Margo McCreary

Farm to City

So I have taken a day off which seems the only way to blog for me. Man alive, my days have been full and my head too. Yesterday which was our last at Earth Homes Farm, I did qigong for the first time of this trip. I must find a way to center in myself despite which is caretaker to a delightful toddler. I am not complaining, but I do need to caretake only so much, and remember Margo has desires and thoughts of her own which can be expressed and satisfied. What a switch from so very much of my own time as a semi-retired person to being Birch’s shadow, midwife to the world, intervener, and the one who takes him away from his most precious Mamma. We are getting sweetly bonded, which helps so much.

We have arrived to Chiang Mai and have two nights in a guesthouse called Le Frenchie. It is pretty, airy, reasonably priced, but not available for the rest of our stay. Willow is checking out other options, and I have too. Another cool thing is that while we live our lives today, our laundry is being washed and dried by a little business that looks like a tour company too. The cost is 30 baht per kilo, which came to 270 baht or $8.47. We can pick it up at 6 pm. I had done some hand washing while at the farm, and learned too late that we could have washed it in a pay machine at one of the open air stores, and then brought it home to dry, or we could have sent it out. I am wearing my last clean garment today!

Our time at the Farm was blissful. We had three extremely good Thai meals cooked each day for all the people (either guests or volunteers) staying on the farm. There are sheep, chickens, and horses in the corrals at one side of the farm. The chickens lay eggs, the sheep baaaa, and the horses eat hay, some kind of pellet feed, and Buffy, the young horse, eats bananas! really? Om is the daughter of P’Thongbai who is the visionary and farmer. Om takes care of the animals, and she showed Birch and any other children who come to the farm, how Buffy likes bananas, and how to feed her without nipped fingers. We were allowed to walk into the corral to visit the animals up close, and felt so at home wandering the farm. There were also gardens beautifully planted with mustard greens, tomatoes, brocollini, kale, okra, eggplants, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, cilantro, holy basil. How could we not eat so well with such organic produce.

There are canals all through the farm and the gardens. I suppose in the rainy season it keeps the gardens and corrals from flooding; it also irrigates. Many of the canals were dug to get mud to build the earth houses where guests stay. What a symbiotic place. People come to visit the farm because P’Thongbai practices permaculture and the farm is a place where people can learn traditional and sustainable practices. One evening we had a fire with little stools all around. The activity in the kitchen really piqued my curiosity. P’Thongbai was carefully pouring soaked and parched rice into long green bamboo sections, and then Om poured sweetened coconut milk into the bamboo, and plugged it with roughage from the husks. The bamboo tubes were leaned over the fire and turned and turned, and eventually had trails of sticky liquid running down the sides. So the next morning, the outer layer of the bamboo is stripped with a sharp tool, and then you pull back the stripped bamboo to expose just a thin layer of the bamboo inner membrane holding the sticky rice. It was so delicious, and gently sweet. Many of us had gathered around the fire in the evening and P’Thongvai talked about how the tradition was for families and neighbors to gather around the fire and talk, joke and work. You can guess what has happened to that way of life with all the screens around.

However, community spirit still lives in the village. On a walk, I came across the field next door that was filled with 50 or more people with colorful bags, all working. The neighbor’s peanut harvest was ready so the village came out to help. There was music, fires, and a very festive feel to the whole scene. Even Buffy benefitted from the harvest as people brought her lots of leaves!

So much to report! A dear woman named Meera who volunteers at the farm, set up a tour for a few of us for our last day. She got us a driver, and planned our itinerary. We went to a hot spring with very sulfury water in these rock mosaic pools that a group can rent by the hour. Next stop, a Buddhist temple that is 300 years old, and partially in a cave. We toured underground with a guide carrying a kerosene lantern, and went through some pretty narrow spots. There were shrines in the caves and also so many intriguing formations evocative of flowers, elephants, tigers . . . bears! Our last stop was astounding to my eyes because there were at least fifteen ornate and grand temples. Golden spires and sinuous dragons, elephants, birds, mirror-covered roosters, peacocks! Then there were chimes hanging on all the eaves, with golden leaves to catch the wind. Oh I was wishing for a strong wind, but it might be too much for one soul to experience.

Thanks for reading . . . until next time!