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Reports from Planet Drum Staff

2005

Riccardo Clemente held Solar Energy workshops and built  a Solar Hot water with local contractors Heater in January. 

Heather Crawford began training to become the new Field Projects Manager in February 2005. Kristen Lansdale joined her in April to head our new Bioregional Education Program. 

Renée Portanova, previous Field Projects Manager, left at the end of March 2005. She arrived in Bahia in late January 2004 as a volunteer and took over from Brian Teinert in May. It was an extremely productive tenure in which she firmly established our major Revegetation Project, developed the Seed Bank and oversaw other new activities, developed community relations to a new high, and managed over a dozen volunteers. 

Index to 2005 Reports 

(Click here to see the 2004 Reports, or 2003 Reports.)

Report #1

Two Volunteers' Extraordinary Reports
Planet Drum Foundation
January 15, 2005

The solar hot water course has come to the end of the first part with successful results. Around 15-17 students participated, and about 7 students followed the entire course with enthusiasm and involvement.

On Monday we started with a quick introduction on renewable energy, global warming and other negative effects of using fossil fuels. I went through the general principle of solar hot water and the basic components. On Tuesday I went into the more detailed description of solar systems including detailed information about types of collectors available (unglazed,glazed, evacuated), types of heat transfer system (pressurized, ventilated, drain-back and thermo-siphon) and types of storage tanks.

I also explained how to design a system customized for a specific building. I described how to make a site survey, how to calculate the total water needs, how to calculate the energy necessary to heat this water, how to calculate the size of solar collector to be installed and how to incorporate all of that information in a final design.

On Wednesday we visited Genesis School and did a real survey of the site. We went through the details of the project.: where to position the collector, how to install the system, what type of materials we are going to use, and how much it is going to cost.

Thursday was dedicated to software design. We collected all the information obtained during the survey and transfered it into retscreen software. This can suggest the number of collectors to be used, and orientation and quantity of energy generated during the year.

Friday was a summary of the entire course with a group discussion about the project and a schedule for the next few weeks.

Generally, the course has provided very good results. We have a group which includes an architect, plumber, professor of science, etc. who are determined to conclude this project and actively participate till its final construction.  

The design of the system has been drawn with some final details to be discussed next week. We are trying to create an original design which can be extremely cheap, easy to construct and custom-made for Ecuadorian weather. After relentless research I finally arrived at a conclusion. We can use the hot water tank as a collector itself thereby avoiding the construction of a complicated and expensive system. The water tank will be placed in an insulated wooden box, a glass will be put on top of the collector, and the tank will be painted black. We will use mirrors to maximize the solar gain entering the collector. We also will build a platform 4 meters high using bamboo and wooden boards to place the collector on top and to increase the solar gain.    

The quote for the project is around 420 dollars including the platform. It will be good to build the platform because we are using a traditional building technique for bamboo which is slowly disappearing. I know Planet Drum has no funding for this project but it is extremely important to acquire those foundations. The system has a cost of 200 dollars without the platform and is affordable for many people here. We would like to conclude the project by the February 23 when we will have an open house and people from Bahia will have the opportunity to see this installation as part of the celebration of the Sixth Ecociudad Anniversary. I really hope you will be able to support this project with the necessary funds....we are working towards reducing the budget by searching for materials through friends, looking for unused or leftover stuff.... 

Regards,
Riccardo Clemente

Weekly Report 

Monday — Upon first arrival at the greenhouse on Monday, we noticed the incredible increase in mosquito population. We assumed that this was due to the rain that Bahia has received. Despite this everything else was looking better then ever. The seeds, which we acquired from Guayaquil, and planted in the newly turned seedbeds, were already well out of the ground. There are also about four of the Pigios, which will be ready for transplanting in about a week. In all the new beds we also changed the ratio of soil to sand to compost, which obviously made a difference. The greenhouse was wet when we arrived so we transplanted the rest of the Jaboncillos and worked more on the Ceibos. We gave the plants a quick drink, fixed the ones that had fallen over and did the compost. We then returned to the house to make sure everything was in order for the solar course, and help Riccardo with whatever he needed.

Tuesday — After another night of rain we headed out for a day of watering. First we went to the “Bosque en Media de las Ruinas.” There as well we found that the plants had received a lot of water from the previous night’s rain. Since we had already hauled the water up the hill we still gave them water and proceeded to observe the plants’ current states. All but a few are taking off and looking really great. More green leaves are growing along with the entire plant in general. The bad news, however, is at the very top of the site. My favorite spot of the Bosque is a leveled out spot overlooking the ocean, river and Bahia. Here we at one time had 5 trees planted. Unfortunately I believe there are only three remaining. From the evidence which I gathered (some bamboo markers hanging from trees and thrown around) I believe there was a party up there and our young trees were unwanted guests. I think this site has always been the most common for pointless vandalization, so I wasn’t all that surprised, however very disappointed. Jorge Lomas was the next site we were off to.

Once again at Jorge Lomas we found this mysterious lock on the cistern that we use to get water. At first we heard that a man at the end of the same street put it there. Upon further investigation it was revealed that the lady who owns the house put it there. This is an extreme surprise due to the fact that we have a contract with her. Fortunately for us, the trees, and the houses we are protecting, Jorge Lomas is filled with friendly people who are willing to help, so we returned to the family that had helped us before, and they gladly supplied us with water, and good conversation to raise our spirits. Rain had fallen there as well, but we went through to water anyway, for we did not want those friendly peoples’ water to go to waste. I think the trees here are some of the best we have, and were still in excellent shape.

Wednesday — another day to tend to the greenhouse and the compost. With rains falling very heavy again the night before, we first observed the University site, which was well watered from the rains. From this we decided that the trees had received a sufficient amount of water and that we would focus on the greenhouse and compost. The first matter was the weeds. They served as my first encounter with the effect rain has in a dry tropical forest, for in two days these weeds just exploded all over the greenhouse. Although I thought it absolutely amazing, for the sake of the greenhouse I was forced to rip them all out of the ground. This took quite some time since they were in the floor, in the seedbeds, and in a lot of the bottles containing plants. Hanna kept busy transplanting and caring for the plants we have in our “Intensive Care Unit.” With energy to spare after this we decided to help the compost pile. Around two weeks ago we moved the contents to the other side to let it fully mutate into good, usable compost. We constructed a pallet to keep it off the ground and allow air to circulate through. With the rains however the pile seeped down over the edges and was blocking air circulation. For this problem I dug a ditch around the compost, cleared the edges of the pile, lifted the wood pallet, and put bricks along the edge to create a wonderful air current. This is important for aerobic respiration to occur, which will allow the bacteria to break down the matter into sweet usable compost.       

Thursday — A day which was very busy without even going to the field. We took all the seeds we have and made pictures with the name, size and photo of the seed. These were done with a digital camera so we will use them in the ever-growing seed bank document. Speaking of the Seed Bank document, a good portion of Thursday was spent successfully adding to it. Another good portion of the day was spent preparing for not only another day of the solar course, but also the second Eco-city Anniversary Celebration meeting. The solar course goes from 5 – 6:30, and the eco-city meeting started at 7:00. The eco-city meeting gathered around 14 people, from various groups around Bahia. Planet Drum was very active, and we will have a solid role in the eco-celebration.

Friday — At the greenhouse everything was still in order. It had not rained as much Wed. and Thurs. night, so Friday I gave them a nice slow watering. The compost is looking better then ever. Next week however, we must build a new pallet on the new half of the compost pit. As far as the plants go, they are all in good, happy, green states.

The most eventful occurrence happened later in the day at the beach. To make a short story even shorter, I was running around playing with the dog, Shasta, on the beach, when suddenly I was stung by a jellyfish. I had the blue tentacle still making painful love to my foot when I fell to the ground and saw what it was. The sting was very painful, although strangely invigorating.     

So all together that has been the week, a good and positive one. The trees are green, the temperature is hot, and the beach is forever gorgeous. From Planet Drum, Bahia De Caraquez, Ecuador, this is Ryan LeBrun asking you all to have a good weekend, and support your local non-profit,

Ciao,
Ryan LeBrun

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Report #2

Renée Portanova, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
January 21, 2005

This week, January 17-21, we continued with our regular water maintenance of the sites and the greenhouse. Last week’s rain (although only a fraction of what is expected for this time of year) had a huge influence on the surrounding landscape. I was astonished to come back from Quito to a plush green covering where just a short time ago there was nothing but brown dust. The sites responded well to the rains but continue to need our assistance.  

In addition to our normal upkeep responsibilities we have began plotting our planting schedule for the coming week. We visited four of the new sites over the past few days. We drew maps, discussed logistics and informed landowners and their immediate neighbors that we will begin planting soon. This has been somewhat trickier than it sounds…For example, we had an appointment with Jose Franco (Dairy farm) on Wednesday in which he never showed. He was supposed to pick us up at the office and we all were supposed to go to the dairy farm and walk through the site together, discussing the revegetation plan. As you may remember he hasn’t signed the agreement yet, only his father, so this meeting was necessary for many reasons. Well now we are back to tracking him down and making another appointment. Cheo, of course, has been scouting the streets for him since he flaked on the meeting.

Regardless, I’m optimistic that we will get plants in the ground next week. The sooner the better for obvious reasons: the plants will inevitably do better the longer they are exposed to their natural environment, taking full advantage of the rainy season, and we need to start clearing plants out of the greenhouse. We are running out of room! With the large amount of seeds we have sown over past weeks, if we don’t get the older ones in the ground soon, we simply will not have any place to put the pending transplants. Today alone we began transplanting only a fraction of what is to be expected over the next few months and we had difficulty finding a proper location to place them.  

The momentum for planning the sixth anniversary celebration of the declaration of Eco-Bahía continues to escalate. We had our third consecutive meeting this week, which continue to demonstrate cooperation and enthusiasm among a diverse group of people. The schedule we have selected consists of an array of activities, some education orientated, some entertaining, and others more hands-on. Everyone is taking a good amount of responsibility however, unlike last year, it is more equally dispersed. Planet Drum is mainly involved with the Open House and guiding groups on tours of our projects. We are not involved with the organizing, simply in participating with scheduled events. We (more specifically Ryan) are co-organizing a "Green Dance". The idea is to draw greater participation from teenagers and young adults by holding a dance. One receives a free admissions ticket as a reward for attending one of the scheduled events.

On a personal note, I plan on spending more of my free time preparing for your and Heather’s arrival in just a few short weeks, Feb. 6 & 9. Riccardo, Ryan and Hanna will all be here still when you come. In early March we will be expecting a new volunteer from the States. I’m relieved that there will be so many experienced volunteers here for Heather’s transition to Projects Manager.

We have been having quite a few tremors lately. Being from the East Coast I haven’t experienced an earthquake on any scale. Perhaps I will look up some information on what to do in case of an earthquake…just in case.

Renee

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Report #3

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
March 15th to 20th, 2005

We are doing fine according to our timeline. The Dairy Farm site was planted three times this week with the help of Carlos Franco (son), Andrea (Renée’s friend), two traveling volunteers from Quito, and two workers from Bella Vista who came because of the meeting I had with the Municipio’s agronomist working on the Bella Vista model community project. That afternoon, we told them we needed help, and the next day two youngsters came knocking at our door at 7AM!

Due to all the help, we were able to accomplish more than expected this week. A local young man, Blas who was painted as a cheetah for the Eco-week parade, also helped out in the greenhouse. It needed some maintenance as farm animals were breaking in, so we fixed the back wall. We cleared out a few more plant beds, and began transplanting the cedro (cedar) saplings. The transfers look good so far, and trees both in the greenhouse and in the field have been perking up with the rains we’ve been having.

We finished clearing the University site, and also cleared Cherry Tree and both Jorge Lomas sites. Inter-Americano Colegio has been cleared by the school staff. Endara  Farm site needed no clearing as it is pretty bare.

