Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wrapping up my visit to the Yerba Buena Farm

It has been an incredibly challenging, stimulating, and inspiring experience here for me. First of all, I am immensely grateful for the space, time and energy that this family has given me. They have provided an unbelievably welcoming environment for me and I am so impressed and inspired by their generosity and sincere devotion to teaching people about their life and the things they do to sustain and enrich their experience on earth. They have taught me to listen directly to my body. I have never been able to take clear moments throughout the day to sit with myself and think about how i'm feeling and be my own caretaker. In no way do they discourage seeing a doctor when you've broken a bone or have some other severe injury or pain that you cannot help yourself with in the moment. Although I think it is so valuable to learn how to take care of yourself in little ways that add up to preventing the bigger problems from occurring. I am completely spoiled here with amazing and fresh food, healing energy, and healing materials such as oils and tea that I know make my body so much happier. This trip has been a really crucial step for me in mental and physical health. I love being outdoors but I know that simply going for a walk everyday is not enough medicine and not enough for my brain to be aware of. I need to be constantly aware of what is entering my body and what is fueling me and what feels right and what doesn't. When we open up a hive and look inside at whats going on and how successful and healthy it is, we have to look and think very deeply about every little detail. Nothing can be missed. If you look through a hive and miss one frame, there could be a mite infestation on some of those larvae that we eventually spread and destroy the colony. When we are thinking about our health we have to think about every factor that could be helping or hurting us. Even living in Vermont, a state with supposedly clean air and resources. We now face a huge issue with contaminated water that is now going into our systems every day. There is also a huge problem with skin cancer in Vermont because people spend all winter inside and then finally go out in the sun in the summer when their bodies aren't used to it. There are so many miniscule factors that go into our health that we rarely think about or even do anything about. We also forget that the health of ourselves directly correlates with the health of the Environment. If there are high pollution rates in your area, or if there aren't a lot of trees and thriving wildlife around where you live then that means you are missing out on all of these natural resources that make your body happy and healthy. If you don't see any birds eating the berries on a tree, that means they are poisonous to yourself as well. If you don't see a lot of happy animals and plants in an area, that means there is something wrong and you are suffering from it. I want to use what I have learned on this trip to show people that we cannot be healthy if our surroundings aren’t. Taking care of yourself is 100% worth your while and we need to stop thinking that there are so many things like work and money that come before our health.
Photography was a really important tool for me on this trip because it allowed me to capture my thoughts and feelings instantly. There are words and feelings that go with every picture I took and even if they aren't physically there to other people, they will always be there for me and I strongly believe that if I have real passion and feelings in my photography, that they will come out and be felt by my viewers.

Saturday, 4 February 2017


So far I've learned a lot about choices of beekeeping and the benefits and downfalls of each of them. Here Agape and Kwao have about 70 hives, 5 or so are langstroth hives. Their reason for top bar hives is economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability. First of all, making your own top bar hive is far less expensive than buying parts to build a langstroth hive. Second, langstroth hives are much more aggressive which to me is a clear indicator that it is a less natural formation for them and many langstroth beekeepers use pesticides which harm your bees and poison your products. Agape and Kwao use only french thyme and guinea hen to fight of pests. Langstroth hives also have to be handled much more when you have to pick up entire boxes (10 frames at a time) full of bees, which can be up to 100 pounds if it is full of honey. As opposed to picking up one frame at a time when working with top bars which weigh up to 10 pounds when full of honey. This makes top bar hive beekeeping much more accessible and easily introduced to people who never thought they could do bee keeping. I went into the hives one of my first days here with very little introduction and I was so surprised at how much I learned so quickly and how I was completely capable of holding a frame full of capped brood and coated in bees. People have chosen langstroth hives because of the honey production. The bees produce more honey because the frames require a foundation that is a thin piece of bees wax printed with only worker cells on it, no drones. This means that the bees continue to only build worker cells and the workers make honey and protect the hive, while the drones only live to mate with the queen. That is why langstroth's are used in more of a production system and for people who only want the honey. Many beekeepers with langstroth hives are also convinced that drones are not necessary for the hive and a successful honey flow. Drones don't make honey so therefor they are considered useless. It has been proven however that not letting your bees produce drones does not help your colony in the long run. If you want cost efficient, healthy and happy bees however, and you're also interested in rendering the wax, then top bar is the way to go.

Thursday, 26 January 2017



Start with your vision for your soap. Are you going to use it for yourself or are you going to sell it? Is affordability/accessibility important for you? Is a clean and healthy process and substance important to you and your customers? Are you going to use it for dishes, laundry or bodies? What kind of oil do you want to use? Sunflower, coconut, vegetable? Do you want to have a scent? Your own product is a reflection of you!
We made our first batch with Agape using vegetable shortening, sodium hydroxide (lye), and peppermint oil!
We started by weighing out our ingredients. The lye and the vegetable shortening. We melted the vegetable shortening in a pot over the stove and then poured it into a bucket. You want it to be at least 120 degrees. While that is melting the lye bucket should be prepared.
We added the lye into a separate bucket of ice water (do not add water to lye). The ice helps the lye to not explode. Always have vinegar handy to rinse and wash surfaces that lye crystals may have dropped. 
Once both buckets are prepared you can pour the oil into the lye mixture and blend it with an electric blender if you have one or else you will have to mix it by hand for about an hour as apposed to 20 minutes. Once the mixture starts to get denser and you can see the liquid drops tracing on the surface when you pick up the blender, you are ready to pour it into the mold. 
Oil the walls of your wooden box/mold with vegetable shortening or whatever oil you wish to use and line it with freezer/ parchment paper. One piece cut for the long walls and one for the short walls so they over lap each other on the bottom. 
Pour your soap into the mold and insulate it. You can use a comforter and just wrap it up. In a day the soap should be heated up and getting solid. The next day it should be solid. Now flip your mold upside down and bang it on a table so your giant soap bar pops out. Now cut it!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Eating and Lifestyle

