, Panama; 45 miles from here. Oh, and bring your camera because you'll hate yourself if you forget it.

21 April 2014

Progress at Casa Jay

I have made quite a bit of progress in the past two months.  The carport & one meter wide roof extension over the front of the house is complete.  Also, the new radio tower is up and fully functional.

As usual, the dogs insist that I walk with them every day, so I get some good exercise.  The "Green Season" has begun again.  We should have some rain almost every day for the next eight months.  It's what keeps the lush tropical vegetation growing and green.

I have some more projects, as always, for the house.  However, almost all of them can be easily accomplished during the rainy season. 

I keep promising myself that I'll spend more time on photography, but it seldom seems to work out that way. I did go with a group of friends to the "highest waterfall in Panama" in early January.  Here is one of the pictures that I took on that trip.  Enjoy...

06 February 2014

Time Flies When You're Busy

Well, another year in my corner of Paradise.  My dog pack is now complete at 4 amigos. They are great companions and keep bad people away.  They even allow me to live in the big dog house with them, although the 'doggie door' is a bit small for me.  

The new dog, Rex, has been a handful!  First I raised the fence from 5' to 7.5' because he was jumping over the fence and following me every time that I left the house.  That didn't help as he simply jumped as high as he could, then pushed himself up over the top.  I tried tying him up when I left and he simply slipped out of the collar or harness.   I finally had to get a special wide, nylon collar that he could not escape from.

I greatly dislike tying my dogs up so I then got a 'pet friendly' electric fence charger.  With both top & bottom perimeter wires Rex stays in the yard when I am gone. 

A firth dog, Blackie, came to the property about two months ago.  I didn't know at first, but he stayed behind the house for 3 or 4 days without me feeding him.  Persistence pays!  I finally began feeding him and took him into the pack.  He was a great, loving dog and minded well.  However, he attacked Rex three times in three weeks causing injuries each time.  So we found him a good new home.  Five dogs was simply too many in any case.  

I still have too many projects and not enough time for all of them.  We are in the dry season until mid-April and I had hoped to get a carport built this year.  I would also like to get the stone face on the outside of my living room.  And tile on the living room floor.  And ...

In the mean time, my friends Bruce & Barbara Miller from New Mexico moved into their new place about 5 miles south of me.  They are both ham radio operators and they brought two towers with them.  One of the towers is now on blocks in my backyard, so I will soon have two tall radio towers here.  Putting up the tower and transferring the antenna and cables requires a lot of time.  This will detract from my other projects.

I am looking forward to another Photo Adventure, http://www.jaymills.org/main/page_photo_adventures.html  in early April.  We should not have much rain, so hiking and other travel will be easier.  Things will not be as green as other times and some of the waterfalls may have less water, but we will find interesting things to photograph as always.

I sold a small lot at the 'street' end of my second lot to friends who are building a small house there.  It should be complete in another 6 weeks.  I will be glad to have someone nearby to watch my dogs and property when I am away.  I still have 4 lots for sale that are about 7/10 acre each (2,850 m3).  

I hope to keep this blog more up to date in the future.  But, no promises.   

26 February 2013

Dry Season Happenings

First, the 3 dogs and I are doing great at Casa Jay in the mountains of western Panama.  It is dry season here and the locals call it "Summer", although we are still in the Northern Hemisphere and technically in the middle of winter.

I have a number of projects that I had intended to do during the 4 months when very little rain falls.  Some of them will get done and some will wait until later.  I have a number of small concrete projects and I'll get started on them soon.  

However, washing and repainting the roof is the most urgent project.  I bought a high pressure washer today.  After the roof, the entire outside of the house needs to get at least one coat of new paint.  I am also planning a carport to provide shelter from the rain for my pickup.

For amateur radio I need to get my big radio tower properly grounded for lightning.  I will also need to run the present above-ground wiring from the tower to the house in metal pipe underground.

I have put interior trim items for the house on hold, as yet another craftsman has broken his promise to fashion wooden door and window trip. 

A couple who are good friends of mine will become my close neighbors in a few months.  They are buying the front part on my 2nd lot near the house.  The 2nd lot contains a row of trees and I had never intended to sell that lot, only the 4 lots farther down the road.  They will not cut too many trees and will not block my view down to the Pacific.  The great thing for me is that I will have neighbors that I can trust.  They will watch my house and care for my dogs when I am not at home.

Cheers from Jay, Blue, Luna, and Sol.


18 January 2013

R.I.P. Athena - You went out with dignity!

