Cool Stuff – Rancho Delicioso – Yoga Retreat, Surf Camp and Permaculture Center at Costa Rica Eco Village http://ranchodelicioso.com Costa Rica Eco Village with Yoga Retreat, Surf Camp and Permaculture Center Tue, 15 Aug 2017 18:46:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 The River Palace http://ranchodelicioso.com/the-river-palace/ Fri, 09 Sep 2016 18:34:52 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=3593 We are nearly done constructing our new accommodations for our guests at Rancho Delicioso, which we call The River Palace. We will have better photos soon when we’re done! This is just to show you what we’re working on!   It took nearly a year to build, and was designed with the idea to make […]

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The River Palace

We are nearly done constructing our new accommodations for our guests at Rancho Delicioso, which we call The River Palace.

We will have better photos soon when we’re done! This is just to show you what we’re working on!

 
River Palace Inside

It took nearly a year to build, and was designed with the idea to make it the most beautiful and interesting building in the area, using mostly natural materials. Nearly all the wood comes from a farm across the street or nearby.

The structure is around 70 feet tall, making it the tallest habitable building in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica!

It’s constructed 20 feet in the air, at the center of three valleys. It has three bridges to reach it.

Inside, it has three floors, all built into one very large room. Many people remark, when looking up, that it has an “M.C. Escher” feel to the design, because of the many floors, stairs, and bridges.

Yoga Retreat and Surf Camp in Costa Rica The second floor has a catwalk/bridge to a small space with a work area, for people with laptops or who want to do art, or just hang out and look out at the farm in the westward direction. It has a very large triangle-shaped window, and the upper half of this is done with stained glass.

Keep in mind, that although this has an exotic and luxurious style, it’s still basically a dorm! The bathrooms are small. There’s little privacy except in the two small loft rooms at the top. Our guests of 2015 and 2016 loved staying crammed together like sardines in our volunteer house, so we figured this would be a big step up. Plus nearly everyone we talked to loved the coziness of being together like a Tarzan jungle family, or Swiss Family Robertson, so we tried to capture that type of energy while still providing a lot more space than before. So far, everyone is flipping out over it, and many declare that they would love to move in permanently! We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we’ve loved making it.

 

Lighting

 

The Roof is designed with a ring-vent at the top, to let in some light and remove hot air.

The crown has a set of lights that create a rainbow-style glow from above. We did this by simply cutting out colored stage gels and putting them over white LED lights.

All the lights in the structure are eco-friendly LED lighting.

The ceiling is raw palm, stripped and bound together in the traditional way. It’s truly gorgeous.

The structure of course has no Air Conditioning, but the palm roof is very insulating, and with the many windows and doors, plus ceiling fans, the structure stays plenty cool day and night.

 
Ceiling Lighting

 

Kitchen

 

It has a full kitchen, with refrigerator, double sink, and gas burners for cooking, although for our retreats we won’t be eating here. This is mainly for the guests to make themselves a snack, or for if we rent it out for private use.

Perhaps the most spectacular part of the inside of The River Palace is the 16-foot long table/bar. It was made from a single branch that fell off a huge cenizaro tree in Cabuya in a storm.

 
Kitchen / Bar area

 

Bathrooms

 

There are two bathrooms in the main structure. One on the first floor and one on the second. Each has its own sink.

Outside, underneath one of the mini towers, there are two showers that are made in concrete, much like those at Anamaya.

 

Bridges

 

Because the structure is built over a stream and basically floats in the air, the access is only from three long wood bridges, each of which goes from a different land mass in the farm.

There are also two metal bridges lower down, for use by the workers or tours. If we hadn’t done this, we would inevitably have a lot of people with muddy feet walking through the structure in order to quickly get from one part of the farm to another.

In total, the structure has 7 different bridges inside and out.

 
Bridge on the Second Floor

 

Hanging “Nest” Beds

 

The structure has six round “nest beds”, each of which is hanging from ropes.

They have their own lighting, a personal fan, a mosquito net (not that you really need it) and are perhaps the coolest beds in the world.

There are 2 nest beds on the first floor, and 4 on the second floor, so total 6 of these. They’re close together, very cozy. For guests who want privacy, the loft rooms above are best for you.

 
Hanging Round Nest Bed

 

Private Rooms

 

The third floor is a loft with ladder-type stairs to reach it.

In this loft are TWO small private rooms, each with a queen-size bed and an interesting, narrow triangle-shaped window with a view. Each room has its own ceiling fan.

