By Diane Laughter – (photos follow)
Eight months into 2016 and the fun and work never stop! We continue to do more building, more planting, more infrastructure development. We renovated an existing animal structure, turning it into a material storage area and added a large open-air workshop and locked toolshed. We resurrected a tumbled-down house into a beautiful new guesthouse. We love our mason, Eddy, and since the end of March his team has built the guesthouse, the base for the dry compost toilets and the guest showers (to be solar heated). This week they started the sinks and laundry area. All this is outside under a canopy of large trees.
We roofed the old pig houses with the metal torn off the woodshop and turned them into our recycling/reuse center and holding pens for construction materials such as gravel and sand. No more piles all over the place, less loss, much neater. We opened up a back entrance for vehicles and solidified the road so trucks can deliver without getting stuck in the mud during rainy season.
Gerard is still doing a lot of designing in Google Sketchup. Such a great free tool (Sketchup, that is); it allows us to see our building details in 3D so no big surprise when we see them in real life. He spends a lot of time managing the construction, making sure the workers have what they need, and trying to stay one step ahead in design details.
In April I traveled to Costa Rica for a two-week permaculture design certification course (PDC), the same one Brett took two years ago. If you, or anyone you know, wants to get their PDC and can get to Costa Rica, Rancho Mastatal offers one of the best experiences around. Classmates came from all over the world and brought a lot of expertise of their own. It was nice to get away, immerse myself in the subject matter, make new friends, and network with lots of cool people doing amazing things.
With the Juans and Jose, I have been planting many more edible shrubs and trees. The nursery got cleared out and then filled up again with lots of new plant starts. Our beds and planting areas, having been heavily mulched, are turning into rich healthy soil full of life-giving micro-organisms. We have also been cutting not so valuable trees to get sunlight to what was a hidden orchard of mature citrus trees, many types.
We have been working with our local grade school. On their wish list was better security. The locks on doors were broken or non-existent and they had trouble with break-ins. With help from our Christian fellowship group, we were able to beef up their system. We also helped them purchase two high efficiency, low smoke stoves from a local business, Coci-Nica (a great project started by a couple from Portland and now run entirely by Nicas). The school cook was against using the new stove but now is a huge fan and gives a great testimonial to the community. We are helping to promote these stoves.
One exciting project is my “green leaves” campaign. We have been growing and propagating chaya and moringa, both super foods, easy to grow, easy to use. After tasting delicious salads and other things made with these highly nutritious greens, many friends wanted plants and I had them ready. We also planted plenty of both at our local school with the idea that they incorporate the greens into the school meal they serve and then take cuttings and share the plants with the community. Everyone wins!
We are happy and healthy, love living outside with the birds & bees, we find our dogs endlessly entertaining, and we are working hard so more people can come share this experience with us. Next building projects will be natural ones, cob and timber frame structures with wood from the property.
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