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Health Benefits of the Soursop Fruit and Leaves

Soursop grows  on a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree in the rain forests of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia and is a common food there. And here in Ecuador at the edge of the amazonas region in our organic tropical farm PermaTree. Its scientific name is Annona muricata. Also known as graviola, custard apple, guanabana and Brazilian paw paw.

Even so the English name, “soursop” is derived from the Dutch zuurzak which means “sour sack”, the soursop is a extremely tasty tropical fruit. It has flavors that are is a combination of: Strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavor notes that contrast with its creamy texture, which is similar to the flavors of coconut and banana. Here is yet another take on the flavor of soursop: It has a delicate fragrance that is tropical, fruity, musky.

 

Soursop Tropical Superfood

Superfoods have extra-large doses of vitamins and minerals. They can also be a source of antioxidants, substances that shield our bodies from cell damage and help prevent disease. Antioxidants are natural compounds found in foods that protect against the damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation in our bodies. This can help us ward off diseases and live a longer, healthier life.

It is recommended that if you are not able to grow your own superfoods, be sure that when purchasing a commercially available tropical superfood, to select a organic one to get the maximum health benefits.

 

 

General Healing Benefits of Soursop?

Practitioners of herbal medicine in Asian, African and South American countries have used the bark, leaves, root, and fruits of the soursop tree to treat infections with viruses or parasites, arthritis, depression, stomach ailments, fever, parasitic infections, hypertension and rheumatism. It’s used as a sedative, as well.

But claims of the fruit’s anti-cancer properties have attracted the most attention.

 

Soursop Fights Cancer

Soursop extracts from the leaf, fruit, and seed have been tested in laboratories for their anticancer effects for the past 40 years! Much of the research on the health benefits of soursop has been carried out by institutions independent of much of the pharmaceutical industry… The results of this research is generally made available to the public.

Some studies show these extracts to be active against breast (1) (2), lung (3), colon (4), prostate (5), pancreas (6) (7), liver (8), and skin cancer (9) cell lines. However, soursop products have not been studied in cancer patients.

  • One of five extracted from the seed of the soursop fruit was “selectively cytotoxic to colon adenocarcinoma cells(HT-29)” and “10,000 times stronger” in inhibiting cancer growth than the chemotherapy drug adriamycin.(10)
  • In 1997, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry suggested that soursop showed better results in destroying breast cancer cells than chemotherapy. Studies conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have proved soursop extract to be effective against both breast cancer and liver cancer.
  • Soursop extracts were found to kill certain types of breast and liver cancer cells (11).
  • According to one study, the soursop plant is a proven cancer remedy for most types of the disease (12). Though the tests haven’t been conducted on humans yet, the possibilities are promising.
  • In 2011, the journal Nutrition and Cancer revealed highly promising research on soursop and breast cancer. Researchers found that graviola fruit extract (GFE) suppressed expression of a breast-cancer causing oncogene known as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in animal models. According to the researchers, “a 5-wk dietary treatment of GFE (200 mg/kg diet) significantly reduced the protein expression of EGFR in breast tumors by 56% … Overall, dietary GFE inhibited tumor growth, as measured by wet weight, by 32%.”
  • In another Indian study conducted on various cell lines, soursop leaves showed 80% cell inhibition. The acetogenins in soursop inhibit the harmful compounds in cancer cells (13).
  • A cell study in 1999 showed soursop had anti-prostate cancer and breast cancer activity; another 2002 cell study showed that graviola exhibited anti-hepatoma (liver cancer) activity. Studies performed at the University of Nebraska found that graviola inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.
  • Soursop extract had also inhibited the survival and metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells – and this indicates potential success in curing the lethal disease (14).
  • What possibly makes acetogenins unique is their ability to selectively destroy the cancer cells, without harming the healthy ones (15).

A well-maintained diet consisting of cancer-fighting superfoods such as the soursop can actually reduce the risk of various types of cancer and can also prove to be beneficial in treatment.

