The States (Atlanta) is a totally different world than Nicaragua (and Costa Rica too). But the following will be a comparison b/w ATL and Ometepe.
In Atlanta everything is cushy and comfortable. People ride in cars with AC, houses with AC, restaurants with AC, etc... So nobody sweats. People are totally separated from the outside world, windows are well sealed, doors have no gaps so the outside world stays isolated from the "civilized" world of humans. The pace of life is fast, everybody has everything to do, even if they don't have anything to do, right? The city is huge, the suburbs are sprawling and the growth continues. Also, all the chickens are frozen in the mega-super grocery stores, the vegetables are not on vines, and the juices not inside the fruit still. They taste bad b/c they are not fresh. This may sound cynical - & I openly admit that it is. The "city" is the birth place of the American Dream, which contradicts the Gospel. The American Dream is basically the idea of bigger is better! More is better! Fancy is better! Material wealth is the goal, so bring it on baby, I want the promotion! Gotta get the convertible! Whats the next purchase I can make to flaunt wealth, and be the next best status symbol? And why I am cynical and a bit hostile toward the "Dream" is because it has had a hard to estimate influence on the the US Church, the Bride of Christ. We have settled, sold ourselves short for a wishy-washy gospel. God is love, He accepts all without question! - This is not true! It is true that He takes in as His own child anyone willing to confess and repent of their previous lives of disobedience, willing to fully - by God's grace - submit all they are to the will and reign of Christ, so that He can be Lord of their lives. And, yes He is love! Absolutely! But He is equally strong, powerful, almighty, full of righteous anger over sin, tending toward unmatched justice and subsequent wrath for those who refuse to submit. Christ is a lion! He is victorious and strong, subduing all enemies of the cross in due time, and having conquered death, He is soon to destroy Satan! These are the very surface levels of how the Church has allowed for secularist ideas to creep unnoticed into it's teaching. The Gospel is adulterated in the US!
Basically Laura, Nelta and I are helping in an already very fruitful garden, thanks to Roberto (top right)! So for we have begun a large compost pit (dug to about 1.5 ft - 2 ft deep) (right, before it was full), another above ground compost pile (piled up about 3 ft). For composting, one of the best methods is to layer one in the following order:
- Dry organic materials (ex: dried weeds, dried corn stalks, dried banana leaves)
- Fresh green organic materials (ex: food scraps, freshly pulled weeds, banana leaves, etc...)
- Any kind of manure - fresh, dry, whatever is available ... preferably goat, chicken, cow or horse ... not sure about dog dump? - This is vitally important as a nitrogen source.
- A light layer of soil for the introduction of soil microbes to increase decomposition rate
- Water each layer a little bit, to aid in the beginning of decomposition ... then repeat the layers!
Typically a good compost will take 4 to 6 months depending on the environment and climate (Wet & humid climates will be faster, dry climates slower). We have as well employed a soil improvement technique called a fertility trench, with a terraced bed on either side of the trench. The terraced beds are raised several inches above grade. In the top most bed we just sowed radish (back terrace in picture), in the trench we sowed carrots (middle in picture), and in the lowest terrace we sowed lettuce (1st in picture)!
The children help us in the garden for about two hours each day before they go off and get ready for school ... school starts at 12 pm. We have about 3 or 4 children a day helping us, and they rotate throughout the week. Here are a few more pictures...
- This is Darrell (left) ... watering the compost pit after piling on several layers one day
- This is Jefferson, Jimmy, and Darrell (top right) ... posing after working one morning ... Jimmy is just like this picture portrays him ... kind of a punk, but I love him. He has had a very difficult life.
- This is Marjorie and Dunia (bottom right) ... Marjorie is my age and grew up at the orphanage - CICRIN, and Dunia is 2 & hilarious!
As for life on the island, its hot and dry! We live in the shadow of a very active volcano ... Concepción. It has spewed ash at various times ... and it is always looming pleasantly overhead. I want to climb it, but with as active as it has been it is closed to hiking/climbing. Within the last week it spewed ash about a mile into the air! The picture does it no justice ... but I was speechless ... yet there was no noise to accompany such a display of power! One my favorite parts of CICRIN is that we are on the west coast of Ometepe, meaning we get to watch the master Painter create a new masterpiece every evening as the sunsets ... and He never disappoints!
Now as for future projects in the garden, Roberto and the three of us want to implement several other appropriate technology demonstrations. Well, one is not so much AT, but just a learning or demonstration garden for the children to have fun with. The main garden is too important to "play in," but we want the kids to develop a liking to gardening, because for most of them it will be a mains of feeding themselves later on - like most of the rest of the world, which we Staters know very little about, but that is a different subject for a different time. So, we want to design and begin a demonstration garden were the kids can explore and experiment with different crops, which will also provide them with a sense of ownership, because we don't want to be the gringos that started something for them that they will not maintain when we are gone, thus ownership is of great importance!
Another project is called vertical gardening or a multistory garden. Basically, take chicken wire and form into a column and fill the column with rocks, this is the center of the garden ... about 3 - 4ft tall. Then, using some kind of durable material, such as landscape fabric, or the black erosion control fabric seen around construction sites and wooden stakes, create a circle with these material around the rock column. In between the rock column and the fabric outer wall, fill with a soil and compost mix. Use a 5 gal bucket with holes drilled in the bottom to be your watering source. This is set on top of the rock and as it drains that rock pulls the water outward so it is absorbed by the soil+compost mix. On top around the rocks a nice root crop like radishes or carrots can be planted, and then along the out wall, cut little slits in the fabric and sow various green leaf type crops - lettuce, various herbs etc ... which provides one with all the vertical wall space to grow plants too. This is good in settings where soil is very poor, space is limited (like in the city) and it also conserves water.
There is more we hope to do, but our time is limited so we will have to choose our undertakings wisely! I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into my life!