March 8, 2004
A bit of a slow start this morning at the Universidad. Thankfully we had an extra pair of hands to help out and make up for lost time. Jaime, a local man who is interested in doing similar projects on his property, assisted us with the daunting task of tree liberation. “Tree liberation” refers to the process of clearing trails and removing unwanted vegetation that is smothering the “arbolitos” (little trees) we previously planted. Carefully constructed trails have now become indistinguishable due to the rapid growth of grasses and other herbaceous plants. These undesirables compete for resources, which jeopardizes the survival of our trees. It is therefore necessary for us to periodically remove such vegetation. This also allows us to retrieve overgrown paths and monitor the well being of our transplants. We use mulch to protect the moisture in the soil once the vegetation is removed. Nearly four hours of swinging a machete and we barely made a dent. The location and condition of several dozen plants were still unknown when we finished in the early afternoon. At that point the temperature had risen to over a hundred degrees and the sun has scorched the pale skin of one volunteer who neglected to apply sunblock.
This morning we approached our work with a little more wisdom. We got to the Universidad just after 8 in the morning taking the appropriate precautions for working in the field all day: long sleeve shirts and pants, boots, sunscreen, bug repellent and plenty of water. Although it was just three of us, Ritta, Bevan and myself, we were much more productive than the previous day. The trails were completely cleared and the trees liberated by mid-afternoon. The weather cooperated as well, for the temperature stayed at a respectable degree and the sun remained shy behind the clouds for most of the morning. A cool breeze stirred every so often to chill the sweat that clings to every crevice of one’s body. It was a pleasurable, satisfying workday and I appreciated the tranquility this remote site has to offer.
March 11, 2004
Yesterday we took the day off from the field to tie up some loose ends that had been lingering at our apartment…namely housecleaning. You can only image the grime that accumulates in our shower: four women with long hair, dirt and plant matter from the field, sand from the beach, etc. Needless to say, a battle to maintain a livable apartment is fought frequently in this apartment. We also took the opportunity to construct shelves to store seeds.
Anxious to get back to nature we spent the day at the greenhouse today. Unfortunately, it has stopped raining again. So in addition to the weeding and transplanting we spent a considerable amount of time watering the seedlings. Before leaving we gathered 30 plants and a bucket full of compost to use for tomorrow’s planting.
March 12, 2004
Although the rain hasn’t returned, we planted at Jorge Lomas today. Drought tolerant trees, such as Algarrobo, were selected and strategically placed in the upper region of the site. Brian has been battling a severe case of giardia for some time now. His parasites are so severe that he is anemic and his body is in a state of anorexia. Unable to work in the field he has been resting at home and concentrating on administrative tasks. To compensate for his absence, a local teen (Dario) was hired to assist with planting.
While planting and cribbing at the site a local man came to thank us for our hard work and dedication. Earlier, when we first arrived, we were spotted by an acquaintance of ours (Lena). She climbed up the hill and told us the tale about what she lived through when the mudslides occurred just a few years prior. Beneath the hill we had been working to stabilize there was once a main road leading into this barrio. She pointed out several piles of rumble and identified whose house it used to be and where they live now…if they were still living. When we finished our duties for the day we ate lunch that was graciously offered at Lena’s house. Her kind words and those of the other man were unexpected rewards for our hard day’s work.
March 15, 2004
Ritta and Bevan journeyed to the greenhouse today and I remained in the city with Brian. Brian and I have begun to prepare for his departure next month. When he leaves I will take over as the Field Project manager. Tasks at the greenhouse are repetitive and nothing worth elaborating on occurred this particular day.
March 16, 2004
Another day in town. Brian and I spent the afternoon sorting through a recent shipment of seeds. Each species was identified and sketched for future reference. Under each drawing, instructions for germination and planting were written. I intend on making this reference book more comprehensive to serve as a manual for future volunteers and community members. Next week I want to focus on proper storage of seeds. We have quite a large amount at the time, enough to fill ten greenhouses with plants, and I want to make sure they will not spoil before we germinate them.
March 17, 2004
It has been extremely hot and dry this week. With the arrival of Koke’s cousin, we were fortunately able to send two teams of volunteers into the field. One group went to the greenhouse for general maintenance and watering while the other watered two recently planted sites, Jorge Lomas and the Bosque. The team at the greenhouse also planted Fernan Sanchez tree seeds.
March 18, 2004
Five of us put in thirty-three plants at a new site today. Jorge Lomas Canal is located on the outskirts of the barrio. It is a huge site and will take several rainy seasons to plant. Besides the three of us (Ritta, Bevan and myself) we had two Bahian volunteers—the infamous Cheo, close friend and mentor, and Emilia our landlady. The decision to start planting this site was tough. Rain has been minimal to non-existent all week and there is a possibility it may not even return until next year. However, we have the human power to do plantings at this time and therefore the decision was made to go forth with the work. In the likely event that we will have to water this new site (in addition to our other sites) we planted all the trees in a relatively concentrated area. Water is not readily available there and we will most likely have to lug it in from a residential area a mile away. I have to say it was quite humorous to see our prissy landlady use a machete. Though perhaps not as odd as I must have looked to the locals collecting the feces of a resident donkey to use as fertilizer.