Atitlan Organics Vlog : Limes, Chicks, Y Mas!

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    Hey guys! We’re going to deviate from form a bit today and share one of our vlogs! We actually filmed this a couple of years ago, but the info’s still good. Enjoy!

    Today we’re sharing the first of our new vlog series! We have so much cool stuff going on on the farm all the time, and we wanted to figure out a way to capture it and allow people to see and hopefully learn something and try some of these things on their own. 

    The way I start most of my mornings by getting up, taking a walk to the farm and harvesting a few things that are ripe. Right now the limes are popping off so I’ll grab some of them. I have plenty of trees, actually there’s  more than a dozen lime trees on the farm that are fruiting right now. So we’re going to use some in our lime water morning and evening, but we’re also going to preserve some, candy some of the rinds, do with them bunch of stuff. 

    All right, so we’ve got a ton of limes and now I’ll to hit up the garden. I like to do a little light gardening in the morning, make sure there’s always something to harvest. The only way to do that is to put a little bit of work in everyday. But before we do this I want to tell you what we’re actually up to on the farm today. We’ve been working for the past few days on a whole new setup to start raising day-old chicks. The thing is for four years we’ve done it without any supplemental heating and never really had any problems. But this past year we raised them, and we lost 50% in the first three days. I’m sure it was probably some sickness, but it was definitely because they were cold and we didn’t have the supplemental heat. And so the book review today is the best book for baby chicks, which is called Success With Baby Chicks by Robert Plamondon. He’s super cool and has a great website here. On the back of the book it says: “Lost secrets of poultry masters”, and it’s really true. This book is for ninjas! It shows a bunch of different types of brooder houses. Ours is going to be an adobe “baja-rek” style, really simple natural structure and quite small. Hopefully by this time next week we’ll have a hundred baby chicks on the farm. 

    All right, like I said, we’re going to do a little bit of light gardening before we go check out how they’re moving along on the new chick house. First I want to start in my little nursery: this is my family garden, this is not part of the farm, this is just for me and Colleen. I’ll be honest that I don’t have the boxes in the optimal locations for seedlings. Seedlings need full sun, and our porch roof doesn’t give full sun. Maybe you’ve started  seedlings in a windowsill or something, and you see this get real long and really skinny and spindly? That’s a sign that they don’t have enough sunlight. Nonetheless, here are our seed boxes for now. From here the seedlings get moved to our little family garden. This allows us to save a lot of space and time. And take care of a lot of little plants in one small space, that’s really what I’m going to do, just hit them a little bit of water. What I’d like to do today is transplant some plants out to the garden. Most people know the weed plantain and here I have a different type of it with almost the exact same medicinal properties. I got this one from my friend Marcus, the plant medicines master.. And then he also gave me an ashwaganda. So we’re going to pop these in, plus a couple of the plants we’ll grab from our other nursery.

    All right, so today is super exciting actually! I came here to grab some plants from the nursery so that we can plant them out. And I have some potatoes in bags which I planted awhile ago. But what do I find when I come to check on my nursery plants? The potato has not only flowered, it actually made a potato fruit! And inside this potato fruit there’s real seeds, actual seeds of the potato. What’s been happening is that a beetle or some sort of bug has been coming and clipping the flowers after they’ve been pollinated, but before the fruit gets set. So I’ve been watching, as the other variety with white flower constantly drops its flowers and has never made a potato fruit. But the purple variety has now made  the first potato fruit. I’m so excited, I want to harvest it right now! But I’m just going to keep my eye on it and watch it, because I want it to really ripen, so I can make sure that I get those seeds. 

    So I’ll just pop these eggplants into a bed that I’ve already set up: I’ve already turned it and pulled out rocks. Every time we change the crop, every time we harvest, we turn the soil a little and pull out some rocks. So what I’m going to do now is just turn it up a tiny bit more, then I’m going to plant out these eggplants right in there. 

    Eggplants are planted! Now I’m going to prune them back a little, because I disturbed their root systems, so they’re suffering. So what I want to do is go in and cut off some of the leaf material so that the plants don’t sweat out all the stuff. They now smaller, root system is working hard to get up. (Note: If this is a new idea to you, check out our article on the Root-Shoot Ratio) Now I’ll just wang the plantain and ashwaganda in. Hopefully they’ll take off wherever they are at, they shouldn’t need much special attention. Every time I’m taking out rocks to keep the garden soil in good shape. The last step is to put a little bit of mulch, so they don’t dry out. 

