I am starting the process of packing up. I am finishing my Peace Corps service at the end of October. I can hardly believe it, but starting to pack is helping me to process it all. Just now, as I was going through some old notebooks, I came across a letter I wrote to fellow Peace Corps Volunteers at the middle point of my service.

Dear Fellow Peace Corps Volunteer,

1. Let’s find comfort in our overlooked accomplishments and more importantly, in the connections we are building. I may not have fixed all of the bio-filters in the communities, and your garden may look a little crispy, but what else happened today? Today one of my english students composed a coherent sentence. Today, I drank really good local herb tea and wrote a report that both my counterpart and I were happy with. Who did you connect with today? What did you do well today?

2. Constantly, try to remind yourself who you are and what you originally set out to achieve during your service. Don’t change your name to fit the language, if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with celebrating your culture and your new adopted culture either.

3. Yes, projects are important, but will the number of installed gardens be what you take away from your service? Remember the larger picture and the other two goals of our service.

4. Find your cheerleaders and be your own cheerleader. Seek help from other volunteers; they are going through the same thing you are. Call home too. People miss you and want to see if they can help you somehow.

I love that I am meeting people that I may have never had the opportunity to meet. I love that I am helping to break down the myths of US success in my migrant heavy town. I love that I am seeing life on both sides of the border. What do you love about your site and what you are doing? Focus on that and the rest will fall into place too.

the twigster,

Enjoying a carne asada at the non-profit, CIASPE in Querétaro, México.

Enjoying a carne asada at the non-profit, CIASPE in Querétaro, México.

PCM-13, COS having fun, August 2014, IMG_4461

Close of Service Conference: This group has been the best support during my time in Mexico.


We, team CIASPE, started a biointensive gardening course in three communities of Amealco, Querétaro in January 2014. Every other week we made the 1 hour drive from the experimental farming center to the communities of El Apartadero, San Bartolo, and Tenazda. Over the course of these past 6 months we learned a bit about the history of the people, their desire to grow their own food, and the factors that sometimes get in the way of meeting that goal.

We shared information about composting, soil improvement, organic plague treatment, double excavation of garden beds and so on. I share with you some results of the great collaboration.

the twigster,


PS: The CDs in the fist photo are meant to keep the birds away. What a great way to use what’s at hand!

Chasing Birds

Chard Explosion

A Different Start

            CIASPE  is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices and research. It is a fairly young organization, only three years old, and the majority of its funding has come from its sponsor organization, GMI. As CIASPE is growing older, the organization is working towards covering a larger percentage of its operational costs and becoming more financially independent from its sponsor. Seeing CIASPE’s desire for self-sufficiency, the CIASPE team began to conjure up the vision of opening a gift shop to generate a supplemental income for the non-profit.

            CIASPE receives visitors from universities, other non-profit organizations, and groups of people interested in the sustainable food movement. The traffic and the demand for the products already existed. We met this basic rule of business. Next step: a suitable space for the store. Once we found and transformed a perfect nook in CIASPE’s teaching center, I drew on my contacts in Huimilpan and began to slowly fill the store with inventory. I called Lourdes from Capula, and ordered 30 bottles of nopal capsules. Next I spoke with Gustavo to develop jewelry made from seeds, and so on. As excitement began to build about the store, CIASPE team members began passing me more and more information about potential products.

            Today in the store we are selling organic seeds from CIASPE, portable solar lamps, crocheted key chains and baby toys, nopal products, succulent plants, and manuals about the biointensive method of gardening. The store continues to grow as Equipo CIASPE seeks budding products and continues to build relationships with community members through our gardening courses. For example, we are teaching women in Amealco to crochet baby blankets so that they may sell their work in the store as well and gain a small income. The store, therefore, is not only generating income for CIASPE, but also for community members with whom CIASPE works.

            As the store grows, we will continue to seek potential markets. There is talk of starting an online store using etsy, but we are not quite there yet. We are also developing salsas and natural beauty products using plants and veggies that come right from CIASPE’s garden. It will be a truly beautiful thing to not only promote sustainable farming practices, but sustainable consumerism through CIASPE’s small “organic boutique”.  We are generating an income for the non-profit, for community members, all while supporting our mission of promoting sustainable lifestyle choices.

the twigster,


PS: We still need a name for the store. Any ideas?

Lourdes from Capula with her xoconostle jam & nopal pills

Lourdes from Capula with her xoconostle jam & nopal pills

Nopal in Bloom

Living the Dream

I recently moved to CIASPE, an experimental agricultural center just outside the city of Querétaro.  I am working for a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting and teaching sustainable agriculture practices. I am doing exactly what I love.

the twigster,


PS: More to come soon…

Bio-intensive Garden Beds

Pup at Work

That Little Fluff

It was a rainy and chilly day in Huimilpan. The sky was overcast and that seemingly omnipresent sun was nowhere to be found. I was working from home that day, an excuse to stay in sweatpants and a flannel shirt. Hunger, boredom or procrastination led me to the kitchen in search of something edible. Moving around boxes of pasta and bags of uncooked beans, I knew I was down to the dregs of my kitchen supply. I had to leave the house. The horror.

I made it to the market without any run-ins. As much as I rock it,  grunge still hasn’t been accepted as a look here in Huimilpan. I was more than halfway back to my house with a full canvas bag of veggies on my shoulder when I spotted a small black fluff ball peaking up at me from under a truck. Naturally, I stopped. I’m cold, so she must be cold, I sympathized. I  got down on the stone sidewalk, and started calling to the little fluff. She came, I scooped.

