Bamboo eco-house- who wants one?

You may have seen past blog posts about the use of Guadua bamboo (Guadua sp.) a type of so-called giant bamboo that is perfect for construction.  Unlike some other types of large bamboo species that grow in the Americas, Guadua is a thick walled species and has incredible tensile strength, more than steel, and much more than milled lumber.  When cured properly, which is absolutely necessary and rarely done in local construction, it can last more than 25 years.



superstevebamboocolumnbase superstevehouse1 superstevesink IMG_3432 superstevebathhouse

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Shifting to Costa Rica!

Since the turmoil in Nicaragua we have become full-time in Costa Rica and Kim is available to design, build, consult and get it going!  Starting soon he’ll be offering several different “eco-home” solutions- smaller environmental footprint, faster build times, lower cost:

  • Biotekt prefabricated domes with living roofs; made from 90% recycled plastic!
  • Mocadazu luxury glamping tents made with giant bamboo frames- so cool!
  • Custom container homes- use upcycled shipping containers as building blocks.



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New construction at Tierra del Suenos

Hip-E Habitat (aka. Permagreen Compania Limitada) just started construction of a new 2 story, 2 bedroom/2.5 bath, 2000 Square foot home on Lot #1 at Suenos (  It will feature a clay tile roof, and an open floor plan kitchen/living/dining upstairs with full on surf view of the Bay.  Two air conditioned bedroom and baths will be downstairs leading out to the pool deck.  Should be ready end of this year…



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Casa Amarilla

jacek 2

Casa Amarilla came about when frequent visitors Jacek and Ivona found their piece of land in the area and decided they want too build a house.  They came to see our house and when they left they asked if I could build them one just like it.  I thought they meant a nice solid house of yet-to-be-determined design.  But no, they meany exactly the same.  So, I did, but there ended up being a few modifications.  I have to say after living in our house for over 2 years now, it is a great design.  I adapted it for Nicaragua life from a Frank Lloyd Wright floor plan that I liked (see post on designing our house for details).

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Rancho Supremo

Currently in construction:

Dan and Evan partnered on a small lot close to the beach at Brisas and came to me with a few thoughts about what they wanted to build.  They wanted it to be mainly open-air but still have space that was secure and lockable.  They liked the traditional Nicaraguan Ranchos, large open air pavilions with high palm-thatch roof.  So, I designed a simple open floor plan rancho with modern U-shaped kitchen and bar that flowed into ample space for dining and living; two wings form the bedrooms with a metal roof lined with decorative caña (related to bamboo and looks similar) and bubble foil insulation because they may want to add air conditioning for “our friends’ girlfriends” when they come to visit.


We left space next to the entry for a teak deck that leads to an attached pool (phase II).  The bedrooms will have double doors to open onto the common area and the walls along with the kitchen back wall enclose about half the rancho, the rest being open to allow the cooling onshore sea breezes to sweep through.  We are doing this project piece by piece as the lads save up funds.  Its looking good so far. Continue reading

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Designing Hacienda Boom (our house)

I (Kim) lik L-shaped or U-shaped houses with courtyards that would allow you to be outside but have privacy.  That’s where my research on floor plans started.  My stepfather, one of the early leading architects in environmental design, took me to see several Frank Lloyd Wright houses and I was captivated, especially by the Fallingwater house.

jacobs house plan

I worked for his design-build company in high school and college and learned a lot from him.  So, when it came time to design our own house my research included revisiting FLW designs and floor plans.  I found this L-shaped plan for the Jacob’s house built in 1936.  We liked the open living/dining/kitchen (which I opened up even more) and the bedroom wing of the house and of course the possibility for a courtyard inside the L shape.  I modified the plan to our needs and ease of building in Nicaragua.   Also I made many modifications to the window placements and roof to adapt it to the tropical climate (see the cool roof post).

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The Butterfly House – A One Bedroom Casita on a Budget

We became friends with Marilyn when she came down for a Surf with Amigas retreat a couple years ago and Kim agreed to design and build a small simple 1 bedroom casita on Marilyn’s sea view lot at Seascape Terrace.  After many iterations  of design and trying to fit it to a tight budget, we settled on this 620 square foot casita with an open floor plan living/dining/kitchen, one bedroom, one bathroom and an 8′ wide front porch with bi-fold doors.  The high ceilings with a triple layer roof and wide front openings and ample openings all around keep the place cool and breezy and its got an amazingly big feel for a small place. Continue reading

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Our House Is Finished

The living room with our indoor hammock.

