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Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus Asper) clearing out thinning of culms

Bamboo clearing out or thinning of culms

We just finalized the clearing out or thinning of culms from our 2 years ago planted, over 400 bamboo plants. Bamboo is unconventional part of our tropical food forest at the PermaTree farm.

Pruning or trimming back bamboo can be used as a means for encouraging even more rapid growth.

The world record for the fastest growing plant belongs to certain species of the 45 genera of bamboo, which have been found to grow at up to 91 cm (35 in) per day or at a rate of 0.00003 km/h (0.00002 mph) (!)

Bamboo PermaTree Ecuador Dec 2018 - Giant Bamboo / Dendrocalamus Asper Bamboo PermaTree Ecuador Dec 2018 - Dendrocalmaus Asper / Giant Bamboo

All the bamboo plant needs to do, is fill the cell with (mostly) water, which bamboos, as members of the grass family, are very efficient at doing. The strategy of growth by elongation is common among grasses. Typically the roots don’t grow anymore than 50cm below the surface of the ground. Older, more established plants, usually at least 3 years in the ground, will grow faster than newly planted ones.

There are 2 methods for trimming clumping bamboo in order to encourage growth. The first is an annual trimming of older and dead culms, which allows the plant to conserve more energy for producing new shoots. Second, many bamboos require an annual pruning in order to look its best, which also serves the purpose of diverting the plant’s energy into producing more root growth and new shoots.

Bambusa vulgaris Vittarta - PermaTree clearing out thinning of culms Bambusa vulgaris Vittarta - PermaTree clearing out thinning of culms

1) Lifecycle of the culm: As each individual culm goes through a 5– to 7-year lifecycle, culms are ideally allowed to reach this level of maturity prior to full capacity harvesting. The clearing out or thinning of culms, particularly older decaying culms, helps to ensure adequate light and resources for new growth. Well-maintained clumps may have a productivity three to four times that of an unharvested wild clump. Consistent with the lifecycle described above, bamboo is harvested from two to three years through to five to seven years, depending on the species.

2) Annual cycle: As all growth of new bamboo occurs during the wet season, disturbing the clump during this phase will potentially damage the upcoming crop. Also during this high-rainfall period, sap levels are at their highest, and then diminish towards the dry season. Picking immediately prior to the wet/growth season may also damage new shoots. Hence, harvesting is best a few months prior to the start of the wet season.

3) Daily cycle: During the height of the day, photosynthesis is at its peak, producing the highest levels of sugar in sap, making this the least ideal time of day to harvest. Many traditional practitioners believe the best time to harvest is at dawn or dusk on a waning moon.

 

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

 

Interesting Bamboo Facts

Most of the +400 bamboo plants growing at PermaTree have been growing well and even better since we keep them clean from the fast growing pasture grass 🙂 For of our tropical permaculture soil improvement goal we have been implementing bamboo. Not only bamboo grass but mainly bamboo grass and vetiver grass. Both are very interesting to restore poor soil and keep soil erosion and run off to something from the past.

For you to enjoy some bamboo photos of the Giant Bamboo leafs as well as the Bamboo Bicolor leafs. Most plants still need a few year to grow mature about 7.5 years but some of them are already producing lots of leaves and those leaves are helping to mulch the soil.

BTW Did you know that Bamboo is one of the most exploited plants on the planet because its cultivation doesn’t require too much effort.

More interesting Facts about Bamboo:

permatree Bamboo - Dendrocalamus Asper aka Giant Bamboo

Did you know that Bamboo is … produces more oxygen than a tree?!

Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and emits 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere than its tree equivalent?

 

Did you know that Bamboo is … Food?!

Bamboo shoots have been a staple food source for thousands of years, especially in the Asian culture. Bamboo shoots are low in fat and calories. It is also an excellent source of fiber and potassium. One serving of bamboo shoots provides 10% of your daily recommended intake. Young shoots of bamboo contain toxin called taxiphyllin. Because of that, bamboo needs to be cooked (high temperature destroys toxin) before consumption.

Did you know that Bamboo is … Antibacterial?!

Bamboo as a plant in nature is actually antibacterial, and has the ability to withstand some of the most vociferous bacteria out there.  Bamboo contains a natural bio-agent known as Bamboo Kun. Bamboo Kun is naturally anti-bacterial. It is so effective that it eliminates and prevents over 70% of bacteria that attempt to grow on it, whether this be in its natural or fabric form.  Bamboo does not require any pesticides or chemical fertilizers for healthy growth. It is seldom eaten by pests or infected with pathogens as a result of the Bamboo Kun.

permatree Bamboo - Dendrocalamus Asper aka Giant Bamboo - Close up green bamboo leaf

Did you know that Bamboo … Flowers ?!

