Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seeds in trays

While much of the planet is slowly preparing for winter, we are entering the growing season here.
On the land we are getting the raised beds ready and here at the house I started getting the seeds into trays, so that once the beds are finished the seedlings should be ready to be transplanted.
I decided to grow the seeds at home because we have a covered roof top here, 
at the land we still do not have a nicely shaded, free from rain area for the trays. 
Also here I am catching rain water which will be better than the slightly salty cenote water.

Keenan was once again a great help! First helping to spread the tarp on which we added one bucket of compost and one bucket of bocashi both brought from the land.

 Then we had to bring the dirt (which we had to buy) bucket by bucket from downstairs, 
it was excellent exercise, and Keenan filled the buckets while I lugged them upstairs, dirt was getting in his eyes so he felt he needed to wear protection glasses for this job:)
 Once the dirt was nicely mixed we added mosquito netting to the plastic fruit trays that we have scavenged over the last two days, and added the dirt.

 Then Keenan spent the rest of the time playing in the left over dirt

 And a few pictures of a very happy puddle playing boy

Ahh yes and an update of the snakes from yesterday, as it turns out neither of the three snakes 
were poisonous, not even the one with the arrow shaped head. Apparently many nonvenomous snake have the arrow shaped head, you can tell they are poisonous if the have a pit (hole) between their eye and nostril. Three of the four poisonous snakes here are pit vipers with such a pit, the coral snake or veritable coral which I though it was, does not have an arrow shaped head at all, and the colorful bands extents around the entire body, unlike the one we found which had a solid colored underbelly.
It is so important to be educated about these things as so many 
useful snakes are killed because of our ignorance and because they do such a good job at mimicking the dangerous ones....


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Snakes and compost

Today as we arrived Jose, our main guy, or chepe as the guys call him, told us to be extra careful because many snakes had been seen. One had already been killed, the one below.
The crew has been asked to use extreme care and not kill friendly snakes, but the Maya it seems do not like any snakes and kills on sight no matter what kind. I went home and looked for this one and could not find a match, certainly not with the four venomous kind that live in these parts.
 A few minutes later Kaleena and Keenan yells from the little front house, where they go to get out of the heat, SNAKE SNAKE, everybody runs there, and we find this guy on the inside wall desperately trying to get out through a crack in the ceiling. Miguel had a machete handy and trapped its head, and we all agreed that this was indeed a venomous snake. Even though I have looked through many pictures I could not find a good match, but I am going to guess that this is a variable coral snake, the one that carries the strongest poison, yet is not aggressive, which was true for this one, even though trapped she made no attempt to attack, still we killed it.
I wish there was another way but for now that is a chance we cannot take.
 A few minutes later it was covered with red ants, they are ferocious here, and are also to blame that three of the four hatched chickens did not make it:(
 Finally this little guy, so obviously not dangerous, was also killed just for being a snake.
I plan to really educate myself about these creatures so 
that we do not kill more than absolutely necessary.
Besides snake watching today I also made compost. 
We are entering the best growing season here with rainy season almost at an end.
Now is the time to get seeds into trays, so that when the rains are over seedling are ready for the beds.
The other day we picked up a load of horse manure from some stables down the road, and first off we created a temporary shade for the piles.
(This is also the area where the green house or shaded seedling area will be some day)

 First I added a layer of sticks so that the pile might breathe from below. Water!!
 then a layer of dried leaves, or anything dried, hay, straw or even newspaper. Water!!
 then a layer of green leaves, legumes are great (we had just a few wild beans) as they are all nitrogen fixers and add nitrogen to the soil that is being created, though any green leaves will do. Water!!
 then a layer of manure. Water!!
 lots and lots of water between each layer
layers continue like this until the pile is approximately  3 by 3 by 3 feet
 Then a final layer of cenote sediments, or garden soil. Then some more water!!
I will check daily for the heat and moisture level and make sure to poke a stick in daily to bring air, and in a couple of weeks I turn the pile completely. 
In a months time with this heat it should be ready. Lovely hummus compost for the growing beds.
By then a few of these beds will also be ready. 
Due to the lack of soil and abundance of rocks, we have to raise the beds and then build the soil.
We are making the first two of many beds, these will be rectangular and measure 80 cm wide, 
so that we can easily reach the center. 
They will be 50cm high and between 4 and 5 meters long. 
Once they are done I will sheet mulch directly into these beds to build the soil.
The first two will like use mostly cenote sediments, just to get started. 
 Meanwhile other places around the land; the team's living quarters and kitchen, as well as the workshop and storage area is moving along nicely. Also the composting toilet for this area is in progress.
 Linus, like the rest of us, does his best to deal with the heat:)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

