Now that I hear it’s nice out in Baltimore, I don’t feel guilty posting a blog about my past few months in Ecuador! I may be far away, but I’m doing my best to think about how I can apply some of my study abroad experiences when I get back to Hopkins.
Among other things….
- I’ve learned composting techniques from a guy who has successfully composted an entire cow.
- I’ve learned the best ways of saving amaranth and quinua seeds, including wild varieties in danger of extinction.
- I’ve cooked and eaten fanesca, a traditional Holy Week soup made from all 12 Ecuadorian grains.
- I’ve made biola, a natural fertilizer, from plant waste, feathers, and urine (not mine!).
- I’ve built biointensive vegetable beds right over the tops of tree stumps and double-turned beds for companion planting “malahierba” (weeds) right in with the celery.
And this is all before I’ve even started wwoofing! But how, you may ask, are these kooky practices at all relevant to our normal old growing methods at the BJP?
Well, for one, I’ve learned a LOT more about seed-saving then I thought I knew last fall. (I’m doing a 90 hour internship at the seed-saving network in Tumbaco, Ecuador). For instance, I should have been using old window screens for threshing instead of cloth bags because screens separate the seed from the chaff about ten million times faster. Looking back at the hours I spent threshing basil makes me laugh now that I have learned how to do it in ten minutes. Screens also help a lot with drying seeds before threshing. I’ve also learned about the importance of community in seed-saving and the importance of sharing seeds with other gardeners and farmers, something that we’ve never done before.
I’ve learned a lot about permaculture in general (through an 11 module class that takes place on Saturdays with people from all over the world) and I think we can start to implement some of the principles that work in Ecuador to make the BJP more sustainable. For instance, our water management can certainly be improved, as we’re already working on through the water implementation project. I think our compost could be improved as well since it doesn’t usually heat up to the correct levels.
I have lots of other thoughts as well, but I will save them for when I see all of you in person and we can talk while harvesting in the fall! By then I will have spent 74 days wwoofing in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, and will hopefully have lots more to share!
Can’t wait to hear what you all have learned this planting season and I’ll see you when the tomatoes are ripe!