Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A day of surprises

Well, yesterday was one of those points in a project where you think “shivers – maybe it’s time to back up a little bit here.” It had been agreed that I would be going out to the house of a small family in a rural village to help set up a chook tractor-based kitchen garden. Because the women (who I am starting to realise are rather young) had assembled compost materials we put down another hot compost first, and then stopped for lunch before getting on to the chook tractor. The thing was that the family of the young woman at whose house we were based run a rather large farm that produces tons and tons of vegetables. They showed me around and it is all a rather overwhelming monoculture and chemical based system as these photos attest (on what I assume is leased land – yesterday’s translator was very average). I also asked what they add to the ground and they replied:

Red potash
Neem oil (natural pesticide)

Anyways, feeling a bit overwhelmed at out of my depth with this system, I started looking at the bamboo and garden site they had available for me. Because I haven’t worked much with bamboo, and was sort of starting to wonder about the whole thing, I arranged for the brother of one the girls to have a square 2.5 by 2 meter bottomless coop made by Friday when I will return. The site available is apparently knee-deep under water in the wet season. After I left I soon realised that a small chook tractor garden at this site would probably fail. The family is already producing so much food that an additional garden based on strange new concepts that no-one really but the relatively powerless younger sister understands will most likely not be followed through as far as I can tell. Then there is the fact that the whole garden will be drowned and for all I know washed away in June or July.

So I have decided to back up and I think I will discuss with the director of ISW either finding a more suitable family and plot for the chook tractor (i.e., a family who would benefit by growing more of their own food and don’t already work a massive farm) or leaving it to focus my remaining few weeks here on the demonstration/experimental garden which incidentally is at the house of the director. This site has great prospects due to a very switched on and enthusiastic brother of the director (he was already growing lemon grass to border vegetables and knows all about legumes as nitrogen fixers) and a fulltime gardener. We have a hot compost on, a banana circle down, will put in a herb spiral tomorrow, and start preparing a large mandala sheet-mulch garden as soon as I confirm they have something productive to do with all the extra food it will produce on top of their small traditional vegetable garden and rows of bananas.

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