 

Soursop Treats Infections

Soursop can treat infections caused by bacteria and parasites, one of those being leishmaniasis, a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through the bites of sand fleas (16) 
The leaves of the soursop tree are also used to treat a wide range of infections (17) 

 

Soursop For Gastrointestinal Health

Soursop is also found to have antiulcer properties. The fruit suppresses oxidative damage and preserves the mucus of the gastric wall (18). The significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the soursop fruit can help improve gastrointestinal health.

In one Brazilian study, the anthelmintic (the ability to kill parasites) properties of soursop leaf extract were studied (19). They studied the effects of a parasitic worm that caused gastrointestinal issues in sheep. The objective of the study was to inspect the effects of soursop towards the eggs and adult forms of the parasite. The study concluded that soursop is a natural anthelmintic, and since it could kill the parasites in sheep that caused them gastrointestinal issues, it might have similar effects in humans. More research is going on, though.

As per another report, excessive doses of oral iron can lead to gastrointestinal issues. Though soursop is a source of iron, the mineral content in the fruit is not as much as other ingredients – hence, it is unlikely to cause gastrointestinal distress. The same fact, again, could work for the benefit of the individual. For instance, an individual suffering from iron deficiency can be susceptible to anemia, which is known to cause dysfunction of the gastrointestinal system. Though soursop is not an excellent source of iron, it does contain iron – and hence can be a healthy addition to an iron-rich diet to combat anemia (and the resultant gastrointestinal problems) (20).

 

Soursop Fight Inflammation

In a Brazilian study, inflammation caused by snakebite was found to improve with the administration of soursop leave and juice (21)  However, the components of soursop might also slightly aggravate the ill effects of snake venom – hence, we need more research in this aspect.

Research in South America and tropical Africa had emphasized on the anti-inflammatory properties of the roots, barks, and leaves of the soursop tree (22). The ability to treat inflammation is good in soursop, and it can be used for relieving arthritis.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory effect, soursop is also known for its analgesic effects(23) 

 

 

Soursop Diabetes Treatment

According to a Nigerian study, soursop possesses anti-diabetic properties. The two groups of rats tested in the study had a significant difference in their blood glucose concentrations, with the group treated by soursop having lower concentrations than the other (24).

The soursop leaf aqueous extract was found to inhibit and even prevent the hepatic oxidative damage caused in diabetes patients (25) 

 

Soursop Kidney And Liver Health

As per one Malaysian study, soursop extract was found to be safe in rats that were being treated for kidney and liver ailments (26) Similar observations could be observed in humans as well.
According to another Indian study, the acetogenins in soursop can kill the malignant cells of 12 types of cancer, with liver cancer being one of them (27).

 

Soursop For Respiratory Health

One Nigerian study states the efficacy of soursop leaves in treating respiratory conditions like asthma (28).

 

Soursop Relieves Stress

As per a report by the University of Connecticut, soursop can be used extensively for the treatment of stress and other issues like depression (29).

 

Soursop For Hypertension

Soursop has been used in folklore for treating hypertension. This can be attributed to the antioxidant potential of phenols in the fruit, according to a Nigerian study (30). As per an Indonesian study report, soursop contains good nutrients that can help lower blood pressure levels in human adults (31).

 

Soursop For Better Immune System

A Korean study states that the intake of soursop can enhance immunity. This can be attributed to the bioactive compounds in the fruit. Oral intake of soursop leaf extracts was found to reduce edema in rat paws, which is usually caused due to a weak immune system (32). The study concludes by stating that soursop leaf extract has the potential to stimulate immunity, and hence can be used in the treatment of immunocompromised patients. Soursop can also be made a part of the diet to improve the overall lifestyle quality.

The juice of the soursop fruit was found to provide more micronutrients than its pulp. But the pulp has more amount of vitamin A than the juice. Soursop is also rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) that strengthens and boosts the immune system. Beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, also contributes to an enhanced immune system.

