Week 2 In Mastatal

Written By Hank and Macy

After a long and rewarding week at Rancho Mastatal, we used our Sunday to regroup. We slept in until brunch at 10 a.m. and had the day to ourselves. In the evening, the group trekked up many hills to the next town to see the beautiful Costa Rican sunset. We watched as the sky grew pink, relaxing on the cliffside and taking many photos. After some much needed relaxation time, we were all ready to begin another busy week.

Cece, Audrey, Maggie, and Veronica at the sunset.
Audrey, Hank, Tyler, Cole, and Veronica on the cliffside enjoying the sunset.

The next day, we had a lesson from Jacob on fermentation, in which we learned how to make our own kimchi, which we got to try later on in the week. We also learned that you can literally ferment anything that is edible. We spent the morning peeling, grating, and measuring green papaya and salt to make the perfect mixture. Following an afternoon of sports on the field, we settled in for dinner with gratitudes from Audrey and Balkhiis,

Rachael with her gratitude present from Audrey.

Tuesday morning began at 7a.m. with morning “chores,” or shadowing, with the Mastatal apprentices, doing work like making water kefir for lunch or splitting wood for the various stoves, and, most well liked, sifting cow manure with Adrian at the Bio-digester, which is the plumbing system that turns human and animal waste into methane gas for the ranch to use for cooking. After breakfast, we worked with Nick and Ali on a natural building project: making wattle for a new “wattle and daub” structure going up at the ranch. We split into groups, the first group sawing bamboo into two meter pieces and then splitting it with machetes into thin strips. The second group cut these strips to fit into the interior of the walls and used a staple gun to fasten them in. With our extra time, we completed our dorodangos, which are billiard-like balls made of clay, sand, and straw and polished into a shine. In the afternoon, we took a trip down to the nearby river, where the group spent their time throwing the frisbee around in the water, swimming in the rapids, and tanning on the rocky beach. As per the CDC recommendations, after ten full days of being at the ranch with no COVID symptoms, we were able to come together with the apprentices and full-time ranch staff as a community, mask free. That night, we joined hands in a gratitude circle and ate at the same table.

Ali teaching us how to cut the bamboo to the perfect length.
Tyler and Hank securing the strips to the wall.
Sasha stapling bamboo strips into the new structure for Ranch Mastatal.

On Wednesday, we completed the latter part of our wattle and daub project. We rotated in small groups, finishing stapling the bamboo strips, sifting dry clay and mixing it with water. The next group used their feet and mixed the clay, straw, and sand together. The last group used the mixture to plaster the walls. We messed around with painting each other with the clay to the accompaniment of dance music, curtesy of Veronica. Later that day, with the newly integrated community, we were able to have a “friendly” game of ultimate frisbee. We learned quickly that our enthusiasm could not stand up to Tim and the ranch staff’s years of frisbee experience, and we got our asses handed to us, to put it lightly. After an experimental curry dinner made by the ranch’s food scientist Constantine, we were treated to shaved ice for dessert, naturally flavored by fruits grown at the ranch.

Carpe Diem vs. Mastatal in capture the flag.

Thursday morning brought us our last day of shadowing and our second to last day of class. Tim lead us in a discussion about the overall themes of our classes at the ranch thus far and how to connect them to the state of the world at this time. Throughout the past week and a half, we’ve learned the importance of being producers, rather than consumers, of our own products as much as possible, and Tim reiterated this, connecting it to climate change and our impact going forward. He showed us a book of the 100 most impactful ways to combat climate change and we held a discussion on possible big picture solutions. We transitioned to a competition in which we had to make fires and boil water as fast as possible, so as to gain a time advantage in making the best tortilla for our OEs to judge. Some groups used the chocolate purchased at La Iguana to make bribes for the judges, but in the end the most delicious tortilla won out. In the afternoon, we made our way to the river for the last time and played a game of volleyball at the field. Following gratitude circle and dinner, Cole hosted a ping pong tournament, in which he beat Maggie in the championship (rigged?).

Tim leading a session on climate change.
Tyler hyping up Cole for his first match in the ping pong tournament.

We had our final class on Friday, once again with Tim, to reflect on all of the things we’ve done and skills we’ve learned over the past two weeks. To jog our memories we played fish bowl, a game similar to charades, using terms from the different elements of the ranch. Then, to conclude our class, we discussed the ways in which we will integrate what we learned from the ranch into our lives and futures back home. For lunch, half of the group ventured down the the local restaurant to indulge in their Friday special, arroz con pollo. Then, some of the group got a head start on packing for the long journey ahead. Following a heavy downpour of rain, we made our way to the muddy field for a highly anticipated game of capture the flag, Carpe Diem versus Rancho Mastatal. Audrey wrote and selected bios and walk-out music for each of us to “intimidate” our competition. The muddy field ended up being too much for some, as multiple people, including one of the authors of this blog post, had to depart the game early due to injury. For our last dinner, the ranch threw us a make-your-own pizza party, which was followed by an impromptu dance party to close out our final night in Mastatal.

The whole community plus Carpe at the pizza party.
Lola, the resident dog!

We were sad to wake up early Saturday morning, leaving all of the fun memories, people, and fantastic food behind. After a delayed departure due to a flat tire, we missed the first ferry, and arrived at Cirenas in the Nicoya Peninsula as the sun was setting. We are looking forward to the everything that the next two weeks will bring us, from more permaculture to possible sea turtle egg hatching.

The group getting dirty mixing the clay.
The group getting dirty mixing the clay.
The group getting dirty mixing the clay.
The group getting dirty mixing the clay.