Thursday, November 22, 2007

11/22/07
Home. I the harvest trip was a success because I was able to process my own coffee and have some samples to show for my hard work. There wasn’t much of a harvest. It was more of a sample trip because that is all I was able to take with me.

I got in at 10:00PM Thanksgiving Day. My family had a plate of food waiting for me; half way through that plate I asked my sister to start a second plate, I was hungry. I don’t get home sick, but it was good to be home. I slip into my old Dominican life and forget completely my American life. For example, I forget certain people in my American life until I see them again.

The silence was deafening as I laid down in my bed. The thick walls of my house and quiet neighborhood were too peaceful, too safe, too quite, and too lonely. Not one mule baying, not one rooster crowing, not even one motor passing. My bed was flat like a mountain lake and I had a real pillow! It will take some readjusting because I had forgotten all this existed for the last month.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On my way to Cabarete (beach/surf town) I met two young self-employed prostitutes. One loved her job, and the other liked it some times. Rosie asked if I thought that was bad –her job? “Its not for me, and I don’t judge you.” I then followed with, “It is bad when the girls/women are taken (as I make the non-verbal robbery sign) from their homes and forced into the job against their will.” They both agreed. I asked Rosie where to stay, and like most Dominicans, she walked me to the door. Most Americans would give exact directions but not walk out of their way.
11/19/07
On my way to Cabarete (beach/surf town) I met two young self-employed prostitutes. One loved her job, and the other liked it some times. Rosie asked if I thought that was bad –her job? “Its not for me, and I don’t judge you.” I then followed with, “It is bad when the girls/women are taken (as I make the non-verbal robbery sign) from their homes and forced into the job against their will.” They both agreed. I asked Rosie where to stay, and like most Dominicans, she walked me to the door of the Hotel. Most Americans would give exact directions but not walk out of their way.

When I was in Padres Las Casas I spoke with the coffee processing manager of a very successful coffee co-op, Efrem. He asked me what my plan was because some people think I’m going to “buy the harvest at flower,” an intermediary tactic used to secure coffee. The realization came crashing in, “I don’t know. . . Should I try to get an export license? Should I try to be a strict farmer? Should I try to be a super star barista? Should I try to open my own shop? Should I move to the DR? Should I wait for roasting position at B&B? I told Efrem I’ve had amazing exposure to the Speciality Coffee Industry and still don’t know my niche!

Today I meditated over my life’s direction while sun set over the beach. At first I thought about never leaving that beach. Then I wondered if I was asking the right question because I got no answer.

Later: an answer: I need to be like a grain of sand, willing to be a puzzle piece. And let the thing I have set in motion direct my next step.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

11/17/07
I, Young Tree Coffee, bought the land for the Nuclio’s wet mill in Monte Bonito in July because they needed the cash. There were some intermediaries who got in the way of the Nuclio’s land purchase. The hope was to have it installed before this harvest so they could pay me back with coffee. The tropical storm was the most deadly documented. There weren’t many deaths in my region, but all of the crops were affected if not lost: coffee, avocado, beans and pigeon peas. Therefore the construction of the wet mill has not made the priority list lately. It should be ready for the tail end of this harvest. What is sure, it will be ready ma’ taide (later). Did I mention Padres Las Casas is still without water?

Friday, November 16, 2007

11/16/07
I left Antonio in charge of finishing the pulp-natural and I took the washed and natural sample with me off the mountain. I promised the Nuclio of Cafécultores de Monte Bonito (co-op) and a Federation of coffee growers a visit, and I wanted a couple days to surf and finish things up in the capital.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