The bed is made from local Melina and Teak, and has a Fire/Flames design.

These private rooms overlook the main room, but there are curtains for privacy for guests who need it.

 
Loft Room

 

Single Beds

 

We also have two single beds on the first floor, for those of you who might not like the movement/motion of the hanging beds.

During the day, these beds will probably end up being used from time to time by everyone, because they’re also our sofas! On the upside, they’re the closest to the kitchen, for grabbing a midnight snack.

Although these are on the bottom floor, they’re still around 20 feet above the creek bed below, so they have a nice view.

 
Single Sofa Beds
 

River Palace Video

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Tropical Seeds for Making Jewelry http://ranchodelicioso.com/tropical-seeds-for-making-jewelry/ Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:14:57 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2861 For 11 years I was half owner of a jewelry company called Seventh Sense, and we scoured the planet looking for exotic beads and materials of all types to make our jewelry. Although I’ve left that business far behind, I still love the idea of making jewelry, and am always keeping my eye open for […]

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Job's Tears

For 11 years I was half owner of a jewelry company called Seventh Sense, and we scoured the planet looking for exotic beads and materials of all types to make our jewelry. Although I’ve left that business far behind, I still love the idea of making jewelry, and am always keeping my eye open for beads or jewelry materials we can produce on the farm, made from the seeds of various plants, find on the beach, or discover growing wild.

Many great seeds that are used for jewelry come from rare vines that are very difficult to spot, except when they occasionally bloom or drop their seed pods. I discovered one of these growing in the old-growth jungle at our river. This was the “sea bean” that looks like a miniature hamburger and is found washed up on the area’s beaches from time to time.

When I first moved to Costa Rica, I made and wore a bracelet made out of Guanacaste seeds from the huge tree growing at Anamaya. I made the mistake of wearing it while swimming and the seeds absorbed water and swelled up, ruining the bracelet. Lesson learned: never get jewelry wet when it’s made from seads or beans!

 

We have or can find these here nearby the farm

 

Canna (Canna Indica)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canna_indica
4-5mm round black. We mistook this for arrowroot because it was sent to us as such.
Canna indica sps. can be used for the treatment of industrial waste waters through constructed wetlands. It is effective for the removal of high organic load, color and chlorinated organic compounds from paper mill wastewater. http://www.rite-ways.com/SoilBioFiltrationSTP.html

Cenizaro (Albizia saman)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albizia_saman
These medium sized brown seeds look like miniature Guanacaste seeds, and come in pods surrounded by a sticky sweet syrup.

Guanabana – Soursop (Annona muricata)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soursop
Black smooth hard oblong seeds

Guanacaste (Enterolobium_cyclocarpum)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterolobium_cyclocarpum
Large, flat beautiful beads from the “monkey ear” tree

Job’s Tears (Coix lacryma-jobi)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job%27s_Tears
White, grey, brown seeds that have a natural hole in them. Very pearly, and grow on small grassy bushes easily here on the farm once established.

Mukuna – Sea Beans (Mucuna sloanei)

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/mucuna.htm
Large flat round seeds, usually found on the beach. They are from a vine, and the seeds have a circle of painful stinging hairs on them when taken from their pods.
Photos and list of “drift seads” found on beaches: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/nicker.htm#nicker1.gif

 

Tropical Beads We’d Like to Plant

 

Coralwood Tree – Red Bead Tree (Adenanthera pavonina)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenanthera_pavonina
http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Red%20Bead%20Tree.html
Bright red round seeds, with many, many different names. Acacia Coral, Bead Tree, Circassian Seed, Coral Wood, Coralitos, Curly Bean, Jumbi-Bead, Peronías, Red Bead Tree, Red Sandalwood, Red Barbados pride, Peacock flower fence, Saga, and Manchadi are common names.

Kukui Nut Seeds (Aleurites moluccanus)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleurites_moluccanus
Shiny brown seeds. The fruit is full of oil and can be made into a natural candle.

Mary’s Bean (Merremia discoidesperma)

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/plmay96.htm
Known as the “crucifiction bean” because it has a cross pattern pressed into its surface.
These large seeds are used as the centerpiece in a necklace. They come from a small papery fruit on vines growing on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Mgambo – (Majidea zanguebarica)

Velvet-covered seeds also called “black pearls”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majidea_zanguebarica

Nickernuts (Caesalpinia major)

http://waynesword.palomar.edu/nicker.htm
Large marble-like round/oval seeds. There are three species that come in yellow, grey, and brown. They grown on a spine-covered shrub on tropical beaches.

