Jungle Women

Selamat Siang!

I write to you now as one who has survived the jungle!
Last weekend Jess and I had the amazing adventure of trekking in the Sumatran rainforest with our super-cool friends here. While Jess has the monopoly on blogging the details, I can’t help but mention a few of my personal highlights.

The day started with a visit to the home of a family of orangutans – including Mina, the orangutan with the Guinness World Record for biting the most humans. Watching them enjoy a breakfast of bananas, and cleverly use giant leaves as umbrellas, made me more certain than ever that “Planet of the Apes” is not so far from reality. Our trek continued in the pouring rain (a welcome relief for the Canadians from the Indonesian heat), with the next stop occurring when I insisted on being just like Tarzan, and swinging from the jungle vines. We also came across wild peacocks, gibbons, monkeys, and a variety of interesting (dangerous?) looking insects. At one point I was somehow convinced to eat a termite (which tasted not too bad) – but could not be swayed to try the giant ants or leeches that were proffered my way. The trek ended with a long climb down the steep river embankment (one part was essentially rock climbing down a cliff face using only a web of tree roots for support), and tubing down the river rapids. After a few days of adventuring, both Jess and I agree that the Sumatran rainforest is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

The gorgeous view of the rainforest from Bukit Lawang.

The gorgeous view of the rainforest from Bukit Lawang.

Ok, with that advertisement for Travel Indonesia accomplished, I’ll get down to the meat-and-potatoes of what Jess and I have been doing with our time the past month.

Our exploration into the many facets of natural farming continues, as we experiment to find the best practices for the eventual training centre here. In August, we wrapped up an experiment on the use of a variety of different natural fertilizers on the growth of Kangkun (a popular Indonesian vegetable). Without getting bogged down in the details, our conclusion was that worms are definitely your friends when gardening. For those of you who may not be familiar with the capabilities of our little underground partners, worms have an incredible capacity to turn organic wastes into a rich humus that is remarkable for plants. The system that capitalizes on this ability is termed “vermi-composting.” If perhaps your harvest didn’t turn out quite as well as you’d hoped this fall, and you’re looking for a few ideas for next spring, I’ll give you the low-down on how to benefit from vermi-composting yourself:

1. Acquire a shallow wide bin with good ventilation.
2. Find a dark, reasonably warm place where you can put your bin.
3. Place moist bedding in the bin (something like shredded newspaper, sawdust, hay, cardboard, burlap coffee sacks, peat moss, dried leaves etc.)
4. Order your worms – E. foetida, or red wigglers, are the most commonly used.
5. Add your worms to the bedding, let them settle in.
6. Throw all your household organic wastes into the bin! Nothing too salty, oily, or spicy – and no meat products.
Then all you have to do is wait for the worms to compost the wastes, harvest the “vermi-castings” (the processed wastes), and use it on your garden! How effective is this as a fertilizer, you ask?

Kangkun plants without fertilizer.

Kangkun plants without fertilizer.

Kangkun plants with 5kg of vermicastings.

Kangkun plants with 5kg of vermicastings.

Jess and I have also been working on aquaponics, Bokashi composting, and drip-irrigation, but that’s probably enough technical details for today.

I’ll leave you with just a few more pictures to catch a glimpse into our lives here.

Our fearless leader teaching students about aquaponics.

Our fearless leader teaching students about aquaponics.

Jess and I helped out the Child Development Program with their day of celebrations and games for Independence Day.

Celebrations and games for Independence Day with the Child Development Program.

Wading in the Straight of Malacca with our favourite littlest Indonesian.

Wading in the Straight of Malacca with our favourite littlest Indonesian.

Bananas on our banana tree.

Bananas on our banana tree.

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