Flowers of bamboo are rarely seen. Some species of bamboo develop flowers after 65 or 120 years. Interesting fact about flowering is that all plants of one bamboo species develop flowers at the same time, no matter where they are located in the world.

Did you know that Bamboo is … fast growing?!

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on this planet. It is the only plant left in the race of matching human consumption and deforestation. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, and some species can grow up to 90 cm or 35 inches per day. One of the most amazing quality of bamboo is its ability renew growth. Even after a harvest new shoots will grow out in no time. That’s over 1.5″ (3.8cm) in one hour!! No other plant on earth can do this.

Did you know that Bamboo is … for controlling soil erosion?!

Bamboo is very successful in controlling soil erosion. Even after the shoots are cut the amazing root system ensures that the soil remains intact. Bamboo had been found to be useful in controlling landslides, land degradation and soil mass movement. It can also improve the quality, moisture and stability of the soil.

Did you know that Bamboo is … Kind to the Environment?!

When bamboo is harvested, it will continue to grow new shoots from its amazing root system. There is no additional planting or cultivation. Bamboo requires no chemicals, pesticides or fertilizer to grow and thrive. It’s very own fallen leaves provide the necessary nutrients that get recycled back into the soil.  Every part of the plant can be utilized in one way or another with zero waste. After the bamboo material has reached it’s life span, it can be recycled back into our good earth.

 

Tiny Bamboo House

Step for step development of the new bamboo tiny house at PermaTree. Its a 6 x 3 meters tiny natural house. The roof is in tin the most used roof solution in the region here. The bottom structure is wood and the main house structure is 100% guadua bamboo. It took us a while to figure out how to build a strong structure.

The wooden floor we are most likely going to paint with some color. Probably a nice warm blue – so it will last longer. We need to do some further improvement for the floor structure in terms of how the weight is distributed. For those interested into each step there is a slideshow video on our youtube channel or the same photos in this short blog post here.

Most pictures have been taken with sun – but bear in mind that tropical climate is 3 times a day – tropical rain 🙂 Even more now in the so called rainy season. Thats why one of the biggest challenges with this construction was that the bamboo does not soak too much humidity/water from the heavy rain. We had to use huge plastics to cover up during the night and the days where the rain did not stop. To prevent from the worst.

You may have noticed that there are no walls yet just the structure. Well its not priority Nr.1 to finish the walls. The most important part was to get the roof done. Currently we are trying to finish some other projects witch are more important if compared.

Due to the tropical weather even if the natural material stays dry, thank the big roof there is a risk. Its called “polilla” its a small insect which eats the bamboo or wood. Similar to the termites which are also active around the house. So all the bamboo and wood parts got a treatment, its a liquid which prevents the polilla and the termites to eat the natural construction.

Okay this is not with the tin-roof on top. The next photo is from inside with the spectacular view.

What you see here is the Valley of  “Yantzaza” means “FireFlies” in Shuar language. And yes we do have quite a few fireflies at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Lifestyle, implementation at PermaTree

Sustainable living is a lifestyle on which we have strong focus at Finca PermaTree. An Overview of all on-going sustainable lifestyle elements and implementation.

In first hand, at PermaTree, you can learn what sustainable lifestyle is, within a minimal ecological footprint – as our goal.

To name a few sustainable ways, we’d like to start with our most important resource, our fresh water. It arises directly from the waterfall out of the mountain. We also have a natural swimming pool which is fueled by the overrun of the main water tank. 90% of our natural house is built from the fast growing bamboo, instead of wood or cement. We have no glass windows. Just bamboo windows and most doors are recycled or made out of bamboo too.

We recycled beer bottles for the shower and toilet facility, implemented in to walls and old tires to make stairs and erosion control projects. Our main stair is build with 103 recycled car tires – they can last up to 500 years 🙂 Our Chickens produce organic eggs and clean the permaculture zone 1 from insects and possible pests. Living fences are growing up to big trees and will help fixing nitrogen in the depleted soil.

All our light bulbs are LED. They use a very small amount of electric power. One of our showers is heated by black pipes with the heat of the sun rays, instead of electricity and all of our grey waste water goes into a banana circle, which will be filter and followed in to the ground. The “humanure” waste from our composting toilets, we use as fertilizer.

