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Finca “Reserva las Tangaras”

January 16, 2021

We arrived at the reserve with the promise of an “orchard” but what we found was 20 moss covered and undeveloped lime trees; 10 stands of overgrown and undermaintained bananas; along with a few avocado and coffee plants that seemed to have seen better days. Furthermore, the jungle was encroaching on the orchard, testing the borders with vines, saplings, and decayed treefall. We know the previous managers tried to produce something viable and we are not knocking their efforts, the pandemic and lack of oversite were the main reasons why the orchard was in need of some maintenance. Left as is, the orchard would produce nothing more than bitter disappointment.

Our orchard, in its post lockdown state

As aspiring homesteaders, avid guerilla gardeners and all-around veggie-heads, we placed “creating a finca (farm)” high on the list of projects we hoped to achieve while we are managers here at Reserva Las Tangaras. This job would not come easy and, with even the shortest seed to harvest time taking around three months, would yield little “fruits of our labor”. However, when looked at life from the perspective that the rewards are not in the results but rather in the process, creating a functioning farm from nothing is just as sweet as the first harvest that we will probably never get to enjoy. We hope that future managers and their guests benefit from our efforts and that they too enjoy working to sustain the little finca that we have brought back to life.

The first shoot of a planted carrot top

Finca Las Tangaras has its roots in three goals: that it provides abundance in harvest and variety; that it is a free as possible to set up and perpetuate; and that it requires little effort or inputs to maintain. Let us start with the economical goal first: we wanted the farm to be established and run for as little extra cost to the reserve or to ourselves. In the most basic terms, you need four parts to grow a plant: light, water, a nutrient rich medium and the plant itself. Mother nature provides the first three of those four inputs, in varying levels of abundance, but all for free. Historically, in the months of December through to May (the duration of our tenure here) we are expecting 5 to 8 feet of rain. Yes, you read correctly, that is so much free water falling right out of the sky. The landscape here not only provides part of the nutrient rich medium, which is the molasses-colored soil found all around us, but also gentle slopes which can be channeled to increase or decrease water to certain areas of the finca. The rain does not last forever as summer months see little rainfall, so planning is needed to retain as much of the infrequent summer rains as possible. The last of mother nature’s gift is light, provided by that glowing dot of plasma we call our sun. Judging by the high amount of rainfall we expect while we are here, we also expect low hours of sunlight. This means that plants will not grow as much as they would in summer months when the sunlit hours are longer, but that does not stop them from becoming established during the rainy season. The last part of the economic equation is the plants themselves. We chose to source them from kitchen scraps of food that we would buy to feed ourselves such as garlic, onions, peppers, cilantro, basil, and scallions or try to get cuttings of cassava and sugar cane, for example, cheaply from local farmers. So far, we have spent a grand total of $0.00 on the farm, other than buying food to feed ourselves, but have 10 varieties of plants growing.

A row of garlic shoots, planted from single garlic cloves, at the beginning of January 2021

It is our hope that those 10 varieties grow to 30 and that there are enough of those 30 varieties to go around. Abundance not only comes in what you can produce but that you produce enough that you can eat some of it fresh, preserve some of it and still have enough to be able to produce seeds or replant. The man-made economy has a truly evil way of copyrighting and trademarking everything, including the seeds of most of the produce that we eat. What we are doing here may be illegal in some jurisdictions, as people should be rebuying seeds from giant corporations such as Mansato but, we feel that what is illegal is not always immoral. Possessing the ability to replant your own food means that you possess a perpetual state of abundance and control the seed to harvest to seed cycle without the need to fatten some corporation’s already bludgeoning pockets over some ridiculous law.

Parsley, scallions, garlic, carrots and onions growing in our herb box

Our time here is short, and most grow cycles are long, with a schedule of maintenance that needs to occur to keep the finca up and running. We do not expect all managers to have a green thumb (or even keep the farm running at all) but we hope that they will see the value of spending time growing their own food, rather than having to walk a total of 4 hours to town and back, half of which would be walking loaded with a backpack of food. For this reason, we have written a guide to planting, maintaining, and harvesting each of the different varieties of produce that we currently have and will have available in the finca. The guide should provide managers with even the highest plant mortality rate to keep them “in the green” if followed correctly. Additionally, the design of the finca itself provides low maintenance systems so that future managers can almost sit back and watch the food grow itself. Take for example our compost system. We go through roughly 1 to 2 lbs of food scraps every 2 or 3 days. Instead of going into the garbage, we throw these scraps into one of four compost pits, filled in on a cycle to reduce smells and increase compost production. These pits will not only generate nutrient rich compost (the starter for many a plant to come) but also act as water sinks to provide a pool for banana, cassava, and papaya plants to tap into when rains are low.

Two compost pits, which require food scraps, brown leaves, sun and time to produce rich compost in a few months

Our principles are based on Permaculture and experimentation. Watch what lessons the plants and the forest teach that day. Trust us, there will be many failed banana plants before the first successful one comes bearing fruit. Permaculture courses are freely available in most cities and online, so we implore you to start growing your own food at home and stop paying the companies who produce the insecticides, pesticides, hormones, and genetically modified foods that are bad for our planet, for our health, and detrimental to the livelihoods of our farmers. Also, follow us on Instagram @reserva_las_tangaras_mindo and Facebook @ Reserva las Tangaras for periodic updates on how our finca is growing, all of the delicious produce we manage to harvest, and the creative ways we put it to use.

First harvest from one of our newly maintained banana plants
4 Comments leave one →
  1. sloop40 permalink
    January 17, 2021 7:11 am

    I totally enjoy reading your posts….your endeavors are appreciated. 

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


    • January 30, 2021 11:12 am

      We’re so glad that you enjoy them! More to come, at least once or twice per month. Thank you for following us on here and on our social media pages! We appreciate the support!

      Oh, and we love and miss you Mom! haha Not very professional, but that’s ok 😉 xo

      Best, Katie & Nick


  2. Carlos A. Padilla permalink
    February 18, 2021 12:02 pm

    Fantástico, se ve muy linda la reserva, espero visitarles cuando volvamos a una relativa normalidad. Felicitaciones por la primera cabeza de plátano


    • March 2, 2021 11:42 am

      Gracias por las felicitaciones por los plátanos Carlos, ¡parece que son lo único que está creciendo bien! jaja Si, por favor ven a visitarnos pronto! Cuando estés listo, estaremos aquí. Mejor, Katie y Nick


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