Harvesting, Planning, and Learning
It takes three weeks for radishes to be ready for harvest, and I went over to Plan Verde to see how the vegetables were doing. When I got there, I found rows of large, zesty, and tangy radishes. We immediately pulled some up, and just ate them on the spot. It was quite exciting! My farmers said that I could take a bunch of them home as payment for the seeds that I had bought. We planned for a two day period, when I would come back and help them transplant the other seedlings. I sat out in front of Dona Juana's house and waited for the truck to Concepcion. When I got home, I ate some of those wonderful radishes, and combined the leaves with scrambled egg for a warm delicacy.
After this, I went to my other group in San Miguelillo, and Don Renee and I made a large compost pile which he wanted to enlarge. He had a homemade fish pond on his property, right by the house. I spent a lot of time at his house waiting for him to show up, usually. It wasn't a overly positive situation, but he was always ready to go on special field trips. Nothing much more happened there, though.
During this period, I also went to see Don Filipe in Guachipilincito, and he was very excited about working with my boss, Gary, because they had travelled to Magdalena together. He thought that Gary would be staying to help him with all the soil conservation. He was disappointed, when I told him that he would not be returning, and I was the one. By then I'd met his brother Pasqual and his wife Guadalupe, and we were working productively. They were a lovely couple who were not overburdened by many children, and they liked working together. His father lived with their family.
The next week, I went back to Plan Verde with my bag packed to stay with Juana. She was a very independent mother of seven, who was married to a slightly younger man who had arthritis. He had been able to make a compost pile, but he wasn't meeting with the group, because the work was too strenuous. Juana told me that she had bought a cow that was solely hers. I was very impressed with her independence, as this was highly unusual for a woman in the country.
I was there to work with all the members of my group. By now, we had about seven men and women. I taught them how to use a Level A, and we picked the hillside in level lines called Labranza Minima. It would take two days to pick the land and transplant the larger vegetables that would mature more slowly.We had a great time, as the women and the men now were harmoniously working together! This group continued to be my favorite, and most productive. It was the hot and dry season, and so someone always had to go and irrigate the plots. It had been a lot easier with the terrace, because everything was in one place. Once we got the hillside done, people didn't water it much, and the rest of the plants languished.
After two weeks working hard, I went to Teguc to organize a field trip to a "model farm" called Semane. I had to talk to Gary, my boss, and Kathleen, the woman who worked in Semane. We had to plan what time we were going to meet, which farmers were going to speak, and how the whole day would go. Kathleen said that she would visit my site before the date of the field trip. I had to get a USAID grant application to fund the field trip. It was also time for me to get my W-2. I earned $2,400 that year-big earner! Finally, I was planning on visiting both Guatemala and El Salvador. To enter El Salvador, I had to get a visa. The only place I could secure it was the capital. All these things were done, and it was time to return.
Julio, from the Zamorano School of Agriculture, came to visit and give the long awaited class. Unfortunately, the day that he was scheduled to come spend the night in Concepcion was the day that there was a class given by CRS ( Catholic Relief Services), and it was very quiet, because many people were inside. Coming from Nicaragua, and then near the capital, he was quite unimpressed by the quiet, sleepy and hot town. He couldn't get over how boring it was, and asked me if I'd cried when I'd first gotten there. I said that I loved it right away, and my life had been quite interesting. He just couldn't believe that, and thought me crazy! I felt sorry for my town.
Julio gave an inspiring three hour workshop in Plan Verde. There were eight farmers from Plan Verde, and Pasqual, Guadalupe, and Don Lucio from Guachipilincito. Don Filipe couldn't go, and neither could anyone from San Miguelillo, because they were either in school or had to work. First, we all sat on Juana's front porch, and Julio told us about how certain insects eat others.He told us how it's important not to use pesticide, because that kills both the negative and beneficial insects. Then, he asked everyone to get a plastic baggy and fill it with insects from Juana's corn field. This became a great learning experience for Pasqual, as he put a spider in his bag of harmful insects, and the spider immediately attacked and killed one of them. IPM in action, so exciting! He came running up to us, and we watched in amazement as the spider did his work. What better way to learn, than right there in the field. It was truly exhilarating! Even though some of my farmers weren't able to attend, I felt the ones who did attend learned a great deal. They were thankful for the opportunity. Julio said that he would return in June for a class held in town. Hopefully, more people would attend this one, since it was closer to many of their homes.
Kathleen, the volunteer from Semane, came to visit one day. We discussed logistics for the field trip, especially making arrangements for meeting at 6:30 am in Yamaranguila, and proceeding on to Semane. She also told me about the three farmers that would show their land, teach how to make a compost pile, and talk about the figurative "Human Farm". This concept was mostly about cooperation among farmers, imparting valuable information to others, and not staying isolated. During this time, we were interrupted by my landlord's son, Jorge, who wanted to talk to me as we were in the street. She asked if that was my boyfriend, and I told her no, just an admirer. Really, I don't know what it was with these guys!
I thought I should take some slides for a show that my farmers and I hoped to put on during a Saturday morning market. I got a special roll to do this, and we were all excited about having the show, when we realized that every Saturday morning there was rationing of electricity. The lights turned on and off every six hours, and Saturday morning was one of the times there was no electricity. We were disappointed that it wouldn't work out, but I did take some slides of my trip to Guatemala.
Because more of the country had electricity, the government decided to also use Daylight Savings Time. This was kind of crazy, as the difference in light from one season to the next was negligible, since we were so close to the equator. We made the switch, and the time change didn't work in our town. Professora Berta, Gloria's mother, told me that the kids didn't want to get up earlier, and neither did the teachers and families. Everybody switched back after two days, and that was the end of it. The rest of the country kept the new time, so whenever I left town, I had to add an hour. Since I was working with farmers, this didn't affect my work at all. I was amused that some of the other volunteers had changed their watches, and were working with the new time change.
It was still dangerous for a young American woman living in the courtyard area. I had a tiny room off the courtyard for my toilet room. The only thing separating it from the courtyard was a thin shower curtain. This didn't concern me at all for some reason. I was way to trusting. Anyway, one day I was in the bathroom, and this young man who I had never seen pulled the shower curtain open. I thought that he had made a mistake, and not seen me. I thought he wanted to use the bathroom, but he just stood there watching me. That's when I knew something wasn't right. I got up really quickly, and he started to lean in to touch me. I screamed and ran out to my landlord's garden. The offender, who I didn't recognize, ran away directly. After this, my landlord put a lock on the main door to the courtyard, and gave the merchants and me a key to it. This didn't fully alleviate the problem, as I was still locked in with the merchants over weekends, but it kept out the rest of the riff-raff, thankfully.
Join me on a tirp to Guatemala, and lots of of work excitement, next.