The living room with our indoor hammock.

This post is a long time coming, but in case you wondering, yes we did finally finish our house. It was mostly complete in time for Luna to be born back in September of 2014. Since then it’s been a work in progress, adding little details along the way. There are still some details we’d like to complete – always projects on the list! But going over this blog lately I realized we never posted pictures of the finished project. So here they are. Continue reading

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Green building in the tropics- thermal mass

When I first started researching green building I found pretty quickly that the vast majority of material, books, websites, etc. are made for people living in the temperate zones of the US and Europe.  There is a ton of material for them.  When you look for green building resources for the tropics though, not so much. Continue reading

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Day In The Life – Living in Nicaragua With a 5 Month Old Baby Girl

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Quick Tour of a Few Lots Available at Brisas

We were the first to build our home at Brisas, a small community in Northern Nicaragua, and we’re looking for good neighbors! Here’s a quick tour of a few of the lots still available.

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Jacek and Ivona’s House by Hipehabitat

After the seeing the successful outcome and great feel of our L-shaped hacienda home Kim has agreed to build a slightly customized version for a Canadian couple planning to retire in Nicaragua in the next few years. Here, Holly and baby Luna give a tour of the project.

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Settling Into the New House


It’s been about 3 months and we’re loving our new home at Brisas Del Alma. We’re still very busy settling in, putting finishing touches on the house (building shelves to store all our stuff mostly), and embracing our new lifestyle. It feels so good! Here are a few quick pics I snapped the other day to give you a taste.

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The New Dipping Pool

ecopool waterfallThe house is now mostly finished, and we have an 11 week old baby girl named Luna. Little Luna has occupied most of our time lately, so I’m way behind on blog posts. Eventually I’ll get a chance to take some photos of the finished house (which still does need a lot of detail work – things like bathroom doors, shelves, cabinets, etc.) but for now here’s a look at our newest courtyard feature – the “eco-dipping pool” (aka. pondish-pool, water garden, swimming fountain).  Its a unique design- its part pool, part pond, part fountain, part water garden, all wrapped into one efficient design that Kim came up with.  It also helps cool the house and us.

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Designing the Hacienda at Brisas Del Alma

The design process started with a piece of sketch paper and a discussion of how many bedrooms and other spaces we wanted.  We knew we wanted two bedrooms an open living area/kitchen, an office, and of course a workshop/bodega for brewing, building and fixing surfboards; maybe even a luxurious inside bathroom (big change from where we had been living for the last 3 years!).  Continue reading

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Video Tour of the New House

We are six months into building our new 2 bedroom 2 bath house in Northern Nicaragua at Brisas Del Alma in Aposentillo, and it’s just about done! All we’re missing is a few little details that should be complete within the next couple of weeks, but the good news is that we’ll be moving in over the next few days. Click play for a tour of the house.

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Sneak Peak At our New House

IMG_20140727_150313I can hardly believe it, but the house is nearly complete. Way back in February our contractor promised to have it finished by the end of July, but as anyone who has ever built in Nicaragua (or anywhere else in the world) knows, a better estimate is to take whatever they say and add at least 2-3 months.

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House in Progress Tour

In Part 2 of our Nesting in Nicaragua series, Holly is one week shy of being six months pregnant and the house has been under construction for five months. The roof is mostly on and you can start to get a feel for what the house will look like. Take a tour of the interior floor plan.

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Cool Roof Design by Kim Obermeyer

Kim Obermeyer of talks about his design for a cool roof – a double layer roof that will prevent heat from the sun from radiating into the living space. The roofing system features pre-painted structural zinc roof panels with 2″x2″ spacers and Plycem cement board bottom layer.

