We are in between seasons now and mostly just working ground. Both farms up north are going to be a lot bigger this season. They were going to be really big but all the seed isn’t going to arrive in time for this next season. It’s a really battle to get everything ordered, the containers filled, put on the ocean ships and then released form the port here in time. Then there is the in country transport over bad roads slow and costly. Lots of logistics. Right now its corn, soybeans, dry beans and potatoes again for Oct/Nov planting. Got 130 Ha(320 acres) cleared and worked at the new farm in Nkoumou, Ngo and 180 HA(445 acres) at the Lekana farm. We are also working ground for the local farmers for 40,000 CFA a HA (about $35/acre which is a subsidized rate). They are planting manioc mostly on this worked ground but some other crops as well. The tractor can do in an hour what it takes a month by and with a hoe.
Clearing the land is a battle with the small trees. The Plateaux area of Congo is a mix of small forests mixed with savanna area. The forest areas have many different species of tall trees. In the lower areas there are more forest areas and up north pure tropical jungle and swampy areas where there is much less people and wildlife. The savanna areas have small trees, but not the same species as the forest trees. I guess the burning keeps the forest areas from growing. Clearing these trees we used two big Russian tractors and pulled a big ocean ship chain between them to knock over the small trees and termite mounds. After that people collected the trees to carry out of the fields with the trailers. Pretty good expense all these day laborers. Corn and bean planters can take some branches, but potato and onion equipment cannot take all these stumps and branches - broke a lot of equipment that is hard to find parts.
Tractors and anchor chain knocking down small trees and termite hills
The potato seed isn’t holding all that well in the mud brick storage. Didn’t get my solar powered fans to vent out the field heat so it’s a little warm inside. Some varieties are doing better than others. I guess its something we had to learn in any case. The cold chain is non existent here in Congo so we need to select varieties that can take some abuse. I’ve seen many promising varieties that fall apart during storage so they get dropped. The Red Pontiac looked promising in the field, but just rotted fast in storage. Of the 16 varieties we started we are down to 4 - Cheiftain, Red LaSoda, Granola and Calwhite. Most of these were developed in southern area. I think potatoes have more day length sensitivity tan we thought earlier and the northern varieties cycled out too fast like the Ranger Russet. We are 2 degrees south of the equator so the days are 12 hours sun a day every day all year and crops waiting for long days will never get it.
Went on a trip to a private wildlife area where they are rehabilitating some rescued lowland Gorillas. Its in a valley with a river and scenic lake. It’s a little set up, but the gorillas are still wild. The US ambassador asked for a special close up visit and one of his party got attacked and almost killed the week before we visited. Didn’t see any Hippos in the river though. The Gorillas are separated from us by the river. Didn’t know gorillas can not swim so we were safe.
In past posts I talked about these hand made truck the boys make and take out for a drive. Well now some tractors have started to show up in the village complete with trailers.
Had one farm accident and had to take him to the clinic for some stitches. it could have been worse. |Its always a worry with people learning to use big machinery that people can get hurt bad. Farming and ranching is still a dangerous work. He got his stitches outside on the porch of the clinic with minimal disinfection, but did OK in the end.
Otherwise still building things here. Another storage building at Lekana for grain seeds and equipment parts. Also another water cistern to stare water from these new roofs of the potato cellar. At he new farm there is nothing so we are fixing up a old school building and building a new farm building. A lot of work as all the sand, gravel, rocks and water needs to be brought in. Gravel and rocks need to be brought from Brazzaville as there just isn’t any rocks on the plateau region. The boards they cut right near the farm from big trees in those patches of forest. They cut the boards all with chainsaws using this frame to hold the saw straight and the same thickness of cuts. The cut these big wide trees into sections 2 inches by over 3 feet wide and then into 4 x 4's, 4 x 4's, 2 x 8's and even 1 x 12 boards for building.
Another storage building for dry seed and supplies
This time of year the termites swarm where the males and new potential queens leave to mate and start new colonies. The people here cover the termite hills with plastic to capture these swarms and boil them to eat. They taste like burning grass. There are also other odd things in the market at times like palm grubs. The diet in the countryside is mostly manioc with peanuts, local greens, bracken fern fiddlenecks, dried fish and beans and occasionally some bushmeat. The fruits are starting again. There is avocado, pineapple and mango now and the safu trees are getting full. A lot of things are blooming now during the dry season. The rains are just staring now. It time to plant soon.
Some flowers in bloom now