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An ecologically focused community overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

 

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ABOUT FINCA LAS BRISAS

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FLB, A Sustainable Community

Community Center Construction

Green Waste Treatment (17 min)

Green Waste Treatment (3 min

Visit to El Centro Verde

Water Falls at Finca Las Brisas

Howler Monkey Comes to Lunch

 

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The Costa Rica Gringo Perspective

Is Utopia Even a Possibility?

Neighbors We Don't Know

Built to Break

 

SAMPLE ECO TOURS

Overview

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The Rains Remind Us

Another Perfect January

Finca Campout

A Lot of Work, a Little Fun

Better do it Right

The Fiesta

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Note: All videos and most photos on this site are provided by community members.

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Use Google Earth and want to look at Finca Las Brisas from a satellite perspective? Download a Google file and then open. Click to download.

Use Google Earth and want to look at Finca Las Brisas from a satellite perspective? Download this Google file and then open. Click to download.

For more information on using Google Earth to explore Finca Las Brisas, click here.

 

 

 

 
 Better to do it right...

 

Our trip ended in contrast to what we are hoping to accomplish at Finca Las Brisas. We had an early AM flight, so the afternoon before we left we drove from the Finca to Playa Hermosa, which is about a 20 minute drive from the airport. This location attracts tourist buses full of people eager to get to the beach once they land at Liberia Airport. We stayed in a lovely little hotel, with gracious hosts and spectacular views of the ocean. The only problem is that it is a three story concrete structure sticking out of the hillside like the 100 other hotels, homes and condos in the area. All of these are filled with the mostly Americans that crowd the small beach areas and descend on the restaurants at the end of the day. We felt a little bad about being there too.


 

"They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
and a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot." - Joni Mitchell


Fortunately Costa Rica no longer allows anyone to build right on the beaches like we continue to do in most coastal areas in the US, but it seems we are determined to spread our notion of tourism and vacationing with disregard for the environment, the wildlife and the culture.

In contrast to many of the rapidly developing tourist beaches near the Liberia International Airport is Hotel Punta Islita; about on hour's drive south of Finca Las Brisas (much shorter in the dry season). The is a world famous hotel and spa; including a 9 hole golf course, and offering everything that most Americans, Canadian and Europeans want in a luxury hotel. Except, unlike most tourist and international developers, they have worked hard to protect and improve the environment, while contributing to the local community economically, socially and culturally. They are an inspiration and great example to all of us.
 

Block prints made by children from hotel sheets are shown in the photo to the left.


Their structures blend well with the surrounding hills, and they work hard to contribute to the community and local culture. In our photo album we have pictures of their children’s art school, computer lab and surrounding buildings in the little town. Hotel Punta Islita is a great example to us as we work to make Finca Las Brisas a good financial investment, good for the environment and good for the people living there and in the communities around us.

Good for the people…

Currently, we have two full-time workers on staff, Hector (the one with the constant big smile) and Rodolfo with the strongest handshake. We have a full-time contract project manager. Three additional workers have been hired as contractors to finish Phase I of the community center.

Additional local workers are employed for special projects as they come up. For example, we hired several local guys to apply some permaculture water retention techniques on our lot and to do some additional planting and trail blazing.
 

Six workers and six trail bikes.  A couple of years ago the workers were walking two hours down the mountain and two hours back up at the end of the day. They wall seem to have trail bikes now.


All of the workers are extremely happy for the work and they are a great group of guys.


We plan to build or start Phase I of our places so there will be plenty of work for these local workers when dry season begins. When other lots are sold we will continue on to Phase II and Phase III of the community center, pool and grounds.

A good soccer field is important socially for a community. Last week when we stayed up on the finca, the locals were playing soccer on the field we leveled for them next to the school house. Currently the soccer grass seed they use on fields in Costa Rica is depleted and the new grass seed is sitting in the hull of a ship stuck in customs. We hope to seed the new field soon.

New soccer field, minus the grass seed stuck in customs
 

One day we envision a thriving local community around the little one room school house with a strong cottage industry and local art.

The road up to the finca has never been better and all of the locals appreciate the work we have done and we appreciate their efforts too.

Most of our neighbors do not have cars and a couple have dirt bikes, so a smooth road for walking or horses is a welcomed improvement.

 


Good for the environment…

Prior to our project, the area’s tropical dry forest had been stripped due to unsustainable cattle ranching, indiscriminate hunting, slash-and-burn agriculture and the planting of teak farms. Fortunately, our river corridors have strong secondary forests that have been protected by the government and by difficult access. One of the ranchers that we purchased part of our finca from had squatted the land and then cut down valuable ancient hardwood trees; taking them one-by-one over the years via ox cart to Nicoya to sell. He cleared his land for cattle and there are signs of serious erosion in many places.

One of the greatest joys this trip was to visit the finca and see the efforts of our reforestation. The place is truly coming alive and nature and wildlife is coming back.

