OK, time for the next episode and next destination: The OrganiKH farm (Link to Facebook Page). A permaculture farm run by the French guy Olivier and his Cambodian wife Darin.
The trip to this place turns out to be a little special. The farm is near Sysophon and around one kilometer outside of Sway Chek. To get there we have to take a shared taxi from Siem Reap to Sysophon and than another one to Sway Check. At the beginning it is only us and another guy in the first taxi but step by step more people are coming in. At the end there are two people on the co-driver seat. Beside is another couple, so we’re four on the rear seat and an older woman sits in the trunk. Not that the car is big it’s just like all the other Ford Camry’s of Cambodia, but that’s the way to make the most out of one tour 🙂
In Sysophon we have to wait until the next driver decides to start. We’re the only foreigners at the small restaurant beside the taxi stand and again a big attraction for the locals.
After another half an hour ride we arrive at Olivier’s farm. The first thing I can see is a nice white bungalow with a round shape. Next to it is a big building with community area and kitchen. Right from that building are a compost toilet and a bucket shower. There is also a chicken coup, a lot of vegetable beds, a simple building as dormitory, a mud half pipe and a small house for Olivier, Darin and their two boy. People are hanging around in hammocks trying to stand the heat and I’m curious who these guys are. The social setup is always one of the most important things at a place like that. Fortunately everybody is welcoming us a lot and we are bombed with questions about us and our journey. Olivier the founder of the farm shows us around and invites us to his wife Darin and their sons. Most of the volunteers are from France, another one from the United States, one from Spain and two are from Canada. We spend the first evening with dinner under the open sky finalized with a movie night and feel at the right place from the beginning on.
Next morning a delicious breakfast starts the day. At 08:30 AM the morning meeting begins. It’s time to discuss what should be done and who is responsible. Surprisingly Olivier starts with sharing his thoughts about the whole project and his sorrows. We are pleased by his openness. Because I have the impression that there is a clear vision missing and others see it the same I offer him to do a VMA (Vision, Mission and Aim) workshop. I’m really happy to have the chance to use what Helen and I have been learning at the community building workshop at the Sapney Farm in India.
The next days are following more or less the same schedule. Around 8 AM breakfast, 8:30 AM morning meeting, working until lunch, afterwards a longer break because of the heat (>40° Celsius mostly) then again around two hours of work and finally dinner. We’re enjoying this kind of structured daily life. After again months of more or less detailed daily plans it’s nice to have a kind of routine. It also gives a framework for regular meditation practice in the morning and evening.
The work we are involved at the farm covers a lot of different activities including natural building with mud, taking care of animals (chickens, ducks and goose), planting trees, general cleaning and maintenance and so on. The evenings we spend all together with the other people at the farm playing cards, talking about different things, reading books and sometimes having jam sessions.
My main responsibility is to feed the birds. Every morning and evening I cut some fresh weed and grab fresh water. I like these animals. To watch them interacting and how the goose are the untold chiefs is just amazing. I’ll miss doing this!
On “Worlds Earth Day” all of us are walking along the street in front of the farm and collecting waste. One important aspect of doing this is to be seen by the locals and perhaps make some of them think about their own behavior.
In the evening the same day a big thunderstorm forces all of us to get shelter at the community building after the dorm has been flooded. At the beginning we are happy to get some rain, but the heavy storm gets more and more destructive. Even the roof of Olivier’s house got damaged. Luckily just small further destruction happened as we find out the next morning.
To support the farm in going on with projects for increasing self sufficiency we decide to start a fundraising campaign. We divide into the groups, one responsible for the text, one for the video we want to record and the last one for networking and marketing. It is a great experience to work hand in hand together. Helen, Dana and I are in the video team. Assisted by Nick and Noah we are creating a text fitting to the video and Nick and I are recording the video and audio parts. After struggling with several video editing tools we finally finish the video with the help of Blender. Around one week after starting the project we are happy to publish the campaign and celebrating the first donations. If you are interested to see or work or even to donate you can have a look at:
Sieving compost leads to some unexpected meetings. I am really surprised what lives inside these piles. First an army of red ants starts to bite Pau’s (the Spanish guy) and my feet. After this we huge black scorpion comes out of a hole and a big centipede is running towards me and wants to bite. Helen is part of the compost team next day and builds her first mud brick wall.
At one of these hot afternoons it gets suddenly stressful. Olivier alerts all of us because of a fire close to the farm. He wants to so the fire as fasts possible. It was started by a neighbor to fertilize the soil but Olivier is not agreeing with this practice as it is not sustainable at all. We are grabbing machetes run over the rice fields to the next bushes. After cutting of branches with as much leafs as possible we run to the edge of the fire and start to suffocate the flames. Half an hour later the fire is stopped and we are completely relieved. Noah is wandering around and finds a dead viper in one of the fields. It was killed by the fire. After chopping it’s head off to bury it because of the poison Olivier prepares it to get cook as our dinner that evening. In Cambodia it’s normal to eat snakes and so instead of throwing the meat away we are going to have chewy viper.
Yepp, let’s talk about the food at Oliviers farm. It was awesome! Darin served us delicious Cambodian dishes. Sometimes also Pau and Noah composed international dishes ranging from parts to Indian meals. A lot of new things to try.
Fourteen days and a lot of great experiences later it is time for us to leave. This way of living inspired us. Filled with sympathy and the feeling to have done something good we start our trip to southern Cambodia.