Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mushrooms and a rainbow

Another short update to share a couple of photos.

I've gotten to know the mushrooms in Eastern PA pretty well and have enjoyed eating several delicious varieties. But I don't know my mushrooms here in the Central Plateau region. I know there are psychedelic 'shrooms that grow in cow dung. Yesterday I found these gorgeous specimens pushing up through the leaves in the woods next to our homesite. Iridescent blue butterflies flew around while I went over to check these out, but were gone by the time I got my camera.

The stripped down cerrado is still beautiful! The trees are eucalyptus and the road is the dirt road that leads to our farm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Reflections from the blogger

What’s the point of posting for all to see and read the little facts of our life here on the Areias farm? Why tell our story, which might end up being very ordinary or even an abysmal failure? Who cares if we plant a few vegetables and a dozen trees on an acre-plot high on the central Brazilian plateau?

These are age-old questions for the writer who shares her own experience with her readers. Even a letter writer has to choose how much to tell about his own troubles and successes rather than sticking to more objective matters. And today it’s the email writer, the facebook poster, and the bloggist who walk the line between writing about other people, historical or scientific facts, or impersonal humor, and spilling their own guts and singing their own praises. 

I’ve taken my cues from a lifetime of reading - my own experience of learning about life from that intimate sharing that poets and novelists and essayists offer as they tell me about what it’s like to be them.
So I’m choosing to trust that our sharing of our life here might be worth something to our readers, whether it be information about the Brazilian Cerrado, and permaculture and agroforestry, or insight into the lives of retired ex-hippie activists, or inspiration for this age of climate change and 99% awakening, or simply entertainment.  

A report on the Agroforestry Course by Sofia Hart

About two weeks ago Guy and I attended a 4-day course on Agroforestry. Agroforestry is a way of farming that takes into account the needs of the earth, so that rather than just exploiting and depleting the soil and surrounding resources, farmers enrich the soil organically and grow food in cycles and combinations that complement each other. It is "pluriculture" (vs. monoculture - the big plantations of soy, corn, etc.) in that farmers are planting vegetables, legumes, root vegetables, fruits and nut trees, plants for biomass, and other kinds of trees in the same area.  Agroforestry exists in many varieties around the world, but in its manifestation here in Brasilia, we might plant things such as banana trees, mahogany, pineapples, coffee, tomatoes, manioc, lettuce, and arugula all in the same area.  The short cycle plants (the vegetables, etc), will produce first, then the medium cycle (bananas), and then the long cycle (mahogany). But while you wait for the longer cycle ones to grow, you can benefit from the shorter ones in the same plot.  I thought the concept of agroforestry was brilliant, but I witnessed just how labor-intensive it is. In the wake of the course, I planted a wonderful little garden at the farm.  So far, I've planted tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, okra, mustard, collards, cucumber, radish, and nasturtium (an edible flower).  I still plan on planting more things, including some flowers around the house.  In a couple of months, we'll have more vegetables than we can consume, and brilliant flowers blooming beside the porch.

The two photos, taken at Brasilia's Botanical Garden, model the agroforestry that many sustainable farmers are using to recover the Cerrado while growing food and trees for timber.