Friday, April 28, 2006

A little tour of the farm

I finally got a hold of a camera, so I took some pictures of the farm and Aguabuena, so hold on to your hats, and we´ll take a little walk around.


Aguabuena and Coopabuena are a ten minute walk away from each other seperated by the Rio Salto. This hill (which is a mountain if you look at it from the ocean on the other side) rises above Coopabuena to an altitude of over 4000 feet. Santa Cecilia and Santa Teresa are two villages higher up the mountain, Santa Teresa being at the top.

To the north and east of here are the volcanic Talamanca mountains that you can barely make out behind the clouds. These mountains are much higher, rising from 7-1200 ft. This is the home of the nearly inpenetrable cloud forests of Parque Amistad shared by both Panama and Costa Rica. The mountains in this picture are in Panama.

Now to our farm.

If you follow this road down long enough you will make it to our farm.

The Reforestation Nursery (still under progress)

This week I began the germination of our first seeds. I planted over 6000 seeds. The two seed beds down in the background are the beginnings of our seedling nursery. These two beds contain two different species of trees.

1. maria
Marias are a common canopy tree of this region. The wood is of medium hardness and considered very valuable for furniture making among other things. Because of this, many have been cut down in this region. These trees grow relatively fast. In this seedbed, I planted 1200 seeds. I cover them with banana leaves to protect the seedlings from excessive sun and as an attempt to stop too many weeds from growing.

2. nogal

Nogales are a Nicaraguan black walnut. They are not indeginous to this part of Costa Rica. They grow very fast. They are becoming increasingly popular among the campesinos here because the grow so fast. Since we our goal is to use only indeginous trees for our reforestation projects, we have some reservations about this tree, so I am only germinating 300 seeds. These are in the bed next to the marias.

3. danto

Dantos are an endangered tropical hardwood. The wood is extremely hard and is excellent wood for construction because of its extreme durablitiy although it is difficult to cut through. Many people in this region dont know of these trees, or have forgotten about them because of their scarcity. These trees prefer to grow above 1000 meters in riverbeds. Thus, they make a nearly perfect tree for our project. The only drawback of this tree is that it grows very slowly because the wood is so dense. In this picture I have 4-5000 seeds soaking in water before I plant them in the ground.

After these seeds sprout, I will put each in its own separte bag to grow for at least another 5 months. We plan on begining the transplantation project in a year, next April or May. Next month, I am going to return to Las Alturas de Coton to collect different species.


Thomas, our friend from Michigan, is a worm farmer that sells his products in famers markets in the US. He taught us how to cultivate worms. This is the system:

Compost goes in each basket, and as the worms eat their favorites, their poop becomes excellent fertilizer. They slowly move up to the fresher bins, leaving behind enriched compost. We keep the environment wet for them, and the excess water drips down and we collect this worm juice "jugo de lombrisas".

This stuff is extremely potent.


This area of the garage serves a double function as a carpentry table (built by Josh Mills) and a resting place to read, drink coffee and swing in the hammock.

Im going to end the picture show with this picture out our back window.

More to come


Nannothemis said...

Are the earthworms native to Costa Rica? Non-native earthworms can cause huge ecological changes in areas where they are not indigenous by completely altering the litter composition. See

Finca Project said...

The earthworms are not native to this region, they are the California Reds. However they were introduced to this region over ten years ago. Many, many farmers in this region are using them. I collected mine from a friends pile of goat poop. I am interested to know more about the ecological problems that they could cause or more likely have caused. The ecosystem of this region of Costa Rica suffer from many many problems. The link to the website you quoted didnt work, please send more information.

Nannothemis said...

Hmm, sorry about the link. Try this:

That is a link to a blog post which provides an overview and includes a list of references. Here is one project:

If you send me an email address, I'll send more info (I'm at nannothemis AT

The non-native earthworms in the upper Midwest are European, and not so dissimilar to the nearby native fauna. The problem is that the forest ecosystem evolved without any earthworms (to the extent of the last glaciation) and with a suite of soil decomposers that work much more slowly and differently than earthworms. In these forests, the litter layer is much thinner (or absent), which in turn changes soil temps, nitrogen and other nutrient cycling, etc. Considering that tropical systems are far more complex, I wonder what might happen when you add a highly efficient decomposer to the mix.

Sorry to hijack the comment section here. Feel free to write me.

VermiChester said...

Great Blog! The "earthworms" called "California Redworms" by the Ticos are "Eisenia fetida". You may test this by breaking one open and receiving a strong "fetid" odor. There is a "native" composting worm that also works in the forest litter. It is much larger and longer than Ef. I am still waiting for significant proof of the rumored ecohazard of worms. I suspect that the research was done subject to a thesis deadline and large doses of Budweiser somewhere in the vast forests of the Porcupine Mountains. In their defense, the Ice Age probably refers to the Tico preference for ice cubes in the Pilsen.

VermiChester said...

Pardon the flippancy, but this theme is familiar to most serious worm growers. Earthworms typically do not eat any living plant material. A large part of their diet has already been partially decomposed by anaerobic microorganisms that work in the absence of air. The rainforest floor is thin due to rapid decomposition. Slower decomposition encourages the burrowing worms to transport humus to lower levels, producing deeper topsoils, as in Iowa. The scraping of glaciers is a phenomena limited to regions farther north. Consult C. Darwin, a famous vermiculturalist, to learn that earthworms are responsible for the creation of topsoils throughout the world. The concept of a forest creating topsoil without decomposers is incorrect.