Posted by: Lydia | June 24, 2010

bored jovenes on summer vacation = trabajo gratis

Lest you think the Peace Corps Dominican Republic is all fun and games and helping develop ecotourism enterprises by doing “quality control” at resorts (no, nobody actually gets to do that as their project), I’d like to direct your attention to the efforts of our community’s Brigada Verde.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Brigada Verde is an environmentalist youth group in the Dominican Republic founded by the Peace Corps and Sirve Quisqueya. BV members are given a basic environmental science education through a PC-developed curriculum, then go into local schools to give charlas (lectures or workshops) about protecting the environment, ecosystems of the DR, etc. etc. Members also go to national conferences (like the one about marine ecosystems Matt and I attended in April in Monte Cristi), paint murals, serve as tour guides in national parks, organize trash pick-ups in their communities, and run community gardens.

Our community’s group is already ridiculously committed to picking up trash in the community (I could not even imagine trying to get most of the teens and pre-teens I worked with back in the states to pick up trash without a court order), and we are hoping to get our garden up and running this fall so we can sell the produce. Our community needs better food security (for products other than viveres, which have little nutritive value other than carbohydrates), and our BV needs money to go to conferences, so we hope this garden will resolve both issues.

Anyway, this morning we taught our BV the double-dig method of bed preparation. This method is a great way to turn hard-packed, dead soil into fertile, workable earth when making an intensive (i.e. lots of plants in a small area) vegetable garden in the tropics. I don’t think this method is appropriate for temperate climates because of the amount of undigested green matter that you are throwing in the ground, but here in the heat it works just fine. Basically what you do is remove the living top soil (about 2” down) and place it in a heap off to the side, reserving it for later. We do this because we want to keep the surface soil organisms on top, where they belong. Then you dig a hole in your bed area about a foot wide and a foot deep. Fracture the bottom of the hole, then fill it with green matter. Dig another hole in the adjacent foot of space in your bed, and use that dirt to fill in the first hole. Continue down the length of your bed until you reach the last hole, then use the dirt from the first hole you dug to fill the last one. Replace the topsoil, cover your bed with banana leaves or palm fronds to protect the worms from chickens and your beds from rain and sun, and in three weeks you can add compost on top and being planting a week later.

It sounds fairly easy, but when Matt and I double dug our first bed on Monday morning, it took nearly 5 hours of backbreaking labor. The area we are working in used to be the floor of a kitchen, so it is packed ridiculously hard and is nearly as full of rocks as it is of soil. So, we decided to teach a gardening class to approvechar all the muchacho labor that’s just lying around idle during summer break. You’d think that handing over picks, shovels, and machetes to a group of kids ages 10 to 18 would be a terrible idea, but here in the DR that kind of thing is totally appropriate and usually works out in the end. Fortunately for our future here in the community, everyone left with their eyes and limbs intact, and these incredible jovenes double-dug the second bed and de-rocked and hoed both in under two hours.

Mira:

Picking rocks out of the bed Matthew and I prepared last week:

Reglaring ojas for compost.

Daisy shows us how it’s done

¡Por fin! ¡Terminamos!

Also, Matt and I made some insanely spicy hot sauce from the local ahi caribe that some neighbors gave us a big sack of. They only use a little bit to make spicy peanut butter every once in a while, so they were more than happy to offload some of their crop on the crazy gringos.

Also, GIANT MANGOS!!!!!

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Responses

  1. Awww. I miss you guys. 😦 Seeing you guys in pictures is nice, but makes me miss you more. sniff sniff

  2. Love from Ma and Sarah, who are sitting in the Abbazia di San Antimo several kilometers outside of Montalcino, listenoing to the monks chant.

  3. Nosotros gringos no son muy bueno para esta clase de trabajo. Somos flojo.

  4. Daddy’s little girl — the farming gene reasserts itself!

  5. Dear Lydia and Matt,

    I came across your blog when, on a whim, I googled “DR peace corps Elias Pina.” You’re probably wondering why on earth I would google such a thing. Random, I know. But there is good reason. I volunteer with an org in El Llano which is in Elias Pina and I will be there for the whole month of August. I googled the above phrase because I’d love to meet and get together with the Peace Corps volunteers living in my area. Last time I was there for so long it got quite lonely being the only American for miles around. Last I heard there were two or three PCV’s living in Comendador, capital of Elias Pina….several miles from me but completly worth the minor trek. My email is coffejes@aquinas.edu…hope to talk to you soon! Cuidate mucho.


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