Farm Diaries: Finca La Paz Part Two

The second installment from our Coffee Director, Byron Jackson Holcomb, on his recent trip to his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic.

27 September 2011: Lessons

Chop dem weeds. Have any of you ever trained some one to use a computer for the first time? It is painful. No, the mouse is that little thing there. That is a folder, click and drag. No click. No click with the other button. No hold the button down. I did a class down here years ago, it taught me a lot of patience.

Today I had a massive list of projects for Antonio. But before we could do the fun stuff we did some more weed wackin training. He changed the head to a blade that looked like a saw blade. Antonio has great hands, but when it comes to wrenching it takes him a very very long time to get it right.  It seemed like an hour to change the head from the nylon to the saw. I saw that he put it on backwards, I figured the practice was a good thing.

He started it and it just pushed the weeds around. I pointed out that it was on backwards. It only took him 20 minutes to put it on right this time. I was really glad that we did this follow-up training. Antonio is brilliant with what he knows. With small motors and that type of mechanics, it is like a new language.

My thoughts are mixed on the weed eater. I can’t use it on really steep sections (40% of the farm). And the nylon only works on lighter brush, but you can get really close to the dirt. The blades are great for thick brush but we can’t use the guard (more likely to fall coffee trees) or cut that close to the dirt (so the weeds grow really fast and the work needs to be done again).

We spent the rest of the day planning out all the projects: Lemon Persa, Passion Fruit, Yucca, Banana, styrofoam plates soaked in oil to attract and drow broca, broca traps with ground coffee and rum, pruning planning and fertilizer application. I tried to explain how we plan work on Nossa Senhora with precision agro product application (each section with different needs). In a very simplified way that is what today was like.

There is still plenty of work to do. The next few months will be very busy for Antonio.

It is bed time. It is raining. The heat is not appropriate for the season. The harvest is soon to arrive. The cockroaches are roaming the bathroom. And the dogs are eating chicken bones. Nighty night.

29 September 2011: Beginning to Build

Yesterday and today were pretty dandy. Yesterday we spent most of the day drilling holes in metal tubes for the new roof of the parabolic drying bed (the wood roof tore the plastic sheeting every year). The generator wouldn’t start. So we used what did work: two car batteries and an inverter.

There is one guy in these 9 towns who has a drill and a few metal bits. Jose. He is a total clown, and thinks his drill is really manly. I like Jose a lot.

We assembled and drilled one side of the roof. Then the sky fell out and dumped gallons of violent water and lightning that struck really close.

When the lightning slowed to a roll, we turned the inverter back on and it smoked and sparks flew. I borrowed an inverter from Antonio and we finished the job just before nightfall, and the two batteries lost their charge.

Today we headed to the farm with the tubes bundled and shouldered, nails, screws, saws and the omnipresent machetes on our hips. We assembled each side of the roof and put it in place. It was crazy hot all morning. The clouds were low and threatened rain after breakfast. It drizzled a bit but we got the new roof installed and tied to the wood frame. Hopefully this will last us a few more years.

It was 4pm before we started the long walk up the hill.  The rain roared in the distance and I was sure our good luck ran out. It drizzled on us the whole way up the hill to Antonio’s house. Apparently there is a tropical storm in the area. I’ve lived through enough of these seasons (basically since 2003) to know that if it is supposed to be bad, nothing will happen. And if there is no news, it could be the worst of the whole year. Some news means it might rain. It is the end of the rainy season here. So it might rain every day.

This year’s crop was supposed to be massive because of the flowering. However cold dry air didn’t allow the April flowering, which was the biggest, to take, and the crop is smaller than it should have been. Much like is about to happen in Brazil if they don’t get some steady rains soon.

to be continued…