Updates from the Field: September 2015

By Sabrina Kerin, Program Coordinator

The past three months have been full of the buena onda (good vibes!) and awesome visitors and volunteers that this place tends to attract, as well as some monumental steps for new projects at Bona Fide. We had the pleasure of hosting some 35 volunteers from around the world, we had our first student group from Madison University join us on-site, we welcomed the arrival of our new Animal Husbandry and Medicinal Garden Interns, and we hosted a one-week visit from one of our favorite gap-year programs, Where There Be Dragons.

We’ve also had a BIG team push to get our new Farm-to-Clinic Ometepe medicinal herb project funded, off the ground, and running. The medicinal herb garden plot is located at the very bottom of Bona Fide’s property, across the main road near the lake. We had a very successful June Fundraising Campaign on GlobalGiving.com that raised nearly 70% of the projected budget for the project’s first full year and rewarded us a permanent listing on Global Giving’s website. We’re still feeling the gratitude for everyone that played a role in this fundraiser’s success.

To stay up-to-date on the Farm-to-Clinic updates, check out the project page:
Farm-to-Clinic: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/farm-to-clinic-ometepe/

Sacuanjoche, the national flower of Nicaragua

September is moving fast, the rains have returned after a longer-than-usual canícula (brief mid-wet-season drought), and the farm is blossoming in every corner. This is a majestic time here on the farm and on the island in general. It’s a low season for tourism and a high season for rainfall, making this island’s wild lushness evermore present. With lower numbers of volunteers and interns on the farm, it’s an ideal time for increased self-reflection, assessment of current and pending projects, and infrastructural maintenance that’s accessible with lower site occupancy. Mango and avocado season has come to an end, starfruit and calala (passionfruit) are dropping all around us, and we’re anxiously waiting the ripening of the citrus that are poppin’ off all over the place!

A Day in the Life

By Lee Cherry, Animal Husbandry Intern


At Project Bona Fide there never is a dull moment. My day starts around 3:30AM when our naked-neck rooster starts his cockadoodledoo-ing letting everyone know he’s awake. I usually fall asleep half an hour later, just to be woken up by an eerie growling echo coming from the volcano. It sounds like the mixture of a T-rex howling, Tibetan throat singing, and the volcano rumbling.  This sound belongs to all the troops of howler monkeys that populate the biosphere, and the way the landscape is makes this sound even more the strange. I swear this sound is what gives me some really crazy dreams.

By around 6:30AM my alarm sounds, but I often sleep through it. Luckily, before the morning meeting at 6:45, Sabrina my coordinator wakes me up to get me out of my hammock. Morning meeting consists of the chores we will be doing until breakfast at 8:00. I am an “intern,” which has come from a long line of evolving positions starting with “the bee intern” to now the “animal husbandry intern,” to solve the problem of the chickens not laying any eggs. So my morning starts with my search for termite nests to get some protein for the chicks and Harold the female turkey.

I start by walking down the trail behind the garden with a bag for the termites and a machete. I usually stop at a coconut tree, twist one off, and open it up and get my daily vitamin dose from some coconut water and meat. Then I continue on until I find some termites, stopping only for the occasional melocotón (starfruit) or mango snack. I chop off a termite mound and head back up to the chicken coop, accompanied by some banana leaf plates to feed the chicks.

Breakfast comes around and we are fed with gourmet farm food, where about 60% of the food comes from the farm. Recently the chickens have been giving some eggs, and we also get some from local farms in the area, mainly Las Cuchillas, a nearby farming community completely devoid of roads where everyone rides horses or walks. So we get homemade sorghum pancakes and a fried egg, coupled with gallo pinto and a plethora of delicious tropical fruits like guanabana (anona) or papaya. Tea is also often prepared with lemongrass, cúrcuma (turmeric) or ginger, and our incredible farm honey.

The rest of the day can consist of digging swales, planting fruits to moving around bags of sand. Here we like to call this “Farm Fitness,” because each bucket of dirt you carry is an incredible workout, but you don’t realize it until the next day when your abs and shoulders feel like you were in the gym for 4 hours.

After work we get an equally amazing lunch, sometimes of the locally caught fish, guapote or sábalo. We often have veggies like chayote and carrots simmered in homemade coconut milk, fried plantain chips, and a plethora of other magical concoctions the cooks think up.

I usually spend the time after lunch napping or researching things about permaculture, and learning new songs on the banjo or jamming with fellow volunteer Phil. Then around 4:00 I head down to the high school soccer field to go to soccer practice. The trail there is awesome because I walk through rice and corn fields and get to watch all the campesinos plant and harvest and have an amazing view of Volcán Concepción the whole time I walk.

As I walk into town I go through the neighborhood and see Don David, one of the coolest guys in town. He is a builder who works down on Chris’s property and is in charge of constructing Chris’s new guest house. I also pass by the house of Marina, the head cook, and get an “Hola Barraco” every time I walk past.

Once I get to practice I see all of my Balgüe homies. There are about 17 of us on the team, several of whom work on the farm. The soccer field is filled with people playing baseball, other men’s and women’s soccer teams, pigs running around, chickens pecking the ground, and street dogs passing out in the middle of where we are scrimmaging. Here I get to practice my Spanish and soccer all at once; it is awesome. We usually do some ridiculous exercises like leap frog and some inefficient stretching exercises for a couple minutes, then go immediately into scrimmaging for the rest of the practice. I get to watch the sun set over the volcano on the soccer field, which gives a great hue pinks and bright blues over the active volcano, which often has sulfur smoke surrounding it and making it look like a flying saucer.

After practice I walk back with some of my teammates and then walk back up the trail through the woods and fields, often using the light on my watch to find my way. I have pretty much learned to memorize the trail by now, because I am pretty much doing it blind. Once I arrive back at the farm, a volunteer has cooked dinner and it usually is pretty awesome unless someone puts in andrographis into the stir fry, which is a medicinal plant that’s so bitter you would think you just ate tree sap.

After dinner we might drink some wine brought up from town and jam, or do some reading. Then clean up the kitchen area, and get some sleep by 8:30pm.

Plant Power: Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomateous herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the same family as ginger, Zingiberaceae. Native to South Asia, a documented 133 species of Curcuma have been identified around the world. The plant grows 5-6 feet high in tropical regions like ours and produces a trumpet-shaped yellow flower. The rhizome grows underground and is what is most often used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Turmeric is most commonly used in cooking and gives Indian curry its vibrant yellow color and bold taste. It contains the powerful antioxidant curcumin and has a number of different medicinal qualities. High in antioxidants and other medicinal properties, it has been used for over 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions from infections to inflammation to digestive disorders. Research has shown that turmeric may be helpful in treating the following conditions: indigestion, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer, bacterial or viral infections, uveitis, and neurodegenerative conditions, amongst others.

In this part of the world, turmeric is also being studied as a natural treatment for chikungunya, a mosquito-born viral infection that is found on the island and in Nicaragua at large. To use, the roots should be boiled and then dried, turning into a bright yellow powder.

Turmeric is one of two medicinal plants we have started planting for our Farm-to-Clinic medicinal herb project and we’re excited for all of its herbal potential!


Turmeric, or cúrcuma, planted in the medicinal garden

Copyright © Project Bona Fide 2015