» Archive for the 'animals' Category

Turnips and Tusas

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by Marie

We are so kind. We share our turnips with tusas: the Naked-nosed pocket gopher.

Tusas are animals that most gardeners in Michoacán dread. They dig up gardens ruthlessly, leaving behind the signature mound of turned over soil. Some of our friends who have farms or gardens buy Jack Russell Terriers, dogs that are known for their hunting skills, hoping to kill off any tusas that are feeding in their gardens. Another friend of ours makes extra money by charging farmers 100 pesos (around 8 USD) per tusa that he kills. He waits patiently, quietly, lurking around areas where a tusa has obviously set up camp.

We haven’t taken drastic measures to control the tusa population this year. We do plant trees and bushes that have a bitter taste around some gardens, hoping to deter the tusas away from our vegetables. But mostly, we are just waiting.

Patiently waiting, for natural predators to realize that the Bosque has lots of yummy gophers running around. Coyotes, which we can hear singing nearly every evening, likely already take care of some of the gopher problem without us even knowing. And we over-plant; sharing some of our bounty with gophers and rabbits is something we expect when we plant a garden.

And, an upside, when tusas dig up dirt alongside a trail or in a garden, we sow seeds in the freshly tilled soil. Lots of former tusa holes now hold trees, flowers, and edible plants growing happily. And if we ever investigate hunting for food, the tuza might be a good target.

Vermiculture and Composting

Sunday, May 31st, 2009 by Marie

We have red wigglers!  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see a couple of our worms; it was difficult to get a good picture because the worms immediately crawl back into the dirt to hide from the sun.

About a year ago a nearby permaculture farm gave us a few red worms (eisenia foetida).  We tossed them into our kitchen waste compost bin and, until last week, forgot about them.

We were very pleased to discover that they had reproduced wildly!  Turning the dirt over in our compost bin revealed hundreds of worms, happily munching away at our kitchen waste.  This species of worm is adapted to the environment of decaying organic material, and thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure (see wikipedia for more information).  Using worms to aid in composting is known as vermiculture, or vermicompost.

The worms work so well because they eat waste and excrete a richer soil.    They aid and speed up the composting process immensely.  We’ve distributed the worms to several locations at the Bosque.  We added them to our larger kitchen compost bin, the small Casita bin, the Casita composting toilets, the studio toilets, and the View toilets.  By adding the worms to the composting toilets, as the first stage of humanure compost completes, the worms can finish the job, making a far healthier compost.

We do not attempt to be extremely efficient in our composting processes because we have both space and time.
For those with small yard, there is a rush with caring for, mixing, and turning compost bins.  We’re not in a rush; we can let the natural composting processes as well as the worms do their job, and the kitchen waste will simply go away!  For this reason we rarely turn or give special attention to our worm bins, much to the distress of occasional crazy-about-compost volunteers and visitors.  We will use the compost in our gardens, and the main compost bin is located in the orchard and provides nutrients to our avocado and peach trees.  Our compost bins are made out of adobe blocks, and we put roofing pieces over parts of the bins to try to keep a good balance of moisture.

As we have a surplus of the worms, we will give them to our friends in neighboring villages with brief instructions on how to have a worm bin.


Saturday, January 10th, 2009 by Marie

A friend of ours put bee hives on the north side of the Bosque last week.  In exchange, we will learn about beekeeping and get a bit of honey!

Bees are extremely interesting creatures.  Their caste system is very complex, and the queen bee is the only breeder in each colony. Beekeeping involves a fair amount of initial work to set up the colonies.  After that, the beekeeper needs only to harvest the honey twice a year, and check on the hives occasionally.


We don’t use white sugar in our meals here so honey is quite a valuable resource for us.  Producing our own will be a money saver… and it will also be very fun and cool!

So the first food-producing animals find their way to our forest.  Next - chickens for the eggs?  goats for the cheese?  Time will tell!

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