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Parents visit and more nature

My parents spent two weeks visiting Caye and I here in Ecuador – ending 1 week ago. The trip was great and very laid back. There was a lot of time for our families to just do “normal” things together, rather than lots of touring and touristing. It can be a bit tricky getting these less intense family times in when it takes intercontinental travel for either of our families to visit the other – so we were super pleased that this went so well and love that my parents are such easygoing and fun guests.

Unfortunately something has had to give as our “all work, all the time” lifestyle combined with the pregnancy – and that thing has been photography/writing. Long story short, we have very few photos from my parents’ trip. Most of the below are from a great weekend trip to Mindo with them and a hike we took with Caye’s family this last weekend.


Our weekend trip to Africa

There is a small beach in the Northern coast of Ecuador called Africa. That’s it, just Africa. Once, Caye’s brother told his 3rd grade class that he went to Africa for the weekend and was put in temporary detention for “lying” and sticking to his lie, until his parents cleared up the confusion. That is where we spent this holiday weekend. The trip there from Zuleta only takes about three hours, in which time you descend about 9,000 feet and go through three completely distinct eco-systems and 2 very different populations – racially and culturally.

The trip was pleasant and easy, the time with Caye’s dad, step mom and step brothers wonderful, the Pacific coast beautiful. We had sun, waves for body-boarding, time for relaxing, some great lunches at local restaurants and nice camping-style meals for breakfasts and dinner. The only down-side was hauling all of our gear up the 90 huge and steep earthen stairs in the nearly vertical mountain to reach the partially completed bungalow where we were camping. The exhausting trips up with our camping gear made me so so glad that I was not the one being paid to build the house, moving cement block and all materials up and down on back or by a makeshift gondola.

We took around 800 photos. Our favorites are below.


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A trebuchet success and photo friends

Yesterday was la prueba (the test) of the trebuchet. We started the morning out with waffles, then headed out to the newly constructed “catapulta” to do a couple of quick upgrades before the first shot (and to fix the damage done by a 110 pound counterweight falling 2 meters onto the wooden base and shattering it like glass the day before). The upgrades were good and probably the only reason that the whole thing held together throughout the 3o or so launches over the next hours. The key upgrade was doubling the counterweight to over 200 pounds, greatly increasing the potential launching distance.

For all of the parents and other reasonably concerned folks out there, let it be known that safety was priority numero uno with the kids around the mini “war machine” and massive elevated log. We took the opportunity to do a bid of “teaching” about basic safety around weapons  – “don’t point it at your face”, “don’t sit under the counterweight” and “ALWAYS leave the “safety” on until everyone is clear and you are ready to shoot”.

All in all, the project was a great success, we shot a soccer ball about 50 feet up and 120 feet forward and a chunk of brick about 80 feet up and -5 feet forward… The kids had a blast putting it all together with hammer, nails and scrap lumper and no one stepped on a rusty nail or even got scratched.

Today, a couple of friends visited from Quito (from Brazil actually). They are both artists and photographers and wanted to shoot (photos, not bricks) in Zuleta a bit. We spent the morning walking around the Hacienda and village with them, chatting and taking/making photos. It was fun to have some visitors in La Casita and to share the paradise we live in with other visually-minded folks.


A beautiful morning

This morning I woke up to a dog’s tongue in my mouth – inside my mouth. My flight instinct sent me backwards, where I ran into another lump of fur, which excited by the idea of 4am playtime, began “prancing” on top of my still-dreaming body. Half asleep, I crawled forward, only to get a wet surprise in the nose… and so went the first hour of my day.

It’s taken me about 3 weeks to begin to enjoy this little morning ritual that Caye so innocently named “family time”. Really the core issue is that Yaku has a massive pride issue that takes control of his adorably small brain and forces him to grab any nearby small object (often a shoe) and strut, bow-legged, head held ridiculously high in circles around the room at 4:15am. He alternates between poking Caye and I in the face until one of us wakes up and compliments him on being a stellar example of canine hunting prowess – at which point, he turns his attention to starting a play fight with his sister.

A hundred dog trainers would have a hundred different ways to deal with this snooze-button-less alarm clock, but I am willing to wager that none of those solutions would have quite matched Caye’s “family time”, i.e. inviting the dogs into the bed when the 4am activity began. Although I wasn’t a big fan in the beginning, they are in fact really cuddly and the perfect amount of extra warm for mornings in our drafty room at 10,000 feet.