11/15/07
I wanted to stay in my rancho (tin ‘house’ on the farm) last night to see how it slept. I slept so well I didn’t even hear the rats. Antonio heard them though. Before Antonio and I exchanged even 5 words that morning I felt this message come over me – ‘everything is going to be OK’. The day was sunny. My natural reached 13%, which means I will have at least 1 sample. The others might dry in time as well!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11/14/07
I just started my pulp natural and now its raining again. It started at 1:00PM – so much for leaving here with any samples. Is all hope lost?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back on the farm. I plan to leave with three samples. Natural, pulp-natural, and washed. But the rain is doing its best to not even let my simplest goals get done. I will have nothing to export, coffee that’s too humid, and more plans for next year. This is coffee.
11/13/07
Its easy to overlook a natural disaster when it doesn’t affect you. Two days ago I went to Padre Las Casas, a medium sized town with one hotel, hot water and internet. The town’s aqueduct was destroyed by Noel. As I watched the Sur Futuro (local non-profit) sponsored water trucks fill the town’s water supply. I thought it would suck to be here – no water for two weeks! I’ve gone several days on tight water rations, but never that long. It wasn’t until that night when I realized I might not get a shower, that I saw I am here.

Back on the farm. I plan to leave with three samples. Natural, pulp-natural, and washed. But the rain is doing its best to not even let my simplest goals get done. I will have nothing to export, coffee that’s too humid, and more plans for next year. This is coffee.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

11/8/07
Ritmo:(rhythm) I have a complete and different life here. My name is Bairo and I have friends and family that surround me. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer here, I was essentially an American living in the DR. Now, my farmer friends and I talk about our losses this year. Now, I always have my machete on my hip. Now, this rhythm of life is becoming my rhythm. To be precise the 1-2 beat of meurengue and 1-2-3 of bachata seem to fit an entire days work. Bachata being the slower of the two music, works for my daily 30 min. hike to the farm. These ‘trails’ seem like game trails sometimes: small, narrow and dangerous. I’m pretty sure footed and yet I struggle to keep upright as I follow Antonio up and down these paths. He steps 1-2-3 as if climbing stairs; behind him, I have no rhythm, but I’m learning. The day starts at sunrise with un cafecito and ends with dinner at sunset. No matter the job, Antonio has the same pace, he is a marathon runner not a sprinter. The aroma of fresh roasted coffee is ground in a huge mortar and pestle. The women are laughing and telling stories as I walk by, thum – thump, thum – thump, a simple merengue rhythm with the pestals pulverizing the coffee.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

11/7/07
Over lunch today Antonio de la Rosa (carpenter) & Antonio Galvan (manager) shared terrific stories of wild boar hunts. Antonio Galvan lost his favorite dog to a 200+ pound boar, which killed 3 dogs before the hunters got it. Note: they use dogs to pin the boars and machetes to kill them.

In another story, a huge boar spotted Antonio and Gerome and charged. Mouth open and tusks brazen the boar came with in 30 feet, barreling down the hill. A low laying aqueduct tube caught the boar in the mouth and it flipped. The dogs pinned the boar on the river bank and Antonio Galvan was left with the small knife, when he went in for the kill the knife wouldn’t penetrate the tough hide, twice! The dogs had the head under control, so he grabbed one hind leg with both hands and lifted up the back half of the boar. Gerome came around with the long knife to kill the boar as Antonio tried to stay clear of the tusks. They had to make two trips to bring the 250lb boar home.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sun + breeze = natural process। My farm only has one – sun. Full sun all day. The DR had the wettest October ever, which also hasn’t helped drying my coffee. The wind doesn’t really make it in to the Arroyon because its basically a high valley. My first DR natural test is 4 days in and I’m still waiting for it to dry. Time has become the largest crux for this trip. So much for processing 10 quintals natural.

Now that I have everything lined up with a neighboring grower, price, conditions we are entering the luna nueva (new moon). According to local agricultural beliefs you can’t really work with the earth or anything in it. That pushes my processing back another fives days. I do respect their local farming beliefs; after all they’ve been farming their entire lives. So I’ll take the time to take care of legal issues in the city and visit a coop in Monte Bonito.
11/6/07
Sun + breeze = natural process. My farm only has one – sun. Full sun all day. The DR had the wettest October ever, which also hasn’t helped drying my coffee. The wind doesn’t really make it in to the Arroyon because its basically a high valley. My first DR natural test is 4 days in and I’m still waiting for it to show signs of drying. Time has become the largest crux for this trip. So much for processing 10 quintals (1,000lb.) natural. I plan to have a small micro-lot to export between my farm and another.

