Walking to the Back Gate

Three Sisters Garden

Walking short walk from where we live to town regularly we walk through small pastures and small fields scattered with Cows, Sheep, Chickens, Goats and other live stock from time to time. It is really nice to see how things change and what is going on so close to our little town of Cotacachi. A couple of things we noticed along the way were; how fast everything grows here, and growing other plants in the corn fields. I thought I recognized the plants growing with the corn so I started asking questions and researching it a bit to satisfy my curiosity. So what the heck are they doing?
One of the names for gardening this way is called “Three Sisters Garden”. But this was a bit larger scale from your backyard gardening and everybody is doing it. Since things grow here year round we have not seen what they do every time they plant, but this late September / early October, at least, they plant the Three Sisters.
From what I found out the Three Sisters are Corn, Pole Beans, and Squash. The Corn provides the pole for the Beans to climb and the beans add Nitrogen to the soil. The third sister Squash provides ground cover and helps keep moisture in the ground. Having never seen this way of gardening before I wondered whether were did this method come from or are these South American farmers’ just geniuses when it comes to growing things. Enter researching this method…
What I learned was that this dates back to the Native Americans and they shared it with the European settlers. So it is logical to deduce that this is the way they have done it here for centuries. They actually plant each plant at different times. First the corn is planted, next is the pole beans, and finally the squash. If you would like to see a short planning description of how to do this, this link does a good job I think http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/threesisters.html Here they don’t do mounds though as you can see in the pictures but the same concept is done here.

Following are a few pictures to aid in the visual for what I am talking about, (Note – It is a half mile to town and you can click on the picture to see a larger version):

A Weekend in Cotacachi

I know I keep talking about parades and the like going on but let me take you through this weekend. It is Sunday right now so more could actually happen than what I will write about but you will get the idea of what it is like on the weekends here. Now remember, this is a town of about 8,500…

Friday they put up a big band stand in the parking lot about a block from the apartment we stay in. When I walked around town I found a couple blocks the other direction in the square by the Church, there was yet another band stand set up too. Then they started installing bleachers and sitting area in the parking lot. Well I was walking around because there was suppose to be a Parade at 3pm and the blocked all the streets off at 2 so I figured they were getting ready. I should have known better because the 3pm start actually started just before 4pm, in typical Ecuadorian fashion.

And through it all most of the crowd was absolutely amazed by it all.

Now this was just the Parade on Friday afternoon. After the 3 hour Parade, there was the bands playing. Saturday and all was fairly quiet. That is until about 5pm when the bands started up again. It was a rockin’ good time for sure.

So now it is Sunday and the only real sounds I have heard today are the Church bells. Perhaps this evening will be quiet.

UPDATE: It was not a quiet Sunday. The bands started playing about 4pm and it was music and speeches until about 8:30pm. So much for a quiet Sunday:)

Cotacachi Scholarship Program

We are involved with this program so I wanted to make a quick post as to what we are doing with it and what it is about. First off let me tell that we are sponsoring a child via this program, I think you will understand why by the time I am done writing this. Secondly, we have donated Hosting for their site, that we developed for them too. We will be training the Peace Corp Volunteer that is helping run the program too. I think our involvement to this extent gives you an idea oh how much we like this program. So what is it you are wondering.

This Scholarship Program started in Cotacachi in 2007 I believe with just a few students and now has 65 students in the program and they hope to grow to 100 by next year. The government provides education up to the 6th grade and after that the families have to pay. I don’t know if the families have to pay for everything or pay part of it. It is 6 more years of education and it costs the families $300 per student per year. That may not sound like a lot but, the wages are low here and if you have several kids in the upper grades that can add up to the point where they just don’t have the money. Let me backup a little to give you a framework.

Back a few years, like say in the 70’s the indigenous were exploited and uneducated for the most part. Gradually since that time things have gotten much better for them and they are realizing the value of an education. They are realizing that with an education they can stay in the community with their family and have jobs. Now to tie things together a little.

With this program, we as sponsors of a child pay $200 for the year and the family pays $100 per year per student. But now is where the cool part starts. The child gets a portion of the money now. That is, after they sign a contract. In the following photo you can see Paige, the Peace Corp volunteer explain to the parents about the contract.

You see what they have to do is pay for all of the School supplies and that kind of stuff. In February, the child has to come with school progress and attendance records as well as receipts that total up to the amount of money they were given. If they can’t account for all the money and a good school record they do not get anything more.

Today all of us were there, sponsors, along with the parents and the kids. The kids and the parents got to meet the sponsors. The parents of the child we sponsored were there and I met him. The place was packed with people as you can get an idea of from this picture.

What you couldn’t see in that last picture was that it was standing room only with people standing in the doorway and out in the hall too. It was well attended to say the least.

The site we are providing is up at www.aseacecuador.org As of this writing, think of the site as in Beta. We still need to train and get the approval that everything is right and looks the way they want it too. When they take control of it is when current content will start being added to it. Right now you can see some of what has gone on in the past. We think that once you look into this you will agree with us this is a great program that a lot of people are spending time and effort to make sure it is done right.

More Organic Produce

Ok I have done a couple of posts about this before, but I just had to do another one. As you know we have delivered every week Organic produce for $5.00. Early in the week they tell us what is available and we can change things but I don’t think we have as yet.

This morning the following was delivered and filled up this bag:

As you can see it is completely full!

Now what all did it have in it you might be thinking – think no more – here is the list:
Swiss Chard
Baby Zucchini ( will tell you a story later about this)

When you lay it all out – this is what it looks like…

Now for the Baby Zucchini story…

It isn’t just an interesting little story. You see here a lot of the locals don’t do anything with Zucchini and as a result they don’t know what to do with it. They grow it, like a few other things, just for the Gringos. Usually you find pretty good sized Zucchinis, about the size of a large cucumber or even larger. A cook from New York that lives here and also speaks Spanish, talked long and hard to a couple of different growers, one being our organic people, about how we like baby Zucchini’s. That is how we started getting them available. Except for our Organic grower that we get our Veggies from – you still have to ask and wait and then maybe you will get some baby Zucchini’s.

But the growers here are happy to provide what we want or like once they understand so it is a learning experience for everyone.

The First Commercial Order

Yes I make bread, as if you didn’t know that all ready. It is Sourdough from a starter that is over 100 years old. Of course I wasn’t there when it was started but I can tell you that I have had it since the mid 70’s to make bread and all things sourdough with.

A restaurant in town liked my bread and wanted to use it in the restaurant I said sure I will make some for you. Then they got to thinking and needed some flat bread too. So I made some Naan bread and let them try that – they liked that too. This morning I delivered the first order, two loaves of Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar bread and a whack of Naan Bread. Here is a picture before I delivered it. Yes I do deliveries directly to the door, but not just for anyone.

Did you know that from the beginning of time until about 1875, when commercial yeast was invented, all bread was sourdough. Check out the heath benefits on the Internet.

A quick note on the Naan bread – Sourdough Naan is the way they have always made it, that is until the late 1800’s or so when Commercial Yeast became available. Ok maybe they didn’t make it with Alaskan Sourdough but a sourdough of sorts is what they had. That means for the first time in many peoples memory, at least those that taste my Naan bread, are eating Naan that is really how it was originally made for like ever!

Another Day another Parade…The Horse Parade

Every week it seems there is a Parade of some sort. Since we are currently right downtown and most activities go right down our street the activities keep us busy with the bands and the like. In fact we just received an email that outlined the celebrations for September and it looks like a very full month of activities. An amazing amount of activities for a town of 8,500. But I digress the purpose of this little post was to talk about the Horse Parade that happened today.

The first information we received about today’s Parade said it would start something like 9:30am; then we were told 10:00am; a couple days ago they changed it to 11:00am. Well… it did start about 11:45. Remember this is Ecuador and they have there own time zone and nothing starts on time. But finally, here they come…

They even have floats too – here are a couple examples…

What parade isn’t complete without dead chickens I ask you…

Of course we had to show you a star of future parades too…

Remember that old Cher song – Bang Bang – remember the words?
I was five and you were six
We rode on horses made of sticks
I wore black, you wore white
You would always win the fight
ok ok here is a link to the song – not the original but still the same
Cher – Bang Bang
It kinda fits to the song don’t you think?

Here is another little cutie from the Parade…

This was a very slow parade but some were ready and expected it to be slow. We happened to capture this couple that were even tied onto their saddle. The look in his face says it all…

Yes there were horses too – I would guess about 150 or so.

All in all, we had a great day watching the Parade.