    In order to finish up this little light gardening chore that we started, we have to put some mulch on it. The best mulch that we have on our farm comes out of our chicken house. This is our only compost pile, everything goes in there. Today we’re just going to dig what’s on the surface, because we want rough mulch that can cover the soil, but also add a little bit of fertility. 

    So here we are, we’ve got the eggplants and herbs into the ground. We watered, we mulched, everything looks good. I’ll probably water again this evening. But one last thing you can’t forget is that special ingredient, as always, you’ve got to pee outside!

    Here we are at the Bambu Guest House, which is the guest house that houses people who come to work and stay on the farm. This is where we’re going to be building our chick house, who raise the day-old chicks. You might be wondering, why we would be raising chicks at a guest house and not on our farm? The thing is, our farm is fully off the grid and we have some electricity, but not enough to run 24 hour heat lamps for a hundred or two hundred chicks. Before we go anywhere else, I want to give a shout out to Antonio.  Antonio’s a master chief here at the Bambu Guest House. 

    – Como va, Antonio? 
    – Bien, gracias. 
    – Que bueno. Que haces para almuerzo? 
    – Almuerzo contiene un quiche de verduras, servido con puré de frijol blanco, papas y camotes a la hierba, y ensalada. Eso es lo que lleva plato de almuerzo. 
    – Que bueno. Y el frijol blanco tiene un poco de mantequilla también? 
    – Si, tiene.

    So for all you guys who don’t understand, what he’s talking about, we’re having vegetarian quiche. 
    – Los huevos, de donde son? 
    – De la granja. 

    We have eggs from the farm and some vegetables from the farm, a farm salad, we’re having blended white beans with a little bit of butter, super delicious, and potatoes and sweet potato. BAM!
    – Gracias, Antonio. 
    – De nada.

    -Wow, this looks amazing! 
     -Hey, dude. What’s going on? How are you guy, doing? 
    – We’re making progress here with our little chicken hotel. So we’re doing a little structure here for our baby chicks. We’re putting it together with the help of some great volunteers, Dolan and
    – This guy here is our Irishman Neal. 
    – Nice to meet everyone. 
    – You gotta tell us, what happened? When I last was here, this was just a mountain of weeds.
    – As we cleaned, as we made the terrace, this was all rocks here, so the first thing we did was bring the rocks down and make a little rock wall here. Then we’ve flattened this area out. The cool thing about this building is that all these materials are just growing all around here! So the idea is to give us a nice stable structure; here we’re doing a bamboo weave for the walls. 
    – And then the last step will be to put the cob on, to put the actual mud on the wall. Thanks a lot, Neal, thanks a lot, guys. 
    – No worries, dude. 

    All right, so as you, guys just saw from Neal and the volunteers, this wattle and daub chicken house is really taking off! And the next thing I want to show you guys is this slip that Nicolas here is working with.
    – Como va, Nicolas? 
    – Bien. 
    – Que bueno. Que pasa, que esta haciendo ahorita? 
    – Ahorita estoy cerniendo con el barro, para pintar en la jaula

    -Uh-huh . . . so this is clay that we harvested here and Nicolas is sifting it through the wire mesh to get all the fine rocks and stones out.  This will be mixed with water and used as a paint, to paint on the bamboo. 
    Y para que sirve . . . cuando pintas el bambú, que hace este?
    Protege al bambú, para que no se seque tan rápido.
    -So this is protection, it helps the bamboo last longer. Y . . . agarra el barro, verdad?
    Si, ayuda al bambú a agarrar bien el barro.
    -So it also helps the bamboo bond with the clay and hold it on the structure.

    I hope that you had a good time and enjoyed this new format! We’ve seen a lot more of myself and Neal, and Nicolas, Antonio, lots of volunteers and people from all over the world. So if you liked it, subscribe to our mildly famous YouTube channel, and don’t forget to pee outside. BAM! 

