All's natural at Durgas Den Farm
Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
ORANGE HILL, St Ann:
AT DURGAS Den Farm, located in the Orange Hill section of Breadnut Hill, St Ann, inorganic or chemical-based fertilisers are not allowed. And, as such, it is also a place where permaculture is a concept and a practice.
This five-acre property, perched on a hill overlooking the sea, and located near to one side of Fern Gully, was once a cow pasture with a few trees. Then Lise and Michael Alexander acquired it in 2008.
According to Lise, with whom Rural Xpress spoke last Saturday, Michael wanted to divide it into household lots, but she disagreed.
A farm, for her, it was to become, and she named it after the Indian female deity, Durgas.
"She is very much connected to Mother Earth ... She represents the union of strength and of force to fight the enemy ... She's also a teacher. So, she really represents well what we try to do here," Lise told a group of patrons who toured the farm last Saturday.
What the Alexanders are, in fact, doing is to produce food, organic food, that is not harmful to people, the alternative to food that is nourished by chemical-based fertilisers. This falls within the concept of permaculture, which, according to Lise, "is a design. You design your environment to take advantage of all the strengths from nature, and the advantages that nature gives you without impeding on the future."
The whole project was built according to permaculture principles, with the notion of self-sufficiency. For instance, there is no outside water source, only rainwater is used. The roofs are equipped to catch the rain, which is stored in tanks. The water is distributed around the farm by gravity feed. Also, Lise said, "You can work your land in a way that it captures as much water as possible."
Even the used water, at some point, is recycled. There is also no toilet flushing, as such. Alexander doesn't see any reason why much-needed water should be used to flush waste. Therefore, the toilets on the property are composted. Sawdust and other compost are used in the latrines to absorb waste and to keep odours down.
Like the rain, the energy of the sun is used and stored. As such, Durgas Den Farm is only partially powered by JPS. Solar energy is the main source of electricity.
"There is plenty sun so we decided to use solar energy for a lot of our needs," Alexander said. Only for extremely important reasons JPS's power is tapped into. Even an oven is heated by natural energy. This cob oven, made of clay, coir and sand, is fired by wood.
Trees are a part of the symbiotic relationship that goes on at Durgas Farm, which produces mainly vegetables and greens. Compost made of mainly decayed vegetable matters and biofertilisers are produced on the farm to nourish the soil. The vegetable matters, including leaves and animal dropping, are decomposed in a controlled way. After a certain period of time, the dusty particles are ready to be used.
The soil is also enriched by organisms such as worms and their droppings. Black soldier flies are bred to provide larvae for fowls, whose droppings, as well as those of rabbits, are nutrient-rich natural fertilisers. The rabbits are not raised to be consumed.
And the idea that permaculture takes a lot of work is shot down by Alexander. It is actually for the "lazies" she said. All you need is a hammock. Yes, a hammock. "The biggest and most important tool you need is a hammock ... You have to sit down, lie down and relax, and observe. Look where the wind comes from. Look where the birds go. Look how the rain falls ... and then you plan, and design."
Permaculture then is planning and designing a relationship with nature and all that it has to offer. And from nature, Durgas Den Farm aims to produce only clean food.