Moringa man

Moringa Man came to town, and with him he brought 1,800 moringa tree seeds! It was a great surprise to me because I had missed  the meeting when we were notified that he would be coming. He also showed up  during the morning ritual of weeding the burma reed – couldn’t get better timing than that!

Moringa Man Jack speaking about the benefits of moringa.

Turns out, the Moringa Man has a name, Jack, and he works for BioPlanet USA.

BioPlanet USA is a non profit organization that generates reforestation projects of moringa in areas where there has been natural disasters or in areas that are in need. Bioplanet also involves the communities around these sites providing them with employment, nutritional benefits, education and hope. Currently, BioPlanet USA has reforestation projects in Mexico, Haiti, USA, and Honduras.

Community Foodworks and BioPlanet USA have decided to team up in a project geared towards reforestation. BioPlanet USA has donated Community Foodworks 1800 moringa tree seeds which half of them will be planted solely for seed crops to be used in case of another natural disaster like the earthquakes in Haiti. The other 900 seeds will be used for the many uses that I list below:

  • Food: The leaves are rich in minerals and protein, and have a nice spicy flavor.
  • Water Purification: The seeds can be crushed and inserted into water to remove bacterial contaminants.
  • Animal Forage: Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and rabbits all enjoy the leaves. You can also feed the leaves to carp and other fish.
  • Cleaning Agent: Crushed leaves can be used for cleaning cooking utensils or walls.
  • Dye: The wood produces a blue dye.
  • Alley Cropping: Moringa’s have a long taproot, few lateral roots, grow really fast, produce minimal shade, and have a large production of high-protein biomass, which makes it a perfect candidate for alley cropping.
  • Fetilizer: The seed cake can be used as a protein-rich plant fertilizer. You can also extract the juice of moringa leaves and spray that onto plants (resulted in 20%-35% increased crop production).
  • Honey Clarifier: Powder seeds clarify honey and sugarcane juice without needing to boil
  • Honey: Flowers are a good source of nectar for honey bees.
  • Live Fencing: Moringa is perfect to use as a living fence.
  • Gum: The gum produced for a cut tree trunk has been used in making medicines and calico printing.
  • Ornamental: Plant moringa trees along avenues and gardens for ornamental purposes.
  • Pulp: The pulp is suitable for making newsprint and writing paper. However, the wood is soft and spongy which makes it poor for firewood.
  • Plant disease prevention: Incorporating moringa leaves into the soil prior to planting can prevent damping off disease (Pythium debaryanum) among seedlings.
  • Infant Supplement: The dried leaves are a a high mineral and protein source that can be added to honey and fed to infants
  • Rope-making: Beat the bark into a fiber to use as productions for ropes and mats.

Sowing Moringa in an area of the pasture to use as a seed crop.

A group of apprentices, farmers, directors, and the moringa man sowed the seed crop moringa in a field. The plan was to walk forward and every meter put a seed 1 inch into the soil. It’s a good thing our intentions were to not make straight lines because that would’ve never worked with the way we were walking!

Re-using planting pots by washing them in water with a small amount of vinegar, and then rinsing in plain water.

We wanted to start some of the seeds in used pots, but first we had to clean the pots to remove any possible diseases. You can easily sanitize them by filling a tub with water and just enough vinegar so that you can smell it, and then scrubbing the pots. Afterwards, make sure to give them a quick dunk in some water just to rinse off the vinegar wash.

Miles sowing moringa seeds in pots to be transplanted.

Have fun while working, and make sure to work smarter, not harder. That is exactly what Miles is doing here; it was raining so he found a nice dry place to plant the seeds, put them in a wheel barrow to raise the pots, and sat down on a chair to do the lazy man permaculture approach!

Moringa seeds sowed into pots.

We planted four seeds per each pot that will be transplanted into a living fence, animal fodder, food, and other uses. Our plans are to transplant after a few weeks so the tree’s roots will not become tangled.

If you find yourself living where moringa grows (the tropics and sub-tropics), you should really plant some moringa. As you can see, there are many great uses for this tree which makes it a great choice for the permaculture property.

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Design day!

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the days I am at Verde Gardens working on the farm. Thursdays I will be found at the central location in South Miami, FL doing my PDC. Today was a Tuesday, so, you guessed it, I was at the farm!

If you have ever worked on a farm, then you understand that everyday can be something completely different than the day before, or the exact same. This simple factor is what I enjoy most about doing farm work. If you want to do something different you can or if you want to stick to the same project you have been doing, then have at it! It’s freedom. Sometimes, like today, you have a project’s time line coming to an end so you have to focus strongly on it. The food forest design needs to be complete because we the wet season is coming to an end. The benefit to planting during the wet season means that excess irrigation is not needed for the plants as they are becoming established.

Taking advantage of the wet season by building a banana circle next to an established coconut palm on a "free" day at home.

