Permaculture presentation in Spanish

For our Spanish speaking visitors we have published a presentation about what Permaculture is. Maybe ill find some time to translate it to English … one day 🙂

¿Qué es Permacultura?
Mesa medio ambiente, Valle de las luciernagas, Zamora Chinchipe, Amazonas, Ecuador

Experiment: Bamboo Vegetative Method Reproduction

Experiment: Bamboo Vegetative Method Reproduction

Bamboos can be propagated either by reproductive method or vegetative method. Reproductive method involves the production of new bamboo plants through seeds while the vegetative method makes use of vegetative parts such as rhizomes, culms and branches.

Giant bamboo = Dendrocalamus giganteus, also known as dragon bamboo or one of several species called giant bamboo, is a giant tropical and subtropical, dense-clumping species native to Southeast Asia. It is one of the largest bamboo species in the world. 

5 days later. Successful experiment with giant bamboo.

As you can see the seedling was a adult culm (15cm width) with roots. Now the son has already surpassed it in height! This is the so called vegetative method which makes use of vegetative parts such as rhizomes, culms and branches.

Generally just before and during the wet season are the best times of the year to propagate bamboo, if water is available, it can be done at any time.

Important: We did several test and the one which worked well was the culm which still had some branches left. So it seems that to thrive the bamboo culm needs some roots 1-2cm and also a few branches with leaves to adapt and grow. Its kind of tricky.

Update 6 month later the same giant bamboo looks like this with a total of 3 new culms

Giant Bamboo Leafs

Giant Bamboo Leafs Close-up

 

Giant Bamboo Leaf can reach up to 20cm in size

 

Prioritizing Decision Making and Goal Setting in Project Development

Written by Sam Kenworthy and originally published at the Porvenir Design blog.

Every project starts with a goal in mind. Regardless of scale or time line, the inception of a project revolves around achieving a goal of some sort. Despite how seemingly simple it is to set a goal for a project, even the best of plans are often sidetracked, delayed, or made overly expensive because of a lack of clear vision for the completed project. Purposeful planning that steers projects in the right direction, coupled with accurate goal setting, is one effective way to avoid hiccups and get from point A to point B faster. Goal setting and a matching planning process also circumvent potential future problems. For example, nobody ever planned to have rotting fruit at the base of their trees; the goal was likely to have fruit growing on site. The goal was clear, but the planning lacked the foresight to contemplate size of tree, production capacity, on site processing potential, or any number of other consideration. By keeping the end goal of a project at the forefront at all times, and using that goal to inform steps forward, projects move efficiently and smoothly. This article serves to outline how to approach goal setting and planning, and also addresses how your project can see more and better results more quickly with a few basic principles.

 

Who Makes Decisions?

Any project has lots of moving parts, the most complicated of which are the personalities involved. Emotions, inter-personal connections, cultural nuances, or plain human nature can heavily influence planning processes, and often times skew goal setting to reflect temporary personal interests rather than long term project success. A good example of this comes from a few years ago, when I was working with a team designing a multi-purpose building that was meant to model a variety of features that suited the tropical island environment and minimized ecological footprint. Human comfort, water catchment features, and locally suitable building materials were all in play, and using air conditioning was not in the picture. Among other elements, the color of the roof played a significant role in regulating internal building temperature. To achieve the goal of the project, it was a no-brainer to use reflective, environmentally benign, white paint for the roofs. However, some members of the team had an emotional attachment to blue roof paint, simply because other buildings on the site had blue roofs. Eventually, white won the day, but had the roofs been painted blue, there would have been a good chance that any other design features included to lower internal building temperature would have been rendered useless.

Establishing a goal that reflects the needs and aspirations of a project can help to eliminate potential problems that arise due to emotional connections to certain aspects of a project. Including more players in the decision making process also levels the playing field. Before embarking on a project, it is important to bring together all stakeholders involved in the entire process. Owners, family members, employees, volunteers, those in charge of executing the project, clients, or representatives of any of the aforementioned need to be considered, just to mention a few. How can one design a workshop or a kitchen without consulting the needs of the carpenters or cooks who will be using the space on a daily basis? Can a classroom be effective without considering the needs of the students that fill it or the teachers that work there on a daily basis? While working on a coffee project in Colombia, the need for developing a garden space for production for the farm kitchen became apparent. None of the men involved worked in the kitchen, though, and the ladies preparing the food for the farm staff were not consulted. Navigating cultural barriers like this is critical, and this particular project will likely have limited success simply because not enough stakeholders were considered when making decisions. Although not every stakeholder needs to be involved in each step of the planning process, using all available input to inform decision making at the onset of a project is critical to a successful goal setting and planning process. Some themes to consider:

  • Inclusion of any current and potentially future stakeholders at the onset of a project is essential to planning that reflect real needs and accurate design
  • Do your best to separate emotion from decision making; consider present and future needs and goals
  • Who might be involved in the future that isn’t involved now? Consider how the project could change over time

 

Critical Questions

The critical question that consistently proves hardest to answer is, “What do you want?” Defining what you and the rest of the stakeholders want from a project is time consuming and perplexing; don’t underestimate how complicated this question can be. Getting to the root of what the real desired outcome for a project is takes digging, and it’s easy to get stuck in the mud. To get through the process, consider these strategies:

  • Establish clear goals that define what you want, rather than how you are going to get it
  • Think of the long term implications of your goals, every decision carries an associated result
  • Goal set with broad strokes, aim high; make your goal hard to reach
  • Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing, and whether or not your actions move you closer to reaching your desired outcomes
  • Use feedback loops to stay informed and react accordingly

 

What Do You Want to Achieve?

