Finca ViVerde is Born

By Diane

Have you been wondering what the heck we are up to here in Granada? Well, turns out, lots! We are now the proud owners of a 15 acre finca (Spanish for farm) with giant trees, fruit orchards, two houses (rustic but nice), infrastructure such as an 85 meter deep well (needs a pump), rainwater catchment system (needs work), city water and electricity, previous animal structures in various states of disrepair that will be perfect for developing volunteer housing/hangout areas, and many birds, butterflies, and a climate cooler than Granada proper.  We are only 2 miles from Granada, 20 minutes by bicycle.

After much research and many trips visiting properties with our local realtor, Carlos (who speaks very good English and “got” what we were looking for), and much deliberation, we tried very hard to “not leave our brains behind when buying property in a foreign county.” Brett and Nathan helped us choose the property and we all believe it was just waiting for us and will be perfect for our project. The previous owner, Yvan, who now resides in France, purchased the property twenty years ago when in his early twenties, and he planted hundreds of trees, now mature, with the idea of developing a place for people to retreat in a delightful rural environment. We had the pleasure of meeting him and his family recently while he is visiting his mother in Nicaragua. He spent much time with us, identifying trees, discussing water systems, sharing his story and his love for the property.

Previous owner Yvan and wife Delphine

Previous owner Yvan and wife Delphine

It is a beautiful place. There is much to do and if you know us, you know we love fix-it-up projects, and we can now do them in the shade and beauty of all those trees.

Brett and Nathan spent the month of June in Costa Rica, she getting her permaculture design certification and he at a cacao farm (yes, he knows a lot now about processing chocolate and yes, he brought back a pod from which we have 33 healthy plants.) Brett’s teacher, Chris Shanks, is a renowned permaculture specialist who has a farm, Bona Fide, on the island of Ometepe (a wonderful island formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua). We hired Chris to visit and assess our property, give us advice on how to tackle things like rebuilding the perimeter fence, revitalizing the orchards, and clearing so we can plant new fruit trees, shrubs and vegetables to meet our needs. We got a good report card (tons of organic matter, lots to work with) and advice that will save us mucho time and money. Brett is working on a permaculture plan for our place under his ongoing guidance. We have two teams working on rebuilding our living fence. They will meet in the middle of the back side in approximately two weeks. We had some “milpa” beds dug with serious swales, they have been mulched, manure added (it comes from the dairy farm next door), vetiver grass planted to retain soil and water.

One of our first tasks in June was planting forty banana trees and they grow fast! We have a nursery now with trees and shrubs and plants we bought, started from cuttings, and grew from seed. Brett and Nathan are in the US now for four months, visiting family and friends and then working a season of the Naturalist At Large program in California. They will be back in December to move the finca to the next level. In the mean time, no shortage of activity. We are moving at the end of August from our rental house in the city to the farm, with grandma, caregivers, and all. Much, much to do to get our new home ready but we cannot wait.

See photos below.

Front of the main house

Front of the main house

Gerard and Nathan on the back porch

Gerard and Nathan on the back porch

Rustic outdoor kitchen

Rustic outdoor kitchen

Toilets and showers

Toilets and showers

Well and adjacent water reservoir

Well and adjacent water reservoir

Tumble-down house (future volunteer pad)

Tumble-down house (future volunteer pad)

One of the animal structures to be converted to volunteer quarters

Animal structure to be converted to volunteer quarters

Digging banana circles

Digging banana circles

Banana circle six weeks later

Banana circle six weeks later

Planting vetiver grass in milpa beds

Gerard planting vetiver grass in milpa beds

Diane labeling plants for the nursery

Diane labeling plants for the nursery

Fence team #1: Juan Lopez, Juan Sanchez

Fence team #1: Juan Lopez, Juan Sanchez

Fence team #2: Juan and son Ervin Garcia

Fence team #2: Juan and son Ervin Garcia

Farm’s Latitude: 11.917435 deg.; Longitude: -85.985989 deg.

