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Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: Western Kenya
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Now that I can post again... some updates.  Geez its been so long I don't know where to begin...

One of my last permies posts was a plea for help in time and energy management.  I wasn't doing very well keeping up with the workload.  It did not escape my husbands notice, and led to some big ugly arguments, and the involuntary reduction of my garden area. 

But after the initial anger and offence, I decided a smaller area was quite okay, as I was better able to manage it and manage it well.  So currently I manage the toilet bowl (a ravine that probably covers 1/2 an acre), the upper banana forest (Maybe 1/16th of an acre) and the yard (maybe 1/8th of an acre).  And  the husband leased out about an acre, and has his projects in the remaining.  Of course one of the leasees is planting maize with chemical fertilizers, but that is beyond my control at this point.

Anyway, I'm okay with this arrangement, and I think I'll keep it this way, and refuse to take on any more space, even if its offered back to me.  I sat down, replanned everything so that I still get everything I want, albeit squeezed in smaller space.  In fact since I am doing so much better in managing the smaller area, I don't think the actual quantity of production will be adversely affected.

I have been working at it faithfully.  I terraced the hillside going down into the ravine, creating additional growing space, which will be mostly for perennial vegetables and cassavas.  I have a 3 sisters plot, a couple rows of sweet potatoes, a plot of peanuts, a plot of bambura ground nuts, and my standard veggie garden.  Scattered inside all the plots are bananas, taro, sugarcane, Napier grass, pineapples, papayas, pigeon pea, and tropical fruit trees... I'm probably forgetting some stuff.

I have also added some to our animal production since my last report. 4 new ducklings were hatched, and 5 chicks (which will be four soon, as one is dying).  I sold and/or ate most of the young roosters from the previous hatch.  (9 chicks hatched, only 1 hen and 8 roosters!). I used the profits to buy 2 new hens - and add some much needed fresh genetics to my little flock.  (One if them is the naked-neck variety.).

I had one lonely old rabbit who has lived alone for a couple years because the rabbit hutch at our old house was in terrible condition.  I finally designed and started building a new hutch at our new house for a new rabbit project.  It will have five large cages: one for the breeding buck, one for does, one maternity ward, one for weanlings, and one for sale/eating stock.  I have finished two cages (doing one a month) and have added my poor lonely male two lovely wives.  The first if which has already given us 5 beautiful kits.  I LOVE baby rabbits second only to baby ducks.

I have also rented a shop which has on-grid electricity power with the plan of running my incubator again.  I hope to raise Poultry for sale as well as rebuild my own flocks.

Well, that's a good overview of what's growing on here.  Are we making progress or going backward?  I hope we are making progress!
 
Dave de Basque
Posts: 131
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Hi Maureen, I always love hearing what you're up to!

I think you are progressing, a lot! Doing more with less is what the future is all about, isn't it?

Terracing the hillside going down into the toilet bowl sounds like quite an undertaking, and a very good idea! Any chance you can post a photo? Are your terraces perfectly level (or as much as you can make them)? Or do they tilt back into the hillside or down into the ravine, or to one side or the other to run the water a bit? Are you pretty confident the terracing will survive the rainy season?

You seem to have gotten back into the animal business very quickly after previous reverses, good on you! How far away is this shop you're renting? You always describe your property as being so far from everything!

Anyway, glad to have you back!

 
Christoph Day
Posts: 6
Location: Talakag/Bukidnon/Mindanao/Philippines
1
forest garden greening the desert tiny house
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Maureen Atsali wrote:The challenges...
-All of the soil issues I have touched on before.  It has improved, but it is still pretty pathetic.  I dump all the mulch and compost on it I can, but the tropical conditions eat through it faster than I produce it.  As for the erosion factor, I haven't done much about that yet, except to try and keep the soil covered in mulch, planted, or otherwise undisturbed.  More erosion control is on the to do list this year.
- By far my biggest losses come from my nearby neighbors - on two fronts.  Their domestic animals which escape or free range onto my property.  Cows, pigs and chickens.  And its not just accidental... I have found their cows TIED in my garden. Secondly thieves of the two legged variety.  They will steal anything.  Sugarcane, greens, fruits, fish from the pond, the dog's chains. The man next door tries to sneak in and cut my Napier grass for his cows.  This last fall my husband caught 4 of that man's kids digging up sweet potatoes and hiding them in the coat of the littlest one.  A few weeks ago someone dug up two young papaya trees that were about 4 feet tall and took the whole trees.  This is a cultural problem here...people pull each other down.  This mentality of "if I can't succeed, neither should you."  Aside from that, especially during the dry season, people are experiencing hunger. 

