Category Archives: Wanderjahr

Organic Gardens for Thai Freedom House

Please help us in creating beautiful organic gardens for the wonderful Freedom House in Chiang Mai, Thailand. To give funding click here.

Who are we?

We are the Panya community, a sustainable living/education centre north of Chiang Mai city. We’re designing and implementing two gardens for the Thai Freedom House; a non-government, not-for-profit, community language and arts learning center in Chiang Mai dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and Indigenous peoples of Thailand.

What are we doing?

Garden one is located in the Free Bird Cafe, where the NGO raises income for their project. The idea is to make the space more beautiful attracting many customers to the cafe, and to organically home grow a selection of the ingredients used in cooking.

Garden Two will be located at the Freedom house school, where displaced people from Myanmar and Thailand come to learn Thai, English and enjoy a supportive, creative community. Our aim is to green the concrete surrondings of the school, reconnecting the students back to nature as many of them are from rural, farming backgrounds and now living in crowded poor conditions in the city. They will  have their own space to plant, watch the plants grow and finally harvest and eat the fruits of their work!

By donating to this project you will be giving marginalised members of society in Thailand a chance to re connect to their growing heritage. You will also help us create beautiful living green community spaces that will act as a refuge to people without real homes of their own.

What do we need?

What we can do depends on the funds we get. If we don’t reach our goal we are still comitted to buying and planting as much as we can with the amount we do have.

We would like to build living trellis’ and pergolas, with climbing spinach and jasmine.. plant high yeilding and easily maintatined chillis, eggplants, lime trees and papayas. Create beautiful herbs gardens to use in cooking, both in the cafe and for the students to take home for their familes… hang baskets of overflowing flowers to bring bright colours of inspiration and to all who come and visit.

When do we need it?

We will be working over the 1st 2nd and 3rd of July… Any funding that we have by then will be used to impelent these gardens at Freedom House.

Please please give what you can to our project, we promise to use your money wisely and keep you updated with our progress!

         Thank You for your Support!

Towards Permanent Cultures – An Introduction to Ecovillage Design 4th – 11th August, Chiang Mai

This 6-day Introduction to Ecovillage and Permaculture Design is based on the Global Ecovillage Network’s Ecovillage Design Education, an internationally taught training for sustainability and social change. In an interesting mix of head, heart and hands on experiences we will teach 40+ hours of interactive workshops around the five dimensions of Ecovillage Design.

Social dimension: We will explore the non physical processes necessary for community to thrive; positive communication, decision making, conflict resolution and meeting facilitation will all be covered. We will look at organisational structures of different scales, from intentional community  to wider society. By discovering what we believe to be true community we can develop new ways of working and living together.

Ecological dimension: Actively building natural capital throughout the duration of the course we will learn how to live with the earth, restoring and regenerating ecosystems. Workshops will include learning how to save seed, build healthy soil, catch, clean and store water, manage forest sustainably and use appropriate technology.

Economic dimension: We will take a look at the current global economic system. Analysing its strengths and weaknesses, we can explore alternatives and the possibility of a Common Welfare Economy that is truly beneficial to society. We will learn about developing local currencies, gift economy and LETs schemes amongst other ways of being community reliant.

Worldview and Cultural dimension: A diverse mix of community building games and exercises will guide us through the week. An Open Space to share and a World Cafe event will give us the opportunity to explore our collective power as a group.

Design dimension: Discovering concepts of systems theory and pattern language we will learn to observe and recognise patterns in nature, society and ourselves. Once we become aware of these patterns and systems, we are able to incorporate them into intelligent design from garden landscaping to community development. We will focus on Permaculture Design and Dragon Dreaming as integral approaches to project/land design.

This brief overview of the topics that we will cover is by no means comprehensive.

The Panya Project Permaculture and Sustainability Centre offers an optimal and inspiring environment to truly experience living in intentional community, exploring an alternative way of life and reconnecting to a natural state of being. This 6-day workshop will equip participants with the right inspiration and tools to become a force for positive change in this world.

