"There were many reasons I sought out to learn and study Permaculture Design. Some reasons were rooted in fear, fear about our current levels of human consumption, environmental degradation happening on a mass scale, water shortages and the many other reasons we can become discouraged and fearful about the direction our world is headed. I understood that fear is not a productive method for change and growth so I began to shift to the more positive reasons for embarking on this educational and experiential journey. Reasons based around hope, personal growth and give back, environmental regeneration, water collection and management, learning about naturally occurring patterns and synergy in nature and how to capture and use energy efficiently and sustainably.
After selling our home and making the move to North Nicaragua as part owners of an eco-resort it was decided I would take the Permaculture Design course somewhere in Central America. Once I found Rancho Mastatal's PDC and researched the program and teachers it was obvious this was a very legitimate course and property. I was keen to apply Permaculture Design principles to our land once finishing and returning back to Nicaragua.
When I returned back from the course I had the tools I needed to evaluate and observe our property with a much more educated and trained eye for obtaining valuable information about our site. After the PDC and weeks observing our property, I felt confident enough to purchase and site 80 trees and plants. I also had the understanding of not only how to plant and mulch trees but how to create rich, fertile soil for the trees to thrive in. The biggest course take away was learning how to recognize forms and patterns in nature, determine their function and apply that function to property designs. This deeper understanding of nature has intensified my wonder and amazement for our natural world and I feel that much more connected to it. I truly believe it is this connection and awareness that is necessary to save our planet. With nature out of focus, it becomes easier to overlook it's decline. "When we choose the kind of nature we will live with, we are also choosing the kind of humans we will be. We shape the world and it shapes us in return." from the Once and Future World by J.B. Mackinnon. The overall on site experience at The Ranch exemplifies the kind of world I want to shape and the kind of human I strive to be."
Cydney Connor, April 2015 PDC
"Experience of a lifetime, friends are always around, amazing education from experts and hands on experimental learning, and of course the food! Que Rico!"
Shannon Dellert, 2014 Apprentice and PDC Student
"After take the PDC (Permaculture Design Course), I have a new perspective of how I can design and work the family farm, the food was amazing and the friendship develop between the students and all the Mastatal crew was ones of the best experience. Taking a course or be part of a apprentice program in Rancho Mastatal, will give you a clear idea of what is the meaning of have a more sustainable life style."
Jose Carlos Rodriguez, August 2013 PDC
"Rancho Mastatal has been instrumental in crafting my understanding of permaculture design and serves as a flagship for a way of living that I work to replicate. They are really doing it people!!"
Aaron Prarie, April 2015 PDC
"The Rancho is beautiful. The people are incredible. And the permaculture course was probably the most fulfilling educational experience of my life."
Matthew Duffy, April 2015 PDC
"I was in Rancho Mastatal on August of 2013 for the PDC of that year, I always like the idea of growing our own food and learning about it. The time at the ranch was a really nurturing time, not only for the lot of information that Chris, Scott, Laura, Tim, Robin and all the people (ranch people and classmates) keep sharing for the 2 weeks, but also the opportunity to know people from different parts of the globe.
They show us the different type of living and interaction you could have with the proper design and learning from the nature.
After this experience it took me a while to really process feel all that happened, but with some time for observation, planning, working and love and start a small scale project, for now nameless, still trying to understand a lot of things of my site and the main goal of it."
Yanka Arata, August 2013 PDC
“Half of my ten days in Costa Rica was spent at Rancho Mastatal. It was my experiences there that left the deepest impression on me.
Each day we made our way on trails through the unspoiled tropical forest to clean rushing waterfalls and swimming holes. There is one waterfall in particular, about a ten-minute hike from the main house, that radiates a sense of magic that you can only find in your dreams, or in paradise. One can travel for an entire day along these trails, stop anywhere and find rich and complex mix of tropical life.