Now that I have everything lined up with a neighboring farmer to buy coffee cherries: price, conditions we are entering the luna nueva (new moon). According to local agricultural beliefs you can’t really work with the earth or anything in it during the luna nueva. That pushes my processing back another five days. I do respect their local farming beliefs; after all they’ve been farming their entire lives. So I’ll take the time to take care of legal issues in the city and visit a co-op in Monte Bonito.

Monday, November 5, 2007

11/5/07
So far 120+ people have died due to the flooding. The farmers in the lower lands lost everything: cattle, fence, crops and even the soil near the river. Before this trip I felt like a poser saying I was a farmer. Now the calluses from rock climbing and my machete are stained brown with the rich soil of my farm. I’ve started to earn my farm hands. My friends are a little slower to take the tools from me. I’ve proved myself with the ax and remembered how to mix cement.

Antonio de la Rosa (mason/carpenter) uses a surgeon’s precision mixing the cement and placing blocks for the worm-bin. Antonio Galvan (farm manager) never stops working on the farm and eagerly accepts the heaviest load on the worst part of the trail. As we look for plantains for breakfast, he casually draws his machete to prune dried leaves, every step misses the newly planted coffee trees. His kids produce firewood like it was bundled behind the rancho and start the fogon de tres piedras (wood cooking stove) even faster.

I can’t impress a Dominican with what I know – they think I know everything – and they think I’m weak and clutzy with everything else. Is it respect that they ask me not to do any of the hard work? Yes. Do they see my own inefficiency on the farm? i.e. Some of the firewood I chopped this morning was green. Why do I feel the need to prove myself physically like an adolescent? I’m an expert rock-climber. I can do a one-armed-pull-up.

Looking at the calendar I only have a 17 days left. My natural experiment is taking longer than I planned. I’ve found another farmer (the other two fell through) willing to work with me, and sell me ripe cherries, but he is dragging his feet. I’m going to lose 3 days to the new moon. I got a phone number of a guy who does semi-wash in Costa Rica. Hopefully he will teach me to semi-wash because I don’t know how. Will I have any thing to export? Is my natural ever going to dry out? Will I find a dry mill I can work with? Do I still love this? – YES!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A community is made whole by the diversity of its members. Los Frios and its surrounding campos (towns) are beautiful examples. There are truck drivers (the only transport to town), mule dealers (the other transport), story tellers, talkers, doers, cooks, drunks, carpenters, masons, lumber jacks, forest rangers, people of the church and people of the night, and if you want to make your bull an oxen or fatten your mule (castrate them) – there is a hunch backed midget named Nono who does the best job.
11/4/07

I have some coffee picked and drying = success. The Natural Experiment has started. (When I say natural experiment I refer to natural process coffee, which is a new idea for this part of the Caribbean.)

A community is made whole by the diversity of its members. Los Frios and its surrounding campos (towns) are beautiful examples. There are truck drivers (the only transportation), mule dealers (the other transportation), story-tellers, talkers, doers, cooks, drunks, carpenters, masons, lumber-jacks, people of the church and people of the night. If you want to make your bull an oxen or fatten your mule (castrate them) – that role is filled by Nono, a hunched-back midget friend of mine.

Friday, November 2, 2007

11/2/07
Lolo my Dominican father fills his house with cigarette smoke every early morning and late evening from his bed. He talks fast and has a huge heart. I ask him to prepare a the Ethopian Limu that I brought without sugar. As the aroma fills the kitchen from the bubbling greca, stove-top espresso maker, I rock out to my reggae version of Karma Police in my room behind my sheet of a door.

The rain has stopped for now. I have a few pickers on call. We will try to pick what is left of my coffee. I might get something done on this trip!