Jonathon Engels

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The financially unfortunate combination of travel enthusiast, freelance writer, and vegan gardener, Jonathon Engels whittled and whistled himself into a life that gives him cause to continually scribble about it. He has lived as an expat for over a decade, worked in nearly a dozen countries, and visited dozens of others in the meantime, subjecting the planet to a fiery mix of permaculture, music, and plant-based cooking. More of his work can be found at Jonathon Engels: A Life About.

New Trees in Guatemala That Are Not Just for Reforestation

Special bicycle for shelling coffee beans It sounds strange to speak of poverty as an exciting opportunity, but many of the projects in Guatemala make me do just that. I’m particularly impressed with those working with trees. Reforestation is often not so simple as just planting trees. Mass agriculture has created a need for serious reforestation efforts, but that need doesn’t override humanitarian concerns like malnutrition and poverty. A largely […]

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How the Whole Volunteers Thing Works

Where and how to get free labor, what to expect from volunteers, and why it’s totally worth it. A table full of happy volunteers It was less than a year ago that my wife Emma and I set out on journey through Central and South America, our plan being to volunteer on farms the whole way. We’d toyed with gardening here and there, spent some time running the hotel side […]

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The Tropical Salad: Leaves of a Different Cut (Panama)

Leaves of a different cut I love the tropics as a place for permaculture, specifically the ability to grow tropical fruits and the capability to plant stuff year round. I like the interplay between rainy and dry season, the way things get incredibly green and grow uncontrollably in the wettest of times, and all that fodder for composting when things get parched. Still, living here is not without its sacrifices. […]

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Herb Spirals and Herb Circles

Fresh herbs right outside the kitchen door The herb spiral is more or less an ubiquitous installment at the permaculture farm, so when we came to work on a property in Panama, building a spiral as near to the kitchen as possible was a top priority. Not only would it supply us with fresh and flavorful meals, but it wouldn’t take long to establish a useable system, a harvestable, sustainable […]

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The Victorian Stumpery Meets Hugelkultur: Timeless Matchmaking With Permaculture (Panama)

The Inspirational Stumpery by Jane-Ann Liddle I’m crazy about hugelkultur. I love the concept of burying old fallen and felled trees to provide years of slow-release compost for crops to come. I love using waste material for something useful. I love not having to turn or move compost about. I love the chance to sculpt a really raised bed, something behemoth — hulking if you will — that makes a […]

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DIY Hygiene: Greener Grooming

The DIY medicine cabinet in full simplicity It happened a bit more rapidly than I expected: One day my wife Emma read a list of horrors associated with fluoride and toothpaste, and by the evening, she’d sworn off store-bought toothpaste. In the weeks to come, I watched our other toiletries disappear. Realizing she was right, as is often the case with greener, kindlier things of the world, I soon followed […]

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Manhattan in Colombia: TED Says Food Matters Everywhere

Looking Down on La Juanita Finca Verde TED Talks, for some time, have been something I’ve loosely disregarded. They were interesting, informative, and free, but my friend Bryant Hand was just a little too eager to share them with me. Perhaps I thought I was too young (2 years less than him) and too hip (I have a beard past my figurative collar while he actually wears dress shirts), but […]

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Life in Season: What to Do with All Those Mangoes (& Other Harvesting Conundrums)

We knew it was coming. Hell, we were excited about the fact that it was coming. We were returning to Panama just in time for mango season, taking the reigns of a piece of property with five or six large mango trees, and beyond those, we knew some of the neighbors let hundreds of fruits rot on the ground every year. Well, that wasn’t going to happen on our watch. […]

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Constructively Reducing Your Waste

Garden gnome in Nicaragua Inspired by our experience volunteering on a farm in Ometepe Island in Nicaragua, my wife Emma and I became very excited about the prospect of reducing our personal waste. Totoco Farm and Totoco Eco-Lodge are both 100% waste-free zones, meaning every consumable that enters either stays or is recycled. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that, in Nicaragua, recycling is basically nonexistent. So how […]

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