After swimming by the waterfall one day, I was looking for a place to sit next to the river under the cool tree canopy. I found a large fallen tree log about a meter in diameter rotting next to the trail. As I moved closer, I noticed a highway of ants making their way over the log, making it less inviting for sitting. I became transfixed by the two way flow of ants in a very ordered line, making its way over the log and in an arbitrary spot the line formed a 'T', where some would go right, some would go left. So there were essentially three main branches of this "highway", and it traveled in both directions. As more of us got closer, we noticed that at this branch point, and every foot or so along the track of ants was a larger ant standing beside the line on its hind legs. My wife told me these special ants were "guard ants". It looked more like nature's traffic cop.
We followed the lines of ants as they spread out for many meters into the forest floor, and back to the log. Peering in the two-foot hole at end of the rotten log with a flashlight, we found the colony teeming with tens of thousands of ants. I'd never seen anything quite like it.
The people we met in the village were friendly, and showed reverence for what I consider to be the two main Costa Rican cultural phenomena— soccer and Jesus. While I did not attend mass in the local "iglesia”, there was a Sunday afternoon soccer game. In spite of my near-zero Spanish skills, I could recognize a welcome invitation to join in the game, which was really fun.
There is a feel to the ranch of slowing down time. From the moment I came through the main gate and walked to the house, I felt that I could be there for many days without counting them or the hours in between. There were no phones, clocks, or computers to
remind me of the treadmill of the first world. Food and conversation were the main focus around the house. Many used the front porch for reading, writing, yoga practice, or laying in the hammock. There is a chess set, but I never got bored enough to use it.
I fell in love with Rancho Mastatal, and I hope to be lucky enough to come back again sometime soon”.
Dr. Michael Schiesser
Hi Rancho Mastatal,
It's taken me a while to write because I still can't put into words my gratitude for the amazing experience that we had at Rancho Mastatal. I want to send a huge whole-hearted THANK YOU to you and Robin for everything! You are wonderful people and Rancho Mastatal is a magical place. Thank you for sharing your sanctuary. Hugs and thank yous to everyone who has had a part in making the Rancho so special. Thank you for your warm hospitality, for the gorgeous accommodations, for the delicious, healthy and eclectic meals, for the hands-on experience, for the friendship, for the beauty of it all. Thank you!
We learned so much at the PDC! Chris is awesome! His teaching is inspiring, interesting and fun. And the Rancho is the perfect classroom! The experience changed our lives. I feel like now we have the tools to start building the life that we have always hoped for. We will definitely recommend this experience to others!
We look forward to visiting you at the Rancho in the future.
Jaime and Rodrigo
I seriously wrote pages of notes trying to convey how I feel about you, the volunteers and Rancho Mastatal in general. These failed attempts included gardening metaphors complete with “seeds of friendship and compassion”, butchered Spanish expressions and the old “life is a series of lessons” – here’s what I learned scenario. Pretty cheesy stuff, although my heart is in the right place. All I need to simply say is thanks, so thanks. You’re doing everything right and it shows in your smiles. Thanks again,
WFR Class 2006
What a special place this is, and what a joy to be here! Your warmth and generosity of spirit touch every aspect of this place. What an honor to experience the grace of the people of Mastatal – as well as the folks who find their way here! I am not the same person I was when I arrived on Friday night – I’ve been touched in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated. I think I’m back in touch with a lifestyle I was into but have wavered. I wish you all of life’s best as you continue toward your dreams. Thank you so very much for everything.
Love and peace,
It's amazing how your life can change just from taking a certain turn in the road. In this case, I couldn't be happier where I ended up. I can't say enough how much I'm grateful to you for taking me into your home and making me a part of the operation here. It's not often you find such a familiar atmosphere, but it surely exists out here in Mastatal. I'll never forget my times here, and wish they could continue longer. But, not to fear, for I'll be back baking bread in no time.
That is all I'll say for now, 'cause we'll soon meet again. Thank you so much for everything, and keep up the good lifestyle here at RM.
Many blessings - Hasta la próxima…
Well, we are home! Whew! And I feel deep in my gut we should hop on the next plane and RETURN!!! At once! What news! What a world! What a MESS!!! But not at Rancho Mastatal. You guys are just amazing. A M A Z I N G. That was a real treat, and whether you could figure it out or not (and probably were forewarned!), I am not the rustic type. Tenting is not my thing. And certainly biodigesters are wholly alien, and I am a definite anal retentive type when I come across new ways to “deposit”, but did I ever fall for that contraption, with its art and quiet and NO SMELL!!!!! I am a believer!
