Mud! – by Mike

On Tuesday, we went out to collect some seeds from the Apple Mangrove trees so that we can start a nursery with them. We walked nearly the entire way to Ambotsibotsike to where this species thrives along the east side of the big channel, only shortly before dispensing it’s water into the Mozambique Channel. We were told to look for broken green things that are about the size of a golf ball. Their seeds should be exposed and they are found on the ground a round the perimeter of the trees. Our guides, Sala and Lalas, found many seeds. Between the four volunteers, an estimated two proper seedlings were collected (I successfully collected zero).  We began the trek back to the Honko center, where we would plant the seeds in the nursery within the next couple of days.

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            On Thursday, Lalas and myself went out to collect some mud from under the Apple mangrove trees. We would use the mud to plant the seeds, intending to create a similar environment that they would grow in naturally. Lalas and I walked about 1/3 of the way to Ambotsibotsike with a broken bucket and an old 50kg bag of rice. Lalas shoveled the mud into the bucket. After a couple scoops, the side of the bucket cracked – we still made it work, though. We filled the bucket up half way and then transferred the mud into the bag. We continued until the bag was nearly half way full. We tried to lift it… as you can imagine, a bag of dense mud and water is not exactly light. We tried to finagle a way to tie it to the shovel, so that we could both carry it over our shoulders, sharing the weight. It took a while to finally figure out how to keep the bag attached to the shovel – Lalas sacrificed his belt for Team Honko. As we started walking, I had some serious doubts that we were going to make it back with the bag still attached and the shovel still in one piece. After a couple short rests and shoulder changes, we finally arrived back at Honko ready to plant.

We cleared a small rectangular area out, about ten centimeters deep, between two trees. Because neither of us had done this before, Lalas wanted to see if making a small scratch on the seeds makes a difference in their growth rates. We each etched a scratch into eighty seeds, making sure the wind didn’t blow them into the non-scratch pile. Then came the fun part: we splattered the mud against the earth, watching it flatten out into a pancake as it collided. After covering the small patch, we realized that the mud was not quite deep enough. Neither of us wanted to walk all the way back to where we collected the original batch of mud. Instead we walked just a short ways along the boardwalk to the nearest Apple Mangrove. We filled the sack half way, tied it to the shovel and walked back (by our second attempt, we were significantly more efficient). This mud was more fine, more black, and very hot. We caked it on and then spread it as evenly as possible.

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Lalas split the plot into thirds and we began to plant. This took much more time than I anticipated. We planted seed by seed ensuring that they were in straight rows and columns – well, kind of. The scratched seeds had their designated section; the non-scratched seeds had their designated section; and then we are waiting to plant the final section. The seeds that are going into the final section are currently being soaked in water. We are then going to scratch half of them.

The best outcome is approximately 400 little Apple Mangrove trees. As I mentioned, neither of us have done this before so we really don’t know what to expect. We have no idea whether the scratches are going to grow faster, or possibly just not grow. It was a fun experiment that will hopefully produce a moderate yield of mangroves.

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