Vladir says the water heater Riccardo installed at the Genesis School as a Planet Drum model project is working out well so far.

I finally saw Cerro Seco Reserva this weekend. Apparently it’s closed for a few months because lots of animals, especially birds, are reproducing at this time. The trails were in pretty good shape nonetheless.  

Kristen Lansdale is coming this week to check things out and meet and discuss our new Bioregional Education Program with Renée before she leaves.

That’s all for now!
Heather  

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Report #4

Riccardo Clemente – solar energy  volunteer 
Planet Drum Foundation  
March 18, 2005

I left Bahia last Friday and am in Banos at the moment.

The solar hot water system is finally working properly. We finished on Thursday and Vladir was present. It was a cloudy day with rain and we could still obtain a huge amount of hot water. I was not expecting it would work so well.

The students from my renewable energy class who helped build it seem to be seriously intentioned about continuing to produce more systems....they will probably have the first client in Canoa. I gave diplomas with their photos and signatures of Peter, the mayor and myself to everyone, as well as a CD with all the info they will need in the future.

Saludos
Riccardo

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Report #5

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
March 21st to 27th, 2005

Hello Peter,

The new Bioregional Education Manager Kristen Lansdale’s visit went quite well. First she met with Renée and me to talk about how to get started with the education program and where to find resources. She also helped us plant trees at Inter-Americano Colegio, transplant seedlings at the greenhouse, and wash and cut plastic bottles from the university’s cafeteria. Her father helped out a bit too and took some digital photographs which he plans to send to us. Renée took them both on a tour of our revegetation sites. We got to know Kristen’s grandparents too, as we all went out for dinner at El Buen Sabor, where we ate on your last night here, followed by ice cream at Tropi-Helado.  

 

We hulled quite a few seeds this week, and labeled and dated the containers. We also got some new ones, cascol, from our walk with the community in Bella Vista barrio. We went there in order to get a sense of their plans for reforestation and offer some advice. Victor and Juan from that community also worked with us this week.

 

We cleared vegetation from El Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas, the “wild park” in Maria Auxiliadora barrio, and relined trails with bricks and other debris from houses ruined by the earthquake. I gave Elva a quick visit on the way back down, and she says the Eco-Amigo kids have been asking her when they’re going to work with us again!  We also brought a big sack of waste paper from our office over to the Arte Papel group for recycling.

 

As far as my impressions of Cerro Seco Reserva near Bella Vista, I remarked to Marcelo how small the trees looked for being so old, and he said that they grow quite slowly in the dry tropical forest. It was interesting to see cactus mixed in with the forest, and to observe how the trees we are planting will look when they are grown. The vegetation was quite green and abundant, and I’m sure it will look completely different in the dry season. Since a lot of animals, especially birds, are reproducing at this time of year, Cerro Seco is closed to the general public for a few months.

 

I spent the Easter weekend in the highlands around Quito, and Renée went to Quito in order to meet a friend. 

 

More later,

Heather

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Report #6

Two Linked Reports
Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
April 11 to 17 &  April 18 to 24, 2005  

April 11 to 17 
Well, it has definitely been raining this week! Saturday night there was an especially huge downpour. We will plant as long as the rains continue, but I am assuming not past April. Those plants which have been in the greenhouse since last rainy season I think we should donate to community groups if we can’t plant them all ourselves. Those saplings which we have recently transplanted I believe will make it through the dry season in the greenhouse. There is a good deal of space for sowing seeds this summer.

This week we did a good deal of greenhouse maintenance – fixing seedbeds, greenhouse walls, and organizing the plants. We put up a chicken wire fence against the wall where the dogs were getting in. We also continued with transplanting cedar saplings.

We planted again at the Cherry Tree site, and attempted to do another planting at the Fernando site in Jorge Lomas but old man Salazar came out of his house ranting and raving and made us leave until we return with a copy of the permission convenio that was signed with neighboring Fernando’s family, plus a new one for him. I plan to do it so we can continue our work.

We cleared the old Jorge Lomas site, where we also collected passion fruit which had fallen ripe from the vine.

In addition to the regulars – Jaime, Andrea, Kristen, Cheo – we also had help from Jorge, a friend of Blas’.

Ciao,
Heather

April 18 to 24

We planted trees at the Fernando site in Jorge Lomas, and at the Carlos Endara site. We have come to terms with old man Salazar (the other supposed owner of the Fernando site) for the time being. At the Endara site, we got some help from Dario, a nephew of Colombele (the tenant) who happened to be around. There are a lot of little trees naturally growing up there from the vegetation along the fence borders. After a few years, it may not be used for farming maize anymore.

We collected  about 100 seedling guayacans that we had taken out of the ground in Bella Vista Barrio and brought them to the greenhouse. We finished transplanting the cedros, and organized the greenhouse in labeled sections according to species. Kids from the Fanca Eco Club helped us make the signs. We did an inventory of the transplanted plants on Friday:

  • Guachapeli         110

  • Jaboncillo            22

  • Algarrobo             47

  • Ceibo                128

  • Guayacan             83

  • Laurel                  12

  • Cedro                 298

  • Colorado              35 (a lot are ready to be taken out of the seed beds as well)

  • Samango             183

On Earth Day, we did a beach cleanup and gave away trees (13 samango; 7 guachapeli) to passersby who had space at their houses to plant one.

Caitlin Donnovan arrived on Wednesday afternoon (after a very long bus delay due to the political protests that ousted the nation’s president) and has taken the back room. She will stay for two to three months. Kristen and Andrea are now sharing the front room. The next volunteer, Carley, will arrive on May 4th. 

Hasta el proximo!
Heather

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Report #7

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
April 29, 2005

This week has been packed with activity as the bioregional education project takes flight. It seems that the program has an energy of its own as the community of Bahia welcomes the prospect of bioregional education.

  This week I have been to talk to the Universidad Catolica, Universidad La Laica, Colegios Eloy Alfaro, and Fanny Baird. I am guessing that I have presented the program to several hundred students ages sixteen and up. I am in the process of securing a place to have the meetings in the Municipio (City Hall)  one day a week and the other day will consist of taking trips and hands-on projects.

This coming Wednesday we are going to have a meeting in the Municipio of all the people that have an interest in participating in the course. We’ll talk more about what the course will entail and when we would be able to meet. I have also been contacting different representatives of the neighborhood groups so that they can inform their communities about the course and hopefully attract older participants of all socio-economic levels. It is exciting to see this project take off in terms of communities interest.

I am also in the process of putting together a committee of professors, ecologists, historians, biologists, and active community members to help teach the course. On Monday I hope to meet with some of the biology teachers of the colegios (High Schools) in Bahia to gain their support for participating. I am also organizing a meeting of Amigos de la Ecociudad at our Planet Drum  office on Thursday. These meetings will be held the first Thursday of every month at 7PM and will give participants an opportunity to share the projects that they are working on and gather support.

I spoke on the radio on Tuesday, announcing the project once again and inviting people to come to the meeting on Wednesday. I have been interviewed by the newspaper and an article will come out on Saturday about the project with an invitation to all as well. I will be speaking on two other radio stations on Sunday as well.

As far as the actual content of the course goes, I am meeting with Marcelo Luque, ecologist at Bella Vista barrio, to go over some possible lesson plans and ways of breaking down the different themes. He is interested in working on the project and is very knowledgeable about the ecology of the area. It has been suggested to me to break the course into three parts of three rather than four, the main reason for this being that people go on vacation from January to April and it would be difficult to continue the classes during this time. This would not mean that any of the material would be lost, rather it would be divided into three rather than four parts.

The initial check to fund the project has come through and is in the bank. I am not yet sure of the breakdown of the budget and am waiting to see what happens as far as an assistant goes.

As far as sending pictures, I agree with you that it would be excellent to be able to take digital photos to put on the website. I think that with the kinds of exciting hands-on education projects we are doing to be able to document it with a camera would be invaluable. I do not, however, know anyone who has a digital camera that I could borrow. It would also be excellent to have a phone line here at the office. It is very difficult to not be able to receive phone calls, especially when I am trying to coordinate so many things with so many different people.

So that is all from Bahia this week. I am excited to ride the wave of enthusiasm from the community here as they extend a warm welcome to the bioregional education project.

Saludos,
Kristen

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Report #8

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
April 25 to May 2, 2005

 

Vladir wanted me to tell you that they tried out the water heater for the first time with the kids at Genesis School on Earth Day because they were all muddy from planting mangroves. The shower water had to be mixed with cold water in order to bring it to a comfortable temperature, so it is working well.

 

This week it was mainly Caitlin and I working. Blas came one day, and Jaime another. We transplanted mostly Colorados and some Ebonos, along with a few stragglers of other species. Since our repairs, no more break ins to the greenhouse so far.

 

We planted and cleared at the Cherry Tree site, where we found a beautiful matacaballo (local anaconda) snake in the lower branches of a small tree. It was quite large but not dangerous unless provoked. We think we found its hole in the ground. I had to clear up a misconception that Janela Acosta had. She thought Renee had told her that we would maintain her whole property free of weeds and regularly maintain it as if we were landscapers. She now understands that we do that as needed only for the trees that we have planted.  

 

We also planted and cleared the Dairy Farm site, and some cows escaped on us!  I am trying to get a hold of Carlos Franco to discuss this.

 

I went on the nightly “Cronica” talk show again at FB radio, and talked about the education program as well as our other activities.

 

I am not sure how much longer to continue planting since we are in the transition period from winter to summer. 

 

Hasta la proxima!
Heather

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Report #9

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
May 5, 2005

This week was full of excitement and activity. Starting off on Tuesday I met with the presidents of the barrios to let them know about the bioregional education project. They were very interested and in fact one of them wants to participate in the project. They suggested several ideas of projects we could work on and I am thinking of having the first Saturday of the month be a community service day in which the participants get together with the barrios and do a clean up of education project dependent upon what we are learning at that point. Wednesday was the big day in which all the people interested in participating in the course met in the municipal building in order to learn more about the course. We had a grand turnout of fifty-five people, mostly from the colegios and Universidades, but also some that had heard radio interviews or read about the program in the newspaper.  We started off the day with the bioregional quiz that I made into a game. I split the group up into groups of five and they filled out the quiz together. The group that got the most answers correct was awarded native trees that the whole group had to identify. There was a lot of enthusiasm and positive energy coming from the participants and we decided to meet on Tuesdays in the Municipal building (I am in the process of getting permission for the space) and Thursdays for the practice, 4-6 in the afternoon. We will be meeting on Tuesday to start the course and I am interested to see how many actually come. Right now it seems that there might be too many, but I want to wait and see what the first week is like before I come to any conclusions.

Tonight we had a meeting of Amigos de la Ecociudad and I presented to them what the BEP (Bioregional Education Project) was all about. They were also very interested and helpful in thinking of projects and people that could help teach the different subjects of the course. It is great to see all the enthusiasm and all the support that I am receiving from the community.  Everyone says that the themes of the course are exactly what needs to be taught.

I have broken down a tentative budget based on currently available funds as follows (a year):

  • Transportation: $72

  • Communication: $48

  • Research: $120

  • Materials: $180

  • Excursions: $130

  • Other $30

I have found a voluntary assistant who is a local Bahian, went to the Univ. Catolica and studied Marine Biology. Blas is very enthusiastic about helping out with the course.

I have spoken with Mike Morgan as well and I think that Heather and I will be going to visit Cerro Blanco Reserva in Guyaquil in the next couple of weeks to see what is happening there, talk about the Dry Tropical Forest and obtain seeds.

Hasta pronto,
Kristen

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Report #10

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
May 2 to May 8, 2005

  

The climate has been changing already – more breeze and cooler nights, and no sunsets.

This week we planted and cleared at Inter-Americano and the Cherry Tree site. The school children at the Inter-Americano should soon begin to water twice weekly. We also began planting the new site, which will be called Hidalgo, the owner’s last name. He says he will water the trees himself.  We transplanted more Colorados and continued turning the compost pile.

