Saturday, January 12, 2013


Here I am, back in site.

Close of Service conference is now in the rear view mirror and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, all of the excitement about post service plans and seeing all of my friends made coming home a double bummer.


Shakira, our largest sow, gave birth to 10 piglets one New Years Day, but because of mastitis or some other problem, she didn't produce any milk.  Only two piglets have survived, and they will be stunted if the do live.  This makes me sad, sad of course as death should make me, but also because I wasn't here to help, and also because Ismael probably feels like it was his fault even though there was likely nothing he could do differently.

Still it makes me happy that I have emotions and knowledge of this tragedy.  There are so many Americans who have no connection to the food they eat and have no idea of the every day tragedies that happen on the farm, even a small farm with good practices and caring hearts.


Parents have told me they've begun planting the trees we gave, the ones we gave the school are all planted too.  One mother confessed she had left her baby trees unattended and the chickens had pecked them near to death.  I reminded her that during grafting all of the leaves are usually removed from the scion and the root stock is completely beheaded, so the trees will likely recover as long as she protects them.


Christmas in the states was wonderful.  It was so good to see everyone.  We made a whirlwind tour that left me wanting for more time.  It made coming back hard, but once we were queuing at Passport control in Quito I realized that I'll be here for less time than all of the study abroad kids who were around me.  Even so, celebrating the end at the COS conference with a full three months left seemed a little premature.


Stacie and I got to the training center two days early.  We endured some post-Christmas feasting self-abasement by dragging ourselves over seven miles and up 2500 ft over the mini mountain Ilalo near Tumbaco.  My new GPS heartrate monitor told me I burned 5000 calories!  Needless to say I couldn't walk normally for two days.


The COS conference was all about making our service marketable, applying and interviewing for jobs, networking, closing projects, and saying goodbye.  I have a list of things I need to sell before I leave and it includes: all of the pigs, the refridgerator, the oven, the guest bed, the master (double) bed, the pots and pans, the dish and flatware, and the kitchen table.


There are officially 99 days left of service.  Last night I celebrated by making chili, having a glass of wine, and watching a movie.


Yesterday I went to town with Ismael to buy more pig feed,  we're buying expired chicken feed now to try to make the business more affordable.  The pigs seem to like it well enough and it's about half as expensive as the commercial stuff.  I did my own shopping as well and now the fridge is full again and so is my stomach.


While I continue through the Iliad (40% now), I've started reading Joel Salatin's You Can Farm and am liking it so far.  Here are some heady quotations:

"Usually, each generation lives just a little above their means. This tends towards impoverishment."

"There is simply no excuse for any type of agriculture that degrades the environment...Any food production system that stinks up the neighborhood -- regardless of how rural -- is unacceptable...If you ever smell manure, you're smelling mismanagement."

"We have created an agriculturally illiterate consuming populace."

"Roughly 30 years ago (from 1998), the farmer received 35 cents of every retail food dollar. Today (1998) his share is less than 9 cents and will soon hit 8 cents if present trends continue."

"The sooner we involve people with their food and show them there is something better than Twinkies and Pop Tarts, cardboard tomatoes and cellulose apples, greasy spareribs and pale eggs, they will realize that the 'system' is totally rotten.  We cannot get an educated, proactive populace as long as we have an agriculture so far removed from end users that they think milk comes from a jug and fish sticks swim around in the ocean."

"Until you know how to make money on an acre of land, you won't know how to make money on two acres."

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