Tuesday, October 30, 2012

House finished - first garden beds planted

Just a quick update for those who check:

Looking down at the house from the West. 
Note jaboticaba tree at left - it's full of ripening fruit.

From the North. The water line is being laid today and tomorrow - soon the tank you can 
see at the back will be full and we'll finally have running water. 

 First garden beds, full of lettuce, radishes, arrugula, collards, mustard and more. At the front of the photo is a two cubic foot hole for our first trees: 
papaya, coffee and pitanga, I think. 

And here is Guy at our bedroom window - he's busy today sanding the concrete walls in order to paint next week. I'll be waxing the glazed cement floors in the meantime. As you may remember, we're not too happy with so much cement, but we needed to move ahead and this was the best we could do right now. From now on we hope to be greener, using more Earth-friendly materials. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fruits of the Cerrado

First an update on the house - we're adding a porch around three sides of the house, plus a water tower that will double as a shower room. We don't have running water yet but hope to set up a gravity-delivered system drawing from the stream that comes down from the spring above my son's house. Photos will follow when we start working on that project, hopefully next week.

The tiles should be in place by now and the porch floors - glazed cement - will be set by next Tuesday or Wednesday. Notice in the photo below how green the vegetation is becoming now that the rainy season has really arrived. Soon Guy will have to be cutting the grass with his scythe.

The rains also bring in the fruit and one of the first to arrive is the wild cashew fruit of the cerrado. My daughter, Sofia, collected a bag-full yesterday morning - here she is removing the pulpy fruit from the shell that holds the cashew nut, one nut per fruit.

Sofia and Guy made hand-churned cashew fruit ice-cream for Victor's birthday.

One of the goals of our new life project is to find ways to use the products of the cerrado that grow around us. For local people to stay on the land they need to be able to meet their economic needs as well as finding activities that are satisfying and pleasurable. You could argue that as retirees with a small but steady income (our SS checks) we have the privilege of enjoying the activities of collecting fruits of the cerrado and making ice-cream, jam, and other products, while such activities would be very labor intensive if they were intended to support one's family. Very true - but we see examples around the world of cooperatives developed by local people to ensure the economic viability of this kind of project. Hopefully we'll show many other products as we explore them in the next few months and over the years. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

House almost done - on to the planting

The building is coming to an end - the little house itself is complete but our friendly masons are putting in a porch on two and a half sides of the house, partly to keep the rain out, but also because it will be so pleasant. 

      Front of house, facing South.

       North face of house.

Despite the negative aspects of the current local building techniques (high carbon footprint for factory-made bricks and cement due to fossil fuels for baking, processing and transportation, and land degradation for extraction of materials), we are pleased with the simplicity of our house. We are installing a water tank that will be filled by gravity-delivered water; we will most likely have dry/composting toilets, solar heated water, and a draining system that will recycle gray water for irrigation. We plan to use solar cooking as much as possible, with gas and wood stoves to supplement.

And we are moving into the planting phase. This past week we paid a fine young biologist, JuĆ£ Pereira, who specializes in agro-foresty, for an onsite consultation, and next week Guy and Sofia, my daughter, will take a four-day course in agro-forestry. More on that in a future post. We are grateful to our friends from Lepoco who in July gave us a generous donation to help with this project.