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a Longer Term Opportunity - Build a Life  RSS feed

 
amarynth leroux
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Perhaps there are some Permies out there that can or want to come and work with us. This is envisioned to be a longer term opportunity for those who want to kind of drop out into a fully permacultured sustainable lifestyle and can afford to support themselves for a period of time.

We have 32 Ha (approx 80 acres) forested land in the Yucátan about an hour's drive away from Mérida and 2 hours from Cancun and a little less to Chichen Itza. Our land is in Mayan Forest - 2 seasons, wet and dry, karstic conditions but because nothing has been planted there for over 100 years, very fertile, if one works with it in the right way. We are further surrounded by 2 small Mayan Villages. Idea is to build a self-sufficient lifestyle as well as grow certain crops for market. We have 1 Ha cleared(ish), a well, ready for hugelkultur beds, a well, a developed and designed permaculture homestead plan, as well as perhaps 50 or 60 fruit trees planted and growing fast, and the first greenhouse up. What we have in abundance, is wood, forest knowledge from the local people, water, rocks and a good neighbor doing something similar just a little bit away.

We're planning to build earthbag housing in a simple round-house style and have ample solar power. What is on the list next to do, is of course a lot, but mainly continue planting fruit trees, complete the hugelkultur beds, lay in a common garden, put up some water towers, build animal shelters (chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and perhaps a milking cow or two - kinda the farmyard animals), and a basic common kitchen/work house and a few aquaculture tanks.

When we are at that stage, we can start welcoming folks who want to retreat, folks who want to detox and become healthy (I work as a naturopath), wwoofers, other permies either for projects or festivals, and others. One of us is a certified permaculture designer and we've been living based on permaculture principles (in a city house) for a long time.

We are hoping that we can extend this living situation to 2 perhaps 3 other families/small groups, sharing the workload and sharing the income but not sharing communal angst. For the structure of a shared permaculture community we are open to discussion as to which model to endorse. The land is held in trust as a non-profit association with membership shares.

What you would need :
- a love for the earth, permaculture, trees, animals and just living.
- ability to work according to goals set communally and according to the permaculture design, keeping in mind that we have to be self-sufficient and self-funding and active in the marketplace.
- a feeling that you want to set down roots, build a life and love what you build.
- Age is really not important but children would be wonderful (homeschooled or the local village school)
- Spanish is a must but not a prerequisite - if you focus on it, you can build up to a simple conversation in 3 months, but you have to keep working at it.
- You have to be prepared to cover the costs of your basic needs for a minimum of 2 years, although soon we will have an abundance of food available. Depending on circumstances, you may not need a vehicle. Bike or tricecla to the village and take a bus or other transport from there to get to the city.
- You have to be prepared to carry the cost of building your own house. We estimate a simple round earth bag house complete with solar system at approximately USD10 - 20,000.
- A prerequisite is that you would need to keep a good relationship with the local people based on respect.

We have an abundance of tools and infrastructure available, for example, oil press, grain mill, a massive seed collection, woodworking and tools, woodchipper, etc. Crops for market and other small business and income opportunities can be discussed later.
If you want to chat about this send me an email on calicochris@gmail.com.
 
Freddie Orcut
Posts: 25
Location: New England
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I have a 5 year plan that lands me in Central Guatemala doing a similar set up if I can get my finances in order. Since it is in a similar climate I wanted to ask if you post your progress in a specific thread or even a separate site? My objective is to create a free homestead/school to help with the vast malnourished Guatemalan population. I think watching your progress could really help me!
 
amarynth leroux
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Yes, we are on site now and I will soon start writing about this experience. The exquisite parts and the hard parts - both are there.

This offer is still open to those that feel they want to explore it. I'm just not quick on replies as we have a whole lot of work to be done.
 
amarynth leroux
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Aha, the writing has started, the photos are being taken and we've had some lovely people contact us via this post.

Still we are open. After this week (which I am spending in the town to rest and get a decent shower (grins) .. we should have a website up. We have a fairly functioning tent camp up, some folks on the way to come and visit and see and talk and discuss and others folks kicking tires which is kinda boring and bothersome. I'm getting more short tempered as I go along.

