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2. Ms. Lai(HK)

Thanks to WWOOF Taiwan’s arrangements, the things I experienced this week were all very wonderfully unexpected.

Four years ago he rented this piece of land from the government and started his Permaculture, a self sustaining way of life. The Garden is not like a farm that has a specific crop but it is a farm that has many types of plants and crops. It almost feels like living in the wild. His explanation is this: “I purposely don’t pick the weeds because they act as a cover for my crops. This way the insects won’t easily target them and I don’t have to use pesticides or fertilizer. The crops live among the weeds. They live and die on their own. You don’t see a forest or the wild needing people to take care in order to survive.”

Before I get into more detail I like to say that I am just expressing my own experiences and they are maybe not 100% accurate about the farm. The host and his volunteer friend helped to build the house which is close to the pig and chicken quarters. The wood they used was recycled from an old house. There’s a place underneath the floor to start a fire for cooking, and also a long wooden ladder that leads to the sleeping quarters upstairs.

In the beginning I enjoyed the environment a lot, but as the day progressed it got colder. After observing closer I realized that this small house was not very tidy. The floor was dirty and so were the walls. There was also a broken window that was letting all the cold air into the house. The night came and a light rain was starting to fall outside. The air inside the house was the same as the air outside. My enthusiasm was going down just like the temperature. (Another problem with the broken window was that people walking outside could see right in, giving me no sense of security while changing clothes).

The host asked me if I had a sleeping bag and right then I started to panic. When I contacted him via email to ask what I should bring he only told me to bring basic personal things and I didn’t think that would include a sleeping bag. I was thinking this trip was going to be a “working holiday”. I never thought that my sleeping environment would be like this.

Luckily for me he had a spare sleeping bag. He worried that I am not accustomed to my new environment, so he invited his female volunteer worker to come sleep alongside me. This was a nice gesture of the host and I decided that I should get rid of my city life mentality and try to adapt.The host said I was the first female to come live at this farm. Before he had 2 guys come volunteer at his farm, one was a high school geography teacher and the other was a working class from Taichung. I am the first foreigner to come volunteer.

Sanitation problems aside, the farm’s owner was very careful to give me different types of work. He was diligent in giving me tasks in the shor amount of time and that allowed me to experience a lot of farming. My work schedule was 9am to 4pm, with 2 hours of lunch break. In other words working hours weren’t that long. Overall I stayed for 1 week and I got to pick peas, grapes, mulberry, carrots, and plant carrots. Also worked on the rice patty and planted pumpkin. I also helped cook vegetables and washed dishes. Made grapefruit tea, mulberry jam, and even learned to bake my own bread. Above all, even living under such conditions, I was able to gain valuable insights during our dinner time chats.

The host shared with me his green lifestyle and also the Permaculture living style. Permaculture was coined by Australians Dr. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 70s. There are only a handful of followers in Taiwan. The main focus of Permaculture involves Earthcare, Peoplecare, and Fairshare. The host said, the forest is a place to observe and relax, a place to think and recharge. It is not a place to industrialize. He also talked about the problem with land ownership. He said the Earth belongs to everyone. Knowing this point can help people think before they start to cut down trees and overly use natural resources. In this farm he tries to do his best to not damage his surrounding environment and live in harmony with his surroundings. At the end he admitted that he should have planned better for the arrival of his guest. He should have not built the living quarters for his volunteers near the pigs and chickens. Permaculture also stresses that one should observe carefully and solve problems accordingly. So through my experience he has decided to make improvements to his farm to make it better for future volunteers.

Provided by WWOOF Taiwan volunteer