Friday, September 7, 2018

Peaceful on the farm

Orange bougainvillea outside our bedroom window.

September 7, 2018
In troubled times it's peaceful on the farm.

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief... 
 For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." (Wendell Berry)

Once again we're at the end of the dry season (May to September) and hoping for rain to replenish the creeks, the springs, the water table. Our little town of Cocalzinho has already experienced one day without water, and the electric company is charging extra (red flag) because water in the reservoirs that provide hydroelectric power is low. The whole region sits uneasily on the unpredictable area where climate change could result in more yearly rain (to the southwest) or less rain (to the northeast).

Moon rise over the dry cerrado.

What shall I tell you about our lives on the farm since November 2017, when I wrote my last blog entry? In January we discovered a new fruit in the woods, above the bridge we cross when we walk to my son's house - it's pretty and tasty and abundant though we never found out it's name.

In March Guy and I went to the 8th World Water Forum which took place in Brasilia. At first we were excited and hopeful that we would learn much and make connections that would help us in our work with the association we helped create in Cocalzinho, Associacão Nascentes do Cerrado (see Facebook page). Soon we realised however that the Forum was run by corporations, banks and governments with little room for activists that might challenge the establishment. Do corporations want to maintain a sustainable supply of water? Of course - but on their terms, for their profit. Small farmers beware. At the alternative water forum, sponsored by university faculty and students, we saw a film depicting a situation in Peru where an agrobusiness at the foot of the mountains, raising asparagus to ship to Europe, funnelled water from the hills above in cement channels, leaving small farms and pastures high and dry. And another film about Nestle's predatory grab of water around the globe.

We met a few wonderful groups, doing good work protecting headwaters, teaching agroforestry and permaculture, and modelling grassroots techniques of saving and storing water. A group of artists - women who embroider panels showing the rivers and waters of their towns and regions - blew me away. It's a traveling project that this group takes to communities where they teach women  to create their own panels. I'll show you a few that were exhibited in the National museum in Brasilia:

We've continued to work on our cob house, with the help of our neighbor Marli. We finished the walls, built a porch, and worked on the floors.
The back walls of the house

Our chickens enjoying the shade on the new porch

The final layer of the floor

One of our favorite outings was up to the remote road in the hills behind our farm where we found a supply of sand to add to our soil for the floor mixture.

Sand around the road up in the hills                 
Sunset on the way back home
At the end of May we witnessed up close the truck strike that paralysed Brazil for over a week, stopping deliveries of fuel, food, and most other amenities. The majority of the population supported the strikers who were demanding lower diesel prices because the increases had reached an untenable level. Brazil adds very high taxes to fuel prices, close to 50%. 

People from Cocalzinho marching to support the truck drivers - "Together for a better Brazil, We are all truck drivers."
We traveled to the States for a family reunion in July, and visited Zeke and family in Massachusetts, and Sofia and family in Maryland, as well as Guy's cousins and other friends in the Lehigh Valley.

Browne Clan Family Reunion 2018, Catskills, NY 

Back home on the farm we find peace with our trees and flowers, and animals.

Bougainvillea outside the window, quaresma in the background
Cows in the babaçu pasture behind our property.

Susie and Lolita who watched over the farm while we were away.

Signing off, Greta and Guy


  1. The embroidered panels are magnificent. Congratulations on the cob house. What a wonderful accomplishement. You two really inspire me.