Ever Closer to the Ultimate Sustainable Guesthouse

A lot has happened since the last post, way too long ago; hundreds of trees have been planted, scores of volunteers, researchers and eco-tourists have passed through, and, for the second year, the fifth and sixth graders from the community school spent the night at the camp enjoying a program of games and environmental education.  More on those experiences later.  This brief post highlights some of the recent progress to bring the site to complete self sustainability. 

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Situated on the Mazan River, there is never a lack of water.  The Mazan is classified as a “whitewater” river, one carrying significant suspended particles.  The three predominant classes of Amazon Basin rivers are whitewater, blackwater and clearwater:  blackwater is high in tannins and appears black;  clearwater is nutrient poor and is clear.  Whitewater?  It’s brown.  Despite the muddy appearance, clothes washed in the water are as clean as anywhere else.  Yet, some folks reel at the color, so we’ve installed a massive rainwater collection system with a capacity of 5000 liters (1300 gallons).  The elevated tanks provide more than enough pressure for the kitchen, shower and bathroom, and a 12 Volt pump taps the reserve if necessary.

WaterFilter

Muddy river water on top and potable water below.

WaterTanks

More than a thousand gallons of rainwater, and rarely a need for a pump.

For secure potable water, it’s passed through a ceramic filter that can handle even the muddiest river.

The first solar panels were installed almost two years ago, and now we have a system of six 100-Watt panels charging six batteries to provide 24/7 lighting and 110 and 220V electric service.

SC12VLighting

12 Volt LED’s connected directly to the storage batteries provide the most efficient bright light. The pull-chain doll is made of native plant fibers, seeds and natural dyes.

SCTajElectric

Electric control center: solar panel controller, inverter and batteries.

SCSolarInstall

 

Designing an infrastructure that runs with no toll on the environment is easier than providing a consistent and sustainable source of food.  While there is no lack of land to farm, “slash and burn” wastes the soil quickly and the forest will never return to its proper balance.  About 70 percent of the 540 acres on the site is primary rainforest, and of the remainder, 20 percent has been set aside for reforestation.  About two hundred fruit trees, as well as sugar, bananas, plantains, coffee, yucca, watermelon and passion fruit vines have been planted in the remaining land.  This said, not all of the plantings are success stories.  There is a constant battle with leaf cutter ants; the buggers can remove an entire tree in one night.  We also learned a painful lesson when we misjudged the high water mark and were hit with a 50-year flood, losing many trees and most of the coffee.  We’ve since moved to higher ground.

SCCarambola

Star fruit – started from seed four years ago. Although it’s an import, it does well in the soil.

SCChirimoya

We’re not quite sure what this bowling ball sized fruit is. The trees are leftovers from a prior owner.  It is unique and delicious!

 

SCAnona

Anona (Rollinia mucosa) is an Amazon gem, taste of vanilla custard, that will never be experienced elsewhere.

 

The two guardian families who live on the property net enough fish from the river for daily protein needs, this, supplemented by a dozen or so chickens or ducks from time to time. In the long term, chickens underfoot may be a stretch for some guests, but for the time being, I’m delighted to have them snapping up spiders and the grasshoppers that munch on the young seedlings.

We have come very far in a short time in providing a modicum of comfort in the rainforest at minimal or no cost to the environment.  There is much more to do!

 

 

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Neil Holzman on November 23, 2014 at 22:08

    Hi Don,

    Wow…site really coming along. I took some time to browse the web site too. Lots of ecotours available.

    Ne

    Reply

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