 

The Civil Defense Force would like to cooperate with Planet Drum to plant 150 trees along the road from km 8 going into Bahia. They want Guachapeli and Samango, which is good because we have a lot of those and they are good fast growing shade trees. 

 

Our new volunteer from Canada, Carley, arrived Wednesday night and is settling in quite well, in spite of not knowing any Spanish upon her arrival. She is learning fast and studying daily!  Blas, Jaime and Cheo each helped out a day. Riccardo came through and left for England on Sunday. He is thinking of coming back for part of the Bioregional Education Program.

 

We are still doing quite well with publicity, thanks to “Cronica”, the week night talk show. We don’t even have to be there and they talk about us!  This week Blas went on talking about how it is to volunteer with us, and also about the new education program. I attended the BEP informational meeting on Wednesday but I’m sure Kristen’s filling you in on that so I won’t go into details.

 

I got to organize the electronic seed bank information and will soon determine the next steps to take with that project.

 

We got a lot done around the house this week – fixing toilets, a new (old) oven, screens (thanks to Kristen’s dad) and working on flowerbeds. It looks like the toilet in the front bedroom may need to be completely replaced according to one of the plumber’s who came to look at it.

 

More later!

Heather

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Report #11

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
May 13, 2005                       

The education project is coming along with quite a bit of enthusiasm, perhaps too much. We still have fifty participants in the project, most of them from a tourism class at the local high school Fanny de Baird. It seems that their teacher has highly recommended, if not put quite a bit of pressure on them to take this course. This is both good and bad. It is good to have young interest and participation in the course, but it is bad in that the participants feel more obligated to be there rather than out of their own voluntary participation and so they are not as apt to pay attention and participate. And then of course there is the problem that it is way too big a class!  So I am trying to figure out what to do about this. I am thinking about talking to the teacher and explaining that the class needs to be on a voluntary basis, so please take off the pressure for them to take the course. I am also thinking of laying down some rules and trying to figure out a way to root out who is really interested in the course, such as a limit on how many classes can be missed, assigning homework, emphasizing participation etc. Maybe having them write an essay about why they want to take the class… but it is hard for me to tell them that they can't take the course on an exclusionary basis.

This week was an introduction to the course and the focus was on our direct relationship with nature. This was highlighted by the El Niño phenomenon. On Tuesday we had several guest speakers, Friends of the Eco-city and those participating in teaching the course. Nicola Mears from Guacamayo Tours spoke about what it means to be a citizen of the eco-city, Galileo spoke about our placement in time and being aware of the historical and cultural elements that affect our environment. Vladir of Genesis School spoke about what it means to be an Ecuadorian ecologist and the significance of bioregional education. Marcelo Luque spoke about the El Niño phenomenon, its causes and effects and the human involvement in it. The we broke into groups of five and discussed personal experiences with the El Niño phenomenon. We got back together in a large group after this and had Jose Paraga from Civil Defense told us about his experiences rescuing people and the sixteen deaths in Maria Auxiliadora. We then watched video footage of the disaster which really brought the message home.

On Thursday we put the theory into practice with an excursion to the different areas affected by El Niño. We started off in Jorge Lomas, discussed the presence of the new water diversion canal, walked to the Planet Drum site, and then continued along the ridge until we reached Maria Auxiliadora and walked through El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas where they could see first-hand the effects of the disaster and the ruins left behind. This was the introduction to the course so that they would take a personal interest in the subject and start thinking about their own relationship with nature, that of the society, problems and solutions.

Next week we will start the course material. We will take the first several weeks to learn about the four different zones of life: Dry Tropical Forest, Very Dry Tropical Forest, Humid Tropical Forest and Mangroves. We will have different guest speakers to talk about the different zones and take excursions to see native plants and animals in the zones. We will start off with Marcelo Luque and Cerro Seco. We will also gather seeds and plant in the greenhouse to start the reforestation aspect of the project and introduce the participants to what Planet Drum is doing.

So things are moving along very smoothly and again, it is exciting to see the enthusiasm over the project. The main concern I have now is limiting participants, but I guess it is better to be in that situation, rather than searching for more. Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas.

Hasta pronto,
Kristen

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Report #12 

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report: May 9 to 15, 2005

 

This week we finished transplanting the Colorados, Ebonos, and the Guachapelí and Samango stragglers that were big enough. We also did a lot of work with the compost pile. That was Caitlin´s special project. She completely turned the entire thing to aerate it, as it was lacking air. It is now well on its way to forming good compost. The finished side was also tended to – it was thoroughly weeded, and the fruit trees which had come up were transplanted. The finished compost was then transferred to the storage area under the tarp. In addition, repairs began on the small planting beds outside the greenhouse.

We planted again at the new site in km 4 (Hidalgo), and planted a few trees at the Eloy Alfaro High School down the street from Bosque en Medio de la Ruinas, with the help of students and the ecology teacher. The make their own compost there and had made biodegradable paper bags for planting.

A lot of house maintenance also got done, including the painting of a wall, and the sanding and varnishing of shelves in the kitchen.

Andrea came back to volunteer with us for the latter half of the week after a two week absence (which she had advised me of). Blas volunteered one day.

More later!
Heather

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Report #13

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation  
May 19, 2005

This week we talked about the dry tropical forest and had Marcelo take us to Cerro Seco to see first hand lichens, orchids, the mighty Ceibos and spiders hanging from their webs. We were thirty this time and it seems that slowly but surely there is a self-deciding process of those truly interested in the material and projects. For homework on Tuesday they took leaves home with them to identify and learn characteristics and uses. Then when we walked through the forest they identified and presented on the plants. They are a very energetic and enthusiastic group!

Other exciting news is that there will be an Environmental Week celebration the first week of June. We are part of the planning process for this and it will include different education projects, theatre, and more!  I went to the meeting this week and suggested that the high school kids join together with the community members and not just walk around and see nature, but experience it and work for it first hand. I suggested that we all join together on the first Friday of June and have a community clean up of Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas. It was met with welcome approval and on Tuesday I will go with the leaders of PMRC and Civil Defense to see the safety factors involved in bringing a big group of high school kids there and to plan it out. So it will be a good step for the community taking charge of the project.

We are heading to see Mike Morgan at Cerro Blanco this weekend and I look forward to getting some education material from him, gathering seeds and learning more about what he is doing there and the dry tropical forest.  

On a personal level, I am settling in nicely and really like Bahia. The apartment and volunteers are all good and we are learning to work as a team!

Hasta pronto,
Kristen

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Report #14

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report May 16-22, 2005

 

I let the Civil Defense Force know that we are willing to work with them on the tree planting project, and am awaiting a response.

It rained a few days this week. I spoke with Carlos Franco about fencing on the Dairy Farm and he is placing the final gate which will complete the proper fencing required (shoulder high barbed wire). Carlos Endara, Cherry Tree, Inter-Americano and the Hidalgo sites are also fenced with barbed wire. I will have to look into the Fernando site as there is currently no fencing.

This week we worked in El Bosque – maintained trails a bit, fixed handrails and placed a few new ones, fixed steps and leveled trail where needed, replaced missing signs.

We worked in the vivero (greenhouse) transplanting many Colorados, turning compost (as usual), continued fixing plant beds and weeding. We also cleared the University site. We are actively collecting plastic bottles, and our biggest source is the Depto. De Higiene (Sanitation Department), which has started to separate them from the trash they pick up.

We helped in the building of a vivero for mangroves at the Universidad Tecnica, and went on a tour through their mangrove forest. Dr. Acosta at the UC expressed interest in PDF doing mangrove planting projects.

We continued with the house maintenance – painting, organization and inventory of tool cupboard, making of a garden area downstairs.

Seed bank – This weekend we went to see Mike Morgan, his nursery and to visit Cerro Blanco. We received 3 types of seeds from him, and collected a fourth on our own. I also picked out which species we need more information on in order to continue research.

Hasta la proxima!
Heather

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Report #15

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
May 27, 2005

I couldn't be happier with the way things are turning out with the Bioregional Education class. It seems the numbers of students at different times in the class are resolving themselves and those that I am left with are really interested and dedicated. The majority are about seventeen which means they have lots of energy and enthusiasm and it is just a question of directing them in the right direction, the bioregional direction. But they truly seem interested in the topics we are learning about, really like the practices and excursions, and want to do community development projects as well!

This week we have been learning about the Humid Tropical Forest with the assistance of Cheo who is a dynamic and commanding teacher. On Tuesday we went over different vocabulary words such as vines and biosphere in order to put the Humid Tropical Forest into context, then talked about the forest and finished off with a creativity/team-work game in which they had to stack cards into a pyramid and get it as high as they could as quickly as they could. We broke them into three groups and it was great to see them work together and brainstorm. I think it is an education style that they are not used to, but or course enjoy.

Thursday we went to the vivero (greenhouse) and I was so happy to see the enthusiasm that the participants showed with what we were doing there. We split up into two groups and I took one group up into the reforested hills to talk about the different trees, our projects and why we do them. The students all asked a lot of questions and had a really good time. Heather was in charge of the other group which she led through the greenhouse, preparing beds and planting seeds. We then switched groups so that they would all have a chance to do both activities

On Sunday we are meeting to go to Cabo Pasado to see an example of Humid Tropical Forest. Cheo will be our guide and the owner of the property will accompany us. The students are really excited to go and see all the plants and animals there, and I think we are in good hands with our guides.

Next week Friends of the Eco-city are kicking off International Environment Week. We will be participating in the Bosque en Medio de las Ruins clean up on Friday. My students are enthusiastically preparing a skit to perform before the town on Saturday night about the importance of taking care of our natural resources. On Sunday we will all be participating in a beach clean up followed by marine creature sand sculptures.

I have also had the opportunity to participate in some of the different meetings of the presidents and representatives of the neighborhoods. I was a special guest at the last one and was asked to talk about what I am doing for the Bioregional Education Project. I asked the different representatives for support in the project and said that my students are interested in taking what they are learning and teaching others, doing education projects in the schools and community as well as beach clean ups and other projects. There was a warm reception on the part of the representatives and so now it is really a question of coming up with something concrete and implementing it.

As far as the Bosque clean up next week, I am working hard to involve the community of Maria Auxiliadora as well as the high-school students in the project. I have been talking to both Elba from the Eco Amigos as well as the president of the barrio in order to gain more support and involvement in the clean up. One thing that we have been thinking to do is clear an area to put in benches and possibly tree swings with the help of the Civil Defense representative Jose Parraga. We will also be weeding the trails and do some clearing of debris as you suggested. One issue that has been raised is if there is someone that can keep an eye on the park and take some responsibility for it. I will be talking more to the community about this next week. I am wondering if it would also be possible to plant some trees symbolically in the area that we have cleared for benches. It would be great for the students to be able to be involved with this and see the trees grow and also be good for community spirit.

Please keep me posted on the possibility of sending a digital camera down with the mayor. I think that it would be wonderful for the education project both for the students and community here as well as to show you all the fun, interesting and educational things that we are doing and post them on the web.

So with much enthusiasm I conclude this weeks report,
Kristen

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Report #16

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report May 23-29, 2005

 

This week we prepared and maintained seedbeds in the greenhouse, and kept up the regular activities of watering, transplanting, cutting bottles to make insect guards, and composting. The BEP (Bioregional Education Project)  class also helped us out one afternoon, and sowed laurel, compoyo and guasmo seeds. We have an arrangement with the Dept. de Hygiene now to collect the city’s plastic bottles from them.

 

Also quite exciting was finding a coiled up matacaballo snake under the tarp that covers the compost. Carley found it just after telling us about a dream she had had a few nights before about a snake attacking her, which looked exactly like the snake at the greenhouse!  It was injured and part of its tail was missing and bloody.