 

A Week’s Venture in Northern Nicaragua

By Nathan Page

A little over a month ago, Brett and I spent a week exploring the more mountainous regions of Northern Nicaragua.  Our first destination was the breezy, caffeine-fueled city of Matagalpa.

A map of the three Major cities we visited on our trip!

A map of the three major cities we visited on our trip!

Matagalpa:

We took the bus up early in the morning, hoping to get up to Matagalpa by nightfall.  The bus schedule showed no direct buses and we figured it would be a complicated ordeal.  Mysteriously, when we arrived at the bus stop there was a bus going directly to Matagalpa that no one had heard of…  It was dubbed, “the miracle bus.”

The bus ride was full of mountainous terrain with low-lying clouds fighting to escape from the valleys containing them.  We arrived at Matagalpa before noon and set out to find a literal and proverbial place to hang our hats.  We were immediately struck by the kindness of the locals asking if they could help us find something or offer us directions.

The mountians surrounding Matagalpa

The mountains surrounding Matagalpa

Matagalpa is a region known for its temperate climate (by Nicaraguan standards) and its ideal coffee-growing conditions.  There are several large farms as well as small cooperatives that produce some of the finest organic and conventional coffee in the world.   Brett and I had a chance to visit one of these plantations known as Selva Negra.  They produce and import coffee directly to the United States to a small vendor you may recognize… “Trader Joe’s,” I believe?   In addition to coffee, they also have a world-class Eco-Lodge with several miles of hiking trails and beautifully maintained gardens.

Living gazebo at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation

Living gazebo at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation

The gorgious, orchid adorned church in at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation.

The gorgeous, orchid adorned church at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation.

Brett doing, "the goose" at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation

Brett doing “the goose” at Selva Negra Coffee Plantation.

Brett gazing at a map of Northern Nicaragua

Brett trying to untangle the many roads and trails winding through Northern Nicaragua.

Lookin good in the bottom left...

Lookin good in the bottom left…

I loved the hostel bunny in Matagalpa

I loved the hostel bunny in Matagalpa

Jinotega:

After our 2-night stint in Matagalpa, we ventured even farther north to the town of Jinotega.  Jinotega is a long and slender town, steadily expanding from the valley floor, encroaching on steep slopes on either side.   We stayed at a permaculture-inspired farm known as “Biosferia” and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset & fine company. We then ventured out to an agricultural trade school that also had a eco-lodge as a part of its diversified revenue sources.  The lodge was a bit difficult to get to and involved a 5km walk up a dirt road; eventually we reached the center and boy, was it a view.  The light was especially brilliant reflected off of Brett’s radiant face.

Brett walking down the magical road towards Jinotega

Brett walking down the magical road towards Jinotega

The jungle of Northern Jinotega from the Agricultural School's Eco-Lodge

The jungle of northern Jinotega seen from the agricultural school’s eco-lodge.

Brett glowing in Jinotega

Brett glowing in Jinotega

Reflecting at the Eco-Lodge in Jinotega

Reflecting at the Eco-Lodge in Jinotega

HUGE boulder and cave full of fruit bats at Biosfera

HUGE boulder and cave full of fruit bats at Biosfera

Enjoying coffee on the front porch of Biosfera

Enjoying coffee on the front porch of Biosfera

Travel Tip:

All buses in Nicaragua have seats for approximately 40 people. A bus is not considered “full” until the isle is full of people, the headspace is full of people and there are three layers of kids sitting on top each other giggling. Nicas laugh at a bus’s supposed “full capacity” and pack at least 50 people into all that “wasted” space.  We experienced this situation for a total of about 20 hours during this trip.  All you can do is laugh and take shallow breaths. :) 

Sunset over looking Jinotega

Sunset over looking Jinotega

Esteli:

Our last stop was in a beautiful cowboy-inspired town of Esteli.  The town of Esteli is known for its “world class tobacco” that supposedly rivals Cuban tobacco in quality.  However, valuing our lungs and Diane’s approval, we abstained from trying this local commodity.   We had some delicious meals from a local organic café and walked through the various leather-working shops that make Esteli famous.

