Sustainability at Rancho Sol y Mar

Water Conservation & Recycling

Rancho Sol y Mar was initially completely off-grid incorporating a 2.4KW array solar photovoltaic system (up to 14KW/day) at the campground bathhouse, and a second  .7KW  system (up to 4KW per day) at our residence. In late 2016 Mexico made changes to it’s Electric Commission that made it possible for us to grid-tie and take advantage of NET metering. We are now grid-tied at the “Lower Hamlet” and are running a positive balance. We are still off grid at one of our two personal residences. Throughout our facilities we are actively harnessing the power of the sun to run water pumps, electric fencing, solar cookers, much of the equipment that makes our lives easier. To the best of our knowledge, Camping Sol y Mar has the very first solar powered RV hookup sites in the americas, if not the world! We are also using solar to pump, heat & recycle water, provide regular 120v home and campground power, irrigate trees, and manage our animals with electric fencing.

More info on our solar at: . Sun Dog Solar Services

Solar “Photon Harvesting”:

New Logo c/o the supremely talented Natalie Biesel ( Thanks Natalie!

Sustainable Building Practices:


January 2016 we hosted our first Permaculture Design Certification course with guest instructors  Andrew and Shenaqua Jones. The course was a great success and allowed us to  receive our PDC certification while  co-instructing segments of the course (solar, natural building, animal care, and cheese making. The course input from both Andrew and the amazing students is also helping us rethink and improve our master plan for the property.

The thing we’re most stoked about now is our  Permaculture Food Forest! 

We created the swales for two separate Food Forests, long canals, on contour, to retain water. Picture a one acre plot on the side of a gently sloping hill with terraces about 20 to 30 feet apart, but with the terraces having a berm all along the downhill side to hold water. On top of these swales we planted a huge variety of tropical fruit trees. In the forest we have zapote, jack fruit, star fruit, piñon tropical (similar to pine nuts), oranges, lemons, limes, persimmon,avacado, mango, cocos, neem, lychee, sugar cane, guanabana (same as sour sop, but isn’t it so much more fun to say “guanabana? Everytime we say it, we immediately think of a Sesame Street Muppet chorus singing “guanabanana, guanabanana”!). In addition to all this fruity goodness, we’re planting beans and other legumes for nitrogen fixing, neem trees around the perimeter for pest control, chaote and squash for additional ground cover. To round it out, we are enlisting the help of two senior local friends who each have vast knowledge about indigenous plant & tree species that still grow wild in the area and produce a wealth of excellent edible and medicinal products.


During the winter of 2010/2011 we acquired literally hundreds of beautiful hardwood saplings (prima vera, rosa morada, and caoba) from a government sponsored reforestation program. We have planted these, along with mangos and palms purchased privately, in the lower fields. This past summer (2012) we planted over 100 more palms to line the existing roadways. It is our intention to continue and expand this effort annually . Thank you Tyron, Vanessa, Katy, Alex, Yamir, Ann, and the Vallarta Botanical Gardens (Vallarta Botanical Gardens) for your heroic efforts providing tress, guidance, planting trees and installing drip lines!

“Sustainable Love”...

Since Day 1, one of primary goals at RSM has been to pursue the understanding and practice of building with local, natural, sustainable materials.

Spring of 2011, We had the great & gritty pleasure of attending an iCATIS/Instituto Tiera y Cal ( compressed earth block (CEB) building workshop in Texas. Based in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, iCATIS/Instituto Tierra y Cal is a leading organizations focused on compressed earth block building, one of the most  earth friendly, and beautiful building systems we know of. Together with iCATIS (Center for Appropriate Technologies and Indigenous Sustainability), Instituto Tierra y Cal is reshaping the notion of building with dirt, creating buildings that are incredibly efficient, beautiful, economical, durable, and most importantly, truly sustainable!

We learned everything from site planning, foundation work, testing and formulating soil mixtures, fundamental building techniques, plaster mixes, and beautiful, natural paint finishes. By the end of the course we were completely sold on the idea of making compressed earth block a major part of our expanding mission for the ranch. With the help of earth block gurus Rick Kahn & Richard Presley in Sayulita, we used a classic Auram 3000 earth block press and made all 6500 blocks for our guest house.

In the winter of 2014 we began building a personal residence using local materials and earthen Cob construction. We hosted Pat Hennebery and 25 students who helped with the initial phases of construction (Thank you all!).

During this time our daughter Hillary has also built her dream house using traditional adobe. Her tasteful and elegant home and is used as both her residence and as an elegant vacation rental property.

Food Production:

In addition to growing the usual garden veggies & tropical fruits (see “permaculture” below)  The numerous mango, avocado, lime, apple & coconut trees planted in 2011 are growing a steady clip and producing well. The soil and climate conditions are proving to be perfect for nearly continuous harvesting of many of the fruits, tropical fruits, veggies & herbs we’re planting.

Without a doubt, the project we’re most excited about now is watching our Permaculture Food Forest begin to thrive and grow its bounty! (See “Permaculture” Section Below for details...)

Here at Rancho Sol y Mar we take water conservation VERY SERIOUSLY.The community building is designed to recycle virtually 100% of its water usage.  All showers, sinks, and floor drains are on a separate grey water line routed to a two stage natural filter "registro", then a holding tank with pump for watering plantings. The drip plant & tree watering system around the community building can be switched between both grey and fresh water sources. The black water line (toilets only) is being processed by a Boss Microprocessing Biodigester to naturally process solid waste and render almost all the water suitable for irrigation of many of the 300+ trees we’ve planted since 2011.

Ongoing Sustainability Initiatives At The Ranch:

Cobbers Mateo & Alison, Day 30

Above: Cob Course Participants (February/March, 2014)

Compressed Earth Block Guest House nearing completion (April 2013) with Adobe Community Building in background (built with adobe made on property, 2011/2012).

Sustainability Education:

Click Here

And Last But Not Least, A Sustainable Thank You!!!

A shout out of thanks for all that have given their love and beautiful, hard working energies over the years to help get us this far. Thank you Liz & Rilely for being the courageous, loving, adventurous spirits you are. Incredible that you braved that first summer here alone and not only survived, but thrived to tell the tale. Sorry about all the baby goat hoove dents in on your jeep! Ty & Vanessa, thanks so much for you amazing hard work, the stairs up the hill, seeing the potential in Yamir & Toni, and for everything else you accomplished in your time here. Huge thanks to Katy and Alex for their work transplanting banana trees, planting a hundred Royal palms, creating a beautiful herb spiral, and caring for all of the fledgling coco palms and mango trees planted previously. Thank you Cobbers for the completely awesome new wood fired oven that you created and all the fun social pizza nights that have taken place ever since. Muchas Gracias a Joan, Cedric and the many other volunteers for your huge efforts making the compressed earth block guest house happen. Mateo, thank you so much for all that you contributed to our building projects, especially the wonderful playground at the school made from recycled tires (we see kids using it all the time!). Eric, thank you for the wild creative energies you brought to our fledgling education program. Tasa, Thank you for coming back, again and again, and contributing your wonderful, calm, loving purpose to the goats, plants, and other animals. Thank you Max for creating the most comfortable, odor free composting toilets in Mexico, and all the other great engineering solutions you came up with for the Cobb house. Grace & Michael, thank you for sharing so much of your amazing talents and enthusiasm - especially Michael, thank you for teaching us old white fogies a few cool new dance steps!  Thanks Samuel for you brilliant urine mixer, and other great ideas.

Bedroom “pod” of the Cob House!