School is back so its time to start our Junior Green Warrior program at the two local primary schools again. I take Lucy Juanites with me for our first day on the job. Steve Grist and his wife ran last week’s session so it’s my turn. The primary school at Capoyuan has won the garden competition for schools in our district last year and been presented with some garden tools. Ricky the principal shows me the prizes. I see 2 large blue drums, some garden hoses and a plastic role of nursery plastic. Ricky agrees to let me sort out the drums and incorporate them into our program.
I bring a small electric jigsaw to school in my pack with a few machetes and a set of garden shears. That’s all I can carry on a trail bike with a passenger. The school has only 2 hoes I have donated and little else in the way of tools. The plastic drums have a dense plastic molded lid and a jigsaw is by far the best way to cut off the tops. I open the first drum and an evil chemical smell escape as soon as I pop the cap. AAARRRGGH! Smells like farm chemicals, probably glysophate. (Nice prize for kids, not!)
No use whining, we cut the top out and wash out the residue with several loads of water. This drum will only be used for soil mixing not irrigation. The second one smells like coconut oil so it s a safe bet for the watering drum. Organic practitioners would be horrified to see where the containers from toxic pesticides and herbicides end up in developing countries. I’ve learned to make the best of a bad situation.
Lucy and I direct the kids to till the raised garden beds and add a hundred kilos of work castings that have been produced over the holidays. That will grow a few good crops! Having so many hands doing so many jobs at once keeps us on our toes. We retrofit most of the gardens and plant seeds in the bamboo troughs. All I hear is laughter and happy voices as the children get right into making their garden a winner for this years contest.
We do a lesson on organic farming versus Chemical farming. Chemical farming produces a slightly higher yield initially but the farmer spends all his income on the costly and toxic inputs. Oh yeah, and the environment slowly dies along with the health of the farmer and his family! The kids see quickly that the conventional farmers profits go to the chemical companies and not the families. On the other hand, the organic farmer keeps his profits as all his inputs are made from freely available local products. I see the kids eyes light up when they realize the poverty of farmers here is related to them paying for the systemic chemicals and hybrid seed. Yep, they get it!
We finish our tasks and are invited to lunch in the staff room with the principal Ricky. Ricky tells us its national tree-planting day next week. I wish I had my nursery up and running but its still under construction. Lucy has a brain flash. Lets get the kids to scrounge fruit tree seedlings from under existing trees and bring them to school. Brilliant!
Soon we have worked out a plan to not only get free fruit tree seedlings but also plant out the roadside along our farm as a snack track for the community that walks past our place on the way to town each day. We estimate we can plant around 200 trees on that road. It’s a done deal and Ricky leaves to inform the teachers of next weeks plan. Those kids are going to walk the 3 kilometers to our farm carrying the trees, plant them and fence off the plantings from animals. We will put on a movie on a borrowed large screen TV for them. As a reward after the work.
Later that day Lucy and I go to the Myos primary and ask the teachers there if they want to participate. It’s a GO!
Lets see if we can pull it off…
Every Saturday we host Green Warrior day. Green Warrior Saturday is getting some heavy downpours this morning. Some kids show up but only a few local adults. We decide to work indoors. Our mud and rice husk floor in our kitchen building needs to be sealed so I make up a mix of lime, cement and sand in a watery solution and we take turns painting it on. As usual, as soon as the floor has wet paint on it the local dogs wander in to make their pawprints in the floor. Bastards!
In the afternoon we make organic cocktails with local coconuts, a blender, some muscavado sugar and rum. They are a winner with the locals. Each GW Saturday we finish the day with refreshments and I’m sure the numbers will grow each week if we keep up with our cocktails!
It raining heavily early in the morning. Good, Lot is coming to plow my rice field with his buffalo, or caribou as they are called here. I get to take it for a test drive!
The buffalo is a monster. Its one of the biggest in the valley, by far. Covered in mud as a protection from the sun and the flies, the buffalo is led by a rope attached to a metal ring on his nose. (the nose is very sensitive)
Lot recons he has no name for his buffalo, just “the buffalo”. I think maybe Buffalozilla might be a good name. The buffalo seems excited to work. As soon as Lot holds up his yoke the buffalo dips his head into it and lets Lot fasten the chain.
On command the beast spins around and heads for the paddy with Lot almost running, holding up the plow up over the paddy dykes. I follow along ready for my first buffalo lesson. Yippee!
Lot does the first round, making it look easy. I watch as the blade cuts through the paddy mud like the bow of a boat on a lake. Too easy…It’s my turn. With a hiss and a click of the tongue the beast responds and pulls hard. My job is to guide the plow by tilting it left to go right or right to go left. It’s much harder than it looks and I look like a drunk staggering behind Mr. Buffalo. Blood hell! No wonder they invented tractors. I’ve plowed a few fields with tractors, hand tractors, rotary hoes but this is my first go on an organic tractor. Lot laughs every time I make a boo boo. At least I know when I’m stuffing up, Lot laughs. Lot laughs a lot, ha ha.
Lucy is filming me for this blog. She laughs too! Buffalozilla is probably chuckling as well!
I give it back to him after an hour. I’m drenched in sweat and covered in mud. The buffalo and me have about the same amount of mud on us. My respect for buffalo plowmen grows!
Once the job is done, Lot takes his trusty organic tractor to the sugar cane field for his paycheck. A munch on some sweet sugar cane. He also gets a mud bath and a splash down.
When this field is plowed I’m going to fertilize it with guano and grow a cover crop in the paddy above it of legumes so I can chop and drop it when the rice needs a nutrient boost. The legumes will fix nitrogen and the rains will take it into the lower paddy. That’s the theory so lets see if it works. Now, where the hell am I going to find some guano…tell ya next week.