Another report published in a journal by The University of West Indies talks about a study where patients with different forms of cancer were given different foods, soursop being one of them. The objective of the experiment, as stated in the report, was to enhance the immune system of the patients (33).

 

Soursop Treats Fever

The soursop fruit has been traditionally used to treat fever. In Africa, a decoction of soursop leaves is used to control feverish symptoms and convulsive seizures. In fact, the larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquito (which transmit dengue fever), showed great vulnerability towards soursop extract (34).

As per an Indian study, the soursop fruit and its juice can not only treat fever, but also act as an astringent for diarrhea and dysentery (35) The fruit can help treat fever in children as well; soursop is widely used for this purpose in Africa (36).

 

Soursop Relieves Pain (Analgesic)

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, soursop can work as an analgesic. The mice used in the study were made to writhe, post which the soursop extract was induced in them. The experiment produced desirable results (37).

 

Soursop Treats Rheumatism

According to studies, the internal administration of soursop leaf decoction was found to exhibit anti-rheumatic properties. And the leaves, when cooked and topically applied, helped ease rheumatism and abscesses (38). In Africa, the unripe fruit of soursop is used to treat rheumatism and arthritic pain (39) Even the mashed leaves of the soursop tree are used as a poultice to treat rheumatism.

Soursop also contains anthocyanins, tannins, and alkaloids that exhibit anti-rheumatic effects.

 

Soursop Improves Eye Health

We have seen soursop is replete with antioxidants.

They donate electrons to free radicals, which neutralizes them and prevents them from causing harm. Bottom Line: Antioxidants are molecules that fight damage by free radicals, unstable molecules that can harm cellular structures. Antioxidants do this by giving electrons to the free radicals and neutralizing them.

These antioxidants, especially vitamins C and E, zinc, and beta-carotene, have been found to decrease the risk of eye disease. The antioxidants also reduce oxidative stress, which can otherwise cause cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (40)

 

Adaptive Keyline and Erosion Control with Vetiver grass and Arachis Pintoi

Tropical Permaculture

Here we have a A-typical climate at PermaTree at the edge of the amazonas region in Ecuador. Most of the year too much rain. Too much water. Lots of issue with erosion and high difficulty of access with very steep hills.

Access path with Vetiver and Arachis Pintoi

So to improve this we have implemented something like access path in conjunction with vetiver grass on the falling hill side and additionally been planting Arachis Pintoi to first or foremost cover the soil.

With our very humid climate, swales make no sense. So here its not about the classic water harvesting.
Our focus at PermaTree in the amazonas region is clearly about:

  • Slowing down the water flow (lots and lots of tropical rainfall)
  • Reducing erosion on a micro and macro level
  • Enabling better manual access to the crops (Soursop fruit can get up to 15kg in weight!)
  • Improving the soil quality with nitrogen fixing plants like Arachis Pintoi and Vetiver grass

Adaptive Keyline

To be honest ideally we should of have build first the access path on contour lines  and then plant the crops also on contour. But hey we are learning on the hard way here 🙂

This is why we call this “Adaptive Keyline”.

Using contour plantings such as vetiver grass to hold soil on steep hillsides with crops integrated between rows of contours.

As you can see on the image we have two keyline point / water holes which flow into a pond to store the water. Along this creek we have planted lots of bamboo to again slow down the water flow and increase soil quality with the bamboo root system and bamboo leafs which are a great source of nitrogen.

Also you can see the very green spot – there we initially planted the Achai Pintoi – its so green because it has already spread very well there. on the left side you side that it is still growing and needs some more time to get to the same level of green. On the left side you can see there is no Achai Pintoi yet so we will need to transplant it there too within the next rainy season.

If you look closely you can see where the excess water from the saddle dam is traveling down into the valley towards the pond where the grass is greener and vetiver grasses have been planted. Currently its summer so we cant do any transplanting.

 

Video Adaptive Keyline and Access path

 

Contour Hedgerows

Example of a hill with slope also using Contour Hedgerows. Using contour plantings such as vetiver grass to hold soil on steep hillsides with crops integrated between rows of contours.

