Since leaving Winnepeg, we've been cycling through rolling fields of grain crops specked with oil derricks and patches of wetland and forest. We've had the opportunity to get off of the Trans Canada, which has meant less traffic and a more sheltered ride, but also variable shoulder conditions and less access to food and towns that include more than five homes. The isolation can be very freeing, but also frustrating when rations are running low and camping stoves malfunction.
We arrived in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on Wednesday, biking through a terrific rainstorm on our way. Its been an exceptional year here in terms of rain. Some say the most in 20 years. In total, we covered 100 km that day to meet back up with Garrett at the headquarters of HELP International.We were welcomed warmly by a team of interns from Kenya, Spain and France and shown to our sleeping quarters: traditional African mud huts. Its quite an experience to stay in these structures, made of mud packed in between woven sticks, topped with thatched grass rooves. They're a little chilly on Weyburn's breezy September evenings and crisp mornings, but at least this discourages the bugs.
Since we arrived here at HELP, we've assisted with and learned about a diversity of their ongoing projects. Our first task was to help with the grain bag recycling program. Many farmers have opted to store their grain in the field in these massive plastic bags, because they are more economical and flexible than traditional storage methods like silos. Unfortunately they also create a huge waste issue and local landfills have banned them entirely. This has lead farmers to resort to burning the polyethelene bags, which causes a huge amount of air pollution. So HELP has started a program to turn the plastic into mulch mats, which prevent weeds from growing around newly planted trees and allow their roots to retain more moisture, eliminating the need to water them. What a great way to recycle this resource and stimulate the local economy. Hopefully a less wasteful grain storage method can be developed soon.
Today we helped revamp the 'floating nursery', where small trees are started to assist in reforesting stream banks in the area. Many local farms have participated in this program. Keep an eye on the website for more information about this HELP innovation.
As well as volunteering at HELP, we have been doing lots of learning here. We've learned how to recycle paper into insulative wall and ceiling panels and attended a session on traditional African culture and living. We also got to view what could be the world's first solar oven compost toilet, which promises to quickly sanitize humanure for garden use. Later in the week we will be exploring how to make mud bricks and carve soapstone.
We'll definitely update the blog again before we leave Weyburn. We're sure there will be much more to share!