You see, the sustainable elements are truly holistic from raising chickens, recycling tires, growing living fences to home made and fresh cooking.

We also are an education hub, where people can learn about all these techniques, which they can apply to there own homes.

Summary of the Sustainable Lifestyle, implementations so far:

  • Composting toilet – creating natural fertilizer instead of contaminating drinking water.
  • Building with local, natural (bamboo, wood, palm, etc.) and recycled materials.
  • Consuming the less as possible amount of electricity.
  • Solar power energy – was our first thought here but due to the current politics with 45% additional tax makes no sense IMHO.
  • We use fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas for long term purpose. Minimizing using the car when ever possible.
  • More organic waste, which goes to the animals and creates new soil.
  • Implementing animals for multiple diverse functions: Chickens, Guinea Pigs, Dogs and Bees.
  • Reusing gray water to feed the banana circle.
  • Slowing down existing water and reusing it multiple times, until it leaves the perimeters.
  • Plant Nursery – where we grow all kind of plants from seeds.

 

Finca PermaTree with lots of pasture - status April 2017, a good year after starting from scratch.

Finca PermaTree with lots of pasture – status April 2017, a good year after starting from scratch.

Think local
We support local markets. Once a week we do our grocery shopping in Yantzaza, and every second week we support the Saraguro village by buying their organic vegetables at the market in Yantzaza. Of course we also support our neighbors. One of them produces fresh raw cheese. Our long term goal is indeed to grow all at our own farm – self sustainable. But all needs time, investment, practical knowledge and creativity.

Up-cycling, also known as creative reuse
We produce as little waste as possible. For example, plastic! We always bring our own recycled plastic bags for shopping to reduce the amount of plastic bags! Apart from this mindfulness task, after a year, we already have a huge box full of plastic bags… We reuse them – upcycle them. You can find inspiration on Pinterest like this one. Organic waste goes to our animals and they produce fresh compost out of it.

There is no such thing as waste in nature and that’s why there is a key permaculture principle which reminds us that “waste” is nothing else than a unused resource(!) Once you see the world like that, there are literally no limits.

All animals bring their benefits
No matter how big or small they are, all animals have multiple possible uses. As mentioned above, we want to produce our own food. Which means fruits (read our blog post about tropical fruits of Ecuador) and vegetables primarily. And to harvest fruits, first – it takes time. Depending on the species, up to 8 years. But what is even more important to have fruits grow on trees – pollination. Through wind or bees, humming-bird, butterfly and others. So our current project is to implement bee hives, to increase the pollination, of all the fruits of finca PermaTree. If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. Quote – Société Central d’Apiculture, May 1965. More about this topic read this wired article – will we still have fruit if bees die off.

Like our dogs, they have their function as guards. We could say our natural alarm system. And of course because we love dogs! The food we give them is pure raw meat, fresh meat “waste”, if you want so, which people wouldn’t eat anyway. So instead of throwing it away our dogs appreciated it! The good thing, in Latin America, it is still possible to get such meat while in our country, where you can hardly find butchers, they won’t sell you that kind of meat. It’s usually already sorted out from industries, and only the good peace’s getting sold. Obviously this kind of natural raw meat food is also much healthier for the dogs than the industrial-dog food. So another win win situation.

Chicks with mother. The white one survived.

Chicks with mother. The white one survived.

Mentioned at the edge; our Guinea Pigs “Cuys”, how they call them, produce fertilizer through there dug, like the chickens as well. And by using our organic waste as food for the chickens, it produces automatically compost, attracts insects, which chickens will also eat and so on. This cycle has its purpose and it is an important need of mother earth. When the animals die we will dig them up near a fruit tree and that same fruit tree will have a great source of calcium, phosphor etc… all vitamins it needs to produce more healthy food. Works better than any synthetic/chemical fertilizer.

Guinea Pigs "Cuys"

Guinea Pigs “Cuys”

Electricity
Talking about smart solutions, we are still looking for alternatives. Solar Panels, the batteries are very expensive in Ecuador because it’s an imported product and there are no industries here who produces them. And because of the current politics policy on importing electric goods. Currently we use gas and electricity from the grid. Ecuadors grid electricity is from hydroelectric power which means is produced from water in movement, which is better than gas, coal or atomic electric grids.