The really wonderful side-effect of our new furry alarm clocks is that we also start every day watching the valley’s natural phenomenon. This is the Eastern mountain range’s enormous sunrise shadow racing down the Western mountain range, through the lowland fields and eventually to our front yard. Tomorrow we will try to catch the event with a time lapse sequence and post it here.


The Peterson Barn Dance

2012 was another great barn dance year at Heart Rock Farm. This annual party took place on our second to last night in Wisconsin and we used the time connect with everyone we’d missed in our neighborhood visits and other parties and of course to dance. The food was fantastic, the music great (as always) and no one could ask for better company, especially with my four closest childhood friends in town for the weekend.

Highlights of the night were the Yurri’s annual hammer toss competition (which I did not win) but in which we did take some really fun photos with our new lenses and camera and of course the totally stunning potluck dinner.

Thanks a ton to the Petersons for putting on another wonderful event. It was enjoyed by all and we are already looking forward to next year.


wedding weekend

This weekend was the wedding ceremony and reception of two good friends from college (and after) Chris and Susanna. Caye and I share a few similarities with these guys that makes getting together all the more fun. First off, we are two Ecua-Wisconsite couples, i.e. Chris and I are from WI and Susanna and Caye are Ecuadorian. We all went to Beloit College and began our relationships there. Although Caye and Susanna did not meet until recently, they realized right away that they were distant cousins. The icing on the odd cake is that yesterday during the reception, my mother was speaking with Chris’s aunt and it turned out that the two played together as children. Weird connections, but fun.

Anyway, we had a great time at the two day event, spent time getting to know Chris and Susanna’s families better and catching up with Beloit friends. Last night was spent with new and old friends, drinking wine and playing a really inappropriate/raunchy/offensive version of the family table-top game Apples-to-Apples, called Cards Against Humanity. It’s a ridiculous game that has the potential to keep a table full of twenty-somethings laughing for an entire long night. I just checked out their website now and although the card game is sold out, they provide instructions for how to print your own version of the game, which is Creative Commons licensed.

Lastly, we had a great time visiting some of my dad’s family in Madison. We had a really delicious breakfast just off the capitol square, walked the farmer’s market and spent hours exploring Maxwell Days on State Street – a huge sidewalk sale event for all the little retail shops along there.

Congrats Chris and Sue!



Selling Surkha today?

Last night, 3 days after posting Surkha on Craigslist, 2 days after being contacted by the first potential buyer, Mike stepped from the dock to Surkha’s decks. He had brought us a bottle of wine as a welcome to Mobile and the South, as he had noted in our phone conversations, that we were both far away from our homes. We didn’t know what to expect inviting this stranger to our boat, to potentially be her new owner, but whatever expectations we had were pleasantly exceeded.

The three of us ended up spending over an hour talking about sailing, poking around the boat, exploring her quirks and upgrades. After the tour, we decided that he would think it over during the night and that most likely we would meet up again this morning around 11, to haul Surkha out of the water for a bottom inspection…

And that’s exactly where we are at. Up early, we are going to clean to decks and box up our last bit of stuff. Breath held, we are hoping for a positive haul-out and sale thereafter.

Ayer en la noche, tres días después de poner Surkha en Craigslist y 2 días después de que la primera persona nos contacto para comprarle, Mike llego a nuestro velero. Nos trajo una botella de vino, como un regalo de bienvenida a Mobile y a la parte sur de Estados Unidos – el notó en nuestras conversaciones de teléfono que nosotros dos estamos muy lejos de nuestra casa. No sabíamos que iba pasar, teniendo un desconocido en el barco y un potencial nuevo dueño, pero nuestras expectativas fueron excedidas.

Al final, nosotros très hablamos por unas horas, discutiendo la arte de navegar, barcos, y Surkha. Después del tour, decidimos que el iba pensarlo en la noche y que probablemente, hoy en la mañana ibamos a sacarle del agua para ver la condición de la parte de abajo.

Y eso es exactamente en lo que estamos ahorita. Nos despertamos temprano, en un ratito vamos a limpiar los cubiertas y empacar nuestras ultimas cosas en cajas para aumentar a nuestra montaña de cartón en el muelle. Esperamos que estos próximos pasos vayan bien y que vendamos a Surkha.