Provocative murals in Esteli

Provocative murals in Esteli

An interesting sidewalk in Esteli. With one side heavily contrasted by the other.

An interesting sidewalk in Esteli with one side heavily contrasted by the other.

On our way back to Granada we had the opportunity to meet up with a group of students and faculty from our Alma Mater!  We met a group of Pacific Lutheran University students and Dr. Mulder in the capital city, Managua. They were on their way back from a truly amazing project helping a small village in Nicaragua receive reliable drinking water.   They had fantastic stories to tell and we loved hearing their enthusiasm for Nicaragua and their positive experience.  Proud to be Lutes!

We made it back to Granada weary, yet thoroughly satisfied, knowing a little more about the beautiful and diverse country we are currently calling home!

 

 

Grandma joins us in Granada

By Diane

Since we last posted, much has happened.

First, a news flash:  Brett and Nathan were featured in the most recent issue of Pacific Lutheran University’s PLU News. We are very proud of them.  http://www.plu.edu/news/2014/04/centralamerica/home.php

My mother, Edna, joined us in Granada, Nicaragua in early April.  I went back to Portland for the latter part of March to arrange her affairs, move her out of her assisted living, and fly back with her to the capital city of Managua.  Here in Granada our beautiful rental house has plenty of space to move around, we are taking turns preparing delicious nutritious meals, and we have hired two wonderful caretakers to help us with Edna. Dina is from Corn Island in the Carribbean (part of Nicaragua).  She is very stylish, speaks both English and Spanish fluently, AND she makes us whole wheat bread every week.

Caregiver Dina with Edna

Caregiver Dina with Edna

Esmeralda is from Granada and she just graduated from law school; she also works part-time for our friend Carol while waiting for a professional job (unemployment is very high). She is very good for our Spanish, because she patiently listens while we formulate sentences and she corrects our mistakes ever so gently.  She is too shy to speak English with us but I hear her speaking it with Edna; somehow they are communicating.  We are blessed to have them both!

 

Esmeralda

Caregiver Esmeralda

To give you a look at Granada from grandma’s perspective, read below an email she sent to some friends and family (Brett as ghostwriter):

 

Granada has its own personality. It is an old colonial town, colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s. There are impressive government buildings surrounding a central park as well as the big yellow Cathedral often featured as the cover of Central America guide books. It’s sometimes fun to be a tourist and walk 3 blocks from our house to the central park, which in the evening features lights, music, locals selling goods and enjoying themselves and tourists – all adding up to a colorful scene. We should stop here and describe the way in which we make our way around town. Diane and I picked out a transporter chair to take to my new home, and it is proving satisfactory except for one thing – it doesn’t fare well on the bumpy sidewalks and streets. So my rides are textured. We would not be enjoying our evening out without Nathan and Gerard’s efforts to push me around. Nathan leads the parade to clear a way obstructions such as restaurant tables and chairs. He’s followed by Gerard pushing me in the wheel chair. They each grab a hold and hoist me over pot holes and up and down sidewalk edges – I hold my breath and close my eyes, but deep down, I love it!

 

Last night was the second time we’ve gone out in the evening for drinks and nachos, enjoying the tourist scene. The Calzada street feeds out of the city park for several blocks, stretching towards the lake. Both sides of the street are lined with restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalk. Waiters flip their menus, attempting to entice you in and before sunset it is already a bustling scene. Last night I tried a fresh-squeezed limonada while the others got their usual happy hour mojito/ margaritas. Our drinks came with complimentary yucca and plantain chips. Yucca is also known as cassava, manioc, or tapioca root; plantains are relatives of the banana, only bigger and starchier. 

