Tuesday, September 10, 2013


September 10

The big news is that we have a humanure system in place (see The Humanure Handbook: a guide to composting human manure, by Joseph Jenkins). Guy has become our in-house sanitation technician, building first a privy that we used all of our first year here, and now developing the bucket-with-wood-shavings recipient and the composting bins that will receive the weekly deposits. I must say that it’s all very neat and clean and I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with it once they give it a try. It’s a long term project because the final product, months of layering the humanure/sawdust mixture with hay or straw, needs to compost for a year, so that we probably won’t begin using this composted manure until sometime in 2015.

Guy collected the bamboo from the stream banks near our house.
A thick layer of straw will line the bottom of the bin.

The first bin will take several months to fill and then a year to compost.
I am so proud of Guy for setting this up. I think it’s hard to move from the comfort and convenience of the flush toilet – which represented at one time a huge improvement in sanitation around the world, and still means the difference between sickness and health for millions of people in backward city conditions – to a system that not only preserves our dwindling water supplies but provides a rich organic fertilizer for growing food.

The first section of the horse shoe garden that we're preparing for vegetables.
We’re putting in our vegetable garden, following the Square Foot Gardening System combined with tips from permaculture manuals and from gardening books for this part of the world (similar in some ways to Florida). Our vegetables last year never thrived the way we expected, after our successful gardening in Bethlehem, and we’ve realized that in addition to the insects and the cows the soil itself failed us. One important solution is to use indigenous edible plants that thrive naturally in this climate and soil. But almost no one is doing this because centuries of immigration has meant the introduction of all the typical European, Middle Easter and Asian vegetables.

Greta at the wood stove. The gas stove is directly behind me.

Back in April my my neighbor gave me her old six-burner stove when she acquired a newer one - well, today I tried out the oven for the first time. We still have a lot of squash left over from April; I cook it up for lunch in a variety of combinations such as sautéed with onion, garlic, green beans, tomato and turmeric, but I love baking it in a Betty Crocker recipe for Zucchini Bread. The problem with my stove is that one of the burners doesn’t turn off, so once the bottled gas is turned on that burner has to stay in use. Can’t use the oven without using that burner. Solution: cook up a tomato sauce and let it simmer for as long as the bread takes to bake.

Our old but still serviceable six-burner stove.

I only understood the secret of a good tomato sauce a few years ago, long after my days at The Green Café. I read these words, “The secret of a good tomato sauce is letting it simmer for at least an hour.” Olive oil, chopped onions, ripe tomatoes, lots of minced garlic, a few dollops of tomato paste, herb of choice (eg. basil or oregano) mix well, allow to begin sticking to the pan before adding water, then simmer, simmer, simmer. Yum. 

We're enjoying the wild pineapples that have proliferated on the farm over the years. The trick is to harvest a few before someone else does - they're very sweet now at the end of the dry season.           

                                  Hope some of you will come share this abundance with us.