may

In May we plant the corn.
Before planting, plots are stripped and burned. They call this “cleaning the mountains.” (I don’t detect any irony.)
Playing my part (the encyclopedic yet pathetically ignorant North American), I ask if this is really the best way to prepare the land for planting.
If we trust my sources, not only is it the best method, it’s the only one.
(I consulted an agricultural engineer who told me that if they cleared the land with machetes in February, it would be in good shape for planting by May, but burning is customary)
Even though I know this is going on, it’s alarming to see, especially at night when the mountains (dotted with wooden houses) blaze unattended.

As part of an agricultural aid program, MAGA (Ministerio de Agricultura, Ganadería y Alimentación) donated tomato and chili seedlings to Cooperativa Samac. This was an opportunity to demonstrate burn-free agriculture to the kids. So we invited the kids to clear a little plot themselves before planting.
In theory, this was ideal. But when thirty children showed up with machetes, a flaw appeared in the plan.
Thirty blades in fifth-grade hands were flying in all directions. And seeing the wild backswings, I wondered if my pocket sewing kit would be called for by the afternoon. But not only were none of the adults concerned (try pitching this project to an elementary school in the states), but the kids handled the work like professionals. No reattachments needed and they cleared the plot in about an hour.

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