Ormosias – Jumby Beads (Ormosia_coccinea etc)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ormosia_coccinea
Bright red small seeds that grow on Costa Rica trees. There’s many species, with different seeds.
This is the famous seed (kuru) of the manjadi tree (manjadikuru). Also known as Circassian Seeds
Lots of great info here on these beads: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/plmar97.htm

Rosary Peas (Abrus precatorius)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrus_precatorius
Red and Black ovals from a highly invasive vine.

Royal Poinciana / Flamboyant (Delonix regia)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delonix_regia
Long, brown/tan, “tube” beads from a leguminous tree, covered with gorgeous red flowers, very impressive in bloom. In guatemala it’s called “Llama del Bosque”

Rudraksha (Elaeocarpus_ganitrus)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaeocarpus_ganitrus
Round wrinkled seeds from a tropical tree, used to make mala rosary necklaces in India

Tagua Nut Tree (Phytelephas)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytelephas
Tagua Nut Palm Tree seeds are carved and used like ivory. The most commonly used is Phytelephas Macrocarpa.

Wild Tamarind (Leucaena leucocephala)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leucaena_leucocephala
Small flat round, and brown. They grow in long flat pods on a tree.
Used as jewelry: http://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/2013/11/14/uncommon-buy-handmade-wild-tamarind-wares-in-antigua/

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Plant Quiz Answers http://ranchodelicioso.com/plant-quiz-answers/ Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:45:57 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2314 Here are answers to the tropical plant quiz. Turmeric Flower This large, exotic flower comes out of the tumeric plant. Tumeric’s bright orange roots are perhaps the most super of all superfoods, with myriad health benefits, especially good for the brain. It can also be used as a dye and stains nearly everything it touches. […]

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Here are answers to the tropical plant quiz.

Turmeric Flower

Turmeric Flower

Turmeric Flower

This large, exotic flower comes out of the tumeric plant. Tumeric’s bright orange roots are perhaps the most super of all superfoods, with myriad health benefits, especially good for the brain. It can also be used as a dye and stains nearly everything it touches. If you can find turmeric in a store, you can break it into nodules and just replant it, and it will spread out, creating a whole patch.

Indian Lettuce

Indian Lettuce

Indian Lettuce

This plant is very difficult to find in the U.S., be we found the seeds here in Costa rica. It grows two meters tall and you harvest the yummy lettuce leaves from the bottom up as it grows. It produces its seeds at the end and you can replant them. It loves the tropical climate and grows very easily here in full sun or partial shade. So far, it’s worked well under every condition we’ve tried it. We got the seeds from Granos Paz. Apparently it’s originally from India.

Mystery Plant 3

Arrowroot

Arrowroot

This starchy root of the arrowroot plant can be dehydrated and pulverized in a vitamix to make a healthy, sticky flower that replaces gluten-type flours in baking recipes such as a wheat-free pizza dough, bread, cakes, or other bread-type foods that tend to be too dry when made gluten-free. It has brilliantly bright red flowers too and works great as a garden ornamental. It grows very easily here in Costa Rica, and you can easily propagate it by taking out root sections and replanting them.

Mystery Plant 4

Tropical White Potato

Tropical White Potato

A lucky discovery, these potato vines grew from white potatoes I purchased in a grocery store in Dominical. While many sweet potatoes grow in the tropics, it’s very difficult to find a white potato that grows here, because usually they just rot in the ground. Ours are growing like crazy, and have covered a trellis to make the shape you see in this photo. If anyone knows the proper name of this, or how to get it to produce potatoes, let us know, because so far it’s only producing the leaves!

Borage

Borage

Borage

Borage is used in polyculture gardening primarily to attract pollinators. It’s sweet smell attracts bees to the garden, and they end up finding more of the other types of flowers you want them to. The five-pointed star-shaped borage flowers are also sweet and edible, and are great for decorating gourmet farm-to-table dishes. They grow rapidly and easily here in the tropics, are great to have mixed in with nearly any other type of plant.

Dragonfruit

Dragonfruit

Dragonfruit Flower

This gorgeous flower comes out of the dragonfruit plant before it creates the actual fruit. In the background you can see that dragonfruit is a cactus, and even stranger, it’s an epiphyte. Like orchids, epiphytic plants cling to other trees rather than growing on the ground, and they spread out on a plant like slow-growing tenacles, sticking to a host tree’s bark. There are many colors of dragonfruit, but they’re all sweet and yummy.

