Archive for January, 2013

2012/ 2013 Infrastructure Update

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Taking a moment to reflect back on the past year, here is summary of progress made in our infrastructure with some preliminary information on what’s in store for 2013.

Guest Accommodations

We finished our first cabin in July 2012 just in time for the arrival of back to back entomology groups who christened the cabin setting up their lights on the deck. This cabin is a milestone since we can now offer guests exclusive accommodations. Prior to this visitors shared rooms with us in The Homestead. We can now accommodate up to 14 guests at The Homestead and The Cabin. Images of The Cabin on our website or on the photo gallery here

MTCF Cabin 1

In 2012 we also put a new roof on The Homestead. The previous roof was a fibrous cement product that created new micro fractures as fast as we patched it up. We got tired of placing up to 10 pots around the homestead under the drips falling from the ceiling.

The last large construction planned, the common area lodge out on the lookout point, will start in 2013. During 2012 a backhoe leveled out this area and we brought power and water to the site. We are now ready to start the foundation work. Here is a drawing of the planned structure.

It will have five bedrooms (3 with private bath and two with shared bath) a 2nd floor loft with private dormer balcony, a wrap around deck, viewing platform, large kitchen, dining room and living room. When the lodge is complete we will max out our occupancy to 24 guests with the new lodge, cabin and homestead. Here is the site of the new lodge

Hydro Power

Our micro hydro system was greatly improved in 2012 on several fronts. A load controller was added to manage the distribution of power.

We now have a steady 6kw of power with stable 220V / 60hz. Here is a brief description how this works. The turbine is fully open and the generator is producing a constant 6kw. Power not being used at any given moment is being dumped into a 6000 liter concrete storage tank. Here it is with yours truly having a hot soak.

Eight 1500W heating elements heat the water in the tank.

The load controller distributes the power constantly between the load we are drawing running our project (lights, machines and appliances) and the dump load where unused power heats water in the tank. This insures steady voltage and frequency 110-240V/60Hz to the whole project.

The water intake was also improved in 2012 with the construction of a holding tank fed by five 4inch PVC pipes to capture and filter the required amount of water from the stream.

Previously the penstock (8 inch PVC pipe) was laying directly in the stream with a reservoir made of bags of sand. Flash flooding after heavy rains was washing away the sandbags and leaves were constantly clogging up the intake. This new intake tank requires almost no maintenance.

The last improvement on our hydro was to add cement columns to support the 8 inch PVC pipe in areas where the slope of the land required us to raise the pipe off the ground. We have 35 meters of drop from the intake to the turbine. We also removed dead timber during the entire 200m section that was a threat of falling on the pipe.

Our hydro system is the nucleus of our project and we are making all the efforts possible that this is stable and secure. Our generator has an operating lifespan of 80,000 hours. We calculate that it has already past the 50,000 hour mark. We plan in 2013 to secure an additional generator and keep the existing one as a backup.


Our common area lodge will be higher than the current intake of our water source for the project. This required us to choose a higher location on the property to insure enough water pressure for the new lodge and all the structures. We were fortunate to locate a spring about 125 meters from the current intake and we had this water tested at a laboratory in David and it came back 99% pure. This is a great improvement over our previous water intake which was the same stream that feeds our hydro system.

Once we cleared the area of the spring we laid a 5 gallon bucket down on its side and poured a small amount of cement to create a dam. A 1 inch pipe exits from the 5 gallon bucket and travels 50 meters to a level area where we built a 6000 liter concrete holding tank.

The volume of this holding tank will insure enough water for the project even at full occupancy. In late spring at the height of the dry season the flow of the spring is lower but still steady to keep the holding tank full. The one downside is that the holding tank looks pretty stark on the hillside with Mount Totumas as a back drop. We need an artist volunteer or a school group up here during 2013 to paint a mural!

Employee Cabin

We constructed an employee cabin in 2012 to house the construction staff until the common area lodge is complete when our caretaker Reynaldo and his family will move into this new space. It is the first structure you see as you approach the common area of the project. 6 bunk beds, kitchen, bathroom, and best of all, there is local television reception for the work crew to entertain themselves at night. This is a make or break feature in convincing employees to come all the way up this isolated valley and work Monday – Friday away from their families.


Our internet service was improved in 2012. Our microwave antennae received a weak signal from the microwave towers in the valley during 2010 – 2011 with spotty service. Internet Activa, our internet provider, installed our own dedicated antennae on their microwave tower in the valley with point to point service to our onsite antennae. We now have an excellent reliable internet connection. Netflix movies anyone? Skype calls work great. We can also temporarily order more bandwidth from the provider if we have larger groups requiring internet.


A secure storage room and expanded workshop area was constructed in 2012 out of aluminum framing and cement blocks. This space is currently being used to cure the timber harvested on site that will be used for construction of the common area lodge. The secure storage room is used to store all our construction tools and machines. This workshop would make an ideal ecology lab space for educational purposes once the construction is complete.

In 2012 ditches were dug and concrete pipes added with the help of a backhoe to improve drainage on our 2km private road. In addition road improvements were completed out to the construction site of the new common area lodge


In 2012 we got permits from ANAM to harvest 2 oaks, 8 pines and 4 bambito trees. About 8000 board feet of timber was processed by our chain saw alchemist Mr. Noe and is now curing in our new workshop. This timber will be used for construction of our common area lodge.

That’s about it. Come on up and check it out.