 

Vetiver

Vetiver grass = Vetiver is native to India and is one of the best management practices to control erosion. This non-fertile, non-invasive perennial grass as a dense web of roots that binds soil and penetrates vertically to 15 meters.

 

Arachis Pintoi

Arachis pintoi is a forage plant native to Cerrado vegetation in Brazil. It is native to the valleys of the upper São Francisco and the Jequitinhonha rivers of Brazil.

 

Keyline = Keyline design is a landscaping technique of maximizing the beneficial use of the water … of Yeomans’ Keyline design system is the Keyline Scale of Permanence ( KSOP), which was the outcome of 15 years of adaptive experimentation.

Swale = A swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy. … Artificial swales are often infiltration basins, designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.

Contour line = In cartography, a contour line (often just called a “contour”) joins points of equal elevation (height) above a given level, such as mean sea level. A contour map is a map illustrated with contour lines, for example a topographic map, which thus shows valleys and hills, and the steepness or gentleness of slopes.

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

 

Where is PermaTree in Ecuador?

PermaTree is located at the edge of the Andes mountain range and the amazon basin. The Amazon river system has its sources in the eastern flanks of the Andes. The Andes are the longest exposed mountain range of the world, and the second-highest after the Himalayas. The Andes mountain range is the highest mountain range outside Asia.

From this picture you can see on the top left the pacific ocean where the city of Machala is. On the right top side you can see Ecuador biggest city with about 2 million habitants which is Guayaquil. The brownish part in the center is the Sierra. Here on the right side is the colonial city of Cuenca which also has a airport. From the farm to Machala it can be a good 9 hours car ride. If you take the bus it can be longer.

On this picture you get an idea of the elevation and mountains which are around us. Also you can see part of the farm property location. Its not a flat farm 🙂 Lowest part if 800 m.o.s.l. and highest part is 1300 m.o.s.l

Keep in mind the river you see is the Rio Zamora which has more a less an elevation of 800 meters over the sea level. All surrounding it is higher. On the top of this picture you can see some peaks which most likely are some of the many active volcanos of Ecuador. The top of Mount Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is the point on the Earth’s surface most distant from its center. Mount Chimborazo is an inactive volcano in Ecuador, which last erupted over a thousand years ago.

Above is a updated touristic map of the canton de Yantzaza. PermaTree is located in the center where it says “Los Encuentros”. To be fair we haven’t seen 1% of all the things which are displayed here because we are busy building the farm and if we do have a few hours to chill we rather go and have a swim in our own natural pool 🙂

 

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)


   

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.

Challenges – as first time Chicken Owners

Why Chickens?

The main interest of having free-range chickens at our organic farm was, to have real and own organic eggs as food nutrition and the chicken dug for soil fertilizer.

How to start?
But as we were – without knowledge about raising chickens. It was a completely new experience.

First, of course, we were talking to local people about what chicken’s needs are. Most feed them with corn (GMO grains or amendments) or “Balanceado” how they call it, the industrial produced fodder for chickens. So we decided to start with corn and organic matter from the kitchen.

Free-range onto busy streets!
Most chickens, in Latin America, running around free, not like we used to see – behind fences. So, chickens are even walking dangerously on to the road, because people just have their houses there. Poor chicken, without knowing of their chances to run over by a vehicle.

Fence yes or no?
For the start, we decided to put them behind a fence because people also told us there are wild animals which eats chickens. And as our farm is a bit outside in the Amazon region, there are wild animals living and having their home at our farm. The spot, is not fare from our house, above the shower, with a little tree to give them shade. And the tree gives them also a place to sleep when they climb up for bedtime – when the sun gets down around 06:15 p.m.

So our 1.50m fence was built and a ruff house out of wooden and bamboo piece was there too a little water pot from the hardware store – ready!

Beginning and building of the chicken fence.

