Friday, August 7, 2009


This is my pet turtle- Heman. I believe he is very young because of his size but he has grown very little over the last two months. I found him on the farm. We are still trying to figure out what he likes to eat and if he is a water/land or primarily water turtle. Any turtle advice would be great!

August Vacation

The first week of August is a holiday for many Salvadorians. I had the entire week off. Some friends and I went to the Ruta de Las Flores where we were able to enjoy cooler weather, beautiful waterfalls and hot springs.

Permaculture Institute

I have been dividing my time between the farm and working for the Permaculture Institute that is based here in Suchitoto. The administration office is here in Suchitoto but they also have a piece of land near Suchitoto that is used as a demonstration plot for the communities they are working with. On the land they are currently growing corn, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, peppers, red beans, green beans, green onions, yucca and cucumbers. Since the land is used as a demonstration plot, experiments with natural pesticides and fertilizers are constantly being applied. There are also experiments with planting according to the moon cycle to compare the yields of each crop.

The mission of the Institute is to work with rural communities in areas of food security and biodiversity. They also work over long periods of time teaching the importance of experimentation of natural pesticides and fertilizers along with understanding the ecology of their land. It is important for each person to be able to identify pests and deficiencies in the plant and not just know the recipe for the insecticide. Deforestation has lead to an immense amount of soil erosion all over the country. Conservation work with natural barriers and terrace farming is also an important.

Costa Rica/ Nicaragua

In July I had to renew my visa in Costa Rica. What a shame! The countries surrounding El Salvador; Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, share the same immigration rules and entry and exit dates. To renew my visa, I had to travel to Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize or Panama. Costa Rica was the most economical option, plus I had friends from Louisville that were in Nicaragua- the bordering country. Unfortunately, I only spent a night in Costa Rica before heading up to Nicaragua. The first few days I spent on my own at the Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. It is an island in one of the largest lakes in Latin America. The island has two large volcanoes that don’t seem to be active but you never know! There are many monkeys and wildlife to enjoy and the entire island is very laid-back. The island is also famous for petroglyphs. I spent three nights on the island before meeting up with my friends, Amy and Marlon, from Louisville. Amy’s family was also visiting and we spent the majority of our time at the Lago de Apoyo- a beautiful crystal clear volcano lake. Great swimming! We took a day trip to Granada, which is a very picturesque colonial town with great food. Instead of traveling back to San Jose to catch my flight home, I decided to take the bus back to San Salvador. The border has been closed intermittently over the past month because of the military coup. It had been closed for several days before I traveled but luckily was opened the morning my bus was passing through.

Costa Rica is the most stable and wealthy countries in Central America. The main industry is tourism which is very evident when you are there. They are miles ahead of El Salvador in promoting what the country has to offer and making it easy to access. I could see the difference in economic status most strikingly in the structures and houses in the country side. Costa Rica does not have a military and I have been told that a large portion of money has been invested in not only tourism but also education about the environment.

My House

Yes, I finally moved into my house in late May. Although there has been much remodeling the house has about a thousand leaks. Since this is the rainy season I have become an expert at bailing water out of my house quickly. The houses here are open to the elements so it is a losing battle to try and prevent water or anything else from the outside from coming in. Apart from the leaks the house is comfortable. It is great to have my own space. I have a roommate from England that will be here until September. Jess is volunteering for the Permaculture Institute and we met when she was here back in February.


Suchitoto is a small town of only about 6,000 although it often feels smaller. It is a colonial town with character and history. It was nearly deserted during the civil war because this area was hit hard with constant fighting. Over the past 20 years, many residents have returned along with people outside of Suchitoto that have worked to build up the tourism industry. The town is safe and picturesque but hot as hell. As a small town would be, everyone says hello and the night ends around 8 or 9:00 at night.

Malte's Going Away Party

Here are some pictures of friends from Suchitoto. Malte, a friend from Denmark, was returning home and we had a going away party at my house.