Find more information at the Panya Project’s webpage here.

Consensus Decision Making at the Panya Project

The new decision making process that we’re currently using at the Panya Project has shown to be effective and save us a lot of time that used to be spend in useless and tiring conversations. Below is a describtion that serves as a guideline during the process.

We are using hand signals for each of these options, so that so that a quick overview on the groups standpoint is possible.

Permaculture in Practice Internship, July 17 – July 30, Chiang Mai, Thailand

This is a perfect opportunity to get a hands-on experience of Permaculture – whether you’ve done a Permaculture Design Course before or are new to the idea. Permaculture in Practice Internships are regularly run by the Panya Community and have always been very successful and inspiring courses during which we explore the practicalities of building sustainable relationships with our environment.

Learn the art of natural building: Learn and put into action natural building techniques including wattle and cob, adobe, clay plasters and pigment renders and use these tools in building projects.

Plan and plant organic vegetable garden beds.

Learn to plant and tend a food forest: This will be one of our focal points during this year’s PIP as we’re in the middle of rainy season, ready for planting a great variety of fruit trees, shrubs and soil improving plants. 

Make 18 day compost: see how we turn organic matter into usable living soil in less than three weeks.

Discover the importance of seed saving.

Empower yourself to live self sustainably through sessions where you can learn to make bread, wine, cheese, yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, tofu and EM.

Experience day to day life in a Permaculture community. We will hold daily yoga and meditation sessions in the mornings and there is a nearby reservoir to have cooling swims in the afternoon.

Put your new-found permaculture practice to good use!

This course is organised and run by the Panya community, with each community member contributing to the content and skills shares to bring in a high diversity of experience.

For more information check out the Panya web page.

Consent with people

We’re trying to use consent in all our decision making at the Panya Project. When a proposal is made by the facilitator we make a round to find out people’s feelings and concerns. For the proposal to be accepted a maximum of two group members can stand aside (this is the case in our usual group size of 6 to 10 people; if there are less, 2 seems one to many). Standing aside means that you don’t agree with the decision but you won’t block it either as it seems as if the majority agrees and you want what is best for the community. People who stand aside express their concerns to the group and those who agree with the decision get a chance to express themselves as well – this might change the picture, more people agreeing or standing aside, in a second round. If more than two people stand aside, the decision can’t be made and the proposal has to be reformulated to match the groups needs.

If one person is strongly opposing a decision, he or she can block it. Not in every group that uses the consensus decision making process blocking is an option. Blocking needs to be properly understood and in many amateur groups it isn’t: we’ll block a decision ‘once or twice’ in a lifetime, when we truly believe it will harm the group/community.  If we’re the only person blocking we might ask ourselves a second time what is best for the group as everyone is of different opinion and, if a solution can’t be found, we might even consider leaving the group. However, a block as well as standing aside are options that have to be respected as valid choices; reasonable concerns must be addressed.

Why do we use consent decision making rather than vote?

We want to create win-win situations. Even this little insight is capable of changing the group’s attitude. In a vote decision we’re not trying to find an optimal solution or an optimal formulation of the proposal, we just let the majority chose ‘yes’ or ‘no’, create two sides, separation. In consensus we’re listening to concerns and reservations and try to adjust the proposal to fit everyone’s, and even more important, the group’s needs. A concern is coming up for a reason and a decision taken is strongest and most powerful when concerns are eliminated. The result we mostly go for is however rarely ‘ this is the optimal choice for everyone’, but more often ‘everyone can live with this’ or ‘this is the best for the group’.

Here is a short step-by-step guide for the process:

1. The facilitator gives a proposal to the group and announces a first round show of hands;

2. Handsigns are used to show people’s position:

    • a. two hands up shaking means ‘I fully agree’;
    • b. one hand up shaking means ‘ I agree but have reservations’;
    • c. two hands up with palms facing to the group means ‘i stand aside’, or ‘don’t agree but I can live with it’;
    • d. showing an X with the arms indicates a very severe disagreement and ‘blocks’ the decision from being made.

