Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Famers' Yard Part II

Sanur Bali Indonesia helpx
Djuca jamming at an open mic
     The Yard was always full of charismatic adventurers, and it was fun to go out on the town together. Because so many people were in bands, we often went to see their shows at open mics or parties. About 45 minutes away was the Manic Organic Cafe in Sanur, and one night we packed Djuca's pickup truck full of pillows, musicians, and instruments and headed over. Most people crammed in the back, but Holly got the privilege of riding up front since she was pregnant. We got there a bit late, but still got to listen to many of our new friends play professionally. Carrell got up with Djuca's band and jammed on his violin, while we sat back and enjoyed a delicious date shake. After the cafe closed down, the party moved to a nearby beach, where someone built a fire, and the jamming continued long into the night.
Bali Indonesia helpx
A Keyhole Garden
Bali Indonesia helpx
The homeless tiny horse
     As a side project, Djuca had founded Permablitz Bali. The Permablitz movement was started in Australia in 2006, and now has chapters all over the world. The goal is to unite people around permaculture, permablitzes are events where a large group of people descend on a space and create edible gardens while building community and, of course, having fun. One Sunday we all piled into the truck and drove to Mark's place for a "blitz". Mark and his brother were members of the band The Mongeese, and we had seen them play several times. Mark had an impressive garden with a grand keyhole design, and the Permablitz mob descended to help expand it. Keyhole garden designs usually have an active compost pile in the center, which helps hold water and nutrients.
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
Cabbage mid-pollination
 We helped dig new beds and sift through the soil, removing the rubble that had accumulated over generations. Our labor was casually witnessed by a slightly out-of-place tiny horse. Mark had recently adopted a small horse, by virtue of being the only person who did not flat-out decline taking it in. After an afternoon of working in the garden, Mark's mom fed us an amazing meal of curried chicken, rice, green beans, and corn. As we'd come to expect, the event ended with an impromptu jam session before we all headed home.
Bali Indonesia helpx
     In our midst was a phenomenal drummer from Japan, Mitsu. He was the first person who introduced us to the concept of the ice bucket challenge. He got a message from a friend, and at that point in its infancy the challenge was to dump 2 buckets of ice water on your head, or pay the person who challenged you $100. You had 24 hours to accept the challenge, and with a concerted effort it took about that long to make that much ice. You might think a bucket of ice in Bali would be refreshing, but judging by his reaction, it was not a pleasant experience. Our friend Tom was the one who poured water on Mitsu, nice and slow to prolong the effect, so Mitsu didn't hesitate to pass the challenge to Tom next. Tom accepted the challenge, and this time Mitsu got to dump water on Tom's head. 
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
The caremai tree
     As hot as Bali was, we never felt too stifled, because the Yard was one of the few places in the city with shade trees. As an added bonus, many of the trees produced food in one form or another. Coconut trees yielded delicious coconut water and meat, and the caremai trees had sour berries which could be used to make jellies, sauces, or candies. Tom showed us how to climb up to the coconuts using notches that had been cut into the trees. Randy was able to harvest a nut from a 30 foot tree, but the precariously placed nut slipped from his fingers and fell out onto the clay roof of the kitchen, smashing three roof tiles.
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx     Luckily, a few days later we accompanied Djuca to Ubud, and along the way we stopped at a roof tile maker. It was fun to see the thousands of handmade decorative tiles, and the giant wood-fired kiln used to bake them. We also stopped at the Green School, "the greenest school on earth," a private, international pre-k through highschool school focusing on sustainability, that Luna and Katie had attended. We were bummed to learn we had missed the opportunity to hear Jane Goodall speak, as she had been there just days before.
     It seems like it's impossible to travel abroad without getting at least a little sick at some point. Holly got a mild cold that stuck around for almost a week, despite lots of bed rest, but Randy's was fast and furious, with intense stomach pains and a fever. He would've been more worried, but Nico had the same malady a few days earlier, and lived through it.
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
Homemade pasta
bali indonesia
Decorative corner tiles waiting to be fired
      A few weeks before we left, Sylvie, a French photographer, organized communal dinners. Every night two people would cook for the group, often showcasing their native culture's cuisine, and always delicious. Mustapha, an Egyptian political writer, began the tradition with an enticing chicken stew. One night Nico and Sylvie made a French feast, another night Mitsu made Japanese food. Ruta, a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of girl, made Lithuanian food for everyone. Carrel made spicy Czech food one night, which ended up being a bit too much for the French quarter, who weren't used to spice. We were thinking of serving pasta one night, but when Djuca heard this, his Italian roots demanded that he make the pasta from scratch. Of course his family's recipe for sauce and pasta were incredibly tasty.
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
Putting the finishing touches
on the banana cream pie
 Our first contribution was our version of the quintessential American meal; bean burgers and oven fries, which was a hit. Our second dish was biscuits and gravy, which was initially met with skepticism and confusion. The British contingent equated biscuits with cookies, and everyone thought putting the gravy on the "rolls" was counterintuitive. But, once they got over their confusion, people were into them. Sylvie said that after our meals, her concept of American cooking went from "down here" (hand near the floor) to "way up here" (hand level with head).
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx
Tom and Holly enjoying another day at the beach
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx Although we realize our cooking style doesn't reflect the average American diet, we are still proud to drum up a little respect for the homeland. Holly also made cookies for various events, and once Randy made a fruit sauce from the tart ceremai berries, and layered it on top of a homemade banana cream pie. Another welcome culinary experiment was Paul and Ruta's quest to make the perfect loaf of bread, like with any project in Bali, they had to surmount a lack of materials they were used to (yeast and wheat flour were hard to find, and there only oven available was an unpredictable toaster oven). Their end result would be at home in any fine bakery.
Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx

Farmers' yard bali indonesia helpx

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Farmers' Yard

helpx indonesia
Open-air kitchen
  Tasha called a cab to take us to our next host, which we appreciated since we still only knew a handful of Indonesian phrases. Although we had the address, the cab driver had a hard time finding it, and had to call Djuca for directions. It seems we weren't the only ones who had trouble navigating the poorly marked streets. After driving around for about 45 minutes, we finally saw a sign for the Farmers' Yard, and told the "taksi" driver to stop. The sign ambiguously pointed to a set of double doors, which we tentatively knocked on. When no one answered, we knocked louder, but still to no avail. There was no lock or knob on the door, so after standing outside for a few minutes, we peered inside and saw a courtyard. There was a multitude of signs promoting sustainable farming and conscious living, and we figured we were in the right place.
helpx indonesia
 By this time it was starting to get dark, and we were moderately worried about how we would spend our evening. We went into the courtyard, and immediately liked the vibe. Stepping stones wound down a brick-lined path, with raised beds on either side. There was an open-air kitchen with signs like "lettuce turnip the beet." The natural building techniques were inviting, with cob and bamboo everywhere, but there was still not a soul in sight. After peeking in the dorm rooms, we saw one guy who was face-down asleep on a bed, but we didn't want to wake him, so we just put our stuff down and waited. Twenty minutes later, the mysterious sleeper woke up and came out. Nico, a dreadlocked, soft-spoken Frenchman of few words explained a bit about Farmers' Yard, and then showed us where we would be sleeping. Then Holly made some rice with soy sauce and dried pea-snacks (we hadn't brought much food with us), and we fell asleep to the hypnotic humming of a neighbor's whimsical twenty-foot-tall bamboo weather vane.
helpx indonesia
One of the dorm rooms where we stayed
The next morning when we awoke there was still no one around, so we went out in search of breakfast. Along the way we noticed small baskets made of palm leaves and filled with flowers, money, and incense in front of many houses. We later learned that these are called canang sari and are placed out daily by Balinese Hindus to give thanks for the peace granted by the supreme God. We bought some eggs, cabbage, and onions from a stand down the road, and when we came back, Will, a French-Canadian was awake. He explained that everyone was out late last night, and was sleeping in.
helpx bali indonesia canggu
Later we met Djuca and Tom, the creators of "the Yard," and about half a dozen other international volunteers. The Farmers' Yard was Djuca's brainchild; he wanted to encourage more responsible, conscious tourism, and create a place where travelers could be a part of the community. He started it over two years ago, and built it from the ground up. There are 3 dorm rooms, with a total of 16 beds, and it was on the cusp of completion (the first guests arrived about a week before we left). The Farmers' Yard is an amazing nexus of interesting people who form a community of spontaneous music and laughter. We highly recommend staying there if you're ever in Bali.
Some people find 
Jesus in their pancakes. 
All we got was this guy.
Djuca's truck
     Later we went to the market down the road, but there weren't many booths because it was late in the day. The market was open-air, with dozens of vendors. Most booths had some combination of vegetables, tempeh, tofu, and maybe eggs, some also had nuts, dried beans, rice, fruit, or these crazy flavored wafer things that expand into light, crispy chips when fried. Some had more dry goods, like instant coffee or raman-type noodles, and a few had fish or meat. There were two main booths that sold fresh raw chicken, and the two men had a pile of chicken parts and a cleaver, and would hack chunks off until it was a kilo, or however much you wanted.
Bali Indonesia
Are your dreams not patriotic enough?
These mattresses should help.
  On our way to the market we got stopped twice. Holly was just going to keep walking, but Randy was curious and wanted to see what the people were asking. One man gave us cards and when we pulled open a tab, he said we won, one of us supposedly won two polo shirts, and the other one of us won the "grand prize." He was really excited and wanted us to come claim our prizes right away, he said the reason he was so enthusiastic was because he got $50 whenever there was a grand prize winner. The other man really wanted help mailing a letter to the "White House Palace," the longer we stood there the more confusing his story got, so we just walked away.
Work at the Farmers' Yard was pretty open-ended, we could choose whatever projects we wanted to work on, and then go at our own pace.
Farmers' Yard Bali Canggu Helpx Indonesia
Woven bamboo fence
Our first few projects added to our bamboo repertoire, we used the material to add a ladder onto a bunk bed, and weave a garden retaining fence. Some of the smaller projects included transplanting starts, reinforcing the dining room table, installing overhead lamps in the rooms, and completing the cross pieces on the last unfinished bed. Before long, we realized that a large part of construction in Bali is making do with what you have, it wasn't possible to run down to the local hardware store and buy enough lumber or hardware to complete a project as you intended.
Farmers' Yard Bali canggu helpx indonesia
Splitting the bamboo for the fence
Every job required the extra consideration of what materials were available, and what tools were on hand. We enjoyed brainstorming around the challenges that arose, and got to exercise our creativity with some of the bigger projects. We built kitchen countertops and shelves out of scrap wood that was lying around (hours of hand-sanding), did some bathroom sink plumbing with fiberglass and bamboo, and used an old flipflop as a stop on a sliding door.
Farmers' Yard Bali Canggu Helpx Indonesia

