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Logwood Project: 3/01 Update

Clinic - The use of a lot at the edge of the nearby village was purchased in February 2000. It is located right where the path goes off to the beach community, and in the cetner of the Perez-Brito family group of cottages. By May 2000, Nicola had built a cottage for the clinic, library, and silk-raising building. It was built using traditional techniques with local wood, with the modification of using rough cut vertical lumber siding on the south wall, rather than the traditional royal palm bark. (Royal palms have become too rare to cut for housing). This is the first traditional style house built in the village for probably 30 years, and it has attracted a lot of favorable comment. A location in the village will allow me to establish fairly regular hours for consulting and dispensing. The goal is to encourage the use of the wealth of local traditional medicines. In addition, I would like to introduce the techniques of classical Homeopathy, in which I was fully trained at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, and encourage and educate in medical self-care.

Library - Thanks to generous donations from Lisa and Daniel of Portland, and many others, Mama D.O.C. brought many books with which to begin our library. It is now protectively housed in the new clinic cottage. The children were thrilled at the idea that they could borrow a book to take home, and then get another when they returned that one. The books are beautiful and interesting. The women love the collection of romantic novels. Adventure books for teens, in Spanish, have been a challenge to acquire, but I did come up with Zorro, The Other Sid of the Mountain, and a biography of Sammy Sosa. Please remember that nobody there had even so much as a book, there is no bookmobile, the school is a bare room with benches and definitely no books. The public library in the city twenty miles away doesn't lend out books, and I probably have more books in my private library than it has anyway. If you want to donate books, we need virtually anythying in Spanish. If it's in English, it should have lots of pictures! In February 2001, thanks again to Lisa Johnson, we added a collection of children's books with text in English and Spanish on the same page - learning English is a challenge many of the older children have decided to accept.

Art Supplies and School Stuff - Pastels, colored paper, pens, glue sticks all have been used, mostly by the older children and teens for their art. I've been presented with many, many pictures. Birds are a favorite motif. A visit from an art instructor would be great fun with these kids. Some are shy, but most are simply so eager to share in something where their creativity is acknowledged, that they overcome any shyness quite quickly. Special thanks to Dennis Wright of Portland and his sister Beth Perry of Redmond, WA who visited for a day and brought a large satchel of art supplies and classic, illustrated stories for the kids.

Textile Art - I brought and gave out dozens of crochet hooks, scissors, thread and needles, and balls of yarn. From this I have at least two women who already can and want to crochet. These are women with young children, whose husbands work, but don't get paid. During February 2001 I worked with them to develop therapeutic wrist-warmers of "Peace Silk" (Vegetarian silk). We have started with some drawn-out handspun tussah yarn that I recently purchased. Eventually these and other therapeutic warmers will be made of our own "Peace Silk".

"The Feisty Little Silkworm" Peace Silk Farm - Mulberry grows very well in this climate. Seeds planted in February 2000 are now trees ten feet tall. Only a few seeds sprouted, but of these, cuttings have produced thirty white mulberries, which are growing on the village lot that houses the Clinic. In February 2001 we raised over 200 silkworms, who reached maturity with record breaking rapidity. The most rapid-growing began to spun cocoons at 23 days, compared with an average 5 weeks in Portland. Eggs will be saved from the best cocoons. We hope to produce several thousand cocoons per month for the eight cooler months from November through June.

Bridge and Path - The first improvement we sponsered for the Los Cocos beach community was a safe and passable footbridge over the canal which separates them from the community of Boca Nueva. On my first visits the only bridge was two logs of palm lain on the canal bottom, with a rickety handhold of sticks. With a small investment of money for nails and guy-wire, and a big investment of his labor, Nicola designed and constructed a footbridge. Two long logs span the canal, with poles nailed to those logs to form the footpath. Guy wires prevent the bridge from being washed away at times of high water. It has served very well, but from the heavy use it receives, repairs have been needed almost monthly. In January 2001, with an investment of three weeks of backbreaking labor, Nicola and some helpers moved sand from the beach and constructed an elevated footpath from the bridge to the community. The field that the path traverses is often flooded, so before the path this meant a half-mile detour most of the time.

Water - The biggest investment after the clinic lot and building. The beach community of "Los Cocos", traditional wood and palm houses on the sand, now has pure piped in water. This cost $2000 for the pipe, and everyone helped with the labor of digging a trench and laying it the 5 miles from the beach to the water main. Because of this water, in February 2001 I was able to begin dyework. We have now begun to use the beautiful dyes of Quesuaya to dye silk scarves on site. The quality of the Logwood purple color is unbelievably rich, with coppery sheens and highlights. And because of the warm climate, all dyeing can be done at air temperature, and no fuel need be used for heating dyebaths.

