Wednesday, December 2, 2009

WWOOFing Daruma Farm

An orchid

Neil and I with our bread

Neil preparing to deep fry some birds

Neil and his friend Dave with successfully deep-fried turkeys

Aggie and I at the Japanese Festival in Bang Phra

A room in the beautiful new house and spa



The past 10 days have been absolutely fantastic. I was able to get in touch with Neil, a friend of a friend of my fathers' who lives here in Thailand and has an organic farm about an hour outside of Bangkok. He is part of an organization called WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The idea is that people, anyone, pays a small fee to join the website and get access to contact information for organic farms in certain countries. You get in contact with the farm, go there and work for them in exchange for food (often from the farm) and a place to sleep.

Highly recommended.

Neil is married to Su, a beautiful and kind Thai woman and they are opening a spa in town at the "New House" so he was pretty busy there most of the time. The rest of us lived out at the farmhouse, about a 10 minute bike ride from the new house on two acres of land. The farm has been established for a while but they are making lots of changes and it's relatively new to WWOOFers. They are growing things like rice, tomatoes, spinach, mangos, bananas, chili peppers and cassava root which is a fuel source apparently. Oh, and pineapples, which I totally freed from a zillion weeds one morning.

I took an overnight "VIP" bus from Krabi to Bangkok then another bus to Bang Phra where the farm is located. Do not associate VIP with really nice...I guess I got what I paid for but it resulted in a sleepless night on a crowded bus with lots of foreigners, but I got to the farm!

I met Cassie and Zoe, two girls from Washington State and Rachel from Nebraska right away. Rachel is building a sweet website for the farm and Cassie and Zoe were WWOOFing around Thailand. We worked together threshing rice the first day, which involves gathering the rice stalks, hitting them with a stick to remove all the seeds, then trying to separate all the tiny pieces of hay from the seeds and attempting to collect all the tiny seeds that flew to all corners of the area when you were hitting the rice...but it was a lot of fun with those girls who unfortunately were leaving the next day.
Lunch and dinner and most of the details on the farm are run by Sean, a disgruntled but sweet old Irish guy (you just have to get through his outer shell and tease him a bit, then he'll warm up). He was funny and difficult to understand, really thick Irish brogue, sometimes he had to spell things out for me to understand! HA! He and his girlfriend Al live at the farm now, he's also a WWOOFer but for several months and has a farm back in Ireland so he kind of ran the place since Neil was never around. Al worked at the spa and cafe back at the New House. Sean is an excellent cook and I was never hungry; tons of curries, stir-fries and great soups.

We slept upstairs on the third floor of a mostly open-air building on matresses on the floor under mosquito net tents. After Cassie and Zoe left Gavin and Aggie came, an English/Polish couple who really spiced things up. We had a great time together, Gavin is a huge English guy who was fantastic at heaving pieces of soil around to create a rice paddie and Aggie, or Agnishka from Poland was tiny, vegetarian and very spunky.

Work I did on the farm ranged from everything from cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen to weeding pineapples with a huge metal hoe, planting squash seeds, planting herb bushes in the ground, breaking up grassy dirt and going through it endlessly to remove weeds and break up dirt clods to prepare it for planting, and of course weeding! I even got to cook more once Sean gained more confidence in me. I loved it.
Another exciting event on the farm was Rachel having a bike accident. There are lots of fairly ferocious dogs guarding the farms around Thailand and we all experienced them chasing us while we were riding bikes anywhere from the farm. One night Rachel was coming back from the New House where she was doing the web design and she must have hit a bump going fast to escape the dogs, but she crashed hard, tore the AC ligament in her shoulder and had a concussion. Thank you WFR skills. We got her to the hospital asap and I stayed with her the whole night as she asked the same questions in succession for three hours because she had no short-term memory. Pretty crazy, but she was doing so much better the next day and the surgery went great. Just a reminder that we are only human.
We even had a good ol' fashioned Thanksgiving Dinner! It took forever for everything to be ready, but not becuase of the turkey. Neil,who is incredibly intelligent about so many things and enlightens you whether you're ready for it or not, has deep-fried turkeys before and insisted that after 45 minutes the skin would be crisp, the meat tender. So we tried it and it was a success! However it took him a long time to actually heat up the oil and cook the birds, so we didn't end up eating til about 8:45pm, but it was a true feast. Stuffing, bread I made and we baked in the wood-fire oven, cranberry sauce I also got delegated to make, bananas in coconut milk, potatoes, gravy and even homemade icecream in flavors like durian and this green, sour fruit I don't know the name of. So so so delicious!
I already miss the farm. I am currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia after successfully navigating myself alone through the notorious border crossing. No problems, just an extra 200 baht because I'm from the USA. Awesome. I found the Trailblazer Foundation today where I plan to spend the next week or so volunteering helping them with their test garden and building sand water filters they distribute to communities that do not have access to clean water. Pretty sweet, but they never get foreign volunteers so I am staying in a hostel in town and will rent a bike to get there. We'll see if they have work for me and how it goes, but I will definitely spend time seeing Angkor Wat while I'm here, then maybe find another farm to WWOOF at before I head back to Thailand December 21.
Peace my friends!

4 comments:

  1. Sounds exciting. You are certainly getting a diverse experience. Wow! Di the mosquito nets work?

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  2. Hi! I came across your blog while looking for WWOOFing opportunities around Thailand. Could you please pass along some contact information for Daruma farm? I would be most grateful. My e-mail address is LindseySByers at gmail.com

    Thanks,

    LIndsey

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  3. hello! I found your great experience by looking for the Woofing network in thailand, because I woofed in Japan and New Zealand, but can't find the way to register to the Thai organization... could you please help me or give me DAruma Farm contact? thank you very much from a French family travelling around the world!
    miloucrea@gmail.com

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  4. Hi! Odd question but I am looking for Zoe and Cassie's contact info as I met them in Pai in October and lost their into and I really want to get in touch with one or either of them.
    If you have their info, pls pass on mine to them, and i would be forever grateful!! My name is Rita from Canada, and i met them in Pai, my e-mail is cuteecake@yahoo.com.
    If you can pls pls pls connect me to them I would love you forever.
    Also, just so you know.. I googled them to see if they had a blog or anything and it led me to yours...:)
    Cheers, Rita

    ReplyDelete