The weekend after we arrived was Tom's birthday, and the party really showcased the vibe of the Yard. There was lots of music, good food, and drink long into the night. There we met Rohman, who got to be a familiar face, and has his own soap company, and Jaya, who designs and makes awesome clothes (check out her etsy shop here) and is also Djuca's girlfriend. Randy was also able to try the local hooch, arrack. It was obtained from a friends' house who brewed and distilled it, and it was transported in plastic baggies, like everything else. Almost everyone at the Yard is a musician (check out Tom's band here), and often throughout the day, and usually at night people would jam.  
     About a week after we arrived, two American girls came, Luna and Katie. They had just graduated from Warren Wilson, and were traveling around Southeast Asia. They were the first Americans we had seen since the drunk New Jerseyian in New Zealand, and we hadn't realized how much we'd missed the subtle unconscious nuances of conversing with someone from your own culture. Almost everyone spoke English, but with Luna and Katie we could finally say we were from central Massachusetts and St. Louis, rather than "near New York City," and "the middle," and no longer had to defend our units of measure. With our common American experience as a backdrop for conversation, we could communicate more easily and freely, without having to worry about being misunderstood.
Farmers' Yard Bali Canggu Helpx Indonesia
Katie and Luna helping us finish the fence
     They introduced us to the intricacies of "warungs" (roadside restaurants), and got us hooked on terang bulan. Terang bulan is a light, fluffy pancake drizzled with condensed milk, and topped with chocolate sprinkles, banana, chopped peanuts, and cheese, then folded in half into a calzonesque, 4" thick chunk of awesomeness. About twice a week we would treat ourselves, and go in search of the roving street vendors who created them. Randy thought that marshmallows would make a delicious addition to this concoction, and at one point tried to supply the cook with this extra ingredient. The man was confused, and thought Randy was handing him trash, and obligingly threw the perfectly good marshmallows in his wastebasket. Another casualty of the language barrier.
Farmers' Yard Canggu Bali Indonesia
Mixing cob; 2:1 sand to clay,
with a little water
 and straw mixed in.
Farmers' Yard Bali Canggu Helpx Indonesia
Giving the floor its final coat
     They also helped us patch up a cob floor; first we mixed up a new batch of cob (mud, sand, and straw), and then filled in all the cracks and divets.
     A week or two later Paul, an English electrician, and his friend Carrel, a Czech-Canadian computer whiz, arrived. They had been scouting the area for a possible location to start their own guesthouse, and lent their expertise for a few weeks. We asked to help Paul, in the hopes of gleaning some electrical skills. He was happy to share his knowledge, but pointed out that wiring in Bali was not exactly the norm. The hostel had been built by a myriad of passing travelers, and we spent quite a few hours tracing wires and determining the final lighting configuration. 

Farmers' Yard Bali Canggu Helpx Indonesia
Djuca, Nico, Ruta, Katie Pedro, Luna, Holly, Randy, Mitsu.