Sustainable Living


OK, I realize that the third word in the title doesn’t exist, and that the second one is a stretch.

The connection between high levels of biodiversity within an ecosystem and increased stability and resilience is fairly well understood. The more genetic diversity there is within the plant and animal communities, the more likely the overall population will withstand disturbances like famine, shifts in climate, or diseases. Does that theory of diversity hold true, for example, when looking at an organization’s approaches to raising the quality of life for rural communities? Or strengthening the economic stability of a region?

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At Efrain and Luz Maria Solis’s house, some serious retaining walls were built to capture soil eroding from yards up-slope. The 20ft x 3oft garden contains a mix of plantains, yucca, mint, squash, hibiscus, grasses for animal forage, and tomato and pepper seedlings. The biodiversity in these kitchen gardens helps to ensure that families will always have something to harvest, and no one kind of disease or pest will wipe their whole garden out.

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Two years ago farmer Jose Natividad Padilla planted ten acres of citrus trees. The EcoCentro worked with him to fill in the space between the young trees with plantains, canavalia beans, and squash and watermelon crops. Increasing the biodiversity of these larger fields not only increases their productivity and economic value, but will help to conserve water and protect the soil from erosion by establishing dense root structures.

The team at the EcoCentro believes it does. They are taking a super diverse approach to working with rural communities in Nagarote, Nicaragua. Workshops in companion planting and forest gardening encourage biodiversity, a handful of ecotechnologies like fuel-efficient stoves, rainwater catchment systems, and composting toilets help to conserve natural resources, and working with people who may only have 1/4 acre as well as with farmers who manage 25 acres of land makes it possible to have a significant impact within a community.

Theoretically, there are many arguments for community development organizations to have a diverse approach toward solving environmental and economic problems. No one solution will fit the many types of people in a community, and not all them experience the same problems. But what are the costs associated with tackling so many approaches at once? We spent some time over the last two weeks digging into the programs that the EcoCentro offers and trying to flesh out how they are connected, which activities support others, and what kinds of the benefits are reaped from different approaches.

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Veterinary student Juan Pablo disinfects a small wound in the leg of a calf at a one family’s house. Animals are an integral part of the rural family’s income and food security. In the past, the EcoCentro has heavily promoted the use of animal fertilizers in compost, and are now offering resources to help maintain the health of those animals as well. 

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EcoCentro team member Eduardo talks with Magali Solis about maintenance for her fuel-efficient stove. The Solis family harvest all their own wood from land they own outside the village. The new stove has saved Magali hours of time cutting and hauling firewood. 

We started with a simple graph of a multitude of programs – school and family gardens, a farmer’s market, co-investments in cash crops, agroecological extension services, ecotechnologies, and hosting voluntourism groups. As we began to discuss the interconnections between programs, different classifications of relationships began to emerge. We talked about liquid capital – the cash needed for agricultural investments or supplies to build a stove – and “corazon” capital – the “feel-good” social capital gained by supporting educational and community-strengthening activities like intercultural exchanges and school gardens. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses of relying on certain programs to generate income, and the risks associated with them. The market leapt out as an “indicator” program – if it is going well and farmers are coming and selling things, then it means that the gardens and farms are doing well.

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Can you see all the hearts? Hint – they aren’t all red.

Hopefully this was the first of many ongoing visioning exercises the team will have on the programming structure. We didn’t come to any concrete decisions, but a few things jumped out. Many activities that support food security also have the potential to generate huge amounts of “corazon” capital (heart capital!), monitoring and tracking each program – both the costs and the measurable impact – will be super important going forward, and every program positively benefited at least one other one: a hopeful indicator that the biodiversity, technodiversity, and scaleversity of the EcoCentro’s work will increase the resilience of the both the EcoCentro and the communities who work with it.

 

My grandmother on the porch of her house in Pennsylvania, Spring 2013.

My grandmother on the porch of her house in Pennsylvania, Spring 2013.

