Friday, December 7, 2012

Of compost and drainage and trees

I visited the Permacultura demonstration farm again last week with Maryknoll Lay Missioners Peg (Margarita) and Darren and with Peg's colleague Reynaldo.  Peg and Reynaldo are working with farmers in Monte San Juan, a colonia of Cojutepeque, not far from Suchitoto. 

We had a fine tour through all the careful, ingenious and beautiful arrangements that make this steep and challenging site fertile after only four years of soil improvement.  Angelica showed us some of the many preparations that are used as natural fertilizers, including this barrel of fermenting ooze (the process is sometimes smelly, but the results are great).
At Permacultura, everything is captured and used: the droppings of rabbits and chickens, leaves, weeds, friendly bacteria, the products of the composting outhouse.  Instead of chemical fertilizers that deplete the soil, their compost enriches and strengthens it.  Instead of insecticides, aromatic plants help keep insects away.  Instead of cutting down trees to plant corn and beans, they plant these traditional milpa crops (using heritage seeds) around and among the trees.  The rocks pulled out of the slope are re-used to create drainage basins and pathways.  And nothing of this comes from the store or from a catalogue: it's all work done with local knowledge, local plants, the shape of the land and the changes of the seasons.
Peg and Reynaldo left, saying that they'd be back with more of the farmers from Monte San Juan.  I'll hope to bring more visitors to this place, which always gives me hope for the future.

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