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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain

 
master steward
Posts: 6570
Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland. Nearly 70 inches rain a year
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I love that your harvest is in things other than just food crops! Having your family and neighbours get involved and sharing your knowledge is wonderful to see. When I look back at your starting point I hope I am as far forward in growing my food in a few years as you are now - I've a long learning slope ahead of me. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
 
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I have filled almost a 20litre bucket with cobs I am pounding. Being able to make this feed has eased the gap left by what I had hoped to get in terms of value, from the cow peas, but didn't. So far I have sold 2 buckets of maize for $14 and I got $20 for the feed I am making.  So I have managed to raise just over half of the money for digging pits, all from the maize field produce itself. The goal as I will show in the attached diagram is for the field to stand on its own entirely with zero external input requirements and it seems I am getting there one little step at a time.

My hands are so sore though. My target is to fill up a 50kg bag, to match the money I received.
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zero external input requirements
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maize cobs broken for feed
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I am sleeping over at the plot today, Mai Kumbi and her family have gone to their rural home for easter. I have decided to transplant the onion seedlings during this weekend, I will have enough time to care for them. The last seedlings I had victoriously grown dried up, I travelled for three days soon after planting them, and that's when electricity started coming back during the night only, at the plot, and it took some time for Kumbi to readjust his watering schedule to match loadshedding, for powering the pumps.

My sister and I brought our first batch  of duck feed, it's got peanut skins, crushed cobs, maize grains, crushed guavas, eggshells and some salt. We will see how this goes. The ducks have been eating their eggs, they are no longer miltipying, we hope this changes with the feed.

We have also started clearing the maize field in order for us to dig holes. We got our allowance for the month, and subtracted all expences, and we now have saving, from not buying mealie meal and soya mince. After adding savings we have made to the money earned from the maize field plus from veggie sales, I am only a dollar from $60, the money to pay for preparing the field. Instead of outsourcing help, we have decided to try doing the pits just the two of us, my sister and I. That way the value we have earned stays with us a little bit longer.
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onion-transplant
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duck-feed-peanut skins-crushed-cobs-maize grains-crushed guavas-eggshells-salt.
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preparing-field
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I am still at the plot. Kumbi had intended to travel back yesterday, but he failed. I managed to clean the fowl run and got plenty of manure. I decided to divide the free range space into partitions, which will allow a section some time to go undisturbed and hopefully weeds will grow. This idea came after I saw how active and seemingly excited the ducks were when they entered one area that had grown weeds.

My sister dropped by yesterday, we dug a few holes together and all seemed well, at least l didn't hear any complaints. I was surprised today, when my other sister called and offered to pay for help with the digging of holes. I am going to take her offer, one, because even if it was the hard way around, we were going to still have the pits done and secondly, who doesn't want convenience. I am not sure why she felt she had to send, and my fear is we could be having a different understanding economically. Inasmuch as I want us to live a classy comfortable life, I believe we should have some sense of responsibility, where we do not sit and wait to be provided for. Unless if we have a lot of old money that we can use in exchange for services or maybe we marry into money, I don't see how we can sustain ourselves waiting on her to provide. My sister hasn't grown her own roots financially and we will be fools to milk all the money she is making without any thought of the future. What I can do is to do something sensible with the time and money she has bought for me. I will have to come up with a good plan.

I am glad we are all going to visit Laurie and Brent, the founders of Soft Foot Alliance. I was helped to know things differently from the normal, by seeing how the couple is not only working on their Trust, but they are walking the talk. It makes it easier to visualize what I read on the internet because I have some foundation. I hope my sisters can see or at least understand a little more where I am coming from with my thoughts and actions.
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ducks
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field-preparation
 
Nancy Reading
master steward
Posts: 6570
Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland. Nearly 70 inches rain a year
3151
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Hi Rufaro, It sounds to me like both your sisters want to help and be involved in the field project there, which is nice. One sister is able to help with time, the other sister with money. They are both giving what is easiest for them perhaps.

Thank you for introducing us to the Soft Foot Alliance (I guess the 'soft foot' refers to 'treading lightly' on the earth). I found their website here Are they based quite locally to you? Is that where you found out about Permaculture?
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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They are in a different province and yes, they are the ones who made me know about permaculture and opened my eyes to the possible alternatives that we could live life.

