Saturday, September 07, 2013
Stumbling into a micro-organismatic adventure
The occasion was a workshop in a neighbouring community to demonstrate how to make two kinds of organic fertilizers. I like the hands-on workshops anyway – always interesting, loads of picture-taking opportunities – but looked forward to this one in particular because a couple of campesinos I always enjoy talking with were going to be there.
Workshop days virtually always start with having to load heavy things into the truck and then drive around looking for some piece of equipment or fertilizer ingredient that we don’t have. The slow starts used to drive me crazy, but as time passes I've grown to like them. Instead of sitting tensely in the truck waiting for my workmate to return from his or her chores, I do a little wandering, maybe shoot a little video (my current obsession).
Eventually, off we go, in this case to the house in Sesesmil II where the workshop was going to take place. But before we could get started, the two coffee producers who I really like had to hike into the woods to gather two sacks of a naturally occurring microbe known here as microorganismo de montaña. My co-worker suggested I go with the men – Don Candelario Hernandez and Don Alfredo Morales - in order to get video of the process.
We’re going way up there, Don Alfredo told me, pointing high into the hills. I laughed, thinking he was joking. He wasn't.
Within minutes of starting out, I regretted my choice of shoes that day: Sandals, although at least they had some grip. I would later come to regret my lack of insect repellent as well, and my folly at bringing my purse along. It swung jauntily on my shoulder as I slogged through creeks, over slippery rock and mud, then up what had to be a 75-degree, heavily forested slope.
I slid, slipped and fell several times on the side of that mountain. Fortunately, it was slow-motion falling that left plenty of time for grabbing a branch on the way past, and I appreciated that the men I was with just acted like my tumbles were part of the adventure. By the time we got back to the house a couple of hours later, my purse and I were covered in mud, I was nursing a bruised hip, and my cute little sandals were caked in dirt and bits of dead leaf.
This is not to suggest that I was unhappy with any of that, however. Even after a year and a half of doing this work, it’s still a treat to be able to head into the lush Honduran hills with people who know their way around. I marvel at their machete magic, at the way they fashion a glass out of a big leaf to scoop up creek water for a drink. Scrambling up a crazy incline to dig under rotting leaves for pockets of a mysterious microorganism would not be an invitation I’d jump at, but maybe that’s why I like my work adventures so much: I end up doing things I’d never have done otherwise.
And how cool is it to watch these guys collecting this microorganism (picture bits of white fungus-like stuff, which in nature helps rot dead leaves) and thinking that I just might be enjoying the benefits of their work one day while sipping my morning cup of coffee? I come from a land where there’s a lot of talk about organic processes, of getting back to the land and doing things the natural way. But these guys are living it.
Want to try your own microorganism fertilizer? Here’s the recipe, presuming you have access to a tropical forested mountain to get started: Two sacks of microorganism de montaña; 1 quintal (45 kilos) of rice semolina; and 4 litres of molasses diluted in enough water to ensure the mix ends up uniformly damp but not wet. Pack it all into a big barrel – pounding it down as you go to remove air – and seal it tight for 15 to 20 days. Dilute a half a kilo of the mix in 15 litres of water for a fine organic foliar spray.
But of course, the fun all happens on the side of the mountain. Video to follow.