A trip to the Peninsula of the North coast of the Dominican Republic: Las Galeras.
On the weekend of Jan 19th, 2013, I left the farm early one morning for Samana via a direct gua-gua. It left in rising sun at 7 am from nearby Saboneta and arrived there at 10:30 am. It was a very easy trip with one stop on an uncomfortable and overcrowded bus which was exacerbated by the holiday weekend. Fortunately it was cheap too, only 300 pesos ($7.50 USD). From there I met some friends and we went onto Las Galeras which I am sure is one of the more beautiful places on this island. Very Caribbean with its palm ladden beaches, forested hillsides in the distance, and white sands with colors of the sea you can hardly imagine.
So it wasn’t all just beaches as we stayed at a place called Los Mariposas just outside of the village of Las Galeras. We stayed the weekend there at the Italian family run place which started the holiday home business and then ventured into agriculture some years later. Their agriculture adventure has spawned one of the great projects for rural development in the Dominican Republic known as La Ruta del Jengibre
; a ginger co-op. It was quite amazing to see, 80 something growers with the legal structure all there as well as all the papers and legal bull**** to export the ginger. Apparently, there is a huge market available in Germany which is of no surprise to me as any trip into the processed aisle of an organic supermarket in Europe will quickly reveal who lays claim to the chief food processor. In fact demand is so high it outweighs production right now. Unfortunately, their Italian foundation money has dried up and are looking for capitol investment to expand to better meet the market demand.
They have had great success but last year I believe it was they had a problem with Fusarium. It is a plant disease that turns the roots of plants into black mush. From what I know its proliferation is set up through low oxygen conditions which was probably brought on by heavy rains. Oxygen is pushed out of waterlogged soils and the red soils stained from iron content looked poor and present tough growing conditions. We had the same problem in Costa Rica with our ginger and turmeric roots the year before I arrived which was one of the farms cottage industries through steam distillation producing organic essential oils. We talked awhile at the processing center with one of the co-op members where the ginger is washed and readied for export. He revealed they do some fertilizing with chop and drop and also with vermiculture and what sounded like compost extract. Unfortunately my Spanish failed me a few times along the way.
Also there where we were staying I met another grower but this time of coffee. I talked about Taino Farm and he felt like it was too low in altitude in Los Brazos to produce coffee. He offered other choices which of course we have like Cacao, cinnamon, and avocado’s. He had formed a relationship with the Ginger Route and together they were marketing a coffee with ginger inset. Spicy and yummy!!!!! But there I also was able to collect some seeds and the woman who runs the joint gave me turmeric bulbs from her garden. She said it grows easily for her and so maybe we can grow both ginger and turmeric. Both are great medicinals with a great range of fresh and dried uses. Overall it was a great weekend and upon arrival to the capitol I had a great meeting with some folks from the seed and education company from Florida known as ECHO. The weekend was refreshing and informative and set the stage for getting to know the country better as now I work from the capitol of Santo Domingo for some days.
Moringa (Moringa olifera) has made a sweeping movement across the island of Hispaniola through its recognizable market entrance and nutrition improvement crop for those who are subsisting. The plant is super multi-functional, grows in tough climates including drought. Bees abound in its fragrant flowers while the resulting beans inside it’s oddly shaped bean pods have a great cleansing effect when ground and added to dirty, pathogen ridden water. This gives so many more people on planet earth water and food security. After all its a super food that grows on a tree that you can cut again and again. Great permaculture all-star plant!!!!!!
The morning of January 1st, 2012 we woke up in the remote Northern reaches of Patagonia poised to host an 8 week
permaculture course/internship. Ranquilco was a wild place, way off the beaten track, six hours by horse to the nearest pueblito. It was a place of harsh dryness in our surroundings yet on the shelf above the Trocoman River stood an oasis; lush green with abundant water. This seemed to be the prevailing theme of Ranquilco abundance and scarcity intertwined in a tornado of personal growth and transformation for TreeYo. Drinking the bitter Yerba Mate in the morning from a gourd, eating freshly caught trout caught on the coffee can reel, and an asado con baile (BBQ and dance) with the gauchos. The lessons learned from the horses and gauchos might have been the greatest lesson of all. Learning from those who live in the hills close to the land is a priceless gift. The laugh of Manny and Danny, the lasso skills, and the ability to prepare and grill meat to perfection- what a treat!!!!!!!
