This week, our writer, Alexandra Luty, chatted virtually with local brewer and all around good guy, Todd Hinson, who, with his wife Jill and son, Toby, own Jungle Brew Cervecería and Casa Buena Vista in Serenity Gardens Eco Village where they are giving their all homesteading in Costa Rica. He graciously made himself available to answer a few questions about what brought his family to Costa Rica, what they do with their time here, and why healthy living in harmony with the land is so important to their family.
Why Choose Costa Rica?
Where did you move from and when did you move to Costa Rica?
We moved from North Carolina to Costa Rica in June of 2014, and moved into our home on July 4th of that year.
Why did you choose to move to Costa Rica? Did you consider anywhere else?
After considering Chile, we decided on Costa Rica based on the climate, the hospitality of the people and proximity to the U.S., for our friends and family who would like to visit.
What features on your property enticed you to purchase it?
The property is located in a relatively remote part of Costa Rica, where the locals are friendly and hardworking and the wildlife is abundant. Having said that, it is just 30-45 minutes from beaches and shopping. Our lot has beautiful views of the sunrise, ideal for us since we’re morning people. The climate of warm days and cool evenings is also perfect, both for us and for the food we choose to grow.
What is life like in the village you reside?
Serenity Gardens Eco Village is a community of people from various locations, including Costa Rica, who respect nature and strive to live in harmony with it, but without rules to govern such practices. There is an emphasis on food production, though not for all residents.
Any friends from back home interested in moving to Costa Rica?
Definitely yes! We recently provided information about living here and nearby properties to some good friends, and there are more who have inquired.
Do you plan to stay here indefinitely?
In the almost 7 years since moving here, we’ve rarely taken trips back to the states. This is now our home.
Lifestyle in Costa Rica
What hobbies do you have in your family?
What many consider hobbies, we treat as integral parts of our homestead (gardening, fishing, cooking, soap making, etc.). Our 13 year old son Toby has recently become interested in computers, building his own rig from components.
What kind of habits/routines do you have that help you manage your health?
We have a variety of daily routines that contribute to our wellness, including oil pulling, grounding and meditation. I also run the mountain regularly and Jill does Bowflex and Pilates.
What do you do to earn income?
Our primary sources of income are our microbrewery, Jungle Brew Cerveceria, and our rental home, Casa Buena Vista de Pejibaye.
You have a home rental on your property. How is this working for you?
In our case, our rental home, Casa Buena Vista de Pejibaye, has been a big success with guests to date from 15 different countries, including many locals from Costa Rica. We have a mix of short and long term rentals that come from rental services such as AirBnb, VRBO, etc. or directly from word of mouth, the Facebook page, etc.
Homesteading in Costa Rica
What do your daily routines look like at your homestead?
My mornings are often similar, with practices such as oil pulling, pre-dawn soak in our wood-fired hot tub, bamboo charcoal powder, coffee and appreciating the sunrise, my daily phone call with my mom, then breakfast followed by my homestead chores (feeding the laying hens and tilapia, getting firewood for the hot tub, and walking the property to inspect our food production systems). On mornings when I run the mountain, I tackle that early as well. Jill’s mornings overlap and also include preparing breakfast, getting laundry started or hung out to dry. Beyond that our days are rarely routine, as we tackle whatever needs to be done that day (brewing/bottling, deliveries, food prep, cooking, welcoming guests/visitors, visiting government offices for our business, etc.).
What are the most important plants you cultivate on your property?
With over 40 types of perennial fruits and multiple edible greens, it is difficult to say. But turmeric, ginger, bananas, root crops such as tiquisque, camote and yuca, and a wide variety of fruits and kitchen essentials such as green onions, black pepper and other spices are certainly important.
What do you have to buy that you have trouble growing, cannot grow, don’t have time to grow?
We routinely purchase staples such as flour, rice, beans, sugar, and coffee.
What kinds of animals do you keep on your property?
We have a beautiful dog named Mosha, about a dozen laying hens, and 2 separate ponds for tilapia and Australian red claw crayfish.
What are some staple foods/dishes in your household that you cook?
Jill’s menu is largely based on what comes from our garden, which can be seasonal. She is always experimenting with new and different ways to use the many foods we grow. This is a very important part of our homestead.
What are some of the daily use items that you make in your household?
We make our own soap, deodorant and toothpaste, and we produce products such as fermented veggies and sodas, powdered turmeric and bamboo charcoal powder, among others. I have a WordPress blog post entitled ‘The fountain of youth?’ – which provides more detail about many of our approaches to wellness.
How important is it for you to know what ingredients are in your products? Has it always been like this?
For us this is critical. We awoke to the importance of ingredients many years ago when I had a natural soap making company in North Carolina. I saw firsthand the problems customers suffered when using commercial soaps, and how rapidly they improved after switching to a natural product.
Why is it important to you to follow the practices of homesteading in Costa Rica and to try to live as sustainably as you can?
A big part of our approach to health and wellness, both for us and the planet, is to produce healthful food and supplements using as small a footprint as possible. Our home is solar powered, and we incorporate many aspects of permaculture into our homesteading practices. Many of the fruits and veggies we grow also become food for the local wildlife.
What problems are you trying to solve by living the lifestyle that you choose?