The list of things to do now is quite long and the hardest part is to set priorities and figure what the best thing is to do next.
 
amarynth leroux
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Here on Hacienda Ironwood in the Yucatan, Mexico, we are in need of an experienced or perhaps an enthusiastic natural builder. We have hands. Our own time is a little taken up with other projects, so what we need is ...
- someone who can talk through our building concept and ideas with us, and see what is feasible, and see what we've forgotten
- someone who gets excited looking at local building stone, wood from the forest, earth bags and vernacular roofing
- someone who can work with local hands to get a house (actually 3 roundhouses) built with and for us.
- someone who would like to spend a little time in Mexico, and place this project perhaps on their portfolio

For what is on offer, kindly write the email given in the 1st post. We will follow a formal 'recruitment procedure' .. so, if you have these qualifications, and have the time, and are looking for a fun project in a beautiful forest, with a maya to teach you, and a safe city nearby with much music and culture, please get in touch. Just recently I saw old examples of wattle and daub little houses in our nearest village. Not well done for sure, but there are older skills here.

We are not now in a position to call for volunteers as there is just too much to be done to give sufficient attention.
 
Jeff Hodgins
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I also have a farm in the Yucatanit is 13 acres and it is for sale for 15000 or best offerthere is a Association in Yucatan called haciendas Del mundo Maya they give awaytrees of all types one of their hotels is located a kilometer from my propertywhere I go to get trees
 
amarynth leroux
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Jeff, have you done any local advertising? I know there is an influx of people here. It is hot and dry at the moment though and I'm so glad to invested in that wood chipper for thick mulch under the young trees.
 
amarynth leroux
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Work Done : While it is incredibly hot in this whole part of the world (40 degrees C), the rains to cool the world down have not yet started. What it means is that everything has to be watered and we´ve laid down a thick mulch of woodchips to retain moisture around all of the now approaching 120 fruit trees and the moringa forest. This is very effective to retain moisture but is not the best mulch to use as wood initially uses more carbon to decompose than a system of say chop and drop or a fully functional forest canopy with its 7 layers underneath, which basically looks after itself.

I waited awhile and kept the many herbs and other bits and pieces in the open greenhouse to reduce the use of water and the chore of watering this time of the year.

Other work done is this humongous compost heap. We managed to grab 50 bags of cow manure (greatly prized here as everyone wants it) and built this compost heap with equal quantities of manure, brown material from the forest (a specific tree with an unpronouncable Mayan name is good for this and we collect the fallen leaves) and new fresh greenery. The heap is kept moist and turned regularly and I´m continually amazed at the very fast rate of biomass deterioration. Compost at this scale takes a lot of water and a lot of work to turn but this heap will be ripe in 4 weeks, just in time for the rains to start (she hopes). Then we will reduce the woodchips under the trees and feed everything this new powerful compost, just as the rainy season starts.

With the heat not much more work has been done, excepting to water and to grow all kinds of things (like 20 ginger Zingibers plants) and some other flowery beautiful things. We´re fixing to go and pick up a hedge of timber bamboo. This is a wonderful yellow stem bamboo that grows at a rate of knots. It is a clumping bamboo which makes maintenance much easier.
 
amarynth leroux
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Just a small update on this project. The good news is that all the banana trees have babies and those banana circles are beginning to work. We still have to fill in some local plants under the circles, but we do have about 45 banana trees, so it takes time. The pineapples (we just planted local varieties - ate the pineapple and planted the leafy bits) are also now showing babies and I have visions of banana chips, banana pies, dried pineapple strips and thick pineapple slices with a little cinnamon on the grill. Did I say I am into this thing for the eating. But the good news is that the first cycle of these trees and plants is complete. They are making their babies and will bear fruit for us, well into the future with very little additional work.

Structurally, what we want to accomplish is slowly coming together with much more attention to financially viable permaculture farms being given attention in our permaculture press. We've had Joel Salatin talk about "Stacking Fiefdoms. Creating Multiple Complementary Businesses Under the Umbrella of an Existing Business." and many other articles about how to structure a business specifically for permaculture. It sure is a little different than our normal cutthroat business environment as we are not profit focused, but abundance focused, in all of the aspects of that. “The whole idea is to create customized fiefdoms so that people are autonomous and have the authority to run their own fiefdom within your own umbrella, and you can’t believe how many things you can get done that way.”

Here on Hacienda Ironwood, we should be taking in volunteers after the next 3 months, the website should be complete in another 3 days or so, the structure of the farm with a number of small business opportunities is sorted and we've made progress both on the farm, and in the structuring of the business.

Now, I am looking for a bee farmer, that can come and kick of the beekeeping.
 