Other Dyes - Besides the Logwood and the new Fustic wood, other dyes will be forthcoming. Madder is planted and so far is doing very well. We hope in three years to have quality organically raised Madder, suitable to be used internally as a kidney stone solvent, or also for dye. Big hopes are up for a crop of Weld during the winter months. Morinda is supposed to grow wild; Jackfruit, Mangrove, and other plants are no longer abundant enough to harvest commercially, but at a dye workshop at the beach we will one day explore their rust red and maroon colors.

Kitchen - Opposite the front door of the cottage at the beach, and about ten feet away, is the door of the new kitchen. It is a copy of the traditional house, miniaturized. The peaked roof is covered in palm thatch, the walls are sided with petiols held in place by horizontal poles tied with banana leaf to the uprights inside. All the wood is local thinnings, with some gleaned from the beach. The counter is made of a wood frame, topped by cross-pieces of saplings. They lie close enough to provide a rough but usable surface, although a board is needed for efficient chopping. Air comes up to keep vegetables from molding too rapidly in the very high humidity, and water drains through to the cement and sand floor. The fire places for cooking are two half moons set on a slightly lower counter. The horns of the moon shapes face away; wood is fed from the back. It is all built up of local clay, which the fire then hardens. Cleaning the stove is a simple matter of adding a new layer of fresh clay.

Herbals - In the lovely traditional kitchen described above, I get to make many marvelous herbals with the amazing new plants that Nicola introduces me to. The following is a partial list:

  • Anamu - insecticide. We've used it as a fumigant. I want to try an alcohol extract water spray that I could use against sand fleas and mosquitos.
  • Timacle - tincture and topical oil of this fragrant root helps with flexibilty of ligaments to an amazing degree. It may be useful for shin splints and carpel tunnel. It also helps the mind work more quickly.
  • Bitter Ginger - a tuberous root that smells like ginger, but instead of being hot, it's bitter. Tincture internally and oil for topical application, it seems to be very helpful for arthritis.
  • Pega palo - in high repute as a true aphrodisiac, we dug roots in the remnant forest nearby and made a tincture.

Remnant Forest - The remnant mangrove forest nearby is in private hands and is up for sale. This is the last, the "hundred acre woods" that truly needs to be preserved in order that all these medicinals that I'm documenting can become available to the world. This forest is also a natural bird sanctuary, with several small lakes and wetlands. This would be a tremendous loss to us all if this unique and valuable ecosystem is destroyed for another tourist hotel. Research and lobbying of some of the international conservation organizations would be welcome help, as well as private investors who wish to preserve this land.

Remnant Populations - These include birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans, coral, and peole living the traditional native life. All these still exist, but they are all bordering on the edge of extinction. This includes rare medicinal plants and the knowledge to use them. An international effort to invest in natural land conservation is desperately needed. I am trying to locate an international organization interested in poverty-relieving economic development projects. Again, money invested in a land base can reap many levels of reward.

Special Thanks - Thank you to American Airlines for consistently arranging extra baggage allowance for Mama DOC donations. In October I carefully packed and successfully dilivered an Internet-capable PC into the community. It will facilitate much, as several of the young adults are eager to develop their computer skills. When cell phone internet connections come to the area, it will make our long distance communication more secure. It will also allow me to work from there and relay messages like this via email. Additionally, it will allow me to update my field notes directly to the computer when they are fresh and I can check them with Nicola.

Lectures - Lectures have been put on hold until Nicola can deliver them personally. Due to extremely stringent and capricous requirements implemented at their discretion by the local United States consulate, it has not been possible for Nicola to obtain a visitor's visa to share his knowledge with us, and to experience first hand this culture - not its movie version image. It is especially important that he connect with other indigenous peoples of the world, especially to see the miraculous turnaround in the situation of the Native Americans of North America over the past few years. Cultures have been resurrected, languages have been respoken, traditions renewed. Economic viability has come to many groups through many means, but all have involved the shrewd adaptation of business management in the modern world. Through this has come the repurchase or resettlement of native lands, and a beautifully blossoming addition tot he multifaceted culture that is the true culture of the world.

This is what I hope and work for to happen in this strange faraway land of the Logwood, which, by curious coincidence is exactly the place where Columbus first began the destruction that we now try to correct.

Future Visits - If all goes well, I hope to spend the coming December, January, and February raising the first commercial crop of Peace Silk. Organically raised, of course, not to mention with much love. I already have orders for cocoons. Remember that first production will be small, and we need all the support you can offer: please consider ordering in advance.

During those three months it will be possible for friends to visit me. There is a traditional cottage near where I live that was recetnly vacated by a sister, and which can be rented. We are asking that a significant donation to the community be made by those who come to visit. A suitcase of supplies, books, the teaching of textile art technique such as knitting and crochet variations, are some examples of ways to contribute, along with a much needed monetary donation (which would be tax-deductible). Luxuriate in a lovely natural area, with all the local color, friendly indigenous people, and great natural food. You will be my guest, Nicola's guest, and attended to by the whole huge family. An adventure-expedition kind of vacation, tailored to your interests and desires.

Cheryl Kolander, Director




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8/99 Update

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