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Immersion is my favorite way to experience a new country. And you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face the days we spent at Miraflor Nature Reserve in Nicaragua. Not only were we deep in the heart of Nica countryside, we were also on a coffee farm.

Besides being a protected haven for flora and fauna, Miraflor hosts an agricultural cooperative where campesinos farm plots using organic methods. We stayed with Dona Corina Picado at her farm, La Posada Sonada. 

We explored the coffee fields, learning this is what a coffee berry looks like:

And a coffee flower smells like an orange blossom. 

And that coffee plants grow well under bananas.

We stumbled upon a few farmhands filling American-style backpacks with hand picked berries. Clearly, harvesting was a slow process.  We watched this young man dump the day’s harvest into the machine to wash and sort the berries.

Here’s where the berries dried:

Dona Corina showed us her earthen oven, fueled by a wood fire, where the coffee is roasted. And this is how coffee is ground, outside the modern world:

It was here that I learned a cup of coffee should be drunken slowly, and savored.

For more stories of travel and food, check out wanderfood wednesday!

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Sustainable art

Here’s something I love about St. Vincent.

While some of us in the States make a conscious effort to live sustainably by doing things like trying to eat local, composting, or recycling, sustainable living just happens on St. Vincent. Fruits, vegetables, fish and the occasional goat come from just down the road, the warm and humid climate ensures the composting cycle is completed quickly whether it’s deliberate or not, and trash is kept to a minimum because the few goods available for purchase come with little packaging.

Here’s another example. Nzimbu Browne is a St. Vincent artist who creates masterpieces from banana leaves. Instead of purchasing art materials, he uses a waste product of the plant that provides St. Vincent’s economic livelihood. 

As a banana plant grows, the bottom leaves dry up, turn brown, and eventually fall off.

Dry banana leaves on ground. Blue bags are to protect the growing bananas.

Mr. Browne collects these dry leaves, cuts them into shapes and figures and creates impressive collages of local life.  He combs his island for specific varieties of bananas and plantains and says soil type and weather conditions affect texture and color.

What I love is that nowhere does Mr. Browne promote his work as environmentally conscious. He just does his work with the materials available to him because that’s how life is on St. Vincent.

That reminds me of a painting my daughter did a couple years ago on a small piece of smooth cedar bark she found.

I see a walk through the forest in our near future.

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