Revegetation Journal – 05/05/04

Renée Portanova, Volunteer 
Planet Drum Foundation

March 5, 2004  

Tree Species
(Latin names available by contacting    

  • Guayacan
  • Colorado
  • Muyuyo de montana 
  • Jigua
  • Canela
  • Jigua bedionda
  • Cascol
  • Amarillo
  • Guachepeli
  • Chirimoya
  • Algarrobo
  • Fernan Sanchez
  • Ceibo
  • Pechiche            

January 26, 2004

Although it is the rainy season in Bahia de Caraquez it hasn’t rained in nearly three weeks.  The trees we have planted are in dire need of water.  Today we watered two of our sites in which transplants have recently been placed, Jorge Lomas and Catolico Unversidad.  Due to the fact that Brian is ill, we hired Cheo, a local volunteer, to assist in the laborious task of watering.  We don’t have any fancy equipment for watering. The Unversidad site has a huge barrel in the lower section.  Three hoses are strung together to reach this crucial point.  From there, three-liter soda bottles and buckets are carried up and down the hillsides loaded with water to nourish the plants. At Jorge Lomas it is even more difficult.  There isn’t a water source available as there is at the Unversidad.  We rely on the kindness and generosity of the community that allows us to pillage water from their wells.  A local boy helped with the watering.  Barefoot and shirtless, he moved with ease through the hillside watering the upper region of the site.  His family gave us lemonade when we returned the buckets.

January 27, 2004

Greenhouse maintenance is the generic term used to include a number of tasks.  The greenhouse, which is located at the Unversidad, is where we propagate all the trees to be planted at our revegetation sites.   Maintenance of the greenhouse includes tending to the compost pit, transplanting immature trees, watering seedlings and transplants, and hacking away at weeds with a machete.  Today a variety of tasks were performed, with special emphasis placed on the compost pit.  At times the compost pit looks more like a rubbish pile with countless plastic bags and condiment packaging mingling with the organic waste from the school’s cafeteria.   Numerous efforts have been made to discourage people from throwing inorganic matter into the pit, but our pleas continue to be ignored.  Once the trash is picked out, fresh food scraps are added and the compost is turned and watered.  Inside the greenhouse, cinder blocks are used as a seat while plucking weeds from the seedbeds and transplanting immature trees.  The weeds are added to the compost pile or used as mulch.  The transplants are neatly stacked in vacant spaces where they sit recovering from the trauma of being removed from the earth, anxiously awaiting the time until which they will be moved to their permanent home on a hillside.

January 29, 2004

Fifty pound sacks of soil filled with compost and sandy-loam dirt, are stacked in a heap on the far side of the greenhouse.  With one swift swing of a machete the bag splits allowing access to its contents.  The soil mixture is scooped into little black plastic bags in which saplings will soon reside.  Gently, each tree is removed from the seedbed and placed into its own individual plastic bag.  It takes a bit of patience and skill to recover the tree with the root intact.  Once this skill is mastered the task becomes meditative; the songs of birds and the smell of greenness become one.  After a few hours nearly a hundred trees can be transferred.  The remainder of the time is spent watering the thirsty newborns.  The beds are so dry from an inadequate rainy season.  Fortunately this day water is available at the Universidad and plants are able to drink.

February 2, 2004

Well, some rain has finally come and the greenhouse, inside and out, is overwhelmed with “weeds.”

Some are nearly as high as my shoulders (I’m 5’6’’). With a machete in one hand and an “L” shaped stick in the other, I begin the tedious task of clearing the paths surrounding the greenhouse and compost pit.  The stick in my left hand is used to push back the grass-like stalks, exposing the base of the plant.  It is necessary to trim low to the ground.  If done correctly the machete is swung parallel to the ground with most movement coming from the flicking of my wrist.  The sharp tool being swung inches from my calf consumes my thoughts, as I try to ignore the masses of mosquitoes that have come with the rains.  Following the removal of the undesirable plants, I create life.  Well, not really create but assist. Over 200 Algarrobo seeds are placed in the empty seedbed and covered with nutrient rich soil.  The seeds will break through the earth in a few weeks and be transplanted some weeks later. 