Fossil Fuel
Our pickup runs with diesel. But the longterm idea is to get rid of the car, when we have our proper food production and there is no more need for material transportation, etc..
Currently the Fossil Fuel are still available … so if we use them wisely for long term purposes they help us to implement smart alternatives faster than without them. Our future goal is to live mainly on the finca and to replace the car with a few local mules which are a variety of a donkeys.

Reforestation and implementing clever root system
Reforestation is a big topic all over the world, because as I mentioned; trees where cut down – whole fields are cleared up for cattle or mono culture. So, fields rich in water, animals and biodiversity just disappeared and lots of places, because of these actions, around the world turned in to deserts. Trees are very important to give shade, reducing heat, give shelters for animals, as transportation of water and much more.

Porotillo - living fence / cerca viva

Porotillo – living fence / cerca viva

At our Finca we planted already thousands of trees but one local timber tree I want to mention here, named Porotillo. We use it for living fences. “Cerca Viva” how the call it here. A tree which grows fast from the stick itself and has spines. A living fence will hold much longer than one out of other materials, like for example: dead wood sticks or a wire mesh fence. To keep cows out of the boundary for example or on the other hand give animals like bird’s new shelter. It will increase soil fertility and bring much additional benefits.

Vetiver grass
Vetiver is a native Indian grass, that makes roots up to 15 Meters in to the ground. A true miracle grass and best for soil erosion to help stabilize soil. It is also known to protect fields against pests, it attracts the stem borer (Chilo partellus), which lay their eggs preferably on Vetiver. Due to the hairy architecture of Vetiver, the larvae cannot move on the leaves, fall to the ground and die. Vetiver can be also used as an insecticide or termite repellent. As a mulch, Vetiver is used for weed control in coffee, cocoa and tea plantations. The Vetiver Grass helps to get rid of heavy metals in soil. It is capable of growing in fuel-contaminated soil and has favorable qualities for animal feed. The extracted oil from the roots is used in cosmetics, perfumes, creams and soaps for skincare and has anti-fungal properties. Finally used for handicrafts, ropes and more here.

Vetiver grass at PermaTree

Vetiver grass at PermaTree

Vetiver grass at PermaTree

Vetiver grass at PermaTree

Building Material
To build our house we used mostly natural materials. The wood comes from the local carpenter, but better in small quantities we thought because sadly, there are not much trees left! And it seems like nobody is caring about planting new trees. The bigger part, of the house, we invested in Bamboo. The thing is, in our region people do not know how to work with Bamboo. The material Bamboo as construction is more used near the coast and it is also not possible to buy Bamboo near our place. So we had to order it from the coast. But we thought, rather in big amounts. First, to have enough material and second, to reduce the transportation – once. 40 giant Bamboo trunks we harvested at the shore if the river Zamora. But, there are some rules about cutting Bamboo properly.

We cut the Giant Bamboo at 00:30 a.m. in the morning. These bamboo trunks where huge! Very tall and 15 to 20 cm diameter and it’s best to harvest them during the 6th and 8th day after full moon, between 12:00 p.m. and 06:00 a.m. they reach the lowest starch content. This is important because only then, it won’t be a attraction for the insects which can attack the bamboo and damage the trunk. (read our blog post about the harvesting details here).

The good thing about Bamboo is, it grows faster (up to 90cm per day!) and produces 35% more oxygen than a tree. We have been planted Bamboo now all around the property near creeks. Gigant Bamboo, Guadua, Bicolor and black Bamboo.

Cutting giant Bamboo at midnight.

Cutting giant Bamboo at midnight.

PermaTree main bamboo house - front view.

PermaTree main bamboo farm house – front view.

Main house, double layer guadua bamboo walls.

Main house, double layer guadua bamboo walls.

Volunteers house, guadua bamboo structure.

Volunteers house, guadua bamboo structure.

Recycling and redirecting of waste water
We recycled old tires to build stairs, (check out our blog post about tire stairs) or water and beer bottles to build walls for the shower and toilet, we reused old wooden doors and implemented them. We have a compost toilet to reduce the amount of waste water and to use human waste as a fertilizer when it’s decreased down to compost (humanure). Therefore, we don’t have black water which will usually come from the classic-toilet waste through pipes. But we do have gray water. Wastewater generated in our household, from shower and sink drain. This water is directed, through tubes to our Banana cycle. These plants will absorb leavings from the gray water which goes in to the ground. We use non-toxic and low-sodium soap and personal care products to protect vegetation while reusing greywater for irrigation purposes.