When starting a project, a common tendency is to get mired in details that are not relevant until a much later stage of development. In permaculture, we refer to this process as working from patterns to details. For example, discussing the layout of a particular room in a future home or building before determining if the structure fits within the goal of the project in the first place is all too common. Details are fun and exciting to work out over the course of a project, but figure these minutia out after establishing a goal that serves as a guide for the project as a whole. In a recent project, a client met with Porvenir Design to discuss options for making his land economically profitable. He had no pre-set notions; he wanted to know what was viable commercially, what would suit the landscape, and he was entirely flexible. His goal was clear: the land needed to at the very least be able to pay for its own upkeep and maintenance within a short amount of time. This is a great example of clear definition of a goal, in this case, a cash positive property. Before getting into ideas of how to develop, he asked for market research, soil testing, and several other details that would inform how to best move forward. His case was a perfect example of how to approach a project of raw property development. Conversely, a different set of clients approached Porvenir Design with a request to evaluate their property to see what could work for them. They wanted to develop, but they were not sure how. After delivering a lengthy analysis to the client, all momentum stopped. There were several viable options that considered, forestry, eco-tourism, conservation, and even selling parts of the property, but the project stalled because the clients could not decide what it was that they really wanted. In both of these cases, the distinction between physical and geographical attributes of the properties in question was not that significant, however, the approach to getting a project moving was far more efficient in the case of the former.

 

Long Term Vision

Understanding time lines is critical. Are you developing a project to last a year, your lifetime, your children’s lifetimes? Defining the longevity of a system will clarify many other aspects of a project ranging from appropriate financial investment to scale of building or planting. We often work with projects that are seeking long term re-generative results, think seventy five years of impact or more. Some of the common goals in multi-generational projects are productivity, profitability, and eco-system health and conservation. When possible, try to bring all of these factors to the table at each stage of development. For how long will a tree produce before it starts a decline in production? How long will a home suit your family; will your stakeholder group grow? Can your hotel’s waste water system withstand a 20% growth in guest capacity? In a project in the Caribbean, clients are currently planning to rebuild after suffering severe damages during the 2017 hurricane season. They are considering not only climactic changes that will dictate how severe storms are in the near term, they are also taking into consideration creating space for their children and potential grandchildren that can withstand future storms. Their goal is to create a positive impact and strong connection to an environment that has given so much to them in their lifetimes. They want to insure that this relationship continues beyond their lifetimes, and are planning accordingly. Will the development be staged? Absolutely. Will they see all of their plans take life? Likely not. However, they are taking the long term approach and setting the base for a successful and abundant future for future generations. A slightly different approach was taken by a client in Costa Rica: he didn’t know exactly how his life was going to unfold, but he knew he wanted to moved ahead with developing small scale tourism on his land. His planning and long term goals revolved around short term profitability and wildlife habitat creation. To meet those goals, he planned to build one small cabin and some hiking trails, but left space and infrastructure in the ground to expand within the parameters of his goals. Although he wasn’t sure where he was going, he knew what his goals were, and those goals informed his movements.

 

Mile High Perspective

More often than not, goal setting needs to be done at a macro level. Think of flying in a plane and looking down at a landscape rather than using a magnifying glass to see tiny details. A zoomed out view affords the use of broader brush strokes and allows big picture connections to come together. In a goal setting context, this might mean setting a goal such as, “having free time to travel” or “generating income” or “re-generating native forests.” Additionally, try to set a goal that is challenging to meet. If the goal is too easy to reach, the project risks loosing momentum and meaning. For instance, if your goal is to produce a percentage of your own food, once just one of your trees begins to bear fruit, the goal is no longer something to strive for. In one example, a client told me that she wanted to be able to travel off of her property for at least a month at a time at least twice per year. Directly afterwards she explained that she also wanted to have chickens and was working with a limited budget. As it turns out, animals like chickens require daily maintenance, and paying a worker to look after livestock in her absence is a costly endeavor. We had a goal setting discussion, and she began to prioritize what meant most to her over the long term, and decided to phase the animals in at a later date. The challenge was not finding the client free time to travel, but rather designing systems that were self maintaining, so she could have her cake and eat it, too. Aiming high forces one to continually check back to their original goal to make sure that their actions are always moving in the right direction. In the previous example, a naturally occurring feedback look steered the goal setting exercise in the right direction.

