Monday, February 1, 2010

April 16, 2009 - The Compost Making Day(s)

April 16, 2009 – The Compost Making Day(s)
When I was about to give up on new projects on the farm, my father agreed to lend me a hand and helped me with collecting compost material. The first day, he allowed his daily worker, Osvaldo, to hoe and dig the allotted space. He worked first on my old patch. I asked him to cut down everything, including wild cucumber vines that I had been watching every day for fresh fruits. But I had to let them go for a higher good. We cleaned up three patches. I had been there several times with a hoe, but as soon as I started to do it, I would get discouraged. The weeds growing strong, dry soil that looked barren, the bright sun burning my arms. Nothing seemed to help me until I got Osvaldo to do the job. He is an older man, perhaps in his sixties. Even though he suffers from diabetes, which I learned after I fed him with a big chocolate-topped carrot cake, he rides his bicycle for about 5 miles to work. He told me he carries his lunch, his snack, a bottle of coffee, and a big iced water jug. He is one of the very few left to work on the land as “cold meal”, as they are called. This is because they carry their lunch, which consists of rice, beans, some meat or egg, and maybe some cooked squash or chayote. By their lunchtime, at 10:00 am, the food is already cold. But nowadays they bring it in a thermal container. Some eat half at lunch and another half at 2:00 pm. Some won’t take an afternoon break and get off at 4:00 pm. Some still would eat the very first meal before 7:00 am on the road. Every morning, I see him riding his bike uphill, running late, or under a tree having something. I feel sorry for him. At sixty, he still has to work hard for a daily wage of R$20.00, less than US$10.00. Besides, he told me his second wife takes all his money and she is threatening to sue him for alimony.
First, my father brought heaps of dry grass, besides all the dry leaves Osvaldo and I had gathered from the orchard. On the second day, we started to pile alternating vegetable matter and chicken muck. For the first time, something as chicken manure excited me. Dung had taken all different connotation for me. I even helped to spread some on the pile. My Guinea hens came all happy, eating bugs that came with it. It has been a tremendous feast for them since I released them from the cage. They can roam freely, call me any time they hear my voice, follow me around the garden, and eat carrot tops. They nearly killed them. But I don’t care. The carrots are small. I didn’t have all the knowledge when I sowed them. I am happy to have my Guineas to eat ants and any other moving bugs.
I didn’t get to finish the stack. As I looked to the heaps of dry material, I imagined that the compost piles were going to be huge. Half way through, I think that I may need to re-stack. I followed the instructions, but the information is never so complete that would answer questions I had all through it. So far, what would be a meter high pile is only less than half of it. The problem is that it may be too long, about six meters long.
I came home with some feeling of partial accomplishment and a bee sting on my nose. It hurts my eye. I don’t know if it has to do with it, but I am also sleepy. I didn’t really do a hard job. I let Osvaldo do it.
April 20, 2009 – Still piling
It has been several days and the compost project is not completed. Every time we stack more material and water it, the pile shrinks. I have lost count of how many layers we put on. With much work gathering material, hauling chicken manure, watering and spreading lime, we are still at 2/3 of it. Next time I can do the math. It’s easy. Just divide by three or four and you will know how much of piled material you are going to have. We need to cut grass a few days earlier to have it dry out for straw. Then, haul animal manure. On the piling day, we need freshly cut grass. It would be ideal if we had more people working. My compost is taking too long, and the process has advanced on the bottom. I even saw a fume coming out.
I had never felt prejudiced for being a woman at work, except now that I came to the farmland. I cannot do many things. It’s either too dirty, too heavy, too mechanical, or plain too hard.
On the same day that I had been working with muck, I was also making bread pockets filled with ground beef (called esfiha) that needed hand kneading. I was running back and forth from the garden to home to do my chores. I complained to MC saying that man can easily finish a project without being interrupted. But I had to drive my child to school, care for her at home, go shopping, cook meals, help with my mom, and also attending my classes.
I am glad that my father supports me in this project. He had told me that farmer’s capital is the soil, so we need to take good care of it. We are studying the possibility of making compost for mulching our coffee plantation. In addition, I was thinking the possibility of selling the surplus. However, my father says that it is so laborious that it doesn’t pay by selling. Why give profit to someone who wants to buy it? We should use it ourselves.
April 25, 2009 – The Birds
The spreading of chicken manure brought many birds that I had never seen before.

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