Banana circles can also be used as an outdoor shower/wash area, with the addition of a platform to stand on in the middle of the circle and a simple privacy screen. Fast-growing plants can be incorporated into the design to provide a living fence. More about Banana circles here.

Sustainable: Compost Toilet (humanure) at PermaTree

Sustainable: Compost Toilet (humanure) at PermaTree

Building the recycled bottle wall for the shower.

Building the recycled bottle wall for the shower.

Bottle wall - outside view of the shower.

Bottle wall – outside view of the shower.

Sustainable: We used lots of recycling bottles for our shower.

Sustainable: We used lots of recycling bottles for our shower.

Recycled bottles and doors for the compost toilet.

Recycled bottles and doors for the compost toilet.

Sustainable - 103 Recycled tires, stairs.

Sustainable – 103 Recycled tires, stairs.

Natural Ponds and Pool
The water overflow from the big water tank goes directly in to the natural pool. If the pool is full the redundant water will find it’s way out through the tube which is installed. From there the water goes in to swales on the property and finally in to the ground. We want to keep the water as long as possible on our property. For the pond in the entrance, we like to have some ducks or even better geese which make noise if someone ore something enters the property. Fishes will be added and water plants are essential but hard to find. To clean the water and for amphibians to provide them food and hiding places.

The highest natural pool from above.

The highest natural pool from above.

Lago Negro - Natural pond up the hill.

Lago Negro – Natural pond up the hill.

Near the Plan 1 - another natural pond.

Near the Plan 1 – another natural pond.

Loofa – Natural sponge
Until now, we bought our foam rubber from the Supermarket, but they usually did not last longer than a week. So we were seeking for alternatives. The only natural sponge we knew came from the sea. But then we found the Loofah sponge a squash plant, which we just recently started to grow. The inner dry skeleton can be used as a sponge. Apart from using the vegetable as soup it has also medicinal purposes. Loofahs are loaded with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K and folates.

Loofa the vegetable.

Loofa the vegetable.

Food, all home made and tasty
Back in our country, there was not much time to cook and so it was hard to eat 100% healthy. Even if we kept an eye on it. But now we take the time to produce our own food. We made fermented food like Sauerkraut, Banana Vinegar which is super easy to make and the typical drink, they call it “Chica”. From Chonta; Peach-Palm, Corn or Yuca. Our own bread – without oven, fresh salads from Beetroot, Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots. Arugula and Cherry tomatoes which we already have been harvested form the garden. Different kinds of Humus from Chickpeas or Beans which delivers a bunch of proteins. It’s all about the preparation timing. Sometimes we start early, because for instance, beans can take up two hours to cook.

A typical day involves a big bowl of seasonal tropical fruit (Banana, Papaya and maybe Mango) with oatmeal and fruit juice for breakfast. Lunch could be rice with peanut butter, salad and carrots, lentils with shredded coconut meat. Dinner may be lighter like Papaya with lemon juice or just some rice with eggs. We focus on seasonal, partly organic and local produce we purchase at the market and harvest as much of our own food from the Finca as we can. More inspiring healthy dishes at our Finca here.

Typical fruit breakfast at PermaTree

Typical fruit breakfast at PermaTree

 

Home made bread.

Home made bread.

Fermented Bananas turning to vinegar.

Fermented Bananas turning to vinegar.

Our own vegetable garden is growing. Status January 2017

Our own vegetable garden is growing. Status January 2017

Socialize
We like to interact with people, who share the similar interests or are interested in our philosophy. There is always a possibility to learn from each other. People from all over the world come together at PermaTree, to have the possibility for cultural interchange. They can reach a gasp in to our daily farming and living cycle. As you see, happy Volunteers in the center, posing for the picture 🙂

Local and international people come together at PermaTree - field work day

Local and international people come together at PermaTree – field work day

Plant Nursery
At the PermaTree plant nursery we plant directly from seeds, many of them directly from the fruits we have eaten. When the plants have reached a good size we transplant them at the finca.

PermaTree plant nursery with Btina

PermaTree plant nursery with Btina

The Plant Nursery at permaTree - status February 2017

The Plant Nursery at permaTree – status February 2017

Growing Bamboo
We grow Bamboo Grass mainly for slowing down water and future building material. Bamboo is not a tree but a giant grass and so does not grow, by division, but by elongation. Bamboo as a plant in nature is actually antibacterial, and has the ability to withstand some of the most vociferous bacteria out there. Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen compared to a tree. It can also lower light intensity and protects man against ultraviolet rays. Bamboo is a good soil conservation plant. With its widespread root system, it can provide an effective erosion control. It sustains riverbanks and serves as good windbreaks.