February 4, 2004

A few hours are spent at the greenhouse this morning.  The weeds that have previously been removed are still at a respectably low level so my attention is devoted to transplanting.  After every ten plants or so I get up and stretch. At times I take a short break to chase the dog from the neighboring farm out of the compost pit or to follow the path of a wandering butterfly.  In the end nearly 70 plants of mixed variety have been repotted.   Following a hearty lunch in the afternoon, we traveled to our site in Jorge Lomas.  During my first visit there it became apparent that this site was so unstable that the impact of us walking through the site to water or plant was causing further damage. To help stabilize the site, we placed cribbing bars in the most vulnerable section.  Fallen trees are hacked into three-foot pieces.  The log is then strategically laid out and held in place with wooden stakes made from tree branches.  The reasons for placing cribbing bars are twofold. First, the log, once settled, acts as a step preventing landslides as we maneuver through the site.  Second, the log creates a secure platform in which trees can be planted.  At this time, ten bars were placed in a concentrated area at the bottom of the site. 

February 9, 2004

Today we maintained the greenhouse and transplanted approximately 50 plants.  The rains have started in full force, pouring down throughout the night.  Although the rain is essential to our work (life) here, it has become the cause of a horrible night’s sleep for us volunteers lying beneath the tin roof of our apartment/office.   The sound of hard rain bouncing off the roof is so loud it numbs the usual tranquil atmosphere.  Regardless of the drowsiness I feel, I’m anxious to get as many saplings transplanted as possible.  If the rain remains constant we will be planting continuously throughout the month. 

February 10, 2004

Another night of rain last night gave us the go ahead to get some plants in the ground this morning.  Sixty in all were planted in the Bosque park site.  The plantings are all hardwoods, mostly guachepeli, guayacan and jigua.  The Bosque is one of our first sites here in Bahia.  It is wonderful to see the succession of trees that were planted nearly five years ago.  We use a previously printed self-guided walking tour map of the park to indicate where we have placed the new trees.  It is a good practice to keep details of all our plantings.  The name and number of each species is written in my notebook and assigned its own authentic symbol. The symbols are sketched on the map to show exactly where each plant was placed.

February 11, 2004

With several sites well established, Brian and I recognize the need to expand our work to other areas.  Today we surveyed two new sites, Jorge Lomas canal and the dairy farm.  Both sites are in desperate need of revegetation.   These two will be major projects and take several years to complete.

February 16, 2004

We worked hard in the greenhouse today.  The better maintained we keep the greenhouse the more productive it will be.  The weeds are furious, constantly trying to overcome the seedlings.  Hours of plucking and hacking have left our hands sore and blistered.  The tasks go by quickly today with three of us working.  One person waters, while another weeds and the third transplants.  Friendly conversation passes throughout the humidity-heavy air as we conduct our tasks. 

February 17, 2004

Back to Jorge Lomas today for more cribbing and planting.  The bars we place earlier in the month have settled nicely enabling us to climb the hillside with little impact.  At the end of this long, hot, physically intensive effort 30 plants of different tree species are planted.  Additional cribbing is added to the upper section.  

February 19, 2004

As saplings are transplanted into their individual sacks the seedbeds continuously need to be replenished.  On this date, nearly three hundred seeds mostly Algarrobo and Chirimoya are planted.  The seeds we plant come from several different sources.  Some we collect by either going into the forest and searching for them or by saving the seeds from the fruit we eat, such as the Chirimoya.  The majority of our seeds come from Cerro Blanca Reserva in Guayaquil.

February 20, 2004

Back at the greenhouse the routine is the same.  This is the season when all of our propagating and planting occurs. It is an important routine to visit the greenhouse every few days. 

March 3, 2004

Performed greenhouse maintenance and transplanted 60 seedlings. Are you starting to see the pattern?

March 4, 2004

We worked at Jorge Lomas again this afternoon. Supplementary cribbing was placed in a new area.  Once the cribbing was placed we proceeded to plant trees throughout the section. 

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