Chop chop

Today was a tough day for the puppies. It started out fine, around 6 am, with a nice ride in the car – a favorite activity of theirs. They were a bit hungry because they had not been allowed to eat since lunch the day before, but handling it fine. Anyway, everything was going great for Yaku and Yana. We dropped Manuel and a friend off at their schools and headed over to the Veterinary clinic, where Yaku and Yana would get to see one of their top 5 people, the head Vet, Milton. Milton is a super great guy, who studied veterinary medicine in Cuba, drives a sweet old Jeep and is always ecstatic to explain ANYTHING about dog health. “Do my dogs have fleas?”, “No and here’s a 10 minute explanation of the life-cycle of a flea, complete with whiteboard drawings and explanations of which types of medicines work and which don’t”.

None of this mattered today though, because Milton betrayed Yaku and Yana. I personally think Yana knew something was up, as she got pretty nervous when we put her on the operating table. Then again that may just be because she has finally built up an association between that table and having thermometers inserted in her bum. Anywhoo… In less time than it took for Caye to ask, “How long before the anesthetic takes effect?”, Yana was flat on her face and out cold – or apparently just REALLY high according to Milton. That’s where we left the two – with two huge rawhide bones for when they woke up and an extremely nice vet.

4 hours later, we picked up the puppies, who were super happy to see us, Yana even pee’ed herself with joy, and looking surprisingly good and  considering they just had their reproductive capabilities removed. Unfortunately, the good humor was not too last. 1 hour after getting home and Yana was in a lot of pain. She looked totally miserable, could not sleep and just cried a bit every so often. Then, she got lost… seriously, just gone! We searched in every nearby building, field, pasture, hole, river, every corner of the house and all of her favorite places. Nowhere. After 30 minutes of searching and calling her name in vane, things were seeming pretty desperate, especially because there is a bit of history of dog theft here. Caye started tearing up and I was ready to hop in the car and start searching the village. Before that though, I decided to peek inside of an old collapsed out-house and their was Yana looking up at me, drugged and confused. Very “emotional” Caye came over, we extracted the pup and headed back to the house for some serious cuddling. And that’s what we are still doing.

A lot of the photos are from today’s two round-trips to Ibarra. The road there is gorgeous and I finally got over my stubbornness (again) and took Caye’s very kind and constant advice to take photos while she drives. Have I mentioned that I am terrible at sharing cameras…?


New pets and visits from friends

Things are going great. More 18+ hour work days, bread-making, family time and getting to know Caye’s brothers’ new pet Chusco – a guinea pig that until recently, was going to be condor food. Speaking of rodents, Scott Walker won the WI recall election – definitely not ideal, but Democrats took the Senate, which should curb all the ridiculous a bit – not to say that Dems don’t have all their own damn problems at the moment.

On Tuesday, the friend who hosted the Great Gatspy graduation party, her boyfriend Lucho and a gringo friend, Dan, visited. We made pizzas in the mud-oven for lunch, drank a few beers, talked a lot and did a short walking tour of the Hacienda. It was a quick visit, but we had a great time and enjoyed the sensation of interacting with peers in our secluded little country home. Thanks for the visit guys!

We will be getting on a plane to Miami in just less than 4 weeks and are getting excited about returning to Surkha and to the nautical life. We will only be aboard for a week or two, but it should be about 40-70 degrees warmer than the last time and just the idea of sleeping in the soothing rolling of Surkha’s v-berth puts big smiles on our faces. (getting up at three in the morning to re-set the anchor is a different story.

Sailing digital boats (video)

A good friend of Caye and I sent us this video today. It’s pretty cute and as a bonus, involves the arctic(antarctic) and sailing – two things quite dear to my heart.

We’ll be plugging back in here shortly, it’s been a long week of work and we’re barely taking time to eat and sleep, more or less post. But, that should all change shortly. In the mean time, enjoy the video and Northern Hemisphere summer.

Thanks Maggie!


Dr Seuss and entrepreneurship

Happy Friday exciting world of doers, thinkers, travelers and workers. You are all fantastic and we really appreciate you tuning in here every day, week or month. Your comments, visits and emails make this fun. Thank you.

