Planting water, finding dinosaur bones, and a seed exchange

Cathy Holt
5 min readFeb 21


Alejo and Juanita dig swales at Origen del Agua

Planting water

Celina working at the Huerta Comunitaria

At the Huerta Comunitaria, I’ve been working with Paco and the Syntropic Agroforestry team: Cecy, Tannia, Manuela, Celina, and Clara (who has kindly given me rides from the park at 6:30am). We carried up some young trees in bags. With a post-hole digger, Paco dug deep holes for planting the trees, and most of the other women took turns with this effort. We went to the goat pen and swept up some goat manure mixed with their bedding (caprinasa), shoveled it into bags, and wheelbarrowed them up to the Huerta. After that, the holes were prepared with fertilizer and compost.

While we were in the goat stable, we got to see Paúl and Emerita milking some of the goats. They informed me that they were hopeful that at last they had a helper.

We brought over big chunks of dead plantain trees. These had been soaked in water and it was amazing to see what a spongy, absorbent mass of material they provided. With machetes, the trunks were sliced in half longitudinally, and then pieces were placed at the bottom of the prepared holes along with goat manure, as well as next to the root ball/cylinder. In some places Paco even dug out a little soil a few inches from the hole and laid down a layer of plantain trunk pieces. It was like planting wet sponges alongside the tree roots! Planting water. We then added mulch, and doused the newly planted trees with water.

As we were leaving, Emerita insisted that we each take home a small homemade cheese, made from their own cows’ milk. It was mild and delicious. A morning well spent!

Young tree mulched with plantain trunks

Dinosaur bones?

A good-sized group (Paco, Jessica, Manuela, Sophie, Alpha, Ruby, Juanita, Alejo and I, as well as two little girls) went up to Origen del Agua one early Sunday morning to care for the Syntropic Agroforestry planting around the spring. We found the tiny pond still holding some water, and although many of the tree stakes planted last November had failed to grow leaves, others appeared healthy. Paco was pleased. With pickaxes, some folks dug new swales above where the spring was, and we planted in nopal cactus and fique, both of which can absorb water and release it as needed — a way of helping the spring. Along a shady trail, we gathered dry leaves and mulched well around the new plantings. There were a lot of horse droppings which I gathered. In a few other areas of plantings, we mulched first with wood, then manure, then a layer of dry leaves.

Ruby listens to Manuela’s advice on mulching at Origen del Agua

Meanwhile, Elise and Zoe (Juanita and Alejo’s little girl) were off playing on their own. Elise showed up with some crumbly white bits in her hands, saying, with excitement and great conviction, “Look! I found dinosaur bones!”

Jessica provided plenty of delicious, cold pineapple as a welcome snack, and then some tamales with chickpeas and mushrooms. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to work for the full four hours, thanks to the shade cloth, the mulch-gathering walk in the shade, and the variety of tasks. It was wonderful to see some plants from last year producing red and pink flowers!


Finally, Paul and Emerita have found a worker who is now learning the ropes. Paul once again has some free time to devote to the biogas project, and this week, Emerita’s father was on hand helping out. I held his ladder and handed him tools as he built a wooden structure to hold shade cloth above the biogas reservoirs. Later I saw her father cleaning off a simple old gas stove, which might serve well for cooking with biogas. Just a few more steps…Although I can hardly believe that it’s taken this long since the installation workshop in October!

Margarita told me that two women who had taken that workshop, and are employed at the mayor’s office in Barichara, had reached out to her asking about the number of biodigesters in Barichara and its surrounding farms. It’s a hopeful sign, although no one expects this highly corrupt mayor to do anything positive and there is a group campaigning for his opponent; the election will be in October.

Seed exchange

Kids creating the Seed Library shelves

On Saturdays, many events happen at Casa Común, from yoga classes to watercolor painting, and there is freshly baked bread, local organic produce, and a good crowd! On a recent Saturday, Felipe Medina organized a seed exchange along with activities for children. Many folks brought collections of seeds, which were sorted and placed in jars. Felipe Spath and AnaMaria’s little girls brought tasty “seed cookies” which they had baked.

The first children’s activity was to make seed balls — basically clay mixed with a bit of fertilizer and some hardy seeds, for “guerilla gardening.” Next, with Felipe’s supervision, the kids built shelves. One young boy was hammering a small wooden crate onto a larger one. Several kids took part in painting the wood in bright colors. Finally a sign was hung saying “Biblioteca de Semillas” (Seed Library)!



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.