Katuk

Katuk

Katuk

Katuk is one of the world’s rare types of trees that produces edible leaves. They are surprisingly delicious, and at some places they grow large patches of them to use as their primary green in salads and for cooking like spinach. You can’t have too much katuk. These trees grow at most around 2.5 meters tall, and they don’t like the full sun of the tropics, so plant them next to or just underneath larger trees with patchy sunlight.

Purslane / Verdolaga

Purslane

Purslane

Known as Verdolaga in spanish, this grown-hugging succulent plant will grow as a weed all over your farm once you plant some of it. Actually you probably already have it. We did, and it was an easy task to nurture it to rapidly spread. We let it grow wherever it wants to be, since it has the highest level of Omega 3 essential fatty acids of any plant in the world. Plants that have a good amount of oils are rare, so purslane is a true superfood for the permaculture garden, and it grows in most climate zones.

Malabar Spinach

Malabar Spinach

Malabar Spinach

Malabar spinach grows easily here in the tropical climate, producing a large quantity of edible leaves. The vines grow only 2-3 meters long before the plants die out, but it’s easily regrown from its own seeds. It’s dark purple berries can also be used as a dye. The leaves are “Mucilaginous” meaning that they’re slimy. So like Okra, they take special knowledge of how to prepare them to reduce the slime factor.

Cranberry Hibiscus

Cranberry Hibiscus

Cranberry Hibiscus

The pretty burgundy plant grows up to two meters high, and its leaves are edible. Despite its color, it’s a great tropical “green” and is good mixed into exotic salads, or just to munch on when you’re working in the garden. It has a sour and sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of cranberries, hence its name. Another great use is for making tea. This plant also produces seeds that are easily harvested and planted to grow more.

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Permaculture Plant Nerd Quiz http://ranchodelicioso.com/permaculture-plant-nerd-quiz/ Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:39:03 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2302 Here are photos of ten EDIBLE tropical plants. So for all you tropical garden geeks and permaculture geniuses, the challenge is to name them all. Leave your answers at the bottom in the comments section if you like… For the answers to what these plants are, click here: Plant Quiz Answers

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Here are photos of ten EDIBLE tropical plants. So for all you tropical garden geeks and permaculture geniuses, the challenge is to name them all.

Leave your answers at the bottom in the comments section if you like…

Mystery Plant 1

Mystery Plant 1

Mystery Plant 2

Mystery Plant 2

Mystery Plant 3

Mystery Plant 3

Mystery Plant 4

Mystery Plant 4

Mystery Plant 5

Mystery Plant 5

Mystery Plant 6

Mystery Plant 6

Mystery Plant 7

Mystery Plant 7

Mystery Plant 8

Mystery Plant 8

Mystery Plant 9

Mystery Plant 9

Mystery Plant 10

Mystery Plant 10

For the answers to what these plants are, click here: Plant Quiz Answers

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Herbs and Plants for Personal Hygiene Products http://ranchodelicioso.com/herbs-plants-personal-hygiene-products/ Sat, 31 May 2014 17:05:09 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2149 A friend of mine, Kelly Perkins, visited the farm a few days ago, and she was curious as to what we have growing here that could be used for personal hygiene products such as lotions, scrubs, soaps, shampoos, insect repellents, and other face and skincare products. She was asking about this because she has a […]

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Fennel Flowers for Pollen

Fennel Flowers for Pollen

A friend of mine, Kelly Perkins, visited the farm a few days ago, and she was curious as to what we have growing here that could be used for personal hygiene products such as lotions, scrubs, soaps, shampoos, insect repellents, and other face and skincare products.

Spinster Sisters Logo - Face and Skin Products Company She was asking about this because she has a successful company producing these types of products for over 100 stores in the U.S., and is rapidly growing. She’s looking for sources and ways to expand her business with high quality essential oils, tinctures, and ingredients. Kelly’s company is called Spinster Sisters Company, and you can find it by clicking here.

