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  • Writer's picturePoppy

First Day on the Farm (Aug 17, 2016)

Let me start by giving some background information on the farm. The farm is in Mastatal: a small town of 80 people in the mountains next to La Cangreja National Park. There is 1 restaurant and 1 bar in Mastatal, which is about a 40-minute walk from where I was staying. The nearest “big town” is Puriscal which is about a 2 hour bus ride away, and this bus only leaves once per day at 5:30 a.m. returning at 3 p.m. In fact, because of the scarcity of these busses, my bus was so crowded on the way to the farm that I had to sit on a tire. I worked on what is called an eco-farm, meaning everything is recycled and re-used for something else. Nothing ever goes to waste. The water from the toilets and showers are drained back out to the land, food scraps and waste are used for compost, and beer bottles are even used to make cups after original use. 

Here is a photo from when I first arrived late afternoon. The next morning, I started working!

The sun is out and I’m struggling to get out of bed because it’s 7 a.m. and they are ringing the bell for breakfast. When I finally pull myself out of my bed, I find myself in utter shock by my surroundings now that light illuminates them.

I can’t exactly remember, but if I had to guess, there were 24 beds in the downstairs dorm where I was, and another 10 upstairs. Everything is open to the fresh air. Only a roof and a few walls protect us from the outside. 

Here is the view from the front as you walk in. At the time of my arrival, there was only one other volunteer here with me because it was low season for tourists and fellow adventurers. I enjoyed the privacy and intimacy of it all, except at night when I would remember that we were by ourselves in this dorm, which lies open and unprotected from the Costa Rican jungle.

The option for a shower at the farm used only cold water, but this water was fresh from a nearby waterfall. Sometimes I would be nervous to shower in case somebody walked by, so I was always prepared to reach for my towel if needed. However, after a few times I started to get more comfortable. Ha!

Here is the view of our sink and compost toilet. During my entire stay here, I felt like I was in the movie Tarzan and living in a tree house. Everything was vibrantly green and we took full advantage of everything nature had to offer. I will get into more detail later.

The compost toilet: towards the end of my stay I helped to create what they call “lasagna”: a compilation of the waste from us humans, the chickens, the cows, and and the pigs, and finally, some food scraps. Realistically, it was just a whole lot of shit! I was super excited at first to learn how to compost. I brought my camera and everything! And then, I saw maggots in the food scraps and completely lost interest. I can handle a lot of gross things but that is where I draw the line. I almost puked from the smell and the site. I passed my camera to someone else and could not participate. We’ll see if I’m able to look at the footage to show you guys later but I am still a little queasy from the entire experience.

This is dried up wood that we used to cover our waste. It actually eliminates smell really well and is rich in nutrients for compost.

Here is the compost toilet. I didn’t figure out until my last few days that there was actually a seat above it and so, I had been squatting the whole time, just trying to aim well. But at least I stayed clean.

Here is the view next to my bed. The cabins above were rented out to guests who came to relax instead of volunteer like me.

View from the front of the cabin.

A few cows just walking by. After taking this photo I always felt like the cows were mad at me because they had such an intense glare. One night, I woke up to a really loud munching noise and I assumed it was the other volunteer Anneke eating a midnight snack because she was literally always hungry. I kept waiting for her to stop because I couldn’t sleep but she just kept going on and on. Finally, my heart began racing, there was no way this girl could be eating for this long and this loud. My body started sweating profusely, assuming there must be an animal or something in the room. I stood up with with my blankets squished between my arms for “protection” and looked to the side of my bed. A few feet a way were 6 cows eating the grass under the moonlight sky. I took a deep breath and giggled to how I could have thought Anneke was making that loud of noise. But then I got scared again because of the glare these cows gave me, so I put my blankets over my head, put my music on, and went back to sleep.

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