Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Bosque Experience

So, Danny and I just spent 10 days out at the Bosque foundation. Before I go any further I want to give people an idea of where that is and how we got there because it is not as simple as we had guessed. First we arrived in the capital of Michocan state, Morelia. We then hopped a bus to the town of Patzcuaro, which is about an hour away to the west. From there we took a combi, which a small van/bus, to the little town of Erongaicuaro. Once in Eronga we crossed the small central square to where the next combi waited. This took us up the hill to the village of Yotatiro.
Calling it a village is being pretty generous. It’s actually just a single road running up and down a long hill. This is why we got such funny looks when we asked where the church was. The person we asked just stopped, stared, and said “it’s where the church is.” This became really obvious to us once we started walking up the hill. It’s got to be the biggest building in town, which is to say it was two stories and had little steeples. Once there we met out guide, Enrique, who took us down a small road and into the woods. We trekked uphill for the next 20 minutes or so, the whole time complaining to each other that we clearly owned too much gear. Finally, we crested the hill and found small log houses scattered about around a central lodge.
To say that we were secluded would be quite an understatement. It felt even more secluded because we were two of four campers that were currently staying there. We got our tent set up as night set in and we went to the small common house called la casita. We were immediately struck by one of the key features of the Boque foundation; no electric lights at night. Our dinner, which we found out was always a soup, was served by candle light and in relative silence. Then, we sat by the fireplace trying to get warm as the night progressed. At 2400 meters, or 7,874 feet, we were really high up there. The temperature was very brisk at night at somewhere in the 40’s. I was very glad to have packed long johns, a long shirt and thick sweatshirt. Those items seemed unnecessary to us in Mexico city but they were a life saver out in the hills.

So, what was happening up there that made it worthwhile to go so far from civilization? The answer is; surprisingly a lot. The Bosque is a project put together by Brian, who owns the land and gets all of the projects started. His goal is to see how little we as people need to survive, if and when we run out of essential aspects of modern society such as fossil fuels, arable land and potable water. Some of the things that are being experimented with out there are:

Composting toilets: Human waste is mixed with sawdust as opposed to water. This means that no valuable water, especially in a place that is off the grid, is used to get rid of offal. In fact, the waste product is broken down over a few years with worms and natural processes to become a non-contaminated source of fertilizer. The toilets don’t smell and everyone who saw them was quite impressed with their simplicity and usefulness. Once you get over the natural “eww” factor related to human waste, that is.

Solar energy: We were able to go online and communicate with the rest of the world through out the course of the day using only solar energy panels. Hot water was also available through simple solar panels set on roofs that heated water to near boiling all day long. Nothing large, like power tools, were able to tap this power but that was mainly a matter of available solar panel capacity. Batteries allowed for the potential to use the energy at night but they were getting old and this was discouraged.

Earth and cob building: Many of the houses involved some aspect of natural earth block and cob building material. In fact, we enjoyed a wonderful sauna in a building created solely from logs and cob material. Cob is a mixture of earth and clay that sets up much like any other cement, although its properties changed in the rain we were told. This is why large overhangs are critical to these buildings.

Plant propagation and non-irrigated farming: The Bosque is set in a forest now but this was not always the case. Only sixty years ago the land was barren and open due to poor agriculture techniques that destroyed forest for pasture land. Now, the foundation is repopulating the area with local plants that are usable by humans and animals alike. The goal is to create a healthy biosphere with indigenous animal and bugs species to help it thrive. Brian is also very interested in experimenting with which plants can grow without irrigation since the rainy season is only three months long in that area. Various cacti and local flora have shown that they need very little water in order to propagate and thrive.

The people who visit the Bosque are also part of the experiment. Each visitor is asked to contribute in any meaningful way to the project. The idea is to find out what social dynamics work when there is no preset culture or expectation. Everyone is encouraged to be creative and start whatever they feel will contribute to the overall culture present in the Bosque. One camper put up an amazing mural while we were there as well as a beautiful candelabra made from a local madrone branch. We took part in paper making and book binding, as well as star gazing and fire twirling.

Overall the experience there was peaceful and reflective. I found ample time to read about sustainable villages and farming practices as well as opportunities to sight see around the area. It made me ask a lot of question about what was really necessary for a happy and meaningful life. I realized that I could be very content with a lot less than I had previously considered necessary. It also made me realize how much I love to have electric lights at night. Candles and fire light are only so much fun before you start to want a little switch in the kitchen that makes dinner easier to see. Still, the overall experience is one I will be digesting for a while. Next up on the blog role: Around the Highlands of Michocan.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Adam for the wonderful blog:) I love the graphics and every thing about it. I really appreciate hearing what you and Danny are doing there. You are a lovely writer and please keep up the good work of doing just that.

    In the wind storm here our power went out for a few hours and we also were reminded of how much we take for granted and for me a reminder to be grateful for those basics amenities that we are blessed with. As well as not to squander them:)

    Thanks again

    Grace Kane