My husband thinks a good fence will curb that problem.  I am not so optimistic.  It might deter the animals, but I think it will just be a challenge to the people.  Either way, we can't afford to fence the entire 2.5 acres right now, and we have so many other projects on the table.  And projects are a subject for another post.

- The third challenge is ME.  I pretty much handle all the farm work alone.  My husband hates farm work, probably because he was forced to do it as a child.  He runs a tree and timber service.  I love the farm work, but find 2.5 acres an awful lot for one person to manage.  And I am slightly disabled and there is no mechanization.  I can only put in about 2 hours of hard labor a day.  Ohh and add to that that I am highly distractable.  I get side tracked, have too many things going at once, and have a hard time finishing a project.

Fourth is finances.  We survive on 400 USD a month, give or take.  Because we have no debt and no bills and life is fairly cheap here, we are able to survive. But it doesn't leave much for savings, investments, improvements, or emergencies.  We had a terrible problem last month when my 13 yo needed an emergency surgery.  Really opened my eyes for the need of some reserve, which really requires more income.

Always open to new ideas in solving these problems!



Hi Maureen,

I am on the Philippines since 2008. There I work on 4.5 ha. I have made much similar experiences and so I have also thought about solutions to problems we have in common. At least it's great, that you are already able to feed many people with what you grow on your farm. I just go through this post from the beginning:
- Erosion: I am planing to make canals along the niveau lines. For this I mow down the bushy area with a bush scythe and then find the niveau lines using a hoss niveller. The hoss niveller ismade od 2 straight stcks, 2 nails and a 5+m transparent hoss. The ends of the hoss are nailed on the upper end on a 1.5m and 1.65m long stick. The longer stick gets a mark at the hight of 15 cm. This Stick is pushed into the soil unto the mark. Then you let the other stick stand beside the first and mark both at the same hight around 50cm below the top. Then you fill the hoss with water (may be colored) up to the mark. Then you go with the second stick along the niveau line. In a distance of 2 to 3 m you look for the point with the same level than the 1st stick. This is there where the water level is at the mark when you let the stick stand on the soil. There you push another stick into the soil as marker. Then you go back to the 1st stick and push another stick as marker into the soil. Then you go with the longer stick of your niveller to the 1st mark and repeat the process. I plan to digg above the lines and bud up and compact the soil below. Then pull the mulch over the so created hill. The hill I plant with a dense line of Nappier grass and maybe Vetiver Grass which is very good for erosion controll and even naturally forming terasses. The young shoots (up to 1.5m high of Nappier grass we (My 5 year old son Pasquale and I) eat. They are sweet and juicy. The fibres which we can not cut with our teath we spit out after removing the juice and soft tissues through thorough jewing. This is a complete food and if you eat additional leaves of herbs, bushes and trees and flowers, you get the cross-yests for digesting the grass and additional clorophyll. In the nght, I can feel that my body repairs its cells after I had eaten like 10 to 20 sticks of Naper grass. And a month ago I had 3 single weeks with little interruption, where I ate much Napier grass beside fern, other greens and few fruits. There a tooth which was broken and already covered with meat, started to grow again. On the hill I want also to plant other plants like Banana and Papaya. Above the canal I want to plant cover crops to be mowed regularly to get mulch for the hils. The more the area shapes into terasses, the more you can plant higher feeding plants on the terrases. The problem with hale, we don't have. Strong rain we have also. I saw to 2 drawings about rainfall. The first showed a land bare of forest and only the high mountains are having forest. There around the high mountans are short (few minutes to few hours) strong rains. Ths is our situation and we are near high mountains. The other drawing showed a land covered with forest and there is longer equal distributed misty rain. In Malaysa (on Borneo) is a project were a big forest was planted and they got regular rain back. Even neighboring areas benefith from this project. Only during tmes of strong winds the clowds are blown away. I came also across Mucuna bracteata, a Velvet bean which can buid up 30cm of humus and organic matter in 3 years. I red you planted already amaranth which brings P into the soil. This is what the Mucuna bracteata needs. In the first year it grows slow. From then on very fast. It's not easy to get seeds. It's also still on my list. Else I also started to collect different kinds of cover crops locally. I also made the experience that seeds are hard to import and if this was possible, many didn't grow.
- I want to plant thorny bamboo around my farm. This makes a dense unpassable thicket. The shoots are eadible (at least cooked). I tried already to make seedlings from cuttings. Most are growing. First I have to secure the boundaries, which is a complicated thing because our neighbours trespassed on almost each side of the farm, there is no law, the local Government don't work and the Department for Environment and Natural Resources is affraid to go there to settle the boundaries. There is one Ombudsman for the whole Island of Mindanao. Currently I write a report when I have some spare time. We have here the same cultural problem. My brother in law said it is different in his town. If somebody is successfull with something, others try to make it even better. This seems to be few excemptions.
- Your third challenge ist also my challenge. Except that I am not disabled and my wife loves farm work but wants her own projects where she want to ignore that the soil is infertil which reflects in the results and on. Principally I don't need my own projects, if I have somebody to guide on a meaningfull way that makes sense and is sound, I am verry willing to follow. But this I don't have, so I have to deside for the projects to be done and I have to do them as well. In one or two weeks I want to go to the capital of our Province to look for Nastus Elatus (good to eate raw - another Power food) Bamboo cuttngs. There I want to post a bill at the universitiy for agriculture students who want to be my companions. I offer food, accommodation and a share of profit.
I am interested, how you keep your animals. We had pigs, but they didn't grow well, maybe because of the infertil soil. May be I can adapt some of your practices.
best regards
Christoph
 
