Downeast Audubon Yarding Workshop

Tips for supporting wildlife in your yard

Downeast Audubon’s director, Leslie Clapp gave a tour of her extensive gardens to show ways that we may support wildlife in our yards, from the ground up to the canopy.

  • Grow less lawn.
  • See what you have by growing out your lawn, and work with it.
  • Plant a variety of plant species with a succession of bloom and fruit time.
  • Layering: think about planting layers of perennials, shrubs trees and a canopy.
  • Keep dead trees if they are in a safe place to stand.
  • Keep woody trimmings and use them by building wood and brush piles to provide cover for small shy birds; you can make them beautiful and attract sparrows finches and cardinals.
  • Growing thickets like rose or forsythia attract catbirds
  • Use mulch! Maintains moisture in the ground, holds back weeds and it breaks down every year. Nothing organic leaves the property. If the material is diseased or weedy, it goes to the back.
  • Put up windbreaks, especially in winter around feeders.
  • Provide birdhouses and feeders.
  • Keep clean water available, especially in drought conditions. This can be done in birdbaths or as a recirculating stream.
  • Plant native plants and maintain an open field meadow of perennials. Wildlife has evolved with native plants. Some people complain about native plants getting ‘buggy’, but this is good because the bugs feed the birds!
  • Make and use compost
  • Leave plants standing through the winter. Stop deadheading in mid September at the latest so the plants can produce seed to feed the birds.
  • Keep your cats indoors.
  • Mowing is necessary to keep an open field in Maine. Don’t mow in the summer! It takes food away from wildlife. Mow late, in November and alternate parts of the meadow so that there are sections left standing. Goldenrod gauls, for example, are good winter food for woodpeckers.

 

Canadian Ry Grass in the meadow is showy and provides good nourishment for birds
Squirrel grass is a showy native grass which grows a bit lower
Echinacia purpurea is native to the prairie, provide nourishing seed for birds and is medicinal for humans.
Native high bush blueberries are nutritious for birds and tasty for humans
Millet is the foundation of many bird seed mixes, but grows beautifully if you leave it standing in the garden. The grains are easy to harvest and make a good porridge too.
Native button bush produces an interesting bloom
Ornamental Raspberry is a beautiful native with very showy flowers. The fruit is edible for humans, tho it is quite small. Birds love to eat it in the protection of the large foliage.
The Sargent crabapple may be grown as a tree or as a shrub as shown here. In shrub form it offers great protection for birds. Water birds especially love this one with protection branching out over the pond.
The fruit from a Sargent crabapple is a perfect size for birds. If the fruit is too large, they can’t eat it!
Tropical looking Staghorn Sumac is indeed related to the tropical family of Cashews. The pioneer plant shows vibrant color in the fall and the fruit makes for a nourishing tea. The birds go crazy over the seeds.
Native filbert or hazelnut is a delicacy for humans and rich in nutrients for local wildlife.
Mountain Ash produces beautiful fruit and may encourage some types of birds to stay over the winter in years that it produces in abundance.

 

Hugel CULTURE demonstration

The first season at the SEED barn involved a lot of work taking down invasive plants and folding them back into the earth in a Hugelkultur fashion. Mid way through the season, the Blue Hill and Brooklin Garden Clubs visited the grounds in a demonstration on how we are using available materials to build Hugelkultures. Conversation on why it is important to address invasive plants ensued since many invasives are initially introduced as decorative garden plants. Bringing attention to the fact that many nurseries, especially in the big box stores, continue to sell invasive plants is important to know for avid gardeners.  Below, we see an example of a Hugelkultur bed in the second season as new plants become established. An introduction to the SEED Library offered members new ideas on what native plants could potentially be worked into the landscape. The tour ended with a description of how to tie in an aquaponic system into the small scale terracing approach developed by grandpa in the new greenhouse.

 

Germination

Returning Native Plants to the Maine landscape

Sowing seeds in January, Grandpa studies the instructions on the Wild Seed Project packets

Growing wildlife habitat promotes the presence of pollinators, which in turn supports the cultivation of the food we grow. Upon our arrival in Maine, we began an assessment of our property from a wildlife habitat perspective. Observations unfolded over the first season as we focused on renovating the barn and building a greenhouse. As an historic property, we are graced with established trees and many native shrubs that were planted over the century and a half this land was tended. However, the bulk of our property is like so many around here; large lawns that are kept mowed. Essentially this is like a vast desert for pollinators! So we decided to begin restoration with restoring meadows and open woodlands with pollinator friendly native plants. The reason we focus on native plants is because they have evolved with the wildlife so that the rhythms of both compliment each other’s needs through the seasons.

Talking with local folks who have restored and maintain open meadow habitat, we took the first step of returning natives to the landscape simply by growing out our grass. Most natives are perennials and will happily grow out and produce seed if given the chance. Things here grow so well, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to sow seeds directly in the ground without them being taken over. To augment the collection of native plants already present, germinating seeds in pots to introduce as plugs into established meadows is key.

Most wildflower seeds need a period of cold to germinate. While seeds may be fooled in a refrigerator, really the best approach is to follow the natural cycle and sow them outside. The Wild Seed Project has full instructions on how to germinate wild seeds. We had success by storing them under the cedar tree, facing west so that they were warmed by the afternoon sun as spring emerged.

When sowing seeds, they can be crowded. The seedlings may be transplanted into larger pots after they have germinated, or directly planted into a bit of cleared ground as long as we make sure to weed them out as needed when they are young. They will take a couple of years to become established enough to produce seed.

Native plant nursery under the cedar tree. The vast green desert of mowed lawn can be seen beyond. Over the winter, we had a screen over the box to protect the seeds from wildlife. As spring emerged, we started taking plants out to adjust to their future home.
Germination! Tiny seeds flourish.
In addition to sowing packaged seeds, we picked up a few red oak seeds that were germinating like mad in 2017. Placing the germinated seeds gently into the ground to grow in a new tree nursery, we plan to distribute the young trees to help return a native canopy to areas that need it.

Viviane Le Courtois

Exploring the idea of a shared table, Viviane Le Courtois contributed a series of drawings that were produced during her Saturday morning coffee gatherings at Processus, a community art space she co-founded in Denver. Each week she provided stone fruit to share with participants and asked them to place the pits on a piece of paper after they had eaten the flesh from around the seeds. By the end of the session, the paper was stained with the remnants of the particular fruit. Once dry, she drew the seeds of that fruit amidst the stains to create a sort of collaborative work that was literally produced around a shared table.

Extending the concept beyond the human table, Viviane also looked at the way we share with urban wildlife. Collecting found seeds (and a few plastic cups) from the compost pile in Rian Kerrane’s backyard, she noticed they had been gnawed and nibbled by squirrels and mice and other creatures who frequent our yards. She has started to assemble them with the intention of transforming them into small sculptures that reflect how our ‘shared table’ may reach beyond the ones we frequent within our domestic spaces.

Viviane Le Courtois objects d'art
Viviane Le Courtois exhibits a series of seeds nibbled by wildlife found in Rian Kerrane’s compost.

 

Sensorium: engaging the 5 senses

The SEED Sensorium is a multi-sensorial exploration of seeds. Bridging art and science, this series of activities engage the senses in learning about the remarkable world of seeds and their utmost importance in our lives. The activities draw inspiration from the Emilia Reggio philosophy of education which promotes student led, experiential education as the most engaging way to cultivate understanding of the world around us. Participants are encouraged to look through the lens of the seed to explore connections between art and science and their personal connections to the natural world.

Touch me seeds

The breadth of seed forms offer an opportunity to explore the amazing range of seeds. Simply putting together a collection of oddly shaped seeds allow us to explore the incredibly range of textures. Containers of smaller seeds with a range of densities offer an opportunity to immerse our fingers to feel the quality of a mass of seed. Presenting whole seed heads give us a sense of structure.

Sound

When vessels are filled with different kinds of seeds, participants may get a good sense of seed density as different seeds make significantly different qualities of sound. The listening station may include seed pods that make sounds as well as traditional rattles made from decorated gourds filled with seeds. Additionally, a series of rattles can be made from repurposed plastic water bottles covered with festive fabrics. Simply glue the fabric around the plastic bottle, leaving a small window at the top of the bottle in order to view the type of seed inside. Cover the fabric with a coat of matte gel medium to protect it and further secure the covering.

Smell

The sense of smell may be presented by placing seeds in small glass mason jars with screens screwed to the top. This way, the tops can be easily replaced and they may be stored in a way that the various smells do not intermingle. Culinary spices make perfect smells, as do carrot seeds, radish and coconut.

Taste

The taste station can include a wide range of possibility of exploring how seeds are essential to human survival.

Seeds may be tasted directly with popcorn, nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and culinary spices like cloves, nutmeg or fennel. Cooked whole seeds include millet, rice and beans.

The heirloom preservation portion of the SEED Library offers the opportunity for community members to grow out local varieties of edible plants, while farm to table events featuring seed based recipes completes the cycle around a shared table.

 

Tracing pizza ingredients back to seed sources

Since all our food essentially comes from seeds, another interesting activity is to trace back the ingredients in pizza, a food with multiple ingredient combinations that is immensely popular with kids. The crust is made from flour, which comes from wheat seed, and vegetables are easily traced back to the seeds from which they grow. Cheese can be traced to milk from a cow who eats grass, which in turn grows from seed.

Concept developed by SEED Taos

Testing Grounds: SEED Dispersal

Seeds leave their parent plant in five ways.
Some seeds can be dispersed in more than one way!

The conceptual foundation of SEED was inspired by the book, Seeds: time capsules of life by Wolfgang Stuppy & Rob Kesseler. They focus on the ways rooted plants express mobility, “All seeds have the same purpose — to travel through time and space until they reach the right place at the right moment to create a new plant.”  This activity provides an opportunity to test the dispersal methods of seeds in the classroom by setting up testing grounds that mimic the natural environment. There are five ways that seeds disperse & some seeds disperse in more than one way. The prompts below are set up with testing stations: a small fan for wind dispersal, a basin of water to see if seeds float and an earthen bowl for gravity dispersal. For animal dispersal, a piece of wool can be set up to test grip and representations of birds or bears to suggest dispersal through digestion. In the autumn, it is possible to harvest berries and mimic bird digestion in plastic ziplock bags to prepare seeds for sowing while still fresh. Ballistic dispersal may be represented on a small mobile device showing a film clip of an exploding cucumber.

Classroom layout for dispersal activities includes tools for testing as well as images mounted on matte-board to suggest other means of travel.

WIND

The kind of seeds that are dispersed by wind are often smaller seeds that have wings or other hair-like or feather-like structures. Plants that produce wind blown seeds, like the dandelion or milkweed, often produce lots of seeds to ensure that some of the seeds are blown to areas where the seeds can germinate. Seeds with a honeycomb structure are very light and have increased surface area, making them ideal for being picked up and scattered by the wind.

Milkweed seeds are carried by wind

ANIMAL DISPERSAL

Animals disperse seeds in several ways. First, some plants like the burr, have barbs or other structures that get tangled in animal fur or feathers, and are then carried to new sites. Other plants produce their seeds inside fleshy fruits that then get eaten by an animal. The fruit is digested by the animal, but the seeds pass through the digestive tract, and are dropped in other locations. Some animals bury seeds, like squirrels with acorns, to save for later, but may not return to get the seed. It can grow into a new plant.

People are animals too! We plant seeds intentionally in our gardens. We also pick them up accidentally on our clothes, shoes, automobiles, airpanes and boats. When we eat seeds, we relocate them through our digestive tract. . . just like other animals.

A carved bird representation from the highlands of Guatemala acts as a vessel for bird dispersed berry seeds

GRAVITY

Gravity is a simple way for plants to disperse their seeds. The effect of gravity on heavier fruits and nuts causes them to fall from the plant when ripe plants that use this kind of dispersal include apples, coconuts and passion fruit. Those with harder shells, like almonds or coconuts often roll away from the plant to gain further distance. Gravity dispersal can also be followed by water or animal dispersal.

WATER DISPERSAL

The seeds that use water as a method of dispersal are usually quite light, buoyant, and some have hairs or fluff that allow them so stay afloat. Many of these types of seeds are protected by water proof coverings so they can float for long periods of time. The coconut is a great example of a seed that uses water dispersal; it can be transported by ocean currents to completely different continents!

A coconut can traverse oceans when dispersed by water | Photo: SEED Taos

BALLISTIC DISPERSAL

Self-dispersal, or autochory, is the explosive discharge of seeds from the fruit. The seeds are typically squirted from the fruit tissue by first being squeezed, then released. Often the fruits are shaped so that seeds are flung away from the parent plant as with “Touch me nots” and exploding cucumbers.

Exploding cucumber seeds | Photo: SEED Taos

An alternative to this activity may be performed in the field using indigenous plants that would augment the existing plant community found on site. In this case, it is very important to make sure the seeds being tested belong in the place they are being tested!

Concept developed by SEED Taos

 

Tchaka: Exploring the collisions between Haitian food sovereignty & US food policy

Azaka detail, beadwork by Edmond

IMMACULA

Immacula Cadet grew up in Port-Au-Prince. When she was young, her family would go to the countryside of Cayes to dance with Papa Loko several times a year. They would celebrate the father of the Hougan priesthood by offering red liquor and cake. The most intricate and beautiful dances are performed for Papa Loko who is very strict about maintaining tradition. Immacula carries tradition forth in her role as Mambo.

 

MAMBO

Robed in pristine white dresses, the mambo move to the infectious rhythm of the drums. Their ample bodies weave through the close knit group, hips undulating so that their skirts take on the graceful flutter of butterfly wings. Papa Loko is known to move on the wind like a butterfly; nothing is unknown to him. He cannot tolerate injustice. Haitians have long been subjected to the impositions of outsider worldviews while suffering severe injustices by economic globalization. Awareness of this is channeled through the keepers of tradition. Rituals serve as a conduit, connecting participants to countless generations who have maintained fortitude in the face of external and dominating forces. They survive as the only nation born out of a successful slave revolt.

 

GRANDMOTHER

Flying between her ancestral lands and the land which has shaped the history of her nation, Immacula moves between Port-au-Prince and Boston, where two of her five children have joined the diaspora. She assumes the traditional role of grandmother by cooking for her family and taking care of her eight grandchildren. She loves to cook more than she loves to eat.

 

HUNGER

Food is expensive in Haiti. Traditional farming practices have steadily eroded as peasants are increasingly marginalized by exploitive industrial schemes. External structures of globalization have unraveled the social fabric of rural communities and caused an ecological disaster across the country. Heavily influenced by the World Bank, the ‘American Plan’ instigated monoculture production of exotic export crops, extending a model first implemented during the colonial era. Profits flow out of the country with the exports, benefitting multinational corporations and the oligarchy they support. Displaced peasants migrate to the cities where desperation forces them to work for rock bottom wages which is exploited by assembly industry largely owned by US companies. Further degrading the economic fabric in Haiti, an external framework for production offers little connection to local economies because raw materials are sourced from abroad and products are sold to foreign markets.[i] The earthquake of 2010 levelled even this frail economy as foreign companies fled. Abandoned by the schemers who decimated the foundation of local food production, people in Haiti can no longer feed themselves. Food is expensive because globalization has replaced localized economies. There is no food security, so Haitians rely on imported grain and food aid. The supply of food aid profits none other than the US agricultural sector which is deeply enmeshed with the corporations who debased food security in the first place. In the twisted ghetto alleyways along the Grand Rue, residents are fortunate if they get a single meal in a day.

 

HOME

They live in tiny houses pieced together out of corrugated metal and tarps, which have been propped up against cinderblock walls half tumbled by the earthquake. The dwellings consist of single rooms shared by a whole family. Much living takes place along the twisted dirt pathways and in the streets. At the suggestion that people there may be happier with a bit of private space, the response is that it would lessen the strength of community. At the suggestion that people may be satisfied with more material goods, the response is that it would reduce the value of the few items in their possession. Haitians maintain a strong sense of pride.

 

KITCHEN

In the mornings little kitchens appear, tucked into the corners of the footpath scaled alleyways, and the women begin preparing traditional Creole meals. Food prepared slowly, with love, offers comfort and empowerment to those who are nourished by it. It is a cultural foundation which acts as a strong glue that holds community together in ways that maintain an important sense of identity. The little kitchens consist of a few five gallon buckets which act as tables or a sink, a large bowl that gets propped upon a bucket, a charcoal stove, a couple of large stockpots, a knife and spoon and a large wooden mortar and pestle. A piece of the pervasive rubble is often pulled up as a stool on which to sit during the long hours of preparation.

 

TCHAKA

Immacula has set up a little kitchen in Andre Eugene’s lakou, the courtyard which acts as a nexus for the creative community of the Atis Rezistans. As sacred Veves are drawn with cornmeal around the courtyard in preparation for a celebration, we prepare Tchaka. This stew honors Azaka, the hardworking God of Agriculture.

 

AZAKA

Hardworking Azaka is well loved in Haiti. Great respect is given to this representation of a gentle peasant, as great respect is given to the hardworking farmer. Referred to as Kouzin, this ‘cousin’ offers a reminder of the importance of family, including deceased members who stay present with those who remain. Haitian peasants would bury their deceased family on their plot of land, weaving together a bond of ancestry to the land. It is a representation of the significance of land ownership which had been won by their forefathers through the ousting of the colonists. Even when displaced to urban areas, Haitians maintain a strong connection to the land.[ii]

 

PLASTIC

Another neighborhood grandmother, Rose Marie, arrives to help prepare the Tchaka. She pulls out a bundle of discarded plastic cutlery with which she lights a charcoal fire. This type of fire starter is plentiful because the Haitian government doesn’t recognize profit in trash collection, so they only do it once a month. Trash piles up on corners, clogs drains and fills the footpaths that weave through these densely packed neighborhoods. Ghetto dwellers have quite literally been thrown out with the trash by an elite who is more concerned with maintaining a tight grip on their own wealth than building the infrastructure of their country.

 

WATER

Rose Marie pours water that had been treated with chlorine into a large stockpot and places it directly on the coals. After the earthquake, UN workers brought Cholera to a country who had never had to worry about the water borne illness. The problem of water borne illness is exasperated by the loss of natural filtration systems offered by trees and undergrowth as it is removed with deforestation. Ghetto residents share the leaks that have sprung out of industrious hacking into a civic plumbing infrastructure to which they are not given official access. They know to add chlorine so it will not make them sick.

Immacula washes a single green onion, peels the dried outer leaves and feeds these to the fire growing in the charcoal stove. She throws the whole onion in the stockpot which she covers to let the water warm. Haitians have an intricate understanding of their history and maintain a strong sense of identity that is deeply rooted in African traditions. In describing trans-Atlantic connections, Moyo Okediji describes the daily creative acts of women from his homeland; “Just as the cooking pot is central to the Yoruba concept of family, the pot is central to the way Yoruba women define themselves – it is a voice, a mind, a meeting point, and a vehicle of transition.”[iii]

 

CORN

Immacula finds a chair, and sits upon it as if on a throne. Slowly, she picks through 3 cups of cracked yellow corn, throwing the brown pieces to the hen and her three chicks who are scavenging about the urban yard. After washing the broken corn, she drains the water by splattering it across the cement, cooling it from the pounding tropical sun. She adds a small spoon of Baking Soda to the warmed water in the stockpot, then throws the corn in by the handful. Adding enough water to the fill the pot two thirds full, she covers it to boil for about an hour as the coals slowly die down.

Haitians remain sensitive to the neo colonial powers that displace them from traditional lands in order to exploit them in an abusive labor system. They are not blind to how they echo the colonial structures that brought their ancestors to this land as slaves. As much as they are able, they fight it. Peasant farmers have recognized the abuses of the Monsanto Corporation in the way that they tie farmers into a system that is dependent on purchasing yearly supplies of engineered seed instead of the traditional methods of saving and replanting seed. They know that from this system grows a disastrous debt that peasant farmers in other countries have suffered. They recognize the health as well as the environmental impacts of the chemicals necessary to grow the modified seeds. So when the industrial giant offered a donation of genetically modified corn seed after the earthquake, there was a widespread call by the Peasant Movement of Papay to burn the huge piles of seed.[iv] Their call was heard, but officially heeded by the government for only a year.[v]

While the corn is simmering, the grandmothers pick through three cups of red kidney beans by the handful, throwing out the brown and deformed ones. After washing and draining the beans, they add them to the stockpot. Rose Marie replenishes the charcoal, replaces the pot, and covers it to bring to a soft boil. The stew cooks gently for 45 minutes as people start to gather, drawn to the lakou by rich smells emanating from the pot. The grandmothers continue by peeling half of a medium pumpkin, removing the seeds and strings. Leaving it in large pieces, the orange flesh gets added to the pot.

 

CREOLE PIG

She then adds a pound of thickly sliced viande conchon, which is like bacon on steroids. Azaka loves the fat in this dish, so Rose Marie splashes in a bit of extra oil as well. The pot continues to simmer for an hour.

During the night of August 14, 1791, the catalyst for the Haitian revolution grew out of the ritual slaughter of a black Creole pig by a wild haired Mambo who embodied the lwa Erzilie Danto at the Bois Caiman ceremony. The congregation was called into a pact of resistance by the Vodoun Priest, Boukman Dutty.[vi] The insurrection began eight days later, and within a week the northern plain was in the hands of the former slaves.[vii] Beyond these symbolic ties to a proud part of their history, the Creole pig was an essential component to rural life. They offered a strong foundation to the rural economy because they provided a large cash return on an initial investment. Furthermore, they provided a substantial value in the overall system of sustenance farming. Inexpensive to keep, the pig rid farms of waste which included weeds and pests like the May beetle larvae which was particularly destructive to crops. Their nitrogen rich excrement then provided free fertilizer for the crops. It contributed to the cycle of harvest by following its rooting nature and digging up the fields after the food was taken in, which prepared the earth for the next planting. Like Haitians themselves, they were survivors who had adapted to some of the most miserable living conditions in the world. [viii]

In the early 1980s, the United States led a massive eradication program of the Creole Pig. There had been an isolated outbreak of swine flu in the Artibonite Valley that had come down the river from the Dominican Republic. The US felt threatened that it would reach our shores, even as the Creole pigs proved to be resilient to the disease as they had acquired a strong natural immunity to most endemic disease. Not only did they exterminate the pigs throughout the Artibonite Valley, the US government extended the geographic area to annihilate pigs throughout the country. They would fly over the mountains, killing wild pigs from helicopters. After failed efforts to replace the pig with American breeds, French and Chinese breeds have been introduced. However, it will take many generations for these pigs to develop the same sort of resistance to the harsh living conditions that made the Creole pig so hearty. Meanwhile, the rural population turned in desperation to charcoal production, speeding up the deforestation and desertification that plagues Haiti.

Into the large wooden mortar and pestle that had been lathed in this woodworking community, Rose Marie throws three cloves of peeled garlic and mashes them into a smooth paste. She then cracks a coconut by throwing it on the cement floor. Draining the water into a bowl, the drink is shared amongst friends. The meat is extracted, washed and grated on a repurposed coffee can punctured with nail holes. Immacula pours two cups of water over the shredded coconut meat and massages it to extract the milk. She pours some into the pestle to rinse the garlic, which she empties into the Tchaka pot along with the rest of the strained coconut milk. Repeating this processing, coconut milk is added to fill the pot. The chickens eagerly receive the coconut shreds. Rose Marie rinses a handful of Grand Saline salt with a flourish and throws it in the Tchaka; as if the movement is an expression of the belief that salt is life, and will keep zombification at bay. A bouquet garni made with parsley and thyme brought ages ago by the French colonists adds that portion of their history to the pot, while three habanero chilies bring with them the flavor of the Caribbean region. By this time, the beans are bien cuit, tender. They take out the large pieces of cooked squash to pulverize them in a sturdy bowl. Thinning the mash with broth, the liquid is returned to the pot through the strainer, working the pulp through the mesh with the pestle to thoroughly extract the smooth flesh from the stringy strands. The stew warms to a boil as Rose Marie adds two tablespoons of butter and three Maggi chicken stock cubes. Immacula throws in a handful of the cornmeal used to draw the sacred Veves. Just before serving, the Tchaka is finished with juice from one sour orange.

 

CHARCOAL

As the pot is taken off the fire, the coals are quickly whisked away to feed another smoldering stove in the neighborhood. Charcoal production is by far the largest contributor to deforestation which leads to soil erosion and desertification. Monoculture production of exotic crops for export was established by the colonists in the most fertile areas, and continues to be supported by a global system of agriculture. A marginalized peasant population was pushed into marginal areas up in the mountains, where they have eked out subsistence farms to feed the country. As economic pressure mounts due to things like the decimation of the Creole Pig, so does desperation, and making charcoal eases the hunger that results from a system of exploitation. Forests bring rain, when they are cut down the rain is not pulled down and the land becomes parched. During the monsoon seasons, too much rain washes away the precious top soil which is no longer held in place by tree roots. The cycle of desperation deepens. It is said in Haiti that “the mountains have grown old. You can see their bones poking through their skin”[ix] because in places, severe erosion has exposed the bedrock. Food security is intricately linked to environmental sustainability. After many outside organizations have attempted sustainability programs, it ends up that traditional farming techniques are the most effective in maintaining environmental balance. The organizations who respond to the requests of the farmers for native trees over exotic export crops yield the highest success rates. The farmers know that multipurpose trees have always been the foundation of a homestead, providing wood, fodder, medicine, shade and food for the farmers. Working in harmony with the land, traditional Haitian subsistence farmers rely on a diversity of crops grown using biodynamic, polyculture growing methods. For a population who has grown wary of the systematic subjugation to an elite supported by outsider structures, it is essential to base assistance on collaboration and participation through working with the traditional knowledge maintained by the elders of rural areas.[x]

 

FEAST

During the ritual for Azaca, the Tchaka is offered to the spirits for about 20 minutes before the rest of the gathering shares in the feast. During this time, any of the family may partake in sharing the pot. There is a set hierarchy of how people eat in the ghetto as well. The grandmothers sit above their pot and ceremoniously dish up the porridge, passing it first to the leaders of the community, before working their way around to serve those who have contributed most to maintaining the tight weave which has given this neighborhood strength. From these heaping servings, the community leaders eat their fill and pass off their plates to the next member of their families. The plates end up being passed off three or four times so that those with ties to the community fabric are nourished.

This meal was prepared as a collaboration between Immacula Cadet, Rose Marie & Lee Lee during the 3rd Ghetto Biennale – Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Find the Tchaka recipe here

 

References

[i] Haiti Info, Haiti’s Agricultural Production, 1996

[ii] Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn

[iii] Moyo Okediji, “Returnee Recollections – Transatlantic Transformations,” Catalog for the exhibition, Transatlantic Dialogue, Contemporary art in and out of Africa, Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000

[iv] Beverly Bell, Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds, The World Post, 5/17/10

[v] Beverly Bell, http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org

[vi] H. Pauléus Sannon, Histoire de Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1920

[vii] Stéphen Alexis, Black Liberator, 1949

[viii] Bernard Diederich, Swine Fever Ironies, 1985

[ix] JM Smith, When the Hands are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti, Cornell University Press, 2001

[x] Nathan C McClintock, Agroforestry and sustainable resource conservation in Haiti: A case study, 2003

Poulet Légumes

  • 12 plump chicken legs
  • 5 oranges, peeled with a knife leaving half the pith in tact
  • 6 limes
  • 4 tsp rock salt
  • 1 lb green beans, ends removed and sliced diagonally into 1″ segments
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced crosswise at a diagonal in 1/2 ” segments
  • 12 small potatoes, peeled
  • Small bunch of parsley tied together with 5 large sprigs of thyme
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 40 gram packet of ‘sazon ranchero’ (similar to a Mexican taco sauce)
  • 4 habanero chilis
  • 1 green onion, white and green part, chopped into 1″ segments
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 small yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin rounds

Wash chicken legs and make a diagonal slice to the bone through the thickest part of the meat. Place the chicken in a large pot. Squeeze the juice of one orange and 2 limes over the chicken, rubbing the juice into the meat. Add 2 tsp rock salt, stir to combine and leave to marinate. Reserve juice from 4 remaining oranges and 4 remaining limes in a separate container. The rinds may be added to the chicken marinade.

Boil green beans, carrots and potatoes until cooked through but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside, separating the potatoes from the beans and carrots. In a large wooden mortar and pestle, pound one habanero, green onion, garlic and chicken bouillon cube until a rough paste forms. Reserve.

Remove citrus rinds from the chicken marinade. Add enough water to reach the top of the chicken legs. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Strain chicken, discarding cooking liquid. Return the chicken to the pot. Add reserved citrus juices, parsley and thyme. Cook over medium high heat until all liquid evaporates and starts to brown on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with 2 cups of water, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add enough water to reach half way up the chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, then add a chicken bouillon cube and the sazon ranchero. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, take out the parsley and thyme sprigs, and add the reserved paste from the mortar and 2 tsp rock salt.

Remove from flame. Drain chicken, reserving cooking liquid. Heat oil in the large pot and add chicken pieces in a single layer. This may take a couple of rounds. Fry chicken until it is a deep chestnut color. After chicken has fried, remove to separate bowl. Add tomato paste to the same oil and sautee for about 3 minutes. Add green beans and carrots and sautee for 5 minutes. Add reserved cooking liquid and simmer 10 minutes. Add 2 whole habanero chilis, potatoes, green bell pepper, butter and a splash of water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir, mashing the habanero against the side to release flavor. Return chicken to the pot, add sliced onion and simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve with Diri Djon Djon

This recipe was performed by Rose Marie Paul at the 3rd Ghetto Biennale in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Carrot vendor at the Marcher Salomon