Grace Garden reached an important milestone this month by hosting its first training, the 2012 Grace Garden Sustainable Living Workshop! The training was held November 24th through December 7th for 20 students from the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED) school in Chiang Mai. Two Saturday workshops were also held during this time for 18 children from Blessed Home Orphanage, in part as a teaching exercise for the NEED students.
Instructors were recruited from exemplary organization to cover different aspects of sustainable living; Instructor Tui from Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP) covered sustainable agriculture, Line Ramstad from Gyaw Gyaw taught a unit on natural buildings, and instructors from BGET presented on sustainable energy.
Lecture and discussion style class sessions held at the Blessed Home Orphanage were broken up with practical sessions held at the Grace Garden land. In the classroom, students discussed everything from sustainable agriculture to sustainable energy and on the land they built a composting pigpen, repaired a swale, harvested indigenous EM (effective microorganisms), made over 200 adobe bricks for the construction of the new Grace Garden classroom, and more!
The composting pigpen design implemented on the land by the students results in happier pigs, a regular production of maintenance free compost, and without the ordinary pigpen stench! The composting pigpen is based on a Korean design and is fundamentally different from traditional pigpens by building the floor with, instead of concrete, layered compostable materials infused with EM. The composting pigpen thus has a soft, springy floor which is much more comfortable for the pigs and the pigs are able to happily satisfy their instinctual desire to dig. This process of digging mixes the pigs’ manure in with the rest of the floor materials, and EM, and after about 3 months you have a pigpen full of ready compost to disperse in your garden beds. Happy pigs, ready compost, and no obnoxious odor. What more could you ask for?
How to make a composting pigpen:
1. Mark out an appropriate sized area for the pigpen – about 1.5 square meters per adult pig.
2. Dig down 90-120 cm
3. Fill the hole with repeating alternating layers of leaves, rice bran, and salt. Water after each layer with EM infused water.
4. Construct the pig pen fence and roof with bamboo and teak leave shingles (or whatever materials you prefer)
5. Build a berm around the edge of the pen under the eve of the roof so that water cannot run into the pen.
6. Get some pigs!
Source: Instructor Tui from UHDP
In the natural building practicum, the students made over 200 adobe bricks which will be used to build the new Grace Garden classroom. To build adobe bricks, first a large shallow pit was dug in the ground. Next, water and rice husk was mixed with the mud to make adobe. The adobe was packed into wood forms and finally the wood forms were removed and the adobe bricks were left to dry for seven days. After diligently working through the afternoon, the practical session devolved into a very fun, very messy, and very satisfying mud fight.
The course culminated in a design and teaching project. The NEED students designed a garden bed for an uncultivated patch on the Blessed Home Orphanage campus. Implementing the garden offered the opportunity for the NEED students to share with the orphans what they had learned including how to prepare garden beds, supplement the soil with compost and EM, protect the soil with mulch, and care for the plants.
The workshop was a fantastic success and BGET wants to make sure to thank the instructors for inspiring lessons, Blessed Home orphanage for great meals and wonderful hospitality, Gyaw Gyaw for providing extra housing, and UNESCO for funding the workshop. Thank you everyone for making this workshop such a success!