I try to keep this blog to topic: farming and sustainable living anecdotes from Nicaragua and Latin America.  But this time I’m stretching that to include something much more personal.  My maternal grandmother passed away at the beginning of November, prompting a last-minute ticket purchase back to the states to be with my family.  This being the month that starts with the Day of the Dead in Latin America, and also being Thanksgiving time, I’ve done a lot of reflecting about her, my late grandfather, several other family members who have passed away, and how they have all contributed to who I am.  Much of the time I spent growing up with my grandparents centered around family agriculture:  working in the garden, preparing food from the garden or nearby farms, preserving fruits and vegetables, and even special trips to the local tourism attraction, a dairy farm with a kids “petting farm.”  Even though my grandmother never came to Nicaragua, she lived many of the values that I and so many others work to promote here.  Talking about it helps to instill pride and value in what has historically been viewed as a humble means of subsistence, and so I want to share the eulogy that I wrote for my Grandmother, Virginia Elizabeth Kavash Metz, who passed away at age 90 on November 5th:

“Our grandmother was an ideal grandma, in the sense that she knew exactly what grandkids liked: fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, lots of stuffed animals, singing and games, and trips to the petting zoo and the ice cream store.  When we visited her and Poppop in Pennsylvania she was the heart of the house and most often, I remember her in the kitchen.  There was always something wonderful happening there.  Pickled beets, canned tomatoes, freezing 100 ears of corn at a time, and making peach custard or ground cherry pie.  She kept the top left hand corner cabinet of the kitchen stocked with candy and marshmallows that could easily be accessed once you brought a chair over and climbed up on the counter.  Once banished from the kitchen for being underfoot, there was a world to explore.  A patch of woods with a dirt bike track in the back yard, a lawn to play baseball, and a vast garden with strawberries, string beans, peas or tomatoes to pick.  The piano in the living room is lined with pictures, and after family dinners Grandma and her brother, Uncle Herbie, would play.  The piano bench was filled with sheet music – hymns and popular songs from the 1920’s onward.  She taught us how to play chopsticks and would play the left hand part with us.  Years later, struggling with hands knotted with arthritis, she still loved sitting at the piano, Ginny in the middle of her family, picking out the melody to her favorite hymns.

Our lives have been greatly influenced by time we spent with our grandparents in Pennsylvania.  My brothers and I chose to study German at school because of Grandma’s family.  Her father emigrated from Austria-Hungary, and Grandma grew up speaking German with her grandmother, and shared her bed-time prayers and table graces with us.   When I lived in Germany for a year, Grandma was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Germany.  I’ll never forget proudly listening to her labored but successful attempts to relay the stories of her childhood to my host family in German she hadn’t used fluently for years.

Our grandmother was born and raised in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  She had 4 much older half siblings and a mischievous younger brother Herbert.  Herbie remembers her as a very caring sibling, and recounts how when they were young she found an injured robin, tended to the injuries and after the bird was healed, trained the robin to eat from her hand, come upon her call and sit on her shoulder.  She loved animals and enjoyed the companionship of pets for her whole life.  More recently, her morning routine in our house included slipping bits of her breakfast to our dog at her feet, calling the cat to sit next to her, and happily watching the birds at the feeder.

During World War II Grandma joined the Volunteer Medical Service Corps where she enjoyed being part of the Color Guard and especially having the honor to carry the American Flag in parades.  We continued to hear stories of the military balls she attended years later.  She met her husband, Stanley, while in the Medical Corps and they were married in 1949.  For ten years they lived with her family until Stanley finished building a house in Hatfield, where they raised their daughters and established the garden that we knew.

Grandma was a hard worker and supported her family.   After high school she worked at a local Hosiery Mill, and for over 30 years she worked at the North Penn Water Authority in the billing department where she hand-wrote entries in the company ledger in her elegant script.  Although she retired when I was small, I remember going with her to the office to visit her colleagues, as well as to sewing circle and Sunday services at Lutheran and Mennonite Churches.  Her friends called her “Ginny”, and she loved to dress up and go to social events and parties, greeting everyone with a brilliant smile and sparkling blue eyes.  She had a great sense of humor that grew more wry as she aged.  In the morning, when you asked her how she slept she often would answer nonplussed, “With my eyes shut”.  Even as she later struggled with Parkinsons and the mood swings that come with it she always enjoyed making a good joke.

The German table grace Grandma always said roughly translates as, Come lord Jesus, and bless what you with grace have shared with us.  Our grandmother shared with us her love of music and animals; the joy and satisfaction of transforming a garden’s harvest into exquisite dinners, pies and jams; her sense of humor; and our heritage.  We are so blessed to have all these things that Grandma has given us to continue sharing amongst ourselves.

Komm Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segnet was du uns aus Gnaden besheret hast.  Amen.”

