Four Seasons Farming in Chiang Mai: Part II

Continued from the blog about the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, their vegetable garden, and Royal Projects in Thailand.

When a friend pointed us to a permaculture farm about 90min north of Chiang Mai (thank you Stella!), we investigated and decided to go for a visit (volunteering requires a different visa in Thailand so that was unfortunately not an option). This turned into a fascinating 24h excursion.

We arrived at Earth Home Thailand in the afternoon and were treated to a delicious late lunch prepared by the founder, P’Thongbai Leknamnarong. After over two decades working in Bangkok, she realized the rat-race was contributing to her financial success but at the cost of her physical and mental well-being. Moving back to her native village Baan Maejo, P’Thongbai learned about natural building and started her new life focused on self-sufficiency and balance. Her home, the bungalows she rents out, the dining area, and the roadside café were all structures made from natural building techniques. Mud, bamboo, recycled wood, glass bottles, even old tires can all be converted and given new lives as construction materials – and not at the cost of comfort, either.

One of our favorite features in our bungalow was that the water for our shower came out of a log! Gorgeous. We missed having a mosquito net to sleep under, but with the natural cooling provided by mud walls and the fan set on low, we got a good night’s rest regardless.

We visited two farms during our short stay:

  • Pun Pun Farm, the first to set up in that area and develop local expertise in natural building, now a regional reference on the topic. It is the only place we have ever seen two storey constructions made of mud and bamboo – impressive and inspiring. They also have some state-of-the-art solar shower setups, but little emphasis on food production from what we could see.
  • Panya Farm, a permaculture project almost next door to and taking Pun Pun’s example to set up their water filtering system and solar showers. With a major focus on self-sufficiency, Panya has an extensive vegetable garden, numerous mango trees left over from when the property was a mango grove, a greywater filtration system, and compost toilets. The volunteer dorms and individual bungalows can sleep a total of 20 or so individuals. Their focus is on how to create close looped systems with zero waste. This is the first place we saw the “six bowl plate washing system” (see image below) which is effective and uses less water than any other approach we have come across yet!

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It was incredible to get a sense for how fast things grow in Thailand and a feel for what is possible using natural building techniques, though ideally we would have stayed longer to contribute to the project hands on and learn by doing. As is, we learned about how pineapples grow (single fruit to a palm tree type bush) and reproduce (runners, like strawberries! Or you can plant either the head or the bum to get new plants) – a great complement to when we learned how to make pineapple beer!

All in all, these two parallel adventures provided great food for thought (and for our bellies!), and inspiration for the future. Exactly what we were hoping for in embarking on our world tour.