Sunday, July 31, 2016


Water is central to life. With it a village has a level of security that allows them to grow. Without it life revolves around a cycle of need for one of the most basic necessities. The village of Xecono lies almost 3 hours up the hill from the farm. It is a new village just 4 years old. It is also a village of the future- new opportunities and for some of it's 13 families the first time they have ever owed a piece of land. What they don't have is water. In the above photo Pedro crouches beside a shallow well he has dug. All other families have trapped lined pits to collect the rain water in. The water in these open pits is the color of coffee during the dry season. For most of the rest of the year it is a habitat for frogs and mosquitos. That is soon to change, a couple in Florida had decided to make a differance and donated the funds to bring clean, dependable water into the village .

Last Monday I joined the village in a trip up the mountain with cement, pipes and rebar to offering my part in the development of their spring. They had already carried forty plus hundred pound sacks of sand and gravel up the steep trail. I was happy to get a chance to hike and test out our new mule "Macho". ( silhouetted in the photo is Antonio on his moto bike and Macho with one of the villagers)
Macho, and all male mules in Chel are call macho, and I were running late as Antonio put new shoes on him that morning. The night before I mentioned that we should shoe Macho because it is a hard trail up the hill and like many other things Antonio or another of our team members just make it happen. So with a pair of new horse shoes and a pair of new pick axes we are ready lend a hand.
 I  like to hire local masons help with the construction of the collection tanks and I felt fortunate to have two masons in the small village. They both are named Pedro but not all masons in Chel are named Pedro. 
There are three river crossings in the valley before we start the climb, each getting smaller than the last.
Once we start up the hill the mud begins. This trail goes for 8 hours before coming to the last village. Four villages or 115 families depend on this trail.
Most of the villagers do not have mules and hundred pound loads are not uncommon.

Rebar makes for an awkward load especially around sharp bends in the trail. The rebar was divided up into sixty pound loads.
Sometimes I would like to take the " I am an odd man and the trail is too hard" excuse but Jose is the same age as me  so... if he can do it I can too.

It takes good mules to climb the trail. They are constantly encouraged with calls of "Tchoka b'an b'ey oon la b'ena"  "Look for the good trail go slowly".

Important words and I was impressed at how well all the mules traveled. The stick in the mud in front of the mule is a warning marker. It marks one of the many holes that a mule or person can break a leg in.

But after two hours the trail levels out on a ridge line. Soon we will descend on the other side. There we leave the main trail entirely and arrive at the spring site by a freshly cut path.
Once at the spring site a tally is taken of all the cargo and who carried it. 4 dozen boards, 40 sacks of sand and gravel, 300 pounds of rebar, and 15 bags of cement. It has taken two weeks to gather all of the materials.
Lumber has been sawn free hand with a chainsaw and carried to the sight.

Bags of cement have been hauled over the treacherous trails.
And now the work of trenching and forming can begin. I had two  thoughts as we began the actual construction. 1.) I am tired already,2.) That was quite a commute.
This is a three month project for 13 families to bring clean water into the village. This is only the report of part of a  day in the life of that project. What TRE and our donors bring to the Ixil people is the opportunity to make their tomorrow better. They are more than eager and willing to make good use of that opportunity with all that they have. I do not have the ability to speak as elegant as Dr. King but I too have a dream. I want to make a lasting change in twenty villages. Every week the farm receives visiting leaders seeking help for their village. Some like Xecono travel hours in the early morning to ask if we can come help with gardens, water, stoves or other forms of aid. I know we can't do it all but they are not asking for that. They are willing to do their part. What they are asking for is the opportunity to make a good dream a reality. What I am asking of you is the same. In stead of complaining about the state of the world let's roll up our sleeves and create the best dream our hearts
hold so our neighbors and children can live better lives.
Some of our work crew for the day.
Lunch for the day - beans and tortillas- no big surprise. This higher country is good for growing apple, plums and pears. The next trip Macho and I make up here we will have to bring some fruit trees and garden seeds.

Macho and Jose one of my Ixil teachers returning with a load of firewood. The trail not only holds many adventures but many lessons as well. At one point during the day I was not sure if a fork in the trail was before me or behind me. When I finally came upon someone that could tell me it was behind me I stopped worrying and turned around. I wasn't where I wanted to be or where I should be but to know what was the right direction was enough to put my mind at ease. Our lives can be like that. We have past the right road but when it becomes clear where we need to go and turn around peace walks with us. I know you did not read all of this to have someone tell you what to do but... Take a look at life, at your life and make sure your heading in the right direction. Tchoka b'an b'ey oon la b'ene-- seek a good path and take it slowly. If we do we are sure to arrive in a good place.
Corn leaves for the tamales and firewood on which to cook them. I think it has been a good day but then I can't remember a bad day when I was hiking in the mountains.

Passing by the valley to the east of the farm. The evening thunder clouds roll over these hills and drop down to Chel. They bring with them over 100 inches of rain a year but this afternoon it is clear. Three springs lie in the valleys below. I think we will be back this way and bring some more water to Chel.
Tchoka b'an b'ey Look for the good road.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Mondays are garbage pick-up days in Chel. We have been encouraging clean streets and clean home sites in anyway we can.

Although we are a long way from winning the battle we are seeing good results.

It is  mandatory that a recipiente of a stove work four days cleaning streets. 

Some of our garden leaders have been organizing their groups to join in the campaign. This last week they swelled our ranks to 32 workers! This is in response to a question we have been posing. What kind of community do you want to live in?
I took the opportunity to bring down seedling from the farm. I can fit 800 starts in the two boxes.
Tying together different programs only strengthens the work of community development.
 Cleaning the streets, making the kitchen safer and easier to work in and helping fill up the family garden all work together for a better community.
The Mayor of Chel decided to join in the work and recently approached us with a desire to work together. The mayor is in the stripped shirt between me and two of our community members. The other two men are hired by the mayor who took our suggestion to charge each store five quetzales a month to start a garbage service. But in truth  I am thankful for everyone on the team. Our next step is garbage cans at the soccer field.


I want to invite everyone to watch a dream become a reality. We are hard at work here helping its birth and with each day we see more hope coming to a people who have little. We have finished the purchase of the land that Eden sits on. We are all so grateful to the people who have come alongside of us in support of this training center. Almost a year ago I realized that this was a project that needed to be done. As we begin work and see the immediate effect on the communities we serve I know it was the right decision and one that will bear more fruit than any of the founders saw. Each day our team is in awe with the dawning of the richness and grandeur of the change that is coming for the Ixil people.  With so much happening every day it is not possible to report even a fraction of the events but I am watching a core group of Ixils see how they can change their lives with the tools and training we are providing. In the following reports I hope you also can begin to see and rejoice with us that a people who have suffered so much are moving themselves forward to a better tomorrow.
We are almost done collecting plant cuttings and seedlings from my Xesalli site. We have made many trips down the hill with our different work crews bringing seedlings to Eden.
It is a 20 minute commute  that reminds me of the song lyrics "over the river and through the woods" as we pass through some beautiful country. Each trip we would bring one hundred to one hundred and fifty new plants to Eden.
 Francisco is carryng a native plant called muxan. It is one of the preferred leaves to bake tamales in. The variety of plants we already have growing is exciting. We have plants from the states, Asia, Africa and Europe.
Morning sunrise breaks through a papaya tree in one of the gardens. We are using cattail stocks in the paths for a mulch or cover. As they decompose we will put the rich biomass they create onto the garden beds.

At the heart of the farm is our greenhouse. It lets us produce thousands of seedlings each month fro distribution as well as protect and establish new varieties of seeds.

Here in the lower part of the greenhouse we have planted two types of beans for a green manure crop. In two weeks we will turn the bean crop into the soil and plant tomatoes and peppers in their place.

Here a tray of tomato seedlings waits for its turn to be planted. We are planting vegetable starts in assembly- line fashion.  Last week we distributed 2,000 vegetable seedlings in Xesalli and Chel.

Each seed tray holds 200 seedlings.You can see little Carlos in the background. He is learning by watching us work how to prepare the trays.

 We are already producing over 3,000 seedlings per month.

As soon as we can grow them people are in line waiting to plant them.

Our two motorcycles have turned into delivery trucks. The two boxes on the back of the bike lets us deliver 800 seedlings into waiting hands.

 Being able to work at this volume level will make a real difference in our 600 family gardens.
In early March Brad Ward from ECHO ( Educational Concens For Hunger) paid us a visit. Here he looks over a new variety of collards we are introducing. This green is so popular that we are planting  1,000 seedlings at a time. ECHO is a great partner to learn and study with. We are greatful for the introduction that Penny from Miracles in Action has given us to Brad and the organization.
Penny generously brought Brad and Echo's videographer Nate back to shoot some footage of our work. Here they are recording an interview with two of our garden leaders.
 We have also been busy with construction projects; building bridges, small dams for fish ponds and remodeling the second story of the ranch house. All this work is being done in the fashon of a living classroom that our workers benefit from.

Antonio and Saloman leveling off the top of a foot bridge. They later inserted flat stones to make Mayan designs of corn, birds and the date. It was a fun personal touch.

Gaspar, one of our field hands, was always quick with a smile even though most of his teeth are gone. It's a fun place to work or visit. We offer three weeks of work to field hands then switch workers so others have a turn to learn and earn. Learning from the experience of having workers show up who have not eaten the day before due to lack of food, we offer a company hot lunch each day.


We are already harvesting enough produce to provide a good portion of our  lunches.
A few weeks ago we realized that we could be generous with our greens harvest. What is special about this realization is it does not just apply to the limited time of a few weeks or months but an abundant harvest is going to be the daily occurence from now on. This is quite an awakening in a place where malnutrition ranks high. 
Felipe is our field supervisor and is happy to enjoy some of the rewards of his labor.

The farm also allows us to deepen the help and relationship that we offer our neighbors. The boy in the foreground, Lucus, was living under broken tarps with his family when we first met him. Behind him is Carlos. His home was so small we had to get them to add on so we could install a new stove for his family.
Well, that is enough for now. Thanks to everyone for following along on this journey and a special thanks for those who are helping us make this dream a reality. Qil tip' paq'te ma'te b'en   Hasta luego Adios, We'll see you latter Got to go.