3a. Everybody agrees, so the proposal is accepted;

3b. Space is created for reservations to be expressed and addressed if necessary and possible. The proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments;

3c. Everyone has the right to express his or her concerns, reservations, toughest and feelings. If there is a maximum of two people standing aside the proposal is either accepted as it is or with adjustments. If there are more than two people standing aside, the proposal is not accepted, the group can however adjust the proposal addressing the concerns of the group and start the decision making process again;

3d. A block is stopping the decision from being made. The concerns of that person must be addressed is one way or another.

In this regard, consensus or consent IS NOT unanimity, which leaves groups often in frustration and endless discussions. Consent is building solidarity to take out collective strength and the best of the group.

There are 7 Fs in Food Forest

A food forest, also called a forest garden, is defined as ‘a perennial polyculture of multipurpose plants‘.

Perennial means that the plants have a longer lifespan than 2 years, as for example fruit trees that might live for 20 or ever 50 years. This longer lifespan gives more stability to the ecosystem as root systems establish, pull up nutrients from deeper levels, allow water filtration into the soil and prevent erosion on a soil which doesn’t need to be worked on as between annual plantings. Work load goes down as the plants are planted once in many years.

Polyculture, as opposed to a monoculture is a plantation that consists of many (poly) different species instead of one (mono) singular one. The food forester tries to mimic a natural forest system in bringing in the different levels that all forests are made of and so the diversity that makes a natural system resilient. A natural forest and the well designed food forest consist of seven layers:

The first one is the canopy layer which consists of high growing trees, mostly teek trees. The second layer is the intermediate layer consisting of smaller trees, in a food forest mostly fruit trees that grow in between the higher ones. Their crowns are at different levels of hight so that they do not take each other’s space. The third layer is the shrub layer, mostly consisting of fruit giving shrubs and perennial vegetable varieties. The fourth layer is the herb layer, consisting of non-woody, small plants, mostly herbs. The fifth layer is the ground layer covering the whole ground and not letting unwanted plants come up. Often this plant is a legume which fix nitrogen and therefore improve the soil in being a source of fertiliser for other plants. The sixth layer is the climbing layer, often ivory or other vines which are part of every natural forest ecosystem. In the food forest many different edible plants will replace the usual forest species. The seventh layer is the root layer consisting of usable and edible roots  like cassava.

Multipurpose means that the yields that the food forest gives, so the purposes of the plants in these different layers, are many, often summarised as the 7 Fs of the food forest:

Food

Fuel

Fiber

Fodder

Fertiliser

Farmerceutics (Pharmaceutics)

Fun

In this way, the food forest is mimicking a natural resilient climax ecosystem with the focus of providing for human needs and the perfect example of Permaculture Design.

The two most important elements in the designing of the food forest are space and time. Space as we’ve seen in the combination of layers, using the vertical space as well as the horizontal and time in working with and speeding up succession through design and planned planting to bring the forest to its climax state.

More on Food Forest following soon …

The Art of Dreaming

We had our Panya LTV (long-term volunteer) Dreaming Circle the other day and I’m very pleased with the results. I had never before really practiced it outside of the highly motivated EDE group. I knew this would be more of a challenge. Before the Dreaming Circle about the project, everyone took a couple of minutes to talk about their personal dream as a possibility to reconnect to it. I found this to be a very interesting practice which teaches us a lot about people.

In aboriginal culture people believe that their dreams are their projection into the future; we’re constantly calling our future into being through our dreams. People nowadays have lost this connection, have forgotten the art of dreaming because they’ve been told off; being a dreamer is regarded as being unproductive, we’ve unlearned how to follow them. Knowing our innermost dreams and visions and sharing them with others is the first step towards this reconciliation with the future.

