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Biodiversified Agroforestry Stories and Tips  RSS feed

 
Jeff Hodgins
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Inside the slash and burn culture of the yucatan
`When I told the folks working for me on my new farm that I didn't want to slash and burn they said things like. "How will you get the fertilizer from the wood?","What about this mess? Burn it" and "It'll take a long time for this wood to rot". "The longer the better" I said. "Your crazy and have weird ideas Gringo"
They had a good laugh at the crazy gringo. Then over a number of days they tried to convince me to burn it. So I started to explain how although burning gives instant results, much of the value is lost in the process. Then they argued about the mess again and I replied "Is it a mess? Or is it a free trellis system for my vines". "Yes you sure do think differently". they said. "But surely you'll have us burn the wasp nests". I then pointed out that in town there were many mosquitos and out here almost none and that this was most likely due to the high wasp population in the area.
As we cleared the land I would point out any plant that was different than the rest (mostly weedy crabapple type trees). What is it and is it good for anything, types of questions. Soon I was telling them not to cut certine trees.before long it turned into  more of an identification expidition than a clearing one. The diversity and frequency of useful plants was amazing. There was an abundance of a luceanea species a bit difrent from traditianal guajes but much more edible if you ask me. They told my my hair would fall out from eating them but to this day I have a full head of hair. Due to the abundance of this tree I made a point of takeing them with me everywere and eating them infront of as many people as posible  in order to atract attention. I would then explain how rich they all were for owning such trees and that perhaps we should make vegetable oil from them.  "He's not crazy?" the women would ask the men who were with me "I don't know. He says its his food.
Anyway later we found some dragonfruit vines and we used them to plant about 500-800 new plants. We used a tree called "cha-ka" as a host for the parisitic vines. We were lucky to have alot of cha-ka and dragon fruit  growing wild on the property. We also found some siruela (fruit trees)wich we cut down and made about 100 new trees from. I bought about 100 more mixed trees from  the town's people. They were uailla cubana, coconut, banana, mango and guava. We also planted guanacastle, guasuntle, vainas, sirimuyu, corn, beans, squash, watermelon, sorghum and something I'll call "floating almonds" for lack of a name (sorry for the non-english names). 
ultimatly I did burn some grass which was too labour intensive to cut and posed a fire hazard for the crops, due to the neibors  uncontrolled burning.  As soon as there is some shade the grass will die out and I won't have this problem.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Thank you for sharing.
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Good Stuff
 
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