Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Cabecar Indigenous woman, Sonya, wife of Alexander, has gone back to the interior of the reservation. I am sad that she went back but I understand that she was lonely away from her family. Her husband Alexander is still with us. He said to my husband that "his wife does not like living on the outside, but I do."

Alexander is a good hard worker, always happy and quick to smile. We like him and look forward to building a relationship with him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We compost our waste, all of it including the humanure. We are keeping the planet green by taking care of the brown.

We still have a septic tank for the purpose of controlling our soapy water or gray water. Today when Phil went to do the final hookup he found a family of Sapho toads in the septic tank. They are native to Central America and about the same as Bufos Marinus that lives in Florida. Not good for dogs to chew on, but they eat their weight in insects. The toad secretes a hallucinogen alkaloid from their skin when attacked. This secretion is capable of killing your dog. He rescued the toads and they happily hopped away.

26 organic eggs from my chickens

Yesterday I went to the Importadora Monge in La Suiza and bought a stove, a Telstar, 3 burner gas stove top for $40.00. Okay, it is not my dream stove, but now that the commercial kitchen is installed the dream stove will not fit. Phil is going to build me a rolling cart that will house the stove top. If I want to cook on the deck, we can just roll it out the double doors, no problem, I don’t have to stay in the kitchen. I can also use methane or propane for my gas, we have both, the methane is free. You gotta love free gas, seeing as propane has double in the last 2 years.

I still need an oven, I have seen a bread oven in Africa using the “Rocket Elbow” technology, I want it. It will be built outdoors next to the deck. Well that is the plan today, but as I have come to learn, plans can and do change quickly here. At least I no longer have to stand in the pouring rain holding an umbrella to cook on my one side burner gas grill. Just kidding…….…, I did not use an umbrella.

I had priced this same stove in Turrialba at the same branch store for $18.00 more than in La Suiza. I have noticed this practice before while pricing an item at 4 different Gollo stores in Turrialba, each had a different price for the same item. Go figure. The only thing I can think of is that when the price changes, they don’t change the paper price sheet so some prices are out dated. Or, maybe the rent is cheaper in La Suiza.

So here is a photo of my stove on my counter top (temporarily), and a photo of Phil making coffee with the sock while cooking water in the pot. I must find the tea kettle in the container. Yes I know you can use a French press, I have a small two cup press that we use for traveling. It is packed away in the container and would not meet our coffee needs on a daily basis at home. We start the day by making 6 cups, 3 for each mug. A half hour later we repeat the process with another 6 cups of strong Costa Rican coffee, mountain and shade grown locally by our neighbors. The sock works just fine, once you make the mental adjustment. This is how they do it in Costa Rica and once you accept this apparatus as your drip coffee maker, coffee time becomes even more tranquilo.

Update: The Telstar stove top is very efficient and the flame is easily controlled and adjusted. Perfect. I now have chops, potatoes, butternut squash, and gravy with onions and garlic all cooking together in the pressure cooker. Good eats tonight.

We tried the Peaberry Special Reserve from Hacienda Real. It was excellent, we enjoyed every cup. We drive to the mill at the bottom of our mountain, then down the road a piece and buy our coffee freshly ground and roasted that day. You can order the coffee we drink online from the Golden Bean, Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Esperanza’s little school has an English teacher twice a week. A very nice Costa Rican woman, with a good grasp of the English language. Her students could learn much from her on many levels, if they apply themselves. Rural students are or tend to be self-conscious, they don’t want to speak out loud or shout out the answer when asked. So today, I shouted out the answers and they started to join in.

They have been given a homework assignment and I look forward to seeing who completes it. Most never do their homework. There are many challenges for the teachers of rural children. The attitude of the children, handed down to them by their parents in some cases, cripples possible success.

One child aspires to have a husband, pray for her. I told her she could be the President if she wanted to. She is a smart girl who desperately needs direction other than that of her Mother, Aunts and Grandmother. Her life of poverty, poor role models, no money, insufficient food and revolving doors of men in her Mother’s life has left her with challenges we can barely imagine. She lives in a town with no electricity where the shanty’s have no running water, no two boards or pieces of tin that they live in are alike, all unfit for human habitation. Should she marry, this Costa Rican child will be a slave to her husband.

She continues to come to school under the most adverse conditions. Her teacher picks her up on the side of the road and brings her to the school and the town where she lived in the past, Esperanza. Is there hope for her and the other children in this one room school house? I hope so, I continue to whisper words of encouragement into their ears, their dreams can come true, their futures are as big and bright as the fire that burns in their hearts.

At the end of today, she decided she wants to be a tour guide and make her own living. With your help we can give them opportunity and educational tools, only they can provide the desire.

What do the children need? Simple Spanish English dictionaries, they have none, the teacher does not have one. They need school supplies, every pencil and crayon we started the year with, is gone. Only one child comes prepared with supplies and she is not allowed to lend them out. A good rule her Mother has taught her or her tools would soon disappear. They need navy blue skirts and pants of all sizes and white shirts. They also need sweat shirts to keep them warm on cold mountain mornings. We often need shoes, children out grow their shoes quickly in the elementary years, and shoes are expensive here. $20. for a poorly made pair and most are about $30. Nearly a weeks wages for one pair of shoes and they can not afford to buy shoes for the children, and feed them.

It is important to educate these children; many rural families see the forest as a tree to cut down for money. We are not talking forest management here for they have no understanding of the advantages the forest provides. We can not change the parents easily, but we can educate the children who will then teach their parents and neighbors. It is easier to give birth, than to breathe life back into the dead. Will you help me to give them opportunities so that they can realize their dreams?

Will you sponsor a child? Please contact me at Do you have an old working laptop that you can donate? The teacher has PC educational CD’s, she has no PC. If we had laptops we could teach keyboarding, use our software, and inspire the children to continue their studies. They must have these skills to compete, to go to high school and college. First we must give them skills, then we will find scholarships, they deserve a chance to break the cycle of poverty that they were born into.

I thank you for your help. Ginnee

Friday, September 19, 2008

An indigenous couple, Alexander, Sonja and their one year old child Minto, came down from the reservation and through our farm. I am not sure why they are here. My first thought was that Alexander asked our Tico caretaker for work, I think Marcos said no. Discrimination, Ticos vs Indigenous, complete with all of the stereotyping that goes with discrimination.

I will make a job for Alexander and other indigenous who want work. I can not give them employment, but I can give them a few days work, let them earn some money and food. A man should be allowed to be a man, feed his family and retain his dignity. We would want no less for ourselves.

They passed by several days ago and I gave them each a sweatshirt. Minto’s sweatshirt, the smallest I had, covers him down to his toes.

Alexander came back and asked for coffee on Saturday, he had no money but he could work. Phil gave him a bag of coffee that has the map of our farm on it. The Indigenous family is squatting on the land of Kiko. They had been at the collapsed hotel, but it was too wet. The indigenous seeking shelter have squatted at the hotel for many years, it longer offers shelter as the roof has caved in. They have few options.

Today I stated that from now on, I want the people of Esperanza and the Indigenous hired before any others. The people of Esperanza are looking to us for jobs. We don’t have them. A woman asked for a job last week. Perhaps she could work in the nursery with some training. Desperate for money, she went to pick coffee.

Two young boys, both should still be in school but are not, asked for jobs today. One had a new cast on his wrist. The other boy had broken it. Too young, no skills, no education, just lots of liability. How can I help them?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It appears that the pelton is producing enough energy to supply my laptop at this moment. We get to listen to music, a wonderful bonus as we are working inside today. Phil is doing carpentry projects, and I am on kitchen duty as usual. The kitchen sink is now hooked up and the commercial unit is in place as it should be. Life is good and getting better. The island is where it should be and I can see light at the end of the tunnel, I think.

I am listening to Carbon Leaf’s “Life Less Ordinary”, Oh Boy, that does describe the life we are living for sure, a life less ordinary, and a life extraordinary. Another mystical, magical day with a breeze that is divine, no doubt made just for us.

If you are planning on visiting us would you please bring the gift of your copied CD’s? Thank you in advance.

We are a bit communications challenged at the moment. Tomorrow we will see about an interior cell phone antenna. I must stand in the kitchen’s Northeast corner to catch the signal. The steel and concrete cause the problem. No internet, no TV, we have chosen a different path that will improve with time. I miss my Sun Sentinel on-line addition, I miss the news, but in reality it is probably a good thing. We would not want me to get too confrontational and radical regarding US politics.
Blog, Santiago is a Cabecar Indigenous man who stays with our caretaker family. I asked him if he spoke Cabecar and he said just the basic language. You are required to speak Spanish to attend school, so his parents insisted they speak Spanish only.

We first met Santiago when he would hike up through our farm to teach the Cabecar children. You must be Cabecar to teach the Cabecar by law. Which brings us to the question of how many educated Cabecar teachers are there? Good question, I have never met one. Santiago has a hard time getting paid for teaching. It is often 3 and 4 months with no pay and it is of course low pay. Santiago teaches with few or no supplies, his salary does not support him, when and if he gets it. He uses a machete to chop pasture when work is available. Santiago always stays busy here. Today he was working in the green house garden pulling weeks and staking tomatoes.

Santiago has taken on the job of making the dog food and feeding the 8 or 9 dogs that claim us. Thankfully we have not had any new volunteer dogs in a while. We bake and then boil soup bones with veggies and rice to make dog soup or Sopa de Perro. Our dogs have a good life, they are safe, fed, free range the farm, swim in the streams and rivers, go to work with our men and play, romp and rest while the men work. Perla is head dog, Thank God all of the others submit to her. We were worried about blood shed, but she did her thing and they all smartly rolled over. Jack, being a guy, has no problems with Perla. Chika has amnesty for some reason. Bubba is Perla’s dog child and she puts up with him no matter what. He is so sweet, with high energy he will run right over the top of her and not get bit. It’s a miracle.

Perla has taken a shine to Santiago, perhaps because he is the keeper of the bones. She was extremely abused and has bad reflective moments. We are kind to her, talk soft and lovingly, and only touch her head when she presents it. Never yell at Perla, no no, not good, she has very big white teeth and she is not smiling at that moment. Perla does smile when she is happy.

Our dogs have the best life. They free range the farm, swim and play in the stream at will during the day. The chickens are protected by an electric chicken fence, the dogs learned that lesson quickly.

The dogs at the farm having fun.

Phil with an orchid in the yard.
I went on my twice a week errand to Erika’s house in Tuis last night and came home this morning. My refrigerator live there and we make ice in the freezer using quart plastic milk jugs. While visiting with my daughter and catching up on her busy life, I also do our laundry. Life at the farm is at this moment rather like a camping trip.

The trench for the underground electric lines has been dug, and we bought the conduit for it yesterday. I expect that next week we will have the utility installed with new larger gauge wire which should give us more electricity.

If I had a regulator and a few batteries, I am sure that I could run a refrigerator off the pelton and my washing machine.

Phil is in San Jose today on business. Our primary forest qualified for Carbon Credits so we applied to put it into protection about 5 months ago. Everything has been approved and he is signing the paperwork today. It is a good thing. It will help us to protect the land and it will offset the cost of owning a protected forest.