A colorful array of locally produced products in Achuapa, Nicaragua from sesame oil to carao syrup to nancite wine!

A colorful array of locally produced products in Achuapa, Nicaragua from sesame oil to carao syrup to nancite wine!

Once upon a time I believed that creating and supporting healthy local food systems meant eliminating imported products – for example, sticking to a 100 mile-diet.  I believed that preaching a local food only diet could solve societal issues such as a disconnect from agricultural businesses and the source of our food, struggling local economies, and poor health and nutrition.  But I began to question that belief as my work in Nicaragua evolved from development centered NGO work to trade oriented development work.  As I have gotten to know several fair trade cooperatives, their histories and their work today, I have had to reassess to a certain extent my intense focus on the benefits of consuming only local food.  Maybe there is a space for positive global trade, one that can, despite the enormous capital and fuel resources, create net positive social impact and work pretty hard on the environmental ones too.  After all, while many local farms in the US have sprung up, grown and profited off of the local food movement, local independent coffee roasters have too!  In general I am a supporter of positive campaigning (put your energy behind what you DO want – if not instead than at least as well as what you DON”T want).  I would not recommend to any local food advocate to go an a campaign to convince the masses to stop drinking their coffee.  Not worth your energy.

It is worth your energy to drink the right coffee though!  Over the years I have found that the agricultural cooperatives I work with here that export coffee and sesame share many of the same values as movements I connect with in the states, such as the local food movement.  The funds they generate – through exporting a commodity to people in countries whose climates or economies that do not support the production of that crop – are often invested in funding environmental youth movements, organic fertilizer production, educational scholarships, and strengthening local food networks.  Every coffee coop we work with has or is currently developing a national brand of export quality coffee to market nationally.  This focus on raising the quality of the Nicaraguan coffee culture through national distribution is a strategy that I find both empowering and an example of good business.  Investing in a product for local markets will help the coops grow, reach new markets, and give them a way to leverage the difference between national and international prices to make the best business decisions each year – as well as strengthening the local food system by providing Nicaraguans the opportunity to drink high quality Nicaraguan coffee.

Another coop we work with, the Juan Francisco Paz Silva Cooperative in Achuapa, exports sesame oil to Europe, mostly for use in cosmetics.  The exports work like the engine that fuels the Cooperative.  It means the Cooperative provides jobs for locals (many of them youth) to run the oil press, the business administration, and the services the coop offers, it generates fair trade premiums – funds that are ear marked for social or environmental projects.  The profits are invested into the business and distributed amongst its members, similar to dividends in a public company.

Doña Socorro displays her handmade pottery at a coop sponsored fair.

Doña Socorro displays her handmade pottery at a coop sponsored fair.

Because the cooperative has been successful both in producing a quality product that has demand on the market and in investing their profits in the community, other organizations are attracted to working with them, and they have been able to collaborate with local and international development organizations on projects improving farm diversity, establishing technical schools, improving access to potable water, and strengthening local food networks.  Over the last three years, the coop has invested in developing a local line of products using what is available and abundant – including sesame, a very nutritious grain which is not a staple of Nicaraguan cuisine.  Through the creativity of some coop members and employees, and now through a new initiative to Recognize the Unpaid Work of Women in the cost of the sesame and use those funds to help women fully participate in local communities and economies, the coop is lending their facilities and marketing support to the development of new products.  The first Nicaraguan-produced Tahini, which has at least made a splash amongst some local expats, was revolutionized when Doña Ernestina, who works at the coop, mixed it with honey produced by the coop and created a sweet sticky spread that appeals more to a Nicaraguan palate.  Individuals and groups of women in Achuapa have the full support of the cooperative in developing and marketing foods made from local ingredients to local communities – funded through the export of sesame oil and sesame seeds to communities as far away as Europe, the US, and Japan.

Suddenly, export vs. local isn’t so black and white anymore.  When a democratic organization with a strong social and environmental vision successfully enters an international market, the impact can be felt very locally.

The end of the dry season is here, finally the heavy hot humid nights have a chance of breaking into real rain.  Two nights ago we fell asleep to such a pleasant soft rain – a gentle beginning to what we know will be months of torrential downpours and dramatic lightning storms.

