Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Making an ax handle


He doesn't like being photographed!
This is a video of Olivier, our farm manager, making an ax handle using Jim's small hand planer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh95WYW-IxU

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Latest News before the Retreat Starts






Secret with out invaluable helper, Olivier


Upon arrival we moved from our rental house, which is a small, Tico style three-bedroom house in the little pueblo of San Salvador. We pay rent of $200 per month. A couple trips in our Toyota 4Runner and redeeming a favor from a friend with a truck, we moved most of our belongings from the house to our open air casita at our farm, which is five minutes down the hill. Right away, the sense of being here permanently felt much different than visits in the past. Knowing that there are many projects to get done but all the time to do them, slowly and allowing things to take their time, to listen to the nonlinear way of being here, and to flow with it has been an exceptional gift and insight into living with spontaneity. I truly have no idea what's going to happen each day.

We own a farm, which is about 125 acres. Seven years ago, when we bought the property, we paid to build a road to get here.  It was barely passable before we made the road.
It seems now that the road does not belong to us and people are telling us what to do with it and what not to do with it. It is quite interesting. It used to be a public horse trail used by the people who own property down here and now they all have cars and can get to their farms by car all year long. Being on good terms with the neighbors is of utmost important out here in the rural areas so we are mindful of the sometimes irrational emotions we encounter from people who are faced with a changing world that seems unfair. 

Half of our farm contains 27,000 trees planted about 15 to 20 years ago as a monoculture crop. Another failed program encouraged by the government that led to further degradation of the soil.  The trees were supposed to make good lumber but now nobody wants to use this wood because it dries crooked.
The past four years we've been looking at how to remove these trees so we can create living space for us and re-plant the indigenous forest to support the monkeys and other animals (as well as the birds and insects) who have had a shrinking territory for too long. We have a long term plan to help the eco system here stay as intact as possible.

Finally, we found a company that buys the trees and uses the lumber to make pallets. They started logging this past year. Their trucks damaged the road, which caused a huge upheaval in the neighborhood. Their team of people on the farm was difficult to manage and finally they quit. Only a fraction of the job has been done now and wherever they have taken the trees it's a huge mess that will take some years to recover from. The price we are getting from them will barely cover repairing the road and taking care of the mess they left behind. Nonetheless, when they quit it was sudden and without notice and we realized we need them to continue. After some deliberation between them, our road builder, Tacho, and our neighbors, we have agreed they will continue next dry season. Ahh… It feels good to have a break from the continuous chain saws and trucks.

   
              


During this same time Tacho, came to start work on the road that will lead up to the middle of the property. We will start building structures so my mom can live here with us living nearby in a temporary dwelling. We have to sell the chocolate farm before we can build our permanent house.

A few clients have come to see the Chocolate Farm. Each time we have gone to meet them at the Farm, it has been a big effort to have someone stay here in our open casita to protect it from theft. We needed to go to the chocolate farm to take care of (what seems like unlimited) areas that need maintenance, meet the potential client and spend an entire day or two giving tours of the farm. I do love going there  - it's wonderful to have our solar power so I can do laundry, use the blender without turning the generator on and, of course, I have my wonderful yoga studio which is so dear to me.
Our relationships with our neighbors, Anna and Deaney, and their kids as well as our workers, are beautiful. I love them all dearly. If there were two of me I would keep the farm and live there just to give Anna a friend.  She needs more support and I wish I could give her more. She has been such a support and light in my life. I often think of as her my teacher.  She wakes up at three in the morning and is the last to go to bed. Her parents are in their last years and struggling to survive. They live a few hours walk away so she cannot visit them easily. She has four kids at home, which in my opinion look a bit malnourished due to it being more and more difficult to farm the land.  They grow all their own food, which is mostly rice, beans, corn and pig.  She also has a demanding partner. Yet she is always there to help us and she is always smiling, always happy and making the best of things. I have learned a great deal from her about how to live here.

Back in San Salvador, the road is now finished and we are preparing trees for the structures we will build. Preparing the trees means checking the tide tables to figure out the absolute best time of the month to cut them down, then hauling them to a huge pit where they will be smoked as an experimental, chemical free termite treatment and then finding a good sawyer to cut them into lumber – quite a difference from calling up Home Depot for a next day delivery!

During the past three months my friendships have deepened and I have made some wonderful new friends.
The down-to-earthness and authenticity is as stable here as overconsumption is in the US.

My work at Finca De Vida, has been nothing short of amazing. The team there and the environment they have created set the stage for healing and realization at every level of being. I have immense gratitude for the way my work takes flight there. I see between three and nine clients a week and with this income I have been supporting us, one worker full-time, and one worker part-time. The money that I made before coming to Costa Rica ran out about a month ago and now we are making decisions about whether or not to drive somewhere, what food to buy and so on, very, very carefully. We are living close to the bone and it's fine.

I have to say a few words about Olivier, our full time employee.  Here in CR on a big farm you cannot survive without a local to do the hard work that we are not accustomed to.  Jim can give a Tico a run for his money but he cannot do it all day long in the hot sun.  Jim has gotten heat stroke a few times and now has to be careful not to get overheated.

Olivier built the casita that we are living in about five years ago with a man in the village named William who died last year in a car accident. The two of them, with Jim, built this in about three months. 



The original shack





Olivier and Thomas working on the casita


Since then, Olivier has been working for us on and off and I was biding my time until the moment I could hire him full-time. Everybody in the neighborhood all loves him and sometimes have hired him not just for ourselves but to help him since he is supporting his whole family single-handedly making three dollars an hour. Which is par for the course for the locals…
He has worked for us full-time for three months and we have become close friends. His stories about how he grew up and the work he has had to endure in order to survive is both heartbreaking and heart warming. He is like family now. I have not met a more honest, hard-working and versatile worker in Costa Rica. His sons also work here periodically and one of his sons Damian is working here three days a week. Damian pays attention to detail in a way his father does not, he is actually a full-blooded artist, temperament and all. I'm doing my best to have him working on things that feel fulfilling to him and nurture his creativity. Olivier also has some dreams and hopefully in the future we can help him realize those.

So now I come to the last 24 hours. The day before yesterday, we loaded up the car with things necessary to make chocolate which included taking apart the kitchen so we could bring a worktable up to the rental house. Jim dropped me off at work and spent the rest of the day melting chocolate in the sun and getting everything in the grinder to make chocolate. We brought camping pads, food, camping stove, etc. to stay the night. We arranged one of the rooms in the house with a small air-conditioner and worktable that we need to make the chocolate (without an air conditioner, the climate is too hot and humid to successfully temper chocolate – even at 4 am!) So we set the alarm for 4 o'clock in the morning and figured that at that time in the morning it will be cool enough to do the tempering. We did two batches, pouring small amounts into a bowl, bringing it into the air-conditioned room, tempering it, pouring it into the molds, putting it into the refrigerator, taking out the molds and doing it all over again. In the end it was a grand failure. It seems in this climate it's impossible to get a good tempering. Without a much more secure environment, with less humidity and cooler temperatures, the chocolate all bloomed (a technical term for chocolate that gets white and chalky as the cacao fat comes to the surface.)
None of the chocolate came out in a sellable condition and I will have to tell my retreat attendees that are about to arrive that we have no chocolate for them. We took a couple of hours to clean up but we felt uneasy that we left our casita with all our belongings alone for this amount of time so we left. Jim will have to return later for the final clean up.

We knew we were coming back to a situation that needed attention. The propane tank for our gas refrigerator ran out yesterday. Jim was able to get a new tank just as the truck was leaving San Salvador but when he got back we were missing a gasket necessary for the connection. Some of you who are reading this may not remember what it is like to have a fridge full of food that's going to go bad. Especially when you cannot go to the corner store and buy more.

On top of this, the water had stopped working for what seemed like the 20th time in a two-week period. Upon arrival in the morning, Jim headed straight up the mountain without food and was gone for about three hours. He came back with very bad news - the water table here has gone down even more and there was very little water coming out of the spring. Fortunately our casita is close to a Creek and since yesterday Jim and Olivier have been carrying water up from the creek. Needless to say, I am using the water very conscientiously. In my opinion, we should all be treating water this way and I'm happy I am getting an even deeper lesson in conserving the natural resources that we have available to us. (Rain catchment is in our future). The creek down below still has water and affords me the most beautiful washing environment with clean, pure water.  We are blessed with pure water, which though it is low right now, is still providing everything necessary for us to live.

Due to the situation with the fridge, I called Olivier and talked to his wife, Tericita, to see if she could make some extra food for Jim and me. Olivier arrived this morning with rice and beans, squash and coffee in a coke bottle, bless his soul.

He arrived with some bad news. Damian, his son, had been in a car accident.  Down near the coast, he was driving around a curve too fast.  The car rolled several times and was totaled. It's a miracle Damian is okay.
  This is especially bad news because the whole family depends on that truck.
Now their family is without a car. Olivier bought this car and spent a lot of money repairing it to make it run.  They need this car for basic necessities here.  Damian is the only one in the family with a license to drive so he gets the use of the truck. 

There is, of course, more going on here then I have mentioned. The work on the farm has many layers. Other parts of my life have taken turns profoundly Divine. My appreciation and love for Jim is ever deepening. My heart continues to expand and everyone I have ever met and all the people I'm meeting now remain present with me. 

Living in Nature

Over the past year, I have been preparing for a retreat. I was very fortunate to receive a space in the Finca De Vida schedule so that I can share this incredible place with others. The retreat starts on April 1, about one week from now. I am looking forward to sharing and learning with and from the people who are coming. Many of the participants are dear friends. 
With all that's going on here, I know that living in the society of the United States can be even more difficult and I am hoping to offer healing and regeneration so that each person may bring back the clarity and vitality this place offers.
There is a saying here in Costa Rica: Pura Vida, which is literally translated as Pure Life. You don't get to know the meaning of this word until you have lived here. And I believe I'm getting to know the meaning of this saying.
Pura Vida
Secret