Living at the Panya Project – What’s What?

We’ve been living at Panya for about a month now, so we figured it was past time for an update!  When we first got here, we set up camp in the dorms.  There are two housing buildings right next to each other when you first arrive at Panya.  They each have rows of dorm beds on the top floor and private rooms on the ground level.  For the most part, people that are staying for Panya for a short time stay in the dorms, and long-termers stay in the private rooms.  Since all of the private rooms were taken when we arrived, we were temporarily put in the dorms.

The dorm buildings
The dorm buildings
The upper level of one of the housing buildings.  There are about 8 mattresses in each, with a mosquito net.
The upper level of one of the housing buildings. There are about 8 mattresses in each, with a mosquito net.
We pushed two of the mattresses together to make this luxurious set up when we first arrived.
We pushed two of the mattresses together to make this luxurious set up when we first arrived.

The first few days were mostly spent getting to know our surroundings and the people we were going to be living in the community with.  Right now, there are 3 people that are currently sort of ‘running things’ that have been living at Panya for several years.  Their names are Ben, Kyle, and Lola and they have been living here for several years teaching courses and maintaining the farm.  Kyle and Lola also have a 4 month old baby girl and have just finished building a new house for the 3 of them! We happened to arrive at a time where a bunch of long term volunteers were leaving so it was a little chaotic with all of the comings and goings.  We have now gotten used to the routine of things and it’s feeling a lot more like ‘home.’ Currently, there are 4 interns (Joe and I, included) in addition to the course instructors.  Sometimes there are more and sometimes less, it just depends on when volunteers come.

We got our own room about a week after we arrived.  It's on the bottom level of one of the housing buildings and the biggest private room.  (We got dibs because there's two of us.)  Again, we pushed two mattresses together to make a bigger bed - and they're not even on the floor!
We got our own room about a week after we arrived. It’s on the bottom level of one of the housing buildings and the biggest private room. (We got dibs because there’s two of us.) Again, we pushed two mattresses together to make a bigger bed – and they’re not even on the floor!
More of our room.  There's some shelving, art on the walls, and colorful plaster work
More of our room. There’s some shelving, art on the walls, and colorful plaster work
The other side of our room.  The orange sheet on the right serves as our door.  The one on the left is a window.
The other side of our room. The orange sheet on the right serves as our door. The one on the left is a window.
This is what our room looks like from the outside.
This is what our room looks like from the outside.

Two and a half weeks ago marked the beginning of a Permaculture Design Course, the first course that we have been present for.  For the most part, the interns and volunteers continue going about their projects during the course, but we are also allowed to sit in on some of the lectures.  There are around 10 students that have come for the course, so we have had to adjust our routine to having all the extra bodies around!

This is the main structure on the farm, the Sala.
This is the main structure on the farm, the Sala.
It contains the classroom, the kitchen, the dining room, and the library
It contains the classroom, the kitchen, the dining room, and the library
Here is the Sala, coming from the dorms.
Here is the Sala, coming from the dorms.
This is the classroom, which is really only used when a course is in session
This is the classroom, which is really only used when a course is in session
This is the library, which is on the second floor above the dining area.  There are a ton of books up there and some old couches.
This is the library, which is on the second floor above the dining area. There are a ton of books up there and some old couches.
This is a little balcony that sits over the classroom.  It's a good spot to sit during classes (to watch without disrupting.)
This is a little balcony that sits over the classroom. It’s a good spot to sit during classes (to watch without disrupting) or just to hang out.

When a course is not in session, the residents of Panya are divided into four groups: Dinner, Lunch, Potwash, and Tidy.  The chores rotate each day so that everyone is either cooking for the group or cleaning up.  We try to use a lot of food from our garden and supplement it with foods from the market.  It is always a vegetarian diet and usually vegan.  We eat a lot of rice, as well.  During a course though, a local woman and friend of the farm cooks lunch and dinner for all of the students and residents.  That has been fantastic because not only do we not have to cook, she makes amazing food!

This is the kitchen, equipped with a refrigerator, a sink, and three gas stoves.
This is the kitchen, equipped with a refrigerator, a sink, and three gas stoves.
Work Team chores.  We rotate the wheel each day so that everyone contributes.
Work Team chores. We rotate the wheel each day so that everyone contributes.
This is the dining area (with the kitchen behind it) where we eat pretty much every meal as a community.
This is the dining area (with the kitchen behind it) where we eat pretty much every meal as a community.
These are the wood fire ovens
These are the wood fire ovens
Here are all of the big pots and woks.  Beyond those is the washing station where we have large bowls of water to wash our dishes.  This cuts down on water waste.
Here are all of the big pots and woks. Beyond those is the washing station where we have large bowls of water to wash our dishes. This cuts down on water waste.
The fire pit, right outside the dining area
The fire pit, right outside the dining area

There are lots of creepy crawlies at Panya, including cobras, scorpions, and centipedes.  There are also lots of tiny flies that buzz around your ankles 24/7.  Oh, and mosquitoes as well.  It was a bit annoying at first, but we’ve come to ignore it.  We have seen 2 scorpions and a few snakes.  The red centipedes can supposedly get really large but we’ve only seen little ones.  Apparently the centipedes are the most painful out of everything you can get stung/bitten by, but the only thing you might need to seek medical attention for is a cobra bite.  Last week, a yellow jacket (or some kind of formidable-looking, yellow and black stinging insect) got inside our mosquito net and stung me on the wrist.  That’s been the only sting so far…but there have been lots of red ant bites.  We have a lot of those as well.  Oh, and termites.  One night, there were so many flying termites buzzing around the lights in the kitchen, you could barely see across the room.  There are also lots of beetles that fly around at night time.  Some of them are literally 3 inches long and really fat.  The geckos will hang out on the ceiling and catch them as they fly by, which can be quite entertaining.

