A couple years ago I somehow clued into “natural building” — the idea that you can build your own home/structures using materials that are available in the environment around you. I’m pointing my life in the direction of picking up some of these skills and when I discovered Pun Pun Organic Farm, Brandon and I decided to check it out.
Pun Pun is a magical place. It is a couple hours north of Chiang Mai (by shared truck with lots of stops) with mountains in the distance. The air is clean and as I’ll comment on further, there’s a lot that’s alive here. The land is alive and fertile.
The farm in the distance, across the rice paddies
We worked 2 hours/day and paid a little bit in exchange for our room and board.
The adobe house we stayed in
From the inside: the front door
Me, lounging on a bench in the house
The farm has over a dozen of handbuilt structures, from houses, to shower facilities, kitchen, meeting hall and more. Most were built using adobe.
Brandon checking out the adobe bricks
When Peggy and Jon (the owners) bought the land 7 years ago, it was completely razed and nothing would grow on it. They’ve rehabilitated it and it’s quite fertile now. We saw starfruit and passionfruit trees, peppers, gourds, rice, bananas, papayas, limes… and we helped to plant tomatoes, okra, beans, loofah, cabbage, and more. This by no means an exhaustive list. One day we went foraging for mushrooms in the nearby forest. All of this food feeds the live-in population of approx. 10 and assorted volunteers/students who are on site. I believe it also supplies their organic vegetarian restaurant (Pun Pun) in Chiang Mai.
Starfruit: a fruit I never knew I liked
In the evenings, we’d go back to our house and enter the sanctuary of our mosquito net, which became what we called our “insect safari.” This is rural Thailand and there are a lot of bugs (note to family – I did really well).
There were spiders:
Female in the foreground, male in the back.
Disclaimer: these spiders were outside the house. The female weaved a web with an “X” pattern on it. We did see smaller versions of the famous McLeod Ganj spider in our bedroom however (no photos).
A palm-sized moth (possibly a Sphinx)
One of the many praying mantis’ we saw
The insect population was controlled in part by the very large Tokay geckos called that lived in the house. They are called Tokay because that’s the sound of their call. We watched them from the safety of our net while they chomped on insects.
We really enjoyed our time at Pun Pun and learned a lot during the week. We also ate incredibly well – the food was beyond description. To all of you who know me really well and are aware of my hatred of bananas: I had the most amazing banana flower salad.
The banana flower is under the nasty bananas
This is just the beginning of our efforts to pick up some building and growing skills. What a great way to start and be inspired.