 

Here is the greenhouse inventory taken on May 23rd:

Guayacan                    64

Cedro                       178

Algarrobo                    12

Colorado                   243

Ceibo                         97

Seca                            1

Papaya                       22

Ebono                        71

Jaboncillo                    8

Mamey                       16

Samango                   150

Guachapeli                144

 

The Civil Defense Captain said that they are not ready for the trees yet to plant along the highway since they haven’t organized anything. So it looks like it may not happen this rainy season.

 

I’ve talked to the property owners at the Jorge Lomas/Fernando site about fencing and they are fine with it. I bought a hole digger and am in the process of looking around for stakes. We can start off using the barbed wire we already have in the bodega.

 

We maintained trails in the Bosque, mostly weeding, and I took the mayor and his assistant, Teddy, there on Friday afternoon. He said he had no idea it was up there and seemed pleased with the visit. We walked all the way over to the bamboo house that is at the top of the park and met the people that live there.

 

I’m trying to get some new sites for next year and have a lead on one behind Interamericano School. It belongs to the Mayor’s wife, Maria Piedad.

 

We maintained the three sites in Ciudadela Maria Dolores (km 8), i.e. Endara, Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm. The trees at the Endara site look superb and have grown much more than at the other sites. I think it’s because the water level is near the surface.

 

That’s all for now!  Happy World Environment Week!  (We had a meeting at our house last week to plan the activities that will take place in observance of Environment Week.) 

 

Heather

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Report #17

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
June 2, 2005  

Weekly update from Bahia. Sunday's outing to Cabo Pasado was a smashing success. The walk was led by Cheo and was a challenge to many of the participants who aren't used to physical exertion, but they loved the challenge none the less. We got to the beach and they were in heaven playing in the sea and in the sand. Then Cheo gave us a talk about the significance of Cabo Pasado for marine migratory species, as an earthquake fault line and the meeting place of the La Niña and Humboldt currents. We then walked down the beach observing the tide pools. We found petrified wood and fossils and I explained the process that makes them and the geological processes that created the beach there. I loved to see their excitement as they waded through the tide pools squealing with excitement and delight. We walked back through the forest and found monkeys hanging from the trees. They couldn´t have been happier. Most of them had never seen monkeys before!  It was a treasure to discover the beauty and joy of their bioregion alongside with them. They are hooked!

We have been learning about Mangroves this week and had Thea from the Peace Corps come and give the class a presentation. We started off with a discussion for reasons to protect the forests in general and then moved over into the importance of mangroves and their function in other natural systems. We had a beautiful Power Point presentation and then went out to the river and collected Mangrove seeds. I was amazed to find out that many of the students didn´t know what the seeds looked like even though they are washed up all over the beach.

Today we went and planted the Mangrove seeds that we found.  We talked about the different kinds of Mangroves and they can now tell the difference between a Red, White and Black Mangrove and know how each excretes salt. It was such fun to sink our feet into thick and oozing mud and they loved and hated it. It was at first hard to coax all of them to get down and dirty, but they all did and were so excited and happy to do so. It was like taking them back to childhood where it didn´t matter how dirty they got.

Tomorrow we are doing the clean up of the Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas with the help of the high schools, my Bioregional Education  Program students and the barrio community there. We will be doing trail maintenance, trash clean up, weeding and clearing, tree planting and building benches with wood we have had donated to us for the project. My students will be helping with the organization, and we will also be educating the high school students about the area, and uses of the trees etc.

On Sunday my class is putting together a skit to perform before the town, police force, firestation, etc. to celebrate World Environment Week and to teach about the importance of conservation. They are so eager to perform and I will let you know how it goes in the next report.

Ciao from Bahia!    
Kristen

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Report #18

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report May 30-June 5, 2005

 

Volunteer situation:  Hannah and Montana arrived on Wednesday night, and Jackie on Saturday night. They will be staying through the summer, except Montana, who leaves mid-July. He is staying at the Bahia B&B. (Hannah was actually one of students in the group I led in a previous job to Costa Rica for the Experiment in International Living.)  We now have 6 people living in the house. Two brothers come for two weeks in July and will also stay at the B&B. In August there will be new volunteers coming on the heels of those who leave so I expect the house to remain full until October. I revised and updated the contents of the Volunteer Manual.

 

Fencing:  Afran Hidalgo, the property owner of our km 4 site, also sells wood. He will get me as many moyuyo posts as I need for $1 each. We may be able to get two posts from one as they are quite tall. I am thinking of doing individual fences around the trees in the ditch at the Cherry Tree site using scrap wood that we have in the bodega. The barbed wire I would use for a ditch at the Dairy Farm, and also the entrances to the Fernando site.

 

Watering:  Trip Martin says we can have whatever bamboo is left over from the dock complex construction within the next month in order to make more watering pipes. It turns out we were using the wrong technique with that. I discovered after a trip to the Bella Vista revegetation area (I’ve been up there a few times, including with the mayor), that you’re only supposed to make a small hole with a nail to perforate the membrane inside the bamboo stalk so that water slowly trickles down and the soil stays moist. We had been removing the entire membrane so the water shoots straight down. The plants are not showing any signs of lacking water yet and look quite healthy.

 

New sites:  Maria Piedad is having her site cleared before we come to visit, which should be this week. Plan to plant the Leonidas Plaza site on Thursday.

 

Week’s Activities:  Caitlin was intensely sick last weekend and so was not able to work a few days this week. She did some research for the Seed Bank though. I took her around to the doctor, hospital, etc. It turns out she had a mystery virus which hit hard and then left.

 

Carley made a no littering sign in Spanish using scrap wood and paint, which was put up by the greenhouse as the Universidad Catolica footballers always leave their trash behind. The University had a minga (community workday) for Environment Week, which we also helped out with – clearing the underbrush and putting it in a large hole, which happens to make it easy to collect for our composting purposes. We watered, continued fixing the seed beds,  removing dead plants and prepared plastic bottles for transplanting later on. The compoyo seeds planted by the Bioregional Education Program have started to come up already!

 

The minga (community workday) in El Bosque was successful. We had participation from 2 schools, the Defensa Civil, Maria Auxiliadora,  and Bella Vista communities, and the BEP students. After an introductory talk, we cleared trails, picked up the garbage at the bottom entrance (which still has open dumps on either side), planted trees and made benches from wood donated from a lumberyard. They are located on the summit and under the big Poinciana / flamboyant tree (by the “ceibo inmaduro” sign). We did not remove dead wood from the forest because we thought efforts would be better spent otherwise.

   

Hasta luego!

Heather

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Report #19

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report June 6-12, 2005

Aside from the usual greenhouse activities (watering, composting, clearing out dead plants, organizing), we did a lot of structural maintenance as dogs had broken in. We reinforced certain sections with wooden posts and/or chicken wire. Also continued fixing the seed beds. We put up plant label signs for the seeds that the Bioregional Education Program had sowed, and remounted the Planet Drum sign. We got more bottles for transplanting from somebody who had been storing them at his house and was glad to be rid of them.

 

We further maintained the trails in El Bosque by fixing more steps and handrails. (Clearing dead wood is being done this coming week.)  We made a rope fence at the bottom of the first entrance between the houses, in order to make the path more obvious from the street. We also added compost and water to the trees planted during the minga (community workday) during World Environment Week. I saw a beautiful big mot-mot bird there!  Jackie, our newest volunteer, and I went on Radio FB to talk about recent improvements to El Bosque and to invite the public to visit.

 

We watered and maintained the Cherry Tree site, Dairy Farm and Inter-Americano Colegio sites. Talked to Carlos Franco about keeping animals out of the Dairy Farm planted area and he plans to reinforce the fencing (in addition to the fencing that Planet Drum will do). We started putting individual fencing around the trees at the Cherry Tree site using scrap wood, with chicken wire to be added later. So far, no signs of animals there though.

 

The kids at Inter-Americano will soon begin helping us water. I gave Dr. Sanchez a map of the planted area so they could find all the trees, which are also well marked. He offered us sandwiches and drinks from the school cafeteria...awww.....We planted a new site near the football field in Cristo Consuelo, Leonidas Plaza, and constructed individual fences around each tree. Marta, who lives in front of the field, helped us and plans to water weekly.

 

More later!

Heather

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Report #20 

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
June 9, 2005         

This week we finished up our topic of the different zones of life in this bioregion (dry tropical, very dry tropical, humid tropical and mangrove) with seed art. We went and collected seeds from various trees around Bahia. We then learned from a local artisan how to perforate holes into the seeds with an ancient method of heating up a needle in a candle flame and pressing it through the seed. The participants will be making the holes at home and when we get back together again we will make the art, necklaces, bracelets or whatever their creativity leads them to.

It was very interesting to see the method for making the holes and fun to gather the seeds. Soon we will be learning about animals and birds of the area.

I am leaving for this week and classes will resume on the 21st of June.

Take care,
Kristen

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Report #21

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report June 20-25, 2005

Angel and Pablo from Maria Auxilidora stopped by to discuss their idea of fixing up El Bosque with bamboo handrails and steps, and making two miradores. I guess they've been inspired by Bella Vista.

We painted and punched holes in the bamboo watering pipes, and installed them at the three km 8 sites.

We did not water at Endara as there was no water in the cistern and the plants look the best out of all the sites.. We did water Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm. We put the fish netting over the individually fenced plants around the ditch at the Cherry Tree site as well.

We kept up the greenhouse chores. The compost is working really well now that Caitlin's been fine tuning it. We have two mounds above ground in one half of the compost  hole, which gives it more air. We have also been insulating it with grass to keep it warmer.

We went to Rio Muchacho as Nicola invited us, and learned a lot about permaculture, utilizing waste, and the area history in general. They are starting to provide weekly organic food baskets, which we will try out this week.

Well, that's all for now. Sorry my report wasn't that long but most of our work this week was with the pipes, which is hard work but not terribly exciting!

Hasta luego,
Heather

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Report #22

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
June 25, 2005  & June 30, 2005

June 25, 2005

The seeds that we collected for the seed art mainly were jaboncillo and maracuyá. They also collected some seeds that I unfortunately didn´t write down so I will try to keep better track of details next time.

This week we did some review of plant zones. I taught my students some English words such as plant, trail, pollution, grow, forest, environment etc. which they loved. Since Tuesday fell on the solstice I gave them an explanation of what that meant using two volunteers and a volleyball to represent the earth. We discussed the solstice in relation to living in your bioregion and how in some places it marks a day of total light or total dark for 24 hours and how that plays a big part in society, culture and environment. We of course also discussed why it is not really even marked here on the Equator. On Thursday we climbed up to a lookout point and the students made their own bioregional maps of Bahia and the estuary of Rio Chone. They are lovely and it started many discussions of the resources here, sources of contamination and means of protection.

The group is very enthusiastic and wants to get more involved doing projects in the community. I hope to have them go to some schools soon and do education projects with younger kids as well as in the greater community of Canton Sucre. 

June 30, 2005

Marcelo and I led a presentation on birds and how they can be a good indicator of contamination as they are migratory animals. We will be going to Isla de Corazon to see many birds, mangroves, as well as a successful effort at conservation. The students will be giving presentations on the different birds we will see there such as pelicans, cormorants, frigate birds, etc. 

Today we had a fun day of building sand castles on the beach. Heather and some of the other volunteers were the judges and gave different awards such as, "the most ecological", the most architecturally sound", etc. It was a beautiful day of fun in the sun and great to see their enthusiasm as they got down and dirty.

Ciao, 
Kristen

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Report #23 

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report July 4-10, 2005

This week we watered and finished installing pipes at the Dairy Farm and Cherry Tree sites. So far no problems with insects or animals at Cherry Tree, and the trees look healthy. There is a world of a difference in growth between the trees planted just 2 months earlier in the rainy season, and those planted later. Dairy Farm fencing is being reinforced by the owner, and we will fill in any gaps so to speak.

 

No more break ins at the greenhouse since our last job of reinforcing it. We used some of the logs left over from cutting down all those neem trees as the base, and used scrap wood from the bodega as stakes. We transplanted more trees from baggies to bottles, mainly cedros and ceibos.