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The dry season here is s o  d r y  that we had just about given up our back yard garden. We could keep a few pots of herbs in the courtyard, but watering behind the house became so time consuming and difficult to coordinate with all of our business trips up to the coffee region. The courtyard thrived, the ornamentals enjoying the pure sun, and we’ve enjoyed a few more heads of those heavenly little banano rosas.  Everything changed when we installed a drip irrigation system with a battery run timer in the back garden.  Amazing.  Irrigation is a life and farm changing technology here. I knew that theoretically, but now I have lived to see and feel the difference a good system can make in a gardeners life.  Finally we can have a green garden out back, with basil and eggplant and tomatoes and garlic and ginger. Drip irrigation systems do not, however, resolve the leaf-cutter ant and iguana pest problems, and they continue to devour anything that isn’t smelly or spiky.

espanta pajaroAlong with our little chicken coop and garden, we have managed to cultivate such a sweet relationship with our next door neighbors.  Luisito, who is five, is in charge of our chickens when we leave on a trip, and has done such a good job that he has been promoted to garden-waterer and protector-of-the-garden-against-iguanas. Which he usually does with his little rubber slingshot.  Although I haven’t witnessed a successful hunt, I often get long rambling accounts of which trees and holes the iguanas came out of while I was gone, and how many piedras Luis slung to scare them all away. When we left for the states for a short trip last month, Luis promised to be extra attentive.  The morning after we returned I glanced out the back and stopped, thinking someone was in our yard.  No, Luisito and his grandfather had built us a “scare-iguana” in the back bed!  Now we just need to figure out what a “scare-leaf-cutter-ants” looks like!

ginger sprout

Ginger is one of my favorite things. Period. To watch sprout, to grow, to grate, to eat, to drink.

 

On it's way to unfurling into an impressive 5 feet tall orange cactus flower.

On its way to unfurling into an impressive 5 feet tall orange cactus flower.

 

Sacuanjoche, the national flower

A Sacuanjoche tree, the national flower, unfurling new leaves

 

Gallon water bottles make excellent seed trays along the sunny wall in the courtyard.

Gallon water bottles cut in half make excellent seed trays along the sunny wall in the courtyard.

 

Last week we celebrated my birthday with lots of tropical flowers, fruits, and friends.

Last week we celebrated my birthday with lots of tropical flowers, fruits, and friends.

 

The boiled nuts are high in protein and low in fat.

The boiled nuts are high in protein and low in fat.

Every now and then I have come across some nuts in the market, tied into plastic bags.  In León it’s rare to find them.  They have a brittle brown shell and are wet, clearly boiled, and the inside is creamy and dry and tastes vaguely like a chestnut.  People sell them as castañas, which actually is the spanish word for chestnut.  They are a rare treat to find here – one of a handful of traditional fruits that don’t really have a market and many people are unfamiliar with.

I recently discovered the tree that the nuts come from at a place that I’ve been to frequently.  One of the sesame coops that I work with through the Social Business Network founded a local vocational highschool.  All the agricultural coop offices – and the school – have gardens with carefully selected ornamental and edible plants: hibiscus flowers, roses, plantains, mangos, avocados, achiote, mint, and almond.  I have always admired this one tree in the front of the yard.  It has huge, beautiful glossy green leaves with scalloped edges, and a straight tall trunk.  I assumed it was an ornamental, until I once saw a spiky green round fruit the size of a small melon.

Artocarpus camansi fruit and leaves.

Artocarpus camansi fruit and leaves.

At first I mistook it for a breadfruit tree, which I have seen on the Caribbean coast.  Actually it’s an Artocarpus camansi tree, cousin of the breadfruit known as the breadnut, and produces those hard-to-find nuts.  I found that out when the secretary of the cooperative took some of the brown, fallen fruit and dried it to get the seeds out and bring to some friends who liked the tree and wanted to plant some.  As we tore open the spiky fruit, I recognized the seeds, and collected some to cook.  The woman who lives at the school and cooks had heard of castañas but had never seen them before, and was a bit sceptical but game to try them.  We boiled them for a half hour and then cooled them down and they were exactly like the ones in the market – creamy nutty flavor.  Not exactly like chestnuts – but I bet they would be good roasted.

On the less dried fruit, the seeds were encased in a thick gooey fruit.

In the less dried fruit, the seeds were encased in a thick gooey flesh.

