Photos from the Health Ranger's Garden in Vilcabamba EcuadorThese are actual photos taken in Vilcabamba, Ecuador (and surrounding areas).
Grass seed geometry
There's so much amazing geometry in nature. I sometimes just marvel at the flexibility and strength that are simultaneously found in the physical structures of nature.
Fresh figs in February
These figs came right out of my garden in Ecuador. Fresh, organic and right off the fig tree. Blended with raw almond milk, they're outrageous!
The colors are vibrant, and there are flowers blooming every day of the year.
Explosion of red
This is a common "weed" growing in the Valley of Longevity. They appear by the thousands throughout the valley.
The season for berries
It's berry season all winter long here in Ecuador. And all during the summer, too. In fact, it's berry season every day of the year! These particular blackberries were picked from the bushes I'm growing in my garden. 100% free of pesticides. Totally organic. Totally amazing taste!
I don't know the name of this particular mushroom, but I've noticed that at least 9 different types of mushrooms are growing right on my property in Ecuador. The climate is very support of healthy fungi, which are of course extremely important in breaking down organic matter and creating new soil.
Butterfly on the hill
Butterflies really enjoy all the amazing flowers and plant life here at Hacienda San Joaquin. I snapped this photo on the terraces behind my house where we dispersed thousands of local wild flower seeds. Six months later... Butterflies!
Spiders like flowers too
Another fascinating scene of Mother Nature at work in the Valley of Longevity
Intensely purple flowers
I'm finding new flowers almost every day here in Ecuador. The diversity is simply astounding, and along with all the flowers come an abundant number of insects, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Really red tree flowers
These rich red flower blossoms grow on trees that are common to the Valley of Longevity.
Delicious bed of lettuce
Here's a beautiful bed of fresh, young lettuce growing on the ranch here in Ecuador, right in the middle of February. Gorgeous!
Kenaf seed pods
These are the seed pods of the amazing KENAF plant (variety 41, from the Univ. of Mississippi). It's used to grow strong fibers that you can make into rope or clothing.
In addition to lush rainforest plants, we also have cacti on the ridges and mountains around Vilcabamba. I recently snapped this photo of a cactus flower bloom on the mountain ridge behind my house.
The River Park
This is the park alongside the river at Hacienda San Joaquin in Vilcabamba Ecuador. This picture was taken in late January. You can (sort of) see the river on the left.
Balloon pod plants
I always find new examples of fascinating geometry as I explore the plants at Hacienda San Joaquin in Ecuador.
Really, really yellow
Awesome flowers are blooming here in the Valley of Longevity. Every day brings new flowers, even in the winter!
This beautiful purple flower contrasts against an approaching wave of storm clouds over the Valley of Longevity
If Albert Einstein were a moth...
This "Einstein moth" appears nightly at my window here in Ecuador. It's one of many fascinating and unusual insects that frequent the area.
My back yard
This is a picture of my back yard in Hacienda San Joaquin, Vilcabamba Ecuador. This was taken at roughly 5:30pm in the middle of January. Gorgeous!
The blue flower on my hill
I see beautiful flowers like these every day here in Vilcabamba. These are growing on the hill behind my house, and they're just one of hundreds of varieties of flowers that are blooming in this valley every single day.
Ginger bloom geometry
Lots of people have seen ginger ROOTS, but have you ever seen a ginger plant BLOOM? This is what it looks like in its early stages. This particular plant is growing on the North side of my garden, just under the shade of the bamboo.
Happy frog = healthy environment
I've always known that where frogs are happy and healthy, the environment is healthy and clean. I snapped this frog photo right on the grass in front of my house in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. That's a partial head of red cabbage off to the left (which we later made into a raw cabbage salad, yumm!).
Smiling seed pods
These are the orange, smiling seed pods of a tree that grows in Vilcabamba. Fascinating geometry! These seed pods are filled with a mysterious liquid that turns out to be an amazing skin-smoother!
Chocolate grows on trees
Yep, here's a picture of a living cacao pod, growing on trees in Ecuador (home of the world's best chocolate!).
Rock crushers extract gold
These stone-built rock crushers help Ecuadorians extract gold from the rivers. Incan gold! What's the location of this photo? I'm not telling...
