A healthy Zone 5 at Finca Taino

All in all Its been a very good week for Taino and permaculture in the DR, and apparently we have a healthy Zone 5 at Finca Taino!

A group of us went up to the farm and we took a few different species of bananas and plantains and created four new Banana Circles. They add diversity to the food forest, help to suck up a lot of water in the wet season in an area that can get boggy and also provide food for us and mulch for the forest and nearby annual gardens.

Taino Farm Cow Paddock and food forest

Cow Paddock to the left and Eastern developing food forest.

Developing Food forest

Thanks to a good friend of mine, Olly Dadswell, I was also able to finally track down some proper orange sweet potatoes that had seemed impossible to locate in the country.  We’re now in mass propagation mode. Sweet potatoes are so good for developing food forests as they are living mulch, they provide the perfect environment for small organisms which add loads of nutrient to the soil. They also have a fungal base which is exactly what forests need.
Bryan and I went out for a couple of bohemia’s that evening, watched basketball with a couple of local guys and had a blast. In the morning I decided to go for a dip in the river to seize my day. To my delight, there was a little turtle already enjoying the river. This really put me in the moment, a subtle reminder of the beauty of nature. One of permaculture’s principles is about zonation. The final zone, furthest form the house is generally left completely unmanaged and natural succession is encouraged. It’s main function is that it to allows natural forna and flora to return. We can then visit nature, not only for total peace of mind, but also to get inspired, nature is always the best teacher. At Taino Farm, we are lucky to have a river running through our zone 5 . Seeing that the river is a healthy enough river to have cranes and turtles really warmed me up and set me up for a great week.
annual permaculture beds

The Annual Beds shot form the roof of the new building

To put the icing on cake, I opened my laptop to Permacuture news.org and the most recent post was stating that there were a few more places for an online PDC with Geoff Lawton, who is probably the most active man in permaculture at present. I’d wondered for some time how I would do the course whilst living here. I have already found, watched and read almost every free resource I could find, so it really felt like it was meant to be.
Little turtle. See bottom right

Little turtle. See bottom left

In 2011 I dropped out of university after a semester because I didn’t see a future in it. I had originally wanted to go through University to eventually research and teach in the fields of Geography and Biology. I didn’t feel I was passionate enough though. Trusting my instincts was the best decision I could have made. Not only have the last two years been the best two years of my life, but I also get to be here now studying something I really believe can benefit the world. I already plan to visit other projects all around the globe and potentially Visit Maya Mountain Research Farm in Belize and take an advanced course next March. Its fair to say Permaculture has made its mark on me and I hope to continue to spread the good word.
Post by Charlie.

Spring farm update

It has been a interesting couple of months at Taino Farm. April started off with a lot of goodbyes. Much of the core crew moved on to embark on different adventures to various corners of the globe. I’ve found in the kind of life I’m living here in the DR goodbyes are something I have to just except. Sometimes it really seems like things are perfect so It can feel sad when people go, but its important to welcome change too. Possibilities to meet up later in life in other cool places is always nice.

With so may people gone, I was left with a lot of responsibility. I saw it as an opportunity to put what I’d learnt to the test.

bees at taino farms

bees at taino farms

I studied a lot and actively sought more downtime and spent time with nature for inspiration to try and figure out what I felt the next steps should be.

When I discussed  with Victor, Robbie and Stuart what I thought were my ideas, I was happy to find that we were all heading towards the same conclusions. I’m finding out Permaculture is by no means has an exact science but working with nature is definitely a good guideline. I ended up getting a copy of Doug and Tara’s plans which I read through enthusiastically and was humbled to find that with all their experience, they too had much the same vision.

Tropical permaculture orchard

The orchard beginning to take shape

The next steps are to finish what we’ve started, including the multi layers in the food forests. Then Build a couple more annual beds and plant some with “the 3 sisters” . Next is to start thinking about some construction. We’ll be finishing off some of the new accommodations for woofers, building some herb spirals, eventually a pond (aquaculture) and of course planting out and harvesting much, more food.

The Mangoes are repining up and It’s really all falling into place nicely, with the recent rain everything is happening fast. I’m really feeling lucky to be apart of all this. “Permaculture- A revolution disguised as gardening”




Planting out a mound by the new irrigation ditch

taino farms cabarete

sweet potato cuttings getting some light in the kitchen


putting stone work around the new ditch and mound

Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7275-1024x682 Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7308-682x1024 Charlie_Durrant_Cabarete_Photography-7238-1024x682


, , ,

Planning a Food Forest

It can be hard sometimes to turn my back on good wind and waves rolling into Cabarete. It was especially hard this week after a fairly hectic and rainy Semana Santa, but the rain also means opportunity to plant at the farm.

The tranquility on arrival immediately made it worth the trip. I brought some friends along and we arrived to a happy Victor, Neo, and Juan Carlos, ready to feed the animals from a field grown especially for animal fodder.

sheep feeding

sheep feeding

So far, most of my involvement has been with the plants and the bees, so it was really nice to learn a bit more about the other animals on the farm.

We are currently on a mission to increase the numbers of chickens for both meat and egg production. It was great to see one of the hens sitting on 12 eggs and lots of fuzzy baby chicks running around. There were some neglected eggs that must not have been fertilized, so victor gave us the go ahead to eat them. Words can’t describe how good the meal was. We used butter (which in a few months could definitely come form our own cows) farm fresh eggs, moringa, and perennial bulbar spinach, scrambled it up to perfection with Auyama (farm grown fresh local pumpkin), and then seasoned it with a bit of salt and home made habanero hot sauce.  We planted some more Rambutan trees, and later got a visit fromm some of the bees coming to investigate their wax that we’d experimented with to make candles candles.

farm fresh eggslaying hen


Later in the day, we did the essential mulching, planted out loads more pumpkins, moringa, cucumber, melon and made some more batata cuttings. Then we went for a river bathe / swim. As the sun set, I studied hard all the notes I could find on permaculture, the individual species we’re interested in, and searched out our dwindling seed supplies and began formulating Ideas to improve a couple of the food forests as well as making plans for the one at the Extreme Hotel.

food forest

permaculture greenhouse

There are so many options and details to consider when designing a food forests, but the main goal is to have multiple layers and each species performing multiple functions. Here is an example of the different layers:

1)    A tuba layer (ex: sweet potato, elephant ear, yuca),

2)    Ground layer (ex: pumpkin, bush beans, melons),

3)    Shrub layer (ex: chillies, basil, amaranth, hibiscus, okra),

4)    Climbing/vining layer (ex: mulbar spinach, cucumber, winged beans),

5)    Small or Dwarf Tree Layer (e.g Suriname Cherry or any other small tree)

6)    Main tree layer made generally of Fruit and nut trees.


farm fresh lunchfarm fresh eggs

Of course no good tropical permaculture forest is complete without a Banana or Papaya Circle too.

We are also promoting wildlife with Rock piles for lizards and perches for birds. As with all things permaculture these form multiple functions. Not only is it nice to have wildlife, but they also control pests and deposit nitrogen.

bees wax

Anyways, there are millions of options and we can’t yet be sure what’s going to work best in our location, we’ll just have to  experiment and wait and see. As long as we keep to permaculture principles and improving the soil with nitrogen fixers and planting decent ground cover, we are sure to improve the situation and potentially harvest a good amount of food whilst we’re at it!

Post by Charlie Durrant


Harvesting Honey at Taino Farms

In the last two weeks, much of my time has been dedicated to Dominican Bees. I’ve done my best to contact all the right people and figure out how things are done down here in the tropics. It’s my job to increase the honey production at Taino Farm whilst keeping the bees happy. Soon, we will also be experimenting with honey mead and beeswax products!


Charlie’s bee hives

The first thing I did was to go round to my friend Charlie’s house (Charlie form Voy Voy in Cabarete). He has the most beautiful garden and he’s another Cabarete local who is moving towards permaculture principles and thinking more about sustainable food production. He’s getting into Apiculture (beekeeping), and has made a really cool hive with a window, so you can see into the hive without even needing to suit up! It was great to have a look in, and I was immediately pleased to see that The Langstroth Hive – the industry standard bee hive is also the hive of choice here in the DR.
Charlie allowed me to take a look at his spare hive, and shared his wisdom and connections, meaning I’m able to locate prime beekeeping materials like spare slides and wax paper on which the bee’s make their honeycomb.


I set off back down to the farm on Monday and as promised, I would witness my first Dominican Honey Harvest.  From the beginning, it was a fun and a very comical experience. It was straight out of a cartoon, with smoke in the air, and bees going wild. Let’s put it this way – if ever I needed reassurance, I got it: I’m 100{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} sure I’m not allergic to bees. Not even to the Dominican “killer” variety (seriously these bee’s aren’t bad at all). While Victor stayed at a safe and sensible distance with the wheelbarrow ready to pick up the saturated slides, Neo and Juan Carlos adorned veils, and a decent smoker. I, however, was left with a cowboy hat and a rag to cover my face, no gloves, and a brown hoody. (brown of course is the same colour as bee’s natural predators, hence why white suits are worn by sensible beekeepers). Anyways, I’d come this far, and I wasn’t going to miss out.Charlie-Durrant-Permaculture-Bee-keepin-apiculture-dominican-republic-taino-farm-42231

Clasping my hoody sleeves, it was my job to hold the torch (my phone) in the fading light. I will add at this point that most people collect their honey mid-day on sunny days whilst most of the bees are out collecting pollen and nectar. But who am I too argue. I was observing, and perhaps Dominican bees like to have their houses and food stores raided whilst their all at home, trying to get ready for bed …? I had bees in my trousers, down my sleeves and at one point actually stuck inside my bodged veil, buzzing around trying to escape. All things considered I was amazed at how little I was stung.Charlie-Durrant-Permaculture-Bee-keepin-apiculture-dominican-republic-taino-farm-42101

Anyways, despite seeing many ways to streamline the process and seeing obvious ways to increase the production, there was a large harvest. From the ten hives, we extracted around 35L of honey, and what amazing honey it is!

Charlie-Durrant-Permaculture-Bee-keepin-apiculture-dominican-republic-taino-farm-42381I’m looking forward to getting back down and making things happen. First thing will be to get a suit, 20 new slides and more of the wax paper. Next, Gary and I will begin building a fresh water trough, right next to the hive, so they’re no longer wasting valuable energy traveling to fetch water form the river in order to cool the hive and dilute the honey to feed the young. I’m also pretty sure a few of the hives are ready for a third super (a second level of harvestable slides,) and that there is potential to put another few hives on the far end of the property. Anyways, little by little, everything is coming together nicely. Get in touch for some of the nicest honey of your life, available at Extreme Hotel. Or by contacting me on +1 829 708 3337  RD$ 300 for a bottle.Charlie-Durrant-Permaculture-Bee-keepin-apiculture-dominican-republic-taino-farm-42871

Growing Sweet Potatos in Recycled Tires

I love sweet potatoes (Batatas as they are called here). For a while we’ve been thinking about getting some planted at the farm. They’re great as a staple food: they’re full of nutrients and complex carbohydrates that keep you going even on the most active days. I like them also because they grow easily, they are pest resistant, and thrive in fairly dry conditions like in our summers. Some people don’t know that the young leaves and shoots are also edible and great in Salads

We’d talked about planting them as ground cover in the zone 3 food forest, where there are currently lots of small trees growing. Planting them alongside pumpkin, at the base of the trees, would supply a serious amount of food year round, whilst performing a secondary role of keeping weeds in control and preventing the sun from baking the soil completely dry, thus giving the trees a better chance. In order to get this started, we’d need a lot of rain so we could plant lots of shoots directly into the ground in one go.
Rather than waiting for rain, I was keen to get something started straight away, so I took some cuttings, put them in glass bottles and put them by a window so they would grow some roots.
Propagating Sweet Potatoes in the window

Propagating Sweet Potatoes in the window

Tara came across an awesome technique of using recycled tires to put the plants in. Luckily, we have a few old tires up at the farm that we can use.
Recycled Tires for Gardening

Recycled Tires for Gardening

The idea is that as the shoots grow you put another tires on top and put more soil in stacking them up. You then repeat this until it’s four tires high. You can then allow the shoots to continue growing, hanging over, and as the plant photosynthesizes, a large proportion of this energy is stored in its roots as tubas (delicious sweet potatoes).
recycling tires for growing potatoes

recycling tires for growing potatoes

Something especially cool about this method is  that when it comes to harvest time, you just have to kick the tires over to get at the goods!
tire tower for planting potatoes

tire tower for planting potatoes

We chose to paint our tires white to reflect some of the suns heat. Of course in cooler climates, the extra heat from the sun on black tires could actually help with growing.