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Brisas House Progress in Late April

After four months of construction, we have walls completed to roof height, the roof of the bodega is finished, and we’re starting to install the alfajias (rafters) that will hold the roof of the main house. It’s the end of April. The official start of the rainy season in Nicaragua is May 15th, but rain can be expected to begin falling any day now. We’re eager to get the roof completed before the rains come! Here’s a selection of photos to show the progress.
house curb appeal

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Breaking in the Beach House

It was a long time coming (8 months to be exact), but the beach house is finally finished! Ok, so it’s not totally finished. There are still plenty of details to be addressed. We’ve got trim to put up, painting to do, furniture to make, etc. but the basics are complete. We’ve got walls, a roof, and after long last, a completed wood floor! We chose Christmas eve 2013 as the first night to sleep in our new beach house!

xmas morning surf check Waking up with coffee to stellar view. The waves were small but clean with no one out! Continue reading

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Beach House Progress – Plycem Walls and Bamboo Siding


We started building the beach house way back in March – or was it February 2013? The point is, it’s been so long that it’s hard to remember. The main delay has been caused by an irresponsible carpenter with a lot of excuses (mostly lies) and a weak work ethic. We had been waiting for the guanacaste wood floor to be installed before closing in the upstairs walls, but we could not wait any longer. Continue reading

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Our Caretaker’s House at Brisas Del Alma

squirrel treat

Ok, I know you can barely see the house in this picture, but it’s just such a classic shot of me telling the dogs that they cannot eat our caretaker’s pet squirrel “Simon” (named for one of the chipmunks). You can see a tiny bit of the house that our caretaker will move into once we finish building the main house. In the meantime, we finally have a place to store surfboards and hang out within walking distance of my favorite surf spot in the world! Continue reading

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Planting Non-GMO Corn and Beginning to Build at Brisas

We are the proud owners of Lot #22 at Brisas Del Alma in Aposentillo, Northern Nicaragua. Since buying our lot a few months ago we’ve started making some improvements. The fence and some tree planting came first. Now we’ve hooked into the community water, have planted some non GMO corn and have begun building our caretaker’s house. check out the progress!

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Aqua Gardens Use Less Water and Produce Amazing Lettuce

A family farm in beautiful Mendocino County, Aqua Gardens Family Farm specializes in the sustainable production of organic, “living” bouquets of gourmet mixed salad greens, fresh strawberries, other popular vegetables, herbs, organic fish and compost products.


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Finding Fallen Wood

Our wood dramas continue….

If you’ve been reading about the progress of our beach house construction you’ll see a repeated theme – we’ve been delayed by the local carpenter again and again. Now, the house is pretty much finished – concrete work is done, custom window bars are installed, floor is nice and colorful, etc. – but we’re still waiting on the wood for the floor for the second story.

beach house window barsbeach house dogs on floor Continue reading

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Beach House Roof Construction

beachhouse roof on
The next step in the saga to build a beach house in Northern Nicaragua is complete. We’ve got a roof! When building anything in this country, you’ve gotta have patience. Lots of patience! Continue reading

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Beach House Progress – Slow and Steady

beach house june 15

The whole process has been really slow, but at least it’s been steady. We bought a beachfront concession lot back in April of 2012. It wasn’t easy and you can read the full story here. Since then we’ve been working to improve the lot little by little. We hired a caretaker. We dug a well in the sand (story here). We planted coconut palms. Finally, in early March 2013 we broke ground on what we’re calling the Beach House. Continue reading

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Drilling a Deep Well in Nicaragua

We’re in the process of installing infrastructure for a small 16 lot housing development in northern nicaragua called Tierra Del Sueno. In order to provide water for the development we decided to drill a community well at the top of the hill. Unfortunately even at 300′ deep we did not find enough water for all 16 lots and will have to drill a second well down low. Check out the video to see what the process looked like.

For the full story and more photos see the post on

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Bodega Progress

We are nearly finished with building our teak and concrete block bodega up on the ridge at Tierra Del Suenos. We’ll use it as a garage, storage unit, and workshop. Right now we’re finishing up the details – painting and varnishing. We’ve also begun construction on our lot down on the beach. Continue reading

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Digging a Well in the Sand


If you happened to notice our post from a couple of months ago, we bought a beachfront concession lot in North Nicaragua. To catch up on that dramatic story, click here.