 

We then worked our way down the street. There are other fun things to see like art stores, an occasional hotel, and a chocolate museum. There is also a delicious gelato shop –  I got the Nutella flavor and it was decadent!

 

The Calzada, the main tourist street with restaurants and bars in view of Cathedral

The “Calzada”, the main tourist street with restaurants and bars in view of the big Cathedral

A typical colonial courtyard, we like this one for drinks

A typical colonial courtyard; we like this one for drinks

Tour of Las Isletas, one of the small islands with Volcano Mombacho in background

We took a boat tour of Las Isletas, right in the enormous lake near us. Here is one of the inhabited islands with Volcano Mombacho in the background

There are island for sale.  You can build a home like these people did!

There are islands for sale here. You could build a home like these people did.  It is very enchanting, especially at sunset with colorful birds feeding along the water’s edge.

One of the monkeys, Lucy, from Monkey Island climbed onto our boat

One of the monkeys, Lucy, from Monkey Island climbed onto our boat and onto Nathan

Granada 017

Sunset from our mirador (third story lookout)

As you might as guessed, we like it here in Nicaragua.  We think this may just be the place we were looking for.  Why?  Because Granada is an attractive and culturally rich city with an interesting landscape.  The “Nicas” are friendly, peaceful people living in vibrant communities and they have a tradition of sustainable farming.   The government is stable and interested in renewable energy.

We continue our search for a property to launch our sustainability living/learning center.  Stay tuned.

Granada, Nicaragua

by Gérard

Itinerary 3

Diane and I arrived in Granada, Nicaragua in mid-February, joined by Nathan and Brett two weeks later. The city of Granada is located on the shore of Lake Nicaragua, at the foot of the Mombacho volcano, surrounded by lagoons, an archipelago, and natural reserves. Its population is around 120,000. It is increasingly known as a tourist destination for its colorful architecture, colonial character and friendly people.  Granada is developing; ten years ago only a few cars could be seen, now there are many more but you can still cross horse–drawn carriages and delivery donkey carts in the streets.

Volcano Mombacho in the background

Volcano Mombacho in the background

Lake Nicaragua in the background

Lake Nicaragua in the background

Nearby Laguna de Apoyo

Nearby Laguna de Apoyo

Horse-drawn carriages in the Central Park

Horse-drawn carriages in the Central Park

Colorful facades

Colorful facades

Unlike the volunteer life we experienced during the previous three months, this time we decided to rent a place and explore the region full-time, with on our minds the question: could Granada be where we’ll want to set up our Sustainable Living Learning Center project? Nicaragua and Granada in general were recommended to us by Carol Gelfer, a long-time Portland friend of Diane’s who had spent time volunteering here many years ago with Joe, her physician husband and their two young children.

The day after we arrived in Granada, we met with a good friend of Carol’s, also named Carol, who was very helpful in providing precious tips and a list of key people to start networking with. Since our arrival we have been exploring the area and meeting lots of people, gathering information about Granada as a place to live and potentially be the site of our project. The four of us started operating as a project team in a way that is reminiscent of our previous professional experiences: mission, goals, budget, brainstorm, data gathering, trade-offs, team meetings etc.… it’s all there!

We are renting a beautiful three-bedroom house located a few blocks from the city center where we are enjoying a taste of luxury we had not experienced in months—or years for some of us.  There is room for visitors.  Our preferred spot in the house has to be the mirador from which we have a 360° view over the city’s roof tops, which includes a half dozen churches, the nearby volcano, lake and the three pet monkeys living in the neighbor’s tree.  All that makes for some fantastic sunrises, sunsets and a sitting area kept cool all day by the lake’s breeze.