Baby giant Bamboo - starting to grow

Baby Giant Bamboo – starting to grow

A new young born - bamboo bicolor

A new young bamboo shot – bamboo bicolor

Final
A lot of information about living and implementing natural Sustainable patterns in to our farm. We hope to inspire you, giving you an idea what’s possible at the very beginning, within permaculture philosophy. This is our first year of PermaTree and as you can see, we already implement a few Sustainable patterns (see History of PermaTree). Share “Do-It-Yourself Ideas” to replicate or improve them as needed. Depending on the situation, this is what inspires us to move on.

Do you have some Sustainable inspiration for us? Let us know!

Bamboo Volunteer Cabin

The latest PermaTree micro project is to build a bamboo house mainly for volunteers with an amazing view of the Rio Zamora and the Valle de las Luciernagas. The size will be 6 x 3 meters and there will be a fix hammock on the panoramic view side of the house.

This is another so called ecological or natural building we are finalizing here. Actually in this remote region of Ecuador most local people who can,  build concrete and steel just because they believe its better… so once a while we get visitors at our place its always interesting to see their reactions 🙂 Most important is that we can use sustainable materials such as fast growing bamboo and some wood elements which are needed. The wood is going to be a real issue long term in Ecuador and most of Latin America. There is no real serious existing timber tree replanting policy in most countries. So once the trees are cut. There are no more trees. And some take over 200 year to grow. So we believe thinking long term bamboo and giant bamboo is a real good alternative because it can theoretically grow 90 cm / 35 in which is more than just amazing because it has literally 100s of additional beneficial factors.

Photos of the development of the volunteer bamboo house at PermaTree 

Last week of March 2017 at PermaTree

A week in 2017 at PermaTree

So this has been an interesting week, to say the least. And on behalf of many volunteers and visitors asking what we do here at PermaTree and how a week of tropical farm work looks like, here the summary of the last week of March of the year 2017.

permatree 28march End of Another Day Walking Down to the finca

Monday 27th March

Chris finished planting 3 Bamboo “estacas” for each of the almost 1000 Guanabana fruit trees. Chris and Audrey also started to dig the entrance path for the new volunteer Bamboo structure. After that they went and started to cut off more of this awful fast growing pasture which we have here too. After dinner we did a killer yoga session.

Tuesday 28th March

It rained hard but we started the day transplanting 3 quite big coconut trees. The young helpers from the local school arrived in the afternoon and helped us a little to cut down grass with machetes. Btina found time to transplant a few vegetables to the main vegetable garden. We are preparing a second vegetable garden below the chickens because of the great chicken compost falling directly into the garden bed. Audrey and Chris found time to start building a prolongation of the existing recycled tire stairs heading to the main water tank.

Wednesday 29th March

Chris finished to dig the natural swimming pool water drainage which flows now down well. Audrey cleaned the 103 recycled tires staircase pineapple plantation from all of the growing weeds.

Thursday 30th March

In the morning we went to plant two giant Bamboo higher in the property to secure a creek which has lots water. Currently we have been able to plant 4 giant Bamboo there. It took us a while to get there. Chris and myself transporting one big Bamboo and Audrey all the tools we needed there like Machete, Gancho, Shovel etc. Getting there we noticed that the water pipe of the stream which passes under the access road was clogged so we Doug out all of the earth, sand and rocks until it was clean again.

Thursday Afternoon

In the afternoon after another success-fool-lunch we transplanted a few grown-up vetiver perennial bunchgrass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) which we had initially planted about 8 month ago. Some of this vetiver gras had grown taller than 2 meters high so it was time to split it and transplant it where it was more needed like near the natural swimming pond and on the sides of the 200m long drainage canal. After this we planted Mani aka peanut. If they grow well we can make our own peanut butter. This is a fantastic source of good fats for the diet. The more good fats the better here on the farm. After dinner we had a super tasty chicha drink – a fermented beverage derived from the fruit of the local chonta palm.

Friday 31th March

After the breakfast we harvested some of the great tasting yellow cacao which they call “Cacao Nacional” here in Ecuador. Before that we went to harvest some papayas and plantains higher up in the property. Early afternoon the first truckload of Carlos beach sand compost arrived – a total of 12 m3. The initial plan was to explore the PermaTree waterfalls before Audrey continues here travels but heavy rainfall changed this brilliant plan. We cooked some delicious home-made plain simple bread – without oven. Chris and Cunanchi digged all the 30 holes for the new maracuya-pole-plantation-structure near the 1st “plan”. Audrey and myself went to get some essential foods which run out at the farm, in Yantzaza.

