Farmer Jaime
category: Jims Guatemala

nas_milpa.jpgI occupy a fair bit of time in agricultural pursuits, here in our village. There are a lot of reasons for this:

-There isn’t much “night life” here

-My dad always liked gardening, and I got that from him

-The ground here is FERTILE

-I have lots of wise farmer neighbors to aid me

-I want to start a sustainable community-supported agriculture program when we get done with Peace Corps, so it’s good practice

We built a greenhouse way back in April, and we’re now seeing some output. We have cucumbers, broccoli, spinache, and radishes. So many radishes, in fact, that we give away armloads to the neighbors. We’re still waiting on the various melons and tomatos; they’ve flowered, but fruit is still a month or two out.

IMG_6159_sm IMG_6158_sm radishes1_sm

Chalio, our little neighbor buddy, is pretty interested in the greenhouse as well. He comes over to help weed or harvest any time he sees me working. The other day I was watering the greenhouse (since the rain can’t get in) and he was chatting with me. I forgot to tell anyone to water it the week we were gone for the 4th of July conference, so the soil was looking a little dry. Thank goodness the plants still lived; I guess the plastic held in most of the moisture.

“There are cucumbers under those leaves!” he said excitedly (in Spanish), pointing to the tangle of cucumber plants in the corner.

“Yep,” I replied. “How did you know that?” They are pretty hidden; I’d just discovered them myself only last week.

“I saw them a few days ago when I was watering the greenhouse,” he said matter-of-factly.

Hmm. Well, that solves that mystery. Yeah, he’s pretty awesome for a 10-year-old kid. For saving my plants, I immediately promoted him to jefe del invernadero (boss of the greenhouse), with power to take fruit at will, and the responsibility to tell other kids to beat it if they’re causing mischief. I told Emily the story, and she said I would make a pretty poor farmer if I let all my plants die of thirst.


We also had the Big Test while we were away. We get really strong seasonal winds in our valley, and they started this week. When we arrived back at our house after our travels, I noticed that a lot of the corn in the surrounding fields was lying down, talking a nap. “What happened?” I asked Nas Palas, as he was milling around the field looking sad.

Habia mucho aire, hombre!” he said, forcing a smile. (There was a lot of wind, man!)

“Will the corn die?” I asked. He explained that some would, but if he could upright them soon enough, most of them would probably survive. He then got back to work, manually pushing a stalk of corn upright and packing some dirt onto the leeward side. He then moved onto the next one. Suddenly, I made a startling realization: our greenhouse was still standing! Here’s a picture of our greenhouse and some flat corn.

preview_greenhouse.jpgI wrote a white paper on how to build the $100 Greenhouse, and was just waiting for it to pass the “Big Wind” test and the “Produce Something Edible” test before I sent it out to all the other Peace Corps Volunteers. Now I am comfortable releasing some directions you can download. They are in .pdf format, and might take a few minutes to download, depending on your connection.

soot_smI will leave you with an unrelated thought. If you have a chimney at home, make sure you have it cleaned out every fall. Our wood stove wasn’t drafting well, so I dismantled our chimney and found THIS inside: almost complete blockage. Once I cleaned it out, it worked like new.

Posted by: jfanjoy