View Full Version : Hello from Yunnan Province, China
I have just become a partner in a cafe / traditional courtyard courtyard in a small Naxi village near Lijiang in Yunnan Province, southern China. Attached to the courtyard is a spare block of land for garden and at the back a inner courtyard with chooks and a few fruit trees. Outside the cafe is a permanent running stream (small canal) which is supplied with water from nearby Snow Mountain. The place would be perfect for a permaculture setup I am sure. Wold love any suggestions or local permaculture contacts.
18-02-2010, 06:31 PM
Wow , Bob. Are they mud bricks that have been used in construction? My favourite book (bar a couple of hunderd others) is Ron Edwards "Mud brick building the Chinese Way" and the setup looks familar with stone foundations and all.
Help with Permaculture will come from within yourself and from locals that know the plants that grow well in the soil and climate. Look to get a yield from all things you do. Capture and soptre energy and water and work hard at being happy - these things are important in any permaculture design.
21-02-2010, 01:02 PM
Is it easy to get plants and seeds in China?
Are Nurseries and small seed merchants common?
Last month someone asked about Chinese permaculture Groups and i found at least one link. I'll look for that post.
Is this where you are?
What is your climate like?
What a wonderful thing you are doing and what a great sounding spot! Rivers with water in them, what a luxury.
The thread i mentioned:-
let us know how you get on.
23-02-2010, 05:16 PM
The photos look a bit like a place I seem to remember in Shuhe. Is that right or are you a bit further from Lijiang?
My advice would be to focus on soil quality and water catchment from the roof first. Perhaps a small chicken tractor to prepare the soil and then collect some fruit tree seeds from the nearby orchards which are really impressive. Try growing from seed using rocket pot technology (www.trentcom.com) rather than buying deformed saplings from local nurseries). Have you thought about setting up a worm farm and then maybe a small aquaculture unit (similar to the homemade set up in Murray Hallam's DVD - http://permaculture.org.au/store/aquaponics_made_easy_dvd_2d_by_murray_hallam.htm)
Haoboaqing organic farm down in KM might provide some interesting inspiration for you.
Hope that this helps
Yes they are mudbricks and used very much in the local Naxi architecture. Most outside walls for gardens etc are left exposed but for main outside house walls a thin layering of slurry then a harder layer of stucco are added. I am not quite sure what material they use for this. The final wall is usually painted white. There is usually a bottom stone wall foundation about a metre high before the mudbrick starts (photo attached). When I find a place where they are making them I will send you some photos. Some local houses are also built purely out of local rock which has a very beautiful colour (photo enclosed). I have also enclosed three photos of a local kiln brickworks - using local clay and local workers. These guys work 24/7 for very little pay and live on-site. This is the other side of China.
I am trying to set up a local permaculture group with the help of a NGO called Global Village.
thanx for your inspiration
That is a good question! There are nurseries for garden plants and I can get seed packets for some vegetables and flowers that come from Beijing at 3 RMB (A$.50c) but I am guessing that once I make connections with local Naxi farmers (with the help of a translator) these things will become easier. I have enclosed a photo of a local Bai Sha house garden - with lots of spring onions (green onions). I also have some local Lijiang Italian friends who I think can give me basil seeds et al, which are much sought after in local Lijiang restaurants. All will be revealed I hope.
I have enclosed some photos I took yesterday of the fields being flooded with water. You can see the use of companion planting of soybeans (dark green) and wheat Light green).
Yes the map is right. I am just north of Lijiang at the edge of the valley and nearly at the foothills of local Snow Mountain (Yulong Shan). Yunnan has the largest diversity of plant life in China with over 17,000 plant species. Also apparently the biggest diversity of mushrooms anywhere in the world. January average temperatures range from 8°C to 17°C; July averages vary from 21°C to 27°C. Rainfall is mostly in summer between June and August. Yunnan produces great tea, good tobacco and most important of all very tasty coffee, which of course is served proudly at the Country Road Cafe.
