A voice for bioregional sustainability, education and culture

Home | Recent Posts | Library | Xchange Store | Winter Olympics | Contact Us | Volunteer | Site Map | Donate!

Field Reports from Planet Drum Staff
Eco-Ecuador Project

2006

In March, 2006, Patrick Wylie replaced Heather Crawford as Planet Drum's Field Projects Manager in Ecuador. Heather had increased the number of native species planted to about two dozen, refined and expanded greenhouse techniques, and carried out innovative plantings. Patrick has an extensive forestry background and intends to expand our sustainability activities in other areas, including supervision of preparations for the Bioregional Institute on land that has been purchased for that purpose.

As of September, 2006, Ramon Cedeno Loor as the new Field Bioregional Education Manager. Ramon has been volunteering with Planet Drum for several months, lives in Maria Auxiliadora neighborhood. Ramon replaced Valentina Caminati who has returned to Italy, and whose class reports with local high schoolers appeared on this page.

In November, 2006, Dan Robbins replaced Patrick and continued the tradition of sending updates on the work in Eco-Ecuador.

Index to 2006 Reports

Note: Click to see the 2005 Reports (Heather Crawford, Renée Portanova, Kristen Lansdale, Riccardo Clemente,  et al.) 2004 Reports (Renée Portanova, Brian Teinert) or 2003 Reports (Brian Teinert).

 

Report #1

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 2-8, 2006

Congratulations on finding a new projects manager!  The timing sounds good. Now I know I've got to get cracking on my future plans! 

We haven't had any more rain since those two days over a week ago. Nonetheless, we started with a small planting at Inter-Americano School where principal Dr. Sanchez suggested. I have heard that real rain isn't expected till the end of the month. We went back to Inter-Americano to check on the newly planted trees which were looking good, and we also constructed some shading structures from heavy black fishing net resting on sticks of wood, with thatch on top where needed. I made a new map for Inter-Americano as some of the old ones were impossible to follow. I also spoke to Dr. Sanchez about the upkeep of the site, and asked if it would be possible to leave more vegetation in place rather than chop everything down beforehand, including trees not planted by Planet Drum. They treated us all to lunch in the cafeteria.

I spoke to another property owner in El Toro - Marconi Zavala - who has land between the Espinozas and Pedro Ortero. We will meet in order to take a visit. The contract from the Municipio should be ready any day for the Marianita Jesus hill, and  I will keep trying with Flor Maria and Galo Espinoza. I told Ricardito in the Fanca part of El Toro (shaded property) that we would be planting on his land. He says he will work on clearing a path for us as it is pretty impenetrable now.

A lot of seedlings have come up in the greenhouse which are from seeds planted months ago. Since the beds were resowed a few times, I have to now figure out which is which!

We fixed up some steps and signs in El Bosque and did the usual maintenance, watered both Jorge Lomas sites, Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm twice, and Endara. I also made new maps for Cherry Tree and Dairy Farm because some of the old ones confused even me. There was another burning incident at Dairy Farm, only this time, they were caught in the act, and it was the owners themselves doing the burning!  They said they were clearing for maiz planting, that the trees would come back to life, and that they will be planting Algarrobo in other sections of the property. At any rate, although we had a discussion about it, it didn't seem like they cared too much.

We transplanted about 40 little Algarrobos that were growing underneath their mother trees in the driveway at Cherry Tree and probably destined for death. They are now recuperating in the greenhouse.

Some administrative work was done by volunteers to create an Excel database for local contacts. It is still in progress.

I went to a community meeting one night in Astillero about a hill stabilization project being undertaken by a private company. The community was up in arms because of lack of communication about the project. The company had razed the hillsides with fire removing the little vegetation that was there in order to plant one exotic species, and Guayacan, which is very slow growing. There were many points of contention and it was good to hear the points brought up by the community.

Megan left us at the end of this week, and is being replaced by Valentina from Italy, who arrived this morning. The next volunteer - Claudia from Germany arriving on the 20th - will replace Steffi who leaves the 12th.

Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #2

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 9-15, 2006

The holidays in Bahia are now over, till carnival. We finally took down our Nativity scene and the X-mas decorations (all products of Art Night). I also assisted the ceremony for removing the Baby Jesus from our neighbourhood's nativity scene.

We had a good-bye bonfire for Steffi on the beach. Claudia from Germany arrives on Friday.

We collected seeds with Marcelo Luque in Cabo Pasado - fernan sanchez, jaboncillo and tillo. We also saw a lot of monkeys!  Some of the seeds were sown this week in the greenhouse. We also transplanted some of the trees that have been coming up from old seeds, and some saplings that were growing out of their baggies into the ground.

The weather's been warm but still no real rain, except for a bit this weekend. Things in the field were still dry though. We began planting on Maria Piedad's land - there is water available from a hose which is quite convenient for filling the watering bottles. Please see the attached photo of the hillside which was planted.

More maintenance work was done in El Bosque with some steps and the lower entrance fence being fixed. A database for contacts was finished, and a gift made for Angel who gives us water in Jorge Lomas (hand-made photo frame with a picture we took with him).

I've been running around in circles trying to get the other contract signed for the land above Marianita Jesus. Now the Municipio says it is not theirs so I have to find out who the owners are. Also, I am having difficulty finding out the owner for the left side of El Toro creek (going up) which is where we wanted to do the test patch and one planting site. I hear that cattle roam through that area as well. I got the contract signed for the site in Fanca and will be going there tomorrow to plan what we are going to do. He has inquired (like Maria Piedad) about putting up a sign to make the project more visible. Do you think we should go with the hand-made style or something more professional for these signs?

The new trees at Inter-Americano are still looking good, and not as many trees at Dairy Farm were affected by the fire as I thought. I am still trying to find out what happened to the water at Cherry Tree as I now understand that Janeth Acosta has nothing to do with the property anymore (after briefly taking it back from the new owner).

Well, that's all until next time,
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #3

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 16-22, 2006

This week we watered, put up some plant shading, and did a second planting at Maria Piedad's. We've had a bit of rain but it hasn't been heavy like it was when I arrived last rainy season. We also began planting at Ricardito's site at the back of Fanca, hereafter referred to as "Bosque Encantado". We found a patch of hill that barely had any trees on it and started there. The dirt was packed as hard as a rock in some places!   Ricardito is providing us with transport in his truck on the days we plant there. We fill up the water bottles with a hose.

The Maria Dolores (km 8) sites got watered, as well as the Fernando Site. Angel was very pleased with the photo and frame as a thank you for the generous use of his household water. He gave us some cuttings from his garden which volunteers have put in household plant pots that were made on the last Art Night.

We sowed some Jaboncillo, Barbasco, Bototo and Guasmo seeds. Some Cherimoya and Bototo, as well as more Seca, Samango, Compoyo, Aguia and Algarrobos are coming up. The Samango are from before I even got here!

I found out that the owners for the piece of land we plan to plant above Marianita Jesus are actually acquaintances of mine. So I don't need to get anything signed by the Municipio after all. I took a trip up there with them and they showed me where we can and can't plant.

This weekend we went to the inauguration of the eco-cabin at La Gorda - the project that Don and Thea were working on with the US Forestry Dept. grant. It is quite a beautiful site!

We are still awaiting Claudia's arrival. The two Scottish volunteers are due to depart this week. We had two German budget travelers pop in looking for volunteer work today. It's nice when that happens just when you need someone, but we can't fit them both in the house at the moment. The next volunteer, Brooke from the US, comes in mid-Feb.

We had all the electrical sockets fixed in the house this week as another one stopped working. Finally after nearly a year in the house, I can plug in things in my room!

Well, that's all for now. Any thoughts on the Planet Drum Revegetation Site signs?  Also, since the rechargeable AA batteries being used for the camera/tape recorder are my personal ones, I recommend bringing some down with you (or Pat) when you come.

Hasta luego,
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #4

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 23 - 29, 2006

Emilia says she'd like to switch apartments with us, sometime after March, which means we would move downstairs by the patio area. She has offered to throw in an office next to the bodgea at no extra charge. The apt. downstairs is as big as the one we are currently in, with 3 bedrooms.

We've been doing some home improvements—fixing screens, shower rod, gardening, etc. Claudia from Germany finally arrived last week. She got stuck in Quito, first because her camera was stolen and she tried to get it back, and second, because of the strike no buses were going anywhere for a few days. I got help from her and Vicky updating the volunteer manual. The Scots are leaving this week, a week later than expected, but there was no conflict of schedules as the next new volunteer is not scheduled to arrive till Feb. 15th.

Unfortunately, I managed to get a rib injury which left me kind of incapacitated for a few days—and just when it's raining!  I could hardly do anything without being in pain, especially in the process of lying down or sitting up, or breathing too deeply. I can't think of anything too out of the ordinary that I did to cause it, but the pain is in the same spot where I had an injury a few years ago. I went to the doctor who said it may be a packet of inflamed vascular/nervous tissue under the ribs, and recommended no physical activity, and lots of medication!  I've been doing what I can though, as it was driving me crazy not to be doing anything. It is slowly getting better day by day.

But nonetheless, with the volunteers help, we got a good bit a work in. They cleared the trail in El Bosque that goes to the bottom outlook, which was in need of maintenance. A little boy who lives in the area helped them pick up the trash and line the trail. All the underbrush on top of the highest hill has been cleared by someone, and there's a big hole where they fixed the broken water main that we had discovered a while back.

The new plants at Maria Piedad and Inter-Americano were watered and shaded as necessary, and we did another small planting at the former. We did a second planting at El Bosque Encantado, with Blas' help as well, which made it go a lot faster. I got the contract signed for the Barrio La Cruz site that I mentioned last time as being in Marianita Jesus. The owners consider it more as being part of La Cruz so I'll stick with that. Flor Maria is having some dispute about her land with the Municipio so we can't do any planting on it till that's cleared up. I'm still trying to get at least one convenio signed for the area we went to in El Toro. Do you think I should go ahead with the left side (going up) if I can't find the owner?

The km 8 sites were watered, Jorge Lomas is now fine on it's own as it hardly needed any water to begin with, and now it's been raining.

In the greenhouse we transplanted more trees, cut bottles, and sowed Jaboncillo and Guasmo seeds. It's such a relief to see all those little trees coming up finally with the onset of winter. We had a problem with the hose and got it fixed.

I attended a meeting with the community leaders about the schedule for EcoWeek in February. It's nice that a wider section of the community is involved in the planning now, and meetings are at the Municipio.

Hasta luego!
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #5

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: January 30-February 5, 2006

I just came from a "sobador" who cures things by moving things around in your body. Supposedly something had sunken in between my ribs and is now cured!  We'll see tomorrow when I wake up. He also supposedly cured some other things which he guessed I had but I hadn't even told him! 

This weekend Valentina and I went to Rambuche in Jama to get some trees donated from the municipal greenhouse in San Tomas (further inland). Baron Cevallos was our contact, but the road was so muddy that we ended up walking 6 km and back just to see the greenhouse, without being able to take any trees by truck. Baron will bring them down himself when it gets passable. He also suggested opening a branch of Planet Drum in Jama because there is a great deal of deforestation there.

