Life on a Permaculture Farm in The Dominican Republic is full of life, growth, and joy. Let me try and capture the experience here on Taino Farm:

The Dominican Republic is alive!  It is alive all day and well into the night.  It is an aliveness that permeates through the people, the children, the dogs, the cats and most especially the roosters.  Moto Conchos are in constant movement; the  colmados serve as a meeting place for locals to gossip or extend a simple “hola”; the streets contain all of the above and the occasional herd of cattle.  The aliveness is carried in song swaying from a melancholic ballad to a rhythmic bachata and further heightened in energy with an accordion accompanied merengue.  All life, whether human or animal, ebb and flow in this dance and add to the splendid wonder that is this island and its people.  But it is within the gates of Taino Organic Farms that I’ve found myself surrounded by a different and wondrous aspect of life and aliveness.  It is the secret life of plants beckoning to be witnessed and known.

Cattle in Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

Cattle in Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

From the moment I arrived I could feel the magic and tranquillity and pure energy emanating from the farm, from the land within this gate and barbed wire fence lines.  All the noise and sounds outside the gate, while still heard, don’t seem to affect the reverence and calm within.

The farm itself continues to be developed in zones within the Permaculture philosophy so perhaps this in part contributes to the overall harmony of life within, but daily moment by moment, I feel there’s more.  The green of the leaves is a little brighter, the fruit from the trees a little sweeter, the vegetables from the earth a little more substantial.  Walking and working from zone to zone; from food forest to annual gardens, I am able to watch, witness, contribute and learn first hand the cycle of life, simple in all it’s complexities.

It is not only a farm, but a jungle as well and this being the Dominican Republic where humidity and moisture never cease everything grows…in abundance…this is life in abundance.  The jungle aspect can and will take over as I find myself liberating fruit trees from wayward jungle vines and wayward trailing pumpkins from waist high grass.  This could easily be considered a chore or simply an aspect of daily farm living, but to me this is nature’s way of communicating…without looking up to take note of the encroaching vines, I could have easily missed out on the bananas forming on the trees or the guandule pods waiting to have their dried seeds harvested and replanted nor would fresh pumpkin soup have been in last weeks dinner bowls without further investigation amongst the overgrowth.

Carambola in bloom

Carambola in bloom

Daily I am fascinated, in awe, overwhelmed with appreciation, exhausted by heat and fruitful labour, inspired by the fresh harvest of food for the kitchen and always excited to see what vegetables and fruits and lessons the next day is going to bring.

I am alive here amongst all the other representations of life on this island finding my own rhythm to the songs being sung by nature within the walls of this farm.

 

Our first impressions on permaculture at Taino Farm:

When you come to the Taino farm in Los Brazos for the first time and moreover when you come from somewhere in central Europe, almost everything is new for you. What strikes you is how amazingly green all the plants and trees are and how quickly everything grows. The temperature of local fall is twenty degrees higher than what we are used to and as soon as you get out of the plane you are overwhelmed by the humidity you are faced with. However, a week later somehow it all seems natural to you, as well as getting up at the dawn. You get to learn a lot about the farm during just a week and so you can actually do things on your own. And if you have any doubts, you can always ask one of the locals who are working on the permaculture farm as they will willingly explain everything you need to know – well, if you can speak at least some Spanish:-)

Abiu fruit at taino farm

Abiu Fruit at Taino Farm

 

Local people are in general very easy-going, relaxed and always smiling which makes you smile too. Our usual day starts at dawn, we do some work in the garden as it is much cooler in the morning than it is during the day, then breakfast, some work in the house, time for a swim in the river, fun and time to get a bit lazy 🙂 and in the afternoon when it is breathable again, we do some work. For the most part we have been taking care of the Annual Garden, keeping the beds clean of weed, doing a lot of chopping and dropping (a permaculture technique covering the beds with branches so that the soil doesn’t get so dry quickly and the nutrient stay there), watering the plants if it doesn’t rain and planting new plants and seeds, mostly the sweet potatoes and cow peas.

planting cow pea seeds

Honza planting cow pea seeds in the Nursery

Planting oregano to deter mosquitos

Karin planting oregano to keep the mosquitos away by our hut

Our big project is also the new compost, which is taken very good care of as we want to get the best nutrient rich soil for our plants :-). We learned from Charlie, the permaculture designer that we can build a hot compost pile and in 16 – 30 days it will be ready to use! One of the great benefits of living on a farm is all the fresh fruit and vegetables you get to eat. There’s plenty of avocados, papayas, star fruits, abius (amazingly sweet fruit which we never heard of before), cherries, plantains, passion fruits, lemon mangosteins (little cherry-size a bit-sized sour mango), yuccas, pumpkins, sweet potatoes etc. And all that you get to eat. Fresh, healthy and sooo tasty. Yum! 🙂

