May 2017. Woofers and Bluffers
Introducing Hector and Diana.
Now I must admit that I’ve been less than enthusiastic about the idea of using volunteers or woofers for this project. Firstly part of my aim is to invest within the community as far as possible and thus by bringing in external “voluntary” workers, I undermine my employment “policy” and thus the movement of resources in to Loubar. Equally, tbh and hoping not to insult any volunteers who might be reading this (ha, ha, ha), my experience is that western youth generally have such a limited idea of what and how to do, that they are more work than they are worth. I’d rather employ a local labourer who knows how to labour and who disappears at the end of the day, than a “free” volunteer who doesn’t.
So it was something of a risk to bring in Hector and Diana, through woofing.com . I’d been trying to bring in local labour for the land, and my preference was for wafi, but he, like seemingly all of his peers, was busy planting pot and my little perma culture design garden, paled in comparison. Thus needs must and I have to say….alhumdoolillah, what a lovely couple they proved to be….. thanks guys.
Visiting new ideas.
One of the challenges with “guest workers” is that I feel…want…. to show them around the place…well, the Rif mountains are nothing if not stunning, so we went off visiting and it was good to see Fuddle by Oued Laou was developing his place, which was as beautiful as ever.
But equally we managed to see this local green house and having a couple of “permis” present, we were able to discuss how we’d use such a device on the farm….yes…we want one of these too.
Developing raised beds.
On their arrival all that we had was the terraced land that had been ploughed. I explained that what I hoped to see by
their departure was a completed system of raised beds that would, I hoped, enable me to practice this approach, but also to feed me over the summer when I’d be working on the project. It is high time to stop buying any sort of vegetables or salads…..chickens, eggs, milk and bread are next on the list.#
And so we prepared the beds, adding compost brought up from wafi’s. Of course I haven’t as yet had the soil tested so I’m composting blind. But there is so much to do and it’s all such a steep learning curve, that some things have simply got to wait for next year. At least we’ve got the compost in the ground….feed the soil… and all that!
Developing our planting plans.
Now of course if you’re going to buy in to the perma culture approach you soon realise that you need a plan.
Shouldn’t I have one of these? Ahh yes, Mr Tori Suzuki. Well as we progress with the project it’s easier to appreciate a complete fraud when you meet one and I’m sorry to say, Mr Suzuki, you were both expensive and useless. But what goes around, comes around.
Instead Diana, Hector and I got to work developing our own companion planting plan and went off to find what we could find in the souk. Of course these are early days and I’ve yet to really think through a plan for the long term including rotation and leaving fields fallow, but it’ll come. And here we have, Farm Finn, Planting Plan Mark 1.
Adding mulch and water.
All is not lost, nor wasted in the PC reading I’ve been doing and thus we’ve added mulch not only to all the trees, but now on top of all the planted soil. The idea is that it will hold humidity within the soil below and equally on degrading, also add further nutrients to the soil. Apparently good mulch should stay on the soil for up to a couple of years, which means less work next year.
Of course wafi thinks that mulch heats the soil and kills the plants, so we’ve got something of a critical audience but it’s worked with the trees so far, most of whom are looking very healthy. The saw dust I’ve got to date comes free from a saw mill. But I’ve also found a source at a chicken butchers. This should be full of chicken poo and thus even better. Fingers crossed.
In the souk there was a handful of different seeds available and, as I found out, not all seeds are good seeds when it
comes to organic gardening. It would seem that some seeds are coated in a pink or blue dye within which is a starter fertiliser, and of course these were unwelcome in our soil.
What’s amazing is that were I not to have been told this, I would of course have just planted them and I am sure my neighbours don’t consider this an issue. And yet, of course we are then back to filling our land with chemicals.
Suffice to say, as far as we could tell, everything that’s gone in to our soil is organic….. where are those fingers again?
Harvesting the fruits of our labour.
It’s not long before we had something to show for our work…though unfortunately these onions are not it, they’ve got a bit of time left before they’re sizzling away in a tajine. But the lettuces however…WOW…. And boy have they taken root. I don’t pull up the whole plant to eat them, rather simply take the number of leaves I want and leave the rest to keep growing.
This means they are growing very big indeed and I should be able to get seeds from them in the future, thus salads are us…and we like that.
Trying new ideas.
Perma culture reminds me so very much of international development in that ideas come
forth, everyone reads the same books and agrees with such enlightened and exciting ideas and these are propagated, shared and enthused about, though finding people who have actually put these ideas in to practice, themselves, is slightly more of a challenge.
Here we have an idea of reusing plastic bottles to drain water below the soil thus ensuring that more goes to the roots and less evaporates.
Until that is you actually try to water, in which case it takes a huge amount of time and effort to fill them. Now that isn’t to say it’s not a good idea, but rather that it requires slightly more critical analysis and potential additions such as a filling system that is designed especially for them…..where’s the drawing board?
Looking after new trees.
Now somehow, I managed to miss an image of any of our new trees in a previous blog, but here you are and here they are too. Of course, not all have survived. It seems mostly the orange trees that have struggled, but I’d say that of the 100 we planted, at least 90 are doing very well indeed.
Of course, it’ll be a while, 2 – 3 years, before I really get to see their impact let alone to taste their fruits. But there are times that I allow myself to wonder off a dream of what they will be like when fully established… and that feels good!
Making new friends.
It would be a disservice not to mention the contribution and impact that Wafi made on our new guests. He’s an
ultimate host and such a wonderful man. He’s obviously very busy with his own plan at present, but I’ve still got a job with his name on it in the garden.
Now of course I can’t help but mention that Finn’s move to UK is looming and if I am honest it’ll break my heart. There are times when I think I should just stop all this and try to get a job in UK. But I don’t believe in the UK and I love both this project and what I do when I’m abroad working.
So my plan is to finish off Farm Finn, try to get a pair of managers and a team to run it, get a job abroad somewhere to facilitate a mortgage and then get a place in UK to be near him. It should work, but there are a lot of moving parts…and they can go wrong….fingers? Knitted!
And these are the first of my moving parts. Finally this, the final commission that needed to come up and see the land, thus finalising the roxa, arrived and saw. It was a roasting hot
day, during Ramadan and everyone was wearing comfey shoes…as they made their way up on to the land.
For two days I heard nothing and finally called and texted the Regional Director of Tourism….he replied, he was busy. Not a good sign. Then I tried the Technical Advisor in Bab Taza, who said I didn’t have a proper entry nor enough land for the project…my heart sank.
Still waiting for decisions.
Since then I’ve been assured that another meeting will occur in 2 weeks and on my return to Moroc from US, all will be fine….I remain, fingers crossed. I believe this will eventually happen and it will be wonderful. It excites me and I genuinely hope it will be something to give to Finn. But who knows what the future will bring.
But it still looks beautiful from here.
All I do really know is that Farm Finn gets more and more beautiful with every day that I spend on it and that my vision for the place
excites me. However I so very much want to move forward on it and see it completed. That will give me a wonderful site and exciting project, but then free me to have more time and flexibility to be with Finn in the UK……all I need is a job now….umm, where next?