When I met them, Laurie was building a mud hut and I didn't understand why someone would move from Europe and instead of staying in a posh neighborhood, choose to stay in a rural home. Almost everyone who has a chance, is moving out of the country or to better neighborhoods. I was so curious to know why and watched them grow.

I was exposed to growing something from nothing and I learnt that it takes effort and resilience to create something and also believing in dreams. I have been exposed to hard work all my life, but I had not been exposed to the creation of a company or organisation, being built from scratch. As opposed to wanting to go to an already perfect space I saw the possibility of creating one.
 
Nancy Reading
master steward
Posts: 6570
Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland. Nearly 70 inches rain a year
3151
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transportation dog forest garden foraging trees books food preservation woodworking wood heat rocket stoves ungarbage
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Rufaro Makamure wrote:As opposed to wanting to go to an already perfect space I saw the possibility of creating one.



This is wonderful. If everyone just coasted along either making do, or seeking for a 'perfect' place rather than creating something where they are, lets just say the world won't get better! The grass isn't always greener over the fence, but it is (almost always) possible to make it greener where you are. I'm glad that you found permaculture and are showing how it can be done too.
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I seem to have gotten the hang of growing seedlings, I have put little effort this time around in caring for the seedlings, so I have put a number of onion seeds down. When I started this year I wanted to plant 2000 onions for the winter season ( it was kind of obvious as I have enough seeds), I wasn't so sure anymore, with how it was with the seedlings. Now I think I can manage to put down 1000 for sure, I have already planted the first 200 seedlings, which I am proud to say are looking healthy, though still hidden within mulch in the vegetable beds and I have expanded my nursery area.

The main field is being cleared. I am a little sad, one of the trees got cut, because the couple that's helping me thought an indegenous thorn bush cannot be anything but a weed in the field. There is an edge that was not cut, so I will tie up the tree and see if it won't survive.

I asked my sister her thoughts which led her to sending me money to help with the digging of the pits. She said it's difficult for her to imagine that we have reached a level where we are this manual. I understand her and I have started working on my facial skin in preparation for our trip. I need the girls' help, it's been so much easier in the past months and I have to keep up appearances if I can win their support for a prolonged time, because presentation matters a lot to them. I am using onion in the morning and then aloe vera during the night, to work on both pimples and then moisturizing the skin.
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Increased onion seedling trays
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The cut tree
The cut tree
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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My sister surprised us greatly, for our birthday. She was saving up most of her share from the monthly saving we were making to buy us cake and to download a dancing video. I never suspected a thing, she is such a darling. My other sister was equally shocked when she came home. This year again my sisters encouraged me to put my own make up and it's getting easier. It was fun to just look good, dance and eat cake.

The trees on my tree nursery (I don't know most of the trees I have I was just planting seeds and did not label them, for now I am just happy I have them), had leaves which were developing some white powdery stuff on the leaves. I am suspecting it had to do with watering inconsistency because since I put the containers with the trees inside the water filled bases, the leaves are now changing for the better. One of the trees now has fruits already.

The onion seedlings are growing beautifully. I  will be planting the second batch today. We have slowed down activities at the field, because we are still being load shedded, which is restricting our ability to pump water. So the only new plants we will be putting are the onion seedlings, within the existing vegetable beds. I have planted beetroots at home though, in a big container, which I have placed under the seedling area. This way we can still have home grown beets.
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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Too many good things have been happening such that I have to write 2 posts following each other. I have been talking about the Gigatonne challenge since December 2021, which is a challenge I believe will build our local capacity to change things economically as a community. The problem has been to even take part in this challenge, we didn't have the capacity, which is why it has taken long for us to complete the first two levels of abating 11 tonnes of carbon emissions within 1 and a half months but I do not think we have any option but to build our potential. We have been building our capability, in terms of skills, connections, resources and encouraging the team members to keep going, we started off struggling to reduce one tonne of carbon emissions, but we have built our team to a level where we almost reduced 10 tonnes of carbon emissions in one month. I was so lucky because every time I needed resources opportunities beyond my control would come. One time someone from this thread sent money he wished to help in greening the earth and some came from what I got from my mother's estate, and when I got stuck my sister sent money towards the challenge. This got us to almost successfully completing the training levels, which we have to self fund.