A short conversation with her determined that we already grow several useful ingredients for face and skincare products that could be made for sale locally, for export, or perhaps in our spa in Anamaya. After a bit of research about what’s commonly used in such products, I found that we have quite a few already here, and many more could be grown in this climate if we can find the seeds. Here are some lists:

What’s Growing Now

    Aloe
    Arrowroot
    Basil
    Beeswax
    Borage
    Calendula
    Cane Sugar
    Citronella
    Cucumber
    Fennel
    Ginger
    Gotu Kola
    Grapefruit
    Hibiscus
    Honey
    Lemon
    Lemongrass
    Lime (various species including key lime)
    Mint
    Neem
    Orange
    Oregano
    Papaya
    Passionflower
    Peanuts
    Peppermint
    Plantain Leaf
    Rosemary
    Sage
    Spearmint
    Stevia
    Thyme
    Vertiver
    Ylang Ylang

We are also growing, and will have in the future these

    Avacado
    Cacao
    Carrot
    Cayenne Pepper
    Cinnamon
    Coconut Oil
    Coffee
    Macadamia Oil
    Vanilla

We hope to grow these in the future, and theoretically should be possible here

    Acai Berry
    Black Pepper
    Goji Berry
    Green Tea
    Henna
    Patchouli
    Sesame

Not sure if we can ever grow these in this climate, and we’ve tried unsuccessfully

Chamomile / Manzanillo
Lavender

Conversion to Use

Of course, just because we can grow a plant doesn’t mean it’s useful in these types of products. Many of them require a tricky process of distillation, extraction, etc. Some are fairly easy with the right equipment, and others are very difficult. Other challenges would be dealing with fungus and the tropical heat that may spoil what we produce.

Sources

A very useful list of hundreds of natural ingredients was found here: http://www.healthfoodemporium.com/index_natural-ingredients.php

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How to prepare a natural insecticide and fungicide http://ranchodelicioso.com/prepare-natural-insecticide-fungicide/ Thu, 10 Apr 2014 01:54:46 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=2015 In Rancho Delicioso we are experimenting with several recipes in order to create organic products to treat plagues from various insect pests, or to prevent them. We believe that there are harmless ways to treat these frequent problems of the gardens, rather than using chemicals. We came across to this recipe to create a powerful […]

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In Rancho Delicioso we are experimenting with several recipes in order to create organic products to treat plagues from various insect pests, or to prevent them. We believe that there are harmless ways to treat these frequent problems of the gardens, rather than using chemicals. We came across to this recipe to create a powerful insecticide and fungicide, and we decided to try it. Next we present you how to make it.

Ingredients:

Organic insecticide recipe For 120 litres:

    – 1 kg of garlic
    – 1 kg of hot pepper
    – 1 kg of ginger
    – 1 kg of onion
    – 2 litres of molasses
    – 2 litres of banana vinegar
    – 2 litres of alcohol
    – 2 litres of mountain microorganisms
    – Aromatic herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, mint, etc.

Process:

Chop the garlic, onion, ginger, hot pepper and the herbs, and then blend everything together. Next we add the molasses, the vinegar, the alcohol and the microorganisms. We add water to complete the 120 litres. We cover the mix and leave it rest for 15 days. After that, it will be ready to use, but we have to be careful and apply little quantities on the plants first for a trial. If it is too strong, then we can add more water.

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Costa Rica TreeHouse – Montezuma http://ranchodelicioso.com/treehouse/ Sat, 02 Nov 2013 00:46:55 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=895 The Sacred Geome-Tree House is now available for you to experience.  It’s listed for short term rentals with a 2 day minimum.  The price is $79/night (Nov-April).  Special green season offer: (May-Oct) $69/night, $375/week!  It’s a very unique experience and the view is quite amazing.  Please email TreeHouse@RanchoDelicioso.com for more info and reservations. The tree house is […]

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costa rica treehouse

The Sacred Geome-Tree House is now available for you to experience.  It’s listed for short term rentals with a 2 day minimum.  The price is $79/night (Nov-April).  Special green season offer: (May-Oct) $69/night, $375/week!  It’s a very unique experience and the view is quite amazing.  Please email TreeHouse@RanchoDelicioso.com for more info and reservations.

The tree house is composed of 4 structures, a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom (and a half) and lookout/meditation platform called the Awarenest.  All of the trees holding the structures are Melina trees, a farmed tree used for construction in the area because it grows so fast and is nearly bug proof.

The tree house is fully functional with electricity, running water, flushing toilets, hot shower, plenty of storage space and even a flat screen TV and sound system. To learn more about how it’s built, see Icosahedron Treehouse Construction.

