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

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 $299,000.

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

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. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yet Another Side Project on Our Busy Costa Rica Finca

Another of my part-time side projects this year has been the construction of a small rancho down by our quebrada (creek) in the midst of our modest banana crop at the edge of our equally modest coffee "plantation." The platform is just to one side of where my small truck landed when it rolled down the ravine, the precise cause of which is still shrouded in mystery.

overhead shot of rancho floor frame
Rancho platform's steel frame
As I prefer to do, I make the floor foundation and frame from concrete and steel, which I presume will weather the humidity and bugs if no other part of the building will. The remainder will be built from wood, the same way I constructed my sister's house, but in a different style, since this is a rancho.

long shot of platform from other end of garden
Platform from other end of garden




The main difficulty with the frame was that I didn't want to go to the expense of running a 220V line to this location and my generator is not big enough to serve up my welder with enough juice to weld on location.



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spring Boxing Camp for Tropical Birds Wanting to Sharpen Their Bills

It all started thanks to one bird, a persistent, some might say obsessive, harmless looking gray tanager with a bone to pick with an apparent rival. Daily, without fail, he challenged the gray-blue intruder of the same species with sharp-billed pecks and flamboyant, rising displays of fluttering wings and stinging, knife-edged cries that let his foe know he was anything but welcome. Meanwhile, his mate, perched on a nearby bamboo orchid gazed in admiration at his fearlessness.

Our fearless hero and founder of our local avian training camp
This was no ordinary foe he faced, however. To his frustrated surprise, this other bird seemed to know all his tricks, all his moves. Every peck was matched precisely, every display duplicated as if to mock our gray-blue hero. Still, he would not abate, he would not back down in the face of his opponent's impudence and bad manners.

Of course, little did his feeble bird-brain realize that he would not, could not, overcome his challenger for it was none other than himself. Or, rather, his refection in our mirrored window!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Drier Than Usual Rainy Season in Costa Rica

This year's rainy season is trending mild, probably in large part due to the effects of El Niño. Certainly, it's not on track to be the soggy 2010 winter when we received a total of 200 inches of rain over 8 months and it seemed the whole country was slipping away into the Pacific.

rain gauge with a low readingWe didn't have a drop of precipitation from New Year's until the middle of April. April offered a meager total of 5 inches, followed by 17, 18, and 10.5 inches in the following three months. August seems  wetter, about 8 inches has fallen so far and the storms have been lively.

This rate of rain feels about right. There are consistenly sunny mornings, rain mid-afternoon give or take and often it lets up in the evening.

The reduction in rainfall, however, is not good news all over Costa Rica. For instance, they are still suffering drought conditions up in Guanacaste since 2011. A lot of ranchers are going broke as they have no feed and water for their cattle. Many planned residential subdivisions have been halted in their tracks due to insufficient water supplies.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Please Help Costa Rica PC Rescue Ship 20 Desktop PCs

This is the last PC rescue post on A Dull Roar as I have started a separate blog dedicated to this project to get used PCs into the homes of needy Costa Rican families who can't afford one on their own.

That new blog is Costa Rica PC Rescue. It's pretty skimpy so far, just a single post, but it explains the mission and how it all works today.

I realize we barely finished the first official contribution campaign for PC spare parts and already here is another request for help. This second campaign is in response to opportunity knocking, however. A contributor to the first fundraiser let me know that he has 20 later model Dell desktop machines that were originally destined for Guatemala except that the red tape was too big a hurdle. He has offered those PCs to us if we pay the shipping costs.

The shipper I always use, Lomaser.com, has offered to ship these at their cheapest (highest volume) rate and waive the agency fee. That's a $175 in-kind donation right there. The remainder is $300 and is the goal of this fundraiser.


Think of it this way, it is only $15 per PC shipped to us, all duties, taxes, customs fees already paid. All that remains for me to do is to load them with an OS and applications and make sure they are in good order before donating them.

We can make a lot of poor families, schools and libraries happy with this shipment. Can you help us reach our modest goal? The smallest of donations is hugely appreciated, you can count on that.

Here is the link for making donations: Kapipal Help Ship 20 PCs to Costa Rica

Thanks for spreading the word!

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