 

Feedback Loops

When working through the planning stages of a project do your best to keep referring back to what your original goal was, and ask yourself, “How do my actions get me closer to where I want to be; why am I doing what I’m doing?” Continually checking back to make sure that your actions line up with your goals is a sure fire way to stay on track. Life is hectic at times, and goals can be lost just as easily as a set of keys or your glasses. Asking yourself if you’re on the right path keeps you within the confines of your goal. This does not mean that you can not shift speeds or change plans; any project needs to be as dynamic as life is. However, creating this feedback loop will keep a project focused. Feedback loops keep you prioritized, as well. A few years back while working on a project that involved a multi-year implementation process, a stake holder asked why the vegetable garden that was drawn into the plans wasn’t producing anything yet. An good question, no doubt, but a question that didn’t consider scale or prioritization of work. The project was designed to produce food for a campus of students, but the campus itself was years away from hosting any students to speak of. Planting out a vegetable garden made little sense in the early stages of the project when there were still no mouths around to consume the produce. The feedback loop pushed the veggie patch to another stage of the project and allowed those involved to spend more time on developing the project as whole rather than focusing on a small, time consuming detail.

An important part of creating a feedback loop is to accept that your plan will likely have problems. In some cases, it is even best to assume your plan will fail in some way. Planning for adjustments leads to a steady observation of your project, which in turn will lead to improving your project through making any needed adjustments so that your project still delivers the goals you originally set out for yourself. A feedback loop also establishes a way to check your goals with the task at hand. A plan, followed by observation and control for errors, then followed by re-planning is a pattern we see in all aspects of our work. Take your morning routine as an example of how feedback loops function. If you are a coffee or tea drinker, you likely heat water, brew your beverage, and settle into drinking it while carrying out whatever other morning tasks you may have. If you didn’t use enough coffee, your coffee is weak, and you adjust your plan for the following day and add more grounds. If the water isn’t hot, the brew doesn’t steep properly, so you make sure to get the water right around boiling temperature before brewing. If you drink your coffee while it is too hot, you get burned, so you adjust your timing. All of these basic actions involve changing plans in response to feedback. The goal never changed, which was to make and drink coffee. How you got there shifted over time to the point that you likely have been the unwitting user of a feedback loop!

For many people, mornings are all a routine, established over months or years of feedback and adjustment, all focused on the central goal of having a warm cup of coffee in the morning. The bottom line is that paying careful attention to feedback loops informs you of any adjustments that need to be made before things go really amiss. A classic example comes from a farmer I met in Colorado who ran a grass fed cattle operation. One year, he didn’t get nearly as much spring rain as he expected, and his pasture suffered; he ended up not having enough grass to be able to feed all of his cattle throughout the year. The silver lining was that through observation he knew well in advance that he wasn’t going to have enough pasture to fatten his livestock for market. This informed him that he was going to have to sell some cows at a younger age than he wanted, or else buy grain feed that would compromise his goals. He knew from many months out that he was going to make less money, which informed his actions for all other aspects of his farm management. The feedback loop didn’t change his goals at all, but rather informed his decision making to stay aligned with his goals with a slight adjustment in planning.

 

Incorporating Goal Setting

It would be naive to think that all projects are as simple as deciding what you want to do and getting the job done. Most projects have various stakeholders, complex dynamics, restricted budgets, and myriad other complications. However, there are many projects that are conceived and started without having considered what the end goal might be. Most of these type of projects end up with a result that isn’t exactly what was planned for, most likely more costly than expected, and perhaps even halted all together without ever being completed. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, delving into planning and goal setting is good place to go for improved results. Exercises directed at finding the root goal of a project are extremely helpful in orienting a map towards a goal. Although it seems simple, one of the most time consuming parts of a project is clearly defining what the goal is. What do you want the project to achieve? Goals do not need to be singular by any means, but they do need to be well defined. At the foundation of all projects there is a reason for being and growing. Find that base, and use it to direct all of your actions moving forward. Ask yourself if what you are doing is getting you closer to your goal. If not, consider readjusting.

It is common to find a project that is a mix of many different processes happening simultaneously. What is also common are projects that have multiple things happening at once, non of which harmonize with each other or connect to a common end. A complicated dance of many parts, some projects seek outside help to create relationships between stages of development, groups of workers, or even between the goals themselves. These overlaps within the parts of a project often make themselves apparent over time, but making the most of relationships between elements such as buildings and landscape, water and inhabitants, or animals and your kitchen takes practice. Again, the feedback loop that results from continually trying to move towards a goal will reflect what needs to be adjusted in a project’s process. Learn from the shortcomings of a task or parts of a project, and use those lessons to inform how the project moves forward. Although the feedback may not immediately fix the problem, at the very least it makes one aware of what to expect, and surprises are limited. By knowing what the coming months hold well in advance, a project can be managed in such a way that one still moves towards the original goal without loosing stride. At the end of the day, project success revolves around decision making and appropriate interpretation of feedback. If you can master those two parts, you will likely end up even better off than where you wanted to be at the beginning.

