Archive for September, 2010

Stream Power Off the Grid

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

The stream that powers our homestead 24/7.

Stream power runs our power tools and bakes our bread, cooks our rice and lights up the house. It sends a current to the microwave tower that connects us to the world via internet and keeps the cheese and vegetables fresh in the refrigerator. Off the grid hydro power offers year round electricity to the project here at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. With over 6 kilowatts of energy, we will have enough electricity to power the several cabins we have planned for the coming years.

This is a flow through system. The water is returned to the stream after passing through the hydro plant. There is no stream modification or dams required so there is negligible impact to the stream ecology.

Pelton Wheel and generator. You can see where the 6 inch blue pipes are directing water at the top and bottom of of the pelton wheel. Inside the blue housing there is a reduction to 1 1/2 inches that blast high pressure to the pelton wheel. This system is manufactured by Canyon Industries.

Inside the blue housing is a pelton wheel like the one shown here. The two jets of water spin this wheel. Thanks to gravity and water!

This shed houses the hydro plant. It is located in a gully in the stream near the home and runs silently. The white noise of the stream itself hides the subtle hum of the generator and pelton wheel.

The intake is covered with a screen. We took a section of 8 inch PVC and cut open windows along the sides to open up the surface area of the entrance. After heavy rains leaves accumulate that need to be cleared. About once every week in the dry season and once every 2-3 days in the rainy season.

200 meters of 8 inch PVC pipe taps the water from a perennial stream and drops down through the forest to the hydro plant. The volume of water and drop in elevation provide the necessary head pressure.

Coloration, mimicry, morphology; cryptic strategies

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

More dramatic examples of cryptic strategies displayed here from insects seen at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. Check it out.

This moth imitates a dead leaf in its coloration but also the contour of its hind wings mimics the damage done from a feeding caterpillar. So we have an adult moth, which was not long before a caterpillar itself feeding on such a leaf, emerging as an adult with its wing appearing like the damaged leaf. This is pretty twisted.

The modification on the head of this moth is extended to imitate the stem of a leaf.

A sphinx moth with multiple shades of deep green that blends perfectly on the branches of trees covered with moss, lichen and abundant epiphytes.

Another species of green sphinx moth

A small moth folded up looking just like wood. At the end of a small stick this insect is virtually invisible.

Just another dead leaf on the branch of this tree. Or is it?

Two moths in this photo

Quite striking but against the bark of a tree hard to notice.

Look carefully on this stick. If you cant find the insect look on the next picture below.

A walking stick totally camouflaged. This guy was found on the dead oak tree we harvested.

Same walking stick

Look carefully. This is an incredible example of cryptic coloration. The following image will reveal details of this katydid.

This katydid was found also on the dead oak we harvested.

We highlighted this katydid on a previous blog entry but he merits a return appearance! Whereas the previous katydid was more moss colored this one is more lichen like in its cryptic coloration and pattern.

Thank You Friends, Visitors and Volunteers

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010


The home renovations at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest are complete. In 2010 we had a lot of help from friends, visitors, residents and some hired help. Here are some photos of all of you who helped throughout the year plus some special shots of visitors. Thank You!

The last few months of 2010 the home is available for rent and we already have several bookings. New construction and further renovations are now on hold until the dry season starts in December. In January 2011 we will start the first cabin at Mount Totumas Cloud Forest. Those of you with carpentry and building skills are herewith formally invited to come and share your creative skills!

Newly painted front of house with new mudroom extension.

Michael,Danny,Emily and Dave on the new deck


Kevin helped get it all started. Raising the house.

and designing the deck!

Roberto and Alex constructing the slate wall

Miguel and team building the sun/mud room.

Robertito fastening the lug bolts

Alma and Karin Painting

Tom and Ana

Dave building the coat rack.  Dave is an architect helping design our first cabins

Daniel and family from Montreal

Lyra working on the welcome sign

Michael eyeballing the tile work

Danny and Roberto after stacking the newly harvested wood

Tom, Ada, Sam and Megan

Mudroom going up

Chainsaw alchemist Mr. Noe Vega

Emily up on Mount Totumas


Enrico,Shane and Roberto’s family

Megan the feral one!

Jenny playing scrabble with the tiles

Shane with garden harvest

Madam butterfly

Lyra and Robertito

Roberto putting on new siding

Emily on horseback

Peter, who hasn’t yet visited Mount Totumas, is our website designer in Seattle. Thank You.

Yours truly ringing the bell calling on all volunteers to join us in 2011