The last time I went back to my team telling them we have to redo the last training level their hearts sank. Mainly because for most of them (including me), they had reached the last limit their resources could allow them to invest in this challenge including time. So I set out to write a proposal to source some funds. I sent the proposal to one guy who is in the regenerative group in Zimbabwe to help me with how to write a proposal and he went quiet for almost a month. He responded just last week which was a relief and he sent a sample of a proposal and I have just finished and sent a revised one back to him.

I so hope this works, if it does, it means increased stability because I will not be running an isolated regenerative project at the plot. A whole team being nurtured with similar principles will be existing in my community and I  will be a part of them, we can be a support group for each other. I have added images of our local Gigatonne challenge's efforts in the past year, seperating organic waste from the local market's waste, collecting it and burying/composting it at a spot we got at our local dumpsite. This compost can be used to start gardens, if we continue to build our networks with organisations that own large pieces of land. We can them start community gardens.  This has to work, but again if it doesn't it's how it's supposed to be I guess, I will know we tried.
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I made a decision, to keep my health a secret from my family. I would have judged anyone in my position harshly but l am now certain, after I had my first visit to the doctor, that going to the hospital is, for the lack of the right words, a "luxury". I think we are all better off not knowing what the issue is, the last thing I would want is to take even more resources.

My right hand feels heavier and sometimes l feel like it pulls a little bit the inside of my chest. Today my sister asked me if I was okay, I am feeling tired more of late and I find that I am falling asleep frequently during the day. I wish I could tell her but I cannot.

One of the reasons why I am experimenting with growing plants at home in containers is to bring the plants closer to home, my trips to the plot have reduced greatly.
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I went to the plot and the family there is taking good care of the place and they are consistent with the watering schedule, which is great and the digging of the holes is in progress.

My hand has on and off days, it's not painful and I managed to collect a lot of soil which will be enough for me to fill all pots, which I intend to put tomatoes in. I have kept a greenhouse plastic for years with the hope of eventually using it at the plot. I will use some of it to cover the area I will put the pots and maybe successfully grow a few tomato plants at home during the winter.

I am feeling confident with the nursery, I am nursing my own tomatoes and I have planted some marigold as well, which I will fit in with the tomato pot plants.
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Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I have started working on the frame to support the plastic for housing the tomatoes. The first option is to use material that's within the yard. The space I will use already has poles that were for an old washing line, these automatically become the main supports for the frame. I found planks from an old dog kennel, cuttings of PVC pipes, then there are pavers that have been sitting for sometime now as well as some metal bars that are pretty long.

I am using trial and error method to balance pavers, which will carry the metal bars. Once I finish with this, I can work on the "roof" or top of the frame. Starting now will give me some lead time before the plants are ready to be planted.
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Space for pot plants
Space for pot plants
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Metal bars
Metal bars
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Stored pavers
Stored pavers
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Balancing pavers trial and error
Balancing pavers trial and error
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
Posts: 593
Location: Zimbabwe
470
greening the desert
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I have moved miles with the frame, it's getting more and more exciting. I now have the top part partially finished. This time tomorrow, I would have finished and tested whether the frame can hold the plastic or not. Once I am done with this, I can focus on removing stones and papers from the soil, then use the soil to fill the pots.

The plant I thought was a tree, is a chilli plant, I have no recollection of planting chilli's amongst the tree in the nursery. My sister was in stitches and she is surprised at how little l know when it comes to identifying trees. So I will send an image of the different trees I have. If anyone can help with identifying them I will greatly appreciate.
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pollinator
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Hey,
I hope your health is improving.

I just read that a month ago your ducks were eating their eggs: this is usually a sign of protein defficiency. Maize mainly contains carbohydrates.
Is there a way you could feed the duck a protein richer diet? All animal like worms, termites, larvae, etc contain proteins. Otherwise legumes would be a source of protein, if you feed them legume greens (like cowpea leaves, but I know they are too valuable) it would also balance the amino acids, as they need more niacin than chickens.
 
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