Aaron Martz
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Hello Amarynth,
Are you guys hosting now? My girlfriend and I will be flying into Cancun mid-December and are searching for project like yours to volunteer with. Let me know availability and I can send more info about us. Thanks!
 
amarynth leroux
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Yes Aaron, very modestly and mostly short-term while we get our feet wet. In fact, tomorrow we should have 2 volunteers in for a few days. Let me know on email what you have in mind. We're open and will consider reasonable volunteer projects, or include volunteers in our activities.

Currently we are earth bag building, planting, clearing, working on water systems and slowly getting ready to start going to local markets with a small range of products. Let's get together on email.
 
Piper Hewitt
Posts: 3
Location: Keene, NH
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I am a hard worker and fast learner looking to be part of a community and learn the land. I have felt the absence of earth in my heart and am looking for a place to live/give and be happy. I have much to offer and speak a fair amount of Spanish. I sent an email already and hope you will consider me.
 
amarynth leroux
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Got ya covered Piper
 
Laubhras O'leigh
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hey how is everyone? i flew into cancun the other day to study permaculture in the tropics. im half way through my diploma ad im looking for more practical experience implementing. id love to come and volenteer at your place if your in need of any help.
 
amarynth leroux
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Hi Laubhras, Hope you found a volunteering opportunity. I´ve been busy both harvesting and planting and building, so not so much hanging on permies for me.

Bumper Te de Jamaica crop here. Our first bananas are hanging on. We´ve found a cherry tomato that does not mould here and are eating them by the handful. Our green food is just about fully of the land now .. Chaya and Nopales and this strong Kale that withstands this sun that the chickens unfortunately ate up. We´re eating lots of tart and so distinctive taste passion fruit .. beautiful color. 3 Logs of Melipona non stinging bees are in and are happy so far. Chickens are laying up a storm and the ducks are too cute.

Putting on the roof of the first earthbag cottage and the biggish kitchen built with local mamposteria (stone) is ready for its roof.

So, we´ve made some progress.

Early next year we will call volunteers to build 2 earth bag roundhouses - Kaki Hunter style Honey Houses.

No more, gotto go and harvest Te de Jamaica.

 
amarynth leroux
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A longish update on our activities here on Hacienda Ironwood in the forests of the Mayan Yucatan. This was meant to be a new year update, but there is a lot to do and the writing does not always get the attention that it deserves. Usually in permaculture we talk about infrastructure and earth and soil and water and doing good things but it is so sweet when the harvests roll in. If it is not clear yet, I am a permaculturist for the food first!

After a year on this earth, we took down a bumper Te de Jamaica harvest. This is the red tea that is made from a hibiscus variety called Hibiscus sabdariffa. It has some medical properties, the main one is as a blood pressure reducer/regulator. Our tea is wonderful, deep deep red, a good tart taste needing a little honey and it looks beautiful. I have bought this before in the local markets and was always a little put off by the brownish stuff and set out to dry this properly. So, it was sun dried but not in the hot hot sun but with a shade cloth canopy over the drying space. I literally had to resort to storing and hanging the dried calyces in pillow slips because I ran out of space. Now we're working to package it properly in teabags, some with spices and fixing to sell our wonderful tea and the cornucopia of seeds on the local market. For us in this is a perennial, but in colder areas this will work as an annual. I have not tried making wine as they do in China with this versatile plant, but will get there. And this plant is versatile. The green fresh shoots can be prepared like a spinach, a little tougher than spinach but a wonderful color and a bit of a sorrel taste. I love it! Jams and jellies were so easy because the green seedpod contains sufficient pectin and nothing is needed but good raw cane sugar, a bunch of the seedpods and the fresh or dried calyces. Shiny, deep red with a hint of cranberry taste.

Another good harvest is the sweet potatoes .. they are huge, as big as medium size pumpkins I kid you not. I dig up one and make dinner as well as sweet potato chips as well as crisps and have some left over for a pie. That is a beautiful thing in tropical areas to see something that is well known, just burst out of the 'previous knowledge of size constraints'. These things are big, they are part of one developing food forest and will be there next year for harvest again. We will eat for the next few months and then the plants will die down somewhat. At this stage we will again plant some watermelon in this same space.

