Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Load to Los Palos

IMGP1745 Last weekend Samuel went out to meet with Pastor Samuel at Los Palos and Lino who has the corn farm.  A few things that were done on this trip:

1. Hand out drums to pastors of various local churches for storing their corn – Pastor Samuel had no sealed drum for his corn so he lost about 150kg of corn which went mildewy and eaten by weevils.  Putting new corn into a sealed, new 44 gallon drum from MAF (aviation) will save the corn.IMGP1751

2. Deliver timber and construct the window and door frames and oversee the start of laying the block walls for the youth accommodation.  This is partly in preparation for an American team coming to assist in construction this week.  (Side note: they landed in Bali when the airline Batavia went bankrupt and ceased all flights … oops)  Tobias came with me and together we got the youth working on putting together the frames that I’d precut in Dili.  We also took flyscreen and roof insulation (the boys will sleep on a mezzanine floor and be close to the roof)IMGP1752

3. Deliver NPK fertiliser to Lino to try to correct some nutrient imbalance in his soil and also deliver 5 rolls of barbed wire.  This high tensile wire bought in Australia is much superior and much cheaper than the barb that we used last year which was bought from Indonesia.  Note the Indonesian barb is rusting after 3 months!IMGP1770

4. Inspect the corn field.  Lino is trying lots of cool new things like planting in rows which will help in the various steps of agriculture like weeding, fertilising, ensuring good crop density.  Currently he’s planting at one third of the recommended crop density rate which alone may mean his yield is greatly reduced – or in mushy terms, there’ll be less food on the table.  He’s also trying a local bean which will help to fix nitrogen in the soil and add organic matter again leading to improved yields.  Lino will then transfer this knowledge and experience to others in his group including the youth farm.IMGP1765

5. Collect weather data recorded electronically by a weather station at Lino’s farm.  With this data, soil test results and crop info we can do some crop modelling with computer software and explore other ways to improve yield.

6. Collect soil samples of a limestone soil to see if we can use it to correct Lino’s acidic soil.  The white soil usually has a high pH which may help make his soil more neutral.  Its a bit weird in that he has limestone rock scattered around his field but his soil is acidic.  Lino new just where to find some nice soft white limestone soil for us to test – under a tree that had fallen down.IMGP1773

7. Finalise the accounts for the last growing season including sales of corn seed, income from the corn mill and costs associated with these.  Lino grew his first crop with me in 2011.  We then sold it as seed during 2012.  On this trip we went through all the accounts – it took ages to do this.   His loan is about $2950.  He sold about $2120 worth of seed.  Including repayments from the corn mill, altogether he repaid around $1260.  

Lino is proving very faithful in his approach and the whole farm project is going well.  The big killer for him last year was just very low yields.  He’s getting about 1 tonne per hectare where as an Aussie farmer might get 5-6 tonnes per hectare.  Together we aim to get 4 tonnes off his 1.4 hectare block or essentially triple his yield.


Bright yellow corn still looking great after 8 months storage in the silos that Lino has got through this project – without the silo, this corn would be destroyed.

The above tasks were squeezed into the Saturday.  By the end I was pretty tired and was glad to get back home and sort of rest.  All is well on the home front, although Cynthia is tired with interrupted sleep feeding Xakira.  Xakira is a remarkably peaceful baby.

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