Retrospective 3 Years PermaTree

With PermaTree in Ecuador we kickstarted the project 19th of May 2016. Fast forward today 6th of April 2018 we have survived the first two years on site. Currently 3rd year.

This has been similar to a start-up kind of lifestyle to be honest. Extremely interesting but also very very intense in all possible directions. We have been focusing on a holistic approach so not only food abundance or constructions but also finding the right local contacts – this part has show to be a very good time investment and I highly recommend doing so. Inspiration is a very powerfull tool. So are people and local cultural behavioral patterns. Obviously it has been key to integrate into the existing local social system for better understand the functioning. Before starting the farm we lived like digital nomads exploring possible countries and sites for our initial farm idea. Different reality also to our previous lives in urban areas in the heart of Europe.

The region where we have the farm is currently being exploited by the government and the people to mine minerals. The initial settlers arrived not before 1950 in this area, so this is still very much pioneers land here in the south amazon region of Ecuador.

Historically speaking we could compare it to the Goldrush in California back in the 1849. Which brought lots of people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

It’s similar here with some differences. We have ongoing big Chinese and Canadien Mining operations. The policies during the last President Correa’s first six years in office slowed mining activity, despite his plans to develop the industry. A new mining law was eventually passed by Congress on 13 June 2013, making Ecuador much more lucrative for foreign investors. “The new law imposes an 8% ceiling on previously open-ended royalties, and streamlines the permits required. Companies won’t pay windfall taxes until they have recouped their investments.

Why is this relevant because more and more local people start working for mines and getting used to that type of work which is different because they work 15 days non stop and then “rest for 15 days” and restart again. The farmwork is very different to that reality.

Also agriculture has totally stopped to exist in our region. 95% of the next generation is studying at a university and has the goal to move to a bigger city or the capital Quito. So 98% of all existing producing farms are in the hand of elder people +60 or even +70 years old. This is why most farm lands are totally not being taken care off and the owners and families don’t even loose a thought about their land unless they can sell it for mining or urbanisation purposes… some do rent the pastures to cattle to increase their income.

Cocoa growing in West Africa where some 6 million ha are planted with cocoa, provide about 70% of the total world production. In the more distant future the West African position on the world cocoa market is uncertain. Both climatic change and population growth underline the necessity to grow more cocoa on less land. Another aspect of the rural-urban migration is likely to be a shortage of farm labour and an exodus of the future generation of cocoa farmers. So not so different situation in Africa.

Why is this relevant – well because Cocoa and and all other tropical superfoods or crops will have a higher demand in future. 🙂 The tricky part will be to focus on small organic farms instead of massive industrial farm operations like in the past. Maybe this is a good use-case for a new blockchain solution. Which enables small organic farms to directly sell their goods to EU, US or Asia? This requires a very profound paradigm shift. So the challenge is and will be to find work force in the future and to be a inspiration to others to also grow food here in the region again.

Modern human beings look at things from the point of view of making profit, of exploiting. Here comes the philosophy of permaculture which absolutely helps to make a broad picture and see all the inter connections. Thats why IMHO “Holistic Farm” is not at all a bad wording either, depending on the understanding.

 

The 3 Phases of Abundance at PermaTree

Analyzing what we did when according to our history.

1. Year One | 2016 Mar-Dec:

  • Building initial infrastructure such as:
    • Water catchment
    • Access roads,
    • Main farm house,
    • Main road fence,
    • Building stairs with recycled tires,
    • Installing Water tanks,
    • Building compost toilet,
    • Building natural swimming pool,
    • Creating various ponds,
    • Building structure for experimental vine-type edible foods,
    • etc.
  • Planting 1st batch of 1000 fruit trees with of about 250 varieties.
  • Planting 1st batch of about 300 bamboo plants
  • Planting 1st batch of vetiver grass
  • Harvesting: Sour Mandarins

 

