Friday, October 7, 2011

On The Farm

By Kathleen

Since Monday we have been up in the hills around Chiang Mai at a permaculture farm called the Panya Project.  There is an abundance of three things here, bananas, mosquitoes (dubbed mozzies) and people who care about sustainability.

We are up here for a 16 day Permaculture workshop, designing and building a compost toilet and a water tank. It’s been a real adventure. We are pretty far North in Thailand and the nights are chilly. It’s the rainy season and we’ve been working in between bursts of rain and clouds.

It’s been amazing to meet people from all over the world and talk about permaculture, environmentalism, and sustainability. For me personally it’s a nice shift from writing, getting your hands dirty and really making a structure, is deeply gratifying though exhausting.I confess however that I’ll be glad to get back to toilets that sit level and don’t require me to add dry rice husks to help compost. (I know I’m a terrible greenie preferring my flush toilets….only more reason to find a compromise between comfort and sustainability.)

There are people here from all over the world, the UK, New Zealand, China, Japan, Sweden, Spain, it’s a little UN convention. So wonderful to see how these ideas are spreading, slowly change is happening.

This morning we laid down seven courses of adobe bricks on the compost toilet, after building a stone and cement foundation earlier this week. We structured in a wattle and cob panel so that the compost can be removed later. In the afternoon we began a big heaping pile of 18-day compost ( Yum!) layering green ( nitrogen) and brown(carbon) material so that we can produce a healthy garden compost. Then we made compost tea from older compost. This can be sprayed onto veggie and plant beds to add extra microbes for better soil health. Sorta like drinking probiotics for intestinal wellness.

Tomorrow we begin work on a ferro-cement water tank. This is particularly interesting to Fiz and I because it would be a great addition to a future greenhouse we want to have. Also it’s essential any design to have a water source.

My only major issue is the wickedness of the mozzies, my legs are chewed up and it’s a real struggle not to itch constantly. The jungle is full of creepy crawlies, from giant centipedes to red fire ants and vinagaroos. It has been determined that we are in fact not jungle people and have been fantasizing about our temperate climate…. And lack of giant bugs all week.

However, there is one bug that I can’t help but be amazed by; butterflies. I have never seen such abundance and variety as I have seen over the last four days, black, blue, poka-dotted, yellow and pink. Such lovely creatures, little bits of magic.

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