A side note: In light of the 7 billionth person being born, the World Food Program has compiled 7 suggested readings on food security and hunger. The articles are available here.
After 4 date changes and a hurricane that brought 10 straight days of rain, we finally transplanted the seedlings for the daycare on Monday. Because of the date changes, only one father was able to help with the planting. Thankfully Sam and Jeff, a Peace Corps couple from Olancho, traveled to help us. Sam wrote her dissertation on biointensive gardening, so we definitely took advantage of our resident expert (that's how we roll in Peace Corps).
Originally, we wanted to formally present the biointensive model to all of the parents and the staff, but we ended up keeping it rather informal. So, the 4 of us gathered on the spot with the 1 father and 2 staff members (the 3rd was watching the children) and explained what we were doing and why we were trying out a new method. Sam explained some of the many advantages of biointensive gardening, and everyone was on board.
One of the ways we adapt and integrate into our sites is to identify how our communities learn best. I've discovered, at least in my site, that when presenting information lecture style I lose my audience within 5 minutes. So, gathering right on top of the planting spot, explaining the major ideas and then moving right into step-by-step demonstrations worked really well. They weren't nearly as intimidated by the new information, and we weren't towering over anyone at a lecture stand spouting off ideas that they couldn't visualize.
We marked off four 4 meter x 1 meter beds, and Jeff moved right into demonstrating the double-dig method. (You can read a basic description of Biointensive Agriculture here.)
Once we had the idea down, we divided up among the 4 beds and began preparing the beds. The soil was an incredible deep brown with few rocks, so the digging went much faster than planned. In 3 hours we had all 4 beds ready to go.
But, the day wasn't without any setbacks. I knew that the spot we were using used to be the Health Center's backyard. They moved about 10 years ago to a larger building across town, but may have still been using the backyard to burn biohazard materials. Anyway, the image above is just a small portion of what we found in the soil. Some bottles were dated as late as 2003! (Welcome to the third world.) We carefully removed what we could while trying to avoid needles. Thankfully, the Health Center now uses receptacles for this sort of thing instead of burning or burying it all.
Unfortunately, with so many hazardous materials, we shut the gate so the children wouldn't enter. We originally wanted to let them help, kids love this stuff! But, we didn't want them potentially hurting themselves. Still, they got a good look at the seedlings and were very excited about having a garden.
Once the beds were prepped, we started planting the 300+ seeds that germinated. We were able to take advantage of companion planting, and planted anywhere from 2 to 4 different kinds of seedlings in each 4x1 meter bed. The only pair that we had to really separate was onions and potatoes, so they are currently at opposite ends of the garden. One of the many advantages of this type of planting is that we can plant the seedlings closer together, most being anywhere from 20-40 cm apart. (Above) Jacob planting cabbage and cauliflower with the daycare Director.
Once Jacob and Jimmy (the father who came) disposed of all of the bio-hazardous materials in a deep pit they had dug at the corner of the yard, we let the kids come in to watch. They were so excited!
While I was conducting research on the best way to prepare and plant potatoes, I got fed up with the variety of answers. So, I called up my grandfather, who has been planting potatoes for much longer than I can remember. Some of my best childhood memories are helping dig up potatoes with him and my great uncles. I think he was thrilled that I called, and he gave me some great advice. And, with the double dig method, you can plant them as you dig, saving a lot of time in the process.
Anyway, we ended the day about 2 pm and went for a much deserved lunch. My original plan was to give each Honduran participant a packet of seeds to try the method at home. But, because Jimmy was the only one who came, we ended up giving him 8 packets of seeds and the leftover seedlings that wouldn't fit in the beds. Hopefully, he'll tell the other fathers and next season we'll have a much bigger crowd :)
The fruits (or veggies) of our labor!...