Let nature be our teacher

Two years ago, Puerto Viejo was the first place I visited in Costa Rica. I ended up spending half of my time here, happily trapped in the vortex of this Caribbean beach town. Serendipity brought me to Finca Inti, where I got my first permaculture experience while volunteering there for almost a month.

When I decided to come back to Costa Rica, I knew I wanted to return to that way of life: in harmony with nature, living off the abundance of the land. The Permaculture Design Course at Finca Tierra was definitely the best possible way of doing this. During the two week course we had the opportunity to experience this lifestyle while learning how to create that kind of abundance for ourselves and others.

Nine people from different countries, different ages and different backgrounds but with the same world views and similar dreams for a better future. To share this kind of experience with a group of like-minded souls fills me with hope and positivity.
During the two weeks we had lectures, workshops, field trips, demonstrations, interesting discussions, and lots and lots of fun. Not only were we learning about the principles of permaculture, we also had the chance to put theory to practice and get our hands dirty. And on top of it all we got spoiled three times a day with the most delicious food, fresh from farm to table. The place, the people, the food, the classes, everything was perfect.

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A course day at the finca would start between 5:00 and 5:30AM for me, waking up with the sound of howler monkeys and the first light of the day. While I did my yoga practice, Ruth – Costa Rica’s best cook – was always busy preparing breakfast. After breakfast we’d either have lecture or put on our rubber boots and sharpen our machetes to do some fieldwork.
Off course during our very first ‘machete class’ someone had to demonstrate how good of a job we did at sharpening them… I cut my leg and was sent off to the clinic in Hone Creek with Ruth to get stitches. On our way there we picked up an old friend of mine who was on the side of the road hitchhiking. He was heading to Don Candido, an indigenous curandero or medicine man whom I had the honor to meet two years ago. I decided I’d rather have him take a look at my wound instead of going to emergencies (I really don’t like hospitals…).
After receiving us in his hut, Candido explained how his BriBri tribe has been passing on the tradition of plant medicine for thousands of years. As he tells us one incredible story after another, his son – who is now next in line to preserve the precious knowledge – cleans my wound, puts on a plant cream and covers it with a leaf. The whole experience was so beautiful that I was almost glad to have cut myself. But still, note to future self: machetes are to be handled with care.

Other highlights of the course: heating our shower water with compost, making sugar cane juice to get through a hot day of planting, tasting Finca Tierra’s honey wine, visiting a nearby eco-village, getting high on raw cacao beans, collect and dry wood to burn and turn into bio-char, and off course working on our first permaculture design which we had to present on the last day.

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What is permaculture? Many people asked me when I told them I was doing this course. It was hard to give a concise answer then, and it’s maybe even harder now… Because it’s not just a different way of farming, it’s a different way of living. A holistic philosophy that takes into account climate, soil, natural resources, diet, local economy, local community, and even more. A lifestyle that works with nature instead of against it, reintegrating ourselves into the natural system instead of trying to manipulate it.
Ian and Ana – the owners of Finca Tierra – live on solar energy, rain water and homegrown food; in a house built with bamboo harvested from their backyard. They have created a way of life that has a positive effect on nature: they’re actually giving back more than what they’re using. And with their courses they’re inspiring people all over the world to do the same. Superheros if you’d ask me!

I definitely feel inspired to keep learning about permaculture and am already dreaming about my own farm…
It’s funny, ever since I finished university I spent a lot of time wondering what I want to do with my life. Now I remember one of my babysits telling me that when I was a little girl, she used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Unlike other little girls I didn’t want to be a princess or a singer, I told her I wanted to be a farmer… The little me knew things that the big me later forgot. Cause if there is one thing this world needs, it’s more farmers. Permaculture farmers that is, off course.

Thank you Ian, Ana, Ruth, for sharing your house and your wisdom, and for doing what you do. Thank you fellow students, all of you were also my teachers, and it was great to share this experience with such beautiful people.

Now a couple of days to relax and then off to Playa Hermosa near Jaco, where I will be volunteering at Vida Asana for a month!

Bewaren

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