The Snack Track
Its 5 am and a thousand roosters across the valley compete with other on who can crow the loudest. Many of the roosters in this area are fighting cocks so I always imagine if we could translate their crowing they would be saying something like “IM GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!”… and the reply crow would be “TRY IT BUDDY, IM KICKING YOUR ASS FIRST!” and it just gets worse from there.
I climb out of my bamboo loft and put the kettle on and realize it’s the national tree-planting day for the whole Philippines today! Holy cow! I’ve got to get organized! There are 240 school children coming today with fruit trees they have scrounged from around their communities to plant here. I down my coffee and a few eggs and gather tools and materials for the project.
At 7am the first kids arrive. The local kids from Capouyan primary school show up with a few fruit tree seedlings and a big smile on each face. If we can manage it we are going to plant 300 fruit trees along our roadside and provide a future source of free food for travelers passing by. I may even get them to build the fence that’s needed to keep the animals from eating the seedlings.
The first wave of kids I put to work digging the fence posts in, which I had cut the day before. These guys are keen and some of them use my small shovels and some use a thick bamboo stick to dig the muddy earth. I need the holes to be half a meter so I make a measuring stick and give it to the leader kid to make sure the jobs done correctly. The secret of organizing a huge hoard of kids is to recognize the natural leaders and delegate. It may not be perfect but in the absence of a team of trainers this is my plan B method.
Soon the main body of kids arrives, all carrying fruit trees and some hand tools. Their teachers follow along at the rear to round up stragglers. These kids have walked about 1.5 kilometers with all this stuff.
We line the kids up and photograph them with the trees before they start. Step by step I explain what we are going to do and the correct way to plant a tree as well as the spacing I require. Most of these kids are from farming families so they know the drill.
Along the 200 meters of road frontage I stretch the kids and their trees out so they can place them before planting. It’s a nightmare task running so many kids at once because they are so keen they begin planting before I give the signal. Oh well, momentum is more important than perfection I tell myself.
Another school arrives…bugger! Now I have to take them on the other side of the farm and plant the forest edge at the base of the hill on our boundary. Thankfully this school is much smaller and some of my junior Green Warriors have showed up to help. I tell them “You know what to do, you’re in charge!” and I run back to the main group along the road.
The trees are in, mostly in the right places. Now, its time for the fencing. I nominate 5 kids per bamboo log and like ants carrying straw the kids carry the heavy logs down the fence line. Kid power! I love it!
Together we lash the logs onto the posts using plastic tie ribbon used in scaffolding. It’s a bit messy but Ill fix it up in the next few weeks. At least the posts are in and the materials are now in situ.
Before 11 am all is done and its time for a break and a film. We squash all the kids into our training house to watch the Global Gardener on a borrowed large screen TV. While that is happening Lucy and Ruby organize refreshments for the kids and the teachers. We have mangos, organic, from our farm and some cold drinks.
I tell the kids that they must be the guardians of these trees and they can have the fruit when they mature. These trees will supply them and their many grandchildren for generations to come. Not bad for a few hours work.
Finally the kids have gone and we collapse into our bamboo chairs…Wheeew! That was some effort!
Lucy recons the kids loved the experience and want to do it again real soon. NOT TODAY!
The snack track is in! 300 diverse fruit trees. We have mango, rambutan, custard apple, guava, starfruit and many local fruits I’ve never seen before. Every seedling is obtained by searching under existing fruit trees and gathering up the volunteers under them. I see in my minds eye a linear food forest providing food to the kids on their way to school in the near future. Very permaculture!
We will have to expand this project to the other villages next year. Snack tracks everywhere!