2. Year Two | 2017 Jan-Dec: Abundance of Propagation Material

  • Construction: New chicken house was build
  • Construction: Started project for “5in1” greenhouse, plant nursery, drying, fenced area and compost area
  • Construction: starting new structure for the bamboo cabin
  • Construction: finalized our adobe oven for bread and pizza cooking
  • Construction: Opened an additional / final road access to the farm
  • Planting 1’000 Guanabanas fruit plants
  • Planting – 25x Guineo ceda, 25x platanos
  • Planting 300 Guayusa plants
  • Planting 50 new banana “ceda” type
  • Planting more Yellow Pitahaya Cactus aka dragon fruit
  • Planting new batch of x200 ceda banana
  • Transplanting 50’000 vetiver grass
  • Transplanted batch of 200 vetiver grass
  • Improving: Bigger vegetable garden
  • Improving: Main farm entrance gate
  • Improving the fence with barb wire 150m width
  • Improving: Guanabana plantation we just installed new insect traps
  • Harvesting our 2nd corn
  • Harvesting: Banana – weekly
  • Harvesting: Sour Mandarins
  • Harvesting: Eggs – daily
  • Harvesting: Passion Fruit
  • Harvesting: Yuca / Maniok
  • Beehives project started – painting the new wood boxes
  • Purchased drafted x3 Pili Nut (Canarium ovatum), x3 Nuez de artenton (Arthertonia diversifolia) and x15 del Snake fruit (Salak Bali) palm fruit plants
  • Purchased x40 new Dendrocalamus Asper aka Giant Bamboo seedlings
  • Experiment: 2nd planting 4x fresh Chaya sticks
  • Experiment: Transplanting 6x mature bamboo culms giant bamboo and bicolor
  • Experiment: Started preparing for own “BIOL” production on the farm
  • Experiment: poroto with guanabana some polyculture

 

3. Year Three | 2018 Jan-(today April): Abundance of Yield

  • Improving: Access paths to Soursop plantation
  • Construction: Finalizing the greenhouse part of the “5in1” project
  • Construction: Massive improvement of the main water intake from the 
  • Construction: Finalizing the bamboo cabin
  • Harvesting: Pineapple
  • Harvesting: Banana – weekly
  • Harvesting: Platain – monthly
  • Harvesting: Papayas – weekly
  • Harvesting: Eggs – daily
  • Harvesting: Sour Mandarins – daily
  • Harvesting: Passion Fruit
  • Harvesting: Soon to harvest – Rollina Deliciosa
  • Planting: Pineapple – again
  • Planting: Transplanting Vetiver grass within the Soursop plantation for the access paths
  • Planting: Transplanting 3x giant bamboos aka dendrocalamus asper
  • Planting: Ginger and Curcuma
  • Planting: 1st & 2nd batch of “mani forrajero” aka Arachis pintoi seedlings (ground covers)

 

Year Three isn’t even half way through now but harvesting has indeed increased. So between sleeping and cooking and eating we have been busy with lots of construction work, planting, improving existing things, making experiments and some harvesting.

Whats true is that with time we know better what works well and what we appreciate more which are two important details.

eGo-centric VS eCo-centric

As it stands, we have over 7 billion “little things that can make a big difference” walking around on this planet, each with the power to become a tiny tipping point of their own. Indeed, with the power to change the world. But, like Confucius said, “Those who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.”

The move from EGO to ECO is not so simple. We have to lose a huge number of preconceptions about reality. We have to lose the thing that is often most precious to us, and this is something many of us are not aware is operating within us. This thing is our EGO. It is our EGO that sees the world as separate to us. This means that other people are separate from us, and when they are separate, this can often lead to feelings of fear. The fear comes when we are not confident about ourselves, and we fear of others having what we do not have, because they are superior in some way. EGO is fueled by our insecurities, and when we act from a position of EGO, sometimes all we know how to do is to attack others, bring them down, destroy their reputations and show how we are better.

EGO CENTRIC / “Ego-Logical”

The ego-centric system (from the Greek “ego” – me) has the self for its center, the individual. The ego-centric system is linked to the “personality,” to all the forces in those who use exclusively egotistical means to safeguard their interests and their most material goods.

The ego-centric perspective is immature and adolescent, suffering from a plethora of insecurities, anxieties, and neurosis. Unfortunately, our society is grossly egocentric. It is built upon military aggression, the control and exploitation of nature’s resources, and an entitled sense of national security that ignores the needs of other species, other nations, and even our own future generations.

Make the EGO test:
How many pictures of yourself have you published on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and co? More than 50%? If yes then you should think about it…

 

ECO CENTRIC

Now enter the ecocentric perspective. It is more difficult to recognize because of the 2000 year enculturation of the egocentric perspective, but it is based upon healthiness on the micro level, empathy and tolerance on the cultural level, and holistic cultivation and interconnectedness on the macro level.

This is the type of perspective that focuses on wellbeing, moderation, and balance. Its method is simple and healthy: discover, open, free, create, and rebirth. It does this over and over, on both micro and macro levels, leaving a cultivated garden of balanced forces and healthy, sustainable reproduction in its wake. It gives slowly, but it’s a meaningful gift.

The eco-centric perspective is about thinking holistically; what deep ecologist Arne Naess calls the “ecological self” or what James Hillman calls “a psyche the size of the earth.” The general principle of the psyche is that the deeper we understand ourselves the more of the world we will be able to identify with.

Holistic

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” expresses the essence of holism, a term coined by the great South African general and statesman Jan Smuts in 1926. Holism generally opposes the Western tendency toward analysis, the breaking down of wholes into parts sometimes to the point that “you can’t see the forest for the trees”. Holism is an important concept in the sciences and social sciences, and especially in medicine. Holistic medicine tries to treat the “whole person” rather than focusing too narrowly on single symptoms. It emphasizes the connections between the mind and the body, avoids the overuse of drugs, and has borrowed such practices from Eastern traditions as acupuncture and yoga.