27-02-2010, 03:47 AM
I never wanted to go to China until now.
I hate big cities and that's what I see when i think of China.
Check out the Forum's 'for sale swap give away' section.
For example I have some free seeds on offer but I am sure AusPost would charge a lot more than 50c to get them to you!
. . . .walls a thin layering of slurry then a harder layer of stucco are added. I am not quite sure what material they use for this. The final wall is usually painted white. . . .
When I built in mud brick I was told to use a slurry mixed with cow manure.
I thought this a revolting, primitive, silly idea so tested about a dozen commercial sealers.
In the end I found a cow manure slurry worked best!
If you get some coloured and white clay you can blend it/them to make the outside wall any of a huge range of colours
Yes, you are right, Bai Shai is only about six kms past Shu He, a little bit further up the valley towards Snow Mountain (Yulong Shan) (photo). Shu He is getting very busy now with lots of noisy bars and many foreigners building their 'mansions', tourism is thriving! Bai Sha is much smaller and quieter during the day and 'dead' at night, which suits me as I am doing a phd in creative writing and need al the quiet I can get.
Thanks for the tips, as for the tractor the land is a bit too small. I have now cleaned the plot of all the rubbish (photo), including plastic toy guns and a huge smoking pipe, in which he locals 'bong' their tobacco. Yunnan tobacco is very good apparently. I found some spring onions still growing. I though now I would lay heaps of local hay (photo) down over the ground as mulch, then plants seedlings amongst the hay. What do you think??
It will be interesting to see how much a large haystack costs! All deals have to be done by my Tibetan cafe business partner Rosey (photo) as just the very presence of a lao wai (old outsider) seems to double the price of anything.
I also have a very great surprise when I found a well at the bottom of the garden (photo). Even though there is a running water canal outside the shape, the well is much closer to the garden and very beautiful - especially after I can clean it out ( will ask old local Naxi men for advice) and plant around it (any suggestions??). Any advice on wells???
As well have four chickens and a rooster (who will be going soon). The chickens are not laying?? I fed them corn (which is abundant to say the least) and fresh water. They have no roosting place yet - just a yard. Again any suggestion for laying?
Worm farm is a great idea I can get coffee grounds from local shops - but do not have containers - can make them out of wood? the last thing I need is more plastic! I read that you cannot use common earthworms, is that right? I have read that they have have huge industrial worm farms in Beijing.
Will get back to writing now. I would appreciate any help for above questions.
have also enclosed photo of our cafe on Sunday, our busiest day yet. Today is Lantern Festival, the night of the full moon on the 15th day after the first lunar month, which was Chinese New Year. I have bough a fresh chicken form the market and my friend from a nearby inn will cook it with song rong, a local mushroom delicacy akin to matsutake. Yum.
all the best and thanks for your help
28-02-2010, 04:15 PM
How someone with the un-Chinese name of Bob came to be in rural China must be a fascinating tale. You'll have to share it sometime.
Your chooks could either be too young or too old to lay. Alternatively they are laying, but doing it where you can't find the eggs, or something else is finding them first (dogs, lizards, rodents....)
There are instructions on the web for making worm farms out of wheelie rubbish bins, or styrofoam boxes. If you use wood you'd have to find something rot resistant as the constant wet would break it down pretty quickly. And yes you need composting worms, not earth worms.
