Cathy Holt
4 min readAug 31, 2022


Tyler and Jakob digging a trench for biodigester

One meter deep, 8 meters long, and one meter wide. When you see the trench we’re digging for the biogas digester, at first it looks like a shallow grave for a very tall person! The soil, hard and packed, mostly clay, with some hefty rocks, changes color from brown to a chalky light yellow after you pass the first 10 inches or so. Paúl had actually excavated nearly all of this first trench in daily increments, by himself. When I arrived with Jakob and Tyler (young volunteers in their 20’s) at Paúl’s farm around 8am, the sun was already hot in the field. Using shovels, pickaxe, and a “barra” (heavy post digger made all of metal), we four toiled away for several hours and finished the first trench plus perhaps half of the second, piling up literally a ton of dirt and rocks. I was pleased that I could participate in most of the work, albeit with frequent breaks: I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet! I only regret that I didn’t take more pictures.

Yet to be dug are the “canals” to hold tubes that will carry animal manure mixed with water, and diverting the greywater and blackwater from the house to the digester instead of the septic tank.

The plan is to have two “continuous flow” digesters. The first and larger one will produce gas; when it fills, the liquid will gradually flow to the second, which will be more like a reservoir where anaerobic activity continues to reduce any pathogens prior to harvesting the effluent for use in the gardens.

Paúl and Jakob

As we sweated together in the trench, I loved conversing with Paúl, for his spiritual views on so many topics. I shared my heartfelt connection with water, and he pointed out that water also represents many other things, including emotions, the divine feminine and masculine, and sexuality itself. He loves to mention that we all have a spark of the divine within us, including the animals.

As Jakob and Tyler are vegans, we were discussing veganism, and Paúl said, “I love these animals more than my wife.” I thought he was joking at first, but no. He said that just by their movements on the land, the animals brought blessings. Exploitation of animals? He sees how that happens in factory farms where the animals are treated as commodities, but he believes he treats them as family. (Paúl raises and sells pigs, goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and now rabbits. He does not slaughter them. On the other hand, Paúl and his family do eat meat.) He told us how he previously did not eat meat but ate a lot more rice and fruit, and that since he resumed eating small portions of meat, he is eating less carbohydrates and has lost weight. I remembered how he was distinctly heavier when I first met him last year.

His wife Emerita served us a delicious vegan lunch of chickpeas cooked with vegetables, lentils, rice with parsley, and boiled/fried yucca. There was also a yummy homemade cilantro pesto and crackers, and limonada (lime-aid with panela/unrefined dark brown cane sugar).

Paúl with healthy basil plants

We all went up to see the progress of the syntropic agroforestry plantings of 3 weeks prior, under Paco’s guidance. It was wondrous to see the lush growth, due to the good rains. The basil looked vibrantly green and healthy. There were young yucca plants, various beans, corn, lettuces, radishes, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, fruit trees of varying heights, and much more, densely interplanted.

We also talked briefly on the theme of larger-scale biogas digestion of human waste from the town of Guane, and our hopes that Lylian Rodriguez will help us with such a project. Current plans are to postpone the “Taller de Instalacion” (workshop on building the biodigester from greenhouse plastic and tubes) until mid-October. There is still a good deal of preparation needed, and it wasn’t realistic to plan the workshop in September. This will also give us more time to invite other farmers interested in biogas digestion.

Here’s my homage to the biodigester!

This biodigester uses blackwater and greywater from a house.

Mighty Microbes

Let us salute the mighty microbes!

Acetogenic, methanogenic,


Alchemically converting

Manure, greywater, blackwater,

Waste of animal and human,

Into useful products —

From threat to our health

Into clean cooking biogas

And fine liquid fertilizer.

Let us salute the biodigester!

Cow gut biomimicry,

Native microbes digesting

Make methane for cooking.

Greenhouse plastic sack,

Inlet pipe, outlet pipe;

Tubing takes biogas

Right to the kitchen.

Lifting campesinos

From poverty to plenty:

From gathering wood

Or buying propane

To energy freedom;

From soil-killing chemicals

To soil-building nutrients;

From stoking climate chaos

To being the solution;

To purification

From water pollution.

Our most honest good:

Waste converted to food.



Cathy Holt

Cathy is a member of the Earth Regenerators Network. She’s passionate about regenerating landscapes with water retention, agro-forestry, and biogas digestors.