I have written a letter, at Flor Maria's suggestion, to the mayor to ask for permission to plant on the hillsides of the El Toro land donated to the Eco-Clubs. I'm not exactly sure what the legal arrangement is, but that's what she said to do. I am waiting on the response. I visited the land with some very endearing young representatives of the Fanca Eco-Club.

I finalized the agreement with the Espinozas to plant on their land. He suggested individual bamboo fences for the areas where animals might be a problem. We also finally got the trees onto the Espinoza property, after a failed attempt earlier in the week when the road was too muddy and we got stuck. We had to go another day in the afternoon when the sun had dried up the mud a bit. It is next to impossible to get as far in as Pedro Ortero's land now. And to plant on the other side of the creek may be difficult because we would have to take the bottom road which is even worse than the top road.

We did another planting in El Bosque Encantado. Ricardito, owner, and his workman helped to clear the trails for us. It is quite an extensive site.

Another small planting was done at Maria Piedad's, who wants me to give an informative briefing to her and her staff about caring for the land, and will help us source the reforestation project signs cheaply.

The new trees at Inter-Americano are all doing well. We have been having a good deal of rain, but we still water immediately after planting just in case.

Caroline prepared more bottles for transplanting and more fishing net for shading in order to be prepared. We are almost out of the bamboo pipes now, but I think the local method of digging a "curco" around the plant is also effective for watering.

At the greenhouse, we transferred one of the compost piles to the storage area, and are now letting the other one rest. It is soaked right through because of the rain so we are thinking to build a platform to raise it up off the mud layer a bit. We transplanted a lot more Aguia saplings, and started on the Bototo. We have begun to add crunched leaves to the soil mixture to lighten it a bit, making it more like the naturally-occurring "tierra monte" [prized rich humus from the leaves of the Tierra Monte tree]. The mixture we were using before was very heavy and compacted easily. The Guasmos, Tillos and Moyuyos that find their way into the soil, are all coming up now.

El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas was maintained, and Valentina arranged to do clean-up and other activities with the children of Maria Auxiliadora through the Grupo Eco-Amigos that Elva heads.

On home improvements, the sole remaining screen was put in the back room, a shelf made, and one of the water storage tanks cleaned out. Vicky and Caroline finally departed (although Caroline missed her bus a couple of times!), and the spur-of-the-moment German couple, who had inquired earlier, moved in last night. They will only be staying for a little over a week to fill in the gap before the next volunteer, Brooke, arrives on February 15th. We have enough volunteers to do the work ahead of us. I believe Blas will be around when you are here, and probably during the summer too.

Nicola is aware that events are being planned for the Eco-Semana but she hasn't been directly involved in the process so far. Johnny says only El Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas will be visited on the Eco-Paseo. I will invite the Port Captain to that one.

Hasta luego!
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #6

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report:  February 6-12, 2006

I spoke to Alfredo Duenas and have arranged for him to get the remaining money for the map of our new land this week. No new news about our land in Las Coronas. I´ll try to talk to Johnny Delgado about including more sites on the Eco-Paseo.

I doubt the older trees at Inter Americano site will need watering this summer. We only planted 16 new ones. Re: bringing trees from Jama, it was because Barón, who lives close to the greenhouse, knew the Municipio wanted to give away the trees since they had too many that had no place to go. I believe they are Balsa and Balsamo.

We plan to add another site by La Cruz, but it won´t be very big, because after I visted the area for the second time with the owners, they showed me that they wanted to reserve much of the hilltop to eventually build a house. Also, it was evident that some reforestation had been done before because the inverted plastic bottles were still there.

This week it hasn't rained as much as last. We have planted twice on the Espinoza property in El Toro, and also on Jairo's father's property which is sandwiched in between (they had sold him a piece). Individual fences and some shading were put on the trees that needed them. We planted along the top of the gorge and on a low hillside at the foot of the mountain. We also collected some Pechiche seeds there to sow in the greenhouse. 

Somebody else in El Toro along the main road wanted us to plant trees along the border of his property. It is in a flat area so I don't know think we should go ahead with it, unless we have extra trees.

We also did another planting at El Bosque Encantado. It is going smoothly with the owner's help.

We transplanted trees of many different species at the greenhouse, including a couple of Cherimoya and Anona.

I had a meeting with the DarwinNet people who want more info about us in Spanish for their website. They have a link to our website, and a short description of our goals, but I plan to write a more detailed informative sheet for them. The aim is to share information about flora and fauna conservation in Ecuador and Peru.

The German couple leaves at the end of the week, and Brooke gets here mid-next week.

Hasta luego!
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #7

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: February 13 - 19, 2006

We've been getting rain about every other day, but it's not consistently heavy.  Maybe one or two nights of heavy rain a week. It's been getting cloudy in the daytime more often now, so it seems like the weather will stay wet for a while.

The new plants are doing well. We haven't had a chance to go back to the old sites since it started raining but I imagine the trees are coming back to life. I'll go soon enough when I take Pat around.

Brooke, new volunteer, arrived mid-week and will be here for a few months. She is currently sharing the front room with Dan, but may move to the back room with the other girls when Pat comes.

There are still tons of seedlings coming up at the greenhouse so we have been keeping up on the transplanting.  We'll have more than enough trees to plant this season. Also, the trees from Jama province arrived, increasing our stock and species variety even more. Some of them ended up being non-native fruit trees though, which I will have to give away. The Pechiche seeds were sowed this week after being soaked.

The remaining watering pipes in the bodega were painted by Valentina so we could use them up. We also planted the last of the trees that we had brought to El Toro. We'll have to make another delivery.

We began planting at La Cruz. It had rained heavily the night before, and was drizzling in the morning so the path down was incredibly slippery and we basically tumbled and slid ourselves down.  I think we won't do any more planting in that exact area around the old water tank, but there is room to plant more on the ridge of the hill that juts out towards the bay.

Regarding the land concessioned to the Fanca Eco Club, the Municipio says they have to do a land survey first before they parcel out the land for other uses. There's no telling how long that will take.

Hasta luego!
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #8

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: February 21-27, 2006

This week we transported another load of trees to the sites and planted in three places - La Cruz, Bosque Encantado y El Toro (on the other side of the creek although we don’t know who the land belongs to). We got rained on and it was very slippery!  We had help from both Jorge and Blas this week, who came to work one day each.

There was also plenty of transplanting to do in the greenhouse, and we changed the cover of the compost storage area as it had fallen to pieces. The compost in the hole is soaked right through and we are thinking of ways to get it to air out. Perhaps we can construct a simple roof with bamboo poles and plastic sheeting.

We also cleared out and maintained all trails at El Bosque in preparation for the Eco-Paseo, but unfortunately nobody showed up—it seems like the publicity was bad this year. Plus the bus that Johnny had arranged had a problem with the battery that morning and never made it. He thinks people didn’t come because the event coincided with Carnival. The garbage bin at the entrance to El Bosque had been burnt to smithereens by the way.

The sesión solemne (presentation in the Municipio) went off okay, although there were less people than last year, and it seemed as if not much progress was made in the past year towards eco-city goals. Planet Drum and Peter’s name were mentioned by the mayor a few times, and he mentioned the conference in San Francisco in his speech. Planet Drum had a display downstairs in the Municipio which looked quite nice. The volunteers helped redo parts of the posters and fix them up, while I made a new one with photos that were graciously printed by Ricardito, our "honorary volunteer" as he calls himself (land owner - Bosque Encantado). He’s also been helping us transport the trees.

The Eco-Semano parade was a success, since it was part of the big parade for Carnival. We all marched together with Blas, Marcelo Luque, Baron Cevallos and his three adorable children, two of which held the banner. We gave out fruit trees from Jama (which we couldn’t plant) and put mud on people in the spirit of carnival!  I had an interview done for a local TV station in that muddy state!  Also, I was on the radio, La Voz de Los Caras, talking about Planet Drum and the Eco Semana.

Well, that’s all for now!  See you soon!

Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #9

Heather Crawford, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: February 27 to March 5, 2006

The week started off with a bang with carnival in full swing; luckily the rain held out until just the day after, when we got a heavy downpour, and another one a few days later. There was a mangrove planting for the Eco-Semana on International Day of the Mangrove (Feb 28), for which I helped to collect seeds. Patrick Wylie, the new Field Projects Manager, arrived on that day and is sharing the front room with Dan.

All the rain made it a bit difficult to plant with all the slipping and sliding, but we still managed to do a planting at the Bosque Encantado. One full day was devoted just to maintaining the trails and trees we had planted before, as the site was substantially over-grown. All trees looked good except 3, which had died. Two of them weren't doing very well to start with. I also managed to show Pat around about 2/3 of the site. We blazed a trail with Ricardito through a new area we scouted out for future plantings.

I had forgotten to mention in the last report that Fidel, aka Rambo, cousin of Ramon of the recently inaugurated eco-tourism cabin at La Gorda, came to work with us at the Bosque Encantado last week. He is mean with a machete and does the work of about 5 people in one! 

There was a lot of transplanting to do at the greenhouse. This time we added some more sand into the mixture, as well as some really good humus which Dan collected from the edge of the forest at the university. More bottles were cut for transplanting, including small bottles from our house. We ended up getting 500 free transplanting baggies from a shopkeeper in exchange for a couple of the fruit trees!

There was a larger amount of compost than usual from the university this week, and Pat did some composting on the weekend. Pat and I also organized the bodega a bit and Brooke made new sheaths for the machetes out of cardboard and duct tape as the old ones had fallen apart.

Peter and Judy are in Bahia now, visiting for one month.

All for now!
Heather

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #10

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: March 6-12,2006

Greetings from Ecuador, I hope my first attempt at these weekly reports lives up to those that Heather has set the bar with.

Planet Drum visited El Bosque Encantado not once, but twice this week. We carried out a lot of trail cutting and planting in several heavily eroded gullies. About fifty trees went in this area. Plenty of opportunity for more. With all the rain we have been getting it is absolutely amazing how lush the vegetation is right now. The shoulder height vines hid the wasps' nest quite well while Dan was cutting trail with the machete!  Oops!

We also planted the last of the seedlings we had at the Espinoza site in El Toro on a slope leading up to an old slide. Actually, Ricardito , the owner of Bosque Encantado helped us plant the last of these seedlings. He's been a real godsend since I've arrived here. We will be moving more trees to both sites next week.

We met with the mayor and the planning department this week regarding working more closely and publicly with the city. Carlos Mendoza (the mayor) was very receptive to our ideas and identified with our cause. He introduced us to the Community Development team with whom we will meet next week to focus our efforts with landowners in the Maria Dolores and El Toro watersheds. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

There's been lots of activity out at the greenhouse this week. The anerobic compost seems to be under control after we moved it along side the greenhouse. Dan suggested we move it out of the current pit and into the trenches which we can better cover from the rains with plastic tarpaulins. Everyone also pitched together in the rain to build a stone path way in the muddy aisles. The hot and wet weather we have had lately has brought up a lot of new seedlings... I would imagine we will be busy transferring plants in the coming weeks. In order to make room we have been giving away the exotics and fruit trees as promotional trees to Jacob Santos, local landowners and the high school. Only 1500 more trees left in the greenhouse!