So far I have accidentally eaten jerk chicken once and I ate fish this weekend when our tour guide named Lion cooked it on the beach. The jerk chicken made me sick and the fish was delicious. Other than that I have been eating vegan and I really like it. Jessica, who cooks for Agape and Kwao and their six kids almost every day is an incredible cook. She uses garlic, onions, callaloo, potatoes, plantains, cabbage, hot pepper, and curry and so many more that I cannot think of in this moment.  Most of their food comes from the Kingston market every Thursday. Everything is grown on the island except for garlic and onions occasionally. Agape also makes that is enriched with cassava and made with yeast, flour, salt and oil and sometimes honey (it is so good). Sometimes she makes a garlic basil spread to go on top.  I don't think about snacks because there are so many better things to do with my time and three wonderful meals a day is really all I need. The boys love oranges, jellies (young coconuts), pineapple, watermelon, and sugar cane as special treats. I especially love jellies. Sleep and the ocean are also absolutely critical parts of my time here. We wake up around 7:30 - 8 every day so I try to get to bed by at least 10. My down time consists of swimming, reading and walking and getting to know people which makes me really happy.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Bees and Productivity

Today I am thinking about the bees and their purpose. I am thinking about how I wish I was that confident in myself, my abilities, and my tasks. I feel that as human beings we have essentially lost our purpose. As one species we should have intersecting ideas of what it means to be alive and what is important. However, there are now millions of different ideologies and theories laying out a life that is supposedly superior. I never feel superior. I feel so much lesser than people who grow up without a schooling environment and learn early on that you have to do constructive things with your time but in a natural way. You have to feed the goat, you have to help dad chop wood, you have to rake the yard and water the plants. All of these things have such specific and direct purposes. When I sit in school I feel like I am playing a waiting game. No one leaves class and immediately starts applying everything they’ve learned into their day. We are waiting for future assignments to think about it and utilize the material. We are waiting even for a job in the future to apply it to. I feel like I am missing an education that demands the utilization of the material right when you get it. Bees don’t wait around to get pollen or to drop it off. They are constantly doing task after task that have direct and immediate impact. I want to practice this in my everyday life and especially in my life at school. I do not want to wait until I have an active job to be active about what I'm learning. I want to be active the moment after I’ve learned something and see how I can apply it to whatever I am doing that day.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


I love distilling! There is something about choosing your favorite medicinal plant and creating your own product from it that makes me so happy! The first distillation I did here was sea mint. We walked with the boys to the cliffs where it was located and harvested it on a dry sunny day. If you harvest in the rain or when it is cloudy you will get less oil from it. The sun brings out the oils and aromas and the rain washes them away. Distilling is fairly simple once you have the equipment. You can use a still that is used to distil alcohol which is what they use here. It works the same way. Our set up consists of a one heater gas cooker that can be placed on the ground and plugged into gas. We put cinder blocks on either side of the cooker and rest the still on top of the blocks so there is space between it and the cooker. Inside the stil there is a cylinder with a metal grate on top. You fill water almost to the top of the cylinder (better to be safe if you want to distil for several hours) and put the grate on top, make sure the grate is not in the water. You then stuff your still as tight as possible with your material. So far we have distilled sea mint, orange peel, pepper elder and licorice basil. You then put the latch top with the pipe on top and attach the pump hoses to the pipe that arches down into your glass ware. You place your water pump into a bucket of water and put the hose that brings the cold water out of the bucket into the bottom notch and the hose that brings the warm water out back to the bucket into the bottom notch. Once you turn on the cooker and the heat reaches that middle of the pipe, you can plug the pump in. You always want to make sure that the pipe extension is sweating and very cold by adding ice periodically to the pump bucket. If it ever warms up, steam instead of liquid will come out of the pipe and you will have lost a significant amount of your oil. The liquid that drops into the glass is called hydrosol, and your oil will rise to the top of the glass for you to separate.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Saying NO to Self-destruction!!

It is my 12th day here and I can feel my American lifestyle haunting me. My body has been formed in a certain way and I fear that I can never undo what has been done. Nothing about stuffing your body with chemicals and trash is okay. It does not mean you're a bad person, you're just doing a bad thing to your body. It isn't easy or simple to change your lifestyle and shift your thinking in a way that is not entirely influenced by the majorities opinion. We have to look in ourselves and feel our body on this earth and think so simply about what it needs. Water, movement, sun, food. Again, this isn't as easy or as simple as it should be because we are all stuck. I can feel my body dragging today more than yesterday. I can feel the bags under my eyes from all of the lack of sleep and attention I give to my body in school. I can feel my stomach and my thighs and my arms carrying all of this extra weight that shouldn't be there. I know I have made life so much more difficult for my body and I know it's time to figure this out. I don't want to be alone in this and neither do you. We have to work together to bounce back to a simpler, slower and happier life all together. The bee stings and scrapes and broken bones will hurt less if you have people to take care of you.