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Here at Taino Farm, from time to time we get to experience the delight of sharing a glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic with one of our guests. Guest blogger Ny-Ann Nolasco wrote us and and shared about her experience here!

Overview from the main building at Taino Farm

Overview from the main building at Taino Farm

During my stay in the Dominican Republic, I had the opportunity to work on Taino Farms for a day as a hybrid intern and tourist and get a glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic.  Working on the farm had many wonderful surprises; learning how unfit I was for anything that required exerting effort was not one of them.  I’d never worked on a farm before and I even unfriend people who invite me to “Farmville” on Facebook.

Clearing the bases of the trees so they can grow!

Clearing the bases of the trees so they can grow!

Every time I lifted the hoe to clear off weeds around the tree, I wished there was an app for it. It didn’t take long before I realized my glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic was also a form of agricultural Crossfit.  When you lift and push a wheel barrow, you just have to tuck your elbows in and it’s a kind of triceps workout.  When you cut down a branch with a saw, you Use your hips! or Use your knees!  Going up to the kitchen at Taino Farm was like going up the eff’ng stair masters.  Mountain climbers??? How about you climb the hill that gets you to the river? A glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic was an authentic workout experience, filled with huffing, puffing and cussing.

Piggy and the steps up to the Kitchen

Piggy and the steps up to the Kitchen

There are guys in the gym who lift 200 lbs of <whatever it is they’re lifting>, but me, the only “200” I do is type 200 words per minute in my ergonomically set up office – the kind of office that reduces the repetitive stress injury so that you can repeat the same stressful activity over and over again. I was definitely out of my element at the farm.  I wanted to “work on a farm” because it was a romanticized thought in my head: working with my hands… working hard… under the sun…  Turns out working with your hands means getting knee deep in dirt, working hard means pouring out sweat and under the hot sun means slathering yourself with sunscreen. Though I underestimated how difficult it would be to do those things, my glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic showed me that the idealized phrases amounted to more than just a lot of shaking muscles, but also a whole lot of pride at the end of the day.  Every time I cut a branch with a saw (granted it was about the size of a quarter), I felt like I WON!  And I happily proclaimed it to the tree and the surrounding goats.

Piggy and a baby cow are a lovely glimpse into farm life in the Dominican Republic

Piggy and a baby cow are a lovely glimpse into farm life in the Dominican Republic

At the end of the day, do I fit in at the farm?  Absolutely!  It was so much fun being out there learning about plants and pruning principles and methods of cutting branches to avoid pests and diseases, all while learning Spanish too!  And it was even more fun eating the produce.  A glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic doesn’t leave your stomach lacking. Hungry? Grab a starfruit from the nearest tree.  Walking back to the main house? Grab a lemon mangosteen from the nearest tree.  Working? Grab a banana from the nearest tree.  Resting? Grab an abiu from the nearest tree! I’m not quite “fit” enough to be really efficient in the farm yet, but if you work hard and enjoy it, you’ll fit right in with the crew, the goat, the cows, the chickens, and Piggy, the beloved farm dog. My glimpse of farm life in the Dominican Republic definitely made me want to go back!

Gotta love this beautiful river and the location right at Taino Farm is supreme!

Gotta love this beautiful river and the location right at Taino Farm is supreme!

The best part of the day?  Jumping in the river.  I’m reluctant to even tell you about this well kept secret because you might end up going there and crowding the isolated, cool, and amazingly wonderful river!

Observing and interacting is the first principle of Permaculture and my personal favorite, as it reminds us to reflect the things we learn in our environment unto ourselves. I’ve put together a list of 7 things your garden can teach you about life. Gardens nurture us in many ways, they are incredibly beneficial to our health and the environment we live in as well being incredible teachers.

Your garden can teach you a lot about life… Stop and smell the flowers!

Your garden can teach you a lot about life… Stop and smell the flowers!

  1. Your garden can teach you we bloom where we’re planted… or we need to be transplanted. Sometimes the solution is not more water, more sunlight or more mulch. The plant is simply unhappy where it is and needs to move somewhere else. If you aren’t happy where you are, don’t let your leaves go brown, find a spot where you can spread your roots and blossom!
    Blooming flower at Taino Farm

    Blooming flower at Taino Farm

  2. Your garden can teach you beauty is not skin deep. The Carribean has a plethora of fruit that from the outside appears ogre ugly, yet is filled with the sweetest exotic sabor. If you take the time to find out what’s inside, you may be surprised by the contents.
    You'd never guess the contents of this beautiful fruit from the outside!

    You’d never guess the contents of this beautiful tropical fruit from the outside!

  3. Your garden can teach you it matters who’s planted beside you. Before planting a garden, it is best to find out which plants grow best together. While planting a garden full of sunflowers may seem like a good idea, space and valuable nutrients are wasted when you grow only one crop. Often, people make the mistake of growing only plants of the same type together. Diversity is an amazing thing, spinach and peppers for example grow well together because peppers provide shade to the spinach and spinach gives the peppers enough room for their root system. People are the same. Though it is easy to stay within our circle of the same “type” of people, we absorb the most “nutrients” when we expand our horizons and allow ourselves to grow with people who are not exactly like us.