Madre Tierra in Vilcabamba
A wonderful place to stay in Vilcabamba: Madre Tierra. Amazing spa inside!
The gardens at El Arenal
These gardens are on the front patio of the Hosteria El Arenal in Zamora, Ecuador. Gorgeous, huh?
Hiking in January
Here's a view of a section of a hiking trail here at Hacienda San Joaquin. This was taken in January. It's a great form of exercise, of course, to hike up and down the hills here. And we make the stairs out of bamboo!
Beautiful golden amaranth!
Golden amaranth grows like crazy on my farm near Vilcabamba, Ecuador. This is a recent harvest growing on a hillside. Amaranth is easy to grow and easy to harvest. It's also the perfect "grain" for vegetarians!
Recycling in Ecuador
Ecuador recycles! Here's a picture of the recycling bins at a regional airport.
A yard full of flowers
These amazingly beautiful flowers just pop up unexpectedly all over our land in Vilcabamba. They seem to appear overnight, like weeds, but they're quite gorgeous. I don't even know yet what they are or whether they have medicinal value...
This waterfall is found behind the Hosteria El Arenal in Zamora, Ecuador. It's quite gorgeous! Just a minute's walk from the check-in desk.
Health freedom in Ecuador
Notice carefully: Here's a sign at a healthy food store in Ecuador describing the benefits of a healthy juice. It specifically says the juice has antioxidants and is "anti-cancer", stimulating the immune system and protecting arteries. The bulleted ingredients are: Carrot, Apple, Parsley, Ginger and Spirulina. Such a sign would be illegal in the United States, but in Ecuador, it's just common sense!
Bamboo forest in December
It's almost the New Year, and we're sunning in Ecuador next to our bamboo forest. It's like living next to your own lumber yard, because you can harvest wood out of the forest while it regrows virtually overnight!
I'm doing some landscaping on my farm at Hacienda San Joaquin in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, and take a look at how deep the topsoil is... Incredible! This is rich, deep soil for growing all kinds of food and medicine, and it produces food year-round.
Mother Nature is the master of symmetry. Here's a spikey pod found on a weed growing near the river.
New doll for a young girl
We didn't have many dolls to give out, but this lucky young girl received one. She was absolutely delighted! (Those are two young puppies she's holding, by the way.)
99 years old!
The woman in this picture, in the traditional indigenous Indian dress, is 99 years old! If memory serves me correct, that's her daughter to her right, and her great-granddaughter adjacent. On this gift-giving expedition, we had the opportunity to meet a good number of elderly inhabitants of the region.
My friend Jim shakes hands with one of the moms in this small village near Vilcabamba. We were able to reach quite a large number of families in this particular area.
Happy children on Christmas
We stumbled upon this group of local Ecuadorian children on part of our Christmas gift distribution route. They were absolutely thrilled to see us and receive our Christmas gifts!
Gifts for the local Indians
As part of our Christmas gift distribution effort, we rolled into a village with these local Ecuadorian indigenous Indians (notice the unique clothing and hats). There, we distributed bags of food ingredients and small toys (plus a few candies) for the children.
Gifts for the locals!
Here's one of the local families we reached with our Christmas gift-giving effort. See the Santa Claus Christmas bag? It's full of food and presents!
Gifts for the children
My friend Jim and I are meeting the locals and handing out Christmas presents.
I found these wild uvillas (gooseberries) growing on my land here in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. They're loaded with nutrients and require absolutely no cultivation to grow. (Many people consider them weeds, if you can believe that!) Here's yet another example of fruit that grows like weeds, right here in the Valley of Longevity.
Here's a gorgeous nursey in Zamora, where you can buy citrus fruits, cacao trees, flowers, exotic superfood fruits and much more!
Tres Filos herbs
These herbs, called tres filos, support healthy kidney function. They're used as medicine in Ecuador to fight kidney stones, much like chanca piedra.
Panning for gold in Ecuador
Here's a little-known fact: Ecuador is sitting on more gold than any other nation in the world. Here's a photo I snapped of a local man panning for gold in a very rich river whose location I won't disclose. Thousands of people earn their living by harvesting gold out of the rivers of Ecuador. At over $1,200 an ounce, can you blame them?
Beans and grains for sale in Loja
Here's a photo of a fairly typical shop selling beans, grains and pasta. It's all sold by the pound, and there's plenty of variety.
Parrot at the hosteria
This parrot hangs out in the courtyard of the El Arenal hosteria in Zamora. There are a few others present, too. One likes to say "Hola!"
These blackberries are fresh off the vine. They grow seasonally in the Valley of Longevity, and the birds get a few of them, but there are more than enough left to go around!
Happy Holidays from Ecuador!
We have these beautiful red-leafed plants growing on our farm near Vilcabamba. They do very well in the climate, year-round! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Welcome to Zamora
Here's a shot of one of the main streets in Zamora, Ecuador, just East of Loja. This is a fairly typical scene, except there are usually more cars on the road and you'll often see chickens tethered to the trees on the median, where they can eat the bugs and grass.
This waterfall isn't in my back yard (wish it were!), it's actually in Zamora, Ecuador, just East of Loja. It's a beautiful place with a lot of rainfall. Much like the wet side of Hawaii (think Hilo). But you can grow huge quantities of cacao and other tropical delights!
Sacred geometry in flowers
These flowers are growing on the hill behind my house. They do extremely well in many regions of Ecuador, even during dry spells! They're gorgeous and of course they demonstrate some fascinating patterns of sacred geometry.
New banana trees come to life
It's awesome to see new banana trees coming to life! We planted these bamboo cuttings just two weeks ago (8 of them), and they're already coming to life. They should produce bananas within 18 months, and then they'll keep on producing for years. All our bananas are 100% organic, of course!
Patterns in nature
I don't know what these are, but they looked so cool, I had to grab a photo for ya. I took this shot at the Hosteria El Arenal in Zamora, Ecuador. These plants are growing on the main patio, near where the large, colorful tropical birds hang out and mimic your laughs!
Yoga pavilion in the bamboo
We had this built as a place of peace and quiet, where we can do yoga, Pilates, exercise or meditation. It has a bamboo wood floor and sits behind our bamboo forest. Every time I'm in it, I'm so grateful to be working out and breathing fresh air instead of indoor gymnasium air...
Zamora valley in Winter
Forget about blizzards and snow... Here's what the rich Zamora valley looks like in early Winter (December).
Saturday at the market!
Here's a picture of the Saturday market in Zamora, Ecuador. Looks like we won't run out of bananas anytime soon around here, eh? This market runs both Saturday and Sunday. It's like a "Farmer's Market" that you might find in the U.S. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies for sale by local growers! ("Eating local" isn't some fancy new slogan in Ecuador, it's just a commonsense way of life!)
Our free-range rooster
Here's a truly free-range rooster. He parades around our bamboo forest, scratching up bugs. He's also a hen herder, I've noticed -- he keeps them all close together and is the first to stand up to any potential threat. A pretty good protector, if you ask me...
Healthy honeybees in the garden
With all the problems happening around the world with honeybees, it's always a blessing to see healthy honeybees pollinating flowers in your garden. Here's a photo I snapped in my garden near Vilcabamba. The pollinators are plentiful here! (We're thinking of hosting some bee hives soon...)
Bamboo grows a new branch
Few plants are as naturally artistic as bamboo. Here, I took a photo of a new branch growing out of the side of a mature bamboo tree. The bamboo in this region of Ecuador grow very well (and quite rapidly), giving us a renewable, local source of "lumber" that we've used to build bridges, stairs, shelving and other useful items!
Giant figs ready for eating!
We pulled these giant figs off one of our fig trees here in Ecuador. They're sweet like pudding! Nature's dessert. Fig trees grow extraordinarily well here. The tree that produced these figs is roughly one year old.
True free-range chickens
Yep, we've got true free-range chickens on our farm in Ecuador. They stay in a coop at night for their own protection, but during the day, they roam the bamboo forests, scratching up bugs and weeds. That's why the eggs we get are 100% natural, zero hormones, zero antibiotics, zero pesticides. Ready for an omelette?
