Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We're having a swale of a time at Sabina!

Silas and Joseph wield their machetes expertly to prepare banana fibre for the garden beds.

Today we have traveled up to Kampala to take advantage of the capital's many nurseries, hunt for compost worms and access computers, scanners and copiers which aren't affected (too regularly) by the power cuts that plague our closest internet provider in Kyotera.

There has been much action at Sabina since the last posting - the small vegetable garden is taking form more and more each day (more seedlings planted, paperboxes and woodchips laid, poles erected etc.). Off the top of our heads, thus far, we have tomatoes, eggplant, ddoodo (amaranthus), nakati, swiss chard, spinach, beetroot, cabbage, collards, coriander, lettuce, maize, carrots, onions, marigolds, watermelon, pumpkins, beans, sugar cane, paw paw and passion fruit growing happily. A crawling critter seems to be enjoying a gourmet swiss chard diet at night so we're starting an evening patrol to encourage him to leave the leaves and some tomatoes have just started to form their first fruits!

We have also started to expand our energies into other parts of the property by marking contours and digging swales and trenches. Yesterday, rumbling skies and rising humidity heralded the first rains of the season and we eagerly ran into the wet to see how the water flowed through the swales. Dan also presented a workshop to our 'holiday' students introducing key permaculture concepts.

There was much laughter as we played the "capture and store energy resources" game and 'Sunlight' (Francis), 'Water' (Apriona) and 'Nutrients/Manure' (Steveni) were held captive by 'Coffee Bush' (Baron), 'Cow' (Christophe), 'Mango Tree' (Charles), 'Pig' (Amanda) and 'Chicken' (Elvis). Everyone also enjoyed watching Bill Mollison's DVD 'Global Gardener' and seeing places similar to Sabina being transformed into abundant food forests through permaculture. Some students asked really insightful questions and we feel the seed of interest is starting to germinate in many.

We recently received a very generous donation of seeds from Eden Seeds in Australia and have planted a range of species in the nursery. There are many questions about the taste of rockmelons, rainbow chard and rocket and we're so looking forward to the fruit and veggies answering for themselves.

We are finishing up the designs for 'Freedom Park' and enjoying the processes involved with putting together the overall design for the home.

It's much quieter at the home with so many of the children away for the holiday period, but this project is certainly making some noise in the local community. As we walk through the local village, Ssanje, we are often asked "how are the tomatoes?" and "how is the permaculture?" along with the standard greetings.

More photos

July 11: A before shot of the garden-to-be with three young men letting the cooch grass know it's number is up.

July 20: Young Golobuz Edwards shows that height doesn't hamper enthusiasm when it comes to compost making.

July 20: Musoke Moses harvesting water from the pump house overflow trench. This has been an extremely handy source of water for the garden, nursery and compost, though it dries up during holidays when most of the children aren't around.

August 4: The wonderful Sarah shows off her newly planted sack garden bursting with swiss chard, tomato, lettuce, cabbage, marigolds and love (and just two steps away from her kitchen).

August 6th: Ground manager Uncle Ddembe Joseph measuring out paths in the mandala garden.

Catching up - snapshots of what we've been up to lately!

July 14: A bunch of keen seed planters in our little nursery that is supplying the mandala garden.

July 29: The winners of our permaculture garden sign competition - well done Rukuto Caroline, Ssenjenjo Joseph and Kayanga Andrews.

August 3: Bed 1 in the mandala garden under construction - the first of many!

August 14: On the last day before holidays began, we had an afternoon and evening of festivities including goat for all, a DJ with huge speakers, prizegiving, and a wheelbarrow race. Here Moses and Kalim - two of our star garden helpers, strut their stuff. They came in second.

Dan and Amanda with the wonderful Kalim and Moses shortly after they were awarded prizes at the school prizegiving for being such brilliant helpers in the garden.

August 16: The design for the mandala garden - with thanks to Amanda and her wonderful paintbrushes!

August 17: Putting in a little system to take kitchen water (the concrete floor is washed at least once per day) into a wet bed where we plan to grow sugar cane, taro, water chestnuts and kang kong. It works well and is constantly holding water. Rainwater run off also enters it and we'll make the levels such that water then backfloods up the drain and then into the main garden path system where it can soak down into the waiting leacaena roots ;-).

August 17: We were honoured with a visit from Rachel and Douglas, trainers from St Jude's Organic farm near Masaka, both trained in biointensive agriculture and fluent in sustainable agricultural practices for this region. They walked the site with us and gave us great feedback and new ideas on the design. One comment from Rachel upon seeing the chicken house so far away from anything was "who put this here!?"

August 19: Testing out diverting the compound greywater and rainwater sideways into the greywater swale - Sabina's first! It rained August 25 for about 40 minutes and sure enough water flowed along the contour about 15 metres - so we'll dig some more and await more rain!

August 19: Our most advanced cabbage - through it is a lot bigger now!

August 19: Christophe (an amazing helper here for the holidays who intends to practice permaculture on his family farm in the future) planting in Bed One

August 19: Another shot of bed one.

