Food forest part 4: It’s raining, plants are growing, we’re weeding and adding more compost.

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Greetings everyone and thank you for coming back and checking in with me and alohagambia. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog and a wild ride in the last 6 months. The short story is that I finished up the food forest, my peace corps service, said good bye to my friends, family and farm in Gambia and headed to South America to learn more about the land and culture in the Sierra Nevada and Andes mountains. I will definitely do a blog post about what I learned down there, but first I want to wrap up the food forest thread and explain how I finished my time in Gambia. Also I want you to check out how far the food forest came along after a few months of rain!

In this post I’ll get you up to speed on the food forest by explaining what happened after the initial planning, field prep and planting (i.e. about 2-3 months into the rainy season: around November 2015). The field was prepared, the outplant holes were dug, trees planted and now we just needed to maintenance the field by weeding, keeping the fence up and adding some more compost. So, without further delay I’ll post some pictures and explain. Please post comments or questions below and i’ll get back with you, thanks.

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Modou brews attaya for us as we work in the food forest.

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Modou and I worked a lot in the last month: keeping the weeds down and doing maintenance. He was a great farmer to work with and we were tired and happy to be almost done with the farm this year. When everything is green, the birds are singing, wind blowing and your farm is looking good it seems that all is right with the world.

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The door is on, food forest is mostly weeded and looking good.

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We were always chopping more neem branches to keep the fence tight and protected from animals.

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Here it is: the food forest at year 1. I hope to come back, climb this same tree and take the same photo in a few years, then in 10 then in 20 years.

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Look how the rain can transform Gambia into a beautiful green landscape.

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We sow a small plot of ‘finger millet’ aka ‘dragons claw millet.’ Gambians know millet well, the kind that looks like a tall candlestick, but this variety really interested them.

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The millet is interplanted with beans.

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Finger millet and beans well on their way and close to harvest.

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We took the soil test from this plot so we did legumes here to help increase nitrogen.

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While we sowed findo over the whole farm in 2014, in 2015 we did only a small plot of it, maybe 7x18m.

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Our pigeon pea windbreak on the east side grew really well. I definitely recommend pigeon pea for any farm because it grows fast, fixes N in the soil, provides food for humans and animals and makes a great chop and drop tree.

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I’d never seen sesame until we planted it this year, only the seeds on bread or hamburger buns. Here they use the seeds to make oil and they sell for a good price.

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We had started our best compost pile 4 months before and its ready to be spread now. This pile was huge and we were really excited about helping the land with it. It ended up weighing somewhere around 5000kg.

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Informed by the soil test, and that the Gambian soil needed a lot of help we added many new things to this compost: charred bones for phosphorous, wood ash for potassium and raising pH, decomposed rice husks for silicone, cow and chicken manure for nitrogen, some crushed oyster shells, biochar and anything else we could find. It was tough work, but free, and we ended up with several thousand pounds of our best compost ever.

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Hauling the compost into the food forest.

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The compost is pretty well finished and ready to be spread on the field.

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Counting the number of buckets so we could figure out the exact amount of compost we made and added. We added about 5 tons here.

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Its slow work with the bucket, wheelbarrow and an ipod but its humbling and I couldn’t ask for a better job to do. I have to admit that I was dreaming of a tractor often. But its good to do it the hard way by hand because i’ll really appreciate it later when I have more tools.

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The pile of compost was split into 4 equal parts for each of the 4 rows of the farm.

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Each row got a good amount of compost spread onto it late in the rainy season. Luckily we got a couple more rains after the compost went on. We also added some more crushed oyster shell along with the compost.

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Our door to the food forest blew off but the land is looking good and having no door did make it easier to haul things in and out of the farm.

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As the rains stopped plants started to dry up, die and leave their remains and seeds there until next rainy season. We were happy to be done and proud of our small farm and food forest out in the Gambian bush.

 

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