    Your garden can teach you to be conscious of who you're planted beside.

    Your garden can teach you to be conscious of who you’re planted beside.

  4. Your garden can teach you pruning is part of growth. Sometimes you have to cut back to reach the next level of productiveness. If you’ve ever learned how to prune a tree, you know it takes more than just cutting off random branches to create the ideal shape. You must anticipate where all of the different limbs of the tree are headed and make an informed decision of where to let it grow and where it is a waste of energy. We all must make difficult decisions about where to put our energy and it is important to see sometimes it is beneficial to take a step back and prune.
  5. Your garden can teach you to appreciate the moment. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying and the same flower that smiles today tomorrow will be dying” -Robert Herrick. Appreciation is one of the best ways to tune into the world around you. Our gardens absorb time, energy and nutrients before coming to fruition. When you look at the intricacies of a blooming flower or inside of a fruit, you develop an appreciation for all of the pieces that must work together to create the simplest of things. In that moment, the only thing that physically exists is a flower. However, what you choose to perceive can be so much more. The potential for fruit and the seeds of the past are represented within that moment of time.

    Intern Selin Nurgun soaking in the moment at Taino Farm!

    Intern Selin Nurgun soaking in the moment at Taino Farm!

  6. Your garden can teach you that you reap just what you sow. Eggplants don’t produce tomatoes. You get out what you put into life so be conscious of what seeds you plant in your mind. Cultivate your big ideas and mulch the weeds. Realize that if you want to have a successful garden or a successful life, you are responsible for tending to it and cultivating change.
  7. Your garden can teach you to adapt and respond to change. The only reliable thing in life is change. As the seasons change, everything in your garden goes through phases. The seedlings grow up into big plants and then die and decompose, leaving behind more fertile soil. Humans have a tendency to cling to the past and strive for the future. Unfortunately this often causes stress and disconnection. Living in the moment does not mean falling stagnant, it means taking on the challenges as they come. Allow yourself to adapt and change so you may leave behind more fertile soil for the next seedlings.

Photos and post by Lynsey Wyatt.

At Taino Organic Farm, the biggest portion of our learning is through doing, which just so happens to coincide perfectly with permaculture principle number one: observe and interact. Instead of our usual classroom style permaculture lesson on Tuesday, the whole team decided to put permaculture principle number one into practice by going on a field trip into the mountains. All of the volunteers as well as our permaculture designer and teacher Charlie Durrant and our farm manager and guide Victor hopped on moto conchos towards Sabaneta.

Taino Organic Farm volunteers Karin and Honza on a moto conch riding over a bridge into the mountains.

Taino Organic Farm volunteers Karin and Honza on a moto conch into the mountains.

After the bridge, we cut left and went up a dirt road (or maybe I should say rock road, it was a bumpy ride) and after about ten minutes, got to a path we could walk.We thanked our moto drivers and began our meander through the forest jungle. As we walked, we observed and interacted with our surroundings, stopping often along the way to discuss different plants/wildlife and their purposes. We picked a couple of guanabana (also known as sour sop) fruits to eat and replant.

 

Taino Organic Farm volunteer Peyton Stanley holding a guanabana fruit.

Taino Organic Farm volunteer Peyton Stanley holding a guanabana fruit.

 

Eventually we reached the top of a mountain that overlooks the whole island. To the left in the distance we could see the ocean and below us the Yassica River that we swim in everyday, as well as the dirt road we live on. It was a truly incredible view and allowed us all to step back and realize how incredible it is that we live in a place where we are able to cultivate such diversity.

Piñon trees flowering pink dot the mountainside alongside other lush, diverse foliage and the Yassica river behind.

Flowering piñon trees dot the mountainside alongside other lush, diverse foliage and the Yassica river behind.

On our way back to the farm, we stopped and chopped some branches off a large piñon tree to plant back at the farm and diversify our area. Unlike many other trees, piñon branches (as well as moringa) can be planted directly into the ground to become a new tree. They are the most commonly used fence post in the Dominican Republic because you can “chop and drop” them once they grow large enough and feed them to the cattle. Fence posts into food in just a few months!

Taino Organic Farm volunteers as well as permaculture designer Charlie Durrant and farmers Victor and Juan Carlos atop a mountain overlooking Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

Taino Organic Farm volunteers as well as permaculture designer Charlie Durrant and farmers Victor and Juan Carlos atop a mountain overlooking Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

 

The longer I am here, the more I appreciate not only the world around me, but also all of the pieces that allow it to function. We see the permaculture principles in action all around us. The community at Taino farm experienced permaculture principle number one by observing our environment and interacting with each other to learn about what I consider the most important subject of all: the interaction of life in nature.