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.

Reduce Reuse Recycle

There’s nothing to it but to do it! Opportunities to apply the three R’ s are everywhere around us. Once we start making a conscious decision to notice them and apply them, it becomes really easy and fun to come up with creative ways to Recycle Reduce Reuse. Working at Taino Farm has given me an opportunity to see recycling action and experience it first hand. I had always recycled bottles, brought my own bags to the store, and reused food containers, but that was about the extent of my recycling. There is so much more that we can do in our everyday lives. Here at Taino, reuse recyclables to start growing our own food in! Styrofoam cups, old tires, re-purposed jugs – anything is possible! it might sound a little intimidating but believe me it’s not! with so much information on the Internet you can get the answer to any questions you may have. If you have an excess of an item in your home, do a simple Google search to find creative ways of reusing it. It’s fun for kids and you can get really cool aesthetic effects too. Here are some of the ways we currently recycle here at the farm! Stay posted for our future recycling projects as well!
recycled bathtub

recycled bathtub

recycled cardboard for sheet mulching

recycled cardboard for sheet mulching

recycled-coconut recycled-egg-carton recycled-pinapple recycled-planter recycled-string recycled-styrofoam recycled-tires recycled-wood

How to Get to Taino Farm from Extreme Hotel:

So you want to visit the farm in Los Brazos? Don’t want to spend 1500 rd for a taxi? Only have 100 pesos? Want to get around like a local?

Catch a Guagua.

When you first leave eXtreme, cross the street.  You will probably have to say no to our local moto guys who will try to pick you up, or if you have already made friends with them, they might take you all the way to the farm for 200 pesos.  But if you are like me the other day, and only have 100 pesos, the guagua will be your best bet.

Standing on the side of the road, you will be looking for either a van (Guagua) or a little car (Carrito) they will have a sign on the roof that looks like a taxi sign, but doesn’t say taxi.  The windshield usually has a decal that says the name of the nearest city they drive to, it will say something like, Cabarete – Gaspar Hernandez, Sosua – Puerto Plata. If you are standing on the side of the road they will have some idea that you might need a ride.  They might waive, hiss, or hoot at you.  They are not being weirdos (well they might be), they are just trying to get your attention.

Hop in, if its not crowded when you get in, it will be soon. Be prepared to get real cozy.  If it is a carrito, it is not uncommon to put four people in the front. If the driver gets out of the car, it is because your seat is next to him in the driver’s seat. You would be surprised as to how many people, animals and cargo can fit into these public cars. The fee will be 25 pesos for the first leg of the trip.  In the guagua there will be a guy at the passenger door, who bangs on the car to signal the driver to stop, moves seats around for passenger’s and holds babies while their mothers get into the back seat.  He will collect your money and let you know when it is your stop, just be sure to tell him SABANETA.

Crowded GuaGua

Crowded GuaGua

At Sabaneta they will drop you off in the triangle, three-way intersection.  From there you walk to the right, where you will see a small bus stop.  You will likely see the carrito or guagua waiting there with passengers standing around waiting for it to leave.  They are supposed to leave every half hour, but usually wait around for enough people to show up to make the trip worth it. This means that if it’s midday they might not leave for a while. In the afternoon heat, you might also have to look a bit further up the road to the shady spot by the orange peeler.  If it seems like it will be a long time before they depart, I will often decide to pay the 50 pesos for a moto to take me the rest of the way.  But if they get enough people, and depart at a reasonable time, tell the driver, or his helper, LOS BRAZOS.  This leg of the trip is 20 pesos.

waiting for the gua gua in sabaneta

waiting for the gua gua in sabaneta

You will know you are close when you cross the river.  This is the Yassica.  Once you cross the river, bang on the window and say “dejarme aqui.”  You can walk up the  dirt road just past the Colmado Esperanza.  Follow the dirt road up the hill.

crossing the Yassica River

crossing the Yassica River

Once you start coming down the other side you will see our local Colmado on the right, you will also likely hear Bachata music blasting from their enormous speakers. Our lovely neighborhood seating area will be on the right.  Taino Farm is just past the Colmado on the right with a big red gate.  Our farm dog Piggy will probably come out to greet you.

piggy the farm dog

piggy the farm dog

For the trip back to eXtreme you can walk down to where the guagua left you off and wait for the next one headed back towards town.  There is a moto stand on the right (towards the river) and if someone is hissing behind you it is likely Miguel, our neighbor and local moto driver.  He will take you back to Sabaneta for 50 pesos.

moto ride

moto ride

The Guagua stand on the far side of the street heads to Cabarete. There should be someone there who works with the public cars to tell you an estimated departure time.  They leave pretty regularly in this direction.  Just tell them Kite Beach and bang on the door when you see the big orange E.

Gua gua stand in Sabaneta

Gua gua stand in Sabaneta


Buen Viaje!

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My Garden Beds Are Better Than Yours

These past two weeks have really flown by at Taino Farm. With a constant stream of workers coming into the farm, the “tranquillo” vibe that normally flows with my workdays has been changed to “mas rapido por favor!” Viktor, Neo, and Juan finally finished the majority of the raised beds in the garden and with the walls up it was time to amend the soil.

When I first arrived I made the mistake of simply looking under my microscope, seeing good protozoa and fungal numbers and throwing one layer of mulch on the top of the soil. This lead to the constant need for the addition of organic material to the first smaller garden we created. This time I asked for some advice. Viktor did an amazing job of aiding me in that process, as well as improving my wheelbarrowing skills.

garden bed in the tropics

Creating the perfect soil in our tropical beds was a multi-step process

So this is how we did it:

  1. We started off with one wheelbarrow full of sand per raised bed (2ft by 16ft).
  2. Tilled that in with a mattock to decrease the amount of compaction that occurs in clay soil and also help with water retention.
  3. Then added the next layer, three full wheelbarrows of horse manure and sawdust that had been composted down.
  4. On top of that, we added a five-gallon bucket of goat manure, and half that bucket of bat guano per bed.
  5. Once all of that was added we tilled with the mattock one more time.
  6. Then we threw in a wheelbarrow full of coconut husk and did one final tilling.

All in all, It was a lot of work! But thankfully we had a constant stream of amazing volunteers. Special thanks to Charlie Durrant, Ollie, Stef and her team of youngsters from Estrellas de Los Brazos, the team from Extreme Hotel, and many more!

Dominican kid helping to improve soil

Thanks to our team of enthusiastic volunteers! especially the kids at Estrellas de Los Brazos

Mondays and Tuesdays seem to be the days that most of the intensive work gets done, while the rest of the week is dedicated to working in the food forest. The food forest is amazing as well! ATN (say it out loud and you pronounce his name phonetically) is our new intern, here on the farm. He has been traveling around the property weaving nests out of branches to create raised garden beds in the food forest around the fruit trees.

food forest trellising

Food Forest Trellising with bird nest technique

Other than that, I wish I could say there isn’t much, but there is ALWAYS a lot of work to be done. So now I gotta get back out there! Please feel free to come down to Taino Farms in Los Brazos and volunteer any day you would like! We always need a helping hand and we’re only 30 min away from Cabarete on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Interested in long term apprenticeship programs for accreditation in permaculture, aquaponics, and organic farming? Stay tuned for more information on upcoming educational programs at Taino.

Check out the video that charlie made for the raised bed construction day: