Monday, February 27, 2006

The Birds

This last Saturday, Brendan and I were lucky enough to be invited to join the biologist, Dr. Kathrine Lindell, to assist in an Earthwatch expedition looking for the presence of birds to assess the success of experimental restoration/reforestation plots created by Dr. Karen Holl.

We woke up at 4:30 so that we could be out in field by the time the sun rose when birds are most active. We set up nets to catch the birds to tag them for future studies. The site where we were working was one of the weaker plots that Kathrine was working with. We only caught seven birds in five hours. Kathrine´s hypothesis was that it was too windy in this one area for the trees to grow well.

Either way we were excited to see the birds we caught. In the end we only caught three species, a cherry tanager, a Tenessee warbler, and a snow-bellied hummingbird. We couldnt believe that the tiny little warbler had flown all the way from its nesting site in Alaska. I had always heard about migratory birds, but its a very different experience when you hold one in your hands.

Hopefully we will be able to post some pictures up soon, but the internet is very slow down here. We have to run to catch the bus. More to come.......

Paz y amor
Eliot and Brendan

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Begginings

Brendan and I (Eliot) have been in Costa Rica for a month now and everything is coming along great. We have been staying at William and Flor´s house. Flor has been cooking us her wonderful meals. Its been great to be back with the family. Tomorrow our house will finally be ready to live in, although we still dont have any furniture or appliances.

When we first got here we were told that the roof our our house had been stolen, a window broken into, an old sink stolen, and a fire built in our living room. We werent too surprised. It was probably some teenagers that dont have much to do at night. We needed a new roof anyways, so the theives had only helped to get rid of the old one.

What we hadnt expected that first day that we walked down to our farm was that our one beloved old growth tree had been cut down by a neighbor to make a few thousand dollars for the lumber. It took us a second to realize what had happened. At first I kept thinking I saw the tree, but when we finally bushwacked our way to the spot where the old tree used to stand, it was just a stump.

Not only had our neighbor cut down the tree, but he had also fenced off the common spring we share with barb wire on our side of the creek that divides our properties. We were depressed. It greatly affected us. But at another level it reminded us of why we were here, to plant trees and help relieve the economic pressures that lead to deforesestation. Since that tree was cut, the spring that pours out from under its stump has dropped 50 percent. Trees are so important to maintain clean and healthy water systems.

The next day we were working on our roof, and our neighbor, Marcos (who had cut down tree), came up to us. We had never met before. He immediately began telling us very adimantly that our garage was built on the public road (calle publica). We remained very calm, trying to explain that the garage has been there for over fifteen years and that there was no where past our house that one could drive because it dead ends into a very steep hill just past our garage. We had to hold back from accusing him of cutting down our tree and fencing off the spring. We politely agreed to talk to someone from ¨la municipalidad¨ to settle the dispute.

The next week we met with a man from ¨la municipalidad¨ and Marcos. We agreed that while our garage is technically in the "calle publica", it is old enough to remain there as long as we were just reconstructing the house, not building a new foundation. We also agree that the spring is both of ours, the fence is to be in the middle of the creek. Marcos understood that the tree was ours but he claimed that the wind blew it down (hard to imagine).

Since then we have more or less made friends with Marcos. He has agreed to let us plant trees on his side of the fence to help restore the spring. That spring is now our only source of water. When we tried to get city water from AYA, they told us in a very confusing labyrinth of latino beaurocracy that we would have to buy new pipes for the entire neighborhood. It would have probably cost over 1000$U.S. So we just decided to use our spring.

So our house is almost ready to live in. We picked out tiles. We have new windows and doors. We are creating a biodigesting toilet that will capture the methane from our ceptic tank to power a stove for us to cook from. We have never heard of anyone doing this with human manure, so its a little bit of an experiment. We are excited to see how well it works. Since there are only two of us here right now, we will have to suppliment the ceptic tank by adding the manure from chickens, goats, and cows.

We have already made connections to start getting seeds for our reforestation nursery. Next month Brendan is going back to Oakland to make some more money, and I am going to go seed gathering. I already know it is going to be a great story, so youll have to keep tuned in.

This is a picture of the remnants of the tree we lost.

Paz y amor
Eliot and Brendan