Yesterday (October 19th) was the United Nations’ designated World Toilet Day.  While it is maybe not the most appealing over-the-dinner-table subject, there are many many reasons to devote time to thinking about – and re-thinking the design of – our toilets.

There are sanitary, environmental and social reasons to dedicate time and resources to creating accessible and appropriately functioning toilets.  Proper disposal of waste prevents spreading contagious diseases, untreated and unprocessed raw sewage contaminates fresh water, and our society just doesn’t accept people  – especially women – just going anywhere.  Venturing out into the dark to find a place to relieve yourself can be a very scary venture as a single woman.  But while they have drastically improved our quality of life, toilets as most of us know them also have some serious environmental consequences.  Toilets help us reduce the spread of disease and contaminants in our own home and property, but the sewage systems in industrialized countries createa a  – not-in-my-backyard problem of many peoples small amounts of waste and bringing it all together in massive pools that then need chemical treatment to process and use billions of gallons of fresh water in the process.  There are in fact many other solutions to disposing of our waste – in our own backyards – and even turning it into products with net gain.  Composting toilets provide social and sanitary solutions to our waste issues and also have many potential environmental benefits.  And with some recent attention and funding from the Bill Gates foundation, toilets may soon earn us profits by creating electricity and producing high protein animal feed!

Here is a slide show of some of my favorite Nicaraguan composting toilets:

 This is a hand made seat for a dry composting toilet.  A dry composting toilet, or baño seco, separates the urine from solid waste and doesn’t use any potable water to operate.  Urine alone is a sterile, nitrogen-packed liquid, and breaks down quickly, so once it is separated it can be drained directly into a garden (best if the hose is moved around every now and then) or deposited into a bucket which can be emptied over a compost or fermented and applied directly to young crops.  The solid waste falls into a container beneath the toilet.  The container should be large enough to take at least a year to fill, and then the seat disconnects and moves over a second container.  The filled container is capped and left to decompose over another year, at which point any harmful bacteria is burnt up in the fermenting process and it is a dry, rich organic fertilizer.

The composting toilet is on a slope so the containers of dry waste can be accessed when they are full.

A distinct benefit to the dry composting toilet over the standard outhouse is that it is the presence of urine that creates the foul odor associated with raw sewage, and so this outhouse has an earthy, fermented smell but it’s not unpleasant.  Even though the design avoids any direct handling of contaminated waste, it is still recommended to use the finished fertilizer on perrenial crops or forage.  This particular dry composting toilet is in coffee country, and so the family has directed both the urine hose and the dry fertilizer to their coffee plants.

 

These dry separating toilets have become very popular in the region.  Raleigh International, a british based organization that has been doing water projects in the area for years, recently helped to build and install 40 more toilets in a nearby community.  This time they worked with a design that can be more easily mass produced than the hand built clay toilet seat – a concrete seat and base with metal walls.

 

A few years ago a friend near us who owns the Barca de Oro Hostal on the Las Peñitas beach built four beautiful bamboo cabins with composting toilets in a lush green yard behind the hostal.  She worked with a local fiberglass craftsman to create a system that fit her needs.  Here is a rather glowing picture of the toilet, with the daylight dramatically lighting up the fixture in the dim light of the cabin.  In her system, there is a system of pvc tubes that take the urine to a point far away from the cabins.  A detachable fiberglass tank is fitted underneath the bathroom, so that instead of needing the space to put two containers in the bathroom, the filled fiberglass take is removed, capped and left to decompose and an empty one is attached.

The new methane producing systems have ceramic bowls and don’t separate waste.

 

 

 

Other than producing fertilizer, composting toilets can also produce methane, which can be used as cooking fuel.  Also created using animal manure in bio-digestors, methane provides rural Nicaraguan women with an alternative to burning wood fuel for cooking – eliminated smoke and soot from the kitchen and improving the family’s risks of respiratory illness.  One of the coffee cooperatives in the Jinotega has given members access to this type of composting toilet – and last Christmas when we went up to pick coffee for a few days we were treated to a breakfast cooked on fuel we helped produce!

The sealed tank outside holds all the waste and has space to collect the methane. When it fills the fermented solids can also be used as fertilizer.

Includes a clean new stovetop!

