Becoming Grassfed Day 29: Natural Pesticides and Insecticides with Nana Mensah
San Ignacio, Belize-Belmopan, Belize
The day started off very weird, last night I had oddly vivid dreams about the most random things so I turned my alarm off and pushed it back until 6:30 so I could dive back into them, I had made plans with Scott to eat breakfast together at 6:45 before he headed back to Maine. It has been a pleasure to make such a quality friend in just a few days. I hope I can get up to that part of the country this next year so I can see him again, I’ve never spent any time in the northeast except a day in NYC before getting on a cruise.
After a nice breakfast of a veggie omelet, fruit, and toast with homemade mango jam, I got ready to head to Belmopan for a class with Nana on natural pesticides and insecticides. Mary and I rode with Rolando and Sheila through the rain down the Western Highway past Belmopan, Nana’s farm is about 3 miles into the bush off of the highway. Today I met the owner of the farm, Mr. Guerrero was an incredibly wise man who is a prime example of a farm owner who made the full transition from toxic (conventional) to organic. We talked about doing some work together and he invited us out this summer to use the farm as a part of our movie. People like this are my favorite people to meet, enthusiastic about the opportunities that will come forth with organic and sustainable agriculture.
In the class today we learned alternatives to synthetic chemical pesticides, one of the first points he made was to check the plants without any bug bites…those obviously repel the certain bugs that may be around but not touching that specific plant, use these for mixtures. Our first mixture was 1 lb. of leaves from the Madrid Cacao tree, 1/2 lb of white lime (agricultural), and 1 gallon of water. This mixture is to be heated until it is about to boil and then cut off of the heat, cooled, sieved, and set aside. Next brew Tomato Tea: 1lb stems and leaves of tomato plant (preferably cherry tomato because they are most potent and foundation of the tomato genealogy) and 1.5 Liters of water, brew this until boil and take off heat, strain and cool. Combine the two mixtures and allow to ferment for 15 days in a plastic container (or anything that isn’t metal or corrosive, I would prefer ceramic to avoid plastic leaching.) After fermentation, dilute the mixture of 1 Liter to 18 Liters of water and spray crops twice a month, add garlic juice if it is the rainy season and things need to stick to leaves more. The grinder wasn’t working right so we had to grind the plants the Mayan way…with a rock.
The Next concoction that we made was what Nana referred to as the “5 ingredients”: 12 Garlic Cloves, 6 Hot Peppers, 1 Onion, 2 in. x 2 in.piece of all natural glycerin soap, and 1 Gallon of Water. Grate these ingredients and soak in the water, allowing the mixture to sit and ferment for 24 hours. This mixture can be diluted at 1 Liter to 20 Liters of Water and applied to crops within the next few days.
Nana has done an amazing amount of research on a variety of topics, his current fight right now is in the plantain and banana field across the road. There is a fungus that takes over plantains and bananas called Sigatoka (Black part of leaf below), the majority of bananas and plantains are sprayed with crop dusters to take care of the fungus and allow them to grow lusciously. I heard a story about people in the villages surrounding these fields carrying around umbrellas to block them from the aerial spraying that continually goes on in their areas. These are just a few villages of many around the world who are victims of chemical spraying, leading to a decline in their health.
It is so interesting to learn about the natural alternatives, the biggest problem in farming is the bugs. These are the reasons that foods are sprayed with toxic chemicals that keep the bugs away. These things can be completely avoided and a toxin-free farm is very attainable, Nana is a true specimen of that.
Another aspect of the farm is the variety of sustainably raised goats and chickens, just two days ago there were two new goats born:
After Nana’s workshop we headed to Mary’s to grab some transplant trees for Sheila, then they dropped us off at the Ashram to meet Mary’s friend Morgan. Morgan is the daughter of Laine, the co-owner of the ashram. We had a good time chatting with her and her boyfriend Ken, a nice yoga session followed by dinner at Mary’s was a nice way to end the evening.
Dinner at Mary’s is always a joy, a peaceful house in the mountains surrounded by happiness and a fruit orchard. For dinner we had pasta, veggie chili, cassava sticks, kale salad with avocado and carrot, toasted whole wheat French bread, pineapple, and orange mint water. The gathering of new friends over such a fresh and healthy meal is something that never gets old to me, we ended the meal with basil tea with yerba mate. I ate way too much, I am trying to work on my portion control but I have a lurking voice in my head that reminds me that I could still grow a little bit so I keep eating and hope for a few more inches…not that it will make much of a difference but it is worth a shot.
I got back to the lodge around 8:15 and had a salad waiting for me from the staff, I couldn’t let such a beautiful salad sit in the fridge all night so I decided to eat that as well. The food is all healthy so I don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I would’ve if it were unhealthy food, but needless to say I am really full.
Today was an incredibly informative and interesting day, each of these organic experiences makes me want a farm more and more. Tomorrow morning I will head over to Dennis’s organic farm to help him plant sweet potatoes, I hope it still happens because as of now it has been raining for about 12 hours straight and I doubt these are the ideal conditions for planting. If those plans go south I will attend Sera’s yoga class at 9 AM.
New friends, new organic knowledge, and new memories that will last a lifetime.