Auyama pumpkin

Auyama pumpkin

Apart from all this, there is one little thing that saves you a lot of time – good gnomes which locals call “wiremen”. These strange creatures have always been present on this farm and they are always trying to help. Sometimes you catch a glimpse of them planting new seeds in the nursery or taking out the rubbish. They also like helping with preparing lunch meanwhile they themselves are not demanding at all when it comes to food. Apart from work they also love travelling  and thanks to yoga practice they don’t take up a lot of space in your luggage. That’s not all, since they never sleep they have enough time for practicing martial arts during the night so you don’t need to worry about your safety in their presence. Their help is simply invaluable and life on a farm goes really smoothly with them around. We are looking forward to you meeting them!

yoga at taino farm

Wiremen yoga: he needs to work on his flexibility.

wiremen at taino farm

The wiremen are especially helpful in the nursery because their little metal hands can plant seeds so fast!

the wiremen

The wiremen help even when you’re not looking!

Coconut Pumpkin Curry Recipe

Coconut Pumpkin Curry Recipe

It’s that time of year again – pumpkin season! There are so many hanging off vines around Taino Farm that I literally tripped over the rock solid, basketball-sized-landmind while i was wandering through the food forest the other day. The plant is used throughout the property as a living mulch and ground cover to keep the invasive African grass at bay. The best part about this nutrient rich gourd is that it offers a fast growing, energy rich source of food for our farmers.

We’re starting to get pretty creative with our pumpkin recipes. Everything from dips and salsas, to home made pumpkin pie in our sun oven. The most recent creation by Charlie and Ada is this beautiful pumpkin curry.

Pumpkin Coconut Curry:

Cook up one basketball sized pumpkin, stir in coconut milk, onions, garlic, curry powder, and tomatoes. Spice with chocolate habeneros and sea salt to taste. Serve with farm fresh eggs, arugula salad, and local bread!

Coconut Pumpkin Curry Recipe

Coconut Pumpkin Curry Recipe

Home Made Pumpkin Pie

Home Made Pumpkin Pie in our sun oven

 

Q: When’s the best time to plant fruit trees?

A: Five years a go.
The second best time is right now, so we got to it. Here’s a detailed description on How to Plant Bread Fruit Trees:
Bread Fruit is such a huge producer of food and low in manual labour because it’s a fruit tree. It’s a great substitute for potatoes or any other starchy vegetable, and whats more, you can mix it with some cinnamon blend it up and you’ve got pancake mix.
The fastest way to start a new tree is to find a root shoot, get it out of the ground with about 5 inches of root either side, and then plant it into bags in the shade and cut off the big leaves.
Victor told us he probably had some root shoots over at his 104 year old Grandmother’s property. We met her as she was relaxing in her chair and she greeted us. I spent then next while pondering about some of the things she might have seen in her century as we wondered off toward the river where we started to find root shoots. There weren’t many and it took an eagle eye to spot them.
bread fruit

finding the shoots under the mother tree was no easy feat

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We got them back to the greenhouse at Taino Farm and planted them in bags where they’ll remain until they begin to grow new leaves.  Young trees still prefer shade, so we’ll plant them next to a Pigeon pea or Moringa to provide them with shade as they grow. Pigeon pea and Moringa are also nitrogen fixing plants, which means that as the Bread Fruit tree grows, we will be able to chop and drop branches from these trees to mulch to earth around the new trees, give them nutrients and keep invasive grasses away.

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 3.45.09 PM

 
By using this method, our baby Bread Fruits should be bearing fruit in 3-5 years as apposed to 5-10 years if planted from seed.
Can’t wait to eat breadfruit pancakes in September 2016!

 

Chali Project at Taino Farm – Sustainable Agriculture
To commemorate Canada day, Chali (chaliproject.comaccompanied Taino Farm’s Charlie Durrant for an afternoon of compost turning and permaculture exploration.
Canadian Chali Volunteer, Beth Storey, with a Masters in Agriculture Science, describes the journey as an eye-opening experience. We were able to view the integration of environment and agriculture whilst learning about the importance of permaculture in the Dominican Republic and temperate climates.
The Chali Project works “with girls and women who seek an alternative path to the prevalent sex trade in the Dominican Republic. Through an alternative means to make a living, entrepreneurial artisania can provide integrity and a creative pathway to financial independence. The Chali Project was birthed out of the need to follow artisans through training, help them receive supplies, and deliver market driven products to a reliable buyer.”
Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

 
During our exploration, our tastebuds were introduced to Cranberry Hibiscus trees, sour lemon-drop like fruit, yellow tomatoes, moringa, and tropical spinach. It was definitely a full-FILLING trip.
Fun Fact: the simple act of shoving moringa branches in the ground creates more moringa trees.
It’s great to see how agriculture can be done in a sustainable manner in the tropics. By giving back to our communities through environmental education, skills based learning, knowledge share, and empowerment of women, we can make a huge change amongst the families in small communities like Los Brazos.
It was great to charlamos (spanish for ‘we chat’) with Charlie and Chali. When two great projects come together, awesome things can happen. We hope to hear more from the Chali girls in the future!
Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm