» Archive for July, 2009

Garden Update

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 by Marie

The end is finally in sight for our planting season!  We’re getting ready to put away the gloves and shovels, brush the dirt off our pants, and rest.  For a week.  Then the weeding season begins.  Yay!

The climate here offers us a small window of opportunity to get as many seeds and plants into the ground as possible.  The rains come at the end of May and start to dwindle away in September, really ending for good in October.  As soon as the rains begin, we start putting plants in the ground.  Each year we get a little more efficient, a little smarter about plant and garden placement, and a lot more ambitious.  This June and July we have planted hundreds of small trees, thousands of tree seeds, and about one hundred half-acre garden plots with various vegetables.

The small trees are doing well, for the most part.  Some of the fruit trees on the mesa appear a bit perturbed by the soil we’ve stuck them in, but they will struggle through and establish their roots and do well next year.  Others have already situated themselves in their new home and seem to be saying to us, “Don’t you worry, we’ll be delivering fruit by 2011. “   Besides the fruit and nut trees, we’ve also planted lots of jacarandas, the pretty tree with fern-like leaves and a gorgeous bright purple flower.  They will do well here and provide lots of bright colors during different seasons, depending on their altitude in the forest.

Every year we also plant lots of trees from seed, including the capuline, a native cherry tree that yields a small, semi-tart, semi-sweet fruit.  Capulines are wonderful to grab directly off the tree and pop in your mouth, handfuls at the time.  The elegant trogons love to sit at the tree above our main terrace to feast on the berries.

We’ve also planted nuts, other fruits, and various types of pines, oaks, and madrones from seed this year.  Some we plant directly in the forest, others we plant in pots or in special prorogation beds to watch and maintain throughout the year.  We have plenty of these trees ourselves, but we’ll be using the baby trees in reforestation effors in this area.

One of our great successes this year is the Pinyon (Pinus monophylla) tree which are popping up happily out of their pots!  Pinyon trees produce pine nuts, the nutritious nut that you can find in pesto and salads. The trees are, as of today, about the size of a thumbnail.  We will let them grow for 2 to 4 years in pots, and then plant them in the forest.  Some generations from now will be able to enjoy fresh pine nuts from the Pinyons here!

And lastly, our vegetable gardens.  We are very pleased to report that this year our gardens are doing extremely well, especially compared to the disaster of last year.  Last year the combination of late planting, irregular rainfall, and bad soil conditions yielded us a very low amount of fresh garden vegetables.  On Monday we walked around to all the gardens, and about 60 percent are doing quite well.   Some will do well as the rains end, but even the failures will teach us about our opportunities and limits.

  • Below the Casita we are growing squash, peas (though the birds got most), feverfew, beets, cabbage, onion, chard, carrots, jalapeños, cauliflower, epazote, strawberries (one plant lived from last year’s attempts), cilantro, tomatillos, and broccoli.
  • Above the Casita we are growing corn, tomatoes, squash, mustard greens, radish, and zucchini.
  • Below the studio we are growing squash, flax seed (an experiment), sunflowers, corn, chia, amaranth (another experiment), cilantro, and spinach.  The forest is evidently growing wild tomatillos, which are native to the area and quite sweet.
  • By the View composting toilet we are growing wheat.  Mysterious.
  • On the Mesa we are growing lentils, wheat, and various other crops.  Most of our Mesa gardens are not doing that well, and likely need both nitrogen fixers and manure.  Next year we will plant cover crops of fava and other beans.
  • Near the parking area we are growing garlic, soy, squash, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, corn, and most importantly POPCORN!  Who knows how that will do…
  • The pool gardens: Spinach, collard greens, cilantro, zucchini, lettuce, chard, fennel, and cilantro.
  • Behind the Black Rock Lodge we are growing broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatillos, corn, arugula (growing back from seed), peas, beans, epazote, lettuce, and chard.

We are pretty pleased with our planting progress this year.  We owe a lot of thanks to our volunteer managers, Brian, Chilino and Adan, as well as our enthusiastic volunteers.

The Great Upper Swale

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 by Marie

Last April we began digging our first swale - “The Great Upper Swale” - along the contour of the hillside on the upper part of the Bosque.

Making swales is a popular permaculture practice for rainwater harvesting.  Swales are essentially long ditches dug on along a level line of a hillside.  When the rain pours down the hill, the water collects in the swale and seeps deep into the earth below it, capturing the rainfall and reducing the speed of evaporation.  The rainfall will continue to provide water to the life beneath the swale for much longer than it would have if it had just run down the hillside.

Marifer, Linnet, Fer, and Minerva digging the swale

In the photo above, Marifer, Linnet, Fer and Minerva are working hard digging the swale.  We have dug about 50 meters so far - a little over 1% of our goal for the Bosque.  If, that is, we decide to continue with swales.  Another option is to begin terracing the land.  Since they seem to provide a similar function for rainwater harvesting, and also create flat spaces for use as gardens, sitting areas, and camping spots, we are probably going to stop working on our series of swales and begin terracing instead.  Well done terracing should have the same effect of slowing the waters’ downhill path, but also improve the land for other human uses.  Doing terracing by hand in small parts, fitting into a decades long plan, should allow the native flora to repopulate the small disturbed areas we create while digging terraces.

If you are a property owner and are interested in digging your own swale, you can find tons of information online by doing a search on “permaculture swale”.  Many permaculturists dig their swales and then fill them in with a non-dense material.  We are skipping this step because the forest will take care of this for us with time, by dropping pine straw and oak leaves into the swale.  You can read about how you can make your own swale here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Hugo Lacroix

Monday, July 6th, 2009 by Marie

Hugo is on a mission - nothing can stop him!  He is biking from Quebec, Canada, to Tierra del Fuego; the southernmost tip of Argentina.    Cycling this distance is a long journey, but the personal trip quite longer.  Hugo volunteered with us last October, and he is, we believe, still in Mexico, taking time to absorb different spaces and different people as he continues his journey.

Hugo arrived to the Bosque to attend a social event we had here.  He participated in and created the happening which occurred, and decided to return for a month to help us out with some projects.

What a month!  In the short time Hugo spent at the Bosque, he helped us an immeasureable amount.  He happened to arrive at a time when we were re-writing our entire website, and helped us design the Bosque Village webpage to be more user-friendly, functional, and easy to update.

His geeky know-how was just one contribution he made while he was here.  He put together our solar oven, which was a project that had been in the works for over a year.  In less than two weeks we had a functioning oven - tried, tested, and used over 100 times.  We use the solar oven in the dry season to bake banana bread, oatmeal cookies, and granola.  It also works well to cook beans, rice, and soup.   Because of our solar oven, we are able to use less propane and enjoy homemade baked goods!

Hugo working on the construction of the solar oven:

Aside from these contributions, Hugo was a pleasant person to have around.  He spent some time with us as a visitor so that he could telecommute working on website development projects - but this didn’t stop him from hauling wood down to the Casita when needed, pumping water, or helping tidy up the terrace.  He was a part of the community here at the Bosque, and helped out in any way he could, whether he was officially working that day or not.

We miss you Hugo!  Come back sometime when your travels allow it.  We’ll be here working, with great people, more art, more projects and adventures.

Thanks to Suzie for inviting Hugo to the Bosque!

With tree man:

Juggling:

Explaining the solar hot water heater

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