Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chikka wanted her photo taken with me. She is the cute one who prefers a front seat. Chikka was recently rescued from the streets of Turrialba. She is a great little girl who wants to play with your hairbrush or shoes. Tug of war with a towel or shirt is also great fun but say goodbye to your stuff. We love her.

Here I am with the Rhino, an obvious glamour shot. No one cares when you are at the farm. I am wearing my rubber boots, and an old shirt, big hat and dark glasses to keep the sun off of me. It is a beautiful day and this is the perfect vehicle to go where no man has gone before.

Here is a closer photo of Phil and the filly. The air is pleasantly cool and the sun is very intense. The horses have unlimited clean water from a stream that runs through their pasture. You will notice that the fence posts are living. The animals like those leaves also.

Phil and his horses at the farm this morning. The filly loves to kiss him, they are really cute together. She also likes to nibble on his chin whiskers and he is thrilled with the interaction. We rotate them through various pastures every few days. This pasture has lots of guava trees which give shade for the horses and they love eating the guava fruit.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

This is the view across the river from our future home site. It is protected primary forest. If we turned 45 degrees to the left we would be looking down and across the valley at the Turrialba volcano.
If you are a cook, or a foodie, bring every kitchen item you ever wanted or dreamed of wanting. Stainless steel pots are hard to come by and expensive. Crock pots, I think I have 5 or 6. I use one all of the time and now I will never need to buy another. I use them at night mostly; I put veggies and a chicken in them and go to bed. The first one up in the morning unplugs the crock and when I get up, I can pick the bones clean. Now I have the makings for soup, chicken and dumplings or chicken salad. The point is it is convenient and we have little or no conveniences in rural Costa Rica. I also use it when I am off at the farm and dinner is now waiting when I return.

KitchenAid Pro mixer, buy one; I use it everyday for cakes and bread (I make 8 - 12 loaves a week). They make great gifts; the bread as well as the KitchenAid mixer but I only give the bread away.

VitaMix, is one of the most versatile, useful, last for your lifetime, good for you appliances that you can own. Worth every dime if you care about living a good healthy life. You can buy them remanufactured and save some money that way. Just do it. I make oatmeal, flaxseed, and fruit ice cream in them. Yes, it is delicious and there is no milk in the ice cream but I do use yogurt. I suppose that counts as milk actually, but who is counting.

Meat grinder and meat slicer: I have two grinders, my KitchenAid grinder atachment (the original metal one by Hobart) and I have a big grinder for the whole cow size jobs. I bought the slicer for roast beef and bacon slicing. I have seen no cold cuts in Costa Rica that I would buy. Boars Head is not here. So I make my own cold cuts as well as cure and cold smoke my own bacon and make sausage.

Bring a Gas Grill, with a side burner. Very handy for grilling and I use it to cold smoke my bacon. For the smoke, I use coffee wood. Just soak your wood and place it on one burner on low with your cured pork belly offset on the cold side. It works great! It is also a great appliance when the electric is off.

Coffee grinders, I use them to grind my grains for bread baking although your Vitamix will also do the job. This week’s special bread has been, Coconut Bimini Bread with fresh ground coconut as part of the flour. The neighbors are thrilled.

Do buy the Jaccard tenderizer, you can thank me later for this tip. We like our meat suave (soft), and this gadget will make you look like a genius in the kitchen. Your guests will wonder how you do it. Many of them have given up on beef, or, they are still chewing.

Pressure cooker, buy a canning stainless steel one and bring an extra gasket. I have not used one in the states for years but here we use it. The ribs that were attached to that pork belly (bacon), I put them in the pressure cooker along with a can of tomatoes, garlic, onion and jalapeƱo peppers and when they are tender they go on the grill while I puree, sweeten and reduce the sauce to baste them. I also put up chicken and meat with veggies as that is as close as we get to fast food. Ball jars and lids are available here. This week I browned pork chops then added carrots, garlic, onion and whole potatoes along with a little chicken stock; locked down the lid and we had fast suave chops for dinner with only one pot to wash.

I always wanted to be a Super Mom when that was in vogue. One morning I woke up exhausted and shifted gears. How can you do everything? Well I still do most everything, but I take a little help from appliances so that I do not have to work so hard.

The appliance repairman came today to fix the new dryer. Apparently, there is only one repairman to do warranty work in the whole country and I had to wait for him to travel the circuit and come south to my neck of the woods. I am so thankful for my dryer. You must have a dryer in the rainforest. I just hate walking around damp with my clothes drying on my body.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Everyday here is an adventure of extremes. The good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. Our neighbors are as good as it gets in any country. They are warm and caring, smart, highly educated, good salt of the earth people. My cousin in Massachusetts asked me yesterday if living here was everything I thought it would be? It is, and more. It is more joyful and on occasion more sad. There is more pleasure and sometimes more pain. My friend Joaquin, a Costa Rican, says I see things differently than he. I know this statement to be true as we come from different experiences, different cultures and because of my age I have had far more life experiences in a very different culture and time. All of this colors my view of life. We are not in Kansas anymore, not that I have ever been to Kansas.

Our neighborhood, Hacienda Atirro, is like a country club with pools, tennis court, a few horses, 2 cows and 5 dogs (we own 3 of them) who like each other and visit. This is not a gated community, it is special and unusual however.

I am cold smoking my bacon today with coffee wood. It will be whatever it turns out to be and we will like it. I am sure. I made sausage and eggs for breakfast today. My homemade sausage of course. It is good stuff. I would add fat to it if I could but the meat here has no fat. That may be the biggest problem with the beef, no fat and it is not aged. I am grinding my meat, but the flavor is just not the way I want it for hamburgers. It is too red, too fresh, not fatty enough; who would have thought that I would be saying, not fatty enough?