Finally, although Valentina officially finished work last week, we held her despedida (going away party) on Canoa beach this weekend. Good times were had by all. It was a great finale to a fantastic Friday after the boat tour Peter arranged up the River Chone for bird watching, a look at our bioregion and a little relaxation.

Hasta luego,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #11

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: March 20-26,2006

It's been hectic down here this week in Bahia. Even as we were driving Dan and Valentina to the bus station on Monday night, Mark and Heather arrived to volunteer until May. This weekend we also welcomed Sarah and Catherine into the Planet Drum family. We're pretty full right now, but are loving every minute of it. Lots of positive energy and ideas.

We planted about a hundred trees on the Espinoza land and in Bosque Encantado this week. Some additional trails were also cut in Bosque Encantado with the landowner in order to get an idea for how many more trees can go in there this season. We luckily found the majority of trees we planted at Maria Piedad that were previously thought to have been destroyed by a new corn field. It was especially warming to see how large the trees have become at the Interamericano School. Ceibo and Samango trees that were planted in January are now almost two metres tall!  Fantastic! 

I attended an International Water Day seminar here at city hall on Wednesday and received a great introduction to the problems and future improvements that are planned for Bahia's strained drinkable water supply.

The greenhouse continues to produce hundreds of seedlings of a week. We were out there twice last week transplanting, composting and preparing the trees to move to El Toro and Bosque Encantado for planting. For some added excitment, upon lifting up a sack of transplanting bottles in the greenhouse, we discovered an Equis snake curled up underneath. As he lay there camouflaged and sleeping, the staff from the university informed us that it was quite poisonous and promptly "prepared it" to be preserved for their collection.

We have continued to give away fruit trees to friends, neighbors, and now the ladies from Arte Papel, who are ecstatic about receiving them.

Un abrazo,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #12

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: April 4, 2006

Greetings from the land almost down under.

In these parts, the heat is having some interesting effects on our operation. This week we have been unable to plant trees as the ground is hard as a rock. As such we have been keeping busy in the greenhouse, maintaining sites that are becoming overgrown and praying for rain. There has been none in a week roughly. As such, many of the water tanks in people's houses here are dry. Ours is one.  The city is hoarding water and delivery for all but the rich is becoming difficult. As I left to send this email we had finally convinced a water truck to fill our tank for a small fortune ($15). Most people are paying $25. We had become very good at conserving water as we have had no running water since Saturday night. River water was boiled and iodine added for dish water. Wash water was then used for for toilets in our house and bottled water was used for cooking. It has been quite an eye-opening event for everyone to see just how much water each task uses, especially when it involves 3 trips a day to the river!

So that was yesterday. My first day alone as Field Projects Manager...one for the story books!  We also had a cat sneak it the house, followed by a bat.

I went on the tour with the Municipio yesterday and will include the details of that incredibly productive trip (4 planting sites secured), in another email.

ciao for now,
pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #13, 2006

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: April 3-9, 2006

In my first official week as Field Projects Manager I can honestly say we had a little of everything on my first day... drought, lack of running water and a temporary invasion of both bats and cats. The most important thing accomplished was that after four days without water we found a delivery truck to fill up the water tank and reprovide the household with running water. Fortunate for us because much of the town is still without running water due to the early end to the rainy season and price fixing by local truckers.

The week was overall quite productive, particularly during our field tour with the City Hall and Planning Department staff on Monday. We headed out to the El Toro drainage and Maria Dolores Valley to identify high priority areas to revegetate and the landowners who own them. By the end of the day we had talked to five landowners who were interested in having trees go in this year or next. In Maria Dolores we met with the local community representative in the row houses about halfway up the valley. Weather permitting we are going to do a community planting on a Saturday afternoon with the 25 families in the neighborhood threatened by the hillside. The community rep has volunteered to not only remove the corn field from above, but also organize workers to maintain and clear the sites as they have been asking for reforestation of the hillside for several years.

In El Toro at the Espinozas', our trees are feeling the effects of no rain in nearly two weeks. We will keep trying to buy a tank of water for them, however the residents themselves have only been able to find a truckload for $60 US (and no one wants to deliver out there). Last week we gathered up all our trees on their land and stashed them next to the river under a Moyoyu tree with branches laid up against it to better shade the sun. The area across the river on the Gutierrez land now has trails cut throughout and holes are cleared to place and plant trees if we have a night of rain. On Friday we checked that all was well and watered the latest plantings and those under the Moyuyo.

Mark and Catherine went around last week and made a collection of boxes, pop bottle cases and crates to carry trees to and from the sites. Lately we have been having considerable losses even before we plant the trees so we are going to test a variety of ways of carrying them and see what works best. Heather, a new volunteer with the same name as the former Field Projects Manager, and Brooke also sewed some sleeves into a few feed bags to see if would could use those in some way. Let the contest begin!

Although the delivery of compost from the city has not yet arrived, our changes to the compost system at the greenhouse appear to be successful. Having covered the trench alongside the greenhouse with black plastic we now generate usable compost in about a month. The key appears to be the heat within the pile and being better able to turn it (now every two days). Our first batch is currently being used in almost 400 transplants from the vivero (greenhouse) last week... and the seedlings love it!

Following our work last week at Cerro Seco for Marcelo Luque and his volunteers, we all teamed up on Wednesday to take care of our business up at Bosque Encantado. With 16 people in four groups we widened all the trails and located/released all 200+ trees from amongst the vines and shrubbery. A taligate watermelon session followed with Ricardito Lopez, who owns the land (photo will be attached here soon).

I met with the landowner from La Cruz and we did a quick tour of his property together last week. Although there is no room for more plants on his land, there is an adjacent parcel owned by the city that is considered high risk. Following the field tour we are discussing the possibility of planting this area as I was also approached by a number of La Cruz locals who would like to stabilize the area or start a small urban park similar to Bosque en Media de Las Ruinas.

Speaking of urban parks, the volunteers headed up to start the trail maintenance Peter Berg mentioned during his visit to Bosque en Media de Las Ruinas. The trails are now cleared and the main path has 3 feet of clearance. Some larger wood that had fallen down was also taken out. I met with Elva last week and we are going to arrange a larger work party with the EcoKids to do some work 'en juntos' (together). Mark and Heather seem to be quite excited by this opportunity and will be taking a leading role given their past experience.

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #14

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: April 10-16, 2006

All is well here in Bahia de Caraquez, and we have working hard to get the greenhouse in order while we have a little spare time. Just as you are all thinking about tulips, daffodils and lilies up North, we have next year’s forest sprouting in the greenhouse! It’s been a battle transplanting the hundreds of new seedlings before they get too big and die back, but this is a spectacular batch of hard working volunteers right now. Nice work!

The much awaited compost has not yet arrived from the City despite several visits to see Ernesto Cuzme over at City Hall. We agreed this past Thursday that I would be better to go out there myself and pick it up. Ricardito Lopez (of Bosque Encantado fame) has offered to take me in his truck this Tuesday. Muy amable! (very nice)

Blas could not make the meeting about bioregional education last Monday, and I was unable to track him down throughout the week. If he is not at Art Night this Monday I will head over to Canoa and speak with him personally to find out what his plans are. We will need to start finding students if we are going to begin the program. It was great to hear that Valentina is interested in helping with that project in a few months… they would make a great team!

Following our field tour with the Planning Department I have signed two convenios for the upcoming planting season. Both sites are in the Maria Dolores neighborhood; the first site is adjacent to Cherry Tree and the second is behind the housing project on your right. I will be attempting to meet this week with the other two Maria Dolores landowners with whom I spoke on the tour. A visit to El Toro is planned for the first week in May. Flor Maria Duenas’ site, EcoAmigos, in El Toro has been approved for planting by the City and we can start at our leisure. I spoke with Flor last week and will show her the plan before she signs a convenio. We will be working out there this week to produce a site plan and map of how many trees and where we can plant next rainy season.

Next rainy season? The rainy season in Ecuador is supposed to last from December to May does it not? Why not plant this week?

The consensus in town and in the house is that the rain is done. We have not seen a drop in almost three weeks now and the ground is dusty and cracking. The past week we continued to water plants that were waiting to be planted at El Toro and Bosque Encantado, but the lie is over. This week we will be bringing all our seedling friends back to see their families at the greenhouse. Should we catch a little rain in the coming weeks we may plant for a few more days, but chances of survival would be slim. Let the watering and maintenance season begin!

Finally, on a cultural and social note… this past week was Semana de Santas here (week of the saints). Easter, in a way, lasts all week down here on the equator! It was quite a sight to see hundreds of Ecuadorian tourists in town on Thursday night to visit church and come to their vacation homes here on the coast. The sounds from the cathedral that filled the narrow streets in Bahia were absolutely beautiful! The Plant Drum office was closed for Good Friday and Easter Monday, and while the volunteers headed down to Montanita and Machilla National Park with the rest of Ecuador, I headed up to Otavalo for some mountaineering and to see the famous craft market.

Hasta pronto,

pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #15

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report: April 17-23, 2006

Great week down here, 30 degrees and sunny! We spent a few days making some new maps for our sites and gathered up wood for the Planet Drum signs that we will be putting up at each of our planting sites. Work has begun on the handrails and stairs up at Bosque en Media de las Ruinas. Wednesday we measured all the handrails and began collecting the wood.

On Friday morning I was stopped by the neighbourhood representative, Angel, who asked if I could help them with a project proposal. The city is issuing several $3000 grants for ecotourism projects in Bahia and Angel wants to use theirs for the park to build bamboo stairs, handrails, improve/shade the viewpoints and place several concrete benches in the former garden. He also wants to elect a guardian from the community to protect their investment of time and money. I told him we could not do the proposal for him, but I could help with the use of our camera for photos and show him how to assemble a proposal. Thoughts? Obviously we have stopped our work in the park for now.

I met with Ernesto Cuzme this week at the sanitation department regarding the delivery of compost to the greenhouse. As it has not yet arrived and Ernesto didn’t seem optimistic about it getting there by weeks end, I took a trip out to the city composting facility. It now appears as no order was ever sent to the workers at the plant, therefore no compost ever arrived. The plant supervisor wants to charge $3 a bag for our order, which I politely declined. Last I heard, Ernesto was in Cuenca, however will try to speak to him this week.

There was a going away party on Friday night for Don and Thea (Peace Corps workers and our Frisbee teammates). It’s always sad to see friends go, but wish them all the best in their travels and grad school studies! In other news, our new German volunteer who was scheduled to arrive at the house this week had a run of bad luck in Peru and won’t be able to join us. We hope all goes smoother and hope she might make it down in the new year.

We brought all the unplanted trees back to the greenhouse near the end of the week. While we were collecting them we took a survey at each site to see when we will need to begin watering them. I believe we need to start working in El Toro next week, although there is currently no water in the Espinoza’s tank.

