Garden of Eden - How Long Can You Tread Water?

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I just got back to Alamikamba from Eden where I am preparing to establish a cacao and coffee plantation. The site is really not too far away from Alamikamba. In the dry season we can ferry across the river and drive to the site across cattle trails in about two hours or less. Right now with heavy rains, however, we must travel by boat via a rather circuitous route. In our slow boat with cargo it can take four to eight hours travel time depending on river currents and water levels.

Of course, when we get there there we are completely on our own. There is no electricity, no running water, no refrigeration, no gas stations and no communications. We try not to forget anything, either. Because, the nearest store - which only sells sugar, salt, cooking oil - is several hours walk or paddle away! On the last few days I was on the trip we ran out of my precious supply of freshly roasted coffee. When I got to the little store to try to buy some café Toro to relieve my caffeine additicion, I was informed that their supply had run out the previous week!

I´m also setting up a vermiculture (California redworms) operation to produce organic fertilizer from cow manure as well as eventually sell worms to others. We just completed a thatched roof building to house the first eight wormbed boxes. I eventually hope to expand that to as many as eight units (e.i. 32 boxes) depending on the manure supply at the ranch.

I am working with a local cattle rancher (and longtime friend here) and taking manure from his corral where he is milking each morning. I have already talked to the local Indian community, and, they have accepted my presence with them enthusiastically.

This gentleman and his wife built their house and corral there about seven years ago and fenced only the yard and areas immediately around it. By sending their cattle out to feed on outlying surrounding pastures and bottomlands (open range community lands) then holding them in his fenced areas overnight till the morning milking, they were able to collect fresh manure then compost it for use on their fruit trees, bananas, plantains, yucca, and nearby pastures. Now, they have well over one hundred fruit trees (including lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, coconut, cashew, breadfruit) with excellent production. They also get good production on the crops they plant on these lands. This is quite impressive considering that these lands are typically quite infertile without soil enhancements.

Vermiculture (plus addition of earthworms to soils which have not been poisoned by herbicides, insecticides, and other agrochemicals) can produce even better results than simple composting since earthworms reprocess the organic matter leaving it with nutrients which are more readily absorbed by plants and the soil aerated and loosened to allow plant roots to grow more readily.

Eventually, I hope to build some cabañas (using readily available palmetto, bamboo, wild cane, and roughsawn tropical woods. The site is not only quite beautiful and tranquil, it is surrounded by huge expanses of wildlands, rivers, lagoons, swamps, and open savannahs with great fishing and hunting year around.

I just got back to Alamikamba last night after a 19-day trip to Eden. I actually had a pretty good time. But, the rainy season hit on the very day that I travelled down there. I got away from Alamikamba on the morning of the 6th travelling alone and heavily loaded with cargo in my Dad´s little boat. The weather was dry and sunny, but, the boat was slow.

I planned to stop briefly at Ujum Benk (below Luhpikan) to advise my workers to meet me (e.i. walk overland) at Eden the following morning while I proceeded by water via the longer river route figuring on arriving at sunset. I reached Ujum Benk, a little settlement on the Rio Prinzapolka, at about 2:00 PM just as a very heavy rain began to fall.

It didn´t stop for about five hours. I was forced to unload the boat to avoid swamping or ruining the cargo in the rain. I spent a wet night in Ujum Benk.

The following morning, I ended up adding our new cook with her baby daughter plus a 100 pound bag of beans which I managed to buy. The rest of the personnel had to trudge through deep mud and cross rapidly swelling ditches to get to Eden on foot. The additional load plus the strong counter-current from the heavy rains from the previous night turned the remaining two-hour boat trip into a four-hour trip!

The rainy season weather pattern persisted from that day forward. The mosquitos at our cacao/coffee plantation site became unbearable. The site where we built the new wormboxes house is inside the fence where Antonio´s cattle await morning milking. The hoofprints eventually turned the floor of the new shed into wabúl!

The coffee seedlings which Carlos and the workers planted a week earlier were doing well. On the other hand, the cacao seeds which I had left to sprout while I was gone to Managua had all rotted and died in the sack of rice hulls where I had left them. Apparently, the rice hulls were too wet in these weather conditions to utilize as a sprouting media.

I was forced to send Rodas to bring another 700 cacao seeds. This time, I made a raised earthen bed and covered it with palmetto leaves so that the seeds would not become waterlogged while retaining proper moisture. The seeds began to sprout in only about 5 days. By the seventh day, virtually all of the seeds had sprouted and had been transferred to their respective planting bags.

We also prepared another 175 bags to start citrus and cashew trees once those seeds sprout. I will send additional bags to fill with earth to prepare more plants for the orchard. At present, I have seeds for naranja agria, limón mandarina, lemon (pequeño), grapefruit (a large, sweet, pear-shaped variety), water pear, soursop, moringa, and castaña. I´ve also been promised breadfruit and pejibaya cuttings. Avocado and tangerine will soon be ripe followed by grapefruit (common variety) and orange. I´d also like to plant mango, sapote, guayaba, etc.

Antonio planted lots of coconuts. They grew well but now many are prematurely dying. Until we find out what is killing them, I am reluctant to plant coconuts.

The wormhouse is now covered with palmetto thatch and we should soon have eight wooden wormbeds operating. The worms appear fat and healthy. They are apparently reproducing rapidly since we see many worm eggs in the medium.

I did get to go fishing a couple of times. It appears that rainy season fishing there is great! I have always foregone fishing in the rainy season here because the river near Alamikamba gets too muddy. At Eden, however, the waters become crystalline and quite cool. When I return there next month I plan to take some lures that I have had no success with during my dry season fishing. I think that they may be just the thing now!

By the last several days of my trip to Eden, the rains had caused Lakun Tara which lies off in the distance across a huge bottomland in front of Antonio´s place to overflow and cover virtually all of the lowlands right up to Antonio´s patio leaving islands of forest and palmettos scattered about. When Rodas and I left to return to Alamikamba, we motored then poled the little skiff all the way to Ujum Benk. Then, we simply portaged about 50 yards to the river and were on our way.

That represented a significant fuel savings for us. But, we really didn´t save much time since the water level had still not risen quite enough to make good headway over the flooded bottomland.

I plan to remain a few days in Alamikamba before proceeding to Managua then Costa Rica for a short vacation from paradise.

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  1. Little Corn Tom's Avatar
    Great story Dud...Best of Luck with the project.
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