 

 

     To celebrate Nick’s birthday this past week he decided to do another Carne en Baho, a traditional Nicaraguan dish that we first tried making two years ago.  The party was planned in a casual, informal style – word of mouth, calling friends, making sure that we invited everyone we ran into out town – but there was no facebook invite or big email sent out.  As the date got closer, friends of friends began asking us what they could bring, and we realized that the word really had gotten out!  So the baho plans became more ambitious and in the end we made the most enormous single pot of food I’ve ever seen.  Possibly too big – although passing out all the leftovers to neighbors and friends was fun and earned us quite a bit of social capital points in the neighborhood (and maybe helped to mend any bad feelings left after having played loud music until the wee hours of the morning).

Putting together the baho is an creative endeaver.

     My favorite part of making baho is actually layering all the ingredients into the giant pot.  It’s a very artistic endeavor, and the aesthetic of packing all the ingredients in to the pirol as tightly as possible is visually very pleasing!  The colors of all the raw ingredients are vibrant and beautiful, but when you open the pot after steaming them for 4 hours they have all faded to a dull brown in the meat juices.  But if you’ve done it right, the smell that then fills your whole house makes up for the not-as-pretty-anymore dish.

     We have learned some things since taking on this endeavor  – this time we sat down before hand with our Nica friends and worked out the ingredient list in weight and volume measurements rather than in prices, so we didn’t have to worry about getting ripped off at the market and coming back with less than what we needed.  In the end, we ordered 50 lbs of salted beef from our neighbor across the street, and got a half a sack of yuca, 50 ripe plantains and 20 green plantains, 5 lbs of onions (enough for salad and chili sauce too), a bucket of tomatoes, a bucket of big green peppers, two dozen each of sweet and bitter oranges, three big bunches of mint, a head of celery, and four heads of garlic at the market.  Don’t forget the plantain leaves to line the pirol too – they need to be shiny green and fresh.  The first batch we bought in a hurry as a thunderstorm began at the market, and when we opened the roll of leaves they were moldy so we had to go find more.  We didn’t add up what we spent, but it probably came to around $150 with the meat included, which is a really good deal considering we served at least 150 plates of food in the end!

Our little friends Naomi and Yulisa, relaxing together after actually helping us with a lot of food prep and sweeping!

     Everyone loves a good party, and thank goodness some people love putting together a good party too!  Two of our good friends Melania and Maria Jose spend the whole day helping us chop and prepare and clean, giving us the space to run some last minute errands.  Hooray for our village.  They have been very supportive!  Somehow we managed to create a space that all sorts of people could enjoy – early in the evening our friends with small kids came and had popcorn and played with balloons and helped with last minute setting up.  Some of them left when the house really started filling up and we opened the Baho.  We asked the DJ from our favorite salsa bar in town to come play, and he has such good taste in music that everyone danced – the real Nica indicator that it was a good party!  At the very end of the evening (er, that is, pushing 4am!) the DJ stopped and some of the guests who are musicians played piano and sang, which was a super sweet ending to a rather exhausting but fun evening.

Oof, just barely too much food even for such a giant pot….

 One of my main objectives was to throw a big party without creating a load of awful plastic and styrofoam trash afterward.  I think we were quite successful at that – we shopped at the market using canvas bags instead of buying packaged produce from the supermarket, and also got a few dozen re-usable plastic cups and plates that are light and pack tightly together so we can store them away easily for most of the years.  We served the Baho on the re-usable plastic plates on top of a banana leaf, so after a person finished the leaf could be put in our compost bucket (oh man, our chickens are having a three-day post-fiesta feast now!!!), and the plate could just be rinsed quickly before another leaf was put on and Baho served to someone else.  We were definitely short overall cups, but when someone asked for a cup we just asked them to find an abandoned one and we (or they) would wash it, and no one ever failed to find a used cup sitting under a chair to grab.  With the largest party that has ever been thrown at this house (probably 120 people in total!), at the end of the night we generated – one giant tub of compost for the chickens to enjoy, one large sack of empty plastic soda and rum bottles (which will be recycled), and one medium kitchen garbage bag of paper and plastic trash.  Not bad!

     As before, we were reminded that it’s important to make extra, because it’s customary here to ask for a plate of food to bring home to the person left watching the house while everyone else is at the party.  Some of our neighbors even came the next day asking for leftovers – a true compliment!  My favorite response was from our next door neighbor, when her daughter remarked to her that the baho was really tasty: “well, my goodness, he (Nick) has lived here in Nicaragua for long enough to have learned something useful by now!!”

Can you smell it?!

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