Time to get chickens!
Now it’s time to buy chickens! The first two, where given for free from neighbors. An other one we bought somewhere. Two others we bought again from someone else and two little ones have been joined a bit later too.

First impression
The first thing which I noticed about chickens was, they all have their own characters. And second, they had a hard involving time to the new mixed clan because there were too many strangers around. They were fighting about the boss role and because the rooster was still too young, to take over this role, the hens where trying hard to get this position. Which was a busy and unsettled atmosphere.

The second thing was, they escaped over the fence. Just flew over and one disappeared in to the woods without turning back. One less! From there we made the fence double the height. So people advised us, rather to cut wings for less escapes by air. Which we did, except for one. The one, which is still alive today, but more about that later.

Higher chicken fence, like it is today.

Time passed but no eggs.
We were now caring well for our new folks but they did not lay eggs! What did we wrong? We asked for advice. We have to give them more free space; they don’t lay eggs when there behind fenced. Well, in Europe or other countries they are also behind fences and do lay eggs – but anyway let’s try it. It might not hurt, we thought.

Free range, the wolf wasn’t far.
So we let them out watched them happily picking around and thought; well then, let’s leave them for a while outside. But not much time passed and our dog, which we had to give away because of this problem, started to hunt our chickens! First, he attacked the little one. Later he found a way to enter, in to the fence and every morning, we saw him inside the fence, with his greedy eyes, by the chickens! Because we cut them the wings, it was very easy for him to finally hunt all the chickens one by one. One morning there was only one chicken to see which was outside the fence – escaped! The escaped one which we did not cut the wings survived with a big shock!

1.50m chicken fence (beginning) and the wolf by my side!

Hero chicken survivor!

Electric fence for the wolf
From that day on, we connected the fence with electricity and bought a few new chickens. Let’s start from scratch, then! The fence worked! crying voice of our dog was to hear when he touched the fence. But that wasn’t a big deal for him, if not at home then I go to the neighbors and hunt what I can. He killed like 30 chickens around the neighborhood and we had to come up for the mess, which wasn’t cheap. At the same day, we sadly had to give him away because we did not wanted a dog who is hunting all the time or has to stay forever at the leash! We found a new family for him and the busy days got calmed down!

What’s the treasure about having chickens laying eggs?
But we still didn’t figure why our chickens do not lay eggs. It was more like every now and one there was an egg in the nest but not like others experiences are talking, one egg per hen. We kept them in the fence and continued feeding them well. People advised us to give them more corn and onions – then they start laying. Well we did that but not much changed. Then we thought, it might be the nests they don’t like, it might be too small for them? We designed a new house with bigger nests and renewed it. What an effort for these chickens!

Challenge of the new chicken house.
But then we had the problem that they didn’t figured the way in because to enter the house they had to excess from the bottom, below the house. Which they weren’t used to do it. We tried to help with little stairs but didn’t helped. We pimped then the house, closed the holes below and made a new big entrance from the side. That was much easier. They started to enter, with the help of spreading corn.

New chicken house with side entrance.

New chicken house with side entrance.

New chicken house under the tree which grow big!

New house but where are the eggs?
But still, there was not much encouragement on laying eggs. But then, one day, I talked to another neighbor, she has also chickens and I was wondering what’s the missing part. She showed me then, that she had always one egg left in the nest. Doesn’t matter if real or a dummy, just has to be the same size and shape like an egg. Must be something psychological, I thought. So we bought some of these cheap eggs and placed 3 in two of the boxes. And viola, it worked! What a success! One just started with her production, that worked well.

Today
Meanwhile, we have two dogs which are not hunting, and we thought you know, now we could actually give it a other try and let them out, free-range. Every morning, we open their gate and they walk happily around. Worked very well! The rooster in front and the clan behind – which is a good sign. The clan has a good vibration they know each other now. Once because we bought them from the same neighbor. Except the one which survived and another one who had promising potential to lay eggs. They told us, but until now not really productive. Anyways, we have happy chickens and even a Jung one from our own breed!