Watering in the greenhouse has been stepped up with the onset of the dry season. As such we bought a truck of water for the university as their supplies were dangerously low and wanted to keep the greenhouse just that – green! The volunteers have spent in the greenhouse this week: fixing beds, transplanting and general maintenance. We have expanded the trench outside to accommodate more compost when it arrives and also began some work on the raised beds/storage platforms. We will send photos when we wrap it all up.

Un abrazo,
pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #16

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, April 24-30th

It rained on Wednesday for the first time in a month! Although it only lasted for two hours it was beautiful to feel the drops on our heads and see water in our tanks. The water outage continues in the city, at the same time street protests were held last week. City hall says the pipes should be flowing the second week in May. The trees, shrubs and other vegetation in the hills and parks around Bahia are begining to naturally die back for the dry season... you can actually see through Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas!

Two local friends, Paola and Andrea, said they would like to help out with us over the next few weeks. It will be great to have the extra hands and smiles around for the watering season. We are currently keeping an eye on each of our sites to assess the need and frequency for watering. It appears as though the sections along the stream at El Toro, our final two plantings at Bosque Encantado and Cherry Tree will need twice weekly watering. While the other areas and sites currently seem fine, we will begin watering once a week now and see how they do. The classes began watering the trees planted behind the Interamericano school last week. Some of the Guachepelli's planted this spring are now almost eight feet tall!

Since the water outage at the university is over the greenhouse is looking greener every day. The Cedros, Caobas and other trees we received from Baron's greenhouse in Jama were transferred into new soil and bottles. They had been planted in a mulch-like soil, which did not hold water or roots very well. We lost a few of them, however I think we've solved the problem. The current greenhouse inventory is 1866 trees... we're full to the rafters! Thankfully there are not many more trees coming up right now in the seedbeds, although we are continuing to water all eleven beds daily. Hopefully no more Aguia's come up, as there are already 350 ready to go!

Finally, we spent a day finishing up our booth for the Dry Tropical Forest conference across the river in San Vicente next week. Should be interesting and includes a seed collection workshop, seminars on revegetation techniques and community experiences for throughout Peru and Ecuador.

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #17

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, May 1–7, 2006

If I take but one thing from Ecuador it won’t be weavings from the village of Otavalo or turtles from the Galapagos Islands… it will be a new found respect for the farmer’s almanac! The locals had said there will be one week of rain in early May and here it is! We’ve had a shower every night for the last week, giving the plantings a last growth spurt and everyone a sigh of relief. Water has been restored in town and after 45 days without water our cistern is now full!

With clean hair and spirits we managed to maintain and water while walking all of Bosque Encantando site in one day last week. It appears as though we will be there twice weekly and there is enough water to last the dry season. Cherry Tree site, although a grassless desert right now, appears to still be growing quickly. There are no longer any cows grazing so we’ve taken the opportunity to heighten the existing fences and have begun water twice weekly. As the rights to the property are currently under dispute between landowners, the cistern has been robbed of its contents, however we’ve been told that we can draw water from the well up the road.

El Toro site has suffered some serious drought related setbacks. We have lost all the Guasamos and Guyacans planted at the site in the last month of the season. Having spoken with Sr. Espinoza it is clear we will have to purchase a truckload of water if our trees stand any chance. Water prices are normal again and I have ordered a truck to head out this Tuesday for the low price of $12. He has agreed to provide use of a separate cistern which we will keep under lock and key as they have made over 4000 adobe bricks in the last two weeks (all the while their animals and crops are dying).

There was a weeklong seminar on the Dry Tropical Forest in San Vicente last week, which I attended in the afternoons. Many in the Planet Drum household participated in a field tour of Isla Corazon and a field afternoon in Bella Vista/Cerro Seco. With over 90 participants from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru it was a booming success. One of the highlights for me was Friday’s dedication to seed collection and selection. With our current explosion of Aguia seedlings (500+) we will be trading some with Fundacion Futuro to increase the number and variety of species we have.

Gabriel, a member of our Ultimate Frisbee team, joined us at work this week. Also joining us last week was Heather Crawford, back from the Galapagos Islands! Having rested up after her year as project manager here in Bahia, she will be with us for a week before heading back to the States via Peru. We wish her all the best, welcome her warming smile and hope she enjoys, as we will, the hot showers that now run in the house!

Hasta pronto,
pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #18

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager 
Planet Drum Foundation
Report,  May 8-14, 2006

The greenhouse lay silent for most of the week as little has been germinating, but more so due to an infestation of 9 wasp nests. With Mark holding a shovel, Brooke with the can of Raid and me with the hose, we set out to destroy our beloved greenhouse occupiers. We turned back at the first nest as the Raid proved ineffective, the shovel merely annoyed the wasps when their nest fell to the ground and I filled it with water. We retreated to the house and Mark and Heather returned the next night under the cover of darkness and sprayed the nest with a homemade insecticide as they slept. All was well. Despite the work hazard, we continued to water daily through the walls and roof to make sure things stayed moist. It proved successful because with last week's rain and the change in humidity, our greenhouse stock has taken off with a new growth spurt; I've never seen the greenhouse so lush!

Heather Crawford and her Colombian friend Jeff helped water at both Bosque Encantado and Cherry Tree sites this week. It has been quite interesting at Cherry Tree as the cistern fills itself a little each night, however there is never more than one foot of water. Personally, this makes for my favorite part of the week... Cherry Tree carnival! Using a bucket on a rope we attempt to fill our twenty liter water container as fast as possible. Since the bucket is plastic (i.e. floats), we each attempt our own personal combination of rope, weights and throwing style (bucket upside down, tied on one side, freefalling). It's quite fast, breaks up the watering day and means we don't have to climb 10 feet down into the cistern! As I said, favorite part of my week!

Interamericano and Maria Piedad sites were maintained last week and appear as though the school children and caretakers are watering them thoroughly. We will continue to check in on them every two weeks and ensure this continues.

As a final note to this week's upbeat report, exciting news from the city of Jama (just up the coast). While collecting bottles on the beach for the greenhouse, we ran into a past volunteer, Orlando. Due to the current drought conditions here on the coast, the greenhouse in Jama feels they can not maintain their seedlings through the dry season. As such, Planet Drum has been offered 4000 of the native seedlings for free. Although this is nearly double the inventory we currently have, I have discussed it with Fundacion Futuro in San Vicente and Marcelo Luque at Cerro Seco and we would each be interested in taking 1300 each. In the same exchange, there is also interest in trading some of our nearly 700 Aguias for other species of which we are currently lacking.

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #19

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation

Report, May 15-21st

The long awaited compost finally arrived at the greenhouse this week from the city's composting plant. To accommodate all 900 kilograms that was delivered we dug another trench alongside the greenhouse (appoximately 50 feet long). While Hugo, the compost supervisor, was at the greenhouse he commented on the quality and richness of our own compost that we have been making. He suggested we add some more grasses and leaves to offset the large amounts of citrus fruits we compost. The university in San Vicente has also offered to do a pH and carbon/nitrogen test on our "product".

Watering our seedlings at Bosque Encantado, La Cruz, Cherry Tree and El Toro continues. El Toro is not only proving to be a dry, dry location, but also brought a tear to my eye last week. It is with great confidence I state that for the first time we have lost trees to bulldozers. Cattle, ants, drought, corn... these I have heard of. The Espinozas seem to have built a road through one of our plantings and excavated a portion of the hill to build adobe bricks! Worse than the loss of 20 trees and our trail into the site, is the river crossing about five minutes away. When they filled in the 50 foot gully with dirt, they did not install a culvert of any sort. While the river is dry right now, the water level in the rainy season reaches almost 10 feet in this section. It will be interesting to see what happens when the river rises again and meets this fifty foot dam of rocks, tree trunks and dirt! I spoke with them when we were at the site last Thursday and it appears they thought the trees were on another hillside, closer to their house. They feel terrible and I have offered to provide them with a map of their property and the location of our trees. Hopefully we can avoid future "miscommunications".

Finally, although it has been hard to water all our sites each week with only four people in the field, we are making do. The house is full of volunteers but both Heather and Catherine have been out of service for the last week with back troubles and illness. Despite being placed on light duty, they have continued to be super involved and are planning and constructing posters, activities and invitations for Ecuador's Tree Day next Monday. The mayor has granted us the use of the lower mezzanine at City Hall, where they have invited local school groups to pass through for some games and "educacion bioregional". It's quite exciting to see it come together in only a week, while at the same time allowing them to not lose their minds in the house! Monday should be a great time and I hope to send some photos of seedlings and children's smiles... what more can you ask for?

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #20 

Patrick Wylie, Field Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, May 29-June 4, 2005

With Heather and Mark’s departure, we had room in the house for new volunteers. Those who arrived in the greenhouse were not friends, but enemies! Shocked as you may be with this less than usual portrayal of those who come to work for us, they were not men, not women, but APHIDS! Over the weekend at the greenhouse, this plague began to wreak havoc upon our Samangoes, Guachapellis and Aguias. Not the Aguias! Say it ain’t the Aguias… we only have 800 to spare! But in all seriousness, the infestation probably damaged around 1000 of our plants. We were able to control the outbreak with soapy water (old gardener’s trick), and probably will only lose around 100 Aguias, 20 Samangoes and 10 Guachapellis. It is sad, but them’s the breaks. It could have been much worse. As the greenhouse expansion continues we will hopefully avert these kinds of problems by having more air circulation and less density in our seedling storage area. These improvements will be completed in the coming weeks, thanks in part to a donation from two “anonymous” (former volunteers) donors!

We had many volunteers from the community this week in the field: Blas, Roni, and four members of Catherine’s family (all the way from the United States to visit her). Many hands made light work and we watered extensively at El Toro among other places. We have secured a new piece of land to plant in the El Toro drainage, adjacent to our current sites. I did a walk-through on this land after he offered the use of his cistern for our water. Not only did he go with me to buy the water truck, but has offered us the use of his remaining water until the truck arrives. There will be room for 200 trees on his property next year. Might I just add he has about 30 new piglets on his farm and are they ever cute this season!

Valentina arrived this week from Italy to initiate the Bioregional Education Program for local high school students and moved into the house on Monday. It’s great to have such a fabulous Spanish speaker around again! Always nice when old volunteers come back! Speaking of returning, Andrea Coronado from Canoa will be moving back in and volunteering with us in August. Cheers to having friends on board, both local and international!

Hasta pronto,
pw
 

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #21

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, June 5-11, 2006

It rained three times last week! This isn't supposed to happen. It was fantastic to hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof! Otherwise, pretty quiet down here on the work front. We've settled in to a pretty regular schedule for watering twice weekly at El Toro and Bosque Encantado. We get out once a week to maintain and water our plantings at Cherry Tree and La Cruz. There have been people in the greenhouse every day during last week. Following the aphid infestation there was a backlog of transplanting to be done, as well as pruning and caring for the insect-damaged seedlings. In the end we only lost 28 seedlings... most of those that were heavily damaged were pruned back completely and are showing signs of new life!