I have lost the second dog in just over a year.  Athena came to live with me and my other 2 dogs at the time, Rosie and Blue, almost 3 years ago.  She was  gentle soul with a deep, disturbing bark.  However, at my house she never tried to bite anyone.  When Athena came to us she was between 10 and 12 years old.  

She had some health problems but generally enjoyed life.  Right up to the end she stood up for herself with the other dogs.  She even teased and played with Blue, Luna and Sol as recently as a few days ago.

Athena liked her naps but she was always ready to go for our walks 3 times a day.  She was gentle and loving, seeming to savor her "retirement" here at Casa Jay.

Yesterday she went on our short morning walk and had breakfast as usual.  She took a nap and then continued sleeping most of the day.  She did not respond to our usual lunchtime treat, nor to our afternoon walk.  She made it clear that she just wanted to be left alone.  She didn't eat dinner, but did drink some water.  Around 9 p.m. she got up, went outside and drank some more water.  Sometime overnight she died as she had lived, quietly and with dignity.   Blue, Luna, Sol and I will miss you!

21 December 2012

End of the Mayan Calendar -- Happy New Year!

Well, here it is the end of the Mayan Calendar....so Happy New Baktun!

It has been a busy year at Casa Jay.  November of 2011 was a very sad time as I lost Rosie, one of my 3 dogs at the time.  In March I acquired Luna, a year-old Yellow Lab mix to come and be our third dog again. Luna is a bundle of energy but very sweet and intelligent.

By July our pack had grown to 4.  Sol, another Yellow Lab mix was visiting the neighbor's dairy across the road one Sunday morning and apparently "wore out his welcome" quickly.  When Blue and I saw him he was running toward the main road.  He stopped at the main road and Blue went down to get acquainted.  Apparently Sol liked what he heard and came home with Blue.  He was dirty and thin as all strays are.  After 2 baths, flea powder, and a checkup at the Vet's he joined our happy band.  Sol and Luna have been almost inseparable since.

Below is a picture of Blue, Luna, and Sol.  Athena, the Rottweiler, was napping as usual.
This picture was taken while I was in San Jose, Costa Rica for an eye surgery in September.  Everything turned out fine and I was able to make my scheduled trip to FL, TN, and KS in October.  I had a great time visiting with friends and family, but I'm really glad to be home again.

For Christmas I will spend a pleasant afternoon with several friends in Cerro Punta, about 12 miles from my house.  We will have a delicious dinner and good conversation.

There is not much new to report on my house.  The lower house is 90% complete, just some trim and a carport to finish.  I may or may not build the larger "Gringo" 2 bedroom house that goes above this that was / is to be on one level and drive-up, wheel-chair accessible.

On January 19, 2013 I will have 20 or 30 or more friends over for an afternoon cook out, Gringo style.  This is the annual birthday party that I throw for myself.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Panama.


28 April 2012

A New Dog at Casa Jay

 This is Luna.  She is about one year old and is the latest member of our "family" here at Casa Jay, in the mountains of western Panama.  One of the nice things about living out in the countryside is that I have space for my dogs to run and play without bothering anyone else.

Luna is mainly (entirely?) a Golden Labrador 'big puppy' who came to live with me and my other two dogs a few weeks ago.  She is completely lovable and fully of energy, but still with the puppy habits of chewing and digging.

She is very happy with the other dogs and plays with Blue, my Red Heeler, most of the time. They are almost the same size and virtually the same weight.  She is a smart dog and wants to please, as most dogs do.

We went to the vet yesterday to get exams and booster shots for all 3 dogs.  Tomorrow we will begin all-out-war on our flea infestation ... and we will win!

Take care and be happy; wherever you are.

23 December 2011

A Time to Reflect

Well, another year is almost done and I am still happily living in my personal paradise in Panama. It has been almost 5 years since I first came to visit the Volcan area in western Panama, near Costa Rica. The picture above, with text and drawings, shows my new, giant wire antenna for ham radio. It allows me to talk more easily to friends in Japan, Europe and Australia - New Zealand than before.

In the past five years I have met many wonderful people (and a few stinkers, just like anywhere else). I have lived in a rented house in the city and walked, or taken a bus or taxi everywhere that I wanted or needed to go. I have lived in the city and driven almost everywhere, and now I live in the country about 3.5 miles from Volcan. I have a pickup but there is also bus and taxi service out here. Everything, including building my house for several months has been a positive experience.

There have been challenges and disappointments, however probably less so than in the U.S. I am quite happy talking on amateur (ham) radio almost every day and I am still doing some photography in the mountains, valleys, and beaches of Panama.

