The garden space in Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) was badly damaged a few years ago when their sports complex was built near to it. Construction debris such as broken bricks and rocks was buried in the garden under a thin layer of landscape soil, on which grass was later planted.
Before growing any crops, my friends and I had to remove as much construction debris from the soil as possible. We also added purchased soil and purchased compost to quickly amend the soil for growing. We used about 3 tons of purchased soil and 600 kg of compost to create the grow areas. We won’t need to buy anymore soil or compost because we are now creating our own soil and compost in the garden using food scraps from the canteen stalls, garden waste, grass clippings and fallen leaves.
The pond in the garden was poorly managed. There was only one species of fish – tilapia. The filtration system was not functioning properly. The water didn’t smell nice and there were string algae floating around. The school management was already planning to give up the pond and fill it up with soil to grow grass. I asked the them to let me try to revive the pond. Luckily, they agreed. Instead of using their artificial filtration system, I planted a diversity of aquatic plants and introduced more than 20 species of fishes. The ecosystem created is working well and the water is clear now. I have recorded 23 species of dragonflies visiting the pond. A few species are breeding in the pond. I can see their exuviae sometimes.
Today, the garden is producing food for both people and animals and is also providing ecological services. Teachers and students come to the garden not only to admire it but also to make observations on ecology. It is now a living classroom for students to learn about food and nature.
What plants do you grow in the area?
Edibles and ornamentals, annuals and perennials
Do you grow on a raised bed or directly in the soil?
Combination of the two
Roughly how large is your site?
About the size of a basketball court. 436 sqm
What are the microclimate conditions over time? (how sunny or shady, for how long? How wet and windy is the spot?)
A mixture of these
What practices do you use with the soil?
Mulching – the main practice.
Composting using soil in a shaded area.
Burying food scraps in soil in grow area.
Is there anything else about your site that is worth noting?
It is a regenerative food garden attracting biodiversity and sequestering carbon.
A dear friend and guide of the Soil Regeneration Project runs a space in the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. They wrote us recently with some news, and the message resonated strongly with us, so we’re publishing their newsletter here with their permission.
Read the PDF copy here (with photos!) or below in text (but without photos), if you’d prefer.
“So I see the only chance for man, that he can finally practically heed two insights: that his fate is inextricably linked to that of his fellow human beings in all parts of the world and that he belongs to nature and not to him.” Albert Einstein
During this time we receive a lot of confirmation for the work that we have been doing here in Palawan, the Philippines and elsewhere in the last ten years and we feel encouraged to continue on this path with all our strength. With seed research and production, with the propagation of regenerative farming, holistic methods of education and healing and through the training of perception with the senses, we make a significant contribution to the healthy development of people and the earth and provide practical solutions to challenges such as those that have now become more and more critical. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reads this newsletter, supports us, has supported us personally, conceptually, financially and in many other ways. Here are some insights into our work in agriculture, health, nutrition and education in the past six months.
In December we were invited to a national conference on organic farming, where big plans for its expansion were made and a great deal of interest in biodynamic farming was shown. We will closely monitor and, where possible, contribute, where the many measures envisaged go towards realization. Experience shows that much more is said than actually done in this country.
A little further we have come with an undertaking right on our doorstep. Through our coffee project, we have been working with one of the four indigenous peoples on the island for almost seven years. For half a year now we have been working to win over a piece of wasteland up to 300 hectares as a commons (for shared use without property rights) for these people and for the bio- dynamic impulse. This wasteland gets burned almost completely annually in the dry season and is therefore also a threat to the adjacent forests, instead of being able to contribute to the food of the population. Extensive consultations with a large number of government agencies were and are necessary, although these are currently limited by the lockdown. A variety of training courses and discussions with the participants have taken place.
The pictures above show the ritual initiation of the initiative by the local chieftain as well as eurythmy guided by Grace. The rituals were included in one of the introductory seminars, here also with guests from the Acacia Waldorf School Santa Rosa and from Switzerland.
The preparations are known to play a fundamental role in biodynamic agriculture. In Palawan it is not possible for us to grow the plants required for the compost preparations, but promising tests are being made in a mountainous area in the Philippines. Until we are able to produce them ourselves, we import the raw materials from India. Of course, we do have other raw materials such as quartz and cow dung. The pictures show, from left to right, the production of the cow pat pit preparation during a workshop on January 8, then the harvest on Easter Sunday morning and the storage in clay jars. Stirring a preparation and hanging up yarrow in a deer bladder.