August 19: Innocent and Antony seiving compost for seed-raising mix - a great stage to have reached. We've found that including plenty of woodchips and cow manure really makes for a gorgeous end product.

August 23: Poles going up in the mandala garden - thanks to Charles, Uncle Dembe Josepn, and Christophe.

August 23: The (in progress) permaculture mural facing the mandala garden - complete with notice boards for garden jobs and seasonal information and what not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Recent Pix

Here we used water to get the paths within the mandala garden level. It was with much jubilation that five large bins of water were poured into the garden. The water soon let us know where more digging was required!

27 July - 6 August 2008

Sunday, July 27
Yesterday we turned the first compost pile (which is still a few turns off ready), turned the big compost pile into two smaller piles, and started a large new compost pile with all the incoming organic matter (Thanks Segujja Kalim!). Amanda spent the morning in the nursery planting out a lot of the new seeds we purchased in Kampala on Thursday (coriander, lettuce, cantaloupe, onions) and seed we’ve saved (tomato, jackfruit and passion fruit). A troupe of about six girls eagerly assisted. A thought was that we might move away from making newspaper pots, which require expensive masking tape and focus more on plastic juice containers and yogurt bags that we can collect onsite and from the village.

When we arrived in the morning several children were already at work continuing to dig out the paths in the mandala garden, and throughout the day we made good progress on better defining and levelling the paths so that rainwater flowing into the garden will be evenly distributed. Father Edwards came to see our work and deliver the $40,000 shillings worth of cardboard boxes we bought in Kampala (from his uncle).

While Silas amused himself digging out the large trench carrying water away from the pump house, young Andrews carefully planted out some sugar cane, made a fence around it, wrote a sign (“This is Kayinga Andrew’s sugar cane garden. Please don’t put anything here. Thanks”). He then asked if he could plant some watermelon in the trench where it could access much water. It was a great feeling to see him preparing these little plantings which he will take care of.

Uncle Dembe Jospeh came by in the evening to see our work and we discussed the possibility of taking some of the most interested children away from their other chores to focus on the garden (e.g., Musoke Moses, Kayinga Andrews and Segujja Kalim). We will meet with Jospeh and Deborah at 9:30 on Monday to go through our project plan. Joseph stressed the priority of starting on a living fence to exclude trespassers from the site.

Jan also called from Washington and it was great to chat about various aspects of the project – she also googled compost worms in Africa and found two places in South Africa who can hopefully mail us some worms shortly. This would be a real winner, composting the bulk organic matter coming in and supplying fertilizer for the garden and food for the chicken system we want to expand (hopefully to the point where there is one egg per child per week).

Today the three boys mentioned about have just arrived as we finish our breakfast saying they are ready to work and are just waiting for us.

Tuesday, July 29
We’re both down with the flu today but this evening after school Uncle Dembe Joseph was supervising about 14 children eagerly working on the garden, further digging the paths, clearing out the to-be banana circle, and so on. Surplus soil was being taken to the north-eastern corner of the dining hall where we will use it to send water sideways rather than flooding down the side of the building. It was a good feeling to see staff and children working independently on the garden without us having to be there – bodes well for the success of the project when we are no longer here, though it sounds there is a chance Dan’s friends Kim and Clive from Melbourne might come and spend a year here which would be just fantastic. Seems there will be a continuous permaculture volunteer presence here for at least a few years!

In the morning a school assembly was held to announce the winners of the permaculture poster competition. Last week around 30 students spent their Sunday evening diligently designing these works of art and given the quality of the entries, it was a tough decision for our judge, Aunty Deborah, to narrow the prize-winners to just three. Congratulations to Kayanga Andrew, Rukundo Caroline, and Ssanjjedo Joseph! A number of the beautiful posters have been laminated and will be installed in the garden as signs indicating where to place manure, urine and plastics (which we don’t want to see at all!).

The assembly was also a great opportunity to reiterate the need for students to separate plastics from organics (although getting better day by day, there are still soap and biscuit packets making their way into the compost) and publicly thank all the students who have been actively involved in the creation of the garden thus far, and welcome any others who may wish to become involved

Yesterday we visited Kyotera for various tasks and Dan spent a few hours at a local day care centre running an introduction to permaculture with about 24 participants, including a carpentry teacher, a social worker, a social work student, high school students, and centre staff. They already had a compost toilet up and running and in addition to making a few specific suggestions we were able to help them begin a site analysis and design process. We look forward to seeing what they come up with! Two participants, Joseph and Smith, were exceptionally keen, and very much want to be notified about any PDCs and other courses run at Sabina. Smith, incidentally, is our contact for bulk free woodchips, and we plan to pick up another truckload later this week, as we’re almost through our first load.