The farm and tree house are located conveniently between Montezuma, Mal Pies/Santa Teresa and Cobano.  We suggest having a rental car if possible or plan to pay for taxi’s.  For driving directions, please see How To Find Rancho Delicioso, and for more instructions on how to get to the general area, please see Anamaya’s Costa Rica Travel page.  Anamaya is just 5 minutes drive toward Montezuma from the farm.

awarenest The “Aware-nest” view deck 30 ft (10m) above the ground

 

treehouse front 650

The bedroom Icosahedron structure

 

treehouse view

The view from the bedroom

 

There’s a wonderful authentic Italian restaurant located close by, in the middle of nowhere.  Their pizza is amazing and cooked in a wood fired home made earth oven, hence the restaurants name, Tierra Y Fuego (earth and fire).  Generally they are only open Thursday-Sunday and closed for most of Sept/Oct.

You should be able to join some of the community meals at the farm for a small fee if you’d like.

See calendar below, it’s available when white. Check in is 2-5pm and guests check out the day after the last marked date on the calendar, by 11am.  Enjoy your stay!

Please email TreeHouse@RanchoDelicioso.com for more info and reservations.  A $50 deposit is required to confirm your reservation.




treehouse bedroom

Bedroom desk area

 

view platform
Awarenest yoga and meditation deck with amazing view

 

treehouse kitchen
Kitchen Icosahedron

treehouse bathroom

Half bath off bedroom

 

treehouse2j

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Giant Mushrooms http://ranchodelicioso.com/giant-mushrooms/ Thu, 13 Jun 2013 02:54:19 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=992   We found some mushrooms growing in the corner of the shade structure, seemingly connected somehow to the roots of a large Melina tree. We thought they were gigantic to begin with, but they just keep growing larger and large and now are much larger than the original huge size. They’re by far the largest […]

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Largest Mushroom

 
We found some mushrooms growing in the corner of the shade structure, seemingly connected somehow to the roots of a large Melina tree.

We thought they were gigantic to begin with, but they just keep growing larger and large and now are much larger than the original huge size. They’re by far the largest mushrooms I’ve ever seen personally anywhere.

And they keep growing!

They started out as a row of individual mushrooms, but now have grown together into one solid mass. I wish I had a time-lapse of them growing over the past couple of weeks.

Another interesting point about them is that they top of them is concave, so they catch water and usually have small lake in them. I’m tempted to catch a large frog or toad to put in there for the classic Costa Rica “frog on a mushroom” photo-op. Actually they’re so big we could put something much larger than a frog… perhaps a squirrel, or our chihuahua Zeus.

When they were smaller they were quite hard, almost like underwater coral, and we were all surprised at that, expecting them to be much softer like the types of mushrooms we buy to eat from the store.

There’s a mushroom expert named Dennis who lives on the beach in Cabuya, and he gave me some advice, “Don’t Eat them!” Most wild mushrooms are toxic and some are really deadly. Someone told me a joke recently: “There are old mushroom pickers, and there are adventurous mushroom pickers. But there are no old adventurous mushroom pickers.”

More of my mushroom photos can be seen here: Costa Rica Mushrooms Photo Gallery

Mushrooms Video

Mushroom Gallery

Largest Mushroom Biggest Mushroom in Costa Rica? Huge mushrooms with girl Gigantic Shrooms Humungous Fungus Biggest Mushroom in the Jungle

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Artificial Wasp Nest for Caterpillar Control http://ranchodelicioso.com/artificial-wasp-nest-caterpillar-control/ Sun, 02 Jun 2013 14:23:26 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=974 There are hundreds of species of wasps in the jungles of Costa Rica. Many or most are predators of other insects, and we’ve learned that they’re already being used in other parts of Costa Rica to control flies. A Plague of Caterpillars that Eat Spinach and Arugula We have several types of small caterpillars that […]

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There are hundreds of species of wasps in the jungles of Costa Rica. Many or most are predators of other insects, and we’ve learned that they’re already being used in other parts of Costa Rica to control flies.

A Plague of Caterpillars that Eat Spinach and Arugula

Costa Rica caterpillar that loves to eat spinach and arugula We have several types of small caterpillars that bother our plants. One in particular is black with stripes, and comes by the hundreds, singling out our arugula (#1 favorite) and spinach (#2 choice). We don’t know what they’re called or even what type of moth or butterfly they turn into. But none of the organic sprays such as garlic and chili powder, seem to deter them. So far, all we’ve been able to do is try to squish them by hand once they get large enough to see them.

