I have 250 acres in the woods in the Yucatan, in Yucatan state, about 20 miles south of Valladolid. I hold private title in my name. The property is almost all treed, with mostly smaller trees averaging maybe 30 ft high, although there is variation according to when it was last cut. I believe that the property had been milpa farmed for many years.
There is a wonderful cenote on the property with fresh water but you have to (or you get to, depending on your POV) rappel down 20 meters or so to go swimming, and ascend back up the rope. This is not as hard as it sounds, the techniques and equipment have been well developed. Anyway there is plentiful water but from a single point unless additional well(s) are placed.
The forest is classified as a dry deciduous tropical forest. The only thing that I have done so far is to plant the last milpa field of about 8 acres with agave at the rate of 1200 plants per year, for personal tequila use when the sections (about 1/2 acre each) start to reach maturity in 5 more years.
The reason for this post is that I would like to solicit advice and get pointed to knowledge resources if possible for starting a long term permie project on the land. A perfect outcome would be to wind up with a sustainable cycle of inter-related projects.
One goal would be to derive enough food and income to live simply. I am considering beekeeping as part of that, there are Melipona (stingless, nativebees) beekeepers in the area and I would love to do some of that, but I am also advised that for commercial purposes Apis (Euro) bees are better. I have to decide to go with one or the other or both. I'm also thinking of perhaps some dairy goats, there is endless underbrush in addition to providing fertilizer; as well as limited crop planting, wildcrafting, and anything else that I can think of to provide personal food and a small income. But I don't know what would work and what wouldn't work in this climate and environment.
Longer term, I would like to manage the forest in such a way that it will eventually return to as close as possible to an old growth state for most (>90% probably) of the property. I don't really know how much if any active management I should do- should less desirable trees (the ones that would not survive an old growth setting) be cut or just let it go?
As a total green pea newbie on all of this, and I would appreciate any advice. Also, if anyone would like to participate in any way I would be open to that- some kind of community would be totally cool. Other Yucatan expats, let's get in touch and share resources!
We're about an hour closer to Merida from where you are. There is another farm close to where you are.
We are a group of 4 adults and 2 children - many of the same questions were asked and some we have solutions for, and some not.
This probably flies in the face of all permaculture teaching (or perhaps not), but our land down here in the yucatan is very very different with the underground rivers, cenotes, dry tropics with a longer dry period and a short heavy rainy period. So, what I can suggest, is start small. Take a little piece, design, do and check. These specific forests here depend on their combination of trees, and when we opened an area right initially (we had to, because we could not see anything), we started running into this thing where 'bad trees' were removed and 'good trees' were left. Took us a while to get the message to sink, there are no bad trees .. the rare combination that grows here are dependent on one another. So, lots of strange beliefs and teachings down here.
From a design perspective it would be cool for us all to get together. We've decided to continue with Meliponas, just because they are so wonderful and the honey is so smooth. But again, to find the information and the knowledge is hard, as it is a skill that is dying out.
We are focused on community and building community whereas my neighbor down the road is more focused on volunteers and on eventually hosting visitors. So, the two of us work well together from that perspective. My neighbor is focused on self-sufficiency and we are more focused on growing for market. My neighbor tells me he has over 300 fruit trees in now and we have just over 100. Neighbor is focusing on original hardwoods whereas we are focusing on agave type planting .. (nopales, dragonfruit, and so on),
We don't see another haflway enough because we are just busy but hope to remedy that into the future and have more get-togethers. For that I've registered permacultureyucatan.com and will have a website up for us as a community if people want to list there. Just too much work to sit and build website.
Thanks Amarynth, I look forward to meeting you and other neighbors and hopefully becoming part of the community. I'm not sure why I feel such connection and peace with those woods, but I do. One theory that I have is that the biomass is an oxygen and negative ion generator, much like the sea (I am also a sailor), and so shares similar psychotropic effects. Or maybe it's a past lives thing, who knows.
