Down to the countryside

This week I have been busy preparing for the upcoming PechaKucha Night – briefing speakers, preparing poster design, solving some issues concerning the venue. Next week I will launch promotion, so stay tuned!

Since there is no actual difference anymore between weekdays and weekends the days kind of blur together. Even if life at the courtyard is pretty idyllic, I sometimes need a full break from work behind the computer. Off to the countryside we go.

A day at the farm

Last Friday, I volunteered at an organic farm in Midu, a town in a valley two hours south of Dali Old Town. Farmer Faraz used to work in high-powered job as a fruit trader in Hongkong, until he and his family moved to the Chinese countryside – looking for a healthier lifestyle. They decided to have a go at farming, despite having no practical knowledge. This was twenty years ago and the Praxis farm is still here – no mean feat in China.

Faraz avocados

Their aim is to introduce new products to the local farmers and teach them new technology. Throughout the day, Faraz explains a lot about the principles behind organic farming. Similar to the methods of traditional Chinese medicine, his way of farming is not about combatting symptoms (pests and disease) but about achieving a balanced state that makes the plants and trees thrive naturally.

Me and my fellow volunteer work in an orchard that is a mix of grown cherry trees and young avocado trees. There is no soil, only red rocks. The trees are planted in bags filled with earth and watered with a hose that runs along their roots – a very efficient way of growing in this drought-plagued province. One kind of tree requires a cold winter before it can bloom. Because they are mobile in their earth bags, the farmers can move them into a cold storage warehouse for the required time.

Cherry trees and avocado saplings

Our job for the day is to paint the stems of the young avocado trees white, with a mixture of lime and seaweed soup. This will protect them from the harsh sun and from insects. We move from tree to tree, from one line to the next, squatted or bending over.

Strapping young avocado 
sapling

Countryside girl

I find it pretty tough, but it feels good to be out in the sun and to find a satisfying rhythm. My head is quieter and I have the best night’s sleep in weeks. I couldn’t help but think of China’s history of sending intellectuals to the countryside – with disastrous results. Still, the sentiment behind it is not a bad one. To actually feel how much physical effort it takes to grow something, and to see the years and years that are invested before trees bear fruit, is quite amazing. You can’t help but be in awe of the tenacity of farmers. I will look at my basket full of veggies from the local market with slightly different eyes.

Countryside life is the best life

Faraz took the above picture for his blog, which is more ‘countryside influencer’ Li Ziqi than ‘model citizen’ Lei Feng, and not in any way representative of the actual work we were doing!

I grew up in a village – if not on an actual farm. I’ve worked holiday jobs on farms. Memories of gardening are coming back to me and I’m excited that I get to practice it at my courtyard. You can take the girl out of Brabant, but apparently, you can’t take Brabant out of the girl.

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