Caye and I work a lot. When we were sailing for 8 – 18 hours per day, down the rivers of North America, we most often had our computers open and were creating branding packages, coding new websites or maybe advising on social media marketing strategy by Skype. We rarely unplug and are extremely ambitious. Our primary business for the last 2.5 years has been glorified freelancing, a reality we constantly are trying to escape, as it does not afford us much free time and the income ceiling is low.

Our goal with moving to a farm shed in the Andes mountains was to focus – focus on streamlining our businesses and creating new ones. This is how we fill our days right now.  A balance of client work and late nights building our empire. We are excited to launch some of these ventures into the wild, soon. But for now, three quotes. One on the progression of entrepreneurship by co-founder of Twitter (which I’ve publish here before, but really like) and the other two on flexibility and brevity by Dr. Seuss.

“My life has been a series of well-orchestrated accidents; I’ve always suffered from hallucinogenic optimism. I was broke for more than 10 years. I remember staying up all night one night at my first company and looking in couch cushions the next morning for some change to buy coffee.”

Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter

“If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

— Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

The photos are from a quick and fun trip to Quito to visit Caye’s sister and mom (another note-worthy entrepreneur).

Also, if this business talk has peaked your interest and you live in Wisconsin, my mother, an incredible entrepreneur and inspiration, is expanding her Children’s bookstore and just announced a very generous moving sale on her blog.


An afternoon with the “brothers in law”

So, we have designated Thursday afternoons as “brothers day”. It is when Manuel and Antonio get to come to la Casita, hammock-fight, play iPad games, work in the garden, cook and maybe, just maybe, get some homework done on our couch. For the last few weeks, this brother day, occurred on any or all days of the week after school, but that got a bit disruptive to our working life, so we did a bit scheduling and chose Thursday as the day.

So, yesterday was the first brothers’ day and it was a resounding success! We managed to do a bit of everything. There was extreme hammock-fighting, nearly all homework was completed and together we made an excellent batch of muffins, fresh butter from cream, and ricotta (accidentally). Manuel read the entire English muffin recipe out loud and impressed Caye and I a ton with his pronunciation and comprehension. He also added every ingredient and performed all other steps right up to checking their “doneness” with knife insertion.

Tomorrow morning, we are doing breakfast at Caro and Fernando’s house. Then we’ll head back to la Casita and try really hard to knock our to-do lists down and start doing more interesting things with our time.


house # 3 – detecting a pattern

Finally! Finally, we had a day to just dedicate to making this house nicer, prettier, more comfortable, warmer, less mouse-filled and just generally homier.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what seems to be a bit of a theme in our lives. Hardware stores. More specifically, visiting hardware stores every couple days for months, while making a home. If you’ve been following along here since last summer, you’ve probably picked up on this pattern a bit as well.

12 months ago, we were happily tucked away in our Beloit apartment. We were there for three years and made it into a great space. Nearly every single piece of furniture, we built ourselves, right there, with 40-90 year-old tools and salvaged lumber. We had so much fun making that space personal and filling it with plants, photos, art and a 1000 pounds of kitchen utensils and ingredients. Just a few months later, 36 hours after deciding to buy our boat, we packed up every last bit of that apartment into a u-haul trailer and moved our whole lives. The following 3 months were spent visiting hardware stores and making our small floating apartment into beautiful and comfortable home. We lived in Surkha for a total of 6 months, before hopping on a plane for a “short trip” to Ecuador. Then, surprise! we decided to stay for a year or two and guess what? We needed somewhere to stay.

Now, 3 months after beginning to rehab “the worst living space in the Hacienda” and dozens of trips to the hardware store later, here we are making more fun plant-holders, scrap-wood knife racks and shelves from salvaged crates. It’s all so so similar to the boat and Beloit.. – something that is both strange and very comforting.

So, long story short. We built a ton of stuff today. We created a huge “pantry” from flimsy wooden fruit crates and old flooring, a beautiful plant holder from hose-clamps, salsa jars and some wooden siding from a ancient shepard’s shack, a bar for hanging pots and pans made from a steel gate tubes and bent re-bar, a door-“plug” to keep the mice from entering under our front door, a scrap-wood knife rack for the three sets of knifes that family lent or gifted us and lastly a fantastic “bread station” with storage for my baskets, clothes, peel, razor, etc. (thanks beautiful!). We also cleaned every corner of the house, made another batch of yogurt and organized all our foodstuffs in the new pantry.