Oh, I was just so excited. I had a new little friend. I rushed home while Fluff made herself cozy on my arm. I pulled out the remaining dog food from Canela’s stay and anticipated the chow down. Fluff casually walked over to the bowl, sniffed the croquettes, and came back to sit on my lap. Weird. We moved on to the bath. I took out the flea soap and the comb and got to work. Only one flea. Weird.

The little Fluff was so cold, so I decided to blow-dry her. She sat on my lap content as could be as I styled her curly black hair. She let me brush her paws. She let me hold her paws and look at her nails – her short, clipped nails. In that moment I realized exactly what I had done. I stole a dog. I finished her ‘do and did the only thing I could do. I took her right back to where I found her, dropped her off, and hoped her owners wouldn’t be confused by their dog’s spa day. Goodbye Fluff.

the twigster,


PS: I am going home for Christmas this year and I get to play with MY dog!

A Disguise

Street Dogs?

Day of the Dead

This Mexican culture that mocks death and celebrates it at the same has inspired me to write the following calavera. Calaveras are full of subtle or not so subtle wisecracks that criticize the living.  With that said,  please don’t take my poem too seriously…

In dedication to the dedicated Peace Corps Volunteer

Here lies a good Peace Corps Volunteer,
Who died of grief
From being stood up at community meetings,
Left alone at each meeting;
She has died of a defeat
Received a blow too big
And such was her foolishness
That she was already in the tomb,
Turned into skull and bones
And waiting for community members
to join for the meeting
of the dead.

the twigster,


PS: Today was the last bio-intensive garden lesson in the communities. People are growing veggies!

Death by Diabetes: Dedicated To Those Who Loved Their Sugar

From Death to Compost

From Death to Compost: Dedicated to Those Who Have Fought For the Natural World

Diamond Encrusted: Dedicated to Those Who Die in Vain

Diamond Encrusted: Dedicated to Those Who Have Died in Vain

Hand in Hand: Dedicated to Those Who Have Died of a Broken Heart

Hand in Hand: Dedicated to Those Who Have Died of a Broken Heart

Cempasúchil: Dedicated to Those Who Have Not Given Up on Life and Her Beauty

Cempasúchil: Dedicated to Those Who Have Not Given Up on Life and Her Beauty

The women are not very accustomed to eating their greens. Mexicans, in general, are not very accustomed to eating their greens. Part of the course, therefore, is to teach the women how to eat healthier, better utilize what they have in their gardens, and save money in the meantime. Since women have power over what is put on the table in these communities, we are encouraging the women to make smart choices in what they are feeding their children – start now in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Diabetes is the number one killer in Mexico, and Mexico is the most obese nation in the world. Yes, we are more than justified in suggesting these changes.

CIASPE shared very simple recipes with the women about how to make different kinds of milks and green waters. The women showed great interest during the course, commenting about the deliciousness and manageability of the recipes. The hope is that this enthusiasm will translate to their gardens – they will be motivated to grow a wider variety of vegetables and herbs and that they see their garden as an asset rather than a burden. I have shared a few of CIASPE’s recipes with you below.

Milk with some nutrition

The Director of CIASPE making nutritious and wallet-friendly milks.

Take this into consideration…Humans are the only creatures on earth that consume milk from another animal.

Recommended use: indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, post-surgery
Characteristics: It has almost no saturated fat or choloresterol, but also does NOT contain protein.
It helps to regulate the intestines.
(In order to make 1 liter of milk, you need 1/2 cup of rice and 1 liter of water)
1) Soak the rice for four hours.
2) Liquefy the rice in blender.
3) Add water.

Recommended use: high cholesterol, cardiovascular problems, constipation, strengthens the nervous system
Characteristics: Rich in fiber and Vitamin B.
(In order to make 1 liter of milk, you need 6 tablespoons of uncooked oatmeal and 1 liter of water)
1) Soak the oats overnight.
2) Liquefy the oats with the soaking water in the blender.
3) Add water.
4) Add cinnamon for flavor. (Cinnamon also speeds up the metabolism).

The women are taking notes!

The women are taking notes!

I am very excited about sharing these water recipes with the women and I am so very enthusiastic that this will cut down on their Coca Cola consumption.

Ingredients: 1 liter of water, 1 handful of mint, 1 big cucumber diced
Recipe: Mix all the ingredients in a jar and leave in the refrigerator for 2 hours for all the flavors to come together.

Ingredients: 1 liter of water, 2 skinned cucumbers (without seeds, diced), 3/4 cup of lime juice, 1/3 cup of sugar (or substitute with honey)
1) Put all of the ingredients in the blender.
2) Drain the water using a colander.

* Parsley and lime (Parsley is packed with vitamin C, so use it as an immune system boost.)
* Chard and lime
* Spinach and pineapple or guayaba
* Beet and lime
* Nopal, celery, and pineapple
* Celery and pineapple
* Basil, mint, lime and sugar

* When the recipe calls for the lime, put the entire lime in the blender. The majority of the vitamins are in the skin. ¡Ojo! Do not liquify the lime for a long time, or it will cause the water to taste bitter.

the twigster,

PS: I’d love to hear if you have any other great combinations for the waters.

PPS: Check out Biointensive Garening: Session 1 here.

A Different Future

A Different Future of Eating Habits

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