Healthful living decreases the occurrence of dis-ease, and by sharing knowledge of approaches to healthful living we can help spread wellness. We strongly agree with “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates, father of medicine)
How much waste does your family create? Do you do anything special to manage this waste?
For waste that leaves our property, we produce as little as possible through composting, and we collect all our recyclable materials. Over the years, we’ve taken big steps to dramatically reduce the use of single use items for our homestead, the brewery, and our rental home. In fact, Jungle Brew is the only microbrewery in the Southern Zone that collects their empty bottles from hotels and restaurants, then washes and reuses them. As a result, we often go more than a year between bottle purchases. With our deposit system, our bottles rarely end up in the waste.
Did you get help with establishing your homesteading practices or is this trial and error for you?
While living in North Carolina, we had a homestead with raised bed gardens, laying hens, honey bees, blueberry and blackberry bushes and shiitake mushroom cultivation, but we required guidance after moving to Costa Rica. We initially received help from the crew that created the layout of our property and built our basic food production systems (raised beds, greenhouse, and chicken coop), as well as planted many of the perennial fruit trees that we have. We later added many more features such as our ponds. We’re always learning, and our local Tico friends have been invaluable in this regard.
Is there anything missing from your lives living here?
We have ideas for additional homestead projects that we’d like to get started, but it simply comes down to the number of hours in a day. Restarting mushroom production is one of our goals.
How close are you to schools and supermarkets where you live?
It is about 20 minutes to Toby’s high school and basic shopping in Pejibaye. More extensive shopping is available in Uvita (45 minutes) or San Isidro del General (1 hour). The local elementary school is walking distance from our home.
What is school like for your son?
Toby began first grade in the local elementary school which was a challenge at first, but he quickly learned the language. After graduating from that school, he moved to the technical high school in Pejibaye (CTP Pejibaye) and loves it. He is currently opting for virtual learning from home using Microsoft Teams from that high school.
How often does your son get to engage with other kids?
Toby has a friend near his age here in the community and they get together often. He also has friends from the high school that he sees every few weeks. The rest of the time he frequently engages with friends via messaging and online platforms.
How does your son get involved in the homestead? Is it important for you to get him involved?
Toby has a variety of chores around the homestead such as sweeping, raking, collecting dry branches for the woodstove as well as following a schedule for cleaning his room. If we don’t involve him in what we’re doing as a family, then these approaches will not survive past us.
How is your Spanish?
My Spanish is good, Jill’s is much better, and Toby has the best Spanish in the family due to his immersion in the public school system.
What hobbies do you engage in as a family or specifically for your son?
Toby enjoys mountain biking and the associated technical requirements to maintain his bike in good condition, and he and Jill sometimes play online games such as Minecraft. We all enjoy watching old episodes of shows such as Star Trek and old movies.
More about you
How have you been experiencing the global pandemic panic here in Costa Rica?
If you’re asked to stay home for a period of time, having a working homestead, a brewery and a wood-fired hot tub in the southern Pacific mountains of Costa Rica certainly makes for a better situation than some may experience. As a rule we don’t “worry” about things, but instead choose to focus on positive outcomes, and this likely lessened the impact of the situation on our family.
Do you feel rich?
Yes! In countless ways we feel blessed beyond our dreams.
Are you as connected to the world as you’d like to feel?
We are certainly as connected to the world as we’d like to be. In fact, often times we feel we are too connected!
Do you have any advice for people living in cities?
For each his own, but it’s not for us. We understand why many love city life, but we’re country folk.
What small actions in your daily lives make the biggest difference?
Put simply, expressing gratitude. It’s one of the secrets of life.
What substitutions have you made here for things that were important to you back home?
Honestly, we spend VERY little time thinking about what we don’t have. We focus our thoughts and energy on what we can do with what we have, and we never cease to be amazed at the possibilities.
What are some of your favorite wildlife species in Costa Rica?
Chirincoco, howler monkeys, kinkajous, white-faced capuchins and blue morpho butterflies….just to name a few. But the list goes on and on. There is a cool lizard that hangs out around our hot tub, and he’s definitely one of my favorites!
What is one word that you would use to describe Costa Rica?
What are some of your favorite things about your property?
The sunrises. The river and creek. The spectacular view. Healthful food growing everywhere!
My coffee view of the sunrise from our wood-fired hot tub.
Favorite adventure activity?
Running the mountain.
Favorite relaxation activity?
Relaxing in our hot tub with a cold beer at day’s end.
Favorite time of year?
May, due to the local availability of fruits such as mango and avocado, and the beginning of rain to green everything again.
Favorite place to visit in Costa Rica?
Our local swimming hole, La Bota.
Favorite place in the world?
Right where we are!!!
Thanks so much to Todd, Jill, and Toby for giving us a small peek into their fruitful lives homesteading in Costa Rica. They are an inspiration to others who want to live rich, diverse lives in a more tranquil, friendly, and enlivening setting. Try one of their delicious artisan Jungle Brew craft beers, available in select store, hotels, and restaurants across South Pacific Costa Rica. Or book a cleansing stay at their Casa Buena Vista in Serenity Gardens Eco Village. You won’t regret letting these wonderful people have an impression in your life in more ways than one!
All photos in article by Todd Hinson