So, what if we can encourage these wasps to live in greater numbers around here so they’ll help us out? Such an army of wasps could act as a constant deterrent towards all forms of caterpillar species coming to the farm, and perhaps keep the quantity of caterpillars that menace our farm down to smaller numbers. Or in a fantasy world, one could imagine a box that I could open, releasing hundreds of wasps, which would kill all the caterpillars on a particular plant, and then fly back into their box for later use. This instant “cause and effect” would be very satisfying, but is obviously not the way it would work. Instead, the wasps would need to be part of a continuous cycle of life, interacting both with the farm and the surrounding jungle. Their numbers would fluctuate with the amount of food they find and the natural seasons. If they killed all the caterpillars around, I’d expect that their numbers would drop, and more caterpillars would come, and then their population would swell once more. The hope is that we can find a balance, a way to encourage more of them to live near our plants. They would forage in the jungle when food is scarce on the farm, and when the caterpillar swarms come, they will target this more local food source.

But first, can I find a wasp that targets the caterpillars eating our plants?

Discovery of a Wasp that Kills Our Caterpillars

Small Black Wasp Attacking Caterpillar If you live in Costa Rica and you have a house that’s open to the elements, you’ll probably discover that there are various types of wasps that collect mud to build small nests in your home. I had one type that was obsessed with building its nests on the backside of one particular hanging cast iron pan. Something about the shape was very attractive to these wasps.

Recently, I found that there’s a type of wasp that favors the small round hole in electric outlets. You know, that third hole in grounded plugs. We always have a window open at our house for the cat to go in and out, and these wasps will fly in and stuff mud into the holes of our outlets.

Upon closer inspection when I cleaned one of these out, I found that the wasp would place its egg inside, and then stuff it with food for its larva to eat when it hatches. What food? This wasp had stuffed 7-8 small caterpillars/worms into the hole! After leave a cache of nutrition inside for its baby, the wasp plugs the hole with mud, and flies off. I don’t yet know the complete lifecycle of this wasp, but I’m assuming the parent wasp never comes back and a few weeks or months later, a baby wasp that has changed from egg to larva to adult wasp, or perhaps a pupa, will emerge from behind the mud wall, to leave the hole and seek food, a mate, and continue the life-cycle of its species.

So this got me thinking…

A Lucky Day

Immediately after writing the above, I went outside to check through the gardens, and found another infestation of caterpillars in a group of spinach plants in our mandala keyhole garden. This is a kind of caterpillar that favors spinach and arugula, and a plague of them decimated our arugula a few weeks back in the shade structure. We were nearly helpless to stop them. When they’re small, they are so well camoflauged in the plants that they’re nearly invisible. It’s only after they’ve eaten a large amount of our plants that they turn blacker and larger so we can see them and crush them by hand.

So today I discovered a small black wasp buzzing around the spinach, and I filmed it with my I-phone camera. To my delight, it attacked a smaller green caterpillar hidden on the underside of the plants, and I was able to get this on film, which you can see below.

The following video is embedded at 640px, but a much higher quality one at 1080×720 is available at youtube here: Wasp Attacking Caterpillar Video

Wasp Attacking Caterpillar Video

How can we get more of these wasps to live nearby and help us with routine cleaning up of smaller caterpillars from our plants?

Artificial Wasp Nest Design

Artificial Wasp Nest Design My design for the artificial wasp nest is hardly a work of architectural genius. It’s basically just a two-by-four with a bunch of holes drilled in it. in later versions, we plan to have a painting party with our volunteers and decorate them beautifully. Hopefully our garish and possibly psychedelic colors won’t turn off our waspy clients.

We can take pieces of scrap wood, and drill holes that are perhaps one inch deep, with the same diameter as the prong hole of the electric outlets that these wasps seem to favor. We could put these around the farm and inside the shade structure to see if the wasps will start to use them, and hopefully each new wasp grub will mean a whole lot fewer caterpillars on our vegetables.

So now we must put the idea into action and see if we can find the right type of material, hole size and depth, and position of these artificial nests, to see if the right type of wasps will start using them.

Results

Artificial Wasp Nest The design works! The first wasp houses we made filled up with mud wasp larvae very quickly, and still seem to be working almost a year later. We plan to put more of these around the farm and do some experiments about where to place them. We’ve been putting them covered areas, or under large tree branches, and that seems to be successful. A photo of the wasp house being used is on the right.

You may notice that there are 2-3 sizes of holes and all of them are being used. I think it would have been beneficial to sand the hole edges a bit to try to remove the splinters. Some of these you can see have already been used and then vacated.

NOTE: There’s another type of larger wasp that builds mud nests, usually placing them vertically as tubes on the side of your house or in my case, they loved hanging frying pans. Opening up these mud tubes revealed they were filled with spider! Not good! Each was larvae is killing spiders that may eat dozens of harmful insects on the farm. So, I recommend removing these types of mud wasps, but leave the little ones that place their larvae in mud-filled holes.

