We have been hard at work.
I am surprised I haven’t broken a finger yet to be honest. But I am doing the work and it is getting done haha
I have a great team of guys helping me, doing most of the labor. Our Construction Lead for Develop Sustainability is Abdul. He is leading the building project of Jaja (Grandma) Winnie’s house and when finished with that will lead the construction of the wood shop. But for now Jaja Winnie’s house is on hold while we are making these garden beds.
Truth be told we thought it would only take like a week at most to do. But true to all Ugandan days and projects shit happens and we have to readjust, come up with new game plans and then try things out.
I as well found myself working some form of doubles the whole first week of the build.
Monday P6 started up again. They get 40 days to do a whole term. So you know, plenty of time to get things done...
As part of the school board, and as a student sponsor (I am paying school fees for one P6 student) I sat in on a weeks worth of classes to understand the curriculum, teacher/student interactions and much more.
So This the week of 3/1 - 3/5 I went to the site in the morning and then went to late morning classes at school. Came home for lunch, then went back to school to get the afternoon class notes. Then went to the site to finish the day out with the team working on the garden bedS til about 5. Then home to clean, do dishes, cook, and this same week I also learned how to do hand washing...I’m a full blown Ugandan-esque woman.
While Abdul, Stephen, & Hassan were leveling out the beds and placing the blocks and mortar I was punching holes in the cinder
blocks. The first few days I didn't have gloves, the blisters that came from holding the 2x4 got rough, so Friday (3/5) I ended up going to town to buy some gloves. So of course early Monday 3/8, I started back at the site with my new gloves, they were great, I was able to pick up cinder blocks without pain, or damaging my ring :). I was able to grip the rebar a lot easier...I was however less aware of my hand, and my left hand pointer finger knuckle took quite the
beating. After I had punched through enough holes the knuckle was quite sore.
Today is Wednesday 3/10, we are finishing up the last bed. I went early again this morning like I have all week. I have been doing 7am-10/11am at the site and then home to make breakfast for Robinson, then back to the site for the rest of the day.
Things always change here in Uganda. So now we’re finishing up the sixth bed, there are two beds 4 blocks high at 32”, there are three beds at 3 blocks high with 24” height, all with mortar to support them and there is one bed three blocks high that is built without mortar. We are trying out different techniques and ways to construct it so as to provide the guys with a new skill, one that is marketable. What we are building is new to this
region, and what we as Develop Sustainability do is to build up our crew with skill sets that others don’t have so that we can help them to market themselves even better. Not everyone that might want to have a raised bed could afford the mortar and concrete that go along with it to make them stable so we also had them level and build out the one
without mortar, see how it fairs and if it can be a marketable trade set for them within the village or in surrounding areas.
This will also be a test of construction for us to see if we can build more beds without the mortar, if the bed height is convenient for our crew, if the beds stand up to the weather etc etc etc...
When we finished our first bed at four blocks high we started the conversation of changing the plan for the height. Unfortunately the ideal height for me, is not the ideal height for any one else on our crew :) it’s almost like I am of Scandinavian and Northern European decent, and they are not...haha Brenda, our director, and I were discussing the bed heights once it was done, we both agreed that it is great for me yet could be difficult on tall growing plants for the crew. Now that we are doing the beds were going to grow up the tomatoes instead of on the ground (traditional way here), and if we do that in beds that are that high, a couple of our ladies that tend to the garden wouldn’t be able to care for the plants. So...issue avoided we made them shorter. We also scrapped the idea of growing in each of the holes...that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as I have detailed that I am the one that makes the holes as there are no punched cinderblocks in Uganda. And as fun as it is to not feel your knuckle, falling on blocks and scraping yourself up, and losing the ability to grip things is fun....I didn’t feel like punching 1050 bricks....so instead we punched the top row of the beds. Each row ended up being 28 blocks around. I punched 164 blocks...and left 4 blocks for the boys to punch today as my fingers had simply had enough lol
Punching 168 blocks gives us 16” depth to grow flowers for pest control, herbs to control the spreading through the beds, and enough depth for climbing beans and snap peas to grow over the beds and create a natural shade area for the plants in the beds.
One of the things about farming in Uganda that is so much fun is the grow season. Being as close to the equator as we are (0.2910 *N) we essentially have eternal growing seasons. It allows us to grow for a long long time. Plants get taller than I have ever seen and you simply keep them pruned so that they keep producing fruit/veggie.
<-- stages of the blocks
My block guy (Jimmy) keeps in contact with me, asking for updates and details on the build...I am the first person to come to him asking for blocks punched. He didn’t have a mold for that, he was willing to work with me on creating one and now is curious how my process of punching has gone, the quality of his bricks, the builds and so much more. He is becoming a friend little by little and I like it. He also knows that if this goes well we will be back for more blocks to build more beds. So he has a vested interest in keeping me as a friend as well haha We just have to figure out an irrigation system before we commit to too many more beds.
That process will be very fun to put into place. it will take a lot of ingenuity, patience, and understanding when we start over due to complications haha
Everything is done by hand watering, but when we switch to the beds we have the ability to control the soil so much more than when it is seated on the rock. So we are now looking into irrigation systems that we can incorporate into the beds. Once we figure out that system and how durable and lasting the beds are we can build more and do more with it. This also offers us the opportunity to teach the ladies of the crew how to keep plants and vegetation while ALSO keeping the soil. We will be able to show how to turn and fertilize the soil without constantly replacing all the nutrients that you have just added only a week before...rainy season can be rough on soil.
I have documented the build the whole way. So feel free to look through all the photos and the videos to see how we went from a concept to built beds.
Now we are researching if we can get black soil (that will be a whole new field to train the girls in and I am very excited about that possibility) or if we will use the local red soil and this new manure that one of our crew members has cultivated over the Las at year and a half.
The purpose of Develop Sustainability is to train up the locals, the youths that are so often forgotten here and teach them something so that they can market themselves, make a business for themselves and be able to succeed on their own without anyone’s help. To be sustainable.
One of our guys Joshua took what he had learned about compost, manure, farming and such from us and through a contact that he made started a manure business. Over the last year he has been collecting specimens, purchasing things like a cow that died and adding the whole stinking cow to the pile of manure...and of course egg shells and local items that help to add nutrients to the manure. His stuff is drying in our parking lot right now, and while just sitting there drying things have started to grow in it....it is very fertile. We are very proud of him and the work that he has put into this business and excited at the possibility of being able to partner with him in it and see where we can grow together...see what I did there Dad...grow a business and grow plants!!!! I do puns a lot here, my dad would babe proud.
Small update as of 3/11/21, all bed construction is done. Now we wait for soil and then plant.
I have been attempting to post this for three days...who knows if I will ultimately be able to...