After finalizing the purchase, the next step was to find water. The lot is located right on the beach, with an estuary that goes behind it, so I wasn’t even thinking we would find any sweet water until the caretaker for the lot next door informed me that he has a well and would happily dig one for me too. Continue reading

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Building a Bodega on the Ridge at Suenos – Part 2

bodega sideIn part 2 of the bodega construction process the floor is poured and the roof is on. If you want to refresh your memory with the purpose of this building and our strategy for building it, click here to read the blog post of Part 1. Continue reading

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Belgian IPA homebrew “Belguraguan”

belgian ale

OK, here’s the brew I’ve been waiting for, wanting to try for months, yearning for – a home-brewed Belgian IPA made right here in Nicaragua.  I’m thinking of throwing a packet of dried Belgian yeast into our palm-thatch roof so it can just be there, growing, hanging out, ready to bring yeasty goodness to any fermentation that happens.  That’s how the Belgian monks create their amazing brews (that, and a life long vow of celibacy I suppose- not ready for that)- the yeast is specific to each abbey.  The only reason I won’t do that is I don’t want our other types of brews to always have Belgian yeast floating into them. Continue reading

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Teak Post and Concrete Block Bodega

We have begun building up on the ridge! First project – a place to store our tools, saddles, surfboards, wheelbarrow, and the building supplies that we’ll need to collect when we’re ready to start building the actual house. The name for this sort of building is a bodega. Continue reading

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The New Living Fence on our Lot in Tierra Del Sueno

We bought an awesome lot in the new eco-friendly community in Northern Nicaragua called Tierra Del Sueno and are starting to make some improvements. The first step was installing a fence around the perimeter so we can more clearly see the lot the boundaries and also keep the horses and cows from munching on whatever young trees we would plant. Continue reading

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Phase 1 Roads at Tierra Del Sueno

It’s been a year or more in the planning stages but we have finally broken ground on the new roads that will service lots in Tierra Del Sueno. We had been waiting to finalize the lot lines before figuring out how to create the roads that would service them. All that is finished finally, so we started looking into road options. Continue reading

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How to Make a Stubborn Passionfruit Vine Flower – Nicaraguan Folk Wisdom

We love passion fruit! Called calala or maracuya in Nicaragua, delicious passion fruit is awesome mixed with plain yogurt, granola, and a drizzle of honey. We buy them a dozen at a time and have been eagerly awaiting for the flowering of our passion fruit vine. We planted it last August and have watched it grow to become an enormous entity. It’s crawling up the roof, into nearby trees, and trying to latch onto anything it can wrap around to reach new heights. Sadly, with all this crazy growth it had yet to produce a single flower.

I asked a few local guys if there was anything I could do. Fertilizer? More sun? Less sun? Some different watering strategy? What’s the deal? Continue reading

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Promoting Education in Northern Nicaragua with Waves of Hope

It’s natural to want to give back and help people. When professional surfer Holly Beck was looking for a place to run her women’s surf and yoga retreats she wanted to partner with someone who was making a positive impact on the community. Coco Loco was the right place. They run a non-profit called Waves of Hope that is investing in education to teach the people how to help themselves.

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Green Papaya Thai Salad Recipe

Kim spent 8 years living in Thailand and learned some great recipes for delicious and healthy Thai food. One of my favorites is the Green Papaya salad. It’s super easy to make, fresh and healthy, looks awesome with all the colors, and tastes so good!

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Steve and Danika Choose Their Lot

Steven and Danika Thomas lived in Nicaragua for several years and invested in a large piece of property over-looking the bay they liked to surf. They formed the dream of one day building a home on the hilltop and being able to walk with their kids down to the beautiful beach below. When Danika’s job was transferred back to the States they realized that they’d need some help to get their project going and it might be nice to have a few neighbors. Continue reading

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“Volcan” Cacao-Cafe homebrew Stout


The third, and possibly the best batch, in tropical home brewing adventures, almost met its end in the moldy rainy season condition of June. The rainy season brings clouds of mold that drift invisibly through the air landing on everything.   When I checked the carboy on the last day of the 15-day fermentation, I was horrified to find a layer of mold colonies growing on the surface. Continue reading

