3 days in Mexico

I arrived in San Miguel on Thursday night to a party at Casa Angelitos (check it out) that was being held in honor of a famous author.  I immediately was introduced to some young people who are currently constructing the largest super adobe (earthbag) dome ever created outside of San Miguel on the campus of a Waldorf School.  They are also staying at Casa Angelitos, so I will be able to work with them on their project while I am here.  Yesterday I harvested greens in the early morning and then went and sold them as well as a variety of seedlings at a farmers market that is the only organic farmers market in San Miguel.  It was really fun and challenging to speak to people in Spanish about all the varieties of plants and greens for sale.  There also were a lot of older American Senoras and my English came in handy when talking to them because Manuel, the man I was selling with, only speaks Spanish.  I also ran into the parents of some of my old friends from childhood, which was really bizarre and surprising.  Today I found myself in the living room of Rose and Ronnie Cummins, who are the founders of the Organic Consumers Association in the United States and are also involved with Via Organica.  I had not previously made the connection but have admired and followed the OCA ever since I became interested in agriculture.  It was really exciting to be able to talk to both of them about their work and then also to realize I would be working with them.  Ronnie said something interesting about his experience with Mexican farmers, which is that unlike many American farmers, Mexican Farmers are extremely interested and eager to learn about organic farming and growing sustainable food.  We talked about re-greening projects in Mexico, seeds, Monsanto, and the important role animals play in our collective future.  Monday and Tuesday I am helping with two agriculture workshops that are being held at the Via Organica store and greenhouse.  The group that is building the super adobe dome went to Guanajuato for the weekend to teach a workshop on bio-intensive orchards and rooftop gardens.  They will be back later today and hopefully we will head out to their site sometime this week.  I also met the man who is living at my earthbag house yesterday at the farmers market.  I am hoping to make arrangements to go out there and get some water harvesting earthworks going asap.

My last week at Bean Tree was pretty mellow.  We did some natural plastering on the cob wall me and the other interns built.  We cooked down some nopal (prickly pear) cactus pads by boiling them in water to extract the mucopolysaccarides to use for the plaster.  Muchopolysaccharides are microscopic fibers that bind the sand and clay particles together giving the plaster a smother texture and also increasing its durability.  Here are some photos of the natural plaster…

the plaster (clay, sand, water and mucopolysaccharides)

trawling the wall

note the smooth texture given by the metal trawl

Trawls smooth and shine the plaster.  They should be used when the plaster is leather dry, meaning not still wet, but workable enough to be smoothed by the trawl.  Barbara says cut up yogurt containers make excellent trawls.

Bean Tree was a magical place, I will remember my time there forever.  There is an amazing ridge of volcanic rock right behind the central site that I would hike usually everyday and sometimes to watch the sunset.  Here are some photos of this beautiful piece of Sonoran desert…


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