Homestays in rural Costa Rica:

I am trying to think of ways to create jobs for the people of Esperanza. One of my thoughts is to offer homestays with several families in the pueblo of Esperanza. You can come, visit the farm, and stay in the home of a local rural family. They will have to meet certain criteria, and we will need to be flexible. It will give you a glimpse into their lives and you will improve your Spanish as the same time. Would you be interested in a true Costa Rica vacation? It would be genuine rural experience. Your visit would change their lives. It would give a family a chance to earn some money and improve their living conditions. You also bring knowledge, goodwill, and you would stimulate the possibilities their lives could have. We could help them get started by offering a micro loan to install hot water in the shower, and they must have a mattress and bedding. We stayed with a family who slept on boards, after 3 nights we opted for luxury and went to a resort. We learned a lot about the culture, their lives, and it was an overall fantastic experience. I highly recommend you make a homestay part of your adventure. You become part of their family, no longer are you on the outside looking in. You are living their life, how incredible is that?

The men and I hauled sand they collected from the river’s sand deposits today. The river gives and the river takes away. It has claimed acres of our land and gives us clean sand and river beaches. I drove the Rhino with full 5 gallon buckets of river sand that the men collected, shoveled and hauled up the steep banks on their shoulder. Off we go, one man and me, over a seep in 4 wheel drive, then up a hill and over to the shop’s construction concrete floor pour project. They have two days in it and it is not finished. This is hard manual labor, and everything is mixed by hand and shovel. They also had to cut out some old concrete to achieve their goal. We have a concrete saw, so that was still hard but it got done.

Phil worked on our house today, he is working in the bathroom this evening using his headlamp for lighting. We now have running cold water in the bathroom sink. Yahoo. Maybe the drain will be hooked up any minute.

I took a mid-day shower with nice hot water from our solar hose collector. It felt so good and I had plenty. I am always conservative with the water and turn it off while I lather, then back on to rinse. This is how sailors shower and it is my habit. Water was expensive in the middle of the ocean and fresh water was hard to come by. Now we have abundant water, but limited hot water at this time.

I washed some laundry by hand again today and hung it out. Phil gave me a stiff bush and it really works well on his very dirty jeans. Our life revolves around dirt. I don’t have a clothes line yet so I hang them on the chain link fence. It helps to keep up with the dirty clothing everyday, it is not so over whelming this way.

I made BBQ beef ribs using my pressure cooker this afternoon. I use it most everyday. Just 35 minutes to melt in your mouth meat complete with sauce. String beans in a very garlicky parmesan butter sauce and garlic bread made a meal. Gourmet camping is what Phil calls it. I have never been good at making a meal for 2, there are always leftovers. I am really trying not to have leftovers because we do not have refrigeration. I will make another ice run tomorrow.

The other menu item we eat most everyday is BLT’s, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato on a giant loaf of French like bread. I pile the lettuce and fresh tomatoes on the crisp bacon and it is really good.

Today was a beautiful day, breezy, fresh, clean air, and not too hot. Phil went to La Suiza where he said it was stifling, repressive hot. He is glad that I said I did not want to be hot for the rest of my life. He did not know a few years ago that he did not want to be hot forever. I was sure that sweat was not meant for me. It is crazy to live where you either suffer, or have a giant energy bill every month.

Okay, I don’t have a lot of electric, but I don’t need much. I do need more than I have at the moment. I need the washing machine hooked up. Not a big power user, but the refrigerator uses a lot on start up. We can charge batteries, no problem. The battery drills, lap top, cameras, cell phone, flashlights, it’s a beautiful thing. Energy efficient light bulbs, the ugly ones, are beautiful, we have lights even with little power. We have not hooked the power up to the house yet, I guess we are not ready.

Phil did buy the lumber for my towel closet today. Oh Boy! This will be beautiful. It will probably be a few weeks, we must always dry the wood, they don’t seem to know how here. We are doing all of this building in the house. Behind the sofa…. lumber is stored, my sewing room…..more lumber, the sitting room….. workshop table with tools, the guest room…boxes of stuff waiting for a place to live. It’s all good, I don’t mind living at the construction site.

This process, although challenging, is also allowing our creativity to flow. I don’t know how people build without owning tools, fasteners, generators, man stuff, and rely on a builder in CR. Good thing we figured this out in advance. Forget bringing furniture, fill your container with tools.