Today started out with more shoveling and cleaning of the cow poop. Beto wasn’t here today though so I shoveled and hosed down everything. I finished shoveling everything out and heard the goat’s calling so I figured they were hungry. I went and emptied the old grass from the goat’s pen and put in new grass.
When I was walking away with the empty wheelbarrow, I saw the cutest thing- the baby goat kissed the mama goat. Then I came back to start hosing down the cow area that I had just shoveled.
All of a sudden, I see all these cows charging in through the gates and no one is around. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there and then I saw some guys working on the farm come from behind. They were saying to lead the goats into this one big area, so I moved some gates and the cows herded through where they were supposed to go. I was trying to ask them what was going on because the cows hadn’t come in this early before and what I was supposed to do. I didn’t really get a response so I went to ask Abilio, he said just to finish cleaning with the hose and then help him in the huerta (vegetable garden) later. The only problem was there were still two stray cows that had gotten into the area I was supposed to clean, so I couldn’t really wash it all. I spent some time running around trying to get them out so I could hose everything down. I was washing the pavement and I saw a few cows go out of the square they were all in and some others started following. I didn’t know what to do though, no one was around to guide or give direction so they just kind of escaped as I kept cleaning, doing as I was told. Some time later, the guys came back, noticed some cows were missing and they went and herded them back in and closed the gate this time.
I was still cleaning and I didn’t even notice that everyone was gone. Fran was walking by and he saw me working and told me it was lunch time that I should go. I wanted to just finish what I was doing though before taking a break so I kept cleaning for another half hour and then went and grabbed some lunch.
I came back from lunch looking for Abilio so I could help him in the huerta, but it was difficult to locate him. I spent a while walking around trying to find him all over the ranch and I finally ran into him. He showed me very precisely how to water the tomato plants under the greenhouse. There is a really delicate way to position your finger over the hose so that you minimize soil erosion when watering the plants. He said after watering the plants that I should take off all the dead leaves so that new ones can grow. I was wondering why they had greenhouses here, I mean it’s the rainforest. I figured everything would just grow naturally, why would you need a greenhouse in an environment like this? There’s multiple greenhouses actually and they’re all huge. Abilio explained to me that it rains too much here and when the water remains on the tomato plant leaves, it creates a perfect environment for fungus to grow and the leaves get sick and die. So, even though they grow faster without the greenhouse in the natural environment, there’s less yield because so many leaves get infected. Pretty crazy huh?
So I watered the tomato plants and the lettuce that was planted around the roots of the tomato plants and was about to finish when Abilio came back and told me I needed to give a little more water. He explained how the tomato plants have very deep roots so I have to give enough water that it seeps down all the way to the roots. I went through and gave another round of water to the tomato plants.
Once I finished watering everything, I started picking off all the dead leaves. It’s a very tedious zen like activity. The plants are huge, probably six or seven feet tall and there’s a couple rows of them, at least a few hundred feet long. While I was picking off these leaves, thinking about how I’m doing this because taking off all the dead leaves makes space for the new leaves and fruit to grow. If we don’t remove the dead leaves, then the new leaves can’t grow. This is such a beautiful lesson from nature. It applies to life and the world, everything. You need to clear away the dead to make way for the new in everything.
Sarah came by and I asked her a question about picking off the dead leaves. She answered my question and then took me on a little orientation of the whole huerta because I hadn’t gotten one yet. She was telling me all about the different kinds of plants and vegetables they’re growing and we were talking about efficiencies and opportunities to make things better. Rancho Margot really is a magnificent place and what is being done here is extraordinary. Juan really has created a living university and there is lots to learn. There is a lot to learn from this example and there is also still room for improvement and for learning. I’m really glad I’m here learning by doing.
The best part of the day was when I came back after yoga, took a cold shower, washed my hands 5 times with soap and still couldn’t get all the dirt off from the garden. My hands smell like the land, it’s wonderful.
Later in the evening, Abilio, Fred, Max and I were having a conversation about our own ideas and projects we’d like to start. Abilio told us the most important thing you need to have is unwavering commitment in your heart. The work can be challenging, and people will always tell you you’re crazy for doing it but you must commit to the journey and ride it out if you want to really make an impact. Today we have so many options and choices for things to do and opportunities to pursue and this makes it even more difficult to decide what to do and stick with. His passion is contagious and I know I will learn a lot from this man in the weeks to come.