Hi everyone! My name’s Suzanne McDaniel.
I’m a wife to Jesse; we’ve been married a bit over 10 years. And I’ve got 3 adorable kiddos; Brianna is 8, Lorien is 5, and Rohan is 3… and potty trained! Sorry… recent proud moment (please be kind and don’t point out he’s almost 4).
We live on a homestead in the middle of nowhere on a mountain in Costa Rica.
We owned a lot in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Waco and had plans to build our “dream house” there. However, after we moved to our 2,600 sq. foot house we wondered what in the WORLD we would do with a 4,000 sq foot house? What were we thinking? Then we started leaning towards selling our house and our lot and buying an acreage somewhere, so we put our lot up for sale… changing the idea of what our “dream house” would be.
Soon after, YHWH brought about some huge changes in our lives. One being our faith. We left a church we had attended since childhood and set out with a new set of beliefs and a new, real faith in YHWH. In that process, our ideas of what we wanted in a home changed again. We started to get tired of the lifestyle of having a McDonalds and a Walmart on every corner. I’d say one day “No more fast food, it’s awful for you, we aren’t doing it ever again.” One week later, I’m busy in town, I have more to do, the kids are hungry and grouchy… fast food it is. When it’s SO convenient it’s really hard to give it up.
We were also, to be honest, not super happy with the way the government in the States was headed. Mandatory health care worried us since we do not vaccinate our children and didn’t do the “well child” visits; some things we started to see about the risk of home schooling in the future, and just random other things.
And then there was the cost. How do we homestead? To do that we needed my husband there full time, at the family farm. But he works full time. He is self employed and could do some business online but not enough to sustain American prices. So how do we balance needing us all on a farm if we really wanted to be off grid and self sustaining with needing the funds to do so?
Combine that with a desire to do some mission work and we were soon looking at going to Central America.
We looked at various countries trying to balance the need for low cost of living with low crime rates. We finally narrowed it down to three: Belize, Chile, and Costa Rica. Belize speaks English so that was a HUGE plus. Also, their residency policy is very easy and cheap. Chile has a stable economy, and Costa Rica has a stable economy and probably the lowest crime rate.
We ended up counting out Belize for the heat. It just seemed too hot to be working outside in. We came from Texas… we wanted a break from that! LOL. Chile got counted out because of me to be honest. I’m not sure why but I just didn’t feel settled with that country… it left me on edge and nervous. Belize did the same for my husband. Finally we revisited the idea of Costa Rica and it instantly felt “right” to both of us. So we made our decision. It was really that simple and unscientific. It felt right, we had made up our minds. We decided to move in July of 2010 I believe. We put our house up for sale in August and quickly started selling/ trashing/ donating 90% of what we owned. Sure, our house could take (and most likely would in that economy) 2 years to sell, but what happens if it sells in a month and we still had all of our stuff? So we were soon living in an empty house.
We had decided to move down most of our kitchen goods, our computers, some clothing, some toys, books, and home school gear. That still took up a LOT of boxes but those were in a nice neat stack in the garage, and the rest of the house was empty. Our large living room had a piano in it (stupid thing took forever to sell), we ate at a card table, the kids slept on their mattresses on the ground in one room, and we slept on our mattress on the ground in our bedroom. 90% of our house was totally empty. However, it didn’t take 2 years to sell. We had a contract in September just a few weeks after putting it on the market. After having the closing date pushed off and pushed off we were on a plane headed to Costa Rica on Nov. 18th.
We found a nice rental house near Tilaran, Costa Rica (with views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano) and stayed there for a few months.
While living there we realized land in that area was VERY expensive. So we looked elsewhere and soon found land on the other side of Costa Rica. A fraction of the price with amazing views come at a cost though. Things like no roads/ access by horses for example LOL.
For about 3 months my husband and a friend who is living with us traveled down to the land, 8 hours each way and would stay for one week and work. We decided to build a very small home… a “bodega” and live there while we built our house. We found a way to put a road in almost to our house but still lack the last 1/4th of a mile of road. So all building materials, lumber, concrete flooring, etc.. had to be carried by hand over a river and 1/4th of a mile to our building site. NOT EASY.
They slowly got the bodega built. Well, far enough along that we could move in at least. 🙂 It’s 16×16 feet. There are 2 families living in it (we host a spanish speaking missionary family who has been a huge blessing to us). Do the math… not much space. It does have an upstairs but it includes a small bathroom and the ceiling is less than 6 feet tall in the middle, and then it slopes to the floor. So you can stand in the direct center of it if you are a shorty like my entire family, but we’ve managed to put all our family’s beds upstairs (well, foam roll out mattresses), and the computer table, 2 shelves for all of our clothing, our shoes, and some storage. 🙂 Under the bodega we put our chicken coop, and are storing all the rest of our belongings under it which clears up a lot of space.