You can hear when people talk about their dreams how they haven’t really thought about them at all. Some people stay in the past, talking about their experiences and mention the future very little. Others express a lot of hope and uncertainty through saying phrases like ‘I hope in the future I’ll be…‘ or ‘maybe I’ll have…‘. most of us don’t know where we’re going… we are not clear about what we want. What we did want as a child was often laughed at and rejected and we did’t allow ourselves to dream. When the body of the child grows up we don’t leave it any room to be.

Wenn das Kind wird erwachsen wohin wird es gehn,

Ist das Kind dann verloren oder kann man’s nicht sehn,

Hat es sich vielleicht versteckt, hinter einer Haut,

Die die Wahrheit der Dinge im tiefsten beraubt.

Wenn das Kind wird dich rufen wirst du es hörn,

Oder wirst du so tun als würds dich nicht störn,

Und es einfach verdrängen bis es nicht mehr geht,

Weil das Kind dann vergangen und es nicht mehr lebt

Not only spiritual mystics but also science is showing us the power of dreaming and visualisation. ‘Brain studies have shown that imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells that are actually involved in that activity. In other words, the new brain circuitry appears to go through its paces, strengthening connections, even as a person merely repeats the sequence in the mind.’ (Goleman) Through this visualisation or mental invitation we call our vision, our dream into being within ourselves, we open up our being for its manifestation. The more we have clarity in what we want to see or become, the more we trust ourselves, the higher the possibility that we create it.

Mindfulness

Facing East, I’m calling the element Air into the circle, asking for the power of the sun, sharp precision and focus in my undertakings. I find peace through clarity, the innocence of the infant as the wind blows through the deepest valleys of my being. May purity and truth guide our inspiration and intuition in every moment, in every step.  

It is a miracle to walk on water. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says that the real miracle is to walk on the earth. We all can do that, can’t we? But have we ever actually been present walking on the earth? How do the feet feel on the ground, the wind on our skin? Have we ever been aware of that… and appreciated it? Are we aware of the sensations that a smile brings to our bodies? Have we ever fully listened to one of our fellow human beings, our friends, our children? Have we ever eaten a tangerine?

Adding a handful of loving kindness and compassion to awareness gives us mindfulness – the Buddhist dharma of being lovingly present in every moment and in whatever we do. Visiting Buddhist temples inThailandandCambodiawe often encountered stair steps that are leading to the Buddha statues double or triple as high as the ones in a normal house. Why? I asked. It is not an easy walk to reach the highest, the Buddha, I was told – it is a walk done in full awareness and participation. Every step is a step in mindfulness as we climb the steps of realisation. Every step is of equal importance, is the next possible step, the present moment, … every step is peace.

Only in realising the universality, the interconnectedness of every step in life, only when we put our feet in front of each other in full awareness, in full participation, we’ve actually done a step.

In this way mindfulness is not an idea that is practiced in meditation alone – mindfulness is the tool that lets us be, that makes us live in every moment, that connects us to our surroundings, the world and the people. We can practice mindfulness in every moment: when we breathe, breathing in, I know I’m breathing in, breathing out, I know I’m breathing out; breathing in, I’m here in the present moment, breathing out, this is a wonderful moment. It is the breath that in a subtle way connects us to the outside world, from the moment we’re born until the moment our body passes away. We can practice mindfulness while walking: I’m breathing in and I’m breathing out, I have arrived and I am home, in the here and in the now, I’m breathing in and I’m breathing out.

When the Buddha explained the idea of mindfulness to a group of kids, he gave them a tangerine and made them feel it with their hands while peeling it, feeling the sensations on their tongues while eating it, every sensation in the mouth and through the body. How does it feel to eat a tangerine in full presence and participation?