The family at the carniceria I patronize is always so glad to see me again. I bring my cooler and we fill it up for the ride home. Kristofer says, she loves seeing you come. Gringos eat so much more meat than Costa Ricans, or at least that is my observation. I eat very little meat actually but my family wants to know, "Where's the beef?", or any other kind of meat. Today the butcher gave me a gift of sausages. They are the sweetest people. I don't think anyone has ever given me sausages as a gift before.

We grilled the beef tenderloin (carne suave) this evening on the grill and added coffee wood for smoke flavor. It did add extra flavor and it was the best steak yet. I use a Jaccard tenderizing machine to help the meat out. That little machine is the most valuable tool in my kitchen. It is definitely in the top 10 of important gadgets.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Joaquin, a 5th year student at Earth University is sitting on the Rhino discussing the farm with Kristofer, Sara, her brother Alberto, and our farm manager Marcos who is wearing the white hat.

Here are todays photos of Lluvia and her filly Neblina grazing in the pasture at our farm. Another nice view.

This is our newest horse at the farm. In the background you can see the Turrialba volcano on this beautiful day. You are looking down and across the Turrialba valley. What a beautiful view.
Life on the rural farm land of Costa Rica is a never ending list of duties. My wifely duties include whole grain bread making every other day. I grind my grains (oatmeal and flax seed) and add them to the whole wheat flour for more nutrition. I am thankful for my Kitchenaid pro as it lightens the job immensely. My son made about 6 pizzas last night for our dinner guests. We ground pork and made Italian sausage earlier in the day to top the pizza. The different availability and quality of products made duplicating my recipes a challenge the first few times. Sometimes what you thought was in the package, is different than your use to. For instance the coconut milk I used today for my Thai red curry lentils. It was sweet. I do not see anywhere that it was sweetened, and sweet is not what I traditionally use. So I have a sweet lentil dish instead. Who knew? Well the bread will be good, I have that mastered.

The sky is clear and blue today, no sweatshirt needed. Nice and pleasantly warm.

We hired a housekeeper, Carmen, Oh thank you Lord. I just could not get everything done everyday and we are still unpacking. With no dishwasher and farm style cooking I was not able to get ahead of the work. We have had company for dinner and or breakfast and lunch nearly everyday. My husband and son have been great at pitching in and washing dishes.

Everyone is up the mountain at the farm today. We are moving another horse up to Esperanza I expect they will be home for lunch and starving because other than last nights homemade oatmeal cookies no one has eaten. No fast food out here.

I am preparing to make (cure) bacon today. One batch will be with apple cider and the other with honey. I bought a whole pork belly at the carniceria. I will let you know how it turns out. Everything tastes better with bacon, even too sweet lentils.

We have vampire bats on the mountain at night. They scratch animals and lick the blood. So we are protecting the horses by screening in their stalls with nursery cloth and putting them up at night. We have fruit bats and bug eaters at the house and come dusk they start swooping along with the night hawks and wills. We call it the bat show and watch with our lights off while sitting in the glass enclosed living room.

I think about TV and our lack of it, but when would I have the time to watch? The internet is my source of news and perhaps we are better off not knowing the really horrible stuff. We came here to get away from violence and what we see as the dumbing down of America. Our concerns have been redirected to hungry children who want to go to school but can not afford to do so. A kind and generous neighbor has offered to let us use his house as a library and classroom. I would like a teacher to volunteer to come for a year and live with us while working with the local students. If you know of a candidate please tell them about us and ask them to email me

Kristofer and 3 friends hiked up to some of our waterfalls today. Through the river, waist deep in water at times, crisscrossing back and forth in order to climb up the mountain. Their rubber boots filled up with water and the knee high waterproof snake boots were good until you were up to your waist in the river and then they weighed an extra 2 kilos each. Good quality river shoes with great traction ability is the answer. You should bring a waterproof camera, perhaps a disposable water proof camera.

Friday, January 05, 2007

This stream is one of several streams and rivers running through our property. After a big rain the mountain water will make little streams turn into powerful rivers. You can sometimes hear the boulders washing down river.

This tarantula was hiding in a palm frond. We were lucky to spot his 4 plus inch body. They don't really want to eat anything bigger than they are and he is suppose to be here. Cute and fuzzy, but we did not touch him out of a healthy respect for nature.

This view was taken looking down across our farm in Esperanza, Costa Rica. The farm consists of 1,270 acres with about 20 waterfalls. We have primary forest with old growth trees and beautiful fresh water. The buildings are the caretaker's house and out buildings. In the distance is the volcano.

Here is a photo of my husband Phil with a leaf bug he found in the garage. Phil is letting his beard grow, I am not sure how long this phase will last. At least it is not scratchy at this pont. It makes him look older, but he is happy not shaving. I understand.

Here is a view of the Turrialba volcano from my living room window. Love it! It is very magical to wake up with this beautiful view in Costa Rica.

Our home in Costa Rica is spacious, comfy, and has beautiful views of the Turrialba Volcano. The living room, pictured on the second story is all glass enclosed. All of the rooms have volcano views. On clear nights I can see fireflys in our yard and twinkle lights on the side of the volcano.

Lluvia (Rain) and her filly Neblina (Cloud), isn't she sweet. Her little tale is so fluffy. She is discovering her body and her ability to use her legs, kicking and jumping around. Sometimes she appears to just glide.

Here is a photo of my husband Phil and his mare Lluvia. Lluvia means rain in Spanish. She is the proud mother of a filly who is about 34 days old.