Looking over the community center from the hills above, as our PM said, "The place is really starting to have the feeling of Shangri-La." Creating Shangri-La was never one of our objectives but with the energy, remoteness, and natural beauty we can't help but have those feelings from time to time.

In the photo to the right, the community center and finca is seen from the hills above.


We have been able to utilize a very high percentage of local renewable materials and resources for our construction to date. Aside from the concrete and block used for the base of the casitas (we had to cut earth here due to grade), we have been able to source all materials on site or from surrounding farms. This includes: palm thatch (re-grows every year), teak (local farm raised), sand/gravel (from Carrillo beach area), form lumber (dead trees from farm), Madera negra posts for rancho (blow-downs from adjacent farms, these were pulled out with oxen).

The roof for the casitas will be constructed of re-claimed antique barrel tile from Nicaragua. All the 2nd floor walls will be built of earthen plaster over heavy wire mesh. Our earthen plaster consulting expert tells us our soil is the ideal type for this process and he will be spending several days on site during August training our crews on how to properly apply the mixture. Wide roof overhangs will keep the casitas cool and protect the plaster from heavy rains. Interiors will be finished with teak beams and floors along with other re-claimed downed hardwood lumber for trim work.

Most all of our workers are from the neighboring village of Naranjal.

This past week, we hired local men to begin permaculture contour lines to begin retaining the water on our building lot that is still suffering from erosion issues. We planted a grove of banana trees in one ravine, ground cover, aloe vera, coconut, jasmine, and avocado.

We cut a trail from our building lot that joins our new community trail running from the community center down to the rivers and falls. Mark, Dave, Dave and Rich, you’ll enjoy this trail near your lots – it connects to the main trail nicely. The guys are putting steps in critical areas and we will review and improve this next dry season.

Finca Las Brisas is a perfect project to apply permaculture design techniques to repair the environmental damage, bring back all of the forest zones and provide a food forest and business model for the local economy. See: Basic overview of permaculture

This past year we did a lot of work on the 4.5 kilometer road up to the finca. Those efforts were either repair or structural components like culverts that protect the road. Chances are we’ll have to repair again, which leads us to an opportunity - we believe that reforestation and permaculture water retention methods now hold the long term solution to having a smooth functional road that isn’t being heavily damaged each year during the rainy season, and has a positive impact on the environment. We’ll continue to research these methods and work on the road in the years to come.

Ray met with the owners of La Selva Wildlife Refuge at the south end of Playa Carrillo. Currently, they rescue, rehab and release local reptiles, animals and birds in several of the national parks. They are thrilled by the possibility of releasing in our river corridor. 

Good for our investment…

We are nearing the end of the first phase of the community center. The caretaker’s quarters will be dry in a month. The guest cabina is wonderful. The roads have never been better and the new trail system to both rivers and the series of seven falls is incredible.

We saw fruit on many of the hundreds of fruit trees planted in the last two seasons. We expect pretty serious output in another couple of years.

The water system is in and fully functional. The workshop has full solar power and has the best shower Ray claims to have ever experienced. Darlene referred to her shower after our hike to plant trees as a “Peak Experience.” The community center will be operating on solar power within a couple of months.

Last Saturday we stayed in the guest cabina. We built a fire next to the community center (not too close!) under a full moon over the ocean on a perfect night. There is some serious energy up there as Ray Dar and Ben all compared notes on some really wild and crazy dreams they had that night. Finca Las Brisas is becoming an incredible place.

We now have a Falls Loop trail system that takes the hiker by most all of the numerous falls on the two rivers and larger feeder streams that cross Finca Las Brisas. Owning property at Finca Las Brisas is nothing short of owning one of the many beautiful state parks in the US. We are working hard to reforest and protect this area from development for future generations and since we are near the source of these waters, protect the water for people and the wildlife down stream as the Rio Frio enters the Pacific at Playa Buena Vista about 4 kilometers northwest of Playa Samara.


We’re already making plans to return later this year. Hopefully you’ll join us there!

Team FLB

 

For more photos of the latest adventure tour, please click here

 


Side notes by Ray

 

Costa Rican Coffee

This trip we found out that several of the workers on the finca have coffee farms in the higher elevations above us.

I have had good coffee in Costa Rica and I always bring some home but the thought of bringing home coffee from the local community sounded like a lot of fun.

We also planted about 50 coffee plants on the finca a couple of years ago so we have dreams of having our own coffee there some day.

Both Darlene and I are coffee lovers. I grew up in Seattle and begin drinking coffee at 14 and I use to visit the first Starbucks in the Public Market.  In Tampa, we live near the area that was the cigar manufacturing capital of world. Coffee is a big part of cigar manufacturing and served formally three times a day to rollers. There is a strong coffee tradition still here today and we get our coffee from a third generation coffee roaster in Ybor City.

After twenty years of marriage, I still get a cafe latte and the newspaper in bed most mornings when I am home. On the finca, I went down to the workshop which is the only solar outlet for a coffee maker and Darlene got her coffee in bed this trip.