House progress

Once all the beams were up an extra piece was added to the center beam, and a circular piece was added to the upper cross beam. I love to observe how the crew works, everything done by hand. 
The circular piece was made by several smaller straight piece cut 
tung and groove style each fitting into the other and bolted together.
(please excuse my limited knowledge of technical building terms)

Then the rafters were added (not sure of the correct word)
I love how it looked when standing inside the house and looking up, just like a beautiful sun.
When this was done we were still thinking that we would have a palapa roof.
Once the decision was made to do a ferrocement roof we had to wait for a few more rafters to arrive to help support the added weight.

Meanwhile the two cisterns in the basement were almost completed. 
Each cistern will be able to hold about 11000 liters of rain water. 
Considering that we will have a dry toilet, hence no flushing, which is where 
most of our household water usage stems from, 
that should cover, if not all, then most of our water needs.

 The two tanks are connected. 
Apparently it works better to have two tanks as oppose to one big tank, and this has to do with the solar pump that will bring the water to the tank on the roof, and the levels inside the tanks. 
The tanks will also have an overflow valve.

 Here is Keenan, a well liked visiter at the work site, 
walking around what will hold all the waste from the dry toilet.
 It has been filled up to ground level and slanted a certain percentage, which I cannot recall right now, 
This allows for the urine to run off into a separate space. 
I have seen these spaces in house where the system is in use, and there is no odor... amazingly. 
The added sawdust as well as the toilet paper creates the balance needed for 
perfect decomposition, and it is fast.
You have a trap door that opens out, and every so often 
you shovel an amount of the humanure out, 
leave it in the sun for a few weeks and add it to your garden ( on the none edible plants )
We will certainly be getting in touch, very literally, with our personal waste.
 Quite different from flushing the toilet and never give much thought as to where it all goes. 
More on this once I have lived with for a while:)
Kaleena is standing on the upper slant, and the floor will of course be sealed with cement.
Finally the last rafters arrived and look how pretty. 
They are doing such wonderful work.
For while we thought that we would be 
building this house, that has turned out not to be the case.
Time concerns being of the main reasons, and also our lack of expertise in masonry.
 A complete beautiful sun!
 Like I mentioned Keenan loves to spend time at the building site, he can sit for the longest time just watching, then later he will in some way mimic 
what he has observed and bring it into his play.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The past week

Lots of activity on the Land this week. 
At the beginning of the week we did lots of transplanting of seedlings, all from seeds of fruits we have eaten, mostly avocado, mango and papaya. We also transplanted little tree saplings from The Royal Ponsienna that were growing crowded together in a small spot at the front of the land.
We planted the first mango tree on the land from a seed we sprouted when we first arrived.
We plan to grow as many fruit trees as we can reasonably fit. 
Already on the land before we arrived was about 40 citric trees, mandarines, 
sour oranges (huge in mexican cooking) sweet oranges, lemon and limes and a couple of other species.
Growing trees with deep tap roots such a the mango is a bit challenging here, as the depth of soil in any given area is very shallow. We have "breathers" all around, these are holes in the rock that open to the underground rivers and cenotes, and when we find small openings we plant trees such a mango here.