 

We installed pipes at Jorge Lomas Fernando site and watered. Of all the new sites, the trees look the best there, probably from the shade and elevation (more moisture). The Jorge Lomas Casas site was checked and caterpillars have been eating the leaves of the guachapelis. I assume the leaves will come back once the caterpillars move on to the next stage in their life cycle. 

 

There were two days out of the week that we could not travel to any of the sites as there was no transportation due to the Manabi strike. We did, however, maintain El Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas - steps, handrails, tree watering, garbage removal. Unfortunately the wood from the benches on the summit was also stolen, so now we have no more benches.

 

Nicola decided to leave early due to personal reasons, but we had help from a friend of hers and from Jaime as well this past week. We have four short-term volunteers arriving this coming week. Two will stay in the house and two in the hostal. The new low flush  toilet has been installed.

 

The newspaper article based on my interview about our work here came out this weekend and I have saved a copy for our files.  

 

Hasta luego!

Heather

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Report #24

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
July 9, 2005  

I am sorry that I wasn´t able to write sooner but there was a strike here in the lovely province of Manabi to demand more money to improve the infrastructure here. Everything was shut down from the buses to the schools to the internet cafes. It put a bit of a cramp in this week´s lessons as well. On Tuesday we continued with a lesson on birds from Marcelo as well as a guest biologist from the states, Antoinette. We went out and did some pelican observation after the discourse.

Saturday was also great at the Isla de Corazon and the participants loved the boat tour as well as seeing the great magnitude of birds that inhabit the island.

I am in the process of getting the group organized to do some community education projects. Now that they have learned a bit the students will be able to share it with their friends, families and community.

Kristen

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Report #25

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report July 11-15, 2005

We've been having some beautiful weather recently, interspersed with the gray skies and misty air.

All four volunteers arrived, two on Monday and two on Thursday night. Together with Jackie and Carley there are now 6 volunteers. After another week, we will be down to 4.

We spent time at the greenhouse transplanting trees from baggies to bottles, repairing one of the outside seedbeds, and putting up a bamboo fence attached to the football field side of the greenhouse. The bamboo came from the very goal posts of the football field! They were given to us by Horacio, the Head of Maintenance, because the bamboo was old and he didn't want them playing football there anyway for the time being. We also sowed seeds - cedro, guachapeli and guachapeli balnco, palo de vaca, amarillo and colorado. The seeds were old (from last year) so if they don't germinate, we will plant fresher seeds on top. One of the compost piles is nearly ready to be transferred to the compost storage area.

We watered needy trees at Jorge Lomas Casas, and found little mammals living in some of the pipes! They look like they could be possums? We also watered all three km 8 sites, and filled in where the kids may have neglected at Inter-Americano. Most trees are surviving at all the sites.

Two of the trees that we planted around the football field in Leonidas Plaza were replaced upon request because they had died. They continue to be watered by the family there.

The bodega downstairs was completely cleaned out and reorganized, and we found quite a few goodies in the process!  Such as a few chairs, a hammock, paint scapers, a surf board case, etc. We filled in the tree ID chart on the wall, complete with drawings, and did some other home improvements.

Jackie and I visited Fundacion Futuro's new greenhouse in between San Vicente and Canoa. We learned a lot from them and got some seeds (cedro amargo, marañon, manglario) as well. They were very helpful and are willing to collaborate with us in the Seed Bank project, although we still have to talk more about it.

I also went to a greenhouse inland from Canoa to see some cedros that the owner is donating to whoever will have them. We may take some back to our greenhouse when the municipio goes to pick up theirs.

Planet Drum was also part of a crew which released a green sea turtle that had been kept in captivity for months at the Universidad Tecnica. It had been rescued from fishermen who would have killed it, but it was being kept in such terrible conditions and for way too long at the university that it probably would have died anyway had Johnny Delgado not been convinced to agree to let it go. 

Talk to you later,
Heather

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Report #26

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
July 21, 2005    

This week in Bahia I have been focusing on educating the educators. That is to say that my students are preparing to go and talk at schools about what they have learned. The two themes are Mangroves and Dry Tropical Forests. We spent both Tuesday and Thursday preparing materials, posters and discussing activities and ways to present information.

I am working with Marcelo to organize times that we can go to the elementary schools and do a presentation as well as a more hands-on day to show the kids how to plant mangroves or show the richness of the dry tropical forests and uses of Palo Santo. This is the way in which I hope to spread the knowledge from my students back into the community.

I am also organizing a minga (workday) to make a mural with Galielo and involve both my students and others in Bahia. The mural will be about the resources of the region and the reasons and ways to protect them. My students are also preparing to go on the radio and share some of what they are learning. So the focus of the project right now is community education, but at the same time we continue  with the class’ education.

I have almost made it through the information for the first quarter. The topics that we have covered thus far are plants and habitats of the region, animals,  and art. We are starting on the watersheds, contamination of the estuary, water treatment, etc. We are pretty much on track as far as the schedule goes and I hope to keep the community service projects outside of the regular classroom time so that we can continue to focus on the class’ education as well their community teaching.

Kristen

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Report #27

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report July 16-22, 2005

The two brothers who were here short term left midway through the week, and the two Canadian girls, Jenny and Elisabeth, moved in. They will be here a month, till mid-August. They are friends of a past volunteer. Now we have 5 people in the house including me. Carley leaves at the end of the month and Jackie in mid-August. We have more volunteers lined up to come starting mid-August.

 

This week in the greenhouse we finished repairing the outside seedbed which we had worked on last week, and began repairing the one under the moyuyo tree. We continued transplanting from baggies to bottles, and started taking out the compoyo seedlings which had come up. We moved finished compost from one of the piles for storage under the tarp. Our piles are composting really fast now due to the above-ground method and doing smaller piles so they get more aeration. I watered the few trees that needed it on the lower slope of the Universidad Catolica site. We received 102 cedro amargo trees from a greenhouse near Canoa. They had so many they didn't know what to do with them all and were looking to give them away. Afranio from the Depto. de Riesgo was our link to the trees and the municipio provided the transport to get them to our greenhouse. I helped them offload theirs at the Fanca greenhouse too. I collected some barbasco and algarrobo seeds for sowing last weekend from the Machalilla area. Below is the greenhouse inventory on July 19th (before we received the extra cedros):

 

algarrobo                      13

colorado                      102

cedro                           135

ceibo                           120

guachapeli                    114

jaboncillo                        4

guayacan                      152

mamey colorado             15

samango                       132

 

We watered all three km 8 sites, and El Bosque. We got help in El Bosque from a kid who happened to be wandering around in there.

 

We also constructed a fence at the Dairy Farm going across a ditch near the entrance. It was the only non-fenced area that we had planted.

 

We've been continuing on the house improvements - getting things fixed and organized. There is now a hammock hanging in the patio area in the back - a prize from cleaning out the bodega last week! 

 

Heather

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Report #28

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
July 29, 2005    

This week we worked with the Fanca eco kids club to make recycled paper. On Tuesday they showed us how to rip up papers, what kind to use, how to soak them, blend with aloe to make it sticky, and then use frames to create papers. We left them to dry until Thursday when we completed the project making boxes, notebooks, frames, cards etc. We used petals and leaves to decorate and they came out beautifully. The best of all was to see my students interact with the eco-kids club and how much they exchanged and learned from one another.

I really look forward to soon getting my students in touch with the schools and teaching what they have been learning.

Take care,  
Kristen

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Report #29

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report July 23-31, 2005

We’ve been getting slight sprinkles here but no rain to speak of. The plants are hanging on, but I can tell they’ll need more water as the dry season progresses. Some have lost their leaves but I am assuming it is because they are naturally deciduous, being native to the dry tropical forest. The ceibos and algarrobos are doing the best, and the colorados the worst.

There is enough water in the various cisterns we draw from for now.

We watered all the main sites – El Bosque, Universidad Catolica, Ciudadela Maria Dolores (km 8) sites, Inter-Americano and both Jorge Lomas sites.  The trees in El Bosque aren’t doing as well as the rest since they were planted in the dry season as part of that minga we had for World Environment Week. Also, the grass on the hilltop had been burned down and our trees (3) went with it. The trash problem at the lower entrance persists, but we do a cleanup every time we go.  

We installed more watering pipes at the Fernando site, and will have to pitch in for donkey loads of water that are carried up there to keep it full.

The greenhouse is doing well. We finished fixing the last outdoor seed bed, transferred more trees from bags to bottles and sowed some chirimoya seeds. The compost piles are quite warm inside, meaning that they are breaking down fast.

As far as new sites go, Dr. Sanchez at the Inter-Americano would like us to plant a new section of the hill in the winter and I saw a small property on a hill in the middle of Jorge Lomas, less than a hectare, but it is a barren hillside. The owner said he would like it planted in the dry season but that his employees will water the trees everyday. I didn’t say yes to him because it is like his backyard and is not very big. What do you think?

I had a meeting with Juan Carlos from the San Vicente-based Fundacion Futuro, who is willing to collaborate on the Seed Bank project. We are going to compile the info we have in a table and send to him to fill in the gaps. We think the project name should be changed to reflect the project more accurately, as “Seed Bank” gives the impression of constructing a seed storage facility.

Three of our volunteers will be leaving this coming week, which leaves myself and Jackie. The next volunteer arrives in Ecuador August 10th. By the end of August, we will be full again.

Take care, 
Heather

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Report #30

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
August 4, 2005  

This has been an interesting if not a bit frustrating of a week. On Tuesday I spent the better part of the afternoon planning class with Maria Elena who has done her thesis work on contamination of the Estuary Rio Chone. We had put together a presentation which when we tried to print. It wouldn’t and then the computer shut down all together. When we tried to start class the guy who opens the room wasn’t to be found and to top it all of a large number of my students couldn’t come because they had another project to work on. So I had to reschedule class.

On Wednesday I went to Rambuche where I am helping Varon teach a school way up in the mountains where there are two grades and about twenty students up to the age of 18. I am helping him teach ecological education, English and art once a week. To get there I ride my bike to a boat to the bus then walk to where I ride a horse up the mountain. Quite a journey!

Today we had class and went out with the civil defense and Maria Elena to see first hand the different characteristics and properties of the estuary and the contamination there. It went very well and we were able to consolidate the theory and practice into one. I hope that we will be able to go out again soon to talk to fisherman about the nets they use, fish they catch and their experience with the estuary.

I have been planning with Marcelo Luque to prepare my students to start teaching in the elementary schools and that is going well. That aspect of the project continues. I also spoke with the mayor today about finding a wall to do a mural using recycled art materials (glass, ceramic, stone, shell etc.) involving protecting our natural resources.

Ciao,
Kristen

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Report #31

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report August 1-7, 2005

Well, this week the house went from being full to empty as we had the three Canadians leave on one day. Now it's just Jackie and me until David gets here next week, which is Jackie's last. She has been sick with a stomach virus type thing and wasn't able to work for a few days. It will be just David and me till the end of August, when an Australian couple arrives, and then 3 more volunteers by mid-September. I will be able to get help from some local volunteers if needed.

 

Last week we watered the Universidad Catolica, the 3 Maria Dolores sites, both Jorge Lomas sites and El Bosque. We also installed the rest of the watering pipes we had prepared at the Fernando site. That day we had help from Carley's brother, Ajay, who was visiting for a few days.

 

I collected seca seeds from a friend's property way down the coast past Punta Gorda (which is past Punta Bellaca). They are drying outside now. Also, the owner of a nearby soda bar rode by our house this weekend offering plastic bottles for transplanting. I picked up two rice sacks worth. We will be getting more from the Dept. of Hygiene and continue to collect from the U.C. cafeteria too.

 

We are in the process of adding all the new information we got for the Seed Bank into the excel table, which will then be translated and sent to Juan Carlos of Funadcion Futuro.

