Clueless Attempts at Permaculture: 6 months and Drowning
Remember last time I wrote one of these and it seemed vaguely optimistic? Forget all that.
We are currently in the depths of the rainy season. The good news about this is that, as it pours for hours every day, nothing needs additional watering. Here are the downsides: the soil just washes away and if you don’t catch it quickly and remedy the situation, it can leave delicate roots exposed. Heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers get moldy and rot, and weeds grow incredibly quickly. Now combine that with the fact that my free-ranging chickens have stripped the leaves off of everything they can reach and the leaf-cutter ants on the other property have stripped everything else. It is difficult to say the least.
The truth is that progress is being made, it’s just much slower than I would like. The fruit trees are growing and the hardy plants that are native to here, like cassava, sugar cane, pineapples and sweet potatoes are actually doing really well. But if I think about the amount of lettuce, tomatoes, beans, kale, potatoes etc. that I would have pulled out of my garden over a summer in Canada (even given our ridiculously short growing season), this just doesn’t even come close. Which is annoying, because the promise of a longer growing season, and therefore the potential to actually grow enough food on our little lot to feed ourselves, was one of our main reasons for moving to Costa Rica.
While they are kind of evil and have eaten all of my moringa, I do love the chickens, We are getting four delicious eggs a day from our tiny flock and they are exactly what you would want from pasture-raised hens: bright orange yolks, thick whites, great taste. The gals follow me around the yard because they have learned that I often dig up the good stuff and leave a trail of weeds behind me. We have created a pit for the compost, rather than using a bin as we were before, and the chicks are in it all the time, fishing for bugs and gorging on bruised mangoes and banana peels.
We have found what might be a solution to the gardening issues that we are super excited about. It’s called a PermaCube and is basically this sleek little unit that is supposed to allow for all your off-grid living in a small footprint. It has an aquaponics system, which is run off solar panels, a solar dehydrator, chicken nesting boxes with chicken-tractor and more greenhouse space. I like the idea of a growing space that is protected from my hens but still lets them tear around the yard like the demented raptors they are. And an aquaponic system would allow for more protein (fish and shrimp) to be grown on our property while letting me keep plants somewhere they won’t drown. The catch (of course there’s a catch!) is that the pre-fab units they are selling in the US are not available here. So, we’re going to build our own, McGyvering things together as needed. I’ll let you know how it goes. (Or click here:PermaCube Promo to download a PDF with all the info if you are interested in buying your own).
We did just get our first harvest of mammon chinos also known as rambutan from our tree this week. We picked a huge bag, peeled them, froze the fruit and roasted the seeds. They are so good that I have to stop my littlest from eating more than a dozen or so at a time. A rule I might have to go back on if we can’t manage to grow anything else in the near future!
Do I sound whiny? Poor girl, having to live in Costa Rica! Sorry about that. The permaculture dream is still very much alive, I just have to make it through the rainy season. Then the sun will come out (tomorrow! Bet your bottom dollar that… Come on, everybody sing!) and many of the veggies and fruits will be ready to harvest. We’ll see if the work pays off.