Step Into My Office

My kids confined in boxes but being fed well and they get a daily cleaning.
My kids confined in boxes but being fed well and they get a daily cleaning.

I don’t believe I’ve given you a peephole into my world over here.  I now have a zero minute commute to work which is great!  I open my front door and there I am! No more traffic, lights, groggy people or parking lots.  Above is the lab I go into first thing in the morning to check on the larvae, eggs and pupa that are growing in those boxes and cups.  The table is where I clean boxes, change out food, transfer new kids to their respective boxes or remove pupae for hanging.

The lab i live in for a few hours a day
The lab I live in for a few hours a day

So when I get up and walk out my door, work awaits me.

My house
My house

Here are the grounds:

Looking toward my house from the yard
Looking toward my house from the yard
Casita where the goodies get made during the day
Casita where the goodies get made during the day
Side of the flight house and into the driveway with mountains in the background
Side of the flight house and into the driveway with mountains in the background
Walking in from the parking lot, cafe on left, Flight house on right
Walking in from the parking lot, cafe on left, Flight house on right
View of the mountains from the parking lot
View of the mountains from the parking lot

It’s a big yard, takes a while to water and tend to.  But I saw a cute iguana today by the gate all fat and happy.

Out watering today I saw this little fatty iguana in a tree!  He must've been reall famous because he got down and tried to sneak away from the paparazzi that was me.
Out watering today I saw this little fatty iguana in a tree! He must’ve been real famous because he got down and tried to sneak away from the paparazzi that was me.

Then Fred, our dog, decided to hang out all day.  We often find him at the bar or hanging on main street around the action.  Although we never really SEE him in action, he seems to thrive in chaos.  He is typically horizontal and has really bloodshot eyes.  I saw him trying to pee against a pole the other day and he just stumbled over and didn’t even try.  We’re convinced he has a beer habit.  Or worse.

This is how he looks at any given moment of the day.
This is how he looks at any given moment of the day.

He’s spoiled now (he was a street dog) since I gave up part of my foam mattress topper.  Now his shoulders don’t hurt as bad as laying on hard ground!

Our overly relaxed dog.  We're pretty sure he's an alcoholic.
Our overly relaxed dog. I said we should name him Bed or Dead, not Fred.

Looks comfy, huh?  Spoiled boy.

Speaking of being spoiled, I’m starting to delve into making gelato.  The Sicilian type uses cornstarch which is kind of like eating frozen hot fudge.  Wow…it’s good.  Very creamy texture…silky, almost.  Then I made some the normal way with egg yolks and I did a couple things wrong in the cooling process.  I could feel the ice crystals in it so I’m being FORCED to make it again.  DARN!!!  I did make some mango yogurt popsicles tonight which tasted good in the un frozen form.  We’re hoping these things will sell better than the baked goods.

Mix Mix Stir Stir Married Young It's All a Blur.  These are espresso coffee grinds with the cream, milk and sugar.
Mix Mix Stir Stir Married Young It’s All a Blur. These are espresso coffee grinds with the cream, milk and sugar.
Add that yummy chocolate
Add that yummy chocolate
Mmmm chocolate espresso gelato.  My newest adventure.
Mmmm chocolate espresso gelato. My newest adventure.
Put it in an ice bath minus the ice because i didn't have much of anything
I put it in an ice bath minus the ice because I forgot to make some, so it was just cold water.

You have to mix it up every 45 min or so to keep ice crystals from forming.  I don’t think I mixed it enough times and it didn’t cool down quickly enough,  Lesson learned…next time I’ll do better!

Speaking of chocolate, I’m SUPER excited because I noticed our cacao tree has little flower blooms on the trunk!  That means cacao (chocolate) pods!!  How awesome would that be!?!  Now we’re talking organic chocolate making.  I think I’ve found my calling.  ha!

OOOO we have blooms on our cacao tree which could mean cacao pods one day!!  It's better to fall in chocolate than in love.
OOOO we have blooms on our cacao tree which could mean cacao pods one day!! It’s better to fall in chocolate than in love.
Cutest little flowers EVER
Cutest little flowers EVER

And since we’re already in the flight house, might as well show you what’s going on there too!

I was collecting larvae on the senna and didn’t even notice the two Sulfur’s sitting right in front of me.  Man, nature is freaky.  They really blend into that leaf.  Their babies are a bright yellow then turn green later on.

Sulfer's blending in well on the senna.
Sulfer blending in well on the senna.

Our little morpho’s are growing still:

baby morpho larvae
baby morpho larvae
Me moving the baby caligo larvae to the banana plant with Orlando, the tour guide.
Me moving the baby caligo larvae to the banana plant with Orlando, the tour guide.

Here I am in action moving some baby caligo larvae out into the real world.  We ended up moving them again though because the wind was too rough on them.