Once this view was seen, me and Eva began to travel in a land that we both came to love known to the world as Chile. With its
Avocado plantations like corn fields in the midwest of the states,
Chile had abundant agriculture and some fun sites to see. The port town of Valpairiso boasted great street art and some eclectic culture to match this university town. Once the visa was renewed and some rest taken on the beach in Papudo, we visited Shamballa Permaculture once we crossed the Andes and then flowed into the Central region around Cordoba. Shamballa was a great experience to see Natural Buildings and get some more hands-on experience with this technique and meet new people. It was a unique context as this climatic zone of Sub-tropical with warm, rainy and humid summers followed by cold and dry winters with a few faint frost provided another climate in our repertoire. This spilled over into our North American adventures and became a greater ingrained vision for Eva: to build with the natural materials that abound!!!!!
Thus places to visit and work at for the summer were deliberated greatly as our time in Ranquilco had eliminated the possibility really to line up summer gigs because we were disconnected. There was an original intention to start developing the land at the family land known as Crouch’s Treasure Lake in Northern Kentucky, USA. Thus we built a cob oven to test the waters of camping on the land and really seeing what it would be like to live there in that community and in the context of living in the shadows of a coal fired power plant in one of the most beautiful places in the bio-region. We gave the site a bit of intention though and scouting out since the construction of buildings is the next true phase of implementation.
With the lake being an earthen dam and the receding waters of this
year’s Midwest drought, pure clay was able to be harvested and combined with other natural materials from the lake and the surroundings. It yielded a nice brownish-red earthen color to our mass and plaster with using a local pure slate grey clay pigment to create beautiful accentuations to honor local energies. It was tough conditions with the heat waves but it successfully yielded more insight towards what we did and didn’t know about natural building. That took us on a road trip to Oxford, Michigan, USA to the Strawbale Studio where Eva eventually stayed for some time to be apart of a longer natural building course. It was great to see what others had done in the bio-region and gave us some inspiration for design back out at the lake in Kentucky.
From there the summer of fun really kicked in with returning to Portugal and our longest running host site for PDC’s: Escola Da
Terra and Terra Alta. This year marked our first full PDC at Terra Alta and the switch to a purely rural residential course. We added new camping areas by making terraces in the charming cork forest and a community kitchen and new composting toilet to facilitate the full course on site. It really changed the site and in the course and beyond we were able to alter Terra Alta for the better both physically and socially. Keyholes have modified the earthworks, compost extracts have been spread to accelerate succession, food forest layers inserted, and communal agreements reached. It really stands to be a fantastic host site for the future and brings me to joy to know that i will return soon in 2013. Furthermore in my time in Europe in the fall of 2012 I was able to forge connections with multiple projects in Portugal, in the North of Italy, and conjure new possibilities through my network in Barcelona.
Finally, with a failed course in Borneo yielding a unexpected window of time, a serendipitous new relationship of cooperation sprang up with Taino Farm in the north coastal region of the
Dominican Republic. The end of the year marked another unique format for learning and giving back to the host site with continued implementation work. This time we choose an extended introduction with an informal design period for those who could stay over the holiday period. As we design as a group I am designing individually to fulfill my mission here of site design and development. In just these days that have recently passed, our papaya sponge designs are morphing from not just circles but to canals and figure eights to resonate strongly with the landform. Its good fun digging and working alongside friends and campesino’s- so much to learn and share with others here. I look forward to the coming year of more travels, more courses, more digging and smiling!!!!!!!!
For all the spontaneous people out there: The year 2013 will start with two amazing Natural Building Courses in Nicaragua!
I -Eva Wimmer of TreeYo Permaculture- am very happy to join Liz Johndrow of Earthen Endeavors and the Asociación de Mujeres Constructoras de Condega and “Las Mujeres Solares” for an empowering learning experience in Natural Building!
“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn valuable natural building skills while interacting with the local community and helping them achieve this goal. You will also share in the daily life of a local Nica family, stay at a local hostel, and practice your Spanish.
Natural building skills will include constructing with adobe, cob, wattle and daub, learning about ceramic tile and thatch roof system, and applying earthen and lime plasters.”
Check out Liz’s Blog for further information: http://www.earthenendeavors.com/upcoming-events.html
Our latest course announcement back at Terra Alta, our longest running host site and such a great place to host people for this journey.
Lifted From: http://tainofarm.com/farm-blog/
With its unique feel of diversity in so many respect, Taino Farm is poised to be a great spot for our upcoming Permaculture course and its overall mission of sustainable food production. I, Doug Crouch of TreeYo Permaculture, will be facilitating the first of a series of Permaculture events with Taino Farm and Extreme Hotel in about ten days. We are busy finalizing details of the course with an exciting time of preparation and advancement of the site happening currently.