Last Wednesday I helped represent the city of Bahia de Caraquez on the provincial Environmental Assembly. This was a 40 member panel whose task was to identify the environmental threats and possible solutions here on the coast. There was a lot of energy, people seemed impressed with Planet Drum's position on reforestation and reinhabitation of the area. Following a press conference and a signing of a declaration by the provincial government, the Assembly's findings will be presented to the National Assembly in Quito (mid-August).

The highlight of the week was definitely the start of the 2006 World Cup. For those that don't know, South America loves their football! Ecuador has qualified this year and played on opening day against Poland. As Ecuador rarely qualifies, the president declared all days when they play as national holidays. With the opening games on Friday, not only banks, but schools, city hall and most businesses closed at noon. When the game kicked off at 2pm the streets were quiet and the bars were rowdy. Ecuador's first goal shattered the silent streets as cheers rang out and bottles broke! When 90 minutes had passed, Ecuador had won 2-0 and the streets filled up. Within a half hour there was a 500 car parade doing laps around town... the yellow jerseys of Ecuador celebrating their first World Cup win! Truly an experience most Ecuadorians, and myself, will never forget!

Our longest serving volunteer, Brooke Tuveson, left the house last Thursday. We all had a great last night together, celebrated with a bonfire on the beach. Here's hoping Brooke has a great time traveling with family and Planet Drum friends here in Ecuador and afar in Colombia! On a house note, and for those reading along on the internet, Art Night has been moved from Monday to Tuesday night. Drop on by after 7pm for a little community interaction if you ever find yourselves passing through Bahia de Caraquez!

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #22

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, June 12, 2006

Last week I have been to Collegio Interamericano and to Collegio Eloy Alfaro and I left 80 invitations in total to the students (in order for the parents to know and decide together). The students are 10 to 14 years old and since the course is not an 'obligation' we don't know how many students will participate to the lessons.

Anyway...
The program is going to start on Monday, 19th June. And it will be every Monday and Wednesday from 4pm till 7pm. We also have gotten a classroom now, which is the Salon de la Ciudad (in the Municipio-City Hall). A few days ago I talked to the Vice-Alcalde (vice-mayor) about the need of a physical space where we could stay and he promptly offer me the Salon de la Ciudad.

Now I am preparing the notes and material for the first class. It is going to be about the meaning of Bioregionalism. I am thinking to read your paper about Bioregionalism together with the kids, underline the words they don't know, ask them to try explaining those terms with their words. And then whoever is closest to the meaning will get a sweet or something. And then maybe on Wednesday they could draw a diagram on a poster with all the words they learned during the previous lessons.

Anyway I am still thinking a lot about the activities I will do with the students. First of all let's see haw many students will undertake the course. I am quite scared about that.
And that's all for now.

Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #23

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, June 12-19, 2006

Today the Bioregional Education course started and Cheo kindly was helping me.
Unfortunately only seven students turned up. I knew the main problem was going to be the lack of kids but I don't want to put myself down yet.

First of all the students introduced themselves (name, age, and institution). Six of them are from Colegio Eloy Alfaro, Laura is from Unidad Educativa Genesis and nobody came from Colegio Interamericano. I must say they are all very sweet and polite.

Subsequently I explained them that in this first lesson we were going to study the meaning of Bioregionalism since it's the main topic of the course. I asked a boy to start reading the essay about Bioregionalism (from Peter Berg) and almost all of them read a part of it. Some of the most complex terms were underlined (e.g. bioregion, biosphere, social development, climate..) and together we tried to make up the meaning of each one. I wanted them to use their knowledge and imagination too before giving them the correct definition. I asked many questions with reference to the essay and I observed that they felt free to say their opinions without being afraid of failing. The students seemed excited and they actively participated to the lesson. At the end of the two hours I offered little presents to the boys and girls who gave the best explanations.

On Wednesday we are going to solve a Bioregional crossword (which I have already prepared) so they can review the words learnt today.

I just hope more students will turn up.

Vamos a ver,
Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>> 

Report #24

Sarah Couture, Departing Volunteer
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, June 19-25, 2006

This week the Planet Drum team worked at 4 sites and our greenhouse. On Monday we went to water at El Torro, where all the trees looked relatively healthy and happy, and the friendly farmer that gives us our water had more than enough to tell us about his pigs. It was our new volunteer Johannes’ first day, so we explored a bit and made him carry lots of extra water bottles. After El Torro, Sarah went out to the greenhouse to check on the aphids. Unfortunately they too were really happy and healthy, so she made up a new batch of water, vinegar and soap and carefully sprayed each little tree with an infestation problem. Tuesday the team went to Bosque Encantado (after the World Cup game, of course) to water trees. Three friends from the local community came to help water so we could cover more ground than usual. Although the trees, especially those higher up, looked very dry it was obvious that many are coming back and thriving. Wednesday we went to La Cruz, the Greenhouse, and Cherry Tree, again with local helpers. There were finally less aphids at the greenhouse, which was a huge relief, and the little saplings at Cherry Tree looked incredibly healthy and happy.

We’ve had a lot of change lately at the Planet Drum house. Catherine left on Tuesday night for a month of traveling, but will be back to work with us again since she can’t get enough. Our new volunteer, Johannes from Germany, arrived on Sunday, and Sarah is leaving tonight (she’ll really be missed as she’s the most amazing volunteer we’ve ever had). Also Valentina’s after-school education started this week, and she has a great group of children in her class.

Although Ecuador lost against Germany, there were still 'fiestas' in the street. Wednesday night was the 60th birthday of the local radio station.  There was dancing in the street all night accompanied by cake, more food than anyone could ever eat, free bottles of cana mañabita (a local sugar cane alcohol). We’re looking forward to next week, and the chance to watch Ecuador beat England (¡Si se pueden!)

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #25

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, June 26, 2006

Last Wednesday we had a new student, Anita, who is only seven years old. Actually, she is too young to participate actively in the class nevertheless I am always trying to involve her in the conversations.

All the kids attempted to solve the Bioregional crossword I prepared for them. They were still very confused about the difference between ecosystem, ecoregion and bioregion. I know they are not easy concepts to understand and I just thought they needed time. I was trying my best to find simple examples which would help them get the point better...And today I was so pleased to discover they learned most of the important concepts!

This afternoon the students prepared a poster about the Biological Scale.
Through drawing and painting, kids discovered all the biological stages starting with a single organism (organism> population> community> ecosystem> biosphere) to finally reach the level of the biosphere.

For the next class I was thinking to take them to El Bosque en el Medio de las Ruinas since it is time to start identifying the diverse types of native species present in the Dry Tropical Forest. The idea is to let them find out the differences between species in a more ‘direct’ and entertaining way before they start using books!

Also, in the future I would like to go with the kids to the farm at El Bosque Encantado. I believe it will be pleasant for them to also learn something about fruit trees (cocoa, mango, grape, papaya, lime...)

Hasta pronto.
Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #26

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, July 3-9, 2006

Pretty quiet week here on the home front… dry and cool. Great time to be working and volunteering here on the Ecuadorian coast! Late in the week, with the help of local volunteers Jaime and Cheo, we raced through our watering sites (Cherry Tree, El Toro, La Cruz and Bosque Encantado).

But what about early in the week you may ask? We spent it in the greenhouse dear reader!

Last weekend and all day Monday, the greenhouse ¨magically¨ doubled in size. The roof also grew higher (to accommodate us tall folk), storage platforms were built and there is now room for over 5000 seedlings! The 18 hour day on Monday was tough, but it is great to see the structure built, covered and finished! I think Johannes is one of the first volunteers to be in the greenhouse after sunset! Nice one! Pictures will be available soon… our blisters and bruises have to heal first!

The week not only brought improvements in the greenhouse, but we also gained two more energetic volunteers…Jennifer and Sam. Their background in education and positive energy are fantastic! Great additions to the Planet Drum team. We are full to the rafters again, but there is always room in the inn! We would love to have you, the reader, here in Ecuador with us! Send us an email planetdrumecuador@yahoo.com to make arrangements…hope to hear from you soon.

Hasta pronto,
pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #27

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, July 10, 2006

The trip to Ricardito’s (Bosque Encantado) farm ended up being a success. Students were very excited and they had a good time.

The majority of the trees we examined were new for them. Ricardito talked about the principal characteristics (endemic, adaptable to the Ecuadorian coast...) of each class of trees, such as papaya, lime, cacao, chirimoya...

I asked them to observe and describe the differences seen in each tree by considering its leaves, fruit, trunk, and bark. I realized they found it easier remembering fruit trees rather then the trees we saw in El Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas. I believe it is because they could associate a single leaf to a specific fruit they normally consume!

Students were also able to recognize the importance of cultivated plants that can be used for food purposes. They realized that fruits are not always available but are dependent upon the season. For instance at this time of the year, watermelon and mango were not present. They understood that plants have different uses: food, medicine, fiber.

Kids were full of energy and I decided to test what they learned by having them play. The aim of the game was to get the leaf or fruit I was asking for, as quickly as possible. Students enjoyed the competition and they showed me they knew how to identify specific plants.

Today we carried on with the activity we started Wednesday last week (drawing leaves and writing their characteristics). I want to go back to El Bosque and play a more articulated game there, which will mark the end of the section about Native Species. Today I also explained the importance of photosynthesis since the kids were not very familiar with that.

On Saturday Laura, Johannes, Cheo and I went to Tutumbe to collect some hard seeds in order to start making jewellery with the kids..and luckily we found lots!

Que mas..I am pleased the number of my students is constantly growing.. Twelve so far!

Besos.

FORZA ITALIA!
VALENTINA

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #28

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Report, July 10-16, 2006

Bahia and the hills which surround it look drier and browner by the week. However there are streaks of green that appear throughout the landscape… seedlings we are maintaining in El Toro, Bosque Encantado and our other sites are growing strong! Some are nearly overhead now! We continue to water and tend to these sites twice a week.

We have begun collecting seeds from our source trees for the next planting season. These seeds will begin to sprout in a few months, once the December rains arrive. With further construction in the greenhouse of more storage area, and with the addition of compost and new soil into the seed beds, it appears as though we are shaping up for next season. This week we visited two new sites, one above the police station in Astillero and another in the hills behind La Cruz. The owners approached me and both look like good sites. We are going to wait a week or two before we sign an agreement to plant, hoping to sort out whether it will be possible to water in these more remote (and highly eroded) sites.

Orlando confirmed the delivery of our gifted seedlings from the town of Jama and they should arrive by the end of July. As mentioned there is now space in the greenhouse and we have agreed to help grow a number of seedlings for him which he will use in the Bahia community of Bellavista in the coming months.

Our house grew this week with Catherine returning from three weeks of travels in Colombia. Welcome home! Local volunteers Cheo and Jaime continue to work with us on a weekly basis. Jaime is the first local volunteer to accept a three month volunteer position with us, part of our new local work experience program. Hope to hear from all you potential international volunteers in the coming weeks… always looking for more smiling faces!

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #29

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July 17, 2006

The remaining students each received a card describing a different characteristic of the plant required to assist their friend in getting healthier. As a group they needed to get all the information together and start looking for the exact plant. They also had to find the respective species as soon as possible otherwise their friends were going to get worse.

