Trabajando La Tierra (Working the Land)

5 Dec

And finally…we are working the land!

Last week we had a chance to test some soil sites and from the looks of things Taty’s land seems to be the most thriving and healthy place for us to grow our garden.  At first we were concerned there wouldn’t be space for us to grow much because the land, despite having excellent soil, was overgrown with lots of plants, leaves, vines, and other debris.  To be honest, it was hard to tell what was supposed to be there and what wasn’t.  It was a little bit of a hodgepodge crazy mess of stuff.   Kind of reminded me of how my studio gets when I’m in the middle of an intense art project.  Stuff everywhere, the beginnings of ideas either coming to life or long since abandoned…and while it may look like utter chaos to anyone else, I know exactly where everything is and how to navigate through that space.  I guess Taty’s land is kind of like Nelson’s art studio.  His methods of planting may not look very organized to an outsider, but he knows every inch of the soil like the back of his hand…and at the end of the day the fruits (and veggies) of his labor are quite tasty!

We linked up with Nelson last week to show him our seedlings and see about the possibility of getting some space to grow things.  He showed us around a bit, taught us how to pull up the yuca roots, and sent us home with a giant bunch of green bananas (guineito).  Then he said told us “Volveremos manana. Los vamos poner bonito.”  (Come back tomorrow.  We’ll make it pretty.)

Me pulling up some yuca...mmmm.

Here’s a short video of Nelson cutting down some green bananas:

We showed up the next morning around 9:30am (late) with rakes, gloves, a few bags of beans, and a shovel.  When we arrived, Nelson and his son Elia had already begun clearing some of the land with machetes and had a few piles of dried leaves burning.

This is what the land looked like when we arrived.

Renzo and I got to work quickly, raking dried leaves into large piles and pulling green weeds and old calabaza (squash) vines.  It felt great to finally dig in and get to work. Seeing the landscape transform before our eyes so quickly…turning chaos into order…was so very satisfying!

I'm happy & I'm raking, what can I say?

Renzo raking the leaves. He got the big rake.

After a couple of hours of all of us working pretty hard, Nelson asked us if we wanted some refrescos and headed off on his bike to the colmado.  He returned with the all-time breakfast of champions- cherry soda & hot dog buns.

Soda-n-buns. Don't knock it till ya try it.

I’m joking, but in all honesty we were very grateful for the provisions this humble man had provided us.  When someone offers the gift of food, you eat.  We were happy to have some sustenance, and enjoyed our meal thoroughly.  Renzo even found a bitter orange on the ground and squeezed it into our cherry sodas.  Excellent move!

After another hour or two in and Renzo and I began to understand why Nelson was covered head to toe in clothing.  Something about the calabaza vines was making our arms really irritated and itchy.  At one point my feet got attacked by fire ants (ouch!) which hurt, so I had to make a few runs to the water tap to deal with the situation.  I’m sure I looked really funny because it was that kind of running where the person is going, “Ow, ow, aye, ow!” LOL

Pretty soon we were all kinda losing steam, but looking around there was good reason. You could really see the results of our hard work!  We had cleared almost a third of the land. Check out these before and afters:



Before we left Nelson and Renzo thought we should plant some beans since we’d cleared so much space and I agreed.  Nelson showed us how he uses a stick to punch the holes in the earth and then he put a few beans inside each one.  Before we left Nelson said a prayer and we agreed to meet on Monday at the same time (unless it rains).  We woke up this morning to gray skies and by the time we got to the land the light drizzle had turned into full-on rain.  Nelson wasn’t there and the land was soaked.  We took a few steps in, and had to turn back because our shoes were stuck full of mud, plus we didn’t want to compact the soil too much with the impact of our footsteps.

We are eager to continue our work, but the soil probably needs a good full day of sun to dry up first.  At some point this week we’ll find Nelson (he doesn’t have a phone) around the campo and make a plan.

6 Responses to “Trabajando La Tierra (Working the Land)”

  1. ANA December 5, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    you are doing a great job over there!!! like all your video!!!

  2. Diana December 6, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Mmmm…yucca. The best yucca I ever had was in the mountains of the DR. We took a horseback trip up a mountain and then ate at a big barbecue. So delicious!

    Augie stepped in fire ants on the beach down there. He ripped his bathing suit off, ha ha!

  3. maria blanco December 6, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Hey my dearest son Renzo and Annie I am so proud of you guys for doing such a great project: working in the field of my piece of land. I have so much fun (laugh a lot) looking at your picure and video. It’s great. I instantly felt the desire to be there with you guys working in the soil, cleaning and picking dry leaves and cut and grab some yuca like you did Annie. Even I would enjoy eating a piece of that bread with a cup of soda. uhmmm good. Well, my dearest Renzo and Annie keep working hard( not too hard please), because we want to see all that medicinal herbs growing fast. Thank you for your project, continue with it cause I hardly can wait to see more pictures and videos. God bless both and everybody that helping you guys overthere in The Dominican Republic.

  4. dominicanroots December 6, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Sounds delish! Joe & Thellie took me up to the mountains in DR once too and they had a bbq/picnic up there for us. I wonder if it was the same place?
    And now I have a very funny image in my head of your dad, lol! Oooofah, no bueno!

  5. dominicanroots December 6, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Hola Taty! Thank you for your sweet comments & for providing us with “tierra buena” for our project. We are fixing up your land so it will be nice and organized and look real “pretty” as Nelson said. I hope when you see it you are pleasantly surprised! Looking forward to seeing you for the holidays…miss you (and your cooking!), hope you are well. 🙂 xoxo

  6. dominicanroots December 6, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks Ana! xo

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