Saturday 1st April

Lunch was the highlight of the whole month! Pizza “casera” all home made and naturally extremely tasty. Lucky us we got some of the tasty local cheese again – its bern a few month without since we found some of it. After our ritual super fruit breakfast we headed to Yantzaza to get a few things and drop Audrey at the terminal aka bus station. While heading home we stopped at Madras place before entering the village of Los Encuentros where we purchased 6 mid size mix race type guinea pigs with one ñapa aka gift guinea pig. They will have a key function at PermaTree – eat the grass and create fresh compost for our plant to grow happy.

 

Saturday Afternoon 1st April

The afternoon started when Carlos phoned and told us he was to be expected within 10 minutes with the 2nd truckload of Rio Zamora beach sand material for further fertilization purposes. Then Chris and myself planted another giant Bamboo at a key place between the creek and the 2nd “plan”. We fished two fruit trees which have been parked below the 1st pond due to their not so healthy looks back then – about 4 month ago, and finally  transplanted them between all the existing growing food forest. Having now the new beach sand fertilizer we started pouring some of it at every fruit tree and Bamboo.

Sunday 2nd April

We will be Market day in El Pangui because the organic produce arrives just all 14 days in Yantzaza so we go to El Pangui. Here we will pick up our new volunteer Maddie which wanted to arrive Saturday but the bus trip took something like 3 hours longer than what they forecasted so we had to adjust the planning.

Between most of those works we have had  multiple trips to Yantzaza and Los Encuentros for current projects and future projects… 🙂 our days start rather early for some nocturnal people, at 05:55 and normally we are back sleeping at 21:00 o clock. Good sleep is as essential like good food for a good farm work day. Speaking climate wise we had more rain than usual because we are currently in the rainy season now.

 

Bamboo cabana

The building chronology of the PermaTree bamboo cabana in the amazonas region of Ecuador in South America. Harvesting, Transporting, Planning, Building …

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

All photos in chronological order:

  1. Harvesting bamboo during good moon – means during the 6th and 8th day after full moon, between 12pm and 6am = lowest starch content!
  2. Transporting – After the cutting of the giant bamboo during night it was time to transport them from the river to the nearest road which was about only 400 meters by foot but took as good 2 days of work to get all of the 30 bamboos there.
  3. We had to pre-cut some of them which where longer than 30 meters for the better transport with the small truck and to have the right size for the cabana. The first transport went well until we arrived on the new build road of the finca and there after a few bumps all of the bamboos just fell down and we had to push them into the truck again to get them to the nearest location to the cabana. The truck looked funny from the side because the bamboo was 3 times longer the the actual size of the truck 🙂
  4. Cabana planning sessions with the white board – old school – yes. But indeed practical.
  5. Cabana structure is build with chontaduro palm which grow all over the finca and are heavily used in this region for building pillars because they are such a hard material and dont have any issues with the high humidity.
  6. On top of the chontadura palm come the giant bamboo trunks and some wood trunks to be able to nail the floor on it. (update: this was an error.)
  7. In the mean time the property road access is almost done. There have been setback because of the heavy rain during the last weeks but nerveless half of the road is good with rocks and the rest still a raw dirt road which cannot by access by car unless we have more than 3 days of sun.
  8. During the last weeks we also installed a water catchment system from higher in the river property and got the electric cables connected to the cabana from the grid. We did dig the solar option but with the current politics here in Ecuador everything which is imported costs min. 45% more than the normal price so the batteries which are needed for a solar installation cost more than the solar panels themselves… so sadly here solar makes currently absolutely no sense. Lets hope that this will change and the the solar technology will improve even further in near future.

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Screenshot 2016-06-22 at 4.12.02 AM

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Building our own house in the tropics

UPDATE 2018: In the meantime we have build a few bamboo structures in our farm here in Ecuador.

Check it our tiny bamboo house (3×6 meters in size).

tiny bamboo house at PermaTree in EcuadorTiny bamboo house with hexagonal windows

And here some impressions of the PermaTree Bamboo HQ

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

 

Building our own house in the tropics (status 2016)

It’s time for us to start thinking about how we want to build our own house in the tropics. We did some extensive research during the last 2 years – but knowing where we are going to stay makes it a step easier.  Of course we are not going to build a house like in Europe or the US. This would make very little to no sense at all.

