By Sarah Fahey
After Lucy’s great time out at Rancho Chilamate, I decided another farm experience needed to be in our future. Plus, I just learned that the teachers at her school were planning an entire unit devoted to farm life, so the timing seemed ideal.
Since Morgan’s Rock was financially prohibitive (read ridiculous), I decided to ask around. I contacted our friends up at Finca las Nubes, an organic farm located on the outskirts of town, about a possible visit. Though the farm itself is not open to the general public, Natalie was kind enough to arrange a visit for Lucy and me, along with a couple of other friends. Please visit their website to learn more about their mission, their commitment to permaculture principles, as well as their clinic, skate park, woodshop, accommodations, and more.
A little uncertain of exactly what to expect, we were pleasantly greeted at the gate and given directions to meet Giovanni at the chicken coop. The tour could have ended here and the kids would have gone home very happy campers. All 4 kids (ages 18 months – 4 years old) had a ball feeding hens, finding eggs, and imitating chicken struts and clucks. We had to peel the kids away in order to continue on with our adventure, but not before we took note of the three beehives cultivating honey just above our heads.
Giovanni then took us to the farm’s organic vegetable garden. He showed the kids cucumber, basil, tomato and zucchini plants, as well as calala (passion fruit) trees and more. The kids enjoyed a game of hide ‘n seek among the plants and tall grass.
From there, we headed up to find the cows, only to learn that they were out to pasture. And while we didn’t get to experience milking the cows, the older kids enjoyed searching for the vacas along the verdant paths and found just as much joy in collecting sticks and identifying flowers.
We parted ways with Giovanni at this point and drove ourselves up to the main house where the kids were able to see deer (venado in Spanish), as well as the resident capuchin monkey, Juanito. Juanito put on a great show of swinging from the tree branches, hopping on the back of the deer, and happily eating bananas. The kids were equal parts fascinated and terrified and our buddy, Liam, even got up the courage to share his graham crackers with energetic Juanito. Sadly, my camera battery died just as we met dear Juanito, so not many pics here, but I reminded myself that the experience was far more important than the photo.
We wrapped up the morning by taking in the stunning views of the San Juan Bay and the lush valley below (and taking a turn on the rocking chairs and horses handmade in the on-site woodshop).
Spending a gorgeous morning outdoors, beneath the shade of the beautifully forested farm was enough to call the day a complete and total success. The experience also provided a wonderful opportunity to talk with our kids about the origins of the food on our plates. And the impromptu Spanish lesson on plants and animals was pure icing on the cake. But above all, I found great joy in listening to Lucy recount her adventures of the day to Justin over dinner that evening.
By Cheryl Alexander
Eco-Travel in Nicaragua offers above average adventure
For many Southeast Texans, the idea of traveling to a farm for a vacation conjures up images of flatland acres of boggy rice or endless rows of cornfields. Not very enticing? Well, at Finca Las Nubes, an eco-travel destination in Nicaragua, nothing could be further from the truth.
Imagine a farm in the clouds (finca las nubes) set high above the ocean below, where the air is cool and the views are vast. Surrounded by a steep escarpment on two sides and mountains on the other, this 700-acre farm offers unparalleled privacy and security with spectacular views of Costa Rica to the south, miles of beaches to the west and volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua to the east. There are protected valleys for farming and large open pastures for grazing animals surrounded by natural forest with creeks and waterfalls. There is abundant wildlife including monkeys, sloth, deer and many bird species.
Finca Las Nubes represents a dream come true for an American transplant—an intentional community created to promote self-sustaining lifestyles through community partnership. Everyone involved with the Finca is committed to preserving the environment and helping others to do the same. They produce all of their own food and have built a store where they sell not only their home grown produce and indigenous plants, but also handmade products like furniture, frames and toys. Everyone here is devoted to helping others with the development of sustainable farming techniques. Additionally, the Finca has built and staffs a free clinic to serve the community.
The country of Nicaragua, though economically poor, is rich with natural resources and is also considered one of the safest countries in the world to visit. The Nicaraguan government wholeheartedly endorses the projects at Finca Las Nubes and encourages others to copy the successful model. In June of 2009, President Daniel Ortega selected the Finca as the backdrop for his speech on sustainability and organic farming practices. He eloquently expressed what makes Finca Las Nubes such a special and unforgettable place to visit:
“We hope to learn humility, graciousness and indigenous knowledge of plants and animals from our local neighbors. Respect is the most important part of all; respect for people, respect for nature and a healthy respect for the rights of future generations. We want to leave this place a better place then we found it.”
Finca’s private farm features hundreds of acres of indigenous forest, which are enhanced by the annual planting of thousands of precious hardwood trees. Preservation and reforestation are a priority for creating an abundant future, and the wildlife is healthy and protected within it. There are fruit orchards with dozens of varieties of citrus, mango, avocado, cashew, banana, papaya, coconut and many other exotic local fruits, along with coffee, cocoa and an organic vegetable garden. In the nursery, seedlings and cuttings from all manner of fruit and hardwood trees, ornamental plants and vegetables are nurtured. The organic microbial soil is made from worm castings fed from wood shop shavings, cow and chicken manure and other organic waste. They also employ mulching, composting and water saving techniques through the use of companion plantings, live and dead barriers, nitrogen fixers, organic fertilizers, organic disease control, biological pest control and plants that attract beneficial insects.
Chicken and turkey pens house organic eggs and meat, as well as herds of cows, pigs and pelibuey (a goat/sheep cross) to provide organic milk and meat. Bee hives provide honey and pollination and oxen pull carts move produce around the farm.
The Finca is self-sustaining in the finest sense, processing all the timber for construction and furniture in the wood shop by gifted carpenters who also frame and roof the buildings and design and build the cabinets and furniture. Even the metalwork is fashioned on-site. Almost everything you encounter here is handmade and from the property.
What does all this mean for the turista? Guests at Finca Las Nubes enjoy spectacular multi-room villas, an amazingly beautiful infinity pool and gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, tour guides/drivers can arrange for and accompany you to any manner of outdoor activities ranging from zip-lining to surfing to scuba diving and fishing excursions. Expect three delicious organic meals each day around a magnificent handmade dining table, prepared especially for you by the friendly, accommodating staff.
If this sounds like your kind of adventure, visit www.fincalasnubes.com for more information.
Body Magazine (Canada)