I was going to Bali for a friend’s wedding so I thought it would be a good chance to volunteer for a few days at an organic farm in Bali. Baliwood Organic Farm is run by a Singaporean family that decided to pursue a rural lifestyle away from the rat race in the city. The farm uses many permaculture concepts and it’s thriving with papayas, coconuts, bananas, eggplants, spinach, tomatoes, passionfruits, and your usual tropical suspects. I do think that there is a lot more space to grow even more food but the primary objective of the farm is to provide for the family. They do sell their excess produce at farmer markets but that is secondary.
For the short five days I was there, I spent a big deal of time mulching exposed soil with rice stalks that were left over after the rice harvest. That, I felt, was the most immediate and effective undertaking given the dry season. It hurts seeing bare soil baking in the sun! I also sowed some seeds and transplanted some seedlings and I wonder how they are faring now.
I also felt like the farm could benefit from some small animals like ducks, chickens, and rabbits. Even if it’s not for the meat, the poop and pest control will be valuable. Not to mention literally adding some life to the farm! Watering seems to be taking a lot of time and effort during this dry season. Other than mulching thickly, planting densely or a ground cover can help to retain moisture in the soil. The workers on the farm spend a lot of time weeding, sometimes at the peripherals where nothing is planted. Leaving the grass growing at unused areas, while unsightly to some, can actually help to protect the soil. A visually pleasing ground cover like pinto peanut with its yellow flower can be used to smother the grass, not to mention the nitrogen-fixing!
Rustic entrance to the slightly less than 1 acre farm. You can see the legendery moringa oleifera planted as a fence.
Really weird beetle mimicking as a ladybird. What’s the purpose? Maybe it is trying to fool a real ladybird to mate with it and then eat the ladybird. Ant-mimicry is quite common. Insects and spiders mimic ants as certain predators stay away from aggressive ants. Either that or it makes it easier to hunt ants.
Pineapple quite happy surrounded by the nitrogen-fixing butterfly pea.
More mulching can be done. The soil looks moist because it just received its twice daily watering.
Can you spot the passionfruits in the tree? There’s no such thing as a passionfruit tree since they are creepers. The passionfruit has partnered with the moringa tree, which works quite well with sparse foliage trees like the moringa.
A living hedge of gamal leaf, moringa, and passionfruit. The gamal leaf will be good fodder for goats even though they look quite soft and edible for humans too.
A mandala garden that I helped to mulch thickly with rice stalks before transplanting some eggplants. It’s dry season in Bali and mulching really helps to retain moisture under the baking sun.
Another mandala garden that I helped to mulch. Lots of under-utilized growing space. It would be good to cover it with plants to protect the soil, even if it’s just green manure.
A project by Robert from Homagrown. The pond on the left was drained to be turned into a giant worm bin.
We dug a hole beside the pond to bury the water hyacinth that has completely covered the two ponds. Water hyacinths are one of the fastest growing plants in the world, doubling their population every two weeks! Great for composting and mulching with their high nitrogen content. The greedy bananas will suck up all that nutrients readily. Good chance to look at the fertile volcanic soil in Bali. Yummy…
The food forest is left at the furthest end of the farm. For the past few years, lots of organic waste has been dumped there without any weeding or human intervention. It’s quite a mess, but only to the untrained eye. Look at those papayas! I have no doubt that this is the most fertile land in the entire farm.
Rows of garden beds. I think they are less aesthetically pleasing than the mandala beds.
Conventional rice farming with a machine. Look at how those birds are eating up all the organisms and worms in the soil. It’s not going to be a living soil after that.