This is the hot and hazy season in Northern Thailand. The school year ends and the children head for the cool of the mountain villages if they have a safe place there. Otherwise, they relax in-between early morning and early evening work in the gardens. Afternoons, they wheedle a trip to the waterfall to cool off. This year we've had the benefit of Spencer's guidance along with Earn and our volunteer, Victor, to lead new projects.
When the rains come, they are heavy and any areas without vegetation get washed away. We have one gulley between the buildings that could wash out our road. The children and staff teamed up to dig and set used tires into the sides of the gulley. These will be planted with small trees and other plants that will help protect the hillside.
The new "One Rai" test field had been carefully watered to raise the first crop of nutrient fixers - the sun hemp. It will be trampled and cut into the field for a "no-till" soil amendment.
All the fields are being cleared and covered to wait for the rains. New fields are being set up with rows of bamboo to outline them for raised beds.
We have a test group of our longan fruit trees that have a ring of biochar set in the ground around them. This will help hold water and has turned out to be a great place to grow fresh herbs.
Taking a break from the vegetable gardens the children and staff have been planting sunflowers for the seeds and marigolds to repel mosquitoes. Lots of bright colors!
Thank you for helping us build out our capacity to protect our land and fresh produce to feed the children.
Best wishes for a wonderful summer ahead!
Dana, Michael, Evelind and the Warm Heart Children and Staff
We start 2023 with the last of the fall harvest bounty, along with a strong reminder to conserve water. The rains have ended, one of our well pumps has stopped working, and the village water system has a broken pump.
So far we are getting by with our second well and the sub-district offices have promised some fresh water for the children and some lake water for the vegetable gardens. The dry season still has 5 or six months to run, so this is a good wake-up call for all the children and staff to conserve water.
We're still harvesting tomatoes and there is a small kitchen garden full of salad greens. The children all eat salad now and have converted to my vinaigrette for salad dressing, rather than the creamy sweet one they used to eat.
We spend Sunday afternoon making a big vat of tomato sauce that was split between the vegetarians, the meat sauce eaters, and the extra frozen for later use.
The Keyhole Garden has started to yield beans, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and some huge squash spread into a nearby tree.
The compost piles are yielding for the kitchen gardens and new ones have been set up for the next planting.
The building of the new rainwater catchment tanks is underway, with some old orchard trees being removed to clear the space. This is located between the current active fields and the new "One Rai" field (a bit less than half an acre).
Spencer, Earn, and the children added biochar and some other natural soil enhancers to get the field started. Sun hemp will be the first crop - it will add nutrients and then be the first "No-till" crop to be left in the field, with the next crop planted on top.
Thank you for making this all possible!
Best wishes for the New Year ahead!
Dana, Evelind, Michael, the Warm Heart Children, and Staff
It is the beginning of September and the rains have slowed from daily to every other day. As farmers, we are usually grateful for the rain and try to collect as much as we can in our large blue plastic rainwater catchment tanks. The longan trees had a rare year of heavy fruit and we harvested them in mid-August. Prices were low but we did make about $700 to go towards the children's home and further farm development.
With all the rain, we have been out in it tracking the water flow and erosion points. We have been able to get Vetiver Grass "King's Grass" cuttings from the Land Development Department and have been planting them along steep slopes.
Spencer and Earn, along with some volunteers from the US, set up compost stations that take the kitchen scraps and plant cuttings. The first batch of compost was ready in time to fill the "Keyhole Garden" - a self-contained walled-in structure to grow a range of vegetables. It is one of the innovations that Spencer and Earn have introduced to build up areas of rich soil.
The kitchen staff has been open to improving the growing beds, using raised beds to ease the bending and protect the soil We've had a large crop of cucumber and long beans in between the rows of chili peppers.
Some of the newer fruit trees we planted over the years have been producing fruit. Our pomelo tree (like grapefruit) is heavy with fruit, all the lime trees are ready and our one lemon tree is also full of fruit this year.
The children love all the fruit and come to alert us when it is ripe to eat. They pick it and take it to the kitchen to be recorded and shared. they know the many greens that the hill-tribe staff grow in their kitchen gardens or harvest wild among the garden plots.
Thank you for your enduring support for the children and this project. We are enjoying the healthy results of the hard work by the children and staff.
As we look ahead to find ways to make Warm Heart more self-sustaining, we are pleased to have the offer of assistance from a longtime friend in organic farming (Spencer) and two of our college graduates (Earn and Koon). Spencer built an organic vegetable marketing company and Earn has a degree in environmental sciences. Spencer has a broad network of farmers and innovators in organic agriculture and Earn is applying what she learned in school. Koon has a degree in nutrition and is seeing ways to apply her knowledge to our food consumption They are assessing our current systems and how we can add new farming techniques to increase our yields, and make it easier to farm and manage scarce water resources. Once we have a picture of our current state, we can engage the staff and children in designing and organizing the gardens for more intensive farming,
The current gardens have been nurtured over the years from dirt made mostly of clay to a soil that grows a range of crops. Biochar mixed with compost or manure has brought back the soil. We have been growing an increasing amount of our own vegetables along with eggs from the chickens. The team is collecting ideas for improvements and we’re looking forward to testing the techniques.
As we mentioned previously, water is a major concern and we have started repairing and improving our current water system. We have rain tank catchment on most of our buildings and we added a drinking water filter at the children’s home to save on purchased drinking water. We've gone out in rain storms to see which way the water flows to divert flood waters. With the details on Google Earth, we can see how the after flows and plan catchment areas for each garden plot.
With all the day-to-day activities required to keep the children healthy and in school, we have kept the gardens active, but now we have a team to focus on them and improve our bounty.
Thank you for supporting and encouraging us. We'll keep you posted as we learn more!
The rains stopped and we are conserving water again. The greens growing under the blue netting are refreshed from tubs of water when we go to pick our dinner salad. The children have been turning the soil in the fields to prepare them to be covered with straw for the dry season. School is still online, so there is time to get out to care for the animals and the fields.
There has been some swine flu nearby and the cost of pork has skyrocketed - from USD 3 per kg to USD 9 per kg. Needless to say, the children have been served more vegetables and chicken. The situation has been a lesson for the children to make the food for the pigs so they do not risk spreading the virus from some purchased feed that may be contaminated. We had been purchasing some feed and making about half of the food from local greens and banana trees.
Now the children are helping to collect and dry the leaves and plants to store ingredients and build up supplies. Banana tree stalks are a major ingredient and need to be chopped finely. We planted a number of banana trees around the property, both for eating bananas and animal feed, and we are glad to have a steady supply. So far the pigs have stayed healthy, although they do not like the chilly nights and we are careful to check their mosquito netting to avoid bites that might carry disease.
The children have come to appreciate the variety of meat they had before the swine flu outbreak. For now, they are making food and caring for the animals, glad to see the pigs welcome them with loud greetings as they dig into the homemade food.
Best wishes for the New Year!
Thank you for making this all possible!
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