 

More improvements were made to the house - the small wall surrounding the window panes behind the stairwell was painted yellow to cover up some unsightly artwork. It looks a hundred times better, especially with the new color scheme. A curtain was made for the front bedroom as well. Our landlord got our water pump fixed for us, as our water pressure had been very sporadic. It is such a relief, and we can shower comfortably in consistently warm water now.

  

Our computer problems are finally over! (for now)  I was at last able to transfer the files from the old laptop to the new one. I went through all the files, consolidated the material on the new laptop, and the old laptop is now retired.

  

Till next time....

Heather

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Report #32

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
August 11, 2005

On Tuesday we had a very interesting day of class. The gas station Repsol has been leaking gas into the estuary for what seems to be about eight years, or since the earthquake. It became such a problem that they could no longer turn the blind eye and have had to close the gas station and do some major clean up. So Friends of the Eco-city got together and wrote a letter saying that the company should make reparations and put certain things in order (such as put the gas tanks in a concrete container in case of further spills) before they can open again. My class participated in the meeting and then voiced their opinions and concerns over the problem. We then went and were fortunate enough to get a tour of the clean-up process at Repsol and talk to the engineer in charge who gave us a very different perspective on the story. He said that Repsol was being very diligent in the clean up process, that the spill was contained and that nature has a remarkable way of repairing itself. So my students had the opportunity to see both sides of the story and we discussed the motivations behind both. It was very educational and they were all thrilled to be involved in the process and see something that is affecting all the inhabitants of Bahia without them really even knowing it.

Then on Thursday there was a special meeting on Tourism in Bahia put on by the municipality. We went and listened and unfortunately it wasn’t very interesting from an ecological perspective but took on more of an economic slant.

I am having a little bit of trouble organizing my students to teach at schools because they have vacation coming up and many of them are traveling from the 18th of August to the 5th of September. I think that I might not have any students around during that time to even have class!  

Kristen

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Report #33

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report August 8-14, 2005

The Planet Drum House is not the same anymore. The summer chapter of girls has closed and we are in transition to a mixed bag of fall volunteers. Right now there is only one volunteer, David, who arrived Thursday, and the next volunteers will be arriving about the end of August. Jaime ("Flaco") and Thea (Peace Corps) each helped out one day this week as we were low on volunteers.

There was a bit of drama with the Cherry Tree site. We arrived to water one morning, only to find it partially burnt!  Most of the trees had been spared but some were charred. I talked to the caretaker about this, and found out that the property had changed owners from Janel Acosta to Miguel Vera. The new owner plans to make it into a sporting complex and wanted the hillsides cleared of "monte" (weeds) just so that it looks "clean". I asked the caretaker to please not burn anymore until I was able to speak to the new owner. I got his phone number and called various times with no success. So we went back to the property to see if we could meet up with him (and also to give the stressed out trees extra water). We found that they had burned more, despite my plea to the caretaker, and the phone messages I left for the owner. I would say we lost about a quarter of the trees. I was able to talk to the new owner that morning however, who had no idea about the revegetation project. Now that he knows, he said he will cease the burning, and he actually wants to show us one of his other properties as a potential planting site.

Things are going fine in the greenhouse. None of the seeds we sowed had sprouted (I think they were too old as I planted the old ones first), except for the cascol seeds I had collected from Bella Vista. They are sprouting in the shaded seed bed under the moyuyo tree.

We got a lot more plastic bottles from the Universidad Catolica, and watered the trees on the plateau.

Both Jorge Lomas sites were watered and seem to be doing well. We get water for the older site from a man in the neighborhood named Angel, who is very friendly and says we can have as much water as we want. I gave the a bit of money to the man who gives us water at the new site as he has to pay a donkey to bring it up to fill his tank.

We watered the InterAmericano site, as school was on vacation that week. Dr. Sanchez, the principal, requested 4 samango trees for the school, so we dropped those off as well.

We began hulling the barbasco, algarrobo and seca seeds I had collected—quite a time consuming process, but it's nice to chat as we work.

Heather

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Report #34

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation  
Report  August 15 to 21, 2005

(I forgot to say in my last report that we also watered and picked up trash at El Bosque last week, and I worked on a tree ID sheet and quiz for Genesis School as we will be taking them on a tour there soon.)

Well, no more burning at the Cherry Tree site.  David and I had a hard day of watering there and at the Dairy Farm, just us two.  As we water, we check up on the watering pipes and if they're not draining properly open the hole again with a nail.  We also repair the fences as need be.

 

Did some minor repair at the greenhouse and compost hole, weeded, watered, composted and transplanted a few little trees that were growing up outside the greenhouse.  Also watered the trees at the Universidad Catolica site.

 

Watered the Fernando site with Thea's help, and got a tour of eccentric Carlos Salazar’s home improvements, such as his new kitchen mural, and front yard cat walk.

  

The tour of El Bosque went well with the Genesis school - about 25 students and 5 adults.  We talked about the history, dry tropical forest and species, burning, the importance of an urban park....  They helped us water the trees as well, and received their treat handouts at the end.

 

The trees at the Endara site near Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm continue to do well, and probably won't need any watering after next rainy season.

 

I dropped off the convenio (contract) for Maria Piedad to sign but haven't heard back from her yet.  She's fine with us planting on her land near Interamericano School in the winter.

Hasta pronto!

Heather

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Report #35

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation 
Report August 22 to 28, 2005

This week we repaired and reinforced the greenhouse (the dogs had broken in through a weak spot), did the usual greenhouse chores, and sowed seeds - aguia and cedro amargo. We also continued hulling seeds (seca and algarrobo), and even collected more algarrobo seeds from the Cherry Tree site. I discovered that seca seeds can also be collected there, but at the moment we have plenty.

 

We tried all week to get the plastic bottles from the Depto. de Higiene (Health Department), and finally got over 15 rice sacks full. Thank goodness for a large bodega. David experimented with making water bottle carrying contraptions using rope, since all the water bottle handles are breaking.

 

We checked up on Inter-Americano Site, and did some mulching, watering and pipe fixing. The kids were out watering when we were there. Each class waters once a week, but they don't seem to have clearly designated areas so the trees further away may get missed. Dr. Sanchez had planned to plant the 3 samangos from us later that week, as an experiment of sorts. The rest of the planting on the expanded site should take place in the winter.

 

Both Jorge Lomas sites, El Bosque, the Dairy Farm, Endara site and Cherry Tree all got watered, and we unplugged some of the blocked water pipes. Some of the semi-burned trees at Cherry Tree are showing signs of recovering, while others have since died. Still a good survival rate, but the hillside is now so barren of any other vegetation, that erosion will still be a big problem.

 

Two Australian volunteers - Natalie and Michael, arrived Friday morning, but by the weekend they had decided this place wasn't for them, and moved on in their travels. The next volunteer is slated to arrive next Wednesday afternoon, and another on Sunday evening. That will put us to three volunteers, which is a good number to work with. I found out from Nicola Mears that one of the volunteers also plans to work for her environmental education project in the schools which could lead to a time conflict, however the volunteer herself has not mentioned anything about it to me over e-mail.

 

I tried to meet with the property owner, Marcos, of a potential site which stretches from km8 towards Fanca, but he ended up being unavailable. A man named Fernando had organized the meeting and says that if we can secure that tract of land, it would have a great impact and be something on a larger scale than we have worked on. I still have not heard back from Maria Piedad since dropping off the convenio (contract), but I know she is still interested in having us plant on her land. I also made an appointment for next week to tour the tract of land adjacent to the Cherry Tree site. If we plant there this winter, that will make three tracts of adjoining land (including the Dairy Farm) that we have revegetated.

 

The weather has continued to be good for our work schedule, with clouds in the morning and some afternoon sun to enjoy in the afternoon. We even had a couple very light rain sprinkles.

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Report #36  

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation 
Report August 29 to September 4, 2005  

This week two new volunteers arrived - Briana and Stephanie, which puts us to 4 people living in the house.  Both speak Spanish.

 

We were able to retire one of the compost piles at the greenhouse and move it over into the storage area. We also repaired the fence around the compost area, and put up a new section. Parts of the netting that were flapping off of the greenhouse roof and walls were also fixed. I tilled the soil, and removed some big seeds from the seedbeds that had not sprouted in months. Some of the guachapeli are now coming up. It may be because I buried the seeds a bit deeper in the tilling process last week, whereas before they were practically just on the surface. We began going through each plant individually to fix up the baggies (add dirt, loosen soil, set straight, fold open top of bag, etc) and take out dead plants. Completed the colorados and ceibos, and got started on the samangos. I sowed a few guaba seeds I had brought back with me from Esmeraldas as an experiment. It may be that they are better suited to a more humid zone.

 

We watered Cherry Tree, Endara, Dairy Farm, El Bosque and  Fernando sites.   

 

Talked briefly to people at Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm about why they clear the hillside vegetation down to the very last blade of grass, leaving all the dirt exposed.  The answer was to keep the area "clean", so I tried to explain a more ecological way of thinking to them. There's not much use in us planting trees, if nothing else will be allowed to grow to protect them and keep the soil intact.

 

At El Bosque we also installed some new watering pipes, picked up trash, and fixed the rope fence at the bottom entrance. The top of the hill (lookout point) was somehow wet with water and the land was eroding down the top set of stairs. We will have to think about how to go about fixing this as a big crevice has opened where the stairs are.

 

I stopped by the property of Pepe Santos, neighbor to Cherry Tree, to see about planting there this winter. He is still into the idea and will look over the contract I left. We talked about what types of trees he wants, and I will get a tour of the property in the afternoon sometime. Peter and I also scouted out some new planting sites this weekend. El Toro was badly and quite extensively eroded.

 

We continued hulling algarrobo, seca and barbasco seeds. Also found a place to recycle glass bottles around the corner from the Bed and Breakfast.

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Report #37

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation 
Report September 5 - 11, 2005

We have been going into rainy season prep mode by preparing seeds (hulling, soaking) and sowing in the greenhouse. This week we hulled some more of our barbaso-algarrobo-seca store, and sowed zapote de perro and algarrobo. We mixed some more sand and compost into the seed beds before sowing, as it seemed that the soil was getting too compacted with the watering due to the high clay content.

 

The aguia seedlings have come up. We have a lot more of those seeds so it is good to know they are still viable. So now we have 3 species sprouting in total (guachapeli and cascol as well).

 

We had bought some fishing line to repair the greenhouse netting, which seems to be working better than the wire, as it doesn't cut into the netting as much, causing it to eventually fall apart. Part of the fence around the compost pit had been knocked down and was put back up.

 

The new volunteers got a tour of the the revegetated area at the Universidad Catolica by Peter Berg, and brought down a drum that had been used for water storage which was no longer needed on that hillside. The weaker trees at that site were also watered.

 

We finished fixing up the samangos in their baggies, and started in the cedros. We did an inventory of the plants (only those in bags/bottles) as follows:

 

algarrobo                     9

colorado                     84

cedro                        232

ceibo                        111

ebano                         11

guachapeli                  96

jaboncillo                     5

guayacan                   208

samango                    104

seca                             1

 

We passed by Inter-Americano to check up, and ended up doing all the watering as the school was on another vacation - something having to do with the election of a school "reina" (queen).

 

We watered Cherry Tree, Dairy Farm and Endara sites, as well as both Jorge Lomas sites and El Bosque. A jaboncillo tree which had been burned at the top of the hill at El Bosque, and was as dry as a bone, miraculously sprang back to life with little buds coming from the base just above ground level. I have found this to be common among many of the species that we plant. Some are surprisingly hardy. We found the source of the water that had destroyed the top staircase, as a spring spontaneously appeared on the hilltop while we were fixing the stairs!  I found out from EMAPA (responsible for municipal potable water supply) that it is due to a problem in the water piping somewhere else so the backed-up water had found another outlet. They are working on fixing it. In addition to fixing various steps and handrails, we also put in another watering pipe, and located a missing sign ("ceibo inmaduro") and post, which had been dragged half way across the park. I got holes punched in the sign in order to reattach it to the post.