Other Caterpillar Eaters

Lacewings: The larvae of the lacewing insect loves to suck the life out of caterpillars. Read more about this bug so you can recognize their eggs and larvae to help them do their job in your plants. They love aphids too: Lacewing article

Chickens? I wanted to mention that we carried eight chickens into the shade structure to let them loose on the caterpillars, hoping that their sharp eyes and beaks would decimate our wiggly green enemies. However, we were very disappointed to find that after a few trial pecks, our chickens ignored the caterpillars, even when we put them in a pile on the ground, hoping to train them to recognize them as a food source. The chickens seemed to favor, above all other things in the garden, the grass that was growing on the ground.

Bats? Since we haven’t seen the butterflies that these caterpillars turn into, I’m guessing they may be a type of moth, which will only be flying around at night. So, if we encourage more bats to live on the farm, will they eat more of the moths that come at night to lay their eggs on our spinach? This seems like a great solution to me. They might eat the wasps too, except that the wasps would be asleep at night when the bats are active.

Birds? Chickens don’t like these caterpillars, but perhaps some native birds will. Supposedly, one way to attract birds is to attract lots of butterflies. So, we will be planting types of flowers to attract them, such as Lantana and Alacran. I just hope those butterflies that are attracted aren’t the same ones whose caterpillar form eats our plants!?!

Wasps that Kill Flies

At Leaves and Lizards eco lodge in Arenal, they are able to buy, at their local cooperativa (agricultural products store) small packages with the eggs of wasp larvae. These are produced in Colombia for farmers like them who have pigs, chickens, etc. These wasp larvae hatch and will kill the grubs/larvae of flies/moscas that live in the poop of farm animals. The owners told me they think they reduce the number of flies buzzing around by 80-90%. We have tried to find these to buy them, and haven’t been able to locate them. We heard that the company who had them stopped importing them.

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Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae http://ranchodelicioso.com/rhinoceros-beetle-larvae/ Sun, 02 Jun 2013 12:36:56 +0000 http://ranchodelicioso.com/?p=967 Friendly Transparent Underground Monsters We discovered these large, transparent grubs living in the earth near the roots of our bananas. They look thoroughly vile, and with their large sharp mandibles, they seem to be able to deliver a painful bite. They are about the length and thickness of a man’s thumb. No one knew what […]

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rhinoceros beetle larva

Friendly Transparent Underground Monsters

We discovered these large, transparent grubs living in the earth near the roots of our bananas. They look thoroughly vile, and with their large sharp mandibles, they seem to be able to deliver a painful bite. They are about the length and thickness of a man’s thumb.

No one knew what they were, but our workers were convinced that they were destroying our banana plant roots (although the plants seem healthy enough) and they said they were killing these pests.

But were they really the enemies of our bananas? I took these photos and video to help identify what they were. A Google Image Search didn’t turn up anything useful. I tried searches such as “large transparent underground insects” but was only coming up with photos of cicadas and dragonflies with their transparent wings, plus the usual assortment of unrelated junk that Google Image Search delivers.

transparent underground insect / grub Then I remembered that many years ago, my friend Michael, a conservationist who used to live in Montezuma, had told me about the huge transparent grubs we might find underground, which were larva of some type of beetle. Quickly I was able to discover that they were… rhinoceros beetle larvae, a.k.a. “escarabajo rinoceronte” in spanish.

What do Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae Eat?

I was unable to determine, searching on the internet, whether they were eating our banana roots or not. Various sources describe them as eating “rotting wood and roots”. I’ve learned that in the Costa Rica jungles, one must not judge a book by its cover, and that everything has its place here. I suspect that these beetles are actually helping us. Bananas trees grow in groups, with each large stalk giving a single bunch of bananas, then dying, leaving roots underground that have spread out to form new plants. Perhaps these larvae are eating those dead roots, helping to process this material into soil, and creating space underground so that more bananas can grow. That would make them friends to the jungle

Rhinoceros Beetle Larvae Video

Hercules Beetle at Anamaya

This is what a hercules beetle larva grows into, although the larva in the photos I think grow into a smaller species than the one in the video. The hercules beetle is a type of rhinoceros beetle, which is a a type of scarab beetle also.

Further Reading

Hercules Beetles in Costa Rica – info on the rhinoceros/hercules beetles of Costa Rica
Dynastes Hercules – Read about the Hercules beetle species
Wikipedia Hercules Beetles

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