The plants I chose were those they had learned (by describing and drawing) in the previous classes such as Moyuyo (remedy for infections), Algarrobo (remedy for diarrhea), Palo Santo (treatment for colds) and Hobo (to heal cuts).

Both groups were particularly quick in finding the exact plants; furthermore they never asked for help! I was pretty proud of them. The kids were excited and got pleasure from the game. Moreover they learned another significant use plants can have, and they realized how important is to be able to distinguish such plants!

Today we started the second topic of the first quarter program: watershed.

I gave them details about the importance and main characteristics of the Rio Chone estuary (flora, fauna, and islands). Students had the opportunity to express themselves by drawing the estuary in which they are living. We read a bit of history concerning the estuary and I explained some of the problems raised over the years (pollution of the water, deforestation, removing manglares (mangroves) to make shrimp farm ponds...). Finally they completed a questionnaire in order to fix in their minds what they learned.

Next Wednesday I will take them to El Mirador La Cruz, the high point above the city, where they are going to see clearly what an estuary is! Considering that there is not a lot of information about this second topic, I am planning to cover it in no more than a week.

Afterward I was thinking to spend the following two weeks covering the Arts and Handicrafts section by making jewelry with seeds and possibly producing seeds ID. Kids can't wait to start such a funny activity.

Lastly around the second week of August, I thought we could start the mapping activity “Discovering Your Life-place” by using the Planet Drum workbook.

Up to now everything seems to proceed in the right way. At the moment I have 15 students in total (enough for me, I don’t think I could cope with more!) and I believe it's an excellent group.

Besos.
Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #30

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July 17-23, 2006

This has been the most productive week of my tenure here at Planet Drum! In addition to our usual watering of 400+ planted trees, we undertook major construction projects throughout the work week. On Tuesday we gathered up all the eco-locos (local term for greenies in the city) and had a construction work-party at the greenhouse. With over a dozen volunteers we finished construction of the greenhouse, began a seedling inventory and created a separate shelter for transplanting new seedlings. For many of us the highlight of the day was learning to make a thatched roof which will be used for shade in the new transplanting area. The transplanting area, to the pleasure of past volunteers, replaces the muddy hole in the ground which had been the source of many dirty clothes and back problems. On an ironic note, we transplanted the last seedling of the year on Monday.

On Wednesday, Andrea Coronado, a local volunteer, joined us for the beginning of her months with us. She helped water trees at La Cruz and Cherry Tree sites. After those field visits we headed back to the greenhouse and began digging seedling beds deeper and filling them with new compost/topsoil. These preparations coincide with the beginning of our annual seed collection, which provides seeds for planting next year. Each year of seedlings breaks down and withdraws the nutrients from the soil in the greenhouse, so we are preparing the seedling beds to provide life to the next round of seeds!

Cheo and Jaime helped out as usual with our usual tasks in Bosque Encantado (Enchanted Forest). Besides watering and map updates, we undertook major trail renovations to make our daily work more comfortable, safe and environmentally-friendly. Following months of erosion and volunteer stumbles we have built ladders, constructed steps and relocated 300 meters of trail to avoid future trip-ups on the site. We would usually avoid the installation of these temporary structures, however we plan to plant more trees in this area next year and hope to minimize our long-term impacts on the soil.

Outside of the great week we all experienced together in the field, we also felt our house shrink as Johannes moved on to new adventures. It was great having all our local and international friends come together to see him off to the bus station after cocktails and a bonfire on this part of the Pacific Coast we call Bahia de Caraquez!

Hasta pronto, Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #31

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July 26, 2006

Our trip to La Cruz lookout in the center of Bahia was as enjoyable as always! It was a great day; the sun was shining and the sky was completely clear. Perfect weather conditions to admire the view of the Rio Chone estuary from up there. Kids could see the integration between land and water.

They comprehended what an estuary is: La Cruz is an excellent place to see how the sweet water of Rio Chone mixes with the salty water of the Pacific Ocean. I reminded them that the presence of such an estuary is critical for the survival of many native species (flora and fauna), which are dependent on the estuarine habitat in order to live and reproduce.

We also talked about mangroves, how important they are with respect to the food chain of the estuary and the coast and that you mostly find them at the boundaries of the islands or next to shrimp pools. I realized the majority of them had never seen mangroves, so I got an idea for the next week course plan.

Kids were left free to wonder around and appreciate the panorama for a while. Subsequently, considering it was going to be my birthday in a few days, we had a small party with a cake and soft drinks!

Today (Wednesday) we started the Art and Handicraft section of the Bioregional Education Program. I thought it was a better idea to go to the park to make our "works of art" rather then staying in a closed room and kids liked my suggestion. Plenty of stuff has been made; students worked hard!

I taught them easy techniques to weave nice key-holders. Kids worked with different kinds of seeds such as Pasquenca, Aboncillo and Acassia. They also saw how seeds are actually located on trees (in pods or covered by a thick skin which encloses a sticky liquid too).

The girls were oriented towards fine and aesthetically pleasant things while boys were made bizarre stuff…but I recognized that all of them made the most of it! Next Monday we are going to create flowerpots by sticking seeds and colored paper on plastic bottles.

At the end of the class we discussed what their parents thought about the idea of going to Isla Corazon—the mangrove island in Rio Chone, on Saturday. Most of the kids got the okay from the parents and a few mums are going to come along too!! I know it will be quite demanding for me but luckily Cheo will come with us. More details about the trip will be in my next report!

Ciao Ciao. Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #32

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July 24-30, 2006

Although the week seemed like it was rather short, much was accomplished by our three international and two Ecuadorian volunteers. Construction in the greenhouse is now finished. Our seedbeds have had compost added, turned and been made a foot deeper. This increased depth, in addition to some drainage gravel, should allow for stronger root development in seedlings.

The seed collection season has begun, with Compoyo and Palo Santo seeds already collected. The Planet Drum team should be heading out to the forest in the coming weeks to collect 5 more of the 22 native species we grow in the greenhouses.

We had a visitor this week, one of the original field workers from a local organic farm/reforestation program. We invited Marcus to work with us for a few days in order to receive some feedback on planting, maintaining and potential improvements on our water process. Marcus seemed impressed with how quickly our plants were growing, the quality of the roots, and offered a few suggestions on making our watering process less labor-intensive (and the volunteers rejoice!). Thank you for your patience and time with us while back on vacation from Spain, Marcus!

Hasta pronto, pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #33

Patrick Wylie Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
July 31-August 6, 2006

We worked extensively this week in Bosque Encantado. The volunteer group is really efficient these days and we have been able to complete a lot of trail and maintenance work. All the trails have been cleared of the verano (summer) shrubs and we have been able to begin the inventory/labelling work for our seedlings. Catherine has begun preparing GPS maps for all our sites and we have created a numbered tag for each tree, including species, planting date and source of the original seed. While preparing each tree tag we have also created new flagging and new mulched beds around each tree to maintain the humidity of soil between waterings. With the clay soils of Bahia unable to absorb much water, direct sunlight hitting the soil rapidly evaporates any and all water. This leaf mulch used by local farmers not only keeps the suns rays at bay, it also provides some nutrients for the soil in the long term.

On Wednesday I took a horseback tour of the land Planet Drum bought here in Ecuador last year. What a breathtaking place, with gigantic Ciba trees and wildlife abounding. In the eight hours we were GPS siting the property´s borders we encountered over 20 species of birds, 4 tarantulas, evidence of mule deer and several mating pairs of rabbits. Luckily or unluckily, depending on who you are, the rabbits escaped our guide´s attempts to “prepare” the rabbits for lunch! In such a beautiful location on the Pacific coast of South America, I can hardly wait for Planet Drum´s International Sustainability Institute to open on this site in the future.

Jaime, Andrea and Cheo continue to work with us with several Ecuadorian volunteers wanting to join in the upcoming weeks. Two former volunteers, Brooke and Hammie have returned for a visit before they head back to Colorado and Oregon. Always nice to see familiar faces.

Hoping to hear from some new faces soon! If you would like to volunteer with us in our slice of Ecuadorian paradise, please send an email: planetdrumecuador@yahoo.com

Hasta pronto, Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #34

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 10,
2006

Last Wednesday the Bioregional Education Program students made their third and last “work of art”: a picture frame.They had a choice of plenty of materials such as colorfed paper, pieces of newspaper, rose petals, leaves, seeds, brilliant sparkles, etc. Kids were told to bring a personal photo but, aware that some of them were going to forget it, I remembered to bring a few postcards they could use instead.

I made two examples of picture frames to show them: the first one made by sticking rose petals, roses leaves and sparkles on a thick paper base, and the second by decorating paper with mangrove drawings.

Most students preferred to reproduce the first option and they made really nicely decorated stuff. They told me it was the art activity they enjoyed the most and I could see that since they made almost three picture frames each!!! Moreover at the end of the lesson they did not want to leave the classroom…they wanted to make more picture frames.

Today we started the last topic of this first term: Bioregional Mapping. The section finding your own bioregion of the workbook “Discovering Your Life-Place” by Peter Berg had been previously translated into Spanish.

First of all kids were asked to try to remember the meaning of the terms learned during the entire course such as bioregion, biosphere, ecosystem, watershed, soil, native species etc… and I must say the Bioregional Crosswords worked out since the basic concepts were still in their minds!

After a quick review, I explained that we were going to make a map of their own bioregion by following a few important steps. Kids coped with the activity quite well. Some had small troubles with the compass points but with the help of several examples they managed to understand. The hardest part was explaining how to draw the direction from which wind and rain usually come, since they were really lost! I had to help each kid individually by considering approximately where they were living and according to this we found out the direction of a breeze coming from the sea. Everybody drew the PacificOcean as the body of water nearest to the place where they live. Next they included Rio Chone and the hills nearby Bahia de Caraquez to create a watershed. The last step was including the different types of soils present in their bioregion. Students were familiar with drawing sandy soil by the seaside and a darker soil on the hills.

We are going to have a finalclass on Friday morning since kids are going on vacation. I am planning to finish the map. Next Monday we will go to Bella Vista to compare their drawings with their life-place. On Wednesday we have our last class with a small goodbye party since kids are going on holiday for two weeks and it is time for me to leave Ecuador…

Besos, Valentina

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #35

Patrick Wylie Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 7-13
, 2006

Our last week was filled with the smiles. While celebrating the Ecuadorian Battle of Independence (10 de Agosto) we welcomed 13 students from a local scool to our greenhouse. As part of the continuing Bioregional Education Program children's seminars being held, these fifth graders were another success. After watering, transplanting and composting at the greenhouse we hiked overland through a new trail which leads to our nearby Cherry Tree site. The kids then put us to shame watering the site in about 20 minutes (it takes us about an hour). We fixed a fence to keep the recent cattle invasion at bay, had a picnic and took a group photo. The group has now asked to take care of the site on a weekly basis as part of their science class… think of it as an outdoor classroom!