Different environment very different climate conditions as well as social habits.

We really liked the entire philosophy of the Earth Ships (passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials – here a good read about pro and cons) and Earthbag/Superadobe constructions. But now living in the tropics this make little sense observing the climate and existing houses here. So we will keep the creative inspiration but build something fully adapted to the climate and topography of the land. We also really liked the idea of “less is more” aka the Book from Dee Williams called The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir.

 

In a nutshell:

Focus rather on a functional structure instead of  beautiful structure, because it turns out that a functional object with time becomes beautiful too. It needs to be elevated. The part where we live and the part where we sleep needs to be ventilated enough. Combination of the structure with smart sustainable energy solutions.

 

House Focus:

  • Big multiuse Porch / roof overhang  – a covered shelter projecting in front/around the house. To stop both too much sun and too much water hitting the front face
  • Rooftop terrace (on the top of the roof)
  • Abundance of natural light inside of the house – big windows
  • Natural ventilation in very room of the house – with mosquito nets
  • House min. 2 meters elevated above the ground to allow for a better floor ventilation and less wall and floor humidity
  • Rain water harvesting via roof saved in ground water tank or near Fish pond with Bamboo and floating vegetables.
  • Composting Toilet outside of the house but connected with roof (don’t want to get wet)
  • Multifunction Rocket Mass Heater Stove combined with Oven, BBQ, Boiler and Clothing / Food Dehydrator – hybrid system: wood / gas / electric (solar powered)
  • Shower near the Rocket Mass Heater Stove for hot water. Graywater going to the banana circle system.
  • 2 well isolated water tanks on roof one for hot water (black) one for cold water (white)
  • Solar Thermal Pipe Coil Water Heater – on roof to heat with daily sunlight and save it in the black water tank.
  • Open practical Kitchen and living room / hammocks in one space with big windows for lots of natural light
  • Dry natural ventilated store room – “root cellar” near kitchen – place to preserve fruits and vegetables
  • Near the house the Gray water treatment with banana circle system
  • Roof Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels to harvest solar energy in batteries for daily use.
  • Use natural river water flow for hydro energy or “watermill”-rotation energy for washing machine and electric energy. Micro Hydro (small turbine) / rover “water vortex” for power generation
  • Floor: Terracota “baked earth” floor tiles and wood floor in the 2 bedrooms

 

Local natural construction materials

One major consideration in sustainable development is using local materials. Biggest issue here is that all the natural constructions material almost don’t get dried at all… normaly. Most likely we will have to also consider a few non sustainable materials such as plastic which is used for plant nurseries.

  • Recycling: Glas Bottles, Wood, Aluminum Bottles, etc.
  • Palma de pejibaye, “Chonta dura” o Bactris gasipaes (extrem hard material)
  • Bamboo / “Guadua”
  • Timber wood
  • Adobe earth walls / floor
  • Palm leafs / roof / walls
  • etc.

 

Smart sustainable

We are thinking of a house designed with space and energy-efficiency in mind. Focusing on practical use more than luxury. Using intelligent adapted multi-use natural shapes instead of the usual square house with roof. Geometric volumes neatly fitted together on varying levels. Creating areas of shade and sun that will naturally warm and cool the house throughout the day. Focus on minimizing the environmental impact of the house before, during and after construction. We are just visitors passing by so our footprint should not destroy anything… best case its a better place after we leave.

Bamboo

Bamboo was first found and used in China more than 5000 years ago. This is why the woody plant conjures up images of pandas eating shoots and leaves in the Orient. Even though its many uses are only just becoming widely known, the bamboo plant as an alternative material began long before “going green” became a trend.

Existing visual inspiration

We believe its always important to see what has been done and do goo research also to get visual inspiration. Some examples are more elaborate some more minimal some more luxurious some more simple.

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

sustainable bamboo architecture

sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration

Regenerative Farm / Finca Aveterra - Byrd Family, Mindo, Ecuadorsustainable-architecture-inspiration Natural Building Lots Of Light

Sustainable-architecture-tropics1 Sustainable-architecture-tropics2 Sustainable-architecture-tropics3

sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

bamboo cabana in EjeCafetera colombia Simple bamboo cabanas in OlmedoManabi Ecuador Typical architecture in the countryside ecuador bamboo