Spirits seem to be the name of the game at present!
We feed our land Spirits once a week, the day depending on the phases of the moon, and they have been good to us, with everything going well and everyone enjoying themselves.
Khun Suwan asked if he could sometimes change his Sunday off for another day in the week, as it turns out he is quite a famous Spirit Medium, and is often invited to various ceremonies to trance dance, known as Faun Pii, an ancient Lanna Thai (old northern Thai Kingdom) custom still upheld in this area. As the host to a particularly powerful Spirit, he would be asked to bring the Spirit into his body, so that supplicants could communicate with the Spirit directly to pay homage or ask for help, perhaps to keep a village free from bad luck or evil spirits, or to bring good fortune to a wealthy person. Of course, I said OK. Spirits are not to be messed with!
The level of our land is much steeper than it looked when it was covered with brush and tangled weeds. After we cleared the area for the roundhouses we had to find the level – a straight edge for us to work with when building the foundations. We found the level by using a thin plastic tube with water in it, the local version of a spirit level, and the level of the water should theoretically be the same at both ends of the tube. It did NOT look straight to us! We did not believe it, and decided the theory was rubbish! After much difficulty I found a spirit level in town. We checked the level of the string. It was perfectly straight!
By ‘we’ I mean the team, which has grown with the addition of some wonderful volunteers. They are from the Germany, Holland (via Goa), Belgium, Argentina, UK and Malaysia, bringing different knowledge and skills, enthusiasm and humour to the build. It is great to have such wonderful support and help!
Because of our two great challenges, termites and the monsoon, I decided to build on a concrete base. So here we are preparing the earth for the concrete base – with Tony who loves to be in the middle of everything.
To change levels of earth requires digging and tamping. I could not find a tamper anywhere in the shops in town. So we made some using the instructions from the book Earthbag Building and they work remarkably well. Plastic flowerpots filled with concrete with tall handles made from wood and bamboo. Here they are drying – with handles tied up so that they would set straight.
Every week, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we go to a local rice mill to collect our bags of rice husks (hulls). These will form the walls of the domes, and later be covered with mud and straw plasters.
The owner of the mill has his children fill the bags for us, 200 a day, and this gives them their pocket money for the week. Then we have to load them into the truck, tie them securely, take them back to the site, unload them and stack them on the prepared bamboo racks. When people come with me who know about knots we have sometimes managed 100 bags per trip. But sometimes it is just a couple of us that probably did not pay attention during our Girl Guide/Scouting days, and then I don’t feel confident about stacking the truck so high, so we need to make three trips. The first time we did this job we treated the bags of husks with respect. Now we chuck them about, and have found that they are very sturdy!
On the home front, our neighbour’s dogs have become Toni’s friends. They are quite young, a brown female (Tess, a prancing lady) and white male (Mickey Mouse, a timorous beastie). When Toni wakes up in the morning the first thing does is go outside to greet them. It is great to see him chasing around the orchard as his legs get stronger.
Our next challenge is to find out how to create a frame for the bags of rice husks, and something that is strong enough to support the roof.
I am hoping to arrange for internet access on the site – not possible at home as the valley is too steep sided and winding. Once that happens this Blog will be updated more often. Thank you all for your patience!
Please do leave a comment if you have read this blog – or ask any questions!