The agriculture seed has sprouted within.

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
Trip End Apr 05, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Just as with the first week here at ECHO, the past seven days have disappeared quite quickly. The first couple days seemed a bit long since we weren't cramming four workshops into each one of them but the new pace of farm work and studying soon became normal. Sean and Dave, two students who were also here for the Intro to Tropical Ag course, stayed on for an extra week to get extra hands on experience and a few more study hours in too. It was nice to have the company and camaraderie – not to mention the benefit of community dinners! (they are both very good cooks)

Monday I spent most of my day in the library, getting my schedule down pat and familiarizing myself with many books. [Staff member] Larry Yarder also gave a demonstration on the different methods to propagate plants.

Tuesday allowed for time in the fields. I fed goats, mulched a part of the semi-arid area and then rebuilt some Zai holes with the intern that tends to that zone, Brian. Zai holes are simply inverted cone-shaped planting holes that protect seeds and concentrate nutrients/compost/mulch right on the most important part of the garden: your plants! The sun was hot and I sweat like a … well, like an out of shape North American : ). At lunch I cleaned up and filled up before heading to the library for some study time in the afternoon.

The "chore" as they call it, for Wednesday was chickens. Laura Catherine and I fed them greens and some grain. These particular chickens are fenced in a maize (corn) patch so they’ll naturally control weeds, fertilize the soil and, although they pack down the soil by walking on it, they also scratch it to reverse that effect.
After finishing with the chickens I wandered over to Lydia Dant (intern Brian’s wife) to pick her brain about some nutritional inquiries I had. My main concern was how to approach the topic of a balanced diet when a person is used to only focusing on the simple fact that they have had anything to eat. Even though final answers tend begin with “it depends on the situation” with cross-cultural development work, we talked of many different possibilities and branched out into other topics. I was happy to have chatted with her.
In the afternoon I sat in on a soon-to-be-leaving intern’s “senior seminar” on water pumps. This young man, Joseph, is a pump engineering genius. After playing with many different types of water pumps, we actually started building one out of PVC… but ran out of time to finish. Even still, it was a really good lesson.

As part of the composting experiment team on Thursday, I started off by machete-ing some Vetiver grass to go into the compost pile. The grass did a number on my hand – I hadn’t been wearing gloves and it sliced up my left hand, particularly my palm and tip of the pointer finger. These new injuries went nicely with the blister that had ripped open on my right thumb on Tuesday. Oddly, I found myself proud of the wounds – like marks of a warrior! Ok, not exactly :). After enough greens were chopped, I moved onto shoveling poop. Really. There was a huge pile of it that ECHO bought from a local dairy farmer. It needed to be measured for this experiment which will test whether a compost pile with 10% manure and a healthy mix of green/brown compost material will provide the same growing/harvesting results as 100% manure.
Later in the day I transplanted some perennial peanut as a ground cover in a goat pasture (the goats will be kept away until it is really flourishing). The transplanting went well, but it was hot – really hot – so we kept our minds occupied by telling jokes. I pulled out my favorite (brown chicken brown cow, for those who know) and enjoyed the hands on experience of transplanting. I also helped with planting a small field of beans.

Friday got interesting. Interns all eat breakfast together and we students were invited to join. Over scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes, I heard of a rabbit harvest for a woman wanting meat and quickly volunteered myself to be extra hands on deck. This was totally new territory and although I didn’t totally know what I was getting myself into, I figured it was a good skill to have. I decided that rabbits would be my chore for the morning too, so [interns] Noah, Brandon and myself cut some fresh leaves and fed the cute bunnies… well, all but three. They had already enjoyed their “last meal” the day prior. To do the dirty work, we moved to another section of the farm and, after a prayer, the work began. I’ll save the details for those who want to ask me in person; I had the chance to do the third one pretty much on my own.
The fact that the rabbits were killed for food helped but extinguishing a life required some contemplation time. I had a new appreciation for the meat that I consume – and in a way, a new connection to it. I tried to keep up mentally during my next scheduled appointment with [interns] Katie and Laura as they discussed the future of the forage bank. However, it wasn’t long before I decided to find some manual labor to keep my hands busy and let my mind rest.
Just around the corner I found a group cutting Mucuna vines to put into the compost experiment. I grabbed a machete and joined. Since the vine leaves pockets of air it is hard to measure the same as the manure (we put it in 40cm deep barrels), so I had the pleasure of quietly chopping the cuttings into small pieces before placing into a barrel – the perfect task given my mental state.  I was able to come to terms with this new realization and moved onto an irrigation project with Katie later. At night most of us went to get some ice cream where we discussed among other things the complexity (and in my opinion, greatness) of the cake cone. Gotta love it.

This weekend has been a total blessing, just as last weekend was. It has given my mind and body a chance to settle from the busy days prior and actually get off the ECHO campus to enjoy Fort Myers. Saturday I said goodbye to [student] Dave, and later in the day went shopping with Ruth for our trips abroad. We also ate dinner with Bob and Ellen Hargrave – Bob works here at ECHO.  They are a great couple. Just as I got back to ECHO the interns asked if I would like to watch a movie: The Three Amigos! How could I resist! : )
Speaking of great couples… After eating breakfast with [student] Sean and saying our goodbyes I met up with Stuart and Freida Miller at St. Hilary’s Episcopal Church again this week Sunday. After the service they treated me to a couple local sweet spots. We ate lunch at The Oasis, which had delicious hamburgers, and followed it with dessert at a coffee/donut shop called Bennett’s.  Now, these donuts were amazing – they kick all other classic donuts to the curb – they have the perfect glaze to compliment the slightly salty dough – they are made fresh daily and if you are in Fort Myers, you must seek them out!
Please note: Crane’s Pie Pantry in Fennville, Michigan has amazing donuts too, but they fall in a different category.
Also note: I do not use the word amazing lightly.

Prayer Requests:
A continued “spongy” brain and clarity when studying. Physical strength and an analytical mind when working.
Update: Back/neck is doing much better.
Thank you for keeping me in mind.
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Glenn n Nancy Leep on

Love the blog! Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

terraleep on

Thank you!

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