To get away from the silliness, let me just say how enormously impressed I am with the Rancho Mastatal operation. Extraordinary, and I did not even have to flee the ring around the rosy hand holding and SPEAKING nightmare, about which I KNOW you heard a good deal (phobia, you know……). Cozy people, superb food, great atmosphere, wondrous architecture – so many examples of how we could ALL live sustainably. You teed up Leo’s to make a prince proud. What a spot. All of it. The tours of the community, Chocolate Iguana, coffee plantation, “campus”, the session with Gerardo in the indigenous community top of the hill, walk with Junior, swim under the water fall, blazing stars at night, birds, birds birds (and even a couple of snaaaakes, gag), well, pretty smashing and I plan to rant and rave about it all to everyone. The office here is mesmerized by my descriptions of it all.
But here’s the REAL THING: as you know, my great bug about everything now has evolved down to one item: KINDNESS. It is THE missing ingredient throughout the world, and without it, we are cooked. I just cannot get my arms around why there has to be such a dearth of it. I hear John Lash about gender imbalance, between the genders and within, about the “victim/perpetrator” syndrome of how victimization became a HABIT (addiction), and about raging narcissism which, just as with the imbalance of the genders, did not exist in any remote way 2000 years ago the way it does today, and I think, yup, all of this makes it tough, but what else causes such a lack of kindness in the world? We all love random acts of kindness. We all love ANY form of kindness. So why is it so tough to dole out, forced or natural?
Whatever, this is not an essay on the question of kindness, this is about saying to all of you and your wondrous cohorts like Scott and Laura and Tyler and Nicole and Amy and Al and so many others whose names are slipping me, that THE thing I picked up on was the all-pervasive sense of KINDNESS amongst you, oozing, I felt, from every pore. It really hit me, and I cannot think of a greater compliment to pay and to acclaim. BRAVA, BRAVO to you all. With love and appreciation, Michael
Words can hardly describe Rancho Mastatal. It is a complete experience, that effortlessly turns from a house to a home. I'm always amazed thinking about the persistence, drive and patience it takes to see a project as grand and ambitious as this through. And to keep it running seems impossible. Your passion for your cause makes me want to learn more and do more. You've made your house into a center for learning AND action. Wow! Everyone here is so friendly and open, willing to learn and teach. I hope and plan to come back, maybe to do some REAL WORK and learn more about sustainable living. Thank you so much for making this possible. I hope I can continue to do my part. God bless.
High school student, Seattle
I feel like I’ve always viewed life on a straight line, where decisions are pre-determined and real choices seem non-existent. But right now in my life, as I graduate college, I stand at a fork in the road and I thank you for using your lives as a demonstration of the road less traveled and I thank you for living in such a graceful way that I feel like I might be able to do the same. Thank you for all your hard work in making Rancho Mastatal what it is. Thank you for allowed us to be part of it for a while, and thank you in advance for I’m sure the thousands of times I will remember my time here and be empowered and smile.
As this is written on my last night, you'll understand if I try to use easy to spell words. Thank you. In all that can mean…for a place, for people, you are doing important work here, and you know this and are still humble. You've created a space that is infinitely generous. I feel really very lucky to have been here and met you and gotten to know you a little bit, maybe, but feels more meaningful than that. My time here, as I said has felt like the gift of another life. This time has at once reminded me of past travel and all the magic that entails, of future possibilities and of the importance of being here now. What a lovely place to be. What lovely humans (and cat) to have encountered and gained from their ways. And on and on and on.
Thank you. And till next time. With Deep Admiration,
Visitor, New York, NY
I don’t think I can truly articulate how fully I appreciate everything you’re done for my classmates and I. Our lives will be forever changed. I know that at least I, and probably many others, will from now on put a little more thought into what we have.
