Marsha Hanzi

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since Sep 10, 2009
NE Brazil drylands
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Recent posts by Marsha Hanzi

Thank you for this podcast!

As a "female elder" in the Brazilian permaculture movement I certainly appreciate your comments!

I would like to say to Geoff how much I appreciate his work, and what a beautiful person he has become since our meeting two hundred years ago in Manaus!

I don´t know how he can keep up so much full-time passion!

(Marsha Hanzi, in the Brazilian drylands...)

I have just posted a reply to these questions in the arid lads thread of the hugelkultur discussion, giving details of how we combined French intensive double-digging, making trenches, putting clay, wood, bones, and granite, to attract the roots down, then filling in the trenches with compost-enriched soil (it´s white sand here!), topping with generous layers of good-quality sheet mulch. We lined them with logs. The beds are beautiful! Any hubby would love them! They look like beds- only greener!
5 years ago
PS: Just to avoid confusion- this is a different bed from the other mentioned above, which we used to create micro-climates and establish fodder trees in a windy exposed pasture...
5 years ago
Hello from Brazil´s drylands!

We are just at the end of our planting season, which is in the "winter" here- ok don´t laugh! (It DOES go down to 17* here ...Centigrade...)

This year we developed the ultimate garden bed! It has been giving fabulous results. If someone will teach me how, I could post a photo.
We combined French intensive (double-digging), huglekultur, and lasanha Back to Eden type beds all in one! We have had fabulous results in our poor white sand, even in the first year.(Absolutely no signs of nitrogen deficiency)

We dig trenches as you would for double-digging a bed.
We line the trenches with clay to hold in the water , then fill them with rotten wood, charred bones, granite gravel, and a local rock dust rich in boron.
We fill in the trenches, mixing in liberal amounts of semi-composted chicken house compost. (Have to explain: we built a brick box under the roost, and fill it with leaves, scraps, peels, etc., and let them turn it into compost. We even throw in the rabbit droppings and goat dung,. We then just use it or pile it to compost a while- very rich stuff!)
On top of that we put a generous layer of ground up sheet mulch of rich prunings from legume trees ( leucena, mesquite, etc.), sisal sprouts, Opuntia, aloe vera ( native here), and a local solanacea, close relative of the eggplant, which has shown itself to be very rich in minerals and nitrogen. We keep adding to that any time it gets thin.

The bed is very tall at the first, so we put half-rotted tree trunks around the edges to keep the moisture in. But it settles in a few months
We irrigated only once since April. It was the rainy season, but we DO get spells of hot dry weather even so.
The production is a gardener´s dream! Vigorous hallucinating green,tomatoes and tomatillos full of flowers, just coming into production, where the rest of the farm is already bedding down for its summer sleep.
In three weeks´time no one in the region will have any more tomatoes, just when these are coming into production.
These beds are at the skirts of two cashew trees, so they get shade a good part of the day.

We have irrigated only twice (the rains stopped around the 19th of September), so don´t know how long we will actually keep them going, until we move all production into our irrigated shadehouse. We have used only rainwater until now, and don´t really want to use groundwater , although abundant here, because of its high bicarbonate content.

We are really pleased with the results...
5 years ago
Thank you all for the replies. I personally use goats and pigs, who do wonderfully well on the native forbes, but huge tracts of "caatinga" (native brush) are being cut down here to establish pastures, now that farming has become so incertain. Ironically these grasses die in the dry summers, and the farmers save their cattle by running them - in the caatinga... For these ( rather insane) projects they implant the African grasses, though, since the historic drought of last year, many are thinking to reduce herd sizes... I see hope in these cases to use planned holistic grazing to improve the health of the soil ( and of our water table!!!)
The problem with goats here is the expense of keeping them fenced!
5 years ago
I live on a small farm in the semi-arid region of Bahia, rainfall 500 mm.
I have followed the Holistic Management discussion for years, and it really makes sense, and I see that our local farmers ( who always run small herds of animals as well) could hugely benefit from the high impact/long rest principles.
What I am wondering is: why are there no natural grasslands here? We have everything ranging from semi-deciduous forests to brushland, with ephemeral grasses at best, but no real grasslands. The ground cover here is composed of bromelias and agaváceas.
The grasses used in pastures here come from Africa.
Someone once said that when man drove the large herbivores to extinction in this continent, the grasses went with them?
But I still wonder how appropriate is it to introduce perennial grasses to a region which never had them ( at least for the last 10,000 years...)
I have not located people practicing Holistic Management ( especially small-scale) in Brazil (especially teachers!), but they must exist?
Marsha Hanzi
Marizá Epicenter of Culture and Agroecology
Tucano, Bahia
www.marsha.com.br
5 years ago
"We have been digging sunken beds, but it is a great deal of work with pick and shovels to break through the hard compacted layer beneath the loose top sand. (My son joked that the dirt hadn't decided yet if it was sandstone or sand). "

I just received the DVD about Yacouba´s anti-desertification work in the Sahael (Burkina Faso).
He had a stroke of genius: made holes , (his soil is also very hard), filled them with organic matter, and put in termites! The termites help to soften the soil below.
Today we were hauling some semi-rotten wood and were imnpressed that in two week´s time the termites had made a great change in the soil surface below the wood.
5 years ago

For organic matter we have always used sisal ( or other agaves), cactuses, bromelias (including loe Vera) and euforbiáces, all which can create durable organic matter.
We are finally getting trees established, but in the first years we basically relied on these four families of plants to supply us with organic matter, and we still incorporate them into our composts.
And what we glean from the neighborhoos of course! If the farmer says he´s going to burn it, we ask to haul it away... "But Sr. Severino, those cocnut husks are fertilizer" "Oh yes, they are fertilizer!" "Then don´t you want to use them?" "No, I´m going to burn them!"
5 years ago
We oriented the beds against the prevailing dry winds.
The trenches are almost a meter deep, which are filled with mostly rotten cashew wood ( a fairly soft wood), as farmers prune their trees once a year and burn the residue (!). WE also add burnt bones and clay from the bottom of a dry lake, and charcoal if we have some around.
So the beds are about a meter high when finished.
We plant aloe vera on the top ( native here), as it resists the dry conditions.
In the depression at the bottom of the bed we put coconut shells ( easy to get here), and plant the fodder trees in this depression on the leeward side of the mound.
But even on the windward side things grow better than on the level.
I am actually in doubt as to when to seed the beds, as it does seem anti-intuitive to seed them in the hot dry sun.
And we do have a bit of difficulty of covering them- we cut branches from a local legume tree ( very thorny!) or a euforbiacea which is very resistent to drought and which we have in abundance here.
It hasn´t rained yet so we don´t know how these will react in the rainy season- (May) We´re actually in an 80-year drought, pretty dramatic here...(But we are much better off than what we see on the other side of the fence)
But seeing the improvement already, we have high hopes!
By the way , my name is Marsha Hanzi and not Marsha Hatfield, whoever she is...
5 years ago
When you don´t have wood in arid climates: we use dead sisal plants, and collect pods of dried manure which the farmers ask us to remove (!) as the clods cover up the grass...(I suppose that one day they won´t be asking us to remove this material again!
5 years ago