So at the end of the day, this is what I see before going into my house:

Whispy clouds with high winds
Whispy clouds with high winds
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More Weird Stuff and a Snake!

Blue Morpho Larvae
Blue Morpho Larvae

We had a butterfly expert come by to consult for a day and he found some neat stuff we overlooked in the flight house!  Above is a large morpho larvae.  He also peered into my cup ‘o Caligo eggs and said matter of factly, ‘Some of those are going to hatch tomorrow’.  I’ve been waiting quite a while now and was starting to get worried.  Sure enough, he was right!  We had about 15 and today we had 6.  More pencil looking larvae.

Caligo larvae
Caligo larvae

Yesterday, we found a LARGE caligo larvae that looks like an alien

Large caligo larvae
Large caligo larvae

then some saddleback moth larvae.  I call them the miniature schnauzers.  They have stinging hairs so best not to touch them.  They turn into quite an ugly moth, but sure do make up for it in the larvae stage!

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I don’t think I ever posted the picture of the dead caligo I found where it best showed its owl face:

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Then my Valentine’s present was finding this sweet little snake in the cafe (luckily after closing time!).  I have no clue what kind it is and at first he got defensive and flattened out his neck.  I calmed him down and then he seemed to play dead, but I think he was just dizzy.  We talked for a while and I let him go in the empty lot next door.  What a cutie!!

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Growing Like Weeds!

Baby blue morpho larvae
Baby blue morpho larvae

Last I left you, we had morpho eggs…that’s turned into a LOT these past couple of weeks.  Over 800 of them!  Those butterflies have been keeping busy, if you know what I mean!  So above is one of the little kids with a neat haircut and striped candy cane looking body.   This guy is itsy bitsy!  I have to scoop them up with a paintbrush and transfer them to a box with leaves in it and let them grow for a few days.  It takes quite a while to do when you have about 45-50 hatching per day.  Here’s a video I did on one of the babies emerging from its egg:

They grow almost right before your eyes each time I look at them!  These were from a couple of days later:

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We moved them outside onto the host plant growing on the side of the house and put a big net around them to keep them safe.  Today, when I went to go add more to one of the bags, I noticed this one with a big red fluffy head and little tufts of hair appearing on its back.  How cute!!!

P1030961They apparently take 11 weeks to feed before turning into a pupae.  Hope we have enough plants!

Another species we have a lot of lately are battus polydamas.  These I find very interesting because unlike the other caterpillars, these guys don’t fight with each other.  They actually like to hang out all the time and stay very close together as they grow.  They turn into gold rim swallowtail butterflies.  Their eggs are laid in bunches, which is also unlike others I’ve seen where eggs are laid apart from one another.  I guess this is why they like to stick together.

Battus polydamas eggs and larvae
Battus polydamas eggs and larvae

In this photo, the eggs are yellow and those little brown things are the larvae.  Notice how the two are hanging out together by the dime then further to the left, you see seven or eight hanging out also.  You can click on the photo to enlarge it. These guys kind of creep us out because honestly, they’re not that attractive.  When they get big and we pick them up to get them to a new plant, they’re soft and squishy and they stick onto you pretty good.  As Woody Allen would say, ‘It’s like something you’d find in a live bait shop’.

Battus brothers and sisters
Battus brothers and sisters

Speaking of not being attractive, this is a newly formed pupae that looks like another piece of bait.  I call them the shrimpy guys.

P1030958At this stage, I wait for them to ‘cure’ a bit.  They turn darker and get a really neat gold/green metallic stripe on part of it.  Using a dental tool, I carefully peel up the silk that is attached to the top of it, then hot glue that part to a piece of cardboard to let hang in its box until it emerges.

Butterfly Haven Panama will be open to the public this Thursday, February 13, 2014!  Hopefully things go smoothly and we get a lot of great responses from visitors!

Now, on to some comic relief from the local grocery store.  We were literally laughing out loud in the aisle today after seeing this on the shelf:

IMG-20140210-01390A whole row of insane prices followed like this Sushi rice:

IMG-20140210-01391I can’t imagine anyone would pay that much for these things.  So that led to me, once again, pointing out how much things cost.  Typically, Panama is WAY cheaper than Costa Rica in terms of grocery items, but some things will never change:

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Frosted Flakes
Frosted Flakes
52 processed cheese slices
52 processed cheese slices
Imported cream
Imported cream
No more than 6 or 7 slices inside
No more than 6 or 7 slices inside

Hey, I’m just happy to have a really nice cheese selection here.  It’s not super cheap, but it’s affordable enough.

Here’s a nice sunset view from the hills of El Valle.

Sunset in El Valle de Anton, Panama
Sunset in El Valle de Anton, Panama