P.S. Robin, I really appreciate the delicious vegetarian food!
High school student
Leaving ain’t so bad really – because I know I’ll be back! Truly a magical enchanted niche in a beautiful place. This place has redefined “vacation” in a manner that all future trips will aspire to. Thank you for boundless generosity, energy, and inspiration to follow your heart.
What can I say that truly describes what I feel for you as well as Mastatal. Honestly no words can describe how thankful I am for people like you and communities like this. Some might say it is just plain good energy. And from what I could see a lot of hard work. I commend you both for the amount of love and sheer sweat you pour in to the Ranch and the community. It is my opinion that places like this and people like you are what make this world a better place. I thank you from my entire being for allowing me to live in and experience a part of your lives. This has literally been the best two months of my life. I can only hope that this is the beginning to a lifelong friendship. And it would not be complete with a big “you are the best”. Thank you so much for the good times and great memories. See you soon.
The past few weeks have really amazing. Thanks you. It has been a real great time of learning real skills for a real life. It's comforting to know that you are not just living a sustainable life but sharing this knowledge with countless others. The positive impact that Rancho Mastatal has on the local community has really got me thinking. Creating strong local economies is such an important step toward a sustainable future. We would love to receive the newsletter. Oh yeah, thanks for such BOMB-ASS FOOD!!!!
To All Who Are the Ranch,
To say that I'm grateful for my time here is like saying that bagel sandwiches are a delicious and nutritious meal - sure it gets the basic point across, but it only hints at the full experience behind the sentiment. You are living The Good Life and sharing it all around - 24 hours a day. Serious play, lighthearted work, bountiful meals, continuous learning and comfort with flatulence - I reckon that's good living. As a wise man once told me in New Jersey, "if you sand the wood in the morning you may be cooking with no pants in the evening....
Look forward to keeping in touch with everyone, and I'll see you next time.
Con mucho gusto,
How to describe the love that we have for a place of majesty and a group of fine people in all respects? Well, I don't know, it's great....f***ing great! You guys know you have a great thing going. Just remember that if you are feeling down because so many people pass through, that you always have lasting, loving friendships throughout the world. When you have given your heart and soul to so many, the same is returned from all those who love you guys. And to all of the friends that we have met, you are the reason that we can have such a wonderful life of traveling and still feel deeply connected throughout our lives to absolutely beautiful people who are doing amazing things. You are all astounding inspirations to those seeking a life as art, seeking positive influential paths to follow. Y a todos nuestros amigos de Mastatal, gracias por todos. Nos vemos.
Love and abrazos,
Mike and Erin
To my amazing, generous family - I love you.
"There is no use trying", said Alice,
"One can't believe impossible things".
"I daresay you haven't had much practice", said the queen.
"When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day, why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast".
-- Lewis Carroll
This place makes one believe in impossible things. Positive thinking, determination, open-mindedness, passion, and so many other things make things possible, rather happen, here that are rarely realized back in the "real" world. I leave this place encouraged, enlightened, fearless, still. Thank you everyone that came through these gates for making this place possible. That's the peace, and the cream.
It is hard to explain in words how special and important this place has been to us. You have shown us that it is possible to live a fulfilled and complete life, while not compromising your values or comforts in life. You made us feel at home and part of your family. You and your home have been better than any of the so called Wonders of the World, written about in the Lonely Planet!
Love Michaela and Len
I felt the ripple affects of the Ranch long before I arrived here. I now realize it's impossible to leave this place without transferring some of its energy to wherever life takes you next. Thanks for encouraging creativity, teaching me some real life skills, getting me excited about humanure, nourishing me with amazing meals, and just for being freaking awesome people. The Ranch has made me realize that I'll need to compromise so much less than I thought was inevitable. I hope I am able to take the Ranch's lessons to heart and execute them as eloquently as you have.
To poop, compost, and cob houses!
Cana the Farm Cat
Oh Dear ... I think all I have to say (for once) kind of concise ...
Amazing place, amazing time, amazing people. Thank you so much.
Is this heaven?