We multiply seeds; we try to adapt overseas seeds from bd origins to the local climate; we try out indigenous, sometimes endemic species for cultivation and consumption; and we also try to breed to a modest extent. We are particularly happy with this lettuce. Lettuce is difficult to grow in the heat of the tropics and it hardly forms heads. This one is well adapted to organic cultivation, forms a large leaf mass, tolerates the heat well and is very tasty and digestible. It will be able to meet the increased demand for salad from local restaurants. In addition, see our seeds on offer at a farmers ́ market.
The primary producers are the poorest, especially in a country like the Philippines. One of the ways in which the farmer can earn more is to process his produce to a higher product level. Since the beginning of our work, we have always presented new plants for cultivation, but also products to be made from them. Here the hibiscus, known as tea or lemonade additive. In this case, we made tasty jams – with some guava from the garden, there is enough pectine in there to make it gel. On the right: bananas laid out and ready for dehydration.
In addition to nutrition, a focus of our work is medicine. In the garden and the farm, we grow a variety of medicinal plants, some of which are available as seeds or seedlings, some as tea and sometimes in other forms. Our first goal is always to provide information about planting, care and use. Besides these, we are engaged in propagation and distribution. From left to right, the Korean ginseng, the insulin plant, a papaya leaf and Tawa Tawa; the latter two are used for dengue fever. Tawa Tawa, an Euphorbia, also has an amazing immediate healing effect in conjunctivitis. It is no coincidence that the two middle pictures show plants wet with dew – for more than ten years we have also been dealing with the almost completely unexplored dew drops.
Signs of the Time
This article of mine gives a little insight into the current situation in the Philippines – even if the situation naturally keeps evolving every day. The following video by Grace shows one of our initiatives in the educational field – it is intended for the poorest families in the Philippines and encourages young children to play with open-ended toys – it has meanwhile been given Indonesian subtitles and made available to parents, kindergartens and children’s homes in Indonesia through a foundation and is available as well on Facebook. In both countries, many poor families do have access to the internet, especially to Facebook.
The Time is Now
A crisis is equivalent to unlimited potential. In a plant, let ́s say, in a grass (we have very large grasses, namely bamboo, which can grow up to two meters a day), there is always a node and an internode: a knot and that between the knots. What is between the knots corresponds to ordinary life: the plant grows this way, especially in length. Humans live this way or the other, they walk their usual paths. Life is in the knot – if you want to multiply a plant, it comes from the knot, not from the in between. What we call a crisis among humans is the equivalent of the knot. Here is life, here is origin. Too much for some, but yes, crisis is life and it provides abundant opportunity. So let’s be thankful for the crisis, thankful for life and let’s make something of it. The time is now.
While many people are not allowed to work during this time, we work harder than ever. The drought that has been going on for a year and a half, the shortage of water, the extraordinary heat, the requests, the unfolding future are demanding of us to work seven days a week. At the same time, we have almost completely lost our revenues as a result of global government measures. The annual budget of our company is approx. 40,000 euros, in order to make ends meet we need 20,000 euros (= fixed costs). Probably some of you have similar challenges. Who has ideas for sustainable funding?
Walter Siegfried Hahn and Grace Zozobrado-Hahn, with the team of Koberwitz 1924 Inc.
Or directly to the Philippines, preferably via https://transferwise.com, because they charge small fees: Account Name Koberwitz 1924 Inc. Account Number 130-3-13024518-9 at Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City, BIC (Swift) MBTCPHMMXXX
(It is not possible for the bank to notify us of the transfer to the client. In the case of a transfer, we ask you to inform us at the same time).
By the way: We have not given up our plans for a trip to Europe in April May 2021 – we thank you for the invitations we have received so far and look forward to contributing to more events – just drop us an e-mail.
Aditi has started reading the book, she loves parts of it! Luckily for the rest of us, there’s a video with the authors online, along with a really good explanation of why soil and carbon is part of us–our bodies and our food. And that we can rebuild soil in a matter of years–not the centuries of geological rock formation, as we tend to think. Check out The Hidden Half of Nature:
The story of soil is a complex, intriguing one. Our project draws to us people, resources, and opportunities to uncover more facets of its nature. So we’ve decided to start collecting notes about things that surprise us here – notes on soil. Here we post new facets of our world’s soil body when the inspiration strikes us (sometimes literally~).
Oftentimes, when we talk about making soil, soil scientists point out that soil takes a long time to form. Yet as Dr Christine Jones mentions, in an interview, the building of topsoil versus the weathering of rock are two different phenomena, and human activity changes the speed at which they occur.
“the flow of liquid carbon to soil is the primary pathway by which new topsoil is formed“
Read about her work – and Amazing Carbon, here., or read extracts of her work below.