 Kaleena was very inspired, and planted many little plants that she plans to plant in an area around the house for her to take care of, her own garden as she says. 
Then we started clearing out this area which is right next to the kitchen, I plan to keep many different types of herbs here. So far we have added sweet basil, the local basil variety, and a few varieties of mint, also 6 larger papaya trees and also some chaya cuttings gifted to us by a friend( as of yet I do not know much of this plant, only that it is well loved here and considered very nutritious).
 Later once I have more things sprouted I will also add medicinal herbs, 
tomatoes and other culinary herbs. 
 Keenan was a great help with his wheel barrow, he is such a good worker!!
 Even though surely it looks hot, it is hard to appreciate from a picture how insanely hot it is working in this intense heat. This particular day left me with a splitting headache that whole night.
To make sure that we drink enough liquid is essential and still it 
wears you out unlike anything I have ever experienced. 
It is a must to get into the shade every so often to bring the body heat just a bit lower.

Once we had removed the weeds we added a layer of mulch from the cenote and then a thick layer of 
cenote sediments, I will add some compost and finish off with a layer of bark mulch collected from all the trees used in the construction.
 The next day we were fortunate to have some heavy rains, 
and it was a welcome relief to work wet and cool.
 Far from done, but already so much nicer looking...
Yesterday a new rooster arrived to the land, the old one was not doing his job properly. 
The rooster plays an important role in the keeping of the flock, he protects them and leads them to their roosting sticks at night, a good rooster will also bring food to all his ladies, a true gentleman.
 Also we wanted to diversify the blood lines and last week 10 new hens arrived.
The new hens and the new rooster were kept for the day in the new, beautifully constructed hen house, 
 to get acquainted.
Isn't he a handsome rooster, so beautiful and really friendly.
The hen house is so lovely, I really like how it came out, complete with roosting sticks and all.
There is a little door that allows them out to the grazing area. 
There are three grazing area between which they alternate.
As of yet, I know very little about the art of keeping chickens, but I am looking forward to learn all I can.

 And so as the old rooster was no longer needed he became food for us.
Neither Keenan nor Kaleena have ever seen and animal killed as such before, and both were fascinated, though both also wanted to save the poor creature.
Considering that we are currently eating some meat in our diet, I think it is a valuable lesson for the children to see and to know how the animal is killed, it puts eating meat in a different perspective than for example just picking it up in meat department of the super market.

As I was working in the garden this praying mantis came around and as I was taking a picture of him he started attacking with his front legs, so alien these creatures, and quite aggressive, I was surprised at his courage considering how big even my hand is compared to him.
 In the back of the land the water is slowly receding.
It is currently much like a wet meadow, filled with wild flowers and many birds and insects.
It is lovely and so peaceful, and Kaleena says she will spend lots of time there when 
we live on the land.

We are thinking that it will make the most sense to leave it a somewhat wild place, but allowing for human access, perhaps by an elevated wooden pathway to the center of the laguna, with a small deck a hammock or a comfy chair, a perfect spot for bird watching.
In the dry season we will find a different use for it.

 The same thoughts have been occurring to us about the cenote.
Rather than to clean the entire cenote we thought we might keep parts of it wild.
We are hoping that we can create some kind of walkway into the grassy area, 
with perhaps some kind of observation deck/area. 
There are the possibilities of creating little connecting islands through the big trees already there.
We shall see how we do, but the point being that we think it better to allow for wilderness with access to safely experience this wilderness. Then tame other areas for human living and enjoyment.
Creating a nice balance of allowing for nature to be, while also allowing for humans to safely enjoy!
We humans have such a tendency to come in and take over, such as cleaning out the entire cenote, removing all the sediments to allow for a crystal clear pristine swimming hole.
The more we thought about it the less it made sense, 
we will still have a pristine clear swimming hole, just smaller.
Loving the organic process of observing the place, really watching nature and then allowing for things to unfold slowly and naturally. 

 We moved Kaleena's school to the shady area by the cenote and considering that it was the first week I think it went alright, we did have a bit of catching up to do today though.
I went back to somewhat following a Waldorf curriculum.
I like how they present basic grammar through animal fables while at the same time 
learning about the animals and human behavior.
And I really appreciate how this approach catches Kaleena's attention.
 Meanwhile Keenan finds plenty to do, life on the Land is truly right up his alley.
He finds so many tasks to imitate, it is a joy to observe.

Well that was a long post, thanks for staying with me for this long, I would have broken it up, 
but found no time during the week to post.