We woke the following morning (Nov 1) to stories of enormous raccoons visiting our discarded green mac and cheese last night. Unfortunately for the raccoons, we were leaving that day. At our next stop of the semester we dove into working with local environmental organization that focuses on creating a restorative economy throughout the area. The whole idea of a restorative economy revolves around renewing, repurposing, and recovering land to its natural ecology while also creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. Our first day here we met with Caleb and worked in the community garden creating natural berms and basins to control water flow and planting trees. Growing a garden in the desert is as hard as it sounds, and any rain they get must be preserved to help grow the plants. Our partner organization helped fund and create this community garden as a way to not only provide fresh produce but educate residents how to provide for themselves because the majority of those residing in the city live below the poverty line, and when you don’t have a car, making it 8 miles to the nearest grocery story is hard to do.
Our second day in the community our host taught us about how this area is very biodiverse compared to the rest of Arizona. We worked in the Seed Lab cleaning and picking apart native seeds that had been collected from different locations earlier this season in order to store and then plant them in restoration projects. By introducing seeds that are already native to the area and are known to successfully grow there, the restoration is more effective. Paren then took us to the nursery, where we toured their greenhouses there and all boldly tried some chili peas – which we learned were not only the mother of all peppers but very, very hot despite their size. Our day didn’t finish there. We spent the next few hours a few minutes out of town a permaculture farming community dedicated to educating and inspiring people to live more sustainably and simply. Permaculture is a practice that uses principles of observing and working with what the Earth already has to give us in order to sustain human life. We followed our host around the farm as she showed us structures made out of repurposed or earthen materials (think, satellite dishes as roofs and adobe bricks), their water system (a gravity stimulated network of pipes in the ground that fit with the natural landscape) and their greenhouse and compost areas. Back at the campsite, tensions were high as the dinner crew of the night – notorious for making mistakes – attempted to make lettuce wraps, while at the same time watching the election. A very stressful combination indeed, but we finished off the night with s’mores which are almost guaranteed to make things better.
Our third and final day here gave way to many intellectually stimulating conversations with David, an ecological anthropologist wise beyond his years with loads of life experiences. He brought us into the wildlife quarter, a section of land they purchased aimed at spreading a restorative economy in the region. We got up close and personal to some of the impressive rock basins the community had hand-built to help with water control on the landscape and chatted with him about topics ranging from the hot topic of mining to human nature. We said our thank yous and goodbyes to the staff, grateful for how much the last few days had tied together from all of our previous adventures, and took off to Nogales for the afternoon. Nogales is located right on the US and Mexico border, so we were able to drive along the border wall and get a glimpse into Mexico on the other side. It was only natural for us to take a trip to the local thrift store. Despite nobody having any space for anything else ever, most of us all left with a few more fun items to add to our already overflowing bags. It’s safe to say Nogales hosts the best ever taco trailer in the country, and we had the honor of doing some fine dining there, stuffing ourselves with Carne Asadas before trekking back to our campsite for one last night. This past week has given us many special moments, learning experiences, and warm weather that we have greatly appreciated and will surely not be forgetting as we near the final weeks of our trip.
Wishing you all awesomeness,