In early September I rode the bus to Panama City to visit with friends who were visiting from Florida. We had a good dinner and a great visit before I came home the following day.

Sadly, I lost one of my 3 dogs in early November (see article below). The other 2 dogs are great company and do a great job of protecting the place. They also take me for a walk 3 times a day.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with a small group of Gringo friends in Volcan and will join them again for Christmas dinner. In January I will have a party at my house for 25 to 40 Gringo and local friends to celebrate my 71st birthday. We'll have a picnic with hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and potato salad. Several people will also bring deserts. This will be 3rd annual gathering here.

This is also the time of year when I miss my family the most. My daughter, her husband and the triplet grandchildren are still in Nashville. I hope to visit them sometime during 2012.

Happy Holidays to all from Panama!

20 October 2011

"Jailbreak" Rosie - R.I.P.

This is a picture of Rosie. She was an escape artist to rival Harry Houdini! Even when she lost the use of her rear legs she still managed 3 "jailbreaks", ending up out of the fence and at the main road 150 feet away on two occasions.

Rosie was a "street dog". She lived most of her 13 plus years on the streets of Volcan in Chiriqui Province, western Panama. She had countless litters of puppies, some of whom have grown to be much larger than she was. She was able to escape from almost anywhere and so lived an independent life, even while claiming residence with me and my other two dogs.

Blue, my Red Heeler, and I took Rosie in about 3 years ago. Some wonderful folks had "rescued" her from a life of promiscuity and almost constant pregnancy. She became so possessive of them that she became a problem. She was a sweet dog but somewhat reserved until she got to know you...maybe 2 or 3 months. She was also very vocal and consistent about guarding "her home".

Rosie spent most of her life outdoors and that continued with me. My dogs have a "doggie door" so that they can go into the fenced back yard at anytime. Rosie took advantage of that fact quite often to slide her 22 inch high shoulders sideways under the chain-link fence to join me in the front yard, or to simply go on what the Aussies call a "Walkabout". She did this on a regular basis for the 2 years since we moved to our new house in the countryside.

She suddenly came down in pain and could not stand on her back legs on October 15. The pain went away in a couple of hours and we gave her intensive, around-the-clock care. She fought hard to recover, but she lost the battle 19 days later when we had to end her suffering.

She was the sweetest, most interesting, independent and loving dog that I have ever known. She will be sorely missed by myself, Andrea, Blue and Athena.

21 April 2011

Easter and Some Things Finished

It's almost Easter and I am happy to report that a couple of major tasks have been completed since I last updated this blog.

First, all of the ceilings are complete in the house. It is much more comfortable as well as more pleasing to look at. By the way, the 3 dogs don't seem to care as long as their dogie door works properly.

And, more importantly, the mobile crane came two weeks ago and lifted over 1,000 pounds of steel into an upright position to complete my 65 foot radio tower. I have included a montage of images. Pictures are: tower ready, truck ready, still ready, diesel problems, top 40 ft. going up, rigger bolting together, rigger at center of tower, house roof below truck bed, waiting for SteppIR beam, and 3 amigos on watch.

Take care, be well and be happy!

12 October 2010

Three Years in Paradise

This month marks 3 years of living in the beautiful mountains of western Panama. Many have asked if I am happy with my decision to retire here. The answer is yes! There are some minor frustrations with living in a different culture but they are more than made up in the economic advantages, the great living conditions and the friendly people. However, if you need your country club and gated community, this is not the place. If you have a very large budget try Boquete, just around the mountain.

If you have read my blog you know that I am retired (almost). What that means in a practical sense is that I do not have time for anything! Don't misunderstand, I'm perfectly happy doing nothing, but that is not the current situation.

First, there is the urgent need to finish the ceilings in the house. I need to cut down on the number of cubic feet that I have to dehumidify during the green (rainy) season. I have managed to get the ceiling and exhaust fan installed in the bathroom. And, I just finished putting the ceiling in the bedroom / workroom, so now on to the kitchen and living room.

Second, I need to put about 18 cubic meters of concrete in the ground behind the house for the base of my ham radio tower. The hole needs to be enlarged a small amount and the reinforcing bars installed. Then the concrete must be mixed and poured.

Third, after 21 months of building (with a little time off for other things) I am ready for a break. I want to operate more ham radio again and get out into the countryside, or just out on my property, to take more photographs.

Fourth, as there is interest I want to get back to taking individuals or small groups out on Photo Adventure Tours.

Fifth, when there is nothing else urgent, I want to spend more time running and playing with the dogs.

.... Then I will rest for awhile and find more interesting things to do with my time.

A wise person once said; "Happiness is not getting what you want; it is wanting what you get." I believe it. Be well and be happy wherever you are!

08 June 2010

Life is Slow...the Way Retirement Should Be

The Three Amigos

Some of you have been wondering what has happened to me. Well, the answer is "not much really" except for taking visiting Gringos around the area which is something that I enjoy.

I have been working on the inside of the house as the mood struck me. I have painted the living room and bathroom. I am now ready to paint some more rooms...when the mood strikes.

I am now owned by 3 dogs. I arrived in Panama with my mostly (Scott!) faithful dog Blue. A year and a half ago we took in a female Panamanian rescue who is still somewhat of a "street" dog. Rosie disappears for a few hours at at time, but always comes home when she is ready.

The newest member of our kennel is Athena, a Rottweiler who a local could no longer keep. She is also a sweet dog and has been with us for about 6 weeks. They are all friends with the understanding that Blue is the Alpha Dog. I would like to think that I am the Alpha, but it is simply not true.

The pack is a bit oversize for my liking but we are doing well. They are great watch dogs yet friendly when I am home to OK visitors. They live in the house and still have the run of the fenced yard.

A friend will stay at the house and take care of the place while I visit family and friends in the U.S. for the first time in almost 3 years. I will travel North in July for about 10 days.

24 February 2010

House Mostly Finished

Well, the house is mostly finished. I have a little inside electrical wiring to finish, then paint the inside walls and install the ceilings. A heating system is not needed and the air conditioning is generally to open a window or two. For dehumidifying and a small amount of cooling I have a small window air conditioner near the back door ... on the left in the picture above.

It has taken just over a year to reach this stage with timeouts for surgery, recovery and waits for workers to become available. My two dogs and I are quite comfortable and I've already had my first guest who was here for about a week. So I do have room for company to stay with me.

Work on my ham radio tower has reached the point that I am ready to bolt 60 feet of it together and stand it up in the 10 ft. deep hole for the base. We will put steel reinforcing rods around the base and pour a lot of concrete into the hole. After 30 days we will remove the supporting wires and the tower will stand on its own. I have other plans for wire antennas for the ham bands but they will have to wait for some of the house projects to get completed first.

The party celebrating my birthday was a great success with more than 25 people enjoying food and fellowship. The weather was so pleasant that everyone mostly sat outside and visited. There was a good mix of local and Gringo guests. A good time was had by all!

I am hoping to visit friends and family in the U.S. later this year. I'll have to see how the plans develop over time.

Please note: I am sorry to report that I have had to "moderate" comments on this site. This means that I receive comments by e-mail before they appear here. This is due to some commercial companies trying to promote their products in sneaky ways ... and people with personal agendas that have nothing to do with this site trying to use the comments as a place to rant and rave.

Be well and happy... and let me hear from you.

15 January 2010

Life is good in Panama

I enjoyed Christmas Dinner with Gringo friends in Volcan. My grandchildren's birthday is just passed also, and I miss seeing them on a regular basis like I did when I only lived 3 miles away.

My birthday is coming up in a couple of days and quite a number of my new Panamanian friends, neighbors, and Gringo friends are coming over for an afternoon cookout on the following Saturday afternoon. As the 4 month dry season seems to be in full swing, I would expect good weather. The daytime high will undoubtedly be 78 F so a good day to be outside and/or inside in the mountains of western Panama.

Speaking of Gringos, one of my old friends from Nashville, TN will be arriving next week just in time to bring me birthday (& Christmas) gifts from the U.S.

The house is progressing nicely, albeit slowly. We are finishing the plaster facing for the inside walls in the next few days. The two outside walls with concrete blocks were faced with plaster this past week. The plumbing is complete and the major electrical circuits are in. I still need interior doors and the dropped ceiling installed but that will come with time. We will begin part of the painting in the next couple of days and finish in 2 or 3 weeks.

Ham radio has taken a "back seat" to construction and finishing of the house, however I have managed to talk to several hams around the world in the past 3 or 4 weeks. My Internet service is generally reliable but some tree limbs were interfering with the wireless signal. We managed to trim them today so things should be back to normal on the "net".

Personal responses and topics of interest to blog readers are welcome here. However, I have had to moderate comments due to a couple of rude abusers, personal and commercial, so comments do not appear immediately.

All the best from my corner of Paradise!

12 December 2009

Milestones - New House

I have two milestones to report today from my new home in Volcan, Chiriqui Province, Panama. The first is really from yesterday. A couple of helpers and I hauled the final load of stuff from my rented house in Volcan to the new house. This follows a month of trips spanning the 5 miles between houses. The very heavy radio tower will have to wait for appropriate help before moving to the new place.

