Wednesday, November 26, 2014

8 Ways to Get Your Holiday Goodies into Costa Rica Easily or Safely

My post about how to receive packages in Costa Rica while avoiding having them snagged by Customs, which requires a trip to San José and a couple hours of bureacratic SNAFU to retrieve said package, continues to be one of my more popular articles.

Still, I often get asked the question: "Just how do you get stuff shipped into Costa Rica?"

Drone chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest still
Attack of the Drones - CC-SA-3.0

Unfortunately, Amazon drone delivery does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon.

So, to supplement the original article, here is a list (probably incomplete) on the various methods that I've either used or have learned second-hand from others who have found them to be successful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tamara Applies Her Artistic Talents to Yet Another Medium - Wood Carving

We have four eucalypto posts on the outside of our home here in Costa Rica. Last year, we enlisted the help of a local wood carver who does astounding work to carve one of them. It took him two long days to finish the carving and a couple of days for us to sand and finish it. This year, we wanted to continue with the 3 posts on the back patio, but he was unavailable due to long-term health issues.

Tamara trying to wood carve with a Dremel tool
Suited up for battle
So, as she has done before, Tamara took up the challenge to learn a new art medium and carved them herself.

Having never carved any wood before in her life. 

Unfortunately, all she had at hand were some of those dollar store, cheap Chinese carving tools, which would never be up to the task even if you could adequately sharpen them. They stayed sharp about as long as it takes the driver behind you to honk when the light turns green.

I offered her my Dremel tool, however, and we bought some good quality bits downtown. She was off to the races! It was dusty, tedious work though and progress was excruciatingly slow.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our First Real Organic Coffee Harvest

Since we first planted coffee on our small finca here in southern Costa Rica three years ago, we've anticipated harvesting enough to supply most of our own coffee-drinking needs. That is probably far too optimistic given that we only have 300 plants and we drink a lot of coffee, but nonetheless it is exciting to have our first "bumper" crop of organic coffee this year and to look forward to larger harvests each year, natural disasters notwithstanding.

bucket and bag of freshly picked coffee cherries
The first coffee picking of 2014
 Our first picking yielded 7 kilos of cherries. I don't know yet what the ratio is between cherries and the final roasted beans, but I'm sure it's at least 2:1. So, it's not much, though there's at least one more picking coming, but it's at least ten times what we gathered last year.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Rehabilitated Truck Enjoys a New Lease on Life

side view of restored Mitsubishi Mighty MaxMy very first truck was a 1950 GMC 1/4-ton, reddish-orange, 3-speed on the column. At that time, it was about 22 years old. So, my '88 Mitsubishi is officially the oldest vehicle I have owned at 26 years of age. I guess our minds start to lodge themselves in relative time when we reach 30-40 years old, because I think of the Mitsubishi as being "modern", not more than 10 years old. It would take a psychologist to explain that.

That is neither here nor there I suppose, but it crossed my mind as yesterday my "new" truck's story came to a successful end. To briefly catch up new readers, back in March, this truck rolled (with no one aboard) down a steep ravine. It appeared totalled, but the chassis and drive train were actually in fair shape. Finding a new cab took 4 months. The body shop spent another 2 months putting it together and refurbing the chassis. I spent about 2 months building a new platform bed with my trusty stick welder and adding details such as lights, tax stickers, fender flairs and so on.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When Rainy Season Arrives, We Head to the Beach!

How to Beat the Heat at the Beach

As you have probably surmised, we are not mega-fans of tropical heat when it hits the 90s. That's why we chose to build our home in Costa Rica at 4,000 ft. elevation where temps range between the mid-60s to mid-70s most of the year. When we feel the need to "visit the Tropics", it's only an hour's drive to some of our favorite beaches. 

Tamara collecting plastic on favorite Costa Rica beach
Trash collection run on a favorite Costa Rica beach

One in particular, which we discovered recently, was the subject of our visit last weekend. It's close, small, uncrowded and has a classic tropical island look with leaning palms and reaching almond trees with plenty of sand framed by broken rocks. The nearby restaurant is high, wide and open. It's tourist prices there, but the food is not the usual gallo pinto based plate and it comes with a trio of small (non-begging) dogs that have the run of the place. One of them escorted us on the beach, happily showing us the way.