Free-range for our chickens, they like to be near the house.

Chicks – YEY, one survived!
There was a time, one of our hen started to sit permanently on her eggs. Just for food she left her nest and we realized that there is a potential for chicks. After about 20 days the first young chick hatched out of the egg. So exciting!

Chicks with mother. The white one survived.

The chick today.

On the end there were four chicks but only one survived. One drowned in the water pool we had set up. One just in the nest and another one behind the chicken house. Was kind a frustrating because we did not know what occurred. But the only one which survived is still alive and is growing well to a hen! I hope they breed again!

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.

 

guanábana – 4m preparation finalized transplanting fruit trees

After more than 4 month of preparations and planning, this week we have been transplanting about almost 1000 guanábana tropical fruit trees. The plants seem to really like this climate and the geology of step hills here. Wikipedia: It’s tolerant of poor soil and prefers lowland areas between the altitudes of 0 metres to 1200 metres. It cannot stand frost. So in a nutshell perfect for our location at the edge of the amazonas region in Ecuador.

Image: guanabana tropical fruit

You have probably never heard of a guanábana fruit yet. It grows in many parts of the world and is known by many names. In the US&A it’s called “Soursop”. In Spain it is known as “Graviola”, in Ecuador and many other Latin American countries it is known as la ‘Guanábana’ (Annona muricata).

The flavour of the guanábana fruit is delicious – literally like a combination of strawberry and pineapple with an underlying creamy flavor of coconut or banana. Nothing less complex.

Although its rind is quite bitter, the fruit’s flesh is soft, smooth and sweet, and provides healthy carbohydrates as its major nutrient. Guanábana also contains a significant amount of vitamin C and several B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, along with a high amount of alkaline forming calcium, an important mineral for bone health.

During the last 4 month we have been preparing this moment where we would finally transplant the Guanábana trees at finca PermaTree. Due to the fast growing pasture we had to clear cut the 3Ha all by hand before being able to make the specific measurements and then dig all of the holes for the plants. Then we found a high quality supplier for the needed amount of organic matter where we chose to mix two different types together. Every plant got about 1kg of organic matter. After one week of hard work among 7 we did it! Yeah.

New Natural Building Volunteer Structure

After having almost 95% finished the construction of our current PermaTree HQ bamboo house, we started with the next natural building project. Within 3 month we started living in our bamboo house so we improved step by step the construction. The first few month where a bit rough because we had almost no walls within the house and the roof had some issues with the rain 🙂 Now all got fixed.

The new PermaTree volunteer structure

Development Status (9th March 2017) of the base for the new natural structure for our volunteers at PermaTree in Ecuador. Construction material are local wood for the base structure. Top structure / walls and roof structure will be all in bamboo mostly guadua type bamboo which we have been drying here for the last 6 month. Some material need to be organized but most of it is ready and on location.

Also see inspiration for the color of the roof (blue), the roof design (tropical – lots of rain), first sketch of the structure on the white board and last but not least the floating hammock 🙂 Rock n Roll

As you know we have a new volunteer program at PermaTree because we deeply believe in collaboration. We do what we believe. Participation is experiential education; you are learning about permaculture and community by living in it. The most helpful, effective, and happy participants are self-motivated, interested, responsible, and accountable. Here we fully stress collaboration. We are about mutual enrichment and working together. There is no room for people who think they know everything.

Since things like finishing the new volunteer structure take time, ideally you will be able to commit to a 1 month or longer working alongside the PermaTree Volunteer Program. Our goal is to finish this structure before the end of 2017.

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Here we see the volunteer structure with the additional parts for earth quake resistance!

Btina standing in front of the bottom structure – better see the size.

Before and after photo of the volunteer structure base

Before and after photo. The main idea was to not change the landscape at all and “just” build on top of it.

Here is part of our inspiration for this project:

Inspiration: First sketch on the white board / idea Inspiration: Blue Roof Inspiration: Tropical Roof Design Inspiration: Floating Hammock with view