Friday, January 17, 2014
Worms and Waves
SMC Amazon 2014: Day 7
We went back to Alter do Chão today, this time to work on our original plan with our contact from Saude e Alegría, Fabiano. He lives in a small subvillage outside of the somewhat tourist-y area of Alter do Chão. In that village, several people have established a collective system of sustenance, including Fabiano’s property that would translate into English as “Horticulture and Art.” There, Fabiano is cultivating a number of food items and is also producing rich soil through worm composting.
So, our jobs today varied greatly. Some of us started to fence a new section of the village for new cultivation, which – when Fabiano is leading the way – meant we learned some real craftsmanship. Sadly, a number of enormous roots slowed our progress in sinking fenceposts but we did excellent work on the part that we managed to complete.
Another job was to go into the existing garden and build new planting boxes, which we could do with ease. The presence of our battery-operated power tools is clearly changing the aspirations of some of our community partners here, we think mostly for the better. Brazilians are big “notchers,” meaning that they fit pieces of wood together by notching them to hold boards together. We can help them produce their notches much more easily than they can do it by hand (though, because of their incredible skills with hand tools, we can’t do it much faster than they can, even with our power tools).
Another job was to plant new seeds in small containers, all of which were repurposed from some other use. Things like juice boxes, 2-liter bottles and even plastic bags are the main containers that hold the beginnings of all life in Fabiano’s garden. A few of our crew were feeling a bit under the weather, probably due to mild dehydration, heat, and some level of exhaustion, so they were the seeding crew today, sitting under a shaded roof on Fabiano’s lovely patio.
A final group got the mystery job of “worm management.” We assume our friends in the third grade class of Southwestern Elementary School will appreciate that “worm management” means dumping huge piles of wet dirt onto a tarp and sorting through it with your hands to separate out the fat, juicy worms that live in it. The “dirt” used to be food scraps and other organic materials and the worms have turned all of that material into dirt just by working their way through it every day. We also had to pick out centipedes and millipedes, along with a few termites, to leave nothing but dark rich soil to be used by Fabiano and his neighbors as they continue to keep themselves fed.
We bid farewell to Fabiano and his family after lunch, so that we could take a spin through the tourist area of Alter do Chão, including its beautiful island beach (really a massive sandbar). The sand at this particular point in the river is soft and almost white, making it very appealing for locals and visitors alike. They even have one of those weird banana boat rides where six or so people ride behind a speedboat and the driver tries to throw them off into the water (wearing lifejackets, of course). We didn’t take a turn on the banana boat but we thought that it confirmed the site as a true tourist stop.
We left the beach in the late afternoon and headed home to get organized for our next big move: a boat ride upriver about four hours, where we will settle for a few days in the community of Anã and help that community with whatever projects they invite us to join. We know that one of those projects is to build a nursery for new trees, as the area is eager to remove invasive trees and restore native ones, especially those that bear food or hardwood that can resist the pervasive local termites. We leave early in the morning to get on the boat and will report in once we arrive on the other end . . .