Here is the biggest snake we have seen.  Nobody was sure what kind of snake it was or whether it was dangerous, but it has been seen a few times around the site.
Here is the biggest snake we have seen. Nobody was sure what kind of snake it was or whether it was dangerous, but it has been seen a few times around the site.
Here is one of the garden areas right next to the kitchen.  There's a lot of food growing there like carrots, New Zealand spinach, tomatoes, etc.  We harvest a lot of salads from this garden.
Here is one of the garden areas right next to the kitchen. There’s a lot of food growing there like carrots, New Zealand spinach, tomatoes, kale, etc. We harvest a lot of salads from this garden.
This is the nursery, a few yards away from the kitchen.
This is the nursery, a few yards away from the kitchen.
There are lots of young plants that have been propagated and are living here until they are strong enough to be planted elsewhere.
There are lots of young plants that have been propagated and are living here until they are strong enough to be planted elsewhere.
The plants on the floor there are seedlings from a Jamaican cherry tree.
The plants on the floor there are seedlings from a Jamaican cherry tree.
More nursery plants
More nursery plants
This is the workshop which houses all of the tools and materials used for all kinds of projects.
This is the workshop which houses all of the tools and materials, used for all kinds of projects.
We are working on organizing it...
We are working on organizing it…
This is a chicken tractor in the process of being built.
This is a chicken tractor in the process of being built.

There are two compost toilet facilities on site.  One behind the dorms, and a large one across the road from the workshop.  The one behind the dorms only has one toilet.  The one near the workshop has four, but only two are used at a time, to let the other two have time to compost.  There are also two male showers and two female showers next to the compost toilet.  All of the soaps we use (for dish washing, personal hygiene, etc.) are natural and organic so that the water can be used to hydrate the gardens.

The big compost toilet building near the workshop
The big compost toilet building near the workshop
The four 'stalls'
The four ‘stalls’
The inside of one of the stalls.  Rustic, you could say, but it should be noted that these are a lot nicer and cleaner than many, if not all, public restrooms in Southeast Asia that we have encountered.  There is very little to no odor, thanks to the use of rice husks.
The inside of one of the stalls. Rustic, you could say, but it should be noted that these are a lot nicer and cleaner than many, if not all, public restrooms in Southeast Asia that we have encountered. There is very little to no odor, thanks to the use of rice husks.
The women's showers.  We have solar heated water, but it's so sweltering that I don't think anyone uses it!
The women’s showers. We have solar heated water, but it’s so sweltering that I don’t think anyone uses it!

Although the farm can feel remote, we are only a 30 minute walk from the village where we can access wifi at a local internet cafe.  And Chiang Mai is only about an hour away.  There is a truck and a motorbike we can use to get to the market as well.  There are also two reservoirs near by, a waterfall, and a canal.  We go to the big reservoir to swim a lot, which is nice with it being so hot right now.  Mostly, we have really enjoyed being disconnected and spending our days surrounded by natural beauty.

The pig pen
The pig pen
Apparently a former resident was into raising his own livestock to eat, but when he left, no one else was interested in doing that, so they are just kept as members of the community and ecosystem.  They also eat a lot of our food waste, like watermelon rinds.
Apparently a former resident was into raising his own livestock to eat, but when he left, no one else was interested in doing that, so these are just kept as members of the community and ecosystem. They also eat a lot of our food waste, like watermelon rinds.
Here is one of the houses on the property, called the Elephant House.
Here is one of the houses on the property, called the Elephant House.  All of the structures are made using natural building techniques like cob and adobe bricks.
Another house
Another house, further along the road.
This is just one of the views from the farm.  It's really beautiful!
This is just one of the stunning views from the farm. It really is a beautiful spot.
Even though it's hot, we have a pretty good amount of shade from the jungle trees and plants.
Even though it’s hot, we have a pretty good amount of shade from the jungle trees and plants.

Now that we have spent a month helping out with other people’s projects and listening in on the Permaculture Design Course, it’s about time for us to decide what areas of the farm we want to focus on.  I will be focusing on natural building and Joe is thinking about working on the food forest.  We don’t have specific projects in mind, yet but we think those will be our areas of specialization for the remainder of our time at Panya.  We have some idea we’ve been kicking around…hopefully we’ll have some cool stuff to share in a month or so.

A layout of the property.
A layout of the property.

We’ve been having a blast at Panya.  The last month has absolutely flown by, and we’re looking forward to two more months of cracking down and starting some projects.  We’re only a third of the way through, but can already tell it’s going to be tough when it comes time to leave.  We are very grateful to be able to do what we are doing! Thanks for following, we’ll be in touch soon! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Living at the Panya Project – What’s What?

  1. nicole, jojo i am humbled by what you are doing. when we get later in life the look back asks the question, have i made a difference? i can herar the excitement and commintment in your words. love, prayers and best wishes to you guys from uncle ed

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  2. This is a wonderful photo record with captions of the progress Panya Project has made since I visited. Thank you for taking the time to post it. What a great lifestyle while one is living there. And to think of all the people who have been influenced, learned, and been changed by this place. The Universe is happy with Panya! That’s for sure. Love you all. Wendy Thompson Shearer (Christian’s mother)

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