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

 

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: