His Eyes Honduras
Mission related and personal items by Felipe Colby
Friday, April 5, 2013
Hill Climber coffee farm near Sampedrana
Oscar and I went to Sampedrana today for a long overdue visit to see how the progress is going on the Hill Climber coffee farm there.
Long overdue because...well, we are pretty busy!
Long overdue also because...it is not exactly the most accessible location. Traveling to Sampedrana is something we have done for over 10 years now...we know the bumps and such. We can make that journey without testing ourselves or the vehicle in which we are going too much in about two hours. (With more and more of the road between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa four lane...it makes those 50 miles go much quicker...it is the other 10 miles that are more challenging.) This visit was an entire day adventure.
Now, to get from Sampedrana which is about 4,300’ ASL (a rise of about 2,300’ from Comayagua over those 10 miles driven.) to the coffee property (we have still to figure out how much property is there...the sale paperwork says 34.6 acres...more on that coming up) is less than three miles driving, but you rise another 1,500’
That probably does not sound like much...so I will make it simpler: it is steep. You will forgive me since I was driving not to get any great shots of the road on these portions...just take my word for it.
And thus the problem with measuring our 34.6 acres. I do not think it to be that much in all honesty, maybe more like 20-30 but it is sizable nonetheless...and nothing changed from when we bought it, just that it is so remote and not mapped, that until we get everything just right will we be able to get someone from the mayor's office to do the surveying and tell us just how big it is.
Just trying to walk up and down the hills on which our property rests makes taking it all in quite difficult, at least for me. With a big hill like a backbone, running down to ravines on either side, and a couple of hills in the middle to block your line of sight....it is hard, especially for gauging that much property.
We went to see the progress on the work Alfonso has been doing, as his primary work focus....he also is serving as the interim pastor of sorts as we continue to seek out another pastor to fill the void there. God continues to guide and protect the Church in this time, that is the encouraging/good news on that side of things.
The bulldozer work we had done worked...but we also knew that after the rains there would be follow up work to be done. You might be looking at this picture wondering....what road? But trust me, it is there...like a proverbial diamond road in the rough.
This is another view from our little walk...parts of the road have had slides off the side...others have had "little rocks" deposited in the middle of the road."
There are some spots where even the motorcycle would be challenged, and we are looking at renting a backhoe to go up to clear the debris that has fallen and blocked the road, we shall see. Hiring some men to do that job would also work...but it would easily take them over a month, and with some of the boulders and rock face to carve...might not be the best course of action. We will have to see the hourly cost for the backhoe and go from there. Too bad we did not own our own backhoe....plenty of work for one of those for years if we were so inclined.
The nurseries for the coffee plants are being done in stages...carrying those plants up to where they will be planted would be making hard work even harder, so this gets them closer in bunches to where they will eventually need to be.
Here you can see one nursery, with an area they are cleaning by hand to make ready for the plants later this year. The bulldozer made the relatively flat spot for the nursery....the rest as you can see is not so flat.
We currently do not have enough coffee in the nurseries to fill the property. Not even close. We probably have enough for 3 or so acres. Alfonso is starting those coffee beans under these mats to generate another 15,000 or so plants for the nursery this year. (roughly you need 2000 plants to properly fill but not overfill an acre...but the slope will have some impact on that as well.)
Getting the plants into the black bags with the nutrients they need and taking care of them is hard enough work...but it also costs money, and to get them then into the ground and fertilized and cared for...more money. We want to plant lots of coffee...but we also have to make sure we can care for it when the time comes if we want it to be good, solid, well cared for and quality producing coffee.
The avocado trees are still down in Sampedrana. They will take about 1.5 acres of space to plant when they are ready to be moved....think of that as insurance against crop failure. Right now you can see beans being grown on part of the property just above this lowest nursery...this is to produce some food for Alfonso and others, perhaps even some monetary gain (the corn did not do so well...just enough for seed to plant again) as well as keep the property clear of underbrush and such when there is coffee ready to plant there in the future. We also have a lead on cheap strawberry starters. We are going to start with just a couple thousand to start, see how they do and go from there.
Here another worker is transplating some of the coffee that is ready into available cleared property. Steep is the word of the day in case you missed it.
Going uphill is not so bad, but Alfonso was kind enough with the slip footing to fashion a walking stick for me as we went back down, and down, and down.
The coffee...where does it come from? We take good quality crop from the harvest, and get those to germinate before putting them in the black plastic bags. They start the germination process under this mat of sorts in the left of the picture. If you look carefully at Alfonso's hand...you will see the bean with the start of a root coming out, almost ready to be bagged. Alfonso will need help there...thankfully we have at least some money to offer some employment to others there to get some of the 8,000 future plants there in bags and ready to start growing and maturing.
There are also raspberry bushes wildly growing in different parts of the property. We had a nice sn
ack while talking and walking...they were so good! We will be looking this summer with groups to carefully plant more of that along our property lines/fence rows, for production/consumption and possibly selling some. The extra benefit to planting them along the fence rows is...security. We have fenced enough to try to keep the cows out, but anything extra would be so much the better, and would discourage bipeds from trying to come in the property as well (they are thorny in case you were wondering.) It is a win-win-win-win
These crops need water...all year round. While some of the creeks where we know we need culverts placed right now are bone dry...the water source on our property is still producing water with great pressure! This is very encouraging...despite the deforestation in general that we see going on around the mountain to strip to plant coffee...already the water availability in some parts of the community has dropped in the dry season compared to years past. Our property had very few trees on it when we purchased it, just brush and such....we have some trees though that will come in handy when the time comes to build some buildings for workers to sleep, but we are trying to leave as many as possible. The water was so clear, so nice and cool...Oscar decided it was a good time to refill his water bottle. This water just runs...there is no pump, and yet just hooking this black plastic line to the source gets this kind of pressure very consistently, as we continued to see the entire time while we were there.
The short jaunt we took after leaving Andy (our nickname for the Land Cruiser the mission owns) did not look so little looking back at the vehicle from the property. See the little white dot in the middle of the picture on the flat part of the road?
The trip was encouraging today to see the progress, even with the road falling apart a bit...it was still there, just needing those maintenance touches. Some coffee is in the ground, some will be ready later this year, and we will be making a bigger push this year to get more ready for 2014 to go into the ground...plus the avocados, more raspberries, and some strawberries.
There is still so much to be done...so much more that could be done if we had the funding now instead of having to wait for everything...we ask you to join us in prayer that we would wait for God's timing, and that the funding to help us continue to expand and care for this work in its infancy would come. The long term benefit to the mission? We could help locally provide for the Church's future there, and in such a way that the Church itself could help with that and not just wait for handouts, generate income to help His Eyes do more Church planting elsewhere without always depending on foreign funding, employment possibilities for quite a few folks there, and of course....more delicious Hill Climber coffee!
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