hi purple bear,
well, yesterday I finally made the move to live at the cafe in beautiful up-valley Bai Sha. I find myself the only lao wai (foreigner) in the village! I rode out to the village with new hoe and rake, bought from the local market for 20 yuen each, attached to my bike much to the amusement of the locals. A lao wai farmer! The side garden was raked and the first garden bed hoed, watered and planted with chilli seedlings (photo) that I bought from a small Lijiang market. I watered again and then went for a beautiful dusk walk to edge of Bai Sha. The mist and light rain was coming off nearby Snow Mountain. Then, for your interestt, I made my first mudbrick-making sighting. (photos attached). Soil very loamy and obviously perfect for mudbricks as nothing is added to the soil except a bit of straw. Just dug straight from the back yard. A bit further up the road was a second site. (more photos) A perfect moment occurs as the mist settles, the light rain drifts across and a gentle cool breeze blows the petals off the peach blossoms so that the white flowers fall onto the dark brown mudbricks. Perfect. An old man (he proudly tells me 80 years) (photo) that I smile at in the street then invites me in to his old courtyard Naxi house. Shows me his six cows, his firewood, his homemade wheat bai guo spirit wine. I drink the incredibly strong wine and at the same time sip hot green tea. The rain starts to fall more heavily on Bai Sha and the new plantings. The first rain in a month. Later in the night I stack my bookshelves and lie in bed listening to the tv downstairs, and the the dog scratching upstairs and the rain still falling lightly on the tiled roof. Good weather for making mudbricks.
17-03-2010, 06:53 PM
If I was not already in paradise I may be envious. Your place sounds fabulous. I suspect the work may be hard and the days long but that would only make it more wonderful. Please always be thankful for the circumstances that have taken you there and keep us posted. Start a blog in "chat" like mischief or just stay here but please tell us about the meeting with all the old folk and the village life and photos of traditional building too.
18-03-2010, 05:53 AM
I am looking forward to hearing how you get on with your little bit of paradise!!!
I was wondering if, when you are talking to the Elders, if you could find out how they cook with brined preserved eggs.
I was told of this method of preserving eggs and have a couple of dozen in a big jar at the moment.
It is apparently a Chinese method.
One problem I have is that although it does preserve them, I cant use them for 'normal' use cos the yolks have turned into hard golden balls!
They do make reasonable hard boiled eggs if alittle salty.
I do know they are used in making Mooncakes but dont have a recipe for this yet.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Not much happening in the garden as I have had to go back to Australia for the PhD one year review. New that the chicken dug up half of the garden, then a friends dog killed one of the chickens. Rosy was very upset as she had been handfeeding that beautiful hen for a year. We have found an organisation in Beijing to source earthworms to breed, Global Village, who run large earthworm projects in the city and also fund small eco projects all over China. There website is: http://www.gvbchina.org/
My friend Hutch, 70 years old and powering, is also leading a bicycle pilgrimage to the sacred mountain of Mt. Kailas in Tibet. They are just about to leave Lijiang in Yunnan and will take a month to ride to Lhasa. I will meet them in Lhasa and ride to the Mt Everest Base Camp, if I don't drop dead! You can see more about this trip on Hutch's Cycling Peace website http://www.cyclingpeace.org/
all the best
bai sha bob
20-04-2010, 04:15 AM
Wow, what a nice place you've got. I would also love to hear about how a lao wai ended up in a Chinese village! Good luck with running the café, it will be fun to follow your progress with the garden!
Well i have finally got back from oz after having to go through for my first phd confirmation review - which meant spending around thirty straight days in the state library trying to work out what the theory behind my novel is - good to be back in Lijiang and heading out to my Bai Sha cafe and garden tomorrow - there has been a drought here so I imagine the garden will be in not too good a condition, who knows? I have brought back lots of herb seeds to cultivalte including basil, coriander and rosemary.
While at Delamu inn where i stay in Lijiang, Jessica (QQ: the inn keeper, has just cooked some tea eggs as a treat - here is the recipe: wash twenty eggs - boil for seven minutes until they are definitely hard - then take off boil and break eggs shells gently - then put back in water and add tsp. salt, two small knobs of of ginger, handful of green tea and tbs. of light soy sauce (zhen xian lao chou sauce JiaJia brand if available) and two star anise. Put on low heat for thirty minutes then leave for one day in same water, then reheat to eat. (During that one day heat again briefly to let more colour bleed through the eggshells). The longest you can leave the eggs soaking in the water is two day. Enjoy!
This afternoon I head for Bai Sha!
