Costa Rica Ramblings

The craziness of DIY in the jungle

I would give anything for a Home Depot and a Michael’s right now.

Let me explain. We are DIY kind of people. I blame my parents for it really – when I was growing up, our house was always in a state of renovation and my folks are the kind of people that would go through open houses “to get ideas” on the weekends, dragging their beleaguered children in tow. When I was 15 my mom bought a little fixer-upper in Prince George and we redid it ourselves; ripping out the shag carpets, refinishing the hardwood floors, setting tile, painting murals etc. The year before that, in another part of PG, Aidan built himself a tree fort that was fully insulated and electrically wired.

The problem with this is that, between us, we have some basic skills and no sense of our own limitations, causing us to truly believe that we can build/make/repair pretty much anything. And in a city where you can walk into some form of hardware or craft store and find whatever you are looking for, we seem to do ok. But here in the middle of nowhere, it’s a slightly different story.

Things I have learned ‘Doing it Myself’ in the Costa Rica rainforest.

  • With great power tools comes great responsibility.

We have better tools than anyone else in the village and surrounding area, with a bullet. Aidan used the majority of our C-Can to pack his work paraphernalia. The local guys here doing construction actually insisted on building us a lockable bodega so his stuff doesn’t go missing. We are quickly realizing why no-one has good tools here though – they almost immediately die. One by one, Aidan’s tools are short-circuiting, melting and rusting, making projects harder to finish. Sometimes low-tech really is the way to go.

  • None of the hardware stores ever have enough of anything. Anything you want is available “manana” but unfortunately “tomorrow” doesn’t actually mean “tomorrow”. Except when it does. But there is no way of knowing which times that may be. Carry on.
  • Things do not dry here. Do not assume that just because it has been a couple hours since you painted/vanished something that it is done. On the upside, if you get distracted by maniacal toddlers and leave brushes out sometimes, they will still be fine later.
  • If it’s wet (see above), bugs will stick to it. If it’s dry, bugs will eat it. If it’s wood, it will mold immediately unless you stain and varnish the heck out of it, which will leave it wet (see above again). If it’s flat, the chickens will poop on it (I don’t have any idea why this is, but it seems to be a fact of farm-life).

So, what does all this mean? As with so many things here, you adapt. Rather than trying to do things the way you would in Canada, you look around you and make do. We have still managed to create some really great stuff here, including a new dining room table using off cuts from the kid’s new floors, the chicken coop I built myself, the goat barn that is a work in progress, and lots of finishing work making our cabins livable. Sometimes I just need to put my perfectionistic tendencies aside for a moment and enjoy the process. For example, the Sesame Street characters I am painting on Jorah’s wall are not the perfect colours because I only had very oddly tinted primary acrylics available, but that’s ok. A Cookie Monster by any other blue is just as sweet, or something of that sort.

May all your projects go swimmingly!

Be Amazing,


Instructor, practitioner, speaker and writer for Specialized Kinesiology. Homeschooling homesteading in the jungle. Mother of Dragons.