Hillside full of yucca food
These are yucca plants, a common source of carbohydrates here in Ecuador. The tubers / roots form large cylinders of starchy flesh. Once harvested, they can be used in soups and many other dishes, much like potatoes.
Going wild over wild berries
I go wild over wild berries. They're not actually "wild" anymore, of course, since we put this plant in my garden. But these berries are very small, like acai berries, and they're incredible nutrient rich. Shortly after this photo was taken, by the way, my chickens ate all these berries! (I guess my chickens like anti-cancer berries as much as I do...)
Flowering tobacco plants
Yes, you can smoke it if you really want to, but that's not why we grow tobacco. We grow it to use as a pesticide on the garden. These are what tobacco plants look like. They're quite beautiful, actually!
Terraces just like the Incas!
I've seen a lot of cool Inca agriculture here in Ecuador, especially around Quito. Inspired by their ways, we built terraces out of bamboo to reclaim and reforest a landslide behind my house. We're turning it into a garden full of pomegranates, figs and pistachio nuts! (We still need some pistachio seeds, if you don't mind bringing some to Vilcabamba... )
Super tall dinosaur kale!
This is not a Photoshop trick: These kale plants in my garden just keep getting taller and taller. I had no idea they would grow like this! I keep waiting for the seeds, but instead, the plants just keep getting taller. They're turning into KALE BUSHES, and my garden almost looks like a kale orchard! Somebody please come help me juice some of this... I can't drink it all myself!
The ultimate juicing garden
Our garden in Vilcabamba has turned into the ultimate juicing garden with huge quantities of organic parsley, as you can see here. We also have quantities of celery, carrots, beets and kale. It's a juicer's paradise!
Fresh berries in Winter?
Heck yeah! Fresh berries in winter! Why not? We've got four different kinds of berries growing here (five if you count the strawberries), and we're eating fresh berries EVERY DAY off the plants right here at Hacienda San Joaquin. It's berry rewarding!
Double rainbow over Vilcabamba
This picture actually isn't all that rare: Double rainbows appear frequently over Mandango, thanks to the geography and the frequent rainfall over the Podocarpus National Forest. This photo was taken from Hacienda San Joaquin, near the hotel, looking East.
Garden veggie donations
Our produce yields in our garden in Vilcabamba are so high that we end up giving away lots and lots of food. Here, I'm packing up one of eight bags full of zucchini and fresh veggies that we donate to some of the local families who could use a helping hand.
This is a chicken tractor
This is our chicken tractor. We move it from place to place and let the chickens scratch up the grass and dirt, fertilizing and prepping it for planting more amazing fruits and veggies. We had this built buy a local guy here in Vilcabamba. Thanks to the chicken tractor (and some chickens), we get eggs, fertilizer and garden prep work all for free!
Pollinators on the porch!
These little pollinators built a bee house right above my front porch. We love it! Lots of healthy pollinators here in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. The flowers are all buzzing, and there's nowhere else I'd rather bee...
Fresh cactus fruit!
This cactus fruit -- called something like "pitaya" in Espanol -- is a dessert-like delicacy here in Ecuador. They're Mother Nature's version of pudding! I have these plants growing on my property, but this particular fruit was photographed across the river on another farm.
Grow your own castor beans!
Yep, these are the plants that make castor oil, the healing oil made famous by Edgar Cayce. These plants grow like crazy here in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. I have at least a dozen plants in my yard, producing lots of castor beans.
Golden Amaranth in my garden
Check out this awesome golden Amaranth! This is an amazing plant for vegetarians because it's high in Lysine, the essential amino acid typically missing from veggie or vegan diets. I took these pictures today right in my garden. We'll be harvesting the amaranth seeds tomorrow. :-)
Giant moth on my porch!
This isn't a butterfly. It's a giant moth, and we see some beautiful ones here from time to time. This one was hanging out on my porch!
Have you seen my giant squash?
This is one of many giant squashes being produced in my garden right now. They're tender and juicy, too. We got lots of seeds from this one for the next generation. By the way, the bananas in this picture are also from my property here. And yes, bananas grow UP. (These aren't 100% bananas, they're sort of a combo between bananas and plantains. They eat sort of like banana bread... And they have a hard core in the center that you can't eat...)