I wrote previously about our underground rivers with some trepidation about earthworks and berms and swales and keeping water in the root zones of plants in our karstic conditions. After a 6 month test of letting the washing machine run out into a small dip, I'm convinced. Water does not want to stay on the surface here and we cannot use traditional berms and swales. Daily washing, and that dip is dry after an hour or two. The water just disappears like after a tropical rainstorm. A few hours and there is not even a puddle left. Eventually I packed this hole with leaves and faked up a quick berm and swale, and the water still disappeared. So, there is a solution in test at the moment. Higher hugelkultur mounds do not work well for us as the summer tropical rains are too fierce and simply washes the soil layers away. So, I went up and down, combining hugelkultur with raised beds. We dug down, about 1 meter or 3 feet round about, filled this hole with the biggest trees that we've been chopping (we have to chop here, otherwise the forest eats us), and filled that hole. Then, I built it up, like a raised bed, around half a meter. The focus was to create a sponge like area which the hugelkultur base will give us, as well as a growing area that is full of humus and composted material, beautiful to grow in. Sizing is such that we can pop a sun screen roof over it very easily once we get to very hot summer and need more sun protection.

So far, this hugel at the bottom and raised bed on the top concoction is working well. I'm hand watering it so that I have an eye on it daily, and it keeps moist even now that we are in the dry season. The soil is amazingly strange here and the Mayans have some ridiculous number like 57 or more soil classifications which is necessary. We've seen this first hand with trees. One can plant a tree in one area, and just a little away a 2nd tree, and one of them will absolutely thrive, and the other will not.

I planted a bunch of cow peas for a nitrogen fixing crop on this forest floor that I was creating, and could not wait for that to come to fruition, and immediately planted a stack of stuff that was waiting in the greenhouse, including a patch of Hopi Tobacco from one of our members. We're not sure if this will be medicine for smoking or medicine for making ant repellant, perhaps both. You have not seen an ant problem if you have not seen it in the tropics.

All in all it feels as if I've created a very old forest floor. It feels right and good, and perhaps this will solve the 'water nearer to the surface and root zones' in our karstic soil.

Next going into its permanent space is the wonderful red Malabar spinach. It is not quite a spinach as it is a perennial vine. In the colder areas this can be grown as an annual crop where you need some edible vines.

In the mean time I'm getting skilled with cooking nopales. The best best way is to clean a whole fresh leaf and flick-cut the spines off, put it on the barbecue with a little oil, and take it off when browned or even slightly blackened on both sides, cut in strips, put lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper and cream with chopped cilantro. Saturday we had a veggie barbecue and the damage was one whole leaf per person at least and my plants are still young, so, not many harvestable leaves yet. Luckily I have 4 more growing in the greenhouse so we should have ample more for this treatment. Man, those things are nice! with rice and beans. It just fits together.

As you no doubt notice, I'm into permaculture for the food! I'm also tincturing some herbs and the experiment on the shelf is tincture of fresh moringa leaves. Will see .. will see.

Overall, after a year of observation, little steps, adjustments to the permaculture plan, planting, solving problems and dreaming, it all looks good on Hacienda Ironwood.

A lot of our observation has now come to a phase where we can put some plans into operation. The area which I was very weak on initially is forest farming, alley cropping into forests and forest remediation. Our forests have the same problems as others, with indiscriminate harvesting of bigger trees, which allows a bunch of smaller trees to grow and choke everything else. In addition there is indiscriminate hunting. We are surrounded by community owned forests and it took a while to get the message through to the local community (ejido) that hunting on our area is not allowed. We eventually managed to do that, by calling the farm a refuge, and that word seemed to be the magic word.

I came across a wonderful tree, in Mayan culture even a magical and spiritual tree. It is called Ramon. It is a beautiful hardwood, red in the center and flaring out yellow and carries a huge crop of Ramon Nuts. These nuts have fruit around them which can be eaten or processed and the nuts themselves can be used for a very nutty and nutritious flour and roasted for a chocolate tasting coffee. Roasted and well stored, the nuts keep up to 5 years as if fresh. So now, there are some 100 little ramon trees waiting for rainy season to be planted. According to local lore, the Ramon tree was one of the biggest forest trees in our area and in Mayan Holy places one can still see one or two of these usually. Now, there are none in the forest. So that is the beginning of our forest remediation. Up North you may come across the Ramon Flour in health food stores. Try some, it is good stuff.

