|On the way up the mountain to Don Chico's organic plot|
As we hike along the road to Don Chico's organic coffee plot, his grandsons Federico and Sergio (estimated ages 8 and 6) are running circles around us while making motorcycle sounds. They are our guides for the hike and have also brought along a piece of black rope to play with. They uncoil the rope and stretch it between them, slingshotting each other around. One boy slides off the road and the other boy throws him the rope and pulls him up the embankment. Soon they are pulling the rope to stretch across the road and attempting to envelop the gringos who are walking along at our own pace. Alex is briefly imprisoned and he then escapes with a run to the delight of the children. The boys are guiding us up and up and up to the top of the hill that serves as the visual edge of the valley that is El Sute. It is a steep climb and the boys keep running back and forth in their rubber boots, getting twice the hike we do. It is fitting that Federico and Sergio are guiding us to Don Chico's plot because everything he does as a farmer seems to be for their benefit.
|Sergio (left), Federico (right)|
|Alex and the boys (I don't recognize the neighbor boy in the blue)|
|We switched hats. They thought it was funny.|
|Spanish moss in the trees on the way up to Don Chico's organic plot.|
Now Federico and Sergio are on the road, cresting the ridge with boundless energy, and we are wondering where they are taking us. Hector and I have been to Don Chico's organic plot before and this is not the way. We are wondering if the boys are playing a joke on us. "Just a little further!" they keep saying. And so it is, seemingly always; but soon we have turned off from the road and we are walking back towards the far side of the ridge along a narrow dirt path. We walk through someone's yard and keep walking right into a coffee patch. "Just a little further!" Finally we are where they wanted to show us. It is a newly planted plot of coffee of about an acre, all under scattered shade trees. Each plant looks like it was planted within the last couple months. The new growth is strong and green. The boys show us the remains of the nursery where the plants came from, and we can see that they must have watered the plants with water from a spring that is bubbling up on the edge of the plot. The shade trees are a mix of leguminous guama and towering pines. I can see why they brought us here. There is a lot of work present in this new plantation, and it is a hopeful vision for the future.
|The view from the road up by the ridge near Don Chico's organic coffee plot.|
|The cleared area is the new plantation. Behind it is an established plantation that belongs to Federico and Sergio. Note the spring on the right.|
|The remains of the coffee nursery.|
From this plot we can now see the other plot that Don Chico usually takes us to. All we have to do is hike up to the ridge a little ways. As we walk, we ask Federico if the coffee patch we are walking through now is also Don Chico's. He says no, it is "de nosostros," meaning "ours." At first we don't understand, but then Federico explains that Don Chico has given that patch of coffee to his two grandsons. Federico is proud of his coffee. When we get to Don Chico's original plot, we are initially worried. He clearly has the Roya, the dreaded coffee rust, and it seems that many of his plants are dying. But then as we crest the ridge, we see that most of his plants are resisting the Roya and are they loaded with green leaves and deep red coffee cherries. Don Chico has succeeded by planting a diversity of varieties and most of them are resistant to the Roya. When we return to Don Chico's house we have a good dinner and we try to teach the boys to play "Uno," which appears to be the first card game they have ever played. Of course, both boys win hands and seem to get all the "Draw Four Wild" cards (beginners luck!). Don Chico is curious to learn what we thought of his coffee plot. He values our opinion. We reassure him that things are not dire.
|Don Chico's coffee|
|The view from Don Chico's|
|Don Chico is growing coffee under the shade of pine trees. Some believe it can't be done, but this patch looks very good.|
|Don Chico's farmstead|
|Sleeping in the drying shed.|
|The cutest kitty in the world at Don Chico's|
|The kitten was happiest on my foot.|
Don Chico's coffee was evaluated by our tester as somewhere between "very good" and "excellent," earning a 76.5 rating on the 100-point cupping scale. The comments are: "clean, mellow acidity, hints of wheatgrass, bit thin. But a good cup." I'll say: a very good cup.
|Don Chico, Federico, Bertha (Daughter), and Sergio|
|The whole crew. The family on the right is Don Mario's (a curious neighbor - maybe next year will join the organic coffee co-op)|