Monday, September 08, 2014

My Truck, Wounds Healed, Has a Happy Homecoming Today

Update Nov.2014: See How This Truck Turned Out in The End.

I told my wife this morning that today was going to be my lucky day, I just felt it:
  • Over a week ago, I'd sold my big GMC truck, but 4 attempts to get the SINPE wire transfer to my bank had failed even after two trips to my bank to straighten things out. But, I thought sure that today it would go through, and it did.
    old pickup rolled and cut up
    My truck after its ravine roll, in sad shape indeed
  • I needed the money today to finish paying for the repair of my pitiful '88 Mitsubishi truck that rolled down a ravine back in March. I was hoping it would finally be done today. It was!
  • Even luckier, after picking up the truck, I had a balance owing, so I went to my bank to withdraw funds and when I came out, we ran into an old friend and her daughter and while we were chatting at length, my body shop guy showed up, so I didn't have to make an extra trip to pay him off.
  • Our new 4Mbps Internet service started today, for the same price as the old.
  • Not least of all, in the morning, I finished two small kitchen appliance repairs that actually worked! 
  The new truck cab is excellent. Pictures below the fold ...

Friday, September 05, 2014

What You Probably Don't Know about Costa Rica's Phantom Insect aka the Stick Bug

If you've been in Costa Rica for even a little while, it's likely that you've encountered a stick insect at some time. Or, perhaps you've walked right by them without a glance as they are pretty crafty at looking like ... well, sticks! If they show up on your window or painted wall that bit of camoflague is pretty useless as it was for this specimen on our house the other day.

Long stick insect on stucco wall
No, really! I'm just a harmless twig, move along, nothing to see.
There are a wide variety of "stick bugs" throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions, more than 2500 species! Taken together, they are referred to as phasmids, a word whose Greek root refers to "phantoms." Their most well-known characteristic is that, aside from their odd appearance, they hold the record for longest bug on planet Earth. One species is up to 22 inches long including the legs, 14 inches just counting the body. I know they get quite a bit bigger than the one in the picture down on the coasts, but this one, at 8 inches is about as big as they get up here in the mountains.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Want to Buy a Lovely Costa Rica Finca? or Selling, but Not Selling Out

panoramic sunset from our costa rica balcony
View from the balcony of our house. Cerro de La Muerte just beyond the clouds
Our rationale is simple: a little less field work and a little more money in the bank acount. That's essentially why we've decided to offer up a couple of lots out of our nearly 3 hectare finca here in southern Costa Rica. If you will not be satisfied unless you can have it all, we'll consider that too.

Prices start at $39,000 up to $329,000.

Here's a rough summary (more details can be found at the "Our Finca Sale" page, which you can access just under the blog header photo above):

  • Located at 4,000 ft. elevation just north of San Isidro de El General. The air is always fresh and cool and the views are outstanding
  • Walking distance to Matasanos village and the larger towns of San Ramón Sur and San Ramón Norte.
  • Fresh, cold, clean water comes from a spring flowing right out of the Las Piedras granite batholith, part of which crosses the property

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Suicidal Costa Rica Pickup's Despair Evaporates

Update Nov.2014: See How This Truck Turned Out in The End.

You may have forgotten about my trashed Mitsubishi pick-up. Sometimes, even I forget about it now and then. After all, it's been over five months since we discovered it had rolled down a 200 ft. ravine into the creek, whether by accident or through malice we'll never know.

motor mounted in bare truck chassi
Motor re-mounted in the old, but re-painted bare chassis

After I determined that, despite outward appearances, it was still drivable (sorry, no video of me tooling around the neighborhood in my "new" convertible), I called my body shop man, Deiner, up to the house to take a look. He was quite confident that it was salvageable and the hunt began for a new cab from the north of Costa Rica into Panama. 

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