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    Atitlan Organics blog and vlog

    Studying Permaculture and Natural Building in Central America offers amazing opportunities to learn from indigenous cultures, rich natural patterns, and enormous diversity. Permaculture in Central America is representative of the edge effect or Edge Valuing Principle of Design. As one of the world’s centres of biodiversity, Guatemala attracts people from all over the world interested in learning through nature. Permaculture practices and can be seen in action via the surviving indigenous traditions that are common in Guatemala. Studying permaculture and natural building in Central America offers designers great opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people in incredibly diverse natural settings.

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    Nicolas Hernandez Chiyal

    Born and raised in the town of Tzununa, which lies right below Atitlan Organics, Nicholas and Shad have worked since Day 1, helping to craft the this amazing landscape. Nichloas is a supreme ninja farmer with skills beyond explanation. Visitors are endlessly impressed with his resourcefulness, ingenuity, and sheer motivation. Nicholas now owns and operates Las Ensaladas de Atitlan Organics, a business that sells organic produce to over 50 restaurants, hotels, and stores around lake Atitlan.

    Neal Hegarty

    Neal is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years. Neal was the Volunteer Manager at Atitlan Organics for 2 years before co-founding his own Permaculture-based enterprise, Abundant Edge Farm, in Tzununa. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and energy into each Intro to Permaculture Course and Permaculture Design Certification Course and we’re happy to continue to collaborate with him!

    Rony Lec

    Rony is one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture and Mayan ancestral knowledge. Rony has spent the last 20 years teaching and implementing permaculture throughout Central, South and North America focusing on promoting food sovereignty and preserving biodiversity for the survival of Indigenous communities.

    Through his extensive work with Indigenous communities on traditional ecological knowledge, seed saving, native plants, local/global food movements, livelihood security, and the interaction between communities and the environment, he has made a key contribution to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the world. Rony is a co-founder of IMAP.

    Zach Loeks

    Hailing from Ottawa, Canada where he and his partner run the 50-acre Kula Permaculture Farm, Zach brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. He works as an educator, designer, consultant and farmer, with an emphasis on integrating diversity, conserving soil and maximizing farm ecosystem services while maintaining high productivity.

    Last year Zach published The Permaculture Market Garden, which explores ways that permaculture can be scaled up be a profitable whole-systems enterprise. Zach is a leading figure in permaculture, who brings a new and exciting vision of how it can be integrated into the wider community and marketplace.

    Ashley McDonnell

    Ashley’s work focuses on resurrecting our relationship to the natural world through the development of earth based skills that deepen our connection to place while increasing our sense of sovereignty and resilience. Devoted to the arts of permaculture, natural building, herbalism and birth work as her mediums, Ashley explores with humility the diverse modalities that support us in living in right relationship with the world around us. She views permaculture as a practice that not only creates healthy ecological communities but one that helps to reweave the very fabric of who we are as people. Her work is an offering to the future.

    Holly Mech

    Holly fell in love with yoga because of the sense of connection she felt every time she came to her mat. She began teaching yoga in Chicago in 2011. Her desire to deepen her teaching and personal practice led her to continue her yoga education in California, Bali, Australia and Guatemala. Holly now travels around the world teaching yoga and facilitating yoga teacher trainings. She enjoys helping new teachers sequence yoga classes and incorporate philosophy into their teachings. Her classes are creative and dynamic with an emphasis on making yoga accessible to everyone.

    Holly studied English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and frequently draws inspiration for her classes from literature and poetry. When she’s not on the yoga mat she enjoys exploring nature, singing, dancing and working with textiles.

    Laura Palmieri

    Laura ‘Lala’ Palmieri is a clinical herbalist, a biologist, plant and fungi lover and grower. She offers health consultations to balance body, mind and soul working with medicinal herbs and mushrooms. Her approach to health integrates the knowledge of many ancient traditions and teachers, fusing spirituality with nature, and science with alchemy through the transformation of the elements.

