Fermented Fertilizer in Mexico

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Our land where our house is built was an old family plot used to grow corn.  Stories from Ana and her aunt confirm that this land, and much of the surrounding land was owned by her Grandfather, then sold off or divided among family members.  This plot, roughly 4500 square meters (a little over an acre), was given to Ana’s aunt, and then to Ana.  It is a great honor to live on this land that has been in her family for generations.

The soil is not in the greatest shape though and we are slowly composting, using worm castings, bringing in other soil if needed and letting some of it go fallow in the hopes that wildness and decay will add to the quality of the soil.  Time will tell.

In the meantime; we want to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers.  Having chickens roam about certainly helps as they not only fertilize the soil, they irrigate by digging, eat harmful insects and look cute while strutting about.

I have been researching fermented fertilizer recipes as I read when added to the soil, they can help break up compacted clay soil.  Exactly what we need!

The challenge has been many recipes call for ingredients that are just impossible for us to find as either local stores in our area don’t carry them or we are still unfamiliar with the surrounding towns for availability.  Seriously.  A hunt for something as “simple” as molasses just got silly as people met me with a blank stare.  Finally found out that molasses is considered a waste product from local sugar cane producers and used by pig farmers as feed.  Frustrating.  (We finally found it at a health store in Guadalajara). Plus, since local farmers are not yet into organic practices, we are always told to just go get some chemicals.  Blech.

A few weeks ago, I finally found a recipe that has all the ingredients.  Today I was able to use some of the finished product for some new plants.  Success!  It’s a very simple formula….just rinse water from rice, water, milk and a bit of molasses.  Bokashi rocks. Plus, the chickens LOVED the leftover curds….ate them up quickly.  I think we need to get some barrels to make large batches of this stuff.

The recipe: http://www.hawaiihealingtree.org/how-to-make-your-own-em-1-inoculant-and-bokashi/

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Supplemental Food Production

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This first (almost) year living full time in Mexico has been busy.  Currently we are experimenting with different plants and growing conditions for the long haul for more food production.

We have grown and harvested eggs, chicken, 3 varieties of corn for human and chicken food, kale, lettuce, green onions, corn, bananas and beans.  Right now we are growing 3 types of heirloom tomatoes; some are ok and others not so much. One type of garlic took forever to grow to harvest time and another is still growing after 7 months. Cucumbers, sweet corn, butternut squash and cilantro are all growing strong if the darned squirrel will stay away from the squash.

3 sisters have been planted this week (corn, squash and beans all together mixed up helps them all grow stronger with the sharing of nutrients, shading ability and providing stalks to climb).

At best, we are supplementing our diet with fresh, organic items but we are nowhere near to counting a percentage of groceries.  The growing calendar, soil, water quantity, sun and pests are all different here and I have yet to find quality resources to rely on for organic food gardening in Mexico.  Better get networking!

Winter Gardening in Mexico

Ana jokes that in this part of Mexico, you can carelessly throw seeds on the ground and food will grow.  Well, after laboring in gardens in the Pacific NW to eek out a few tomatoes, I will say that it almost true. It has been fairly easy to grow plants so far in a small area of our ample yard.  With some help from friends that brought us seeds (and with seeds that we had at a relatives house), we have our winter garden growing strong.
The north part of the yard is sunny most of the day with a narrow patch along a long brick wall.  Our 6 foot high wall helps keep warmth reflected on the garden patch and several old tequila barrels that have been sawed in half.  We re-used the old metal frames which are used in Mexico to create arches for doors and windows during construction; the frames now hold the barrels up off the ground to help keep bugs and chickens at bay. 
We now have green beans, garlic, 2 types of kale, green onions, lettuce, broccoli and several herb plants growing steadily.  Satisfying.

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I was also curious if a lemon tree could grow from seed as its almost impossible to find lemons in Mexico; most people use limes. I now have small starts and anticipate at least one should grow to maturity.

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Compost Barrel for Organic Veggies

We love being on our land and are looking forward to growing more veggies to supplement our limited income and put organic food in our tummies.  However, our soil has a few challenges from being planted with corn for who knows how long… several years or maybe even centuries.  It’s hard and compacted, full of rocks and not enough humus to encourage root growth.  We need some nutrients and humus (organic matter) added.  Letting it go wild for the past few years has helped and planting beans has certainly helped by adding nitrogen.

A few weeks back, Ana and I found a place nearby where we picked up a nice black barrel to make compost for our future veggie garden.  We also located a worm compost business and picked up a half kilo of worms for another bin we keep in the shaded side yard.  Using both of these devices, along with the first in-ground smaller food digester, we should have plenty of compost for our organic veggies.  Fortunately, Luci kept some organic seeds in her fridge that I brought to her a few years back so we now have some winter starts growing.  Woot!

I cleared the side yard off the kitchen with the scythe and raked the cuttings off to the side, then laid down flattened cardboard that we picked up in Etzatlan.  On top of the cardboard, we put dried corn stalks.  Tomorrow and the next day, we will cover it all with dirt mixed with worm castings and water well.  That should hold the plant starts and then I will surround it by chicken wire so our little chicken tractors will not gobble them up.  I have no clue if garlic will winter over here but I am going to try growing some.

The pic below is of Ana’s great nephew, Angel, helping to build the compost barrel.  Nice job!

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A small part of the yard for veggies, will add more later.  On top of hard ground, cardboard and then corn stalks.

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Momma chicken with her 3 babies running by

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