Published: December 1st 2009December 1st 2009
Hi Everyone. It has been a crazy couple of weeks since I arrived in Miami! For those of you in the Northeast right now, it is 80 degrees and sunny here pretty much every day. Sorry to rub it in, but being away from New England winter is such a bonus!
I arrived at Nature’s Acre on November 19th and met Cassie, the lone wwoofer who has been here for about two months. She was doing some planting in the garden but took a break to give me a thorough tour of the property and the living situation. The farm itself is more of homestead, meaning that the produce grown here is not sold to the public in any markets or commercially at all, but is grown for the consumption of the people who run the farm and the owner, Saul. He is a 50-ish retired firefighter who bought the land eight years ago so he could grow organic fruit for himself. The property is loaded with fruit trees and is a bit of an oasis in this residential neighborhood. There are pineapples, avocados, mangos, papayas, mulberries, coconuts, carambolas (star fruit), guanabanas, three types of bananas, guavas, sugar apples and
monsteras, as well as mint, bamboo, sugar cane, tropical flowers and royal poinsettia trees. Currently the avocados, papayas, bananas, guavas and carambolas are in season and ripening every day, meaning we have more than we can eat at our disposal. Unfortunately I just missed mango season, and pineapples won’t be ripe until the summer, but I think I can make due, ha.
To supplement the fruit, Saul buys us organic produce and other foodstuffs from the local Whole Foods (amazing!) and we are provided with a basic kitchen to do our own cooking. The barn is full of tools and supplies and has two bedrooms built into it for the wwoofers. Cassie has been sleeping in the tree house, I’ve been in one of the rooms, and later in the week when Tom and Chris (two more wwoofers) arrived, they moved into the other bedroom. We have running water that drains into buckets below the sink that must be emptied when full, a hot water shower in the barn, composting toilet (google it if you don’t know what it is) no TV and limited internet (via an internet usb-stick). Overall, it’s a pretty good set up, and since the
weather is so nice here, being outside all the time and sleeping in the barn is pretty comfortable temperature wise.
Between the living quarters and the other wwoofers (whom I love!), the set up is great. The management, on the other hand, is a bit coarse. It is clear that Saul is a great source of knowledge about organic farming and has a lot to share with us, but he is very hard to get along with. As a group we have talked about his lack of expressing any appreciation for the work we do, or showing us much respect. If it weren’t for the support system we have built up around each other, I’m not sure we would all still be here. On the positive side, Saul is only here three days a week, leaving the other four for us to do our work independently. We do small projects on our own when he is not here, such as weeding, planting and pruning, and big projects such as cleaning out the grotto, trimming the large trees, spreading rocks on the driveway, or digging out tree stumps when he is here.
All of the fruit here grows incredibly
well, the trees are healthy and the fruit looks and tastes incredible - without any pesticides or even organic sprays. It seem as though the trick to his success is the soil. He is always getting new soil and mulch for what he plants, and is continuously composting all of the organic matter, from leaves and branches to rotting fruit and food and reintegrating it into the ground here. We all know by now that if you don’t put mulch down on something after it has been planted or weeded, you’re going to hear about it! When we eat an especially tasty fruit, we save the seeds to replant in hopes of making a better tasting fruit tree. Same goes for bad fruit - if the most of the fruit off one tree doesn’t taste great, he will have us dig it up and compost it, and plant a better tasting seed in its place. Last week as the guys dug up a banana tree, Saul told us that a banana tree’s only goal is to produce fruit, so until it produces fruit, it won’t stop growing. For example, if a banana tree that has not produced fruit is cut
down to the stump, the stump will sprout and grow into a banana tree again, whereas a tree that has already produced fruit and is then cut down, will not grow again, but will rot into the ground. It is a great example of nature being nature, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.
Aside from the work - Saul requires at least 24 hours a week of work which we must track on our own - I have been having a lot of fun. While the work itself isn’t always fun, having the other wwoofers around to share it with makes it better. Last week we were shoveling limestone rocks to line the driveway. Shoveling rocks in 80 degree weather is really un-fun, but between the four of us joking around and singing badly, we were able to ignore the numbness in our arms, haha! Last Wednesday Cassie I had the privilege of using saws and machetes to cut down 170 pounds of sugar cane, which was then pressed to make fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice. Using a machete was fun, and drinking the juice was even better.
This past week Cassie and I drove to Key West
to spend Thanksgiving weekend at Colin’s place. Key West was a total shit-show, in a good way! Wednesday night and Thursday morning were spent frantically trying to defrost the FROZEN turkey Colin had bought Wednesday afternoon and grocery shopping for last minute items for Thanksgiving. Somehow the turkey defrosted all the way and didn’t develop salmonella, thankfully and turned out moist and delicious. Cassie and I also made baked sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, and stuffing. Our friend Crystle brought a ham, mashed potatoes, gravy and cookies. We ended up having about ten or twelve people over for the Thanksgiving, and ate it on the back porch around the pool at Colin’s place. It was definitely weird to be eating Thanksgiving dinner in warm, sunny weather - outside! - but it all turned out to be a success. The next three days in Key West were a blast. Colin and his friends took Cassie and I out every night and showed us the best (or worst) that Key West has to offer, as far as nightlife goes. Colin’s friends were a riot and all super nice and fun to hang out with . . . overall, good times.
The neighbor's pig.
This cute piggy comes over to the fence and oinks and grunts at as when we work nearby. I love it.
Returning to the farm on Sunday morning was a total bummer, as we are back to the grind and the mosquitoes. On a very sad note, Tom decided to leave this morning and Cassie is leaving on Friday, leaving Chris and I here with Saul (ah!) I am definitely sad about their departures, but excited for them move on to new adventures, and hope to see them soon.
As of now, my plan is to stick around Nature’s Acre for a few more weeks, then find a cheap plane ticket home for a couple of weeks around Christmas (leaving my car a friend’s place in Miami), and upon return to Miami, start a new farm either in Florida or the Gulf Coast area. xoxoxox
There are more photos below