I think this maybe personally the most exciting blog I have so far written. The idea of being of able to produce at least some of what we consume ourselves (and maybe even enough to sell a little tot he best restaurant in Nicaragua, the Ola Verde run by my friend Carla – not veggie but organic and with plenty of yummy veggie dishes on the menu). I write this though against a backdrop of worrying levels of drought in northern Nicaragua, leading to severe crop failures (about 60% of the maize crop has failed and up to 90% of other, less hardy crops) and food shortages to the extent that there are serious problems with hunger and possibly starvation especially amongst children.
We discovered the land through checking out land which is for sale (for a student who wants to move here). It is actually a large piece of land (for sale at around $100,000), a third of it already cleared for crops, another third planted with citrus trees – the mandarins are especially delicious – and they bring in an income of about $8000 per year. The rest is wooded hillside, with a footpath to a great viewpoint. We are renting for one year just a couple of manzanas (about the same size as the Mariposa land) and are going to plant really whatever seeds we can get ahold of! This will included seeds that we save from our kitchen veggies and fruit – such as melon, watermelon and various squashes & pumpkins. But several of our students have also donated seeds to us so we can venture into different varieties of tomato, eggplant, okra, brocoli, onions, etc etc. “Not more veggies” commented one student who is a particularly avid meat eater (we must be doing something right though as he is now on his third visit to the Mariposa !). And of course the healthy food here is what most people love!
The head of the team of four now employed to work the land is Franklin, some of you will know him from going on horserides. As with many people here he has many talents and one of them turns out to be organic farming. He was on his way to getting a university degree in sustainable agriculture when his wife got pregnant with twins and so he had to give it up. A real shame as he had already completed 4 years out of 5. So I have done a deal with him whereby the Mariposa will pay to get him through the last year which he can do studying on Saturdays. Meanwhile he is working the land and looking after the horses and being a school caretaker. And being a great Dad to his adorable twins. Whew!
Franklin started work last Monday. By Tuesday the larger weeds had been cut with machete, on Wednesday he brought in the team of oxen and ploughed the land. Today, Friday, they are raking and starting to bank up the soil ready for planting the seeds. The guys start work at first light, around 5.30am and by 11.00am they are already back home. Man, they work fast it is incredible. And of course it is all done by hand, no fancy tools or tractors. It is hard work but at least it is employment and we are paying well.
Can´t wait for the first veggies!! Though we are already eating salad leaves, beet(root)s from the restricted amount of planting we have found space from within the Mariposa grounds – and we are now almost self sufficient in eggs!!