Report from Interim Manager Dan Robbins.

November 6-11, 2006

This is our first week as a group without Patrick as acting Project Manager. Instead of relying on Patrick as the sole leader and teacher, I think we could all sense that we were beginning to pool together our resources and skills to compensate for the loss of such an invaluable mentor. There were a few hitches along the way reminding us, like always, that as comfortable as we might now feel here in Bahia, still, there are aspects of this culture that are perplexing for us.

This week we had a guest volunteer from Arizona who heard about the work that we have been doing here and wanted to take part for a few days. Her Spanish language skills are superior to ours and she quickly became a much appreciated help all week not to mention that she is one of the hardest workers I have seen here as of yet. She appreciated the opportunity to work with us here and has since left to continue her travels elsewhere.

The plan for Monday was to pick up a new load of screened compost prepared for us in 30 grain sacks for our seed bed preparation project. Unfortunately, in typical South American fashion, both our Municipal contact at the compost facility and driver failed to show, so, instead we dug all of the previous soil out of the beds, acquired some wire, and worked again on securing the roof sections that were quite loosely attached. Like always, we took care to water our trees and tended to our own compost pile which is decomposing much more rapidly now that we have made a few needed changes. Including adding more carbon sources, by incorporating leaf matter and by using the ash found around the site left over from wood burning. The ash also has a good amount of Potassium which the trees can use as a fertilizer source. In my opinion, purchasing compost from the city of Bahia, as quality as it is, won’t be needed again any time in the near future as our our own compost pile will be much more productive in a short time.

We worked a long day on Tuesday finally tracking down Hugo from the compost plant and delivered our 500 pounds of composted organic city waste to the greenhouse. No easy task at all since the soil was not put in sacks but instead was just piled up before our arrival. But after a few hours of shoveling and driving and minus a few dollars tipped to the tractor driver, the compost was delivered and looks very nice. It consists of almost all kitchen waste. Also, Tuesday we watered the El Toro site entirely and Sebastian stayed quite late using the GPS to enter and save all of the existing trees onto a program. He worked diligently on this after hours all week.

We worked in groups Wednesday watering Cherry Tree and La Cruz and later met up at the greenhouse to work on fixing up the outdoor seed beds so they can be used to sow shade tree seeds soon. We also mixed our preexisting soil with the purchased large grain compost and finally filled the beds. After work we were visited by some local teachers who were looking to learn more about our reforestation project as they are looking to reforest an area close to the city near a popular mirador. 

Bosque Encantado was a long day on Thursday as we watered as usual but spent more of our time there clearing new trails for planting a new site later in the season. The site is larger than we first expected and we will only reforest one of the two areas. The second is of lesser importance considering the amount of trees we will have at our disposal this year. Again, Sebastian stayed late and used the GPS to chronicle the existing plantings to give us a better perspective of the site in its entirety.

On Friday Lauren and I met with the local teachers and traveled to the greenhouse to show them our trees. We gave some lessons on planting and explained the degree of work that is needed at such a project for it to succeed. They are eager to attempt it. Jamie took time to explain many of the facets of the project as they had many questions for him and he was glad to do so at that. Also on Friday bamboo was collected from around the greenhouse which will be used next week to build a temporary greenhouse at El Toro for the rainy season. The rest of the volunteers worked at the house to add screens to the windows in an effort to mitigate the population of mosquitoes that have been biting Tom and they finished our project of waxing the floor. 

Over the weekend I returned to the greenhouse to incorporate sand into the greenhouse seed beds and then watered them in as an experiment to see how much more permeable the new soil mix is compared to the soil of past. (The soil mix has more pore spaces now with higher amounts of oxygen and ability to drain.) It is apparent to me that our work on this matter has been well worth it as the water permeated far deeper into the soil mix than it would have earlier in the year. I believe that we will have healthier trees, earlier in the season than before.

As a whole our first week without Patrick was a success and we are anxious to begin the next week as it should prove to be just as challenging and eventful.

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