Ojeme – Volunteer Testimonial 2018

I spent four weeks at PermaTree, and my overall feeling about the experience is very positive : it was a great enlightening and rewarding experience. I had the opportunity to do :

  • Building work : I worked on the big sized greenhouse (I helped to build the roof, the field, the tables and install the taps) and the little bamboo house (I helped to paint the doors, and make the four windows and the doors out of bamboo and wood)
  • Farm work : I planted pineapples and vetiver, I made holes to plant trees, I filled insects traps in citric trees, I created paths so parts of the farm would be more easily accessible, I faced the wrath of the bees and the stubbornness of a horse, I braved the wilderness of the jungle to reach the waterfall, and did one of the main farm work i.e. cutting the 2 to 3 meters-tall grass with a machete (Yago’s hobby ;-))
  • House work : washing the dishes (there can be a lot), cooking, making bread (Yum!), lighting a fire in the oven, feeding the animals (giving food to the dogs is REALLY something !)

Some of the tasks were done under very hot sun, and others under very strong rain, the weather can vary a lot and rapidly ! Sometimes, the work can be hard and tiring, but I was never alone, and working with Cunanchi (the Ecuadorian worker), Yago and Btina has been a real pleasure. Also, talking and sharing our experiences and ideas has been enriching and instructive.

Finally, I must mention the uniqueness of the place that is beyond beautiful : the plants (the trees, the flowers …), the animals (the birds, the insects …) and the vastness (77 ha) of the land (I adored the view from the top of the finca) all of it contribute to make this place a true paradise.

I found out about PermaTree through Bridgeo.org, which is a French NGO run by young motivated guys. After guiding me to this mission, they really supported me before my departure.

Ojeme

Recipes – do it yourself

  • Here are the recipes I used to make the several products I brought :
  • Deodorant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Htnp8P9Eg):
    • 2 table spoons of arrow root powder
    • 1 table spoon of baking soda
    • 1 table spoon of coconut oil
    • 1 table spoon of shea butter (beurre de karité)
    • A few drops of essential oil (for the scent)
  • Mosquito repellent (http://memedanssesorties.com/3284/repulsif-anti-moustiques-naturel/) :
    • 10 mL of vegetal oil (I used hazelnut oil)
    • 6 mL of essential oil :
      • 3 mL of citronella (I used 2 mL of Java’s citronella)
      • 2 mL of geranium
      • 1 mL of peppermint (because of Violetta, I used 2 mL of eucalyptus citronné instead of peppermint, because “Du fait de la présence de menthone, l’huile essentielle de menthe poivrée n’est pas recommandée aux femmes enceintes, allaitantes et aux enfants de moins de 6 ans, ainsi qu’aux personnes souffrant d’hypertension”)
  • Laundry detergent (Don’t forget to shake it before every use !) :
    • 1L of hot water
    • 30 g of natural olive oil soap (in chips)
    • 1 spoon of baking soda
    • (Optional) A few drops of essential oil (for the scent)


   

Diatom

Lots of ants during this season of the year at the finca PermaTree in Amazonas region of Ecuador. We have started to work with “DS” aka Diatomea which are a major group of microalgae, and are among the most common types of phytoplankton. Diatoms are unicellular, although they can form colonies in the shape of filaments or ribbons, fans, zigzags, or stars.

To get rid of the ants in a natural way without pesticides or chemicals. Diatomaceous earth diatoms have sharp edges that cut and kill insects that have exoskeleton body structure like for example the ants.

We have made various experiments on a duration of over 4 month and so far the Diatom-solution was far better than other alternatives. But. It like most organic / natural solutions it takes longer. Which is not a issues per se – you just have to keep that in mind.

Diatoms

Diatoms are producers within the food chain. A unique feature of diatom cells is that they are enclosed within a cell wall made of silica (hydrated silicon dioxide) called a frustule. These frustules show a wide diversity in form, but are usually almost bilaterally symmetrical, hence the group name. The symmetry is not perfect since one of the valves is slightly larger than the other, allowing one valve to fit inside the edge of the other. These shells are used by humans as diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite. Fossil evidence suggests that they originated during, or before, the early Jurassic period.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatoms, and their shells (frustules) as diatomite or diatomaceous earth, are important industrial resources used for fine polishing, liquid filtration. The complex structure of their microscopic shells has been proposed as a material for nanotechnology.

Diatomaceous Earth – often referred to as “DE” or “DS” – is an white salt-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating so that their innards turn into teeny tiny bug jerky. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it… We do eat it! It’s in lots of grain based foods, because lots of grains are stored with diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs from eating the grain! 🙂 Simply intelligent.

