Saturday, Nov 29
30.11.2013 - 30.11.2013 33 °C
Today had an early start, as we had arranged to meet Veasna at the orphanage at 7 o'clock. He was going to the farm to bring 4 of the boys out. They were spending the weekend at the farm, helping with the rice harvesting. We arrived and piled into the van with boys from the class that Danielle had been teaching. There was lots to see along the way but the boys and Danielle spent an hour catching up on sleep.
A popular mode of transport for everyone!
A motorcycle of chickens all bound for the market. I figured that there were at least 80 chickens.
As we got into the countryside, we saw rice being dried in the sun.
Sokai and Honghav are missing the countryside. The other 2 boys, Poeurng and Chen, as well as Danielle also caught up on sleep.
Most of the countryside in Cambodia is farming area, so we saw many animals on and beside the highway.
We arrived at the farm and the boys collected scythes and headed out to the rice fields. Veasna asked if we would like to be shown around the farm. We had a look at the cooking and the eating area, which were actually primitive, but apparently adequate. We then headed out to view the fish ponds, which were arranged as moats surrounding the square rice fields. Veasna gave an animated explanation of the methods and the plans of the farm. He explained the reason for the type of fish being grown - different varieties, so that they can take advantage of various prices at the market, and fish harvesting time also to coincide with better prices in the market. We found a fish feed bucket, and when it was put in the pond a wild flapping and jumping of fish ensued. I put my hand in the water to see if these fish were like the fish-massage ones of the night before. Well, these were certainly a robust version and it is a good thing that I had not done this with older and bigger ones. My fingers were pulled and sucked - but no teeth, thank goodness!
We went down a bumpy dirt road and arrived at the farm. These buildings are the eating area, bedrooms and bathroom as well as a repairs building.
This is the kitchen!
Danielle and I headed out with Veasna on our tour of the farm.
Veasna attracted the fish with a fish feed pail, as Danielle and I looked on.
You can see these ravenous fish going wild for the unscheduled feeding.
The fish appear to be carp and about 10" long. They can grow to 10 times this weight, but will go to market at about 2 pounds each.
We continued along the roads separating the fields and soon came across the rice field that was being harvested. There we were hailed by the overseer, the four boys as well as several hired labourers. We found a spot to cross the moat and walked upon the field towards them. Veasna explained how the rice was grown with flooding and drying of the field, protecting young rice plants from insects- mostly grasshoppers- and allowing the fallen grains to become food for mice and rats, which are also eaten in this part of the world. Who wouldn't want to eat free range animals grown organically and fed on grass and grain all their lives.
We continued along towards the rice field where we were welcomed by the rice cutting crew.
The overseer hailed us to come over and have a closer look.
We caught up with the crew and watched them cutting rice in the relentless sun. We were invited to have a try. Nothing to it, if you want to cut a bowl of rice, but apparently one field gives about 3 - 4 tons of rice, so the work is from early morning until 5:00. We chatted to the fellows, and kidded around a bit. Veasna told me that he is ok at cutting rice, but when I asked my student, Honghav, he laughed and said: "He's no good. He spends too much time in the office. Ha, ha!"
I was shown how to harvest rice.
Danielle tried her hand at harvesting. She decided to cut enough to get a small bowl full of rice to cook later.
We continued along to the barns, where we saw a herd of white cows. The herd has greatly increased in size since I was here in January. The animals are gentle, though I am glad there is a fence between us and them. We fed them some of the rice plants that we were carrying.
Veasna explains more to Danielle; how the plan of the farm is to do the cycle: Rice for harvest; leftover grain eaten by mice and rats which will be eaten; stalks (the hay) given to the cattle; manure from the cattle to enrich the soil for growing the rice. In addition, the fish in the moats surrounding the rice fields add their own organic fertilizer to the fields, and grow in the water feeding the rice. Chicken hatcheries also come into the equation.
Danielle has one solution for all animals - Feed them!
The cattle in this part of the world are beautiful and exotic looking.
These ones are bread and end up working on the small plots of land owned by farmers in the area.
We had spent 2 hours looking around, and started back towards the van to head back to town. When we arrived there, I met Hengchhea Chheav , the founder of ACODO. He was feeding fish in small enclosures. He greeted me, and explained that he is trying different varieties to see which fare the best, and also to take advantage of prices in the market. He is an unassuming man, whom I was happy to meet again. I was pleased to see that the farm is progressing, and that, though slow, there is growth and success here.
Tour nearly over, and we were back at the entry to the farm. These pens hold small fish, which are carefully fed and monitored before they will be introduced to one of the 'fish moats'.
Hengchhea Chheav is the founder of ACODO. He spends a lot of time on the farm, coaxing it along. Here he is feeding the small fish.
We headed back to town, just Danielle and me and Veasna. I watched the roads for different modes of transport, groups of children leaving Saturday school (!) and interesting sights beside the road.
We are heading back to Siem Reap - around 70 km. We see school kids finishing their Saturday morning school and heading home by bicycle.
Back to the city, where we face the traffic of a around 300,000 inhabitants.
Veasna dropped us off at our hotel, and we soon headed off towards town. Our Khmer Cooking class at Le Tigre de Papier was about to start. I will tell you about it in the next blog, as this one is getting a bit long.
Till then ......