The Kalu Yala Blog

Horsin’ Around

June 24, 2012

by Alice Stankovitch
Posted In: Animal Science, The Creation of a Culture

As the second stint of the summer comes to a close, both the Valley and its inhabitants begin to bare unmistakable traces of one another’s influence. Our backs are bronzed, our calves are strengthened, and we swing our machetes with a swiftness we hardly thought possible before.

The Valley, too, evolves. Slowly but significantly, our treasured turf begins to take on the appearance of a functioning community. This past stint involved several crucial steps that helped to transform our patch of wilderness into a navigable camp, all the while maintaining the integrity of the surrounding ecosystem.

Coming home.

As an outdoor rec intern, my job is to better establish the Valley as a thriving, alluring community by providing activities that stimulate the body and mind of Valley inhabitants. We want our community members to play. Enjoyment breeds appreciation, while appreciation cultivates compassion. To have compassion for the natural splendor of the earth is to care deeply about its preservation, a sentiment that we wish to impart.

With this goal in mind, myself and 5 other O.R interns set out to make the Valley a more stimulating place. We trail blaze, we explore, we route out new hikes, trails, and expeditions. We design and construct, we tinker and fiddle, we dive and we swim and we call it work.

The Outdoor Rec team on a rainy expedition.

So what, you may ask, have we actually done?

As for me, my personal project is the creation of an equestrian program for the Valley. The role of horses in “Kalu Yala Escapes,” our future ecotourism scene, is invaluable. Not only is horseback riding an enjoyable pastime, it is also less physically taxing than are the strenuous hikes around the Valley. This opens Kalu Yala Escapes to a whole new range of demographic audiences, broadening our general appeal.

Horses belonging to the nearby campesinos

Horses belonging to the nearby campesino's. They frequently stop by and graze our lush grass (and occasionally poke around the volleyball court.)

The presence of horses also offers more traditional advantages such as emergency transportation, fertilizer for the agricultural fields, as well as increases in the efficiency of project completion (a horse can transport several hundred pounds of building materials, a feat which requires plenty of time and manpower on foot.)

An example of a horse pulling wood. The load may look light, but each of those posts could easily take two people to carry.

I’ve spent the better half of the last two weeks planning out our future equestrian zone. I have determined the location and design of the future grazing area, lean-to, tack room, and training pen. With the sketches laid out and the areas zoned, we will soon be ready to build. With much of the preparation done, I am beyond excited to start building when we return to the Valley this week.

Sketch of the future lean-to/tack room
Sketch of the future lean-to/tack room. We’ve decided to replace the metal awning with palm branches. These can be sustainably harvested directly from our own property, and they also offer a cooler shade than the metal does. It also just plain looks better.

When not preoccupied with zoning and sketching, I keep myself busy with smaller side projects. These are mostly fun and (comparatively) easy tasks that only take a few hours to complete but help to beautify camp in some way. Some side projects I’ve worked on include the Chest o’ Crap, the communal bookcase, and the clearing out of what will eventually be Yogaland, a sandy haven in the foliage where you can step into a surreal zone of rejuvenation.

Chest Construction
Chest Construction- Gettin’ my saw on. The chest is made of sustainably harvested bamboo and palm branches. These species are fast growing, so when we remove a portion it actually grows back faster and stronger. We’re essentially pruning the trees.

Chest o' Crap
With 20-something people, it’s easy for Base Camp to get cluttered. With the addition of the Chest o’ Crap, cleaning up is a much easier process. So is finding your stuff when you lose it!

Bookcase constructed from sustainably harvested wood. We’ve got a’lotta nerds out here, and our book collection keeps growing. The bookcase is located on the “hangout” floor of the rancho, and has thus become a great communal piece which allows us to read, borrow, and trade.

The Valley Kids, as a team and as individuals, have a lot planned for our next stint in the Valley. I eagerly await my departure from the city so I can jump back into my hiking boots, my sweat-drenched bandanas, and turn my visualizations into reality. I’ve never felt so impassioned.

Alice and caballo de Ramon

The presence of horses also offers the more traditional advantages such as emergency transportation, fertilizer for the agricultural fields, as well as increases in the efficiency of project completion (a horse can transport several hundred pounds of building materials, a feat which requires plenty of time and manpower on foot.)

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