DE is almost pure silica (with some beneficial trace minerals); under a microscope, it looks like shards of glass (glass is made from silica). On any beetle-type insect that has a carapace, like fleas and cockroaches, the DE works under the shell and punctures the body, which then dehydrates and the insect dies. DE is totally nontoxic. There is no buildup of tolerance like there is to poisons because the method of killing is PHYSICAL, not chemical.

Wood

Termites eat wood to derive the cellulose and nutrients they need to live. Termites have protozoa and bacteria in their gut that allow them to break down the cellulose fibers in wood, which is difficult for other creatures to digest.

Termites

These red ants are termites. Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites are among the most successful groups of insects on Earth, colonising most landmasses except Antarctica.

Dead termites. Diatom killed the termites as you can see. But beware this only works in dry environment. We had no success during rainy season outside.

 

Planting Ginger & Tumeric

A few days ago we planted the first batch of Ginger & Tumeric. After having prepared the soil with a typo of tractor for poor… check out the photos for yourself. 🙂 We organized a minga (traditional communal work in the Andes) – during that day so it was quite crowded on the farm but great vibes.

Ginger & Turmeric – Jengibre y cúrcuma (in Spanish)

Ginger and turmeric have several characteristics in common. Both are tropical perennial plants classified as belonging to the Zingiberacaea family, and both have beneficial constituents in their rhizomes / roots that cause them to be prized in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda as healing herbs. However, ginger and turmeric have different properties, colors, flavors and effects.

Ginger

Ginger, botanically known as Zingiber officinale, is native to tropical Asia. The rhizome is dried and powdered to create the spice, which is used extensively in baked goods and beverages for its refreshing, pungent flavor; the chopped rhizome may also be consumed fresh. Known as ardraka in Ayurveda, ginger has traditionally been used to treat digestive disorders, particularly nausea and diarrhea; it has also been employed against arthritis and heart conditions.

Tumeric

Turmeric comes from the plant botanically known as Curcuma longa. Widely cultivated in Asia, India and China, turmeric features oblong leaves and funnel-shaped, dull-yellow flowers. The rhizome – yellowish on the outside and brilliant orange on the inside – is dried and powdered to yield the spice. Bitter, pungent and somewhat earthy in flavor, turmeric is a primary ingredient in both mustard and curry. Known as haldi in Ayurveda, turmeric is used to treat jaundice, hepatitis, digestive disorders and inflammatory conditions.

      

How To: Adobe Oven

How to build a Adobe Oven

Or horno as it is called in Spanish-speaking parts of the world. Sun-dried mud brick construction, mud mortar, recycling (bottles) and mud plastering construction.

Build a base structure at a good hight, so you can use the oven in future without having to bee kneeling down all the time. For us this meant 110cm from the ground.

Build a brick wall around the base 190cm x 190cm and fill this with glass bottles and sugarcane and salt. About 50% of the hight then came about 2-3cm of the local soil and of top of that about 1cm of sand (we used river sand with smaller rocks).

In contrast to cob construction, where walls are directly hand formed by shaping thick layers of mud; adobe walls, domes and vaults are made of individual sun-dried mud bricks, bonded together with mud mortar.

On top of the sand we placed another layer of bricks. You should use bricks which are fireproof.

One of the attractive advantages of building with adobe is that suitable material is most often right under the workers’ feet. For our case this was not literally true because we had to bring the adobe mud bricks from Susudel in the Sierra which is located near the colonial city of Cuenca in Ecuador.

The bricks where placed directly on the sand and we just used some cement to connect the bricks sidewise. Just to fill the gaps between the bricks.

(2) Building the actual oven walls.

As you can see this is the base for the round oven. First layer is mortar. On top the dried adobe bricks are cautiously placed. Important detail is that the bricks are not rectangle in form but rather like an Isisceles Trapezoid. This helps tremendously in the building process.

Another important building hack is to fix a string to the center and then depending on the size of your oven draw a line so you have the perfect circle on the base. This is used for placing the adobe bricks in perfect position.

As you can see layer for layer has been placed in this photo. Also mud plastering inside has been started because later this gets more difficult, less access.

An ideal proportion for adobe bricks and mortar is 70% sand and 30% clay.

The oven entry door is one of the most critical parts of the oven. In our case we used a metal door and frame which helped to build the around the door and keep the round form with the bricks. The mud plastering on the outside has just started in this phase.

 

As you can see in the picture. The outside mud plastering is being done with dried grass halms which shall help the mud not to crack so easily when the temperature of the material will rise.

Final.

To complete the building of the adobe oven, the mud plastered oustide will get a additional thin layer of mud with 5% cement with some type of white sand like material which shall prevent the outside from suffering too much from humidity and possibly rain drops.

Before putting the fire in the adobe oven, it is best to let all the mortar and plaster to dry. This is why we need to wait now a few weeks before we can start using the new oven.

We at PermaTree plan to use this adobe oven primary for bread and second for pizza making.

 

PermaTree’s productive and nutritional capacity. Summary and conclusion.

