That’s where we dropped off los tres muchachos yesterday. Good ‘n far away! Actually, the odometer says it’s only 47.7 miles from our house. The 2.5 hour drive at 20mph makes it seem across the world. Thank goodness it’s another one of Costa Rica’s truly amazing drives, ending at one of its most amazing places: Rancho Mastatal [mah-stah-TALL].

WARNING: Boldly extravagant use of superlatives ahead. I actually use the word "awesome" and mean it. Sorry. You’ll also have to suffer through amazing, astonishing, astounding, breathtaking, exceptional, extraordinary, fantastic, fantastical, incredible, magnificent, majestic, marvelous, miraculous, outstanding, phenomenal, prodigious, remarkable, singular, solemn, stupendous, unbelievable, uncommon,
wonderful and wondrous. I swear on a stack of Bibles this place is that awesome.

In June, Hal and I went for a night because the boys and Jacob had made plans to volunteer for two weeks. We had to check it out first, right? The website sounded too good to be true. Could anyplace be so interesting? I had my doubts. Who would invent such a great place, then invite teenage boys to come and stay???

Timo [TEE-mo which is what everyone calls Tim] and Robin, it turns out. They are the creator couple and awesome human beings. Who, just 10 days before we got there, produced their finest creation: Soledad, a baby girl. How do you raise a baby an hour and a half from a doctor or a pharmacy, while eschewing disposable diapers? I don’t know, but millions of people do it all over the world. Timo and Robin figured why not them. This is where they live, this is who they are.

I’ll bet if there were a study on how much time and money a new parent wastes on "emergency" visits to a doctor or a hospital, that would be eye-opening. Not that I did or anything.

What is the ranch? Mostly it’s a school offering volunteer opportunities and internships in sustainable living. Ordinarily, my smart ass husband would eschew the word sustainable. Only, at the ranch, it actually is sustainable: organic gardening, building with a yummy mixture of mud and poo, all natural materials, lots of bamboo, all kinds of wood and stones. You’ll see in the photos below.

The students, either as interns or volunteers, are there in quantities of 20 to 35 at any one time, from all over the world. Mostly young, from high school groups to college level, but all are welcome. The night we were there, Hal and I met two adults, not even there together, who came to spend several months at Rancho Mastatal rejuvenating their lives. Working, playing, learning, while looking at their old lives from outside the box. Way, way, way, way outside the box.

So the boys are there, as "volunteers" although it’s pretty self-directed. I’m interested to see how much volunteering they do. Of course, with no computers, no video games, no TV, no iPods, no air rifles… just books and nature, a waterfall with a swimming hole, trails… it’s bound to expand their horizons. Plus they are there with other kids from all over the world. Mostly college kids, but apparently there are a few other teens there this month as well. This has great appeal.

You are probably thinking: "Your babies are there with college kids? No up close and personal adult supervision? Are you nuts?" You can relax. I told the boys no sex, no drugs, no drinking. They all nodded their heads emphatically in agreement. Probably won’t even cross their minds again. Besides, I can’t keep them locked in their rooms forever. Since I have to let them out now and then, what better place to gain a little enlightenment than the geographical center of nowhere?

PHOTOS: To view a slide longer, just hold your cursor on top of the photo – it will freeze there. When you move your cursor, the next slide comes ’round.

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