One Month in a Costa Rican Eco-Community
April 19, 2022
By Kayla Kurin

I wake up to the sound of iguanas tumbling around the tin roof overhead. I roll over to see the sun shining on the mango trees and pink flowers outside. The sounds of dripping coffee and knives slicing fruit find their way into my room.

The Mauser EcoHouse is a Costa Rican artist’s colony in the heart of the jungle. It’s part of the Saint Michael’s eco-community where the neighborhood shares a goal to cultivate sustainable agriculture practices. The community is still finding its footing, but here at the Mauser EcoHouse, they are using permaculture—a type of farming based on indigenous agricultural practices. Some of our neighbors are harvesting rainwater and aiming for zero waste.

I get dressed and go to meet the other residents for breakfast. We pour coffee and pile bowls high with freshly roasted granola and fresh fruit (some picked from the trees on the grounds). One of the house volunteers, a carpenter, goes to pick fresh limes from the tree outside for us to squeeze over our fruit. Warm breezes sweep through the doors of the Spanish-style villa surrounded by greenery.

After breakfast, I take a walk around the grounds. Herbs and vegetables are lined on trays on the wrap-around deck and the neighbor’s horses stop by to eat our mango and papaya peels. Perhaps my favorite part of the property is the greenhouse. I enjoy trying to identify the plants and learning names for herbs and vegetables I never knew before. They’re growing spinach and arugula and aloe vera. Bright tropical flowers seem to sprout up everywhere and bulbous turmeric plants line the stone pathways that wind around the garden.

During my month in this community, I get to explore a good part of the surrounding area in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica. The highlight, perhaps, is getting to visit a local cacao farm where you can see permaculture practices in action. They grow turmeric and papaya and lemon and lime trees along with cacao plants. Step by step I help them make chocolate—from cracking open the pods to roasting and grinding the beans—until we’re all eating fresh chocolate from scratch. While the Saint Michael’s community and Mauser EcoHouse are still growing, it’s neat (and delicious) to see how self-sustaining these communities can be.

The other artists and I amble around waterfalls, walk through jungle trails, try and fail to identify birds and foreign fruits, and sip on piña coladas (made with fresh pineapple) on the beach.

Once a week a fruit and vegetable truck stops by for anything that isn’t currently growing on the property. Heather, the manager of the place, tells me they hope to plant more fruit and veg to become fully self-reliant, but the residency is still in its infancy at just a few years old.

When we bring our armfuls of fresh fruit and vegetables inside we feel giddy. One of the artists is a chef and cooks delicious vegetarian and plant-based meals. Gallo Pintos and curries and freshly roasted granola, papaya salads, and more. Eating food that was grown on the property or nearby makes me feel more connected to the place I’m staying.

After putting the food away, we walk down the road to the top of the hill. We pass other homes in the community, watch cows munch on tall grass and hear the howl of monkeys swinging through the jungle from tree to tree. When we get to the top of the hill, the sun is turning pink in the sky. Orange light glows on the tops of flat palm leaves as the sun sinks behind the hills. As the sky turns dark the moon and stars come out to play, filling the black clear sky.

Once our necks ache from looking up at the stars we head back to the house to lounge on hammocks or talk over a warm tea. Nobody stays up too late, though. Here, it’s easy to feel the rhythm of nature, waking and sleeping with the rising and setting of the sun.

The EcoHouse is dedicated to Doctor Mauser, who taught and wrote about sustainability, environmentalism and our relationship with nature. Artists looking to stay in the house can apply here. Those looking to learn more about the Saint Michael’s community can find more information on their website.

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