Despite two evening rain showers that coincided with the recent full moon, the ground here is hard and dry. The surrounding wells have begun to run dry (Bosque Encantado). As mentioned last week, to help our seedlings survive the ongoing 8 month drought, we have begun digging two-foot humidity circles around our trees. These circles are about six inches deep, and though at first glance may appear to act as a moat for our watering, they are actually full of leaves. The leaves add compost and help increase the soil humiditiy while the tropcial sun bakes the surrounding soil. In our first two weeks of this tiring work, we have already been able to half our watering frequency. We are also beginning to see a growth response for inventoried / measured seedlings.

Seed collection season has begun, with Tagua and Ascacia seeds now in the beds. We headed out to collect seeds last week with local forest aficiando Orlando. It was a great trip for the volunteers as they had a chance to collect the seeds while getting a bird's eye view of Bahia and also observing a series of plantings from the past two years which are now up to 5 metres high! Although it feels great to be planting and watching seedlings grow, it is quite nice to have to look up at the trees as well!

While former volunteer Johannes Ackerman came back to expose his visiting family to the joys of Planet Drum, we sadly saw Sam and Jennifer leave after a lengthy stay. The newly weds will not be far away from Bahia however as Sam has accepted a teaching position in Quito for the next two years. All the best in the new adventures and please don’t be strangers!

Hasta pronto, Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #36

Valentina Carminati, Field Bioregional Education Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 16
, 2006

On Friday morning (11th August, 2006) we finished the Bioregional Mapping topic. Kids managed to finish off with their own maps quite quickly. The last element of the previous lesson was incorporating the soil to the drawing, so students continued by introducing native species such as animals and plants. Kids were drawing trees such as Ceibos, Papayas, Mangos, Platanos, etc… and animals such as birds, fishes, and mammals. The next two elements were the worst and best things human beings do. They drew rubbish and petrol in the sea and in the river, cars polluting the air and people cutting trees. On the other side, as some of the good things people are doing they drew organic farms, the track of Miguelito Recyclon (logo of the county-wide recycling program) and funny looking Planet Drum volunteers planting trees. Lastly I explained what they were been drawing over these two classes and the aim of this activity. It was interesting for me to see the differences between their way of seeing and reproducing what they notice around them!

Last Monday I arranged a final examination for the kids, which was about most of the topics covered during the whole course. I wanted to check what really remained in their minds from this program. The test included multiple choice questions, sentences and diagrams to complete, and drawings. The main topics were about the meaning of habitat, community, ecosystem, climate, photosynthesis, estuary, native species, characteristics between different native plants etc. Most of them performed quite well with minor errors, and I was particularly pleased to recognize that a girl called Fernanda, who could not attend the course for awhile since the grandmother didn't let her, completed the test without any kind of errors! Such a bright girl!

I realized that they still had problems with the compass points of reference so I spent more or less half an hour explaining again how they can orientate themselves, considering it is easy to know were the east and west are as the places where the sun rises and sets. We spent the last part of the class organizing our final trip (and party) to Bellavista to see what their bioregion looks like!

I can't believe today was the last day of the course! It was a really moving and emotional day. Firstly we tried to meet with the Mayor to thank him for being so supportive and cooperative with us, but he was not in. Next we walked to Bellavista and students had an opportunity to admire the place where they live.

The kids received a certificate of participation with colored pictures of our incredible group on it (many thanks to Pat for his help in printing, such a great jefesito!) and a plastic folder containing all their works.Afterwards, considering I brought something to eat, we had a small party! We had an excellent time conversing and eating a lot! Kids were hugging me so hard and were telling me they did not want me to leave...so sweet! I was delighted to know they enjoyed the course and they wished to carry on!

I am going to miss them a lot but luckily tomorrow they are all going to come and meet me at the Planet Drum house to say goodbye…one more time…

I feel so weird, my last report…hope you all enjoyed my stories as much as I did by sharing amazing moments with my Ecuadorian Angels.

Con el Corazon, Valentineta

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #37

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 16-20
, 2006

Greetings from the Pacific Coast of Ecuador! The dry season persistss here in Bahia, and with the lack of rain we continue to water the 500+ trees that are planted in the surrounding hills.

As our site at La Cruz had recently begun being cooked by the sun, we have increased the amount of water we are giving the trees. Unlike most of our other sites where there is no water available (including the greenhouse), the La Cruz site is adjacent to the city´s emergency 100,000 gallon reservoir. I hope we don´t drain it dry! Marcelo Luque and his volunteers from the Cerro Seco Reserve helped us with maintaining these trees this week. Thanks so much, hopefully we will be up returning the favor at Cerro Seco in the coming weeks!

Sadly, we have said goodbye to our good friend and BioregionalEducation Manager, Valentina. Not only did Vale add international flair to our house, but her beaming smile and words of Spanish wisdom will be missed dearly! I can say with all our hearts, we wish her the best in Buenos Aires… nos vemos pronto! (See you soon)

Saludos,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #38

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 21-27
, 2006

What a difference a week can make! Following a light sprinkling of ash from the recent volcanic eruption of Tungurahua to our east, the weather here has changed. Every day for the last 8 days it has rained. Not only is rain in August unheard of here, but we are receiving five or six hours of torrential rains. It is quite reminiscent of the February and March actually. The streets have puddles, the people have umbrellas and the trees have smiles! All our sites are thoroughly soaked and it gives us time to ponder—what on earth is happening!?! Although a blessing, the rains have stirred up “discussion” on nearly every street corner as to whether this is the influence of ash in the air or recent El Niňo-like changes in the ocean currents that have been reported in the newspapers.

Catherine has been speeding along with the inventory of our planted seedlings. Nearly half of the trees from last year have been tagged, measured and remapped. Right now it looks as though about 80% of our trees are still alive and well. The majority of the trees that we lost this year were those planted in the final week of the season. With the rains ending nearly a month early this year we were definitely caught offguard, planting trees into drier than normal soils. Hopefully this week’s deluges are a good indication for the upcoming winter planting season—wet and long!

Jaime and Ricardo Lopez continue to work with us during the week. Their local knowledge of the species and soils is absolutely invaluable. Our watering holes for each tree are working really well, with many trees now holding leaves and sprouting new growth. These trees are no longer just surviving, but living!

Last Friday we had a great meeting with Ramon Espinzoa, the owner of much land in El Toro. After an initially troublesome conversation about converting a nearby hillside into cornfields, we really began to understand each other. Although we are always open to people making a living on their land, doing as they wish, I only interject when a slope is potentially unstable or damaging. We are not saying the entire landscape needs to be forested—human settlement exists somewhere between forestation and deforestation. Could we do more with land that has already been cleared? In the end, Ramon only wanted to convert the slope into corn as he felt the corn plants’ roots would help the slope from sliding. Unfortunately, growing corn in coastal Ecuador usually requires the cutting of all competing grasses, shrubs, vines and trees (they pull the corn down to the ground). Although corn may add shallow roots to the soil, what we need are medium and deep roots to avoid the large-scale movements of soils we see during heavy rains.

The events of last Friday have reawakened a struggle that needs to been examined. Throughout recent memory, innumerous private foundations and foreigners have endlessly touted planting trees as the solution to environmental problems—water quality, erosion, air pollution etc. This unfortunately has endlessly been contrary to an ill-informed common sense. As was the case with Ramon, and recently the case in the local tourist community of Isla Corazon, planting trees is the solution. But in both cases, mature trees were or would have been cut down to allow for space for new seedlings to be planted. There is a saddening disconnection between seedlings and forest.

This is where working with Planet Drum is a definite pleasure. Peter Berg and his Planet Drum family wish to pass the basics on to each individual we work with. We work with landowners to not only collect seeds from their forest, but then show them how those seeds are prepared, grown in the greenhouse and then planted on their land. Last Friday Ramon and I uncovered that his perception that corn could help stabilize the hillside was based on the fact he had never considered a tree having roots. After 30 years of farming and growing corn, he had seldom pulled a tree from the ground and examined its roots as he would twice a year with each plant in his cornfield. Every set of eyes sees the same hill differently, the same tree differently. As Ramon helped my eyes see his point of view, he began to see the rooted second half of each tree, and also our project. Through Bioregional Education and reforestation programs, we not only are planting trees and ideas, but also changing eyes.

Hasta pronto,
pat

P. S. We will be planting nearly 500 trees on Ramon’s property in the coming months!

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #39

Patrick Wylie, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 28-September 3
, 2006

The greenhouse received a lot of love and affection last week. After nearly two months of construction we began a fresh inventory of the seedlings. With nearly 2300 seedlings we began reorganizing to make room for the upcoming growing season (November). It is incredibly helpful to have nearly double the amount of space following our renovations — thanks to all who were involved!

There has been almost no need to water our sites following the heavy rains of last week. Although we watered at La Cruz in the areas exposed to full sun, we were able to spend the majority of the week in El Toro planning for next year's planting season. The unexpected rains also softened up the ground and allowed us the opportunity to dig some more humidity holes (see last week's report).

A local friend and schoolteacher, Ramon, has been helping out twice a week. His environmental education knowledge is extremely helpful. He also runs a pretty mean machete! We are beginning to develop quite a team here in Ecuador, with our new volunteer Dan arriving last Tueday. Not only are we excited he is going to be here more than three months, but it is FANTASTIC to have someone with a horticultural background working in the greenhouse. Bienvenidos! (welcome)

Hasta pronto,
Pat

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Report #40

Dan Robbins, Field Project Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
November 6-11,
2006

This is our first week as a group without Patrick as acting Project Manager. Instead of relying on Patrick as the sole leader and teacher, I think we could all sense that we were beginning to pool together our resources and skills to compensate for the loss of such an invaluable mentor. There were a few hitches along the way reminding us, like always, that as comfortable as we might now feel here in Bahia, still, there are aspects of this culture that are perplexing for us.

This week we had a guest volunteer from Arizona who heard about the work that we have been doing here and wanted to take part for a few days. Her Spanish language skills are superior to ours and she quickly became a much appreciated help all week not to mention that she is one of the hardest workers I have seen here as of yet. She appreciated the opportunity to work with us here and has since left to continue her travels elsewhere.

The plan for Monday was to pick up a new load of screened compost prepared for us in 30 grain sacks for our seed bed preparation project. Unfortunately, in typical South American fashion, both our Municipal contact at the compost facility and driver failed to show, so, instead we dug all of the previous soil out of the beds, acquired some wire, and worked again on securing the roof sections that were quite loosely attached. Like always, we took care to water our trees and tended to our own compost pile which is decomposing much more rapidly now that we have made a few needed changes. Including adding more carbon sources, by incorporating leaf matter and by using the ash found around the site left over from wood burning. The ash also has a good amount of Potassium which the trees can use as a fertilizer source. In my opinion, purchasing compost from the city of Bahia, as quality as it is, won’t be needed again any time in the near future as our our own compost pile will be much more productive in a short time.

