We arrived at this little tropical town in the Amazon Basin jungle on October 20, exactly four years to the day after moving onto our Florida off-grid homestead in 2011. Little did we know then the Lord would be moving us so soon. Living off the grid in a tiny house, growing sugarcane and perennial vegetables, making soap and meals from seasonal produce, learning to thrive with less…all were preparing us for this season of life. So far the adjustment to this new country has been relatively smooth.
We are temporarily living in the second story of an old boarding school, owned by SIFAT, the faith-based organization we are partnering with to set up a demonstration sustainable homestead. We’re helping maintain the grounds and improve fencing and places for guests to stay. SIFAT owns another property of 50 hectares (125 acres) in the country where we hope to help demonstrate rotational grazing of cattle. We are looking to purchase land for our own homestead to be available for teaching sustainable agriculture techniques.
The language difference is diminishing as we learn to communicate in Spanish and get around on our own, making necessary purchases and arrangements. A room below us is rented out for sewing classes, bringing interesting people to us. We trust a growing number of merchants and small shops in town to give us fair prices on groceries and other items. In our search for land we meet other campesinos (small farmers) with experience living off the land. The small country church we attend has preaching and singing in Spanish, attended by a mixture of nationals and Gringos (white folks like us) who have lived here many years.
We’ve started plants to prepare for our homestead, as well to provide food for us now, or that will benefit the compound here. We planted a small herb garden, and are clearing an old garden space to plant annual vegetables. The chicks we purchased are growing and should start laying eggs in about two months.
Friends with dairy cows come into town every week and deliver raw milk, cheese, cream, and butter to our door. We feel pretty spoiled about that, but realize soon we will once again have our own dairy goats and possibly a cow. Eggs are delivered weekly by old colony Mennonite friends an hour away. We also enjoy mangos, limes, figs, bananas, coconuts and lots of star fruit growing here on this property. Blossom has been experimenting with making chocolate from cacao beans, as well as our own coconut oil.
Our grocery list is really simple, hopefully getting shorter and shorter as we grow our own. Here is the typical weekly list:
Plantains (big green bananas)
Yucca (cassava root)
Bananas (if we don’t have any)
Flour (till our grain mill arrives in our container)
Occasionally we buy a whole chicken (including feet and head) from local farmers. It’s amazing the delicious meals coming from such a basic list. We buy rice in larger quantities and eat lots of it. Numerous friends grow their own, which we hope to do once we get land.
Transportation has been an adjustment, although not difficult. With our vehicle budget we purchased three motorcycles, and a family sized three-wheeled motocar. At first we borrowed a pick-up truck, and soon learned that the rough roads are very hard on vehicles, and it is slow going. The townspeople use mostly motorcycles (called motos), and for good reason. It’s common to see whole families on one moto, with three or four little children stuck in between and in front of their mama and daddy. Our motocar is useful for the farm, to sell produce in town, and offer rides to others going where we are. Distance travel is much more cost effective in a low cost taxi or bus. The hardest thing about motorcycles was teaching this middle-aged woman to ride, proving quite nerve racking at first. Now I’m actually enjoying it.
The worst thing here is chiggers! They make awful itchy bites, in most perturbing places! We had them in Florida till we got guinea fowl who ate them up. Eight young guineas are ordered from a neighboring farmer as soon as they are old enough. We hope to rid ourselves of this malady soon! We’ve learned to manage with rubbing alcohol and ionic silver, greatly easing the bites when used daily. Mosquitoes are not as bad as in Florida, especially closer to the mountains. There are calm bug-eating tarantulas, not dangerous as we grew up believing. Cockroaches are the same as in Florida, but more sluggish. There is a huge creepy type of roach which I loathe, fairly easy to kill and not as common.
The weather is warm, but the nearby mountains usually bring coolness at night and even chilly air with rain, even in the middle of summer, which is the current season here. When we first arrived it was the end of dry season, and terribly hot and dusty for a few weeks. Since then it has been much more pleasant than Florida summers, for which we are thankful.
Besides the new friends who’ve made us feel so welcome here, I love most the breathtaking scenery of the jungle and mountains, clear rocky rivers and streams, bright blue sky, huge butterflies, large colorful birds, and the vivid green meadows. So far it feels like home!
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Note: My appreciation to Silver Oak for editing and critiquing this post.
PS. Enjoy the following scenes captured locally, as well as from a recent trip to the big city in the mountains.