In permaculture, the design phase is extremely important. This process can not be rushed or else we run into “type one” errors (specifically type one error # 7 as Bill Mollison speaks about in his 15 PDC pamphlets. These pamphlets are loaded with TONS of epic information, including type 1 errors on page 64/155). Every observation counts!

orange black true bug

Spartocera fusca

As designers, we need to avoid falling into these serious errors. Farmer apprentice David did a great job at reminding the rest of us today of a very important factor, “When designing this food forest we need to remember that this area will function for hundreds, if not thousands, of years after we (apprentices) have passed by. We must design with care”

After being reminded to slow down and proceed with care, we decide to compile the lists we made last week into a new graph format. In the graph, the plants names were listed in rows and the produces/needs of the plants were listed as columns. If a plant fell into a certain category of produces/needs we simply checked the columns. Since our focus was on the graph, we were not able to map out any plants, but now we able to come up with more accurate plant guilds.Once the graph is turned into a spreadsheet I will upload it onto this blog post so our work can benefit a lot more people,

In this video below, Bill Mollison shows some really great examples of proper design in a tropical climate.

Designing our permaculture zones

I wish I had footage of the work all of us did today. I was having so much fun, and was so busy, that I forgot to get any film or photos of my day at the farm. There were two main jobs that had to get done today; one was organizing the nursery and the other was mapping the market garden.

Antonio, the full-time farmer, lead a group of apprentices in the nursery. Their tasks were labeling plants, such as jackfruit, setting up more nursery tables, and doing a inventory of the plants that were recently moved from a different site to “The farm at Verde Gardens”.

Since I have had experience with mapping out sites before, including the Food Forest at “Verde” and my recent un-named farm, I lead the other group of 3 fellow apprentices. I taught the others about why the market garden is going where it is, the importance of proper design, and permaculture zones. It took us the whole day, but by the end we were able to finish the mapping out the market garden, and parts of the alley crops. Now that we finished the mapping, we can get down to the design. Since fall is right around the corner, time is running out fast. The five farmer apprentices need to finish the design so we can start the soil building and planting before it is too late.

On another note, I imagine most of you are wondering what is a permaculture zone. Below is a quick write up and a short video of what permaculture zones are:

Zone 0 – The house or central location. This zone is the center of your site, it is where you spend most of your time. This location will be designed to reduce the amount of energy used here, including water needs, and creating a harmonious environment in which to live and work in.

Zone 1 – The zone nearest to the central location. This is where you place the elements that need most attention and visiting. Here you will place your salad crops, herb plants, soft fruits, propagation/nursery beds, worm bins, and whatever else you feel you need to pay close attention to.

Zone 2 – Use this area for perennial plants that need less attention and maintenance, such as main carbohydrate crops. You may need to do some light spot mulching or even pruning in this area. You can place your large scale compost bins or even keep bees in zone 2.

Zone 3 – This site can be used for larger animals, grazing, large ponds and swales, and your larger main crops. You may decide to place your food forest here, or you can place it back in zone 2.

Zone 4 – Your semi wild area, and also used for farmed forestry. This is a great spot to set up a timber production and to forage for wild foods. You may also choose to place a forestry system for poles, craft, or bee fodder.

Zone 5 – This area is kept completely wild. You use zone 5 to observe, gather information, meditate, and to remain in tranquility.

The great piece to zones is that they can overlap each other. You design your zones accordingly to the way you function, the places you walk through most, and the areas that are most convenient (or not) to get to. These initial steps to planning and design are crucial as this is where you decide the most effective way for you to live and function from day to day.

Take a moment to watch this amazing documentary from Geoff Lawton describing permaculture zones:

If you enjoyed that short video, I suggest for you to check out the full Introduction to Permaculture by Geoff Lawton posted by permacultureideas.blogspot.com. Permaculture Ideas is loaded with really clever ideas of recycling old “junk” into useful items around your homestead.

Keep posted for future blogs to see the final design and how you can build the best soil.

Irrigation installation

Today couldn’t have come at a better time for me. We installed the irrigation system at the edibles nursery so we could stop hand watering all of the plants. The reason why this couldn’t have come at better time for me is because I will be installing drip irrigation at our (My partner, housemates, and I) soon to be named farm. In my world, it is always much better to practice on another person’s project before I get knee-deep in my own and don’t know where to literally stop the flood.

There were 9 out of 11 apprentices, plus the director Mario, working hard as we installed four out of eight zones. A zone is an area of irrigation which is controlled by its own valve. This little fact may be boring, but the day was exciting! Here is a terrible picture taken from my phone of David installing a four-way splitter:

David connecting the four-way splitter

David connecting the four-way splitter

Overall, today was a blast. Working as a team makes light work and could never be more fun. I really enjoyed using basic permaculture principles, such as design effectively and work with what you have. Here is an image of us working with what we have; measuring in “Bambi”:

Bambi stick

Eli takes a moment to measure Bambi in order to get the perfect height for the risers

Time is running out fast and we need to get the market garden designed. I will be leading the surveying of the market garden tomorrow so we can design the garden beds and paths. Stay tuned!