I do have a neighbor down the (bumpy, dirt) road who is a great guy and traditional Melipona tender. I hope that when I get down there, probably after the first of the year, we can meet up and maybe go visit him if you would like. I'm hoping that he'll be able to help me on my farm (rancho? project?) as he has a rather large family. They are the only other people that I'm aware of that actually live out in the woods, most folks "commute" by bicycle to the village and come out to their fields or woods during the day. I heard second hand that they had expressed a concern that I might be eaten staying out there, but I'm not too worried. There have been so many Maya hunting in those woods for so long that there really isn't a great deal of wildlife in general and doubt if any/many large predators could be supported.
Produce for market isn't something that I have been thinking of- maybe I should. In addition to the bees, I've been thinking maybe dairy goats- any opinions about the possible success of them? We certainly have enough "browse" for them! See also large predator theory above; although I think that they would require shelter at night anyway. I don't know much about them, or anything else to do with farming for that matter! But I'll keep studying and I'll look at all the links provided. Thanks again!
If you have a traditional Melipona farmer, that is a resource to be treasured, and yes, a few of us would like to go out and see how he does it. There is a group very focused on these wonderful little creatures.
Yes, good dairy goats need some infrastructure and management and do not produce well on just our foilage alone. The locals build infrastructure pretty quick with a machete and collected wood from the monte (the woods). I have not found much local knowledge on dairy goats though. Perhaps in other areas. My job for today is to find 2 goats to help us eat the forest before the forest eats us. But I know what you say about the specific spirit of these forests.
We have high fencing up around the living area to protect the gardens and the fruit trees. Yes, a lot of hunting in these woods, and bear in mind a lot of hunting stories. And the legends are woven in to the community here - a sometimes funny mix of hardly recognizable church stories, Mayan stories and other legends clearly from the conquistadores. These chismes are told and retold like fishing stories, or sailing stories. So, I don't think you will be eaten, but a fence around the homestead is a good idea. I have a small moringa forest growing and the deer love it, so, they are now fenced out because they eat it down to the ground and don't share anything (grins).
I've been searching for forest management literature or knowledge here. Aha, while I am on literature, do not believe any of the rainfall or climate charts ... they are all very wrong somehow. So, back to forest management - I have not managed to find good information as to best practice here. It is as if these forests are so huge, and so lasting, that people expect them to be there forever, so, managed forests is a strange idea. So, we have a piece where we've removed the undergrowth and removed the mess of small trees and we're just watching that area to see what it does.
How do you pump the water I recommend electricity because its the cheapest. Have you heard of Jocote localy known as chiabah. I can sell you enough cuttings to plant all you would want for cheep and not to far away. In fact I can probably help you get hundreds of fruit trees of all kinds for free.
Plant dragon fruit in existing trees you want to plant them in cha-ka trees but ha-beem trees are good as well also if there are natural grassy areas don't plant there because there's shallow bedrock there. I know the soil looks nice there and is deeper but that land is only good for irregated plants if you planting perennials or trees or even annuals its best to plant on the rocky mounds I forget the name for that soil in Maya but the bad one is can-kap it only grows with constant irrigation.
Maybe you should hire me for a while. Another thought don't use surface rock for building because its brittle from fire dig for rock for building. If it's old growth you want I would recommend Ramon and waya cubana trees and piich aka guanacastle and chico zapote and bonete. Wild papayas are an asset its cald chich-put and you should grow put-balang in the understory.
Hey guys im a travelling perma designer and im half way through my diploma. your project sounds good and id love to help. i got into cancun yesterday and im looking for somewhere to get stuck in. are yous still looking for help?
The other guys would be your best bet cuz I'm not there but your welcome to visit my farm and the hacienda its Santa Rosa and my place is care of Jose noh can the land is called San alejo Jose lives next to the cantina 2nd house as you come in to town
I would love to come visit some of these sites while I'm in Mexico this month will definitely have to make use of the fundacion selva Maya to try planning a hike or tour I'm very interested in Mayan milpa farming techniques
Yo hablo un pequito espanol