Now I am sitting in perfectly organized living room, listening to more French-cafe music, with incredible smells of a huge curry dish in from the kitchen where Caye is perfecting her art of phenomenal curry-making. We are both feeling great, accomplished and a bit more relaxed, with so much less left undone in our living space.

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Home-made cappuccino – using only a French Press

This is a quick tutorial for those that love Cappuccinos, but don’t have a Cappuccino machine in the house or do have the machine, but don’t like the drink it produces or it’s broken. For this simple Cappuccino, all you need is a French Press, coffee and milk and a pan to heat the milk.

Based on that intro, you may be inclined to ignore the whole post and assume that you are better off just waiting for your next stop at a coffee shop. I felt the same way every time I saw this technique mentioned over the last years, but hear this – the Cappuccino I made this afternoon, on my first attempt, was the best I have had the pleasure of consuming since painstakingly making the “perfect cap” for myself as a coffee shop Barista in Beloit College 5 years ago.

A quick disclaimer, you will have better results if you can make the Espresso with by a stove-top Espresso maker, like the one shown in the photos below, rather than with the French Press (not really Espresso). These aluminum Espresso makers are infinitely cheaper than a full-blown, electric Cappuccino machine (10ish dollars) and should last for decades, rather than only a couple years.

What you’ll need:

  • Ground coffee.
    • 2 tablespoons for a single and 4 four a double.
    •  If making with a stove-top Espresso maker, use a very fine grind. If making a coffee concentrate (rather than real Espresso) with a French Press, use a very coarse (big-grained) grind.
  • Water for Espresso
    • 1/4 cup for a single or a bit more for a double.
  • Milk
    • Fill your coffee mug 1/3+ full of the cold milk to estimate. The frothing process should more than double the volume of the milk and you will need to fit the 1/4+ cup of Espresso as well.
  • A French Press of any size and make
  • (optional) A stove-top Espresso-maker


  • Brew up your Espresso. Either in the stove-top maker or as a strong and small coffee in a French Press. For reference 195* F is the theoretical optimal temp for this.
  • While the coffee is brewing, pour your milk into a thick-bottomed pan and heat up to around 155 degrees. If you don’t happen to have a liquids thermometer handy, a starting place is that 115* is right around when a liquid gets too hot to keep/dip your finger in. Don’t burn it!
  • If making the coffee/Espresso with your French Press, pour the coffee into your mug and quickly clean out the Press in preparation for the next step.
  • Pour the hot milk into the Press and plunge vigorously for 2-3 minutes. The milk should double or triple in volume.
  • Poor the frothed milk over the Espresso – making cool “cappuccino art” on the surface is you are feeling creative
  • Drink, enjoy and comment here with your results:)



Getting our dairy fix!

Today we picked up our first weekly “box” from Zuleta’s creamery and cheese factory and man were/are we excited. The dairy order went like this:

  • 5 liters (1 1/4 gallons) of unpasteurized whole milk.
  • 1 liter (1/4 gallon) of fresh cream
  • 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) of Zuleta cheese (Pategras and Angochagua)

Even by my measure, that is a lot of cow products, especially considering that neither Caye nor I really drink milk at all. Despite that, we have already used up 1.5 liters of the milk in the first 5 hours of having it in the house. How? By making a huge batch of yogurt and 1 giant cappuccino – tutorials on both to follow. All for $15.30

Other than getting our dairy fix, we spent the day, starting at 6am, working hard on an increasingly large load of web design and coding work. On any given day during the last year, we typically were working on 5-7 websites simultaneously. In the last few weeks, we have seen a step-up in the number of quote requests and contracts and are now balancing around 10 projects at the same time. It is exciting, challenging and rewarding. Luckily we have a great group of folks working for us, which makes the whole thing manageable and generally stress-free.

Last things last, around 4pm, I headed over to the other side of the woodworker’s/mechanic’s shed/shop that we live in and spent two hours working with Maestro Santos (resident mechanic) and Maestro Lluki (woodworker) on a couple of overdue projects. The two are great folks, funny and very talented in their respective crafts. With Lluki, we are making up a quick set of “rustic” under-counter shelves for the kitchen. With Santos, A heavy-duty steel door and frame for the masonry heater.

For the evening, we are hoping to relax a bit, maybe watch a movie, then back to work tomorrow morning.