Thursday, July 31
This morning we were turning one of our three on-the go composts when teacher Jude came by to say hi. He asked if we had work for a pre-lunch agriculture class and we said yes please. Jude said 30 students so we brainstormed tasks. Amanda then caught a ride to Kyotera for various supplies (including blackboard paint for the latrine wall which Amanda realised this morning is perfect for a big permaculture display). Dan was ready for the students to arrive though wasn’t expecting 60 of them! (P7 and P4). So we had plastic picking up, compost tidying, compost turning, grass pulling, grass chipping, future banana circle cleaning out, dirt pile raking and planting with grass (on corner of dining hall), digging out the mandala garden and wheelbarrowing excess to extend compost making area terrace, marking out the new beds, and other stuff all happening at once! In only about 35 minutes we got a lot done – it was great. Then in the afternoon we dug quite intensely and then tipped five big bins of water into the garden to check the levels. Uncle Joseph has organised the children to rotate through the garden as part of their daily evening work so virtually all the children are cycling through the garden and contributing to it. It is fast getting there and it is only a day or two now until we can lay out the cardboard and start planting. In the afternoon we also made a sack garden for Sarah.

Friday, August 1
Due to a library meeting, rearranging our room, and still-recovering Dan sleeping for three hours we didn’t get over to the garden until 3pm. Yet we got a great deal done before dark, including watching the rain flow during a brief shower (the second during our time here) and channelling it into the garden. We also marked out two broad beds between the mandala and the tank which look great and did heaps of digging and earth moving. Musese Simon Peter and Ssenjedo Jospeh independently built themselves another compost pile which was a bit exciting. Laurie Spears (a lecturer in the School of Nursing at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas) and other visitors came by and were really enthusiastic about the project, especially about the implications for the children’s nutrition. One group inside took apart the cardboard boxes anticipating the next stage, which is now very close indeed! Jan called and we had a great chat. We need to get some costings on tanks and gutters and details for the school that has donated $1600 towards water-related infrastructure.

Sunday, August 3
Today we started sheet mulching the first area within the mandala garden! First we carefully levelled, edge-banked it and staked the boundary (where bed becomes path). Then water, cow urine, soaked cardboard, cow poo, wood chips, with banana stem fibre weaved through the stakes to form the edge. A team of older students also assisted in chalking out the design for a wall-sized Sabina Permaculture mural and notices black-board on the latrine building’s external wall facing the kitchen. The design is based on tropical food-forest images (complete with mango, cassava, pawpaw and, of course, matooke) and will contain a painted design diagram of the mandala garden, a definition of permaculture, garden news (what’s ready for harvest, which compost needs turning etc) and guidelines for gardening (care of tools etc.). We hope that this mural will be a good information point for when Sabina starts permaculture tours through the school in the future and believe it will also allow for clearer communication with the students on what needs to be done.

Amanda enjoyed a Sunday arvo craft session with a number of students creating colourful purses from the juice boxes currently making their way into the garbage.

Tuesday, 5 August

After much measuring, work on a detailed garden design that details the different categories of plants (frequently-plucked/everyday greens, those picked frequently over a short to long season, and those we cut and remove) continued this morning. We then jumped aboard the trusty truck (many thanks to our wonderful driver, Richard) and visited St. Judes Organic Farm near Masaka, where Amanda enjoyed her first tour of the site (leaving her feeling very inspired about what can be achieved at Sabina). Jan’s earlier blog entries detail the farm and all the amazing work they are doing.We purchased some grafted avocados, oranges and passionfruits; cabbage and eggplant seedlings; and mint, comfrey and false-sunflower (excellent for compost) cuttings. Rachel (the farm’s fantastic trainer) will visit us this Sunday and we are looking forward to making the most of her expertise with regards to any thoughts she may have on our design and contacts for tanks, guttering etc. Returning to Kyotera, we continued to glean disused cardboard boxes from the sidewalks, purchase some kitchen supplies for the permaculture volunteers’ home and filled the back of the truck with another load of free woodchips from OBCO.

Wednesday, August 6
An absolutely huge day in the garden, working all day long with many helpers. We completed two new beds (edge-banked beds, stakes to define path/bed boundary, added cow urine and water, soaked cardboard, edged with banana stem shreds, added wood chips, cow manure, and other organic matter) and planted eggplant and swiss chard in one of them. Some boys marked out and dug the perimeter path on the outside of the centre circle and others started digging the holes for the poles we’ll put in the middle to grow beans and vines up. We built two new sack gardens, one for the compound and one for the ladies at the parish.

Thursday, August 7

It’s great to have so many hands on board at the moment. Students in the lower classes have finished their exams and are now free to help in the garden throughout the day and we also have some older students from a nearby college spending their vacation at Sabina. The garden is a seething mass of activity and we’re excited about how much we’ll be able to accomplish over the next few weeks. This morning we planted out some new seeds in the nursery; cleared beds and paths; turned compost; planted out tomatoes, dodo (local amaranth used as leafy veg), marigolds (from seeds sourced at the local parish); levelled and started to stake out the remaining beds in the mandala garden. We planted out the new sack gardens and the dorm mothers have requested more. We’re spending the afternoon trying to catch up on the office-side of the project (including sourcing ever-elusive compost worms from somewhere on this continent!) – something which is easily sidelined when there’s so much fun to be had in the garden!