Five months back into Brazil and into wwoofing (2011)

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Five months back into Brazil and into wwoofing. Almost wwoofing since I came back to Paraná more as a guest than a wwoofer. I had stayed in contact with Adrian and we had talked about a few projects to develop. So I returned. Lots of work, lots of actions, lots of happenings. I definitely felt back into life, out of my box in France where I had stayed long enough. This has been a very intense time from many, many perspectives. Full of dramas, emotions, coups de théâtre, tears, and laughs, seriousness and craziness. Sadness and joys all together. Life is very intense. Or maybe I am committed too much. Is there a need to limit the passion when living life?

I got very busy as soon as I stepped back into the chacara. Adrian had a full list of things to do and I got on it right away. It took me two months to complete most of the list and reach the point of finally having time to initiate the organic garden project.

I really started working on the organic Project since my arrival in May 2011, although the first two months were only time for observing, dreaming, building all kinds of models and scenarios in my mind and paper, drafting, drawing, finding lines and levels. Because I was busy on other projects, I only could sit on my favorite spot at the end the day and gaze at the garden building itself into my head.

Such a garden should be built in zone 0, close to the main house. I decided to open it next to the Chalet Pioneiro as a symbol, to create a “spiritual” link with the spirit of the pioneers who first came here and who built their first veggie garden at this same place. It was after all my zone 0. So it also made sense to do it here. I could clearly see that this house should be an active center of the pousada and maybe the garden will help bring back this house to a more central place. I see there a natural kitchen and restaurant service for 2 or 3 tables. Small, exclusive, intimate with food mainly coming from the garden! Hot breads, pates and sweet jellies. Great dishes. I like my visions, so allow me sharing this one with you!

In July 2011, I started the hard work. I first cleaned the initial area, about 400 m2 with the help of a wwoofer and one of the workers of the chacará. Help, I was getting, but just a little. Adrian needs most of the wwoofers for his jellies and service at the pousada and rare are the wwoofers who want to spend all their time at the garden. So I worked mostly alone on the project.

After a month of hard labor, Adrian offered to hire someone to assist me. But he did not choose the good chap, gardener, hard worker and nice vibes. He hired a guy that he had hired twice already in the past. His previous intents failed as the guy kept getting drunk, drugged and missing work too often. For some reason, he decided to hire him once again and let me do a miracle to integrate him back to a normal life. I told Adrian that I did not make miracles, and definitely none with people with so heavy problems. I tried my best and the first month was often pleasant. My new assistant helped a lot with great ideas and tricks and he was a great asset for building the structure of the garden. But he started to drink more and more, used a few other things and it all felt apart. He started to be lazy, slow, and inefficient. His schedule was unpredictable. And he turned against me, refusing to complete some tasks, or spending a considerable amount of time doing very little. He became also verbally aggressive with me. I reported with Adrian and asked him to intervene and calm things done. But he did not and we reached a no-return point. At this same exact time, someone robbed my phone, external pocket hard disk, and flashlight  in my room. That day, my assistant did not report for work and was seen very passed out in town. Oops, I am going to fast here…

Soon after clearing the top of the garden, I cleaned the bottom level too (an additional 400m2). We sorted, grouped, and stored properly all the material that we found on site and that could be reused. Heavy work under the sun, moving heavy things here and there. Pieces of bricks and tiles were removed and used for the dirt road. We used all the boards stored under the chalet to rebuild the ceiling of the barn and expand our storage. A garage had been here in the past but had been destroyed by an Eucalyptus tree that crashed on it a few years earlier.

We created a retention wall with bamboo and larges branches to retain the soil and control the bamboo invasion of our new planting zone. Bamboo is really tough to take out, but with persistence, one can live with it and survive.

Then we built a large retention wall to level the soil and control soil erosion, using the material on site and all the organic material that we needed from various areas of the property. Using very rudimentary tools, we create a large flat area that we covered using the Sheet Mulch technique. We used mainly a small cart made for a horse, but with no horse. We brought tons of branches, leaves, left over from the kitchen (lots of it) and we spread this home compost of the past 2 months made of many layers of vegetable peels, seeds, etc… all over the soil on the main platform. We also incorporated some manure from the field of the neighbor next door. We finished with a thick layer of leaves brought from our forest zone and many edges along the property. And hundreds of seeds still alive!

On the lower section, I planted a lot of corn, but a group of local ants ate all the baby leaves one night. My first grand tragedy! “Cade o milho? Where is the corn?” I decided to make instead two large platforms for all sort of roots veggies such as radishes, beetroot, carrots and herbs. I also open below 8 rows to plants peanuts and beans. These resisted the ants and are doing brilliantly.

I planted a lot of things all over, but a lot of tomatoes, pumpkins, squashes and others came out alone from the kitchen’s trash, all coming out everywhere, naturally!  Tomatoes came out into the Herb Spiral unexpectedly and since nobody moved them earlier, they are now reaching the sky making the spiral look like a natural volcano in the middle of a green sea.

I was overwhelmed by all this growth and beauty. Flowers of pumpkins and squashes covering the first platform. Peanuts and beans growing firm below. All was covered with greens. It only needed more diversity. Unfortunately, planting stopped when I left on the first week of October. The garden was then abandoned to itself. This shows how well a permaculture garden grows magically when the gardener must take a leave.

The first stage of this garden seemed to have been reached. We are well advanced in rebuilding our soil and producing food. We must now incorporate a lot of more food varieties and keep a greenhouse active in order to produce all the plantings we need to keep the garden alive and full of food.

I left the pousada just before the rainy season started, first week of October. I needed to step out of this place. The atmosphere at the main house was very dense and negative. I just got robbed. Adrian offered to replace the missing equipment. I was grateful to him. The maid and cook who had been such a good friend, felt rejected since I was spending very little time with her, and made a few scenes screaming at me. She ended up refusing to talk to me. Silent like a grave. I was sorry for her and was also very confused at first. Then I accepted that this woman was very unhappy and that I could no longer influence this. My best way to help here was just leaving. I called my next host, a friend of Adrian, and within a few days I was visiting my new home.

I returned to a quick – one night – visit at the end of November, with my new host. I wanted to see my garden. As I wrote above, I was overwhelmed. I felt very strange there. The pioneer house felt all cold and empty. The garden was growing all over but had been left unattended. The place was left without a heart and I could feel it. I also felt that I did no longer belong to the place. The atmosphere in the kitchen and the full house was alien to me. The maid was still hated me in her silence. I was totally disconnected with all of it, trapped in between two realities.

I completed my last duties with the project, took pictures, gathered the last pieces of information and made a list of recommendations. I was chatting with Sido, the gardener of the chacara,  when I was told that my host was calling me urgently as we were very late for the airport. I picked up my things and run all the way back to the main house with the keys in my pockets and jumped on the pickup truck without a goodbye to anyone! Oops! That was unexpected!

“Project closed”, I said to Egon, leaving in a cloud of red dust while rushing back to town.

List of duties to the Garden Pioneiro:

  • Each wwoofer must plant at least 10 veggies/flowers into the garden within the first 3 days of his/her stay.
  • Take, plant again, eat: always plant.
  • Just take your food. What you don’t eat, the garden eats. Leave there.
  • Nourish the soil always:
    • The undesirable weeds are natural compost.
    • With more multi-diversity, less undesirables and more self-sustainability.
    • Compost on Site: Throw kitchen left over’s directly in the garden, with all the peels and seeds. Throw leaves and material organic of various sorts.
    • Always plant. Multidiversity.
    • Promote self-sustainability with permanent plants and veggies.
    • Create a beautiful and pleasant place
    • Plant, plant and eat every day.

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