Front row seat for Brett

Front row seat for Brett

Managua, capital of Nicaragua, is located 45 minutes from Granada and is about ten times the size.  We went there last week to check on bigger stores and look for bicycles.  We found a store which feels like and is for sure owned by Costco, only the name (PriceSmart) is different.  Same everything including membership system, American Express-only card, chicken bakes and berry sundaes.  We found a Home Depot-like hardware store, just more expensive and with less selection. Nathan, Brett and I bought basic bicycles, which will improve our mobility around town and surroundings. You have to have Resident status to own and operate a motor vehicle.  Good thing taxis are 40 cents per person.

Diane is currently in Portland where she went to get her Mom.  Yes, Edna is coming to live with us!  She is and we are very excited about this new chapter in her life.  The logistics involved in making this happen are not trivial but I can’t imagine a better person than Diane to make this happen successfully.  They’re scheduled to arrive April 2nd.

Nathan and Brett are currently on a ten day exploratory trip up north checking out other towns and communities (Matagalpa, Jinotepe, Esteli…) in a region known for its coffee-growing. No doubt these two outdoor aficionados will have a great time!

Meanwhile I am home alone, truly enjoying a few days of “me-time”, taking great pleasure writing this blog and getting some project planning work done.

Finca Paraiso: a Month in Paradise

By Brett Liza Rousseau

Hello Friends and Family!

Please excuse the prolonged time lapse since our last blog entry. Computer and internet access didn’t come easily to Finca Paraiso’s little piece of far-off jungle paradise – what a concept! The rest of the family might not agree, but it was a refreshing break from our culture’s overwhelming connectivity. It’s amazing how a little bit of time without the worldwide web at our fingertips increased our relationship with the world right in front of us! We were forced to listen to the howler monkey screams echoing within the hills, sip coffee while the sunrise lit up slopes of citrus trees, scrutinize chicken hierarchies, spy on sheep escape artists, pick star fruit fresh off the tree, laugh at the fat iguanas skidding around on our tin roof, coo over newborn puppies and cook delicious and inventive meals everyday. A HUGE inconvenience.

In our free time, to name only a few things, Nathan became a literary expert on rabbit rearing; I began baking loaves of bread rolled up with cinnamon and banana; Mom bred her new kombucha SCOBY into a small army; Dad exercised routinely as usual; and we spent many afternoons discussing and strategizing our next move up into Nicaragua. It was decided that Mom and Dad would leave Costa Rica two weeks early for a head start to Nicaragua. While we’ve all gotten along rather magnificently, the small break was much appreciated.

Nathan and I were left in Steve’s keeping along with Luna, a black and white sheep dog always by his side, Blackie and her two puppies, 14 sheep nibbling on everything they shouldn’t have, 13 hens and 3 roosters (2 too many), 3 oversized pigs, and an aquaponics pond full of tilapia. Steve is a laid back Wisconsin expat who surprised himself by buying land in Costa Rica eight years ago and has been experimentally farming ever since. He has a plethora of inventive projects competing for his attention; he’s attempting to generate money by selling farm products and attracting tourists and locals for farm tours and B&B stays, all while keeping up with farm chores. It’s a peaceful piece of property on the Nicoya Peninsula – not far from Tambor’s scenic bay – growing citrus and avocado trees, bananas and plantains, starfruit, pineapple, ginger, turmeric, hot peppers, moringa, spinach, and more! We helped Steve with various projects such as redesigning and building a new chicken coop, fortifying the sheep fence, painting lime on the citrus trees (to prevent against ant damage), dehydrating starfruit, transplanting in the aquaponics greenhouse, propagating bougainvillea, passionfruit, and planting cacao, bush beans, cucumber, garlic, and peppers – whatever seeds I could find! I also helped Steve with some artistic endeavors, painting a sign for the main road and redesigning his roasted coffee label, Mono va Feliz (Monkey-go-Happy).