The other important event was that I was able to take my first nice warm shower at the new house today. (No pictures of this event.) No, I have not waited for over a month to bathe! Since I was still paying rent, I have been using the electric "suicide" shower at the old place. I now have a propane fired demand hot water heater and it works great. I'm still working on the other plumbing but a working toilet and shower were first.

I only have a temporary wire antenna up for the 75 meter ham band but it is working great. I have talked to Korea, Japan, the Middle-East, Europe, Australia, and the U.S. in the past month in the early mornings and late evenings when not working on the house.

Happy Holidays to everyone from Panama!

10 November 2009

Moving to New House

Well, I'm finally moving to the new house this week. It is not "completely finished" but it is close enough for the 2 dogs and I to enjoy the country life after the confines of the city.

Actually, Volcan, Chiriqui Province, Republic of Panama is just a quiet ranching and farming community in the mountains of far western Panama. However, we will be much happier with more "room to roam" in the country three miles from town. We will not have to be quite so careful of traffic when we walk in the evenings and there is seldom any traffic at all during our early morning walks. Our neighbors across the road run a small dairy and the lady makes very good white cheese that she shares with me in exchange for letting a couple of their cows graze near my house.

The dogs have finally learned to stay on the property and they are very protective of their "turf". I hope to have Internet connected this week and be able to use my ham radios again soon. I will continue to work on the house and it will be much easier when I am there full time.

Best Regards from Panama!

01 September 2009

Recovering from Surgery - House on Hold

Well, I am recovering nicely as it has been 17 days since my surgery. I have been out to the new house 2 or 3 times, but I am not yet cleared to "lift" and work. I have been about 1 month from moving in for the past 3 months and the estimate has not changed much.

There are not too many things to finish before the 2 dogs and I will be able to live in the house. It will not be finished and "pretty", but should be a fine place for us to live while I finish everything. The current estimate is near the end of October (next month).

The absence of city noise will be a blessing and the dogs want to move today! It also seems to be a very good location for amateur radio operation just like the 2 previous locations that I have had in the Volcan area. Since I border a small stream with a "mini-Rain Forest" environment I expect to take lots of pictures of Orchids, birds, the occasional monkey and other wildlife.

Best Regards from Volcan, Chiriqui Province, Republic of Panama

20 August 2009

Personal Timeout from Building

Well, it's been a while since I have taken time to post here. I'm still alive and soon-to-be well in Panama. Someone recently send me an e-mail with the phrase "Old Age Ain't for Sissies".

Just this week I found out that it is true. I had to go to a local hospital for emergency surgery to remove a "hot" appendix. Then I spent three days in the hospital with IV antibiotics to take care of the infection from the leaking appendix. It was not a pleasant experience! The surgery and medical follow-up were first rate, but concern for other people's comfort is not part of the local culture. I am very happy and grateful to be recovering at home now with many local friends helping out.

My new house that has been one month from being finished (for the past four months) will have to wait until I am fully recovered from the surgery, physically and financially. Maybe I'll be able to move in by the end of October.

People often ask me, "Why Panama?" Well, in the mountains of western Panama I have 75-80 degree days and about 55 degrees at night year round with no tornadoes, hurricanes, snow storms and few prairie fires. We do have plenty of rain (Tropics) and the occasional mild earthquake (living less than 9 miles from Volcan Baru volcano). The volcano is dormant and supposed to stay that way for another 150 to 200 years.

So, having survived the surgery and hospital stay, I can now say without reservation: "Old age ain't for sissies" nor is it for the faint of heart.

Best Regards (73 to my ham friends),


10 May 2009

Busy Times

These are busy times for me. I am building a new home and construction is slow due to having to build for the future house that goes on top of the lower section. I will move into the lower portion of the house, about 1,100 sq. ft., later this summer.

I had hoped to attend my high school reunion in Kansas this month (May), but I will not be able to leave during this phase of construction. I will reschedule my trip to the U.S. for later this year or early next year.

My two dogs go out to the site quite often and they both approve of the move. All of us are looking forward to the freedom from noise, traffic and crowds of the city.

The great news is that the paving of the 5 km. (3 miles) of road to Volcan is complete and I can be at the 24 hr. supermarket in 10 minutes. My photography and ham radio have been limited due to a 5 1/2 day work week on the house. I am very happy with my decision to relocate to the mild climate of the mountains of western Panama. My best regards to everyone ... be well and prosper!