 

Over the weekend, Peter Berg and I took a hike into El Toro to look for planting sites. We identified two possible areas. We also had a meeting with Angel, president of the Maria Auxiliadora community association, to talk about his idea for a project to fix up El Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas.

 

I put together a seed collection schedule, and will continue to do research to fill in missing information for certain species.

 

Heather

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Report #38

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report September 12-18, 2005 

We've begun watering the greenhouse three times a week, and have already seen improvements, especially with the samangos, perhaps because they are not native to the dry tropical forest, and do better in transition zones (according to Dario of Rio Muchacho). We prepared more seed beds and sowed seca (soaked for different lengths of time as an experiment), barbasco and guachapeli seeds. I don't expect the guachapeli to come up as they are old, but we'll see. All the seed beds have been sown now, but some more may become available from seeds that do not germinate. We fixed up some cedro and guayacan seedlings in their baggies and repaired the compost fence on the side where the soccer ball hits. The trees planted on the hillside were watered. We also continued the seed hulling this week (seca and algarrobo).

 

We watered Endara, Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm, the latter two twice as we had enough time to do it, and of all the sites, they could use it the most.

 

In El Bosque, a few more watering pipes were put in, trees watered, trash picked up and the #4 sign (ceibo inmaduro) put back up in its place.

 

We watered both Jorge Lomas sites and took a hike up the path behind Las Casas that goes off to the left on the hill top as we did not know what was there. We followed it as far as the summit - quite a good view. It continued along the ridge but we came back down.

 

We were interviewed for both the radio and newspaper (El Diario) together regarding the Green City Accords signed by Bahia's mayor. We also obtained the survey map for the new property acquired by Planet Drum for the purpose of building a bioregional institute.

 

The volunteers also had time to work on their own special projects - David created a new spreadsheet for keeping track of tree survival rates in all the various stages of their growth, Briana hemmed up the curtains in the front bedroom, and Stephanie began making new signs for the greenhouse trees. We are also bringing home dirt from around the field at the Universidad Catolica for making a garden downstairs in the patio area.

 

Talk to you soon!

 Heather

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Report #39

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report September 19 to 25, 2005 

We went to the greenhouse 3 times again this week, and sowed more algarrobo seeds. Ramon's dad, from whose land we got the seca seeds, said that those seeds may take months to sprout. I trimmed up the muyuyo tree where it was getting in the way around the outside seeds beds in front of the greenhouse. We emptied the sacks of compost from the Depto. de Higiene. The 16 rice sacks will be just as much appreciated as the compost was!  That day we had help from Marc Beck, the tourist who went with Peter Berg to El Bosque.

 

We visited El Toro to look for road access on the other side of the gorge, but there was none past the driveway to a farm, and on the other side of the farm was another steep-sided gorge. We may be able to use the top of the main gorge and part of the slope as a test patch. The land on that side belongs to a Gutierrez from Bahia. The first site we had decided on last time belongs to Rita's family.

 

I got a tour of the site on land beside the Cherry Farm - only about 2 hectares of it is plantable, and he has cows roaming all over it. The owner suggested that we plant only along the fence line and make a parallel fence to protect the trees. I don't know if that is worth it since it seems like a landscaping job now.

 

We watered all the new sites, Dairy Farm and Cherry Tree twice. Endara site didn't get much water because the cistern was empty but luckily we had a bottle left over from Dairy Farm to use. The two watering pipes that had been installed at the top if the hill in El Bosque were missing, and the water leakage continues, but not as strongly as before - great for us!

 

Volunteer David is now working on figuring out tree survival rates for the whole project from the maps we have drawn with the dead trees crossed out. Volunteer Stephanie got her tree ID signs laminated, and Briana finished the office curtain hemming. We finished hulling the seca seeds and continued on algarrobo. I got some more information from Marcelo Luque on when to collect seeds of certain species. It seems like a lot will be falling in the next couple months before the wet season.

 

The new boat club Puerto Amistad had an "inauguration" this weekend, but it wasn't that rip roaring of a time. David, the Genesis volunteers and I went to a friend's farm (Baron) in Rambuche this weekend, and collected some guasmo seeds there.

 

I checked on the Green Accords article that Peter Berg and I were interviewed about at El Diario newspaper a couple times but no luck yet.

 

Hope all is well,

Heather

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Report #40

Kristen Lansdale, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation 
October 2, 2005      

BIRTH OF A PROJECT

When I set off for Bahia de Caraquez exactly six months ago I had no dea where I was going or what I was really being sent to do. My boss, Peter berg, told me that he was throwing me into the deep end of the pool  on this one, but I felt confident in my ability to swim,  As the idea of bioregional education was explained to me I was going to facilitate educating the local community of Bahia about how to live in harmony with their surrounding environment or particular bioregion, and how to appreciate and protect its natural resources. My heart, mind, body, soul, everything I had was behind this idea and I couldn't wait to put it into action.

When I got to Bahia the first thing I did was to come up with a curriculum. This wasn't a difficult task because I had the invaluable resource of Peter's article, Learning to Partner with a Life-Place, that set out a timeline of topics and projects that could be used for bioregional education throughout a year’s time. The topics ranged from energy resources to indigenous peoples, native plants and animals to geology, with some art and literature to spice it all up. Once it was clear to me what the different topics that I would be teaching were, I set about looking for who was going to help me teach them. I was a stranger in a strange land and to say that I was in any way an expert in even one of these fields would be a gross fabrication. So I said to myself, "Why reinvent the wheel?  The knowledge is here, the expertise is here. So why not use it?"  My idea was to have the community teach the community…to further teach the community. This meant that I would work as a facilitator finding the local experts who could come and teach my class (from the community) about their specific subject area so that my class could then go and diffuse the knowledge by teaching this to others in schools and work places (back to the community).

Now I just had to find the experts, find the students and contact the community. To find the experts I decided to call upon the Friends of the Eco-city group for support. I planned a meeting in which I discussed the plan for the project, curriculum and the actual program of a twice-weekly meeting of a few hours in which theory and practice went hand in hand. The Friends were wild with support, volunteered to help as the experts, and proffered names and phone numbers of experts in other subjects. One thing led to the next. I did some more sleuthing around and by the time I was done There was a long list of names and numbers for each and every subject. Experts, check!

The next thing I had to do was find the students. This is where I hit the ground running. I went on the radio, I talked to the newspapers, I talked to college classes and high school students and told everyone interested to meet next week at the municipality building (Municipio) and we would talk about subjects, times and all those other details. The only requirement was an enthusiasm for learning and a desire to protect the environment. There were over fifty students at that first meeting!  That was much more interest than I had expected but I said to myself, "What the heck, the more the merrier." Students, check!

Then I got in touch with community leaders such as barrio presidents and city agency heads who were accessible through the municipality data base and sent them all letters inviting them to an informational meeting about the program. “Come one, come all,” I said and ended up with a representative sprinkling. I told them  about the project and asked for their support in heading any community development projects that were in line with the themes of the education program such as beach clean-ups, elementary school education, and erosion-controlling tree planting projects (just to name a few). They were enthusiastic and promised to help with the bioregional education program as much as they could. Some even volunteered to be students in the course. Community, check!

The last plan was to find a place where I could hold classes. Because the course was to be of the people, for the people and by the people, I couldn't think of a better place to teach the course than the municipality building. I got the stamp of approval from the mayor and was set to go. Meeting place, check.

AS IT UNFOLDS

I think that the true genius of this project lies in the fact that theory and practice go hand in hand and, as I see it, this style of education is not only more interesting, exciting and has greater information retention value, but it is also essential for a full understanding of the subject matter. My students and I spent one day talking about the devastating effects of the El Nino phenomenon on the community, watched a video tape put together by the civil defense agency, listened to their rescue stories, and then walked through the ruins and sites of mudslides to really visualize the houses that slid down the hill taking 16 lives with them. This provided a perfect opportunity to discuss the link between nature and human interaction. People had previously deforested the hillsides leaving no tree roots to hold the earth in place. When the drenching year-long rains of El Nino came the hills became saturated and collapsed to devastating effect.

After we established a base of understanding about human interaction with nature we moved on to other subjects such as native plant restoration. We talked about mangroves and their role as filters in the estuary, And followed up by planting mangroves. We talked about the dry tropical forest characteristics of the bioregion in Bahia, then walked through the forest with a guide and saw the role of trees, orchids, lichens, and vines in an unadulterated state. When we talked about the river and the role of fishermen in contributing to contamination and overfishing, we went out in a boat and saw the nets and saw the floating trash. We made necklaces of native seeds, planted native trees, learned about native birds, studied the currents and climate and their effect on the seasons, watched monkeys swing from mangrove trees (most had never seen a monkey!) and learned all about the Bahia bioregion.

The students gave back to the community through clean ups on the river and ocean beaches, and a site known as "Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas" or "Forest in the Middle of the Ruins" where the lives had been lost and houses swept away during El Nino mudslides and Planet Drum Foundation was actively working at revegetation using native trees. The high school age students joined up with a younger Ecology Club kids to make recycled paper and decorate paper products. In this way the experts taught my students and my students taught the community.

The great diversity of subjects led to a great diversity of learning activities. My students were continuously learning more about their bioregion and all the natural resources that they had the responsibility to protect, and at the same time were constantly exploring and pushing their comfort zone as they planted mangroves in knee-high mud or walked hours through a green, viney, Tarzanesque forest. My students were constantly smiling, and hardly realized how much they were learning because they were having so much fun doing it.

AND COMES TO A CLOSE

The course started off with fifty participants and slowly the wheat was separated from the chaff and I was left with about twenty constant, dedicated students that loved the course and wanted to be true crusaders of protecting the bioregion. They were mostly high school age because it seemed they had the most time, motivation and ability to put into the course. They were to receive a certificate of completion when the course was over, but even more importantly they were to graduate with a real, concrete knowledge of their bioregion and an understanding of how they could protect it.

Now comes the catch. Because my students were high school students, and mostly seniors at that, the course had to take a backseat to their other school responsibilities. When it came down to finals or school projects I found myself with only a handful of students. After about five months of teaching, I learned that many of my students were going to have to take an after school preparatory class required for attending the University. Because of the time conflict, they would no longer be able to participate in my class. With great reluctance due to not being able to continue with the different subject matter, but much joy over what had already been taught, the course came to a close.

WITH FUTURE PROSPECTS

It was both the innovative as well as extracurricular nature of the course that brought it strength and weakness. There isn’t a general cultural model for extracurricular education in Ecuador. Consequently, even though there was great interest and enthusiasm for the novelty of the course, there was a lack of commitment to see it through. There is a real cultural difference in work ethic between the costal Ecuadorians and North Americans. Ecuadorians are typically late and even take pride in impunctuality, calling it "la hora Ecuatoriana" (the Ecuadorian hour). People often wouldn't show up for meetings. Of course it also meant that things in general were more laid back and that the people take things a little easier and slower (which they call “tranquilo”). I couldn't help but wonder if there was some happy medium of efficiency in a laid back setting somewhere in the world.

In order to give the project greater structure in the future I would recommend that the course be taught through an already established system such as public and private schools, churches or community programs. I would give greater, more tangible incentives to the students that complete the course by encouraging more dedication and attendance. In the future there should be even more local and community involvement in the program, including a local teacher who has greater cultural understanding of the system and work ethic.

I would strongly encourage partnership with other organizations to strengthen the scope and breadth of the project. Because what Planet Drum Foundation is doing is so innovative and ground breaking, I believe that it could be more effectual and efficient with support from other organizations that are also interested in environmental protection and education such as the Fundacion Cerro Seco and Ecology Clubs of the area.

I think that there is great potential for a future bioregional education project if it was given greater structure and some of these steps were taken to ensure its heightened success. A truly in-depth knowledge of the people and place is crucial. Then, truly, the sky is the limit.