We worked a long day on Tuesday finally tracking down Hugo from the compost plant and delivered our 500 pounds of composted organic city waste to the greenhouse. No easy task at all since the soil was not put in sacks but instead was just piled up before our arrival. But after a few hours of shoveling and driving and minus a few dollars tipped to the tractor driver, the compost was delivered and looks very nice. It consists of almost all kitchen waste. Also, Tuesday we watered the El Toro site entirely and Sebastian stayed quite late using the GPS to enter and save all of the existing trees onto a program. He worked diligently on this after hours all week.

We worked in groups Wednesday watering Cherry Tree and La Cruz and later met up at the greenhouse to work on fixing up the outdoor seed beds so they can be used to sow shade tree seeds soon. We also mixed our preexisting soil with the purchased large grain compost and finally filled the beds. After work we were visited by some local teachers who were looking to learn more about our reforestation project as they are looking to reforest an area close to the city near a popular mirador.

Bosque Encantado was a long day on Thursday as we watered as usual but spent more of our time there clearing new trails for planting a new site later in the season. The site is larger than we first expected and we will only reforest one of the two areas. The second is of lesser importance considering the amount of trees we will have at our disposal this year. Again, Sebastian stayed late and used the GPS to chronicle the existing plantings to give us a better perspective of the site in its entirety.

On Friday Lauren and I met with the local teachers and traveled to the greenhouse to show them our trees. We gave some lessons on planting and explained the degree of work that is needed at such a project for it to succeed. They are eager to attempt it. Jamie took time to explain many of the facets of the project as they had many questions for him and he was glad to do so at that. Also on Friday bamboo was collected from around the greenhouse which will be used next week to build a temporary greenhouse at El Toro for the rainy season. The rest of the volunteers worked at the house to add screens to the windows in an effort to mitigate the population of mosquitoes that have been biting Tom and they finished our project of waxing the floor.

Over the weekend I returned to the greenhouse to incorporate sand into the greenhouse seed beds and then watered them in as an experiment to see how much more permeable the new soil mix is compared to the soil of past. (The soil mix has more pore spaces now with higher amounts of oxygen and ability to drain.) It is apparent to me that our work on this matter has been well worth it as the water permeated far deeper into the soil mix than it would have earlier in the year. I believe that we will have healthier trees, earlier in the season than before.

As a whole our first week without Patrick was a success and we are anxious to begin the next week as it should prove to be just as challenging and eventful.

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Reports #41

Field Reports
Planet Drum Foundation
November 26-December 18,
2006

November 26, 2006

It's been an interesting week of changes. On Sunday one volunteer left for an Spanish intensive course in Quito for 2 weeks, Wednesday morning brought us a new volunteer, Bienvenidos Matt, and on Thursday fellow volunteer and interim manager Dan had to fly home to the US. His great personality and horticultural knowledge certainly will be missed, thanks for everything Dan!

Workwise the week started off with watering El Toro and digging holes and building water catchment basins for the trees which will be planted on the new site in the upcoming rainy season. At the greenhouse the plants and seedbeds got watered every day--we usually take turns in doing it, and everything looks lush and ready to be planted soon.

Our local employee Jaime did a great job cutting 40 fenceposts at Ricardito Lopez' finca (farm) at Bosque Encantado, which were transferred to the new site "Don Pepe" the following day. There we made use of them by starting to build a fence around the site to keep the local cows from grazing on our small trees.

On Wednesday and Thursday we split up into 2 groups, one watering La Cruz, Cherry Tree and Bosque Encantado, the other continuing work on the fence construction. The construction of the fence was finished on Friday, thanks to Jaime's skills

Sebastian did a good job mapping the new site at Bosque Encantado both on paper and on GPS.

Hasta Luego, Tom

December 3, 2006

We started the week with a house cleaning day. Then we went over to Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas (B. Ruinas), where we made a plan with Jaime concerning the work that has to be done there. For now, we decided to improve/rebuild all handrails and some sections of steps in order to make it safer to walk around the park.

Tuesday we split up into 2 groups, one watering El Toro, the other cutting Frutillo and Muyuyo trees in Bosque Encantado for stakes and handrails that were used at B. Ruinas the following days.

On Wednesday and Thursday La Cruz, Cherry Tree and Bosque Encantado got their share of water, while Jaime, Matt and I were improving the city park, B.Ruinas.

On Friday we all went to the park, B. Ruinas, and got a lot done, being accompanied by a young local kid called Alex, who was helping and entertaining us. In the afternoon I took Ramon and his Bioregional Education class to our greenhouse where I showed and explained them our compost facility, then everybody got involved with chopping kitchen waste and mixing it in.

Besides that, the seedbeds in the greenhouse got watered everyday, also on the weekend, and we got to see some seedlings already popping up, especially the Ceibos are doing fine.

Hasta luego, Tom

December 11, 2006

Finally our damaged apartment roof got repaired at the beginning of the week. We're really happy because after some overnight sprinkles we noticed little water puddles on the livingroom floor, and it won't be long until the heavy rain starts.

Unfortunately volunteer Sebastian has been sick for most of the week, but we still managed to complete the basic tasks and hope he'll be back in action with us next week.

All our sites (El Toro, La Cruz, Cherry Tree, Bosque Encantado) were watered and we're confident that the little trees will make it, now that the rainy season is close. Further, local co-worker Jaime made maps of trees that had died over the year in Bosque Encantado, so we know their location in order to replant them.

He also had cut a lot of stakes for us to use in the Maria Auxiliadora neighborhood park ((B. Ruinas) construction, which was our task on Tuesday and Friday. Most of the stairs and handrails have been rebuilt, which was quite hard work because of the incredibly loose ground. Also all the posts we used for building the handrails have been made termite-proof by using diesel. We're planning on painting them next week to make them look prettier and hopefully more durable. We'd like to do some more work up there and turn the park into a nicer place, because both the people in the neighborhood and Planet Drum would benefit from it, as it could serve as a picnic-area and increase the foundation's reputation among the people, who still don't know a lot about our organization as we work mostly on sites out of town.

hasta luego, Tom

December 18, 2006

For repairing the Maria Auxiliadora park we needed more Muyuyo stakes, which we thankfully cut down in Ricardito Lopez` bosque (forest). We used them for building more steps and made it easier and safer to stroll around. We`re almost done with the basic improvements there, like installing stairs, handrails and clearing trails, and already plan on making it more useful by building benches and tables, but it depends on how much time the rain gives us. Furthermore we painted the new handrails in green and yellow (colors from the Ecuadorian flag), and I have to say that they look very inviting to be used!

All of our sites were watered, but with El Toro there was a little problem. There was almost no water left in the tank last week, so we decided to bring our own in containers and hitched a ride with our local friend Ricardito. As usual, we had to take a taxi to Cherry Tree with our water bottles, because no water source is available there.

On Wednesday we sowed more seeds, Algorobo, Bototillo, Guayacan, Terramonte and Pechiche, and we`re looking forward to see them sprout.

On Saturday and Sunday, Marcelo Luque from Cerro Seco invited us on a workshop/field trip to Cabo Pasado, which is less than an hour north of San Vicente across the river from Bahia. Four of us Planet Drum volunteers and about 15 other people from the area and Quito participated. There we got to see almost untouched Dry Tropical Forest, observed howler monkeys, woodpeckers and hummingbirds, and enjoyed camping on the beach next to a bonfire.

hasta luego, Tom

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>

Reports #42

Bioregional Education Project Reports
Planet Drum Foundation
November 26-December 18,
2006

November 26, 2006

Here's a report about Ramon's Bioregional Education Project during the last 2 weeks:

November 15, 17, 2006. On the 15th of November the Bioregional Course started and students from Bahia, Leonidas Plaza and San Vicente participated. On their first day they learned what a Bioregion is and about its importance for sustainable development. Further, they worked out a series of questions and answers and put them in an Ecogram.

On Friday 17th they all went up to the La Cruz outlook, where the Rio Chone bioregion can be viewed, to see in the field what they had learned in the lesson before.

"Bioregión es una zona donde hay varios recursos, donde nos podemos dar la libertad de sembrar plantas y árboles cuantas veces queremos. Además podemos observar los diversos animales q'se encuentran en la zona." Jovenes Bioregionalistas, Bahia

November 22, 24, 2006. They continued talking about what a bioregion consists of and Ramon taught the students about the importance of soil. They discussed the different types of soil and their permeability.

On Friday they went hiking around the hills that surround Bahia for 2 hours in order to investigate the different types of soil about which they had been taught on Wednesday. The students found out that the soil in this area is very poor in nutritients and in danger of erosion.

The young Bioregionalistas developed a unique greeting which consists of a special sequence of clapping hands and fists with “high fives” to each other. Furthermore they would like to get t-shirts printed with a special logo.

Tom, for Ramon

December 3, 2006

This week's Bioregional Education topic was Compost. On Wednesday they started off with a brainstorming on organic and inorganic waste, then Ramon taught them about the process, including different types and importance of composting. Further, he discussed the importance of separating organic from inorganic waste.

Friday was a fun day when we all (Ramon, 16 Bioregionalistas, Jeff from Peace Corps and myself) took a bus to km8 to our vivero (greenhouse) and got our hands dirty chopping up and mixing compost. The kids were very energetic, they all got involved and took a lot of pictures.

Concerning the T-shirts, the students were all excited about this idea and decided to pay for 2 shirts each themselves, a white one for class days and a black one for working in the field. The shirts will be ready on Wednesday, with the Planet Drum sign (North and South America) and letters on the front side, and BIOREGIONALISTAS on the back. Ramon and I will get one too...

hasta luego, Tom

December 11, 2006

On Wednesday every student read about native species of trees of the Region. They were only familiar with the Ceibo. Ramon explained that their country's flora is biologically extremely diverse, but is in danger because of people's lack of awareness. He taught them about the importance of reforesting areas that had been cut down, in order to recreate natural habitats.

On Friday we all went to the greenhouse, wearing our new shirts, where we identified the species the students had learned about. They were also shown the section "La Cruz" in the vivero (greenhouse), containing the trees that we will collectively plant on the site to give them some hands-on experience.

After having turned the compost, they enjoyed a quick game of football on the field next to the university.

An article and a photo were published in the town's newspaper "El nuevo globo" on page 6 de sociales, I think it's accessible online too.

ciao, Tom

December 18, 2006

On Wednesday the Bioregional Education class identified and learned about the importance of the traditional types of food of the ecuatorian coast, such as corn (which had Originally been used by their ancestors), yucca (rich in carbohydrates), avocado (fat, proteins), pineapple, peanut, etc. They also played a game which consisted of finding 4 small pieces of paper in a park, on which the name of a fruit or other type of food and the names of 4 bioregionalista students had been written down. They had to find all pieces in order to not let one group of students perish from hunger. (sorry, maybe it`s just my translation that sounds weird, but I think they had fun learning.) Further, they had to explain the importance of their native foods, because Ecuador also has, besides birds and other animals, a great variety of foods and it is important to know them.

On Friday one of the students had her birthday (Raisa), so the others organized a surprise party and collected some money to buy a present. They also dedicated that afternoon to planning for what`s going to happen on Friday 22nd, as this is the date when the educational institutes celebrate Christmas, and they`ll have a get together with food and storytelling.

Tom

[Top]

<<<<><><>>>>