23-05-2010, 03:45 PM
Sounds wonderful Bob! Hope your garden has a few hidden happy surprises for you when you get back.
23-05-2010, 06:31 PM
Getting twenty eggs is a bit of a trial here Bob as the chooks are all in moult and sixty chooks are giving us a dozen eggs - most of which are claimed by the CSA But come spring then I may well try your recipe. Good luck on your return to the garden.
Well it was good to be back in Bai Sha. The garden I had planted was completely ravaged however after being away for two months and Yunnan being in the middle of a hundred-year drought. So will start again. The good news is that now we are in the beginning of summer all the fruit trees in the garden were healthy and starting to produce fruit. Lots of peaches, plums starting to form. The other good news was that Rosey, who I run the cafe with, replaced the chickens that were killed by Diego's rampaging dog, just before I left, with three healthy hens, one of which came with five eggs hatching. We now have three healthy chicks running around (two died). It is much easier now finding seedling as the Lijiang market now has a handful of local Naxi women (photo) and one Naxi man selling seedling each day. I buy whatever is there then go to my friend Vanessa (photo) who I teach English to at the coffee shop, who tells me what they actually are, foolproof!
So in the last couple of days the plants that I have I have bought from the market are, (usually 50c), là jiāo - chilli (photo), qié zi - eggplant (photo) and qīng guā - cucumber.
Any tips on growing any of these plants would be appreciated (do I need bamboo sticks for support?).
The rain started just as was planting, so all was fortuitous. The drought is breaking hopefully. I have also included a photo taken outside the cafe of the wheat being brought in from the fields. More about that later.
all the best bai sha bob
28-05-2010, 08:34 AM
Chillis and eggplants are self supporting. The cucumber is a vine which you could either let run all over the ground, or if you prefer tidy build a frame and encourage it to climb up instead. They get quite big and heavy once they set fruit.
well it's been a very good week, I have completely replanted the garden after much damage by marauding chickens on the loose and we finally have a chook run. I have also just lured our first customers of the day into the cafe which will make Rosey very happy.
Have teamed up with a few guys nearby in Lijiang to start a work co-operative. Keith has been living in the area for fifteen years. Originally from New Zealand he is now a local expert on nearly everything. Great guy. He speaks Mandarin plus local Naxi language and very interested in 'green' things including setting up registering local coffee growing farms as organic and fair trade, then importing local Yunnan coffee, which is very high standard into New Zealand and Australia. The other guy Peter is a refugee from England and Australia and loves playing harmonica, a very uncommon instrument here.
So we spent all afternoon buying tools and timber in Lijiang, co-opted a mini-truck then headed for Bai Sha and the cafe. We marked out the area for the chook run so that it included five established fruit trees (a la Bill Mollison with fruit hopefully dropping down to feed chooks free), cleared the area of years of rubbish and stinging nettle, raked all the ground clear, erected five posts, rolled out 50 metres of fencing wire, tied everything together with more wire, and laid down old palm tree trunks to keep the foxes out and as dusk hits, a quick fire chicken pen! (photo). Rosey arrived, looked at the pen, with that special look of hers, and really wondered why we go to all that trouble for chickens, ha. We celebrated with a nice home-cooked meal from Rosey and some local beer.
The reward this morning was happy chickens, three hen and three chicks plus one fresh warm egg. Next job a chicken coop. If anyone has any good designs please send.
June is summer but rain everyday and temperature quite cool. The wheat is sill being brought in from the fields (photo) and threshed (using local road technique)(photo) , the new corn being planted for full summer and the last of the bean being harvested (photo).
Have also included (photo) of some local Naxi women who demanded their photo be taken, as long as I give them some copies of course!
Any tips for chickens much appreciated.
sorry photos would not upload
all the best from Bai Sha Bob
please post those photo's, particularly the wheat threshing! I grew up in a wheat + sheep area, but am trying to find ideas for low tech threshing of grains particularly pigeon pea.