The completion of this SIP (Self Initiated Project) during August 2017 demanded many volunteer hours which, according to Yago and Btina Veith, permacultors and owners of the Yantza farm, located in the south east of Ecuador, and creators of the PermaTree.org project, is innovative. Since it combines the technique and practice of permaculture, with the science of nutrition in detail.

PermaTree’s productive and nutritional capacity.

The challenge was to analyze what nutrients would be provided to the people of the farm in the short, medium and long term, based on the variety of crops sown, and predict and forecast how much food would be available, to uncover the capacity of future supply.

Those questions were answered. The most important species, representing the not inconsiderable number of more than thirty, among fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and nuts were taken into account. These are the food groups that I consider indispensable, and without contraindications, to develop a full and long life.

Summary and conclusion.

The current 4.5 hectares allow for food and economic self-sufficiency of at least 10 families after 7 to 10 years.

Considering the following important clarifications:

  • Family: 2 adults + 2 children;
  • 3 hectares are dedicated to cultivation for commercial economic purposes;
  • 1.5 hectares are dedicated to the edible forest and orchard;
  • Food wholly of vegetable origin;
  • It is understood that the economic self-sufficiency generated by the commercial activity is allocated primarily to the other 2 basic necessities: clothing and housing.
  • Development and production of food for tropical climate.
  • Location of the property: 800 mosl.

This portion of the farm property represents only 11% of what PermaTree will allocate to the development of edible forest and human settlements, being only 6% when compared to the total size of the farm, as well as a large part of the secondary native forest , almost 50%, will remain intact.

List of food components planted / planted in 4.5 Has:

PermaTree Crops

Most important crops, in order of greatest quantity to minor:

  1. Guanabana Annona muricata (Graviola, 3 hectares, own consumption and commercial purpose),
  2. Banana and banana Musa (100 main + children: approx 600 units, 10 with fruits in sight),
  3. Papaya Carica (Mamón, 15 growing trees, 7 with fruits in sight, incalculable seeds scattered),
  4. Chirimoya Annona cherimola (15 young plants),
  5. Yucca Manihot esculenta (Yucca, 20 x 20 m),
  6. Coconut palm Cocos nucifera (40 young plants),
  7. Cacao Theobroma (20 Amazonian natives bearing fruit, 5 grafts bearing fruit),
  8. Pineapple Ananas comosus (Ananá, 40 young plants with complications due to small herbivores such as rabbits),
  9. Avocado Persea americana (Avocado, not yet fruit, 40 between seedlings and young plants),
  10. Corn Zea Mays (30mx15m),
  11. Sweet lemon Citrus limetta (Lima, 5 trees already bearing fruit),
  12. Lemongrass Citrus limonia (acid, 5 trees already bearing fruit),
  13. Orange Citrus sinensis (1 tree bearing fruit, 20 planted),
  14. Mango Mangifera indica (10 trees planted, one adult).
  15. Mandarina Citrus reticulata or mandarin (1 tree bearing fruit, 10 young trees),
  16. Grapefruit Citrus paradisi (Grapefruit, 15 young trees planted),
  17. Frutipan Artocarpus altilis (10 young trees planted),
  18. Grape of Pourouma cecropiifolia (Caimarón, 25 young plants),
  19. Chonta palm tree Bactris gasipaes (Chontaduro, 3 with fruit in sight, 8 young plants),
  20. Rice sativa rice (10 m x 10 m, experimental),
  21. Passion fruit Passiflora edulis (8 m x 10 m),
  22. Yellow Pitahaya Selenicereus megalanthus (Dragonfruit, 10 m x 13 m, approx 40 plants),
  23. Macadamia nut Macadamia integrifolia (5 seedlings),
  24. Carambola Averrhoa carambola (Starfruit, 2 plantines),
  25. Chaya Cnidoscolus aconitifolius (Spinach tree, 4 young plants)
  26. Naranjilla Solanum quitoense (Lulo, 2 young plants with fruit in sight),
  27. Beans adzuki and others Vigna angularis and Phaseolus vulgaris (Beans, experimental row),
  28. Lentils Lens culinaris (experimental row),
  29. Huerta / vegetables: experimental, some cherry tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, carrot.

Bees: The farm counts on bees that collaborate in the natural process of pollination, favoring the reproduction of the diverse cultivated species. In addition, honey production is planned, which may be for consumption and commercial purposes. The nutritional benefits of honey, summarized in a large contribution of energy through its high carbohydrate content (80%), are not part of this work.

Author: Juan Manuel Esteche
Student of Nutrition at the Barceló Foundation (Bs As, Argentina), and independent researcher. Currently touring South America.

If you are interested in knowing the work in detail, which provides information on the macro (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals and minerals) of each food planted or planted, as well as the variety and quantity exact that you must generate to achieve PRODUCTIVE AND NUTRITIONAL SELF-RESPONSIBILITY, you can send an e-mail to juanesteche80 @ gmail.com.