Christoph Day
Posts: 6
Location: Talakag/Bukidnon/Mindanao/Philippines
1
forest garden greening the desert tiny house
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I was reading further in your posts and give some thoughts together:
You said, you made a salad from the weeds. That is very good, because weeds have 10 to 80 and more times the nutrients than their cultivated relatives have. In addition I red in “Die Kulturpflanzen der Tropen und Subtropen” that people in those regions should eat more green leaves to escape protein deficiency. At the moment I eat mostly cooked food and I observed that If I have around 60% non-starch vegetables, I can stand the time between meals easy, while if I eat maize or rice with very little dried fish (very salty). I am mostly hungry before the next meal even I had eaten twice as much rice or maize than if I have vegetables.
Head-Letuce seeds are sold in tropical countries, because they can grow in the highlands at 1500m and above.
The same with Lentils. We planted Lentils on around 700m above sea level and they did not flower even after one year.
Sweet Pepper: it germinates very irregularly. This also the Bingenheimer Saatgut AG stated. When I was sewing Sweet Pepper this year in a seedbox with 1” diameter rolls of banana leaves filled with compost, Seedlings germinated over a period of 3 month. The fastest were those we had forgotten for a few weeks in a bowl. The bowl was exposed to rain and so the seeds were soaked in water for weeks.
Unsupportive spouses: as you might have also noticed already – I also have this. And I just let her now doing what she wants, anyway she don’t make much changes on the farm. I engage myself with others and since she noticed that I did this, she even became a little bit nicer. Lately a Moslem bought some trees (fast growing Legium- and shade tree) from me. He saw my ram pump and invited me to come over to his uncle and to his father in law to plan and realize water supply systems with ram pump. When I arrived at the father in laws place, I learned that he is also practicing organic farming. They directly started digging for a reservoir. Sadly later the son of the owner of the place, which had allowed the operation, stopped us. Now they must look for another spring. What I want to say with this is: It’s much more enjoyable to be with conscious people with a progressive drive.
When you were talking about carrying the water I thought this could be something for you. Small Ram Pumps can work with as little as 3l/min of Water. After I was with the people which started digging for the reservoir, I finished and published my report about my own Ram Pump Project. I Still had some questions and the owner of the forum answered them and now I have a bunch of tasks which shall insure, that my Ram Pump will run smooth as soon as I have accomplished my tasks. He encurraged me also to make additional a small Ram Pump for drinking water. While doing this, I could also help you with planning your own Ram Pump. This small Ram Pump could cost you around $100.- + piping and may be a storage tank and some labour for digging canals for the pipes and reservoir and may be a little foundation or core (for safety with lid) for the Ram Pump.
I would be interested in the seed source from china which you found. That’s also interesting for my location.
Do I understand it correct, that your house is made of mud? Did you use a foundation? If Yes what material did you use and how thick? Did you make a wall out of natural stones one to two feet above ground and started with the cob then or did you start with cob direct on the ground? I saw a sketches and pictures of houses in Ghana where they start with the cob direct above ground, but it looks like arid climate there. The climate on your place is more similar to ours. That’s why I ask. What is the make of your floor? I live in a house with lots of wood borer and I want to build houses of mud in the future.
Pleasant thoughts and best regards
Christoph
 
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