The month was a beautiful and relaxing blur – it was the first time being together that Nathan and I got to spend more than a few days just the two of us and we relished it. We celebrated our 2-year anniversary with a quirky homemade adaptation of tiramisu, and dug in with spoons as the sunset put on a show. Unlike the other farms, we weren’t surrounded by a host of people and instead entertained ourselves with the animals and plants around us. Here’s a photo-tour of a tropical farm’s flora and fauna, intended for you to romanticize.

Front porch with a view

Front porch with a view

Even for the dry season, the jungle never fails to be beautiful

We soon got used to the sheep right outside our house, as we had gotten used to deer eating our roses back home

We soon got used to the sheep right outside our house, as we had gotten used to deer eating our roses back home

a kingdom of ever green and growing banana trees

A kingdom of ever green and growing banana trees

Passion fruit: the most seductive of flowers

Passion fruit: the most seductive of flowers

Sprouting cacao, destined to be delicious chocolate

Sprouting cacao, destined to be delicious chocolate

Know how your pineapples grow.

Know how your pineapples grow

Mango trees grow like weeds, soon to flood the market place! What a feast it will be!

Mango trees grow like weeds, soon to flood the market place! What a feast it will be!

Starfruit was crowned the fruit of the month

Starfruit was crowned the fruit of the month

Sliced and sugar-coated, I loaded it up into the solar dehydrator

Sliced and sugar-coated, I loaded it up into the solar dehydrator

Lush bush beans that sprouted within weeks, and a cucumber trellis in the background

Lush bush beans that sprouted within weeks, and a cucumber trellis in the background

A cheap and easy drip system: by sticking a water bottle in the ground with a small hole in the bottom, this not only saves water, but encourages the roots to grow deep

A cheap and easy drip system: by sticking a water bottle in the ground with a small hole in the bottom, this not only saves water, but encourages the roots to grow deep

The aquaponics fish tank: the water (high in nitrogen because of the fish poop)  is pumped into the greenhouse...

The aquaponics fish tank: the water (high in nitrogen because of the fish poop) is pumped into the greenhouse…

…where it fertilizes a variety of leafy greens: katuk, spinach, culantro (native cilantro), chia. Note the pineapple top: they can grow by being stuck back in the ground!

…where it fertilizes a variety of leafy greens: katuk, spinach, culantro (native cilantro), chia. Note the pineapple top: they can grow a new plant by being stuck back in the ground!

One of the three pigs that Steve doesn't have the heart to cart off

One of the three pigs that Steve doesn’t have the heart to cart off

The morning parade: chickens exiting their new coop ready to seize the day

The morning parade: chickens exiting their new coop ready to seize the day

A pea-sized egg that Nathan and I tried to hatch, we hypothesized it to be some sort of reptile

A pea-sized egg that Nathan and I tried to hatch, we hypothesized it to be some sort of reptile

Blackie and one of her pups

Blackie and one of her pups

Both pups! Steve wanted us to take one, an extremely tempting offer

Both pups! Steve wanted us to take one, an extremely tempting offer

Steve's new street sign

Steve’s new street sign

Many a magnificent sunset on the farm

Many a magnificent sunset on the farm

Wondering what we’re now doing in Nicaragua? Stay tuned for our next post!

A Farewell to Finca Fruicion

By Nathan Page

We have been volunteering at a new farm called Finca Paraiso for the past two weeks but this update will be regarding our projects at the last farm, Finca Fruicion, and our “vacation” to Montezuma.

As far as projects go, we all left feeling satisfied with some kind of closure. Gerard and I finished up reinforcing the bunkhouse structure we were building, and poured an “earthen floor.”  The floor took much longer than we thought, but was a fun learning experience for us both. It consisted of simply clay and gravel- materials that were readily available on site.   We combined them with a small cement mixer and poured the mixture onto the leveled, compacted floor.  It was an interesting project that took about a week to complete!

Nathan leveling the earthen floor in the bunkhouse.

Nathan leveling the earthen floor in the bunkhouse.

