A Day in the Life in Our New Home in Costa Rica

Very large spider on the wall
An unwelcome visitor to our rental house
One of my first posts after moving into a temporary (7 months) rental and working on our newly acquired property nearby.

The good old days!!

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It’s been an interesting couple of days.

We’re continuing work on the property, have had some notable encounters with Costa Rican wildlife both benign and treacherous and battled a bit with the recent wet weather.

For two days we borrowed some Nica (Nicaraguan) workers from a neighbor while there was a lull in the coffee picking. They are clearing brush on the property. Arnuvo, the crew boss, Mallel, and Raimundo, who also goes by “Rey Mundo”, King of the World, are a happy-go-lucky bunch.

They and seven other Nicas live in a workers shack at the entrance of the road that leads to our place. Each of the days they worked for us I’d trek up the hill to meet them at 6 AM to give them their cutting orders. They do all the clearing with machetes, which are called cuchillos here.  

They do a fine job at a very reasonable price. I pay them an extra 100 Colones an hour since they are borrowed from their usual work and the work is hard. We also supply them lunch about 2/3rds of the way through their 10 hour day.

Arnuvo took my new store-bought machete back to his place Monday evening to give it a proper sharpening. It’s now the proverbial knife through hot butter. The next morning, our neighbor Luis showed me the proper way to wear the cubierta (sheath) and belt. I'm learning every day! 


After I spent an hour or so spreading some Nutren (Ammonium Nitrate) over the erosion control plantings, I used the freshly sharpened cuchillo to re-blaze an old trail from the top of our main road to the northwest corner of the property. It rained most of the 2 hours I was working on that and I have to say it was a pure delight!

The property is pretty dense with trees and large-leafed plants up there, which imparted a real sense of rain forest trekking. Later, the rain turned to fog, which dampened the sounds of the workers below. The feeling was one of sanguine isolation. I could have been dozens of miles from any civilization for all I knew, wrapped in mist and trees.

The downside to my brief escape from the world was that I’d forgotten that I’d brought up the car to carry the 100 lb. sack of Nutren, which meant after the brief rain that is was going to be a dangerous drive back down as the road wasn't graveled yet. I decided to hike back to the house and let the road dry out a bit before attempting to drive down. 

Even after that wait, I more or less tobogganed down the steepest un-graveled portion of the road. From there, after driving through one of two “pig pens” on this road, I couldn’t make it up the final hill to our rental place. It was just too slick and the road too rutted to get more than 50 feet upwards before all four wheels started spinning.

Fortunately, I was able to back the car down to a wide spot where I left it and walked home. The weather continued to dry out and after two more tries over the next 3 hours I finally made it up that hill.

Later in the early evening, one of my neighbors stopped by to shoot the breeze. He was shortly joined by his eldest son and then two more neighbors; the latter having arrived for a meeting about building the first house.

The first neighbor’s son brought along a small (dead) pit viper, whose name I forget (as usual). It was about 8 inches long, no more than 3/8” in diameter. These little guys can get up to about 6 feet long and a couple inches thick. They like to hang out in the coffee bushes, but are very slow moving so bites are rare. You’ll usually see them before the make a move on you. Even so, you wouldn’t want to take any chances even with a small one. Luis sort of shrugged it off as “Well, if you get bit you might spend one or two days in the hospital, but you’ll be all-right”. Oh yeah, I thought, no big deal.

The rest of the meeting with Luis and Irvin went well. We all went over the plans in gory detail to get Irvin’s advice on material types and sizes. We’re going to set up some trips to see a couple of Irvin’s previous projects to see if we’re comfortable with his level of work and then let him work out the materials cost and a labor estimate (he has a crew of 8-10). We’re also going into town today to consult with a CAD engineer to see if we can get Tamara’s drawings translated into bits and bytes.

This morning, we met up with Luis on our property to discuss another topic; his plans to build a trabajero (worker) shack very close to our property line. He wants to turn the brushy hill on our western flank into coffee and needs another shack for the seasonal workers near there. We were uncomfortable with how close he wanted to put it to our first house even after his offer to plant a screen of trees. We sure didn’t want a rift over this, but couldn’t live with the current plan either. 

We broached the subject with a proposal for an alternative location further down the hill that seemed like a win-win-win for the property owners and the workers. It is a shaded location, closer to the road and has more room for him to plant coffee. He agreed that it was a better proposition; one he hadn’t considered. In the end, we learned that Luis is a pretty straight-up guy who is more than willing to openly discuss problems and work out solutions that benefit everyone.

Luis did us one more favor this morning. When we all walked down the bad road to our rental house together Sean came out alarmed at a large spider in the house. Luis gave his expert opinion after seeing it, almost deadpan, “No,that’s not a good one”, and proceeded to whack it with one of Tamara’s flip-flops. It was dark brown and the diameter including legs was about 4 inches. Rather formidable.  

Shortly after that, we were treated to a couple of new-to-us bird species in our orange trees. One is colored like a scrub jay but the size of a large sparrow, the other brown and orange, the size of a towhee. It was a nice counterpoint to the spider. It also revived my regret that somehow we have managed to leave our Costa Rican bird, plant, and other animal guides back in Oregon.

Oh, and we completely slept through the 6.2 earthquake last night. Not a dish fell off the shelf nor was there any other sign of the terremoto at our house.

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