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Windmills In Nicaragua

One of Nicaragua’s most valuable resources turns out to be wind.   Super strong (often hurricane force) and consistent winds blow across lake Nicaragua.   These amazing winds are basically Trade Winds that are funneled and amplified as the high pressure on the east coast (Caribbean) rushes through the gap in the Central American Cordillera to the relatively lower pressure on the west coast. Continue reading

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Make Your Own Cottonwood Balm For Muscle Pain and Wound Healing

cottonwood balm

Kim was in Oregon for an early spring trip and on a hike along the Columbia River found a grove of young cottonwood trees in full bud.  Cottonwood is in the same family as willow, the tree from which aspirin comes, and also has pain relieving and antibiotic qualities.  This is really good stuff for muscle aches, bruises, after surfing massages and also for cuts and scrapes.  Smells really good too.  Really easy to make- here’s how: Continue reading

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Tiny House with Bamboo Construction on the Osa Peninsula

On a trip to the Osa Peninsula last year we looked up someone called “Super Steve” who we were told was building some beautiful things with bamboo. Despite the fact that we showed up out of nowhere, Super Steve aka Steve Jurries invited us in and gave us a tour of his property which included several bamboo structures including the little house pictured here. Steve’s partner Mariela Garcia is a bamboo architect and she designed the houses using Guadua Bamboo, the ideal type of bamboo for building. Continue reading

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Earthship in China

Our friend Ben is really excited about earthships. He wants to build one here in Northern Nicaragua. I didn’t know much about them, but undertook a program of self-study reading through all three volumes of Michael Reynolds’ Earthship books. The basic idea is finding the cheapest, most sustainable method for building. Reynolds tackles this problem by using recycled materials such as tires and aluminum cans instead of concrete blocks or bricks, and air flow and passive solar for temperature regulation. Volume 2 takes the methods into more detail, and Volume 3 discusses systems like grey water and solar energy. Continue reading

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Growing Guadua bamboo

We had been searching for it for nearly a year, since we learned about it in Ecuador.  Guadua bamboo (Guadua angustifolia and other species) is the giant bamboo species native to Central and South America.  It is one of the strongest and best species to use for load-bearing construction and we wanted to find some to build with.  We learned that it grew in Nicaragua and had been planning a trip to the Caribbean coast to investigate.  Before we could make a trip though, we had a chance to get some seedlings and so ended up with 50 guadua seedlings ready to be planted.

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Our garden grows

We started planting the garden in late October, 2011- lots of  chillies (habanero, jalapeno, arbol, New Mex, serrano and others), various greens, tomatoes, Thai basil, lemongrass, dill, tea tree, sunflowers and a bunch of randoms like purslane and indigo.  Some things never sprouted at all, some sprouted and died soon after, and some flourished.  Holly’s green thumb, diligence and love of tiny sprouts meant that most things made it and by March 2012 we were starting to harvest tomatoes and chiles and few leaves of greens and herbs.

jalapeno harvest destined to be become chipotles

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Extreme Driving to Extreme Luxury in Southern Nicaragua

We were headed down to Southern Nicaragua to check out Rancho Santana and talk about possibly using it as a location for an upcoming women’s surf and yoga retreat. The drive usually takes about 6 hours but we wanted to be adventurous and see how long we could stay on dirt roads. We saw some interesting countryside, blew a tire, got tubed by a tree, went through multiple rivers, and it ended up taking 13 hours, but we eventually made it to the super comfortable beach-front condos at Rancho Santana.

The surf was pretty small while we were there, but we scored a few waves and with offshore winds all day, there was no rush. Easy living!

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Hippy Hop Attack IPA

I’ll admit that I was a doubter. After participating in numerous homebrewing efforts over the years I learned that it isn’t easy, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and especially considering our lack of refined equipment I thought our first effort might not be that awesome. I was wrong. So very wrong…

To read the first part of the story (the why, how, and what went wrong while brewing)…. Click Here.

After the wort exploded, it was all up in the air. We had purchased a stick-on thermometer but it didn’t work. We were trying to keep it cool (around 72 degrees) by adding a frozen water bottle to the cooler every day, but due to the thermometer failure we were only able to measure the bath water not the actual wort. Continue reading

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Coconut-Rolled Cashew Honey Cacao Balls

We are all about the homemade – home-brewed IPAs, home-fermented honey wine, and now hand-rolled cacao balls! Continue reading

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