Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Farming in Tortola

We're now reaching the end of our 2 weeks in Tortola. We've had good fun and learnt lots. We have weeded (and put the weeds in to the liquid compost tank as pictured), planted crops and harvested crops. We even got the chance to help our host, Aragorn, to sell the produce at a couple of local farmer's markets. In between all this, we've had a chance to explore the island a bit and to play in the sea! Today we are meeting up with one of Aragorn's friends who is kindly going to take us on his boat to St.  Martin.



Sunday, 10 March 2019

On to Tortola

We have now left Puerto Rico.  We were lucky enough to get a ride on a cargo ship that steams between Puerto Rico and st. Thomas in the U.S. virgin islands. The shipping company is owned by friends of Mel's sister and we were able to make the 7 hour journey in the ships galley. We arrived into st.  Thomas at first light as evidenced by the photo below, which has the ship in the background. From st. Thomas we had breakfast and then caught the first ferry to Tortola. Once here, our good luck continued and we m



et up with an inspiring figure called Aragorn (named after the Tolkien character) who our good friend Charlotte once met. He runs an organic farm in the hills and has room for us to stay here.  The view from the farm is in the last photo. We are helping out on the farm until the 20th March when we already have another boat to St.  Martin. More news about what we're doing on the farm and on Tortola next time.

Monday, 25 February 2019

All Hands and Hearts

We are now in San Juan once again, enjoying our final week in Puerto Rico, before we head off on Sunday. We have spent the last week working hard on yabucoa, a small town on the south east  coast.  This is where Maria, the category 5 hurricane first made landfall just over a year ago. We were volunteering with the U.S. charity 'All hands and hearts' which does reconstruction work on the many houses and community centres that still remain damaged. We put on full protective gear to treat houses for mould, went on roofs to seal and paint them, as well as other repair and light construction work. We also had time to go out on the neighbourhood and collect litter. It was tiring but useful work and the enthusiasm and energy from the other volunteers was great to see. There were about 80 volunteers and staff, varying from day volunteers to those who have been here for months. You can check out the organisation at www.allhandsandhearts.org if you're interested.



Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Trees we love

We've moved down from the mountains to the small town of Yabucoa, in the south east of Puerto Rico, where we are helping repair the hurricane damaged houses of local people. We'll blog more about that next time. In the meantime, we wanted to share some photos of some of the tropical trees that we encounter here. Quite a difference to the trees back home in Leicester! Almost all trees here are evergreen broadleaf. Last time we blogged a photo of a pea bush. This variety of pea is called 'pigeon pea' and grows in tropical areas. The first photo here is of a 'primordial' fern tree which have been on earth since the time of the dinosaurs. Second is a tree covered in bromeliads. These, and other epiphytes, are very common. The local frog species, called a coqui, loves to live in them.  Some epiphytes don't have roots and can even be found living on overhead wires. Finally, many of the trees here have beautiful flowers like the one below which looks like a firework.



Monday, 11 February 2019

Farming



We now have less than a week in this placement in the mountains of central Puerto Rico. We have been working hard each day. Steve has mostly been clearing land that has grown over since the hurricane and above is a photo of him in his fetching 'strimming outfit'. Mel has mostly been helping Kuka, who is an employee here. They have been sifting soil and planting out seeds and seedlings. We also  have helped in other places. For example, Steve helped at the nursery of La Para Naturaleza, which is a conservation group. We both helped out in the community garden of a  group in the nearby city of Caguas. They are called 'Urbe Apie' and above is a photo of us harvesting peas.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Hurricane effects really hit home

We've now arrived in Guayama district in the mountains of southern Puerto Rico. Here we are helping Cesar, whose farm and home were seriously damaged by the 2 hurricanes. Despite happening over a year ago, there is still lots of reconstruction to do. The water tank that you see here was filled with 800 gallons  of water and was thrown  from the roof of the house in the background. 5 rooms, that were to be a home for adults with Downs syndrome, had their roof blown off. Perhaps worst of all, for a farm, most of the fruit trees were swept away. We have started work planting new seedlings in buckets and clearing debris ready for planting. We've also taken some time to explore the local area, with Cesar and fellow volunteer Cecilia. Celsa, Cesar's wife has just arrived and has been shocked by the changes. Not only the farm but the whole community has changed with entire roads, shops and other community centres no longer existing.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

A pond across the pond

We have just returned from the small island of Vieques which lies off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Here Steve was sharing knowledge gained from the uk in building a pond on the grounds of a small holding and guest house. The site was destroyed by the hurricanes last year and is being rebuilt but this is the first time that they have had a pond. 
We stayed in a tent with a fantastic view over jungle to the sea. The pond required levelling (not easy as it was on a hill!), lining and landscaping with suitable tropical plants  such as bromeliads. In the tropics you need to be careful because ponds breed mosquitoes so we needed to find fish to eat the mosquito larvae
Luckily we found some native fish in another pond nearby and caught some with fish traps made from  old bottles. Everyone gathered round for the releasing of the fish. Dragonflies, water beetles and other wildlife arrived on their own. We hope that the pond will be a source of interest for humans and wildlife for years to come.