Another way to practice mindfulness in the modern world is through listening – what Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening. Deep listening is practiced by his followers and others all around the world. In our modern world of distraction and individualism can we really deeply listen to each other? Are we able to hear what another person is telling us without building our personal opinion in our heads, already thinking of what we’ll say next? Can we hear what our friend says, can we hear what our bodies say, what the earth says with every movement she makes? To listen is to understand. Can we breathe in understanding, walk in understanding, be in understanding? Can we walk the earth in peace, reconciling with every step we make? Can we be in loving awareness, in full participation, in mindfulness?

Building Soil and Catching Energy

“Increasing the humus content of agricultural soil has always been a principle objective of organic agriculture. Changing the management of farmland to use organic or permaculture strategies and techniques can rebuild this storage of carbon, fertility and water to close to those of natural grasslands and forests. It is arguably the greatest single contribution we could make to ensure the future survival of humanity.” – David Holmgren, Permaculture – Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability

The composting method that we use at the Panya Project and that is often used in Permaculture Projects is the 18-day quick composting method afterBerkley. We need a mixture of carbon and nitrogen elements in a ratio of 30 to 1. This is however in concentration, not in biomass, where it’s probably more around 3 to 1, fully depending on your chosen and available ingredients. Water is added to the mixture with a moisture content of 60 percent being optimal. It is an aerobic fermentation process generated through heat. The pile is stacked in lasagne-style, meaning layer for layer altering between carbons – low nitrogen – carbons – high nitrogen – carbons – low nitrogen – and so on.

Carbon is the building block of life and is mostly found in trees. For the compost you can chose most brown organic material like branches and old leaves. For the quick compost it is important that most material is quite small; huge pieces of wood won’t compost in a month or 18 days. The highest nitrogen source is probably pee, then different kinds of manure. Another source of high nitrogen is freshly cut legumes as they are plants that catch nitrogen from the air. A middle and low nitrogen source is all other freshly cut leaves and greens from the garden and the trees. Kitchen waste is, depending on what it contains, mostly on the more or less right carbon-nitrogen ratio of 30 to 1 and can be added in between the layers.

The layers shouldn’t be higher than10 centimetreseach, keeping layers of cow manure thinner. The pile is optimally between 1.5 and2 metrecube, should never be smaller than1 metrecube, as it won’t get hot enough. After 2 to 4 days the pile mostly reaches a temperature of about 60 degrees Celsius. If the pile is after four days still below 45 degrees, you might not have the right moisture or there isn’t enough nitrogen in the lasagne. If the pile gets too hot, meaning more than 65 degrees and often predominantly covered in some white bacteria, it’s defiantly time to turn it. If it keeps heating up like that you might have to put some more carbon material. The pile should be covered to keep it from drying out in hot climates and keep it from getting too wet in wet climates.

After the first four days, the compost should be turned every other day. This keeps it aerated and gives you the possibility to add some materials, mostly water if necessary. You can check the moisture content in pressing the material in between your hands. If the hands become slightly wet, with not more than one drop of water on your palm, it is perfect moisture. The temperature you can feel with your hands, if digging into the pile and it’s too hot to keep your hands in it must be about 60 degrees. You have to dig in because the outside 10 to20 centimetresdon’t heat up and don’t really compost. Therefore, if you want the composting process to finish in optimal time it is important to turn it right; that means that you bring the outside of pile to the inside and the inside to the outside with every turning.

In the Panya Project, we usually have a pile done in about a month. Through this composting method we can keep planting all year through in the same beds always adding fresh healthy soil to the plants.

In permaculture we look for the multiplication of our functions. Doing this with the compost, we see that one output of the compost that we could use is the heat; probably we could cook eggs on top of it. When we had 20 school kids from Bangkok visiting the Panya Project for a week we thought we need more hot water options than our solar collector who holds water for about 4 to 8 showers. So we built them a bucket shower with passiv heating in letting the pipe run through the 60 degree hot compost. See pictures below. For two weeks we managed to have hot water from that pipe, so hot you needed to mix it with cold water.