Is there a reason I can't upload any more photos on my file manager? It says "2.79 MB of 976.6 KB Used"
06-06-2010, 12:08 PM
have finally got some photos up on flickr so I made a special album for you on threshing around Bai Sha. Its a very productive time of the year, with the first summer rains falling (planting corn, potatoes, and sunflowers) and also the time to crop all the wheat (cut by hand, put into stokes, then threshed either at home or by the side of the road). If you want to me to find out or phot anything in particular let me know.
The flickr address for the photos is:
Bai Sha is very quiet, only three customers today, but had a great clean up of the kitchen which will probably last till the end of the week! I think its been a long time.
bai sha bob
13-06-2010, 01:08 PM
Dear Bob, Sorry for the delay in replying but I have been away travelling on a couple of consultancy projects since my last reply. I am glad to hear that things are going well for you and that you are making some steady progress. I am hoping to be back up in Yunann later in the summer to do some seed collecting. Perhaps you will be able to give me the lowdown on which are the best orchards between Bai Sha and La Shi Hai, and maybe even beyond to Wen Hai...... In the meantime, I am out on the industrial coast so if you need any big city supplies, let me know and I can try mailing them to you.
fantastic photos, seriously, thanks for sharing! Innovation at it's best! I might just try that for getting pigeon pea out of the pods! (though I might use a hand-pulled roller for starters!)
I look forward to more photo's!
hi I thought I might give an update on the garden. The rain has been falling nearly every day. As this is a sub-tropical monsoonal region the rain summer is the wet season. Also because we are at 2300 metres and near Snow Dragon Mountain (Yulong Shan) the weather is cool in summer and mild in winter, perfect! Well, definitely better than Bangkok or Beijing.
As the wheat has just been harvested and threshed I decided to use threshings from the wheat leftover on the side of the road as mulch. I bought a Naxi basket (see photo of local Naxi woman using one) and hopped an my bike and rode to edge od Bai Sha. After I collected the mulch and rode back through town all the old Naxi women yelled in unison "What are you going to do with that, where are you taking it!" they thought it was hilarious.
It is perfect mulch (photo) but I found has one drawback, a week later hundred of wheat shoots come up! This is ok though as it is a small garden and I turned over all the mulch by hand to weed it. I have continued to get seedling in the market at Lijiang so now am growing chilli eggplant, spinach, basil, parsley, cabbage, tomato and beans which cropped up naturally from a previous crop that someone had planted. I cut down some bamboo and made a trellis using local cross-hatch design (photo), which looks good.
I have never really gardened before, let alone in china, so I am learning. A friend from Yunnan came and saw the garden and started yelling, "everything is too close!" The next day I thinned everything down a bit.
I am also learning how to make fruit wines. Well, they are not exactly wines. They have a base of locally made bei giu which is made out of wheat and is very strong, from 40% to 65% alcohol. Oh my god! or Oh my Lady Gaga! as they say here. See photos of local bai jiu factory in Lijiang (photos). So you buy a five litre glass jar for $5, five litres of bai jiu for $6 an then add you favourite fruit of berries, in this case 200 gms of bright red wolfberries (gou), a handful of rock sugar and maybe some dried plums for extra flavour (photos). Leave and store in bottle for at least three months. If you can wait a year is a lot better.
Next, trying to make apricot jam. Any suggestions welcome!
Today we have had two customers at the cafe so far, yesterday twenty!
the writing for the novel is going well.
Bai Sha Bob
all photos for this blog post can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/49747206@N05/sets/
21-06-2010, 05:32 PM
You've accidentally discovered green manure crops Bob!
29-06-2010, 01:31 AM
Hello bob. Im coming to yunnan to look at places to start a permaculture project with my wife. We are coming at around the 15th of july and will stay in yun nan around 20 days. Is it possible to come meet you in naxi and have a look around? It seems we have a similar goal and we are still planning our trip so should be able to add a trip to your part of the woods.