Monday, May 4, 2009

March and April on the farm

The month of March on the farm is primarily inundated with marañon. The season for marañon is February through April but the majority of the harvest is ripe in March. Most of the fruit is juiced for wine, vinegar, jelly, and syrup. Some of the fruit is dehydrated and used with the cashew nut for a snack bar. To juice the marañon the seed is removed and the fruit is torn apart and pressed by hand. I am sorry I did not have my camera on the days we were juicing the marañon. The process is as homemade as you can get and very colorful. My hands smelled of marañon for days after.

In addition to the marañon, in late February the indigo nurseries are planted. The beds are made by piling up the earth into 3 feet by 15 feet dimensions. In total we planted 18 beds of the two varieties of indigo. Once the plants reach 20 centimeters, they will be ready to be transplanted to different sections of the farm. The indigo plant is replanted every three years.

In March we also planted pepilan- which is a squash-like vegetable similar to zucchini. Since this vegetable is susceptible to pests, we made an organic pesticide made from Nim. Nim is a tree and the leaves and seeds are crushed to make a pesticide. After the leaves are picked they are passed through a mill. The pulp is then submersed in water. After three days the mixture is strained to a concentrate. One liter of the concentrate is mixed with five liters of water and is sprayed on the plants. A hand full of pepilans were ready to harvest late April.
I included a picture of my favorite dog on the farm. Most of the workers bring their dogs to work or at leat the dogs follow them to work. This particular dog has to swim across a river to get to work. Her name is Sweety and she is expecting puppies this month- her first litter.

Semana Santa

Although Catholicism is not the reigning religion in El Salvador, Holy Week continues to be celebrated with very old traditions. In Suchitoto the processions begin after Ash Wednesday and continue through Easter Sunday. “Rugs” are made in the street with colored saw dust with pictures of scenes from the bible. Most people have vacation Thursday through Sunday. And many take advantage of the days off to go to the beach. I felt as if I should not go against tradition. June and I were invited to El Flor, a beach in the western part of El Salvador. I have noticed that each beach in El Salvador is unique. We joined a group of June’s friends for the weekend and did little more than relax. Many of the houses on this beach have been owned by the same families for years. Over the years they have formed their own traditions for Holy Week. One tradition is a sand sculpture contest. I am not sure how I was drafted for this event but I gave my best to create a shark out of sand. As you can see from the picture- it is probably not biologically correct but at least people knew it was a shark. Just to let you know we were basing our shark off of a pair of a kid’s swim trunks that had pictures of sharks.

I also included a picture of the moon during holy week. It was full the Thursday of Holy Week and rose a bright orange color every evening.

Ruta de Las Flores

Part II

The hostel where we stayed had great artwork in each room. Several pieces were from an artist in Apaneca. The owners said he is always open to visitors, so on our way back to Suchitoto we stopped in to see his studio. Gustavo, the artist, works primarily with recycled material, especially wood that he collects all over the country. His work is incredible and I am still trying to figure out how to actually transport a piece back home. After visiting his workshop, he invited us to some land that he had recently purchased where he plans to build several cabanas. The view looks out over the mountains surrounding La Ruta de Las Flores. He is building the cabanas in his artistic style with recycled doors, wood planks and shudders. Our conversation turned to food and our mutual love of cheese. He told us about a French man in Ataco who makes goat cheese. We joined up with some friends of Gustavo and had a late lunch in Ataco of quiche, crepes and goat cheese. The variety of cheese offered in El Salvador is limited so I was more than excited. It was a great end to an amazing weekend.

La Ruta de Las Flores

Part I

The Ruta de Las Flores was originally named for the flowers that flank the 36 kilometer long road through coffee country, small charming towns and natural beauty. There are three towns the make up the majority of the tourist route through the area: Juayua, Apeneca and Ataco. We stayed in Juayua in a great hostel owned by a Danish woman and El Salvadorian man. Murals are a common site all over the town. But the true beauty of this area is primarily based in the dramatic landscape and nature. We took a great hike to the seven waterfalls surrounding Juayua. The hike consisted of four hours of steep up hills, slippery down hills and a bit of repelling but each waterfall was spectacular in its own way and worth the sore legs the next day. The most popular waterfall is used as a swimming destination for many tourists. Our guide took us through tunnels carved out in the cliffs surrounding the waterfalls where the current of the water just pushes you through.