Monday, August 23, 2010

New projects!

So I've got some more projects to do now! I'll give a small recap of what I've done lately.

Dante and I have been working on the rooftop garden and compost pile. We did a bunch of cleaning, clearing away of old "yard" waste (mostly into the compost!), sprucing up, and work on the compost piles themselves. (Harvesting finished compost, consolidating piles, etc.) The compost pile area could use a roof so when it rains it doesn't get overly soaked and leak out everywhere. There is enough scrap tin roofing around that we can use it for that. We also got the dry toilet* back in working order so that can be used and the contents composted. After some tender loving care, the compost pile is up to 140 degrees F!!!! I'm such a nerd - I love this stuff. I have found that Haitians are very resourceful and creative sometimes out of necessity, when money or materials aren't available they find a clever way to get the job done (i.e. building or fixing something). Oh, there is also a random solar water heater on the roof, and I fixed that up, cleaned it off, and tested it out. It's not one of those panels with heat exchanger tubes in it, it's a hemisphere of mirrors with a platform in the center (like a sattelite dish) where you can place a pot of water and heat it up that way. It works really well! It was fun playing with it.

The bigger projects are that the larger compost sites in the nearby towns of Limonade and Milot also need some TLC, to make sure they're working properly and geting up to temperature. They are probably a little dried out. Dante, Agronome (more on him later), and I are also going to take finished compost from the Milot site and plant some corn in a controlled experiment - corn in normal soil, corn in 100% compost, corn in 50/50 soil/compost, and the same 3 categories also watered with diluted urine water - so 6 categories in all. This is very useful as a visual to show people the benefit of using compost and urine as soil amendments. I'll be working with this dude known as the "Agronome" who is a Haitian about my age who studied agriculture in university. I think he's even nerdier than I am when it comes to this stuff!

One random thing - anyone who enjoys juvenile humor about excrement as I do would appreciate the words for "taking a dump" or "going number 2" and for "taking a leak" in Kreyol. Taking a dump and poo itself are both kaka (either verb or noun), and peeing is simply pipi (pronounced peepee - also either verb or noun).

I'm glad to be able to do something useful. Everyone in Port au Prince is super busy and I'm able to help them get these other projects crossed off their To Do list since they are too busy to come to this part of the country! In general, I really love everyone I work with, and all the Haitian people I've met as well. They are super friendly, and my Kreyol is progressing, which is helpful!

* SOIL builds and implements dry toilets, as opposed to composting toilets or wet non-composting toilets. This means that the material doesn't actually compost while in the toilet structure, but must be moved to a composting site for composting there. Additionally, it's a dry toilet, meaning that urine is captured separately. There's a urine diversion tray built in to the toilet so the urine is collected in a separate tank. The poo and organic cover material go together and stay very dry since the cover material is extremely dry. This has the added benefit of killing any pathogens (bacteria, parasite worms or eggs, etc.) that are in it, since they all die off rapidly in dry conditions. At home I used leaves or highly shredded paper from work as the organic cover material. Here they use bagasse, which is the leftover plant material from harvesting sugar cane. It is in superabundance here, and the factories are happy to give it away.

I will write more about the pros and cons of these toilets later!

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