Hola From The South!

Hey Team!

Soooooo I’m here! The Puntarenas Province in Costa Rica is absolutely beautiful right now as we head out of the rainy season. Flowers are blooming, everything is still lush, and we are still getting a little rain at night sometimes. Apparently in the next couple of months the vegetation starts to recede and dry out until the rainy season begins again.
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I’m staying with a work exchange program through St. Michael’s, which is somewhere between Parrita and Esterillos Este on the road maps, aka pretty tricky to find if you don’t know where you’re going. I’m living and working on a 217-acre (88 hectare) hacienda wayyyy up in the hills of this province. The owner has a lot of ideas and projects underway, from an eco-village and an aquaponics set-up with tillapia to some permanent growing structures for medicinal herbs and perennial edibles, grass-fed cattle and rotational chickens.
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My to-be home in the eco-village!

With the outset of each intern’s stay, Justin picks a section of the hacienda for us to work on. I’m here by myself for the month, so he gave me a garden section  on a hill between two smaller houses he built for the  eco-village. This week I’ve been digging bioswales, which are similar in structure to the raised beds at our place, but follow the contours of the hills to divert water from massive erosion points on the property during the rainy season.
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I planted my swales with papaya, moringa, guanabana, and other trees, as well as thyme, lemon balm, hibiscus, pineapples and all sorts of other plants and shrubs and trees. Justin’s been planting a lot of medicinal herbs and perennial trees all across this property in the last four years, and everywhere you walk you can find bananas and young papaya and almond trees, along with pineapples, cranberry hibiscus, lemongrass and, well, hundreds of other magical trees and bushes and plants. Everything is just SO GREEN.
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Baby papaya!

I wake up in the morning near sunrise and work for five hours before the heat of the day really sets in. Then it’s a two-hour lunch and siesta break, and then back to work for another couple hours. After work I usually hang out with Reily, Justin’s daughter, who is this adorable, energetic force who likes gum and rocks and swimming and making up adventure stories all night. Evenings are a lot of pool use until sunset when the mosquitoes come out and then board games with Reily and her grandparents until her dad scoops her for the night. He and his wife have a three-week old boy (congrats!) who is keeping them on their toes!
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Reily decorates for Christmas!

There are ants everywhere here, and crazy spiders and centipedes and caterpillars, and all kinds of little to giant lizards, and  so many bees and wasps. I fished a scorpion out of the sink a couple days ago, but apparently these kind are only a little venomous and non-lethal. The birds look and sound beautiful, and the butterflies and dragonflies are spectacular.  Monkeys and sloths and macaws pass through and are partial to certain trees in the forests here, but I haven’t seen any yet. Keeping my eyes open, though.
Now that the bioswales are initially set-up, I’m hoping to help clean up and fence in the garden spaces (the horses decided to eat up one of the nice garden spaces in the eco-village upon my arrival), reseed in the greenhouse and start new trees and plants in the nursery, build some more garden spaces and maybe even help with some mapping and planning. There is just so much going on here. The grocery store in Parrita would like to carry some goods from the property, so it would be cool to get a couple of projects queued up for them, too.
Mango season is in March, alas, but right now there are bananas coming on and papayas in full force. I’ve been making this hibiscus, lemongrass, lime and basil tea that’s been a tremendous hit with the family and may make an appearance at the market here before I go. Teamaker in two countries – I can’t really express how much that pleases me.
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Big papaya

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There are limes by the hundreds, and Justin’s parents (who’ve been totally awesome and have taken me on as a sort-of half grandkid),  make a fresh lime drink with cane sugar. The family here grows and eats a lot of turmeric for all its health benefits, as well as gotu-kola and other herbs.
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There’s this beautiful yellow flowering shrub here called Saragundi, which cures everything from bug bites to varicose veins to chronic skin conditions.
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There’s a lot of rice and bean and meat here, but I’ve also been eating lots of fruit, eggs, Okinawa Spinach, purslane, long beans and other greens, and I’m feeling pretty healthy overall. Working vacations apparently lead to nice tans, and the hills here are wearing me out in good ways.
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This is a less populated area than some other parts of the country. Yesterday we traveled Esterillos Este for a chili-cookoff at a bar run by a couple of guys from Colorado. I spent most of my time wandering the almost-empty beach down there and swimming in the Pacific. The neighbors fish in the morning and sell ceviche in lime juice from the backs of their motorcycles in the afternoon. And Justin won the cook-off with his turmeric-based, organics-only chili! Successful day off.

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Sending you Hugs and Sun. Pura Vida!
Liz
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