The one area of a permaculture plan that we've not managed to really kick into gear, is the volunteer plan. We have a 3-layered plan and just recently I had occasion to take a look at Paul's ant village. It was uncanny how similar the two plans are though his of course have the sexy name. The volunteers seem like very hard work for very little return excepting the joy of community. MMmmm .. some development to do here. Our work is not always romantic and immediately fulfilling. Sometimes we have to dig ditches and sometimes the workload is light, like now. We're preparing for planting veg and more fruit trees, sorting seed stocks, making space, turning compost and generally it is somewhat of a quiet time. I'll have to work on this some more to find the magic formula of a happy and fulfilled volunteer that has learned something vs the cost and return.

So this all is what we've been up to. This coming year will be a year of necessary earthworks, building terraces which our land lends itself to, finally kicking the water problem to a solved state and perhaps building some more earthbag round houses and planting a whole lot more food forest and fruit trees. Main objective though is to get ourselves to market with some wonderful products.
 
amarynth leroux
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Here on Hacienda Ironwood we are now settled into a first smallish but very sweet farmer's market and settling into a 2nd market. So, slowly we are turning around to some necessary income. It is also a different feeling to immerse oneself in the outside world a little, after the hard work of the last year and I find myself just chattering too much.

The farm itself is in a quiet stage of maintenance work and preparing for rainy season as we are into our dry period. We try not to plant too much as the watering load becomes immense, but we are building 3 more huge hugel beds (hugel below, raised bed above) and working on masses of mulch and compost (our mulch and compost is basically one thing) to keep piling onto the existing 3 hugel beds. The produce from the existing beds look just outstanding and my hands continually smell of herbs and little things that I keep cutting just to take to the kitchen to make something with. At the moment it is beautiful celery.

In a month of so it will be our time to plant corn (3 sisters style), watermelon, any other melon, cut the dragonfruit shrubs somewhat and replant the cuttings and see if there is any other tree maintenance needed before we start getting rains again. We're painting the stone circles around the trees with what is known here as Kal to discourage the voracious tropical ants that will start coming out of their nooks and crannies looking for food and water soon. Seemingly we're going to pick a stalk of bananas every week now for some time into the future. Bananas drink a lot and the Papayas look just about ready to turn color. I found tiny little breadfruits on one of the older breadfruit trees. It will be a feast if this tree starts bearing now as it is still a little young for that.

So generally a lot of greenhouse type work, planting more of the softer trees like papayas and growing starts for the time that our rainy period starts. There is also some maintenance long put off, like fixing some earth plaster on the earthbag cottage, upgrading a little in water systems and getting some areas with drip irrigation.

The big jobs are to repair our rocky road in spots and to seriously start with construction of terraces. The planning for this needs more discussion but it is time during this relatively quiet period to get on with these jobs.

I wish I could report major permaculture breakthroughs, but now, in dry time, we lend our hands to mundane maintenance tasks so that we can be ready for rainy season. We still have space for permies who want to come and do what we are doing with us ... financially basically true Mollison principles. The idea is in the first post to this thread and in reality, we've proven now that our initial concept can and is working, given that one sticks to the objective, sticks to the permaculture plan, adjust where it is necessary and do the required tasks. Dry season has its rewards as their is more than required hammock time.

 
Valerie Collins
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I loved reading this thread, but there is no recent post. If you have access to this site still, please send an update. I was living vicariously thru these post updates!
 
Frederick Orcutt
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I would love to see an update as well!
I landed in the White Mountains in New Hampshire with my Guatemalan wife and son. We have 500 veggie and herb plants as well as blueberries srrawberries and apples.
I can dream all I want so with that said I hope my son and I can open an English language school in Guatemala in 16 or so years and continue the homesteading dream as well as reach English!
 
amarynth leroux
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OK, an update will follow soon.  Just a lot to do overall. 
 
Leif Ing
Posts: 13
Location: zone 6 (Kansas City)
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chicken forest garden urban
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I'm really interested in this, what a great read. Just getting into urban growing here in Kansas City with my Bolivian wife and reading as much as I can on permaculture. I love the concept and she admits it looks interesting to her too. With only 1/3 of an acre and 5 yr old twins, we've got our work cut out for us... Hoping to move out of town in a few years and have more land (5-10 acres maybe?), but for now investigating making our backyard into a food forest the best we can.

Please keep up the updates, at least from time to time. We have friends here from Honduras and Guatemala and I will share your experiences with them the best I can.
 
Ruth Stout was famous for gardening naked. Just like this tiny ad:
one giant gob of podcasts, videos and stuff
https://permies.com/wiki/37733/digital-market/digital-market/giant-gob-podcasts-videos-stuff
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