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Report #41

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report October 3-9, 2005

I'm a bit sick—got some dirt in my eye in the greenhouse which caused an infection which I am treating now. I finally bought Blas' surfboard (he wanted a new one) and so am practising more regularly. I also got attacked by a bees nest at Cherry Tree. It was one I had seen before but forgot was there, low to the ground in the only stand of grass left there. I must have walked right on top of it. They followed all the way down that big hill and to the cistern, where I got Briana to douse me with water and take them out of my hair. The stings were quite painful until the nighttime, when they mysteriously felt better after some cabbage soup. I've heard from people here that it's good to get stung by bees—some sort of physical therapy thing.

Did some repair of the greenhouse walls and sowed the seeds you gave us from Las Coronas. The Zapote de Perro seeds are finally coming up, and more Algarrobo seeds as well. The Aguia seedlings that were coming up seem to be getting smaller — an insect may be getting at them but I can't see anything. The Cascol seedlings that were transplanted aren't doing so well—they were probably too small but they don't seem to be growing anymore in the seed bed. Maybe it will take the rainy season to make them a bit more robust.

There is no water at Dairy Farm or Endara so we have been taking from Cherry Tree to water the other sites. So far it's been working out, as nobody else is using the water at Cherry Tree right now.

We watered both of the Jorge Lomas sites, and there is construction going on behind Las Casas. They completely removed one house and have cleared out the area behind it. It looks as if they are going to build a drainage canal leading from the gorge with the Guachapelis planted on the side. We lost a couple trees to it—Algarrobos, Colorados and Guachapelis—probably about 5 in total.

David is still working on the survival rate database, and Stephanie finished making her signs for the greenhouse trees. Briana was doing other maintenance tasks such as sharpening the machetes .

Still haven't been able to see Jacob to hear exactly how many days the men have been working, but will keep trying. I am now giving English classes to Maria Piedad, the Mayor's wife. She would like to put a sign out in front of her property on the roadside to let people know that Planet Drum is doing a revegetation project there.

Hasta la proxima!
Heather

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Report #42

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report October 10-16, 2005

The greenhouse inventory below was taken on October 10th (bags and bottles only; not seedbeds). The numbers may not be exact, but they give us an idea nonetheless.

 

Algarrobo                     9

Aguia                           3

Cascol                        10

Colorado                     83

Cedro                        223

Ceibo                        117

Ebano                          11

Guachapeli                 102

Jaboncillo                      5

Guayacan                    221

Samango                     103

Seca                              1

TOTAL                        888

We did some minor repairs to the greenhouse as usual, and the University has for some reason chopped back the Muyuyo tree that was covering the outside seedbeds. Maybe it will be good for those trees to get more light?  We transplanted some Aguia and Cascol seedlings, sowed more Aguia and Guasmo, and aerated the bottles of some Ceibos that were growing an algae—like film on the inside. Stephanie placed her tree identification signs, which are quite artistically done. The smaller trees at the University site were also watered.

 

We watered Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm twice—many trees at both sites seem to be doing better now and have sprung back to life after being burnt (at Cherry Tree). The climate has also been a bit moist recently, with light rain in the characteristically wetter areas. Maybe this is slowly recharging groundwater supplies which some plants are drawing on.

 

The Fernando site is still doing well. The tank we use there is very low, but the owner wants us to finish it off since the murky dregs are good for watering trees, but not much else. I got a few Bototo seeds from a tree there—they are surrounded by a light fluff which feels like sheep's wool.

 

Riccardo has decided to volunteer with us two or three times a week as he feels this arrangement is a fair exchange for his stay in the house. David departed on Saturday night, and Megan Bomba, the new volunteer, arrived on Sunday night on the same bus as Stephanie and Briana, who were coming back from a trip to Quito.

 

I went to look at some new land for planting on the hill above the Mariantia Jesus neighborhood. It is the land around the defunct cement water tanks up there. I think it will be a feasible site. We have permission from Roberto's family, who lives in the area. I should also get permission from the Municipio, as some of it is public land. Let me know if you would like me to send you pictures.

 

I also went hiking to La Gorda (a couple of beaches past Punta Bellaca), where I collected some Pela Caballo seeds. This is the place where Don and Thea are working on an eco-tourism project with the land owners.

 

Hasta luego,
Heather

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Report #43

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report October 17 to 23, 2005

 

For the first time since the dry season started we had a reasonable rain in Bahia on Wednesday!

 

The dogs have found new ways to break into the greenhouse so we have reinforced the walls again. What we thought were Zapote de Perro seeds coming up were actually weeds, but now the real seeds have started to come up, although in small numbers. The first Seca has come up as well. They take quite some time. We have been recording greenhouse and site inventory data into the new database that David designed for us. I think it is basically the Seed Bank in a nutshell!  We added dirt to some of the seed beds which were getting low, and also repaired one side of the seed beds inside the greenhouse. We also transplanted into bottles many Guachapeli that were getting too big for their bags.

 

In Jorge Lomas, the Fernando site is doing quite well, and it turns out the digging beside Las Casas was indeed for a drainage ditch which will connect to the main one in the middle.

 

The three km 8 sites are doing fine—Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm continue to receive water twice a week. There is still no municipal water supply to anywhere in Bahia but luckily Cherry Tree still has enough water for all, and as far as our house goes, we apparently have a huge cistern.

 

I met up with Shane, the Aussie who is doing his PhD on “learning tourism”, who took me for coffee and asked a few questions. I gave him a self-guided tour pamphlet for El Bosque Park and mentioned that the Maria Auxilliadora Barrio  Community where it is located is thinking of turning it into a tourist attraction.

 

Speaking of El Bosque, most of the signs there are now missing, posts and all, with no trace left behind. We did some trail, handrail and step maintenance, and the usual trash pick up. It is a bit better than before, but is still accumulating litter.

 

Riccardo fixed the screens on the windows in the dining room, and the women volunteers worked on placards for the Catolica University Open House next week. Stephanie made a new one for composting. We have formalized weekly house meetings again. The first one went well, and was relatively stress—free. Megan is settling in fine, although she was quite tired the first week. She also speaks good Spanish. Now we have four volunteers total.

 

I went to the launch of a UN Environmental Global Citizen Program, of which Canton Sucre is one of two selected cantons for the project (the other is Riobamba). Also, Friday was the launch of the USAID funded Solid Waste (garbage separation) Project. Looks like things are happening in Bahia!

 

Hasta pronto!

Heather

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Report #44

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report  October 24-30, 2005

I have circulated the strategic plan you left, which some of the volunteers were interested in seeing. It is good for them to have a better understanding of what Planet Drum is all about.

 

This was a greenhouse intense week, as we did a lot of maintenance to prevent further dog break-ins, such as putting up more stakes, lining the walls with big logs at the bottom, and sewing up the mesh with fishing line. We neatened the area in general, e.g. fixing up compost fence, removal of old hoses, etc. in order to prepare for the Universidad Catolica's Casa Abierta (Open House) on Thursday. They also inaugurated the new meteorological station on this day—the mayor and Cristi Ruperti gave speeches. He always says hi to me and asks about the trees. We put up the placards on composting, bioregionalism, and revegetation, and gave talks and demonstrations to groups of students who passed by. We also led students up the hill and watered, to show them our revegetation site. The students ranged from elementary school to university age, and seemed to be quite interested in our work. I also gave a short interview for FB Radio.

 

In the greenhouse, we also transplanted 33 Cascol seedlings, and hulled Pela Caballo and Algarrobo seeds.

 

Did some fixing up of individual trees at Dairy Farm that weren't looking so hot. Most of the ones left seem to be doing fine though. Cherry Tree continues to regenerate, and Endara is doing as well as ever, except that we found some cows had gotten in last time. I alerted Carlos Endara about this, who said he would investigate. In Jorge Lomas, the Fernando site was watered, and construction continues at the base of Las Casas. It looks like the trees further up the hill will be safe. The trees at Inter-americano looked healthy, which shows that the students have been watering since we haven't been there in a few weeks. At El Bosque there were a few freshly chopped trees but nothing blocking the path this time. We lost one Cedro recently, but the other trees left from the June planting look fine. One of the volunteers found a dead Mot Mot bird on the path that had apparently been stabbed by a stick 

 

Some of the volunteers helped paint a mural in La Cruz this week as they are having their barrio fiestas this weekend. The fiestas of Bahia are next week, which will most likely be volunteer Stephanie's last. She will be replaced by another Stefanie (from Germany) who arrives a week later.

 

I got the convenio signed by the property owner for a section of the land in Marianita Jesús (on the hill behind La Cruz). I talked to the municipio as well about the other part of the land, who said it was fine.

 

I got my eye looked at in Quito, since there are no opthamologists in Bahía and I was going there anyway for the weekend. Apparently when I got that dirt in it from the greenhouse, it caused a tear duct to get blocked. I have a new prescription which should work, but if not, surgery is an option to remove the hard ball under my top eyelid. It's not serious though.

 

Hasta luego,

Heather

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Report #45

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report  October 31 to November 7, 2005  

Everything is fine in the greenhouse, and the sites— all the regular ones got watered, including Inter-Americano, which still looks good. When I went to water El Bosque, an Ecuadorian friend and four kids from Maria Auxiliadora came to help.

 

The fiestas in Bahia consisted of parades, street concerts and parties in the clubs at night. There was also a surfing contest, and a rock concert at the skate park. I was asked to model in an "international" fashion show at the Yacht Club, so I did it for kicks, and ended up getting some unexpected perks out of it such as free clothes, and a year's free entry to the night club next door to it!

 

Well, sorry there’re not more details to report on the work side of things, but on volunteers, Stephanie and Briana are both traveling for a few weeks, which leaves me, Riccardo and Megan. A new Stefanie from Germany gets here this weekend.

 

Hasta luego!

Heather

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Report #46

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report  November 7 to 13, 2005

This week we did quite a bit of work in the greenhouse, as we sowed seeds (Algarrobo, Bototo, Barbasco and Pela Caballo), did maintenance to the greenhouse structure and outdoor seed beds, finished transplanting the Cascol saplings, moved over a compost pile for storage, and fixed up the other side of the compost hole to start using next time. Instead of having both compost mounds on one side, we will try to have one mound on each side of the little wooden dividing fence to utilize the space. We also hulled some more Algarrobo seeds this week.

 

click on images to enlarge

We watered all the usual sites, Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm twice. The cows were still in Endara, so I went over to talk to the owner again, and he promised to take care of it this week.  

 

They are building a drainage ditch at Jorge Lomas Casas, and do not plan to do any further construction into our site. We only lost some trees at the very bottom. There is also a new road cleared directly from that site to the Fernando site, which makes access by foot a lot easier, especially since we had to lug water from below last time, as Don Carlos was out of water at the top of the Fernando site. He plans to get more brought up by donkey load. He also invited us to lunch this week, which we took him up on.

 

We maintained and watered El Bosque. Here are photos of Megan watering and observing Bahia and Rio Chone from the ridge above El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas. 

 

Megan came with me to look at potential sites in El Toro, and we dropped off a convenio (contract) for the Espinoza brothers to look over (the first site we decided on), since the land there is apparently shared between them. They say the area would have to be fenced. 

 

I didn't see any hillsides to plant in Pedro Otero's land—the deforested areas were mostly flat areas, and everything would need to be fenced there because of roaming cattle. There was an area on a low slope above the right hand side of the road (across from the passion fruit orchard going up into Pedro's property) with frutillo trees that was sparsely forested and could stand more trees. Both sites have no water and pay to fill their cisterns. I would like to talk to Flor-Maria about planting on the slopes closer to the entrance of El Toro. So far we have the two sites you and I identified last time, and the test patch area, which is on the flat land just above the second potential site.

 

The weather is already beginning to change—more humidity, light drizzle and warmer ocean temperatures.

 

Stefanie from Germany arrives this weekend.

 

Heather

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