There are far too many people to thank for my wonderful experience this summer, but I will try to mention a few: Thanks first to Dario for his patience, kindness, and help with the chopsaw; thanks to the Brothers (Tyler and Gollo) for the McC Brothers, the constant jokes, and an era at Rancho Mastatal; to Billy for sharing some of his expertise and his philosophy; to Hector, mi maestro, and Pablo for keeping the site lively; to Lily for the conversation and her beautiful outlook on life; to Chepo for his help in the jungle; to Junior, Marcos, Gravin and Jesús for the fútbol tips and to Junior again for great dancing; to Annia for the swimming, dancing, and general fun; to Shay for being my instructor and my partner; to Erin, mi amor!, for her love of chocolate cake Chikys, and dancing; to Justin for the musical entertainment. And of course, to Timo and Robin for making it all possible. I'll miss you all.
Intern, Duke University, NC
I am not sorry I surprised you! Thank you for all you have done and the good company I have shared. You have a special place here important for many reasons, but none more important than as a meeting place of like-minded people. I may or may not be back, but RM will always visit me at least every once in a while. You are both very good at balance, one of the most difficult and challenging things about life. If you ever need anything, especially if it requires me to come here to take care of it, just let me know.
Passing through crowded people
Watching from my office window
Waiting for the right person
To walk in.
Through an imaginary wall
That seems stronger than brick,
But only takes a smile to open.
My confidence moves like a rollercoaster
Collapsing into an oceanic abyss
Only to surface and rise
At misopportune moments
“Rancho Mastatal truly is a little slice of heaven in the Costa Rican Mountains. My husband and I spent a wonderfully relaxing five days there in early March 2001. Each day we took long walks in the rainforest on the property of Rancho Mastatal or in the nearby biopreserve. During our walks we saw monkeys, beautiful birds, coral snakes (from afar) and many other small mammals.
“In addition, during our walks we learned a great deal about the jungle biome, including a large variety of plants and insect species. The local villagers and owners have an abundant knowledge of the ecology of the rainforest. After our adventurous walks, we refreshed ourselves by swimming in the waterfall and pools on the property.
“Rancho Mastatal was a sanctuary for us in a country that is slowly becoming more fraught with tourism. At Rancho Mastatal we found connection to the rural people of Costa Rica who spent time teaching us Spanish as we shared our English. They also welcomed us into their village, including their soccer matches!
“In addition, the accommodations at the Rancho are very nice for this area of the country and Tim was a gracious host. I spent my birthday at Rancho Mastatal and I am sure that it will be one of my most memorable yet.
“Whenever I meet someone who is travelling to Costa Rica, I always recommend Rancho Mastatal. I'm sure it will be a place that my husband and I visit frequently."
Rebecca Bear, Program Consultant
Outward Bound International
I don't think I can truly articulate how fully I appreciate everything you've done for my classmates and me. Our lives will be forever changed. I know that at least I, and probably many others, will from now on put a little more thought into what we have.
High school student, Seattle, WA
Graciás por la oportunidad de compartir estos días con ustedes. Fue una experiencia muy interesante y esperazadora. Es reimportante darse cuenta de que es possible integrar diferentes culturas en torno al ambiente, la amistad y a la hospitalidad.
Les deseo muchos éxitos.
Catalina Segura Sossa
Student, University of Washington, WA
There are many reasons to return to Mastatal and I feel I have unfinished business here. Special places, special people. Thank you for making this all happen. Best of wishes - and I'll be back. This doesn't feel like goodbye.
Graduate Student, University of Washington, WA
I've been there and I've done that yet here I am being here and doing that again! Must be something very special! — God I love this place and what is a place without people? Tim, Robin, Justin, Billy, Shay, Jeff, Angela, Meghan, and all the Ticos and Peter and Leo. All la gente de Mastatal. Thank you all for who you are and what you be. You haven't seen the last of me!
“Smack dab in the middle of no where, but well worth the trip. I found it beautiful and peaceful. There were three waterfalls set in lush tropical forests that were easy to hike to. It was spiritually enlivening to be away from the rest of the world and experience the rainforest.”