It’s nice to be back in the tropics as this is where my Permaculture field career started. After taking my Eight-week Permaculture and Ecovillage Design Course at Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon, USA, I embarked on a Nine month farm job at Finca Ipe near Dominical in Costa Rica. There I was charged with the aquaculture side of the project and flourished in that role after doing extensive research that leveraged my degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. There I learned the ropes of agriculture in general and applying the ecological design system known as Permaculture. Permaculture is a common sense philosophy that can be summed up as comprehending and copying how nature works and applying that to as many different aspects of development as possible. From my website the following definition presents a more complex and theoretical explanation:
“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of all life kingdoms into agriculturally productive ecosystems and socially just environments producing sound economic outcomes through systems management. It is a regenerative design intention reflecting patterns in nature that seeks to build interconnections allowing for energy efficiency and abundance of yield.”
From this experience in Costa Rica, as well as my other travels in Central America, and my work in India and SE Asia, I have quite a lot of inspiration to further develop Taino Darm in a holistic fashion. For example, turning the existing straight channels of runoff water into a “chinampa” like system will be a fun upgrade. It will be lots of digging in the heavy clay, but the two acres that lends itself quite nicely will be a great example of the Permaculture principle “edge”. To read more about this edge principle, check out the educational branch of the TreeYo Permaculture site. Chinampas classically come from the lakes of central Mexico where the indigenous people were once building floating rafts for growing in an aquaponics system. The permaculture reference of chinampas often has to do with utilizing the high water table of sites that were at one time channeled off farms but we like to let it flow in a sinuous shape to utilize the three dimensions. Essentially it creates a reconstructed wetlands, matching land and water harmoniously in this slower flow. Subsequently, this creation will allow us to incorporate aquaculture in and amongst tree crops. Aquaculture is extremely productive and we will use these systems to cycle biomass of aquatic plants to build soil and mulch the fruit trees.
Another main project that I envision heavy participation on is furthering the food forest. This might be the most exciting facet of the farm now as it is already a well-developed selection of fruit trees. The ones that popped out the most to me were the coconut palms, the cacoa trees, the mangosteen, the avocado’s, the rhambutans, and the mangos of course. Banana and papaya add another layer while the vining habit of the local passionflower was the first piece of tropical fruit I ate at the farm. The farm manager, Viktor who is a local Dominican, was quite welcoming with that gift and is very in tune with the ideas of Permaculture already. I look forward to working with him and the others from the staff of Extreme Hotel on this project. Thus my job here is to facilitate the course but also to facilitate the design process. Designing the guilds and the other layers of the food forest into the existing plantations of fruit trees will be one of the main objectives of the farm mission.
Overall it is an exciting time at the farm as the next phase of implementation will be in full swing in just a few days. Finishing touches are being put on the repairs of the existing farm house so we can have our team up there full time. Being on site will greatly increase our ability to do the day-in-day-out management work alongside Viktor and others up in the gentle rolling hills of Los Brazos, Dominican Republic. We have several seed orders coming our way including some classic perennial vegetables that I have come across in my travels that include the following:
Getting more vegetable production with the above plants and many more that we are sourcing is a big priority. The farm has all the classic weaknesses of lowland Humid Tropical farming sites with its poor soils, high heat, and high humidity. The bugs and plant diseases thrive and tropical vegetables (like the ones mentioned above as well as seeds adapted to tropical places like Florida) are important to meet the farms goals of food production needs. Increasing soil quality through thermophillic (hot) composting, sheet mulching, chop and drop with nitrogen fixers, and vermi-composting will all be a big priority of reversing these trends. To forward the soil quality, we will have a steaming pile of organic matter that will be the future of the farms fertility. In the course we will make a several cubic meter pile of hot compost as there is lots of biomass on-site for this accelerated decomposition process.
So we are looking forward to the many changes that will be coming our way over the coming six weeks of my participation with the farm. The nursery will be packed, the ground will be altered, the biodiversity of the site will continue on its exponential path, and fun will be had along the way. Most importantly we will be working collaboratively on leaving behind the all-important Permaculture Design.
Author – International Permaculture Allstar – Doug Crouch
These Pics are from our farm visit on the last day of November 2012. Was a mix of sun and shade coming off a night of heavy rain. Exploring the farm and its biodiversity and with the farm manager Viktor was quite the pleasure. He is a bundle of knowledge and the farm has distinct “barrios” that gives it a unique feel. It has a surprisingly good start to becoming a food forest. Next is more nitrogen fixers, guilds, and the lower layers as well as increasing the intensive garden production. Looking forward to our course in 13 days!!!!!! http://treeyopermaculture.com/future-courses/taino-farm-intro/