While Gerard and I were playing in the mud, Brett was busy finishing her reorganization of the annual vegetable garden and painting a beautiful mural.  The mural was a labor of love, and the labor was well worth it! The mural is a tribute to the colors and natural beauty of the area, to be enjoyed even in the rainy season!

Brett working on her mystical mural.

Brett working on her mystical mural.

The completed mural and la artista!

The completed mural and “la artista”, coupled with Diane’s newly planted atrium!

Diane finished her landscaping of the atrium full of ferns and succulents! It complements Brett’s mural and brings a soothing green aura to the room. She also worked with farm intern Markus from Canada to made a trellis for one of her favorite things: Winged beans. If you haven’t heard about them, ask her and I’m sure you will get several articles and a multi-paragraphed reply.

Diane's composting toilet currents and Brett's handy vacancy sign.

The composting toilet  with Diane’s weighted curtains and Brett’s handy vacancy sign.

Diane and Marcus in front of their completed Winged Bean Trellis!

Diane & Marcus in front of completed winged bean trellis!

On our last weekend, the Finca hosted an absolutely beautiful wedding for two of our good friends, Julio and Vyola. Diane and I were honored to handcraft the cake using nothing but quality, real ingredients. Brett’s help with the wedding sculptures and decorative frosting culminated to create what many said was the best cake they had ever had.

The "family" sitting around one of the many communal meals.

The “family” sitting around one of many communal meals.

Vyola and Julio's wedding cake! Made with love.

Vyola and Julio’s wedding cake! Made with love.

We decided to treat ourselves to a brief beachside vacation to the quirky town of Montezuma, on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Follow our travels from Finca Fruicion over to Moctazuma and the Tambor in the Nicoya Peninsula.

From Finca Fruicion over to Montezuma and Tambor in the Nicoya Peninsula.

 Here we indulged in fresh-made onion rolls, fish fillets, and beautiful sunrises, which put on a show every morning.  The pace was relaxed, the days were warm, and it provided us with much-needed time to relax.

Brett and Nathan at the Beach!

Brett and Nathan at the Beach!

A colorful Moctazuma sunrise.

A colorful Montezuma sunrise.

Stay tuned for more photos and an update from Brett regarding our current location near Tambor (which my mother informed me is one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world…)

Hasta Luego!

Finca Fruicion: Getting hands & feet dirty

By Diane

We have been at the permaculture farm, Finca Fruicion, for three weeks now. Gerard and Nathan are busy converting a covered camping area into a bunkhouse; Brett is working on vegetable starts and helping design a better system to grow more food for the needs of the farm. I find myself working mostly on garden projects: making new beds, transplanting plants, pruning and weeding. We are sleeping in tents, using dry compost toilets, and taking luxuriously hot outside showers with water heated by the sun.

We are sharing space and meals with an ever fluctuating number of people (12 – 20) including the main couple, their three young boys, a volunteer manager, volunteers, farm stay guests, friends, and neighbors. We all take turns cooking and cleaning up. The meals are mostly vegetarian; we are producing and eating the most creative meals I have ever seen – especially  the day before the owner goes to town to get groceries. We are all learning how to make original sauces and the many ways we can prepare rice and beans. Again, we are eating very well.

Ever since we learned about cob building last year, we have wanted to get our hands into it.  We finally got our lesson and chance to build something last week. Cob material consists of clay, sand, and fiber such as straw or rice husks. We finished constructing a wall that was not completed at an earlier workshop. Cobbing is very fun! See the photos of the process below.

Mixing cob with our feet

Nathan and Brett mixing cob with their feet

Brett and Markus smoothing the cob onto the wall structure

Smoothing the cob onto the wall structure

Building a window into the wall

Building a window into the wall

A small gift robbed onto the Center's front entrance

The toucan is our small gift cobbed onto the Center’s front entrance

The kitchen is always busy

The always busy kitchen

Our tent against a beautiful backdrop

Our tent and toilet against a beautiful backdrop

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