My thread is CHINA-choosing my paradise to be. Permaculture in China. Asia
It would be great to see you. I will be up in shanghai and south korea till around end of july - but definitely in the last week of your trip come and visit me and have a good talk. I also have a great contact for you, Keith Lyons, a NZ guy who has been here for 14 years. He knows everything and about everything and is into the same permaculture philosophy. He also has a couch-surfing place to stay in Lijiang.
Please contact me if you need anymore info.
Bai Sha Bob
29-06-2010, 07:27 PM
Cheers-that sounds great! Can i give you a call sometime this week? It would be very helpful to us i think. Also your contact Keith Lyons sounds good too. Is there a way i can contact him as well? If you dont fancy posting the number for you and him i can let you know my email.
I'm feeling more excited each day now. Iv not been to yunnan before. If we can really meet you and keith, we will need to go to hainan first, then come to yunnan for the second half of the hol to look around.
Sorry for not replying earlier. It has been a bit busy here.
I am going away till the end of the mont to Beijing and Shanghai.
If you arrive in he next few weeks please contact Keith Lyons. He is a wealth of information on all things Yunnan and also does guiding. He has lots of contacts in regards to what you are interested in and is a good friend. His phone is: 13769001439 and his email is keith lyons <email@example.com>.
My phone is 15287279360 and email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ring me anytime.
good luck with all and hope to see you end of month.
10-05-2011, 10:41 AM
I am almost ready to buy a ticket to china (one way) and am hoping to visit permaculture farms. I am thinking of leaving colorado in June or July and staying indefinitely. I just spent the last 4 months getting Toby Hemenway to boulder, and planning that event, but now I am unsettled and need to figure out what to do. If you have found land or have contacts for people who are working on permaculture in China, I would love for their contact information. Also, it would be great to get updates of what you are doing! I have been practicing and learning permaculture for 6 years, I have created intentional community, I have worked on a permacluture farm in palestine, I have lived in china, and I am easy and fun to be around! Would you have room to have me hanging around for a bit?
Thanks for any information!
I have finally arrived back in Baisha for an extended stay after having to travel to Australia for my PhD studies. I am sorry if I have not replied to interested people who have been good enough to contribute to this thread. I have also had alot of back trouble with a herniated disk which put me out of action for a month and a one week stay in Kunming Provincial Hospital for Traditional Chinese Medicine which was a journey in learning all by itself. I was able to hop on my bike for the first time yesterday and it was so enjoyable to be able to be ride trough the beautiful fields of Baisha again. It is getting into winter now. The corn has been harvested and stored away, some winter crops of barley have been planted, winter vegetables are growing, mustard seed is being processed for oil, pigs are being killed for winter and yearly food, and lots of mahjong is being played to while away the hours. I can hear a big game going on now right next door!
I will try ro post some photos u very soon. I can also see that there is quite a lot of permaculture activity starting up across China now, particularly in Yunnan, so I will try to make some connecting links.
All the best for now
07-12-2011, 05:00 AM
Bob, great thread! Really enjoyed reading through and seeing the photos. Would it be possible to get an overview picture? Maybe someone can get up on the roof (if it is safe!)?
Thanks for keeping us updated and your energy is contagious :)
08-04-2012, 07:39 PM
Nice pictures and cool thread you got going here Bob.
A friend of mine and I are both working at at Environmental Awareness/Education NGO based in Lashi Township right now, called the Green Education Village (GEC), operated under the Yunnan Eco-Network. Link in Chinese here, http://www.yunnaneconetwork.net.cn/index.htm
We have been here for two months already, and are here for another two more (till June2012). If your permaculture site is operating (or needs help!) we would love to come by and check it out for ourselves!! I was hoping to find some sort of permaculture design/site in this region, and so have just stumbled across your thread/blog. Is there a way to contact/ visit you? My cell number is 15126099524, or you can just hit me up at email@example.com.
Keep up the good work!
p.s we are avid bikers too! been doing short tours around the region! would love to meet more people to tour with!
Powered by vBulletin™ Version 4.1.1 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.