When we found out that Bernardo and Holjer had coffee farms above us we asked to buy some of their coffee. They refused to sell us any and brought us several pounds of their coffee to take home as a gift.

The photo to the left shows Mark in front of the local coffee bean depot in nearby Zaragosa, where local coffee growers drop off their dried beans for pick-up at a later date. Zaragosa is a small town up the mountain directly above us near where Holjer and Bernardo have their farms.

 


Darlene and I both agree there coffee might be the best coffee we have ever had. We have given out some samples and everyone is telling us pretty much the same thing. "This coffee is great!"

I am having a cup right now as I write.

 

Medical Care in Costa Rica

I have had questions by many prospective buyers on the quality of health care in Costa Rica.

I don't think I know more about the health care there than the average gringo. I do believe that they have one of the best systems in the world - for a 3rd world country. That it is free if you are a national and that there are special hospitals/facilities for internationals. I know medical tourism is becoming very popular. The cost savings for dental and medical treatments are real.

 

(Dr. Freddy Soto and me during one of my appointment).

Our project manager is able to get international health insurance for his family of three for about $2,000.

The major regional hospital is 30 minutes away from us at Finca Las Brisas and there is even a Tico clinic at the end of our road.

Personally, I have been to the pharmacy and the local gringo clinic in Samara almost every trip. This time I fell and broke some ribs and I skinned up my feet tying to surf for the first time. So off to the doctor I went - about five total times this trip.

Frustrated with health care in the US I joined a boutique medical practice. Basically that means that my doctor has a couple of hundred patients instead of the 4,000 average per the typical general practitioner. What that boils down to is that when I have an appointment there isn't anyone else in the waiting room. If I want to have a conversation with my doctor I call him up, go see him, email him, he may make a house visit - he is never in a hurry.

So far, I have had the same general experience in Costa Rica that I have had with the fee based practice I belong to here in the US. The only real difference so far seems to be cost. For my recent five visits at the Samara clinic, five pain shots, two other shots and bag of medication, it cost me around $230.
 

Oops, there I am hugging two plastic bottles of water. No, I am not holding them for Dr. Soto, they are mine. We did buy bottled water, maybe 15 small and large bottles when we first got arrived in Costa Rica and then we refilled them each time we would visit the finca. Maybe next trip we will try to source some permanent glass jugs and bottles.

By the way, Freddy (above) and my doctor Michael here in the US went to the same medical school.

Michael is a coffee drinker. I don't know about Freddie. Michael agrees that Bernardo's and Holjer's coffee is really great coffee!

 

 
 


°Recent News °


Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index

Inspiring story on using permaculture design techniques to bring back the rain forest in a very short period of time. We are using some of these same techniques to help bring back the tropical dry forest.

Rainforest Restoration in Borneo

Published final architectural designs for the
community center and current construction status.

For more photos of the latest adventure tour, please click here

Available sites at Finca Las Brisas
 
Videos by Sally Richards
Sally shooting video on the finca
 
Green Waste Treatment (17 minute version)

Green Waste Treatment (short version)

Visit to El Centro Verde
 
Amateur You Tube video clips:

Finca Las Brisas Community Center Construction (7 minutes)


Water Falls on the new River Trail at Finca Las Brisas


Howler Monkeys come for lunch
 
Pass it along
 
Finca dog

 
If you enjoy receiving these updates and think that what we are doing is valuable for the community and the environment, please forward this newsletter to your email network.

Bottles, bottles and more bottles

I am not going to pretend to be something I am not. Right now I have a plastic bottle on my desk, but I know how bad plastic is for the environment and I know how much energy and water it takes to produce one bottle of water.

I am trying to remove as much plastic as I can from my life. According to the American Chemistry Council, 116 billion pounds of plastic was produced (not the total amount consumed) in the US last year. In 2006 the US Environmental Protection Agency claimed that 12% of our municipal solid waste is now plastic. Up from 1% in 1960.

I don't buy bottled water at home and last December I began to bottle my own seltzer. Seltzer makers work well by the way and are easy to use. I estimate that mine saves us about $1,500 a year, not counting all of the cans and bottles we use to waste. Plus I don't have to carry it from the store anymore.

When I read this article yesterday about an entire town eliminating bottled water it reminded me about how happy I was to have water at Finca Las Brisas now so I don't need to purchase liters of  bottled water each day when I am in Costa Rica.
 
The well water at the finca tastes great and is surprisingly cool.

I am also delighted with the water pressure. The shower at our workshop area is the best one I have experienced in years and the water pressure so good at my building lot I have been spending time this past week designing the shower.

 

 

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Located (near Playa Samara, Playa Carrillo, Playa Garza, Playa Buenavista, Playa Guiones, Playa Nosara, Playa Ostional, and Playa San Juanilla) on the Nicoya Peninsula overlooking  the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

 

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