Vlog 2 : A trip to Xela, Ginger Beer, and Wild Fermentation

Permaculture Cliff’s Notes

Get the free illustrated Permaculture Cliff’s Note Pack & redesign your life

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Today, we’ve taken a trip to the city of Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela (“shay-la”). It’s an amazing place to visit, with tons of culture, amazing food, amazing markets, and lots of cool permaculture stuff going on. We’re going to catch up with my friend Juan Pablo, who has a market garden here in Xela, we’ll make some ginger beer, and I’ll review Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.

    So normally I’d start by harvesting something, but since no food is growing right here I’ll harvest some tasty snacks from the nearby open-air market! (Scenes of the Xela market)

    Shad: Now I’m at Los Jardineros, the urban market garden run by my friend Juan Pablo and his partner Martin, here in Xela. It’s a true oasis right in the heart of the city!

    (checking out a mulberry tree)

    Los Jardineros Granjas Urbanas

    Shad: This is blowing up! How do you take are of this mulberry tree?
    Juan Pablo: We’ve actually done very little with it. We planted it over a year and a half ago. It struggled a little bit during the cold season, but since then it’s just blown up. We’ve had mulberries all year-round.
    Shad: Xela’s at a higher altitude than where we are in Tzununa, Lake Atitlan, so colder weather plants can thrive here. Mulberries grow all over the world, but they really like it here in Xela–especially in the Los Jardineros garden!

    Juan Pablo: (walking through the garden) So these are some of the things we grow. We grow a lot os greens for salads, a lot of cooking greens, some colorful yellow chard, kale, a lot of arugula. . . We grow beet, some nice fig trees, lots of radish and different varieties of herbs. Most of the stuff we grow is sold to restaurants around Xela, and we also go to 2 organic markets per month. Today I’m harvesting a bit of basil for one of our restaurants. In this same corner we also have cranberry hibiscus growing.
    Shad: So here’s a great example of stacking functions: Juan Pablo’s got a small loquat tree growing here. But it’s not very big yet so there’s still a lot of sun in the area, and to take advantage of this he has tomatoes vining up the branches of the loquat.

    Shad: (in a new garden bed) So what do we have here?
    Juan Pablo: I actually brought the first cuttings of these from your farm. They’re called sweet cucumber or melon cucumber. It is a really beautiful fruit that grows on a bush. If you eat them green, they’re kind of reminiscent of a cucumber, but if you let them mature and get orange they become sweeter and more melon-y. It’ll blow your mind!
    Shad: I like to eat them green like this. To me they taste like an apple-cucumber. What’s nice about this plant is that it never gets too big. Stays low to the ground and is a good ground cover. It also produces fruit pretty much year-round.
    Juan Pablo: They’re also very easy to propagate
    Shad: You can grow it just by sticking a little piece in the ground. [Check out our sweet cucumber propagation tutorial!]

    Juan Pablo: We’ve just about maxed out the available land in this plot, so to produce more we started to grow lettuce in these sacks. We grow about 50 lettuce seedlings per sack, and then plant onions on top. 
    Shad: These are a great solution for urban settings where yo don’t have a lot of space. If you don’t have land you can do this on top of concrete. Just find any sort of container to recycle into a planter. One thing I love abut gardeners is that they reuse all kinds of stuff. Someone else thinks an old cracked bucket is nothing but a piece of trash, and the gardener comes along and is like “yo, can I take that dude?!” “For real? Why do you want that?” “Because I’m gonna use it in my garden!”

    Shad: Well, as admirable as it is, we didn’t come all the way to Xela just ot admire your garden.
    Juan Pablo: No we did not. Let’s make ginger beer!

    *Check out Shad and Juan Pablo’s ginger beer brewing here!* 


    Shad: (at the Bambu Guest House) So I just got back from Xela. Sad to leave Juan Pablo’s but super happy to be back at the lake. And this brings us to the book review:

    I’ve got one of the best books here, it’s kind of like the Bible of fermentation. It’s called Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s a super sweet book. There are several other highly recommended books out there, but this is probably my favorite fermentation book. It’s small, but don’t let that trick you! It’s full of a ton of recipes: ginger beer, kombucha, sourdough bread, dairy ferments, all kinds of stuff. It inspires people to get into the kitchen and start doing it. Here’s a quote:

    This book is my song of praise and devotion to fermentation. For me, fermentation is a health regime, a gourmet art, a multicultural adventure, a form of activism, and a spiritual path, all rolled into one.” 

    I think that says it all. Fermentation fits perfectly into permaculture, and into the whole new story that we are trying to weave together here. Check out Wild Fermentation if you wanna know how to get some live foods into your belly! 

    Back to Full Blog

    Atitlan Organics blog

    Studying Permaculture and Natural Building in Guatemala 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, Central America attracts people from all over the world interested in learning through nature. Permaculture practices and sustainable building designs 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. 

    Subscribe to our Newsletter

    … and grab your FREE copy of

    HOMESTEAD: Your First Year Plan

    Things you should do in your first year of homesteading or gardening

    Sign Me Up

    Copyright 2022 Atitlan Organics   |   All Rights Reserved

    If you are interested in arranging a visit or tour, volunteering, or ordering products from the farm, please fill out this simple form and check your inbox for more details

    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.

    Coming Soon

    Intuitive Plant Propagation

    Please complete the form to be the first to know when this course goes live!

    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.