In the huerta, Abilio taught me how to prepare a bed of land so it’s ready for planting something new. I went through and broke up the soil with a spade and the smoothed it all out with a rake, ensuring there were no weeds or residual green things growing there. Then he brought out a tray of arugula seedlings he had cultivated in the greenhouse and showed me how to separate them and put them into the ground using my finger to make a hole. I’ve never planted anything like this before, it felt really empowering knowing that in one month this lettuce will be mature enough to pick and people will eat it.
It was a rainy day and when it would start coming down harder, I’d escape into Abilio’s ‘office’ (it’s a greenhouse full of seedlings and tools) and chat with him. We talked about working with the land and being in equilibrium with mother nature and oftentimes our conversation would distract me from working and I’d stay there for a while after it stopped raining.
I finished planting the arugula and then took on the glorious task of weeding. There’s no chemicals or anything here and we’re in the rainforest so weeds grow everywhere and they can get huge. It’s a very physical, tedious task where you get squat down and just pull out everything that wasn’t planted there. Not really knowing what everything is supposed to look like, there can be confusion about whether something is a weed or a vegetable. It wasn’t so fun for me at first and I felt like it was such busy work. Looking at the size of the vegetables growing and thinking about how fertile everything is, I was thinking to myself does this really make a big difference? What’s the big deal? Why not just leave them there and just pick off the good stuff when it’s ready?
Abilio enlightened me. The weeds are competing with the plants for nutrients from the soil. The plants will still grow even if the weeds are there, but their full potential will never be realized. This is the natural way of the world. The nutrients in the soil can only handle so much and if they’re supporting the weeds, this strips away support for the plants and they won’t grow as fast or as big. So, weeding is actually an extremely important activity. Nature teaches me another lesson here about life. When doing multiple things at the same time, it will become increasingly difficult to do any one of them extremely well. This is something I have fought with myself for a long time, always thinking I can handle lots of things at the same time and I have enough energy and bandwith for it all, but it’s just not the case, the natural environment even tells us that things simply don’t work that way. If I want to reach the full potential of one thing, I must do one thing.
The next day I spent the morning in el jardin helping Dionisio gather up food for the animals. We were in the grounds by the bungalows and the compost water heater and he brought a weed whacker, a wheelbarrow and a rake. He wasn’t much of a talker though, he just started trimming things around the trees and flowers cleaning it up and I was just kind of standing there watching, trying to figure out what I was meant to do.
I guess he’s probably used to working with people who just know. So, I asked him what I should do. He said just to use the rake to sweep the debris off the sidewalk.
So, I finished this pretty quickly and then asked again what I should do now. Dionisio then told me to wait for a bit until we get to the greener parts and then to collect all the grass he trims so we can feed it to the animals. This was tough manual labor and I was feeling slow today. It was neat though to see the process of where the food comes from for the animals. It’s amazing how so much stuff just grows here and how one plant can serve many functions and purposes in the whole system here.
After this, I went back to la huerta in the afternoon to do some more weeding and got to know of more vegetable gardens at the Ranch that I hadn’t seen before. It’s quite impressive the amount of stuff that is grown here for food, they say that something like 90% of the vegetables in the kitchen are grown right here on site.
Each day, I feel like I’m becoming more and more of a contributing member of this community. We finished the day taking a dip in the chilly river that gushes through the property. It was inexplicably refreshing and felt cleansing swimming in the rapids of the river, admiring the rainforest all around.