    Lala has spent her years in dialogue with Nature, which has fueled her passion to integrate scientific knowledge and the connection with all beings to help humanity. She integrates her practice with cooking, gardening, and exploring ecosystems. She teaches and facilitates herbal clinics and programs in permaculture, herbalism, botany, fermentation, and medicinal mushroom cultivation, with a regenerative earth care approach and techniques that are accessible to most. She and Sarah co-created the Envision and Cosmic Converge Herbal First Aid Clinics, other relief Clinics in Guatemala for the volcano eruption. You will find Lala crafting remedies for her diverse communities in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where she is actively creating a world with integrated healthcare.

    Sarah Wu

    Sarah is a clinical herbalist of 20 years, studying and practicing planetary eclectic, regenerative herbalism with a foundation in Wise Woman Reclaiming philosophies. Influenced by global traditions, Sarah focuses on local food-based healing and ethnobotanical traditions. She leads trainings and workshops in herbal medicine, Permaculture Design Courses, Therapeutic Deep Ecology, Social Permaculture, field-to-the-plate holistic nutrition, herbal first aid and Tarot. She is a passionate mentor and educator, who believes in the teacher’s role in unlocking the innate wisdom of the student. Sarah is the co-founder of the Village Witches project, and is a Co-Founder and Co-producer of Envision Festival.

    Don Fransisco Simon

    Don Fransisco knows the lands and waters of Tzununa deeper than most anyone alive. His intuitive handling of plants makes the whole system glow, and he is an avid duck enthusiast, maintaining the breeding flocks at Duck Willow, along with his own homestead flock. Aside from that, he oversees the establishment of the perennial agroforestry and aquaculture systems on Duck Willow Farms.

    David 'Brock' Barker

    Brock Barker was raised as an outdoorsman in the marshes and forests of south Louisiana, where he developed a passion for all things plants. After studying horticulture at university, Brock has worked in nurseries, landscaping outfits, and in the facilitation of a horticultural therapy program, and more. His primary ‘work’ for the last 12 years has been developing a 10 acre homestead which serves as personal garden of Eden and educational space for volunteers and workshops. Brock’s proficiency in areas such as mushroom cultivation/ foraging, fermentation, and botany, combined with his infectious enthusiasm make him an integral part of our team.

    Jeremy Dexter Fellows

    Jeremy has focused ten years of study, mentorship and implementation of permaculture design systems back home in Massachusetts. With many years of experience in botany and horticulture, he is fascinated by the world of plants. After working many years in Guatemala, Jeremy has dedicated his focus to land and water management systems that lend to ecological acceleration and social integration through food production. Jeremy now runs granja tzikin, works as a designer and consultant with Regenera and teaches in the Atitlan Organics teachers guild.

    Julia Forest

    Julia is an international yoga teacher, birth doula, women’s health advocate, and closet artist who is passionate about health, environmentalism and empowered birth. She is co-creator of the Sacred Birth Yoga & Doula Training, is founding director of Awakened Spirit Yoga and co-founder of the Wellkind Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on community empowerment and wellbeing through the lens of permaculture. She also created the Sacred Earth Yoga Training, the first yoga teacher training program that combines yoga, mindfulness, permaculture and leadership to transform lives and communities.

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    Your Curriculum

    Your curriculum for the Permaculture Design Certificate includes 20 short courses consumed over a period of 7 weeks, with a final design project to be finalised in the 8th week.

    Week 1: The Spirit of Permaculture

    Week 2: Design Methodologies

    Week 3: Water and Earthworks

    Week 4: Soil and Compost

    Week 5: Plant Power

    Week 6: Animals

    Week 7: Permaculture Niches

    Week 8: Final Design Project

    The Final Design Project Course Module becomes available after completing all of the Content for Week 1 and Week 2. The module serves as a guide for your final design project. We suggest that you work on this throughout the course. The 8th call is reserved for students to present their final design projects. Upon completion of the Final Design Project and all of the Course Content, a Permaculture Design Certificate is awarded.

    Shad Qudsi

    Shad Qudsi has over 13 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 3 years experience in permaculture design consulting. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in Applied Math and Psychology, Shad and his wife, Colleen, moved to Central America with only vague goals of farming at some point in the near future. In January of 2010, Shad and his wife bought and moved onto a very small farm located in the traditional Mayan village of Tzununa, which on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. The farm developed into Atitlan Organics and now mainly focuses on greens and chickens, a large edible and useful plant nursery, a food forest, and training and education.  Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a loving grace.