We did have to make some allowances. We had planned on doing hydro power with a nearby river but that did not work out. So, in the meantime until we can get our house up and put hopeful solar on the roof, or figure out hydro power in a different area we had to hook up to the local power. It’s horrible. It’s out at least an hour every day, LOL. But, it’s power.
The day we moved we packed all day on Thursday. We didn’t want to move on a Friday as we keep the Sabbath and would have to stop at sunset on Friday afternoon, but it turned out that was the only day the moving truck could make it. So, we packed all day on Thursday and loaded the truck up on Thursday. We finally fell asleep at midnight knowing we had to get up at 3 in the morning to head out. Friday we drove all day long while praying for dry roads as our road up the mountain is not drivable if it’s been raining.
It was dry so the truck made it to the end of our road, but then we’ve got the “across the river and up the mountain” trek. So everything had to be carried by hand between 1/4th and ½ a mile. Up a steep incline. Including things like stoves, washer, dryer, etc. That took several hours. We were so exhausted when we were done.
The most disappointing and stressful moment for me was rounding the corner and seeing the bodega. The kitchen counter tops were piled 3 feet high in building stuff, the inside was dirty with building “dust”, and the concrete under the bodega had not been poured. We had planned to put all of our boxes under there. WHERE were we going to put everything? But we sucked it up and got to work. I got the bodega cleaned up, we hauled in boxes and just stacked them anywhere we could get them.
We had no space for awhile but the next week the concrete was poured and we got organized. There have been some other hitches. For instance, we don’t have running water. There is a spring below our bodega (as in down the mountain… not under the house). We will be piping water into a holding tank down there, and then we have a pump that does not take electricity that will pump the water up to a holding tank uphill from us. Then that will come to the house. However, the pump was stronger than anticipated so we have to wait for steel pipes to be delivered (it was pumping the water so fast it burst the PVC pipes) So for now… we have “walking water” either us or one of our farm hands has to fill up the holding tank every morning with water from a nearby river. Not an easy or fast task. So we’ve learned to conserve water.
Conserving water is interesting. We wash our clothes in a wash tub down by the river using the river water, and we bathe in the river as well. That’s not to say we are getting super clean… but it wipes off the grime and cools us off. 🙂 Bathing in clothing is interesting… but it’s working. Although we did visit a lumber store yesterday (5 hours away.. Ugh..) and I admit to breaking the commandment of coveting when I saw those bathtubs. 🙂
We also didn’t have a front door until today, my husband is finishing it up now. 🙂 And we still don’t have windows. We’ve forgotten what it was like to not have bug bites!
But the return is awesome. We’ve met some amazing people in this journey who are eager to help, we’ve seen a village of people who are hungry for friendship, love, and fellowship, we’ve started to see what it’s like to truly get down on our hands and knees and work hard, and we’ve been greatly humbled. If you are driving past literal shacks to get to your house suddenly living in the lap of luxury seems less important.
But most importantly to us, we can live in the way WE best see fit here. We don’t have to worry about where our food is coming from or what’s in it, because we will be growing it. We don’t have to worry about hormones in our eggs because we get them from our own chickens, we don’t have to worry about hormones in our milk, because it comes from the cows we milk every morning.
We are currently almost done with the bodega. (our move here was 3 weeks ago) Windows (well, shutters to keep out the rain) still need to be made, the water situation is not yet solved, and we are putting in the kitchen countertops tomorrow, but we are getting there, and in a pretty comfortable living situation in the meantime.
We’re enjoying sprouting seeds to get in the ground and already have a pretty good head start on a chayote (a version of local squash) vine growing, some plantains and bananas, and yucca growing on our farm. Our radishes are all about an inch tall now and I’ve even planted a little flower garden. 🙂 We have 16 egg layers, 9 1.5 month old chicks and their momma, a few roosters, and some 4 month old hens. We have 2 horses, 2 milk cows, a few calves, and 45 1 year old cows (to sell in a year for profit). All in all we are so happy to finally be in a position to get started on our dream. It’ll be interesting to see where this journey takes us. 🙂
It hasn’t been at all easy. But when I wake up and see the amazing view we have of fog covered mountains, palm trees, and flowers, realize I’m 1 hour away from the Caribbean ocean, and we are actually living our dream of homesteading… I know it’s all worth it.
Then some things HAVE been easy… our house sold fast, we got the news today that our residency was approved (which is really short compared to the norm), we found land easily, etc… Plus, it’s the best weight loss method I’ve EVER tried. Who would have thought? Working hard all day and eating healthy really DOES work! 🙂
You can read more about Suzanne and her family’s homesteading in Costa Rica adventure by visiting her blog, YHWH Leads.