Bamboo U on Arch Daily!

Our Bamboo U course is one Arch Daily today! So cool. Can’t wait to run another course on June 2nd. Find our more by checking out the article on Arch Daily or you can book by going to our Kul Kul Farm website.


Tedx Ubud 2014 3 great but random quotes

I’m at Tedx Ubud today enjoying an inspiring line up of speakers including my sister Elora! Feeling like this place is really thriving as a center of arts and creativity. I have three great but random quotes from the speakers to share:

The creative beautifully successful failure of a pastry chef who runs Room for Dessert in Ubud:

“Once again I found myself unemployed with too many prospects. So my wife and I decided to move to Bali.”
-Will Goldfarb

A music teacher who taught us classical music in 20 minutes by banging on Bamboo

“We whifted from I’m an individual in the audience to one group of
People with a single purpose.”
-Dunkan Mackie

A musician with the most creative bamboo instruments ever! Including a bamboo guitar/dijeridio/percussion instrument than looked like a machine gun of peace.

“Because Indonesia also not selling it. So I just build it by my self. ”
-Rizal Abdulhadi





Sustainable Soil Management and Bio rertilizer with Paul Taylor

I recently attended a Bio-Vital composting course with Paul Taylor at Jamberoo Valley Farms in New South Wales Australia. The course focused on increasing soil fertility while  lowering inputs and increasing yields. As Paul described it was “a quiver of solutions type of workshop.” He taught us how to make ‘Inoculum compost’, ‘soil probiotic,’ bio-fertilizers, and touched on a few other interesting things like ORMEs. The course gave me a fresh perspective on soil and organic farming. I design gardens in the tropics and have a hard time keeping them fertile. There never seems to be enough compost to go around, and the rain loves to wash it all away. Paul said “When [he] investigated most organics in Australia [he] realized they were high input systems.” My gardens end up being high input systems. They need lots of manures and organic compost to thrive. The missing link seems to be the little soil critters we can’t see that live in good compost. Soil microbes are 40 times smaller that the what is visible to the naked eye. These guys help to create a truly sustainable agriculture. One that fosters our ability to build fertility, improve production, and lower expensive inputs. Sounds like a win, win, win no?

You can learn more by visiting Paul’s website. I plan to implement this system here in Bali, and I’ve already got some piles going!

Everything is closer in Malta

The island of Malta is a tiny gem nestled in the Mediterranean, home to a mere 400,000 citizens. But don’t let size fool you. Malta has a rich history, its own language, and a quirky clan of islanders. It’s a mix of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and reminded me of Italy only with a quirkier vibe. Four million tourists pass through every year; most of them come to escape the cold weather in Europe, to party, and surprisingly, to learn English. European students who want to learn the language, but want to avoid the dreary winter in England have warmed up to Malta. Most of the people I met there spoke English.

Last January I joined my girlfriend on her trip home. When I first met her I thought she might have been a gypsy or a pirate; I’d never met a pretty girl from Malta. I kept asking her stupid questions like, “So, are people in Malta Italian or Arabic?” She was very patient and would respond with certainty, “No we’re Maltese.” I had a hard time seeing how 400,000 people could hold on to their own identity in the midst of Southern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and England. But the mash of cultures and invasions actually made this unique tribe of tightly knit islanders who they are. The knights of Saint John were enlisted from all over Europe and I imagine them as a kind of medieval E.U.

The capital city, Valletta was our first stop, and just a hop, skip and ferry ride from Maria’s home in Sliema. We strolled down the quirky, cobbled streets together and stopped at a cute restaurant called d’Office; where we shared an amazing mozzarella di bufala. It was absolutely delicious! The waiter directed us to a table for two on the slanted sidewalk right outside. Our small tilted table only added to the charm.  After lunch we found a cute pastry cafe, where the owner gave us a free warm tart. The day felt like an old romantic movie. It even ended with a happily-ever-after ferry ride scene into the sunset.

Another day we visited Mdina. Our car stayed outside the gates. Inside there were narrow streets, with medieval archways leading to courtyard cafes, restaurants, and private homes.  I swear if I knocked on one of them I could have found Rapunzel or Cinderella. Then we went to the dungeons—a place where in the centuries past rebels, revolutionaries, heretics, and your common criminal all experienced some degree of gruesome torture. A fact that was made explicit by the models of prisoners from various periods in history being subjected to various punishments: stretching, starving, burning, breaking, and beating, along with others I didn’t understand or care to think about.

The best adventure I think was to a Permaculture farm created by Maria’s friend Peppi. The farm has geese, chickens, no-dig organic gardens, olive trees, and cute steps made from old tires filled with gravel. There were also exceptional composting toilets and an aquaponics system. I heard rumors that the farm also had a cave that Peppi dug all by himself, but I didn’t get to see it. We also went to a ‘creativity vortex’ started by a local NGO named ‘WhyNot.’ Here I found a crew of unconventional travelers. Americans, British and the odd German, all coming to help make the vortex spin. Old war bunkers were being renovated into dorms. There were also geodesic domes hiding in the bushes, a newly adopted horse, and a garden. The site reminded me of the Regenerative Design Institute in California, a place where I have spent some time interning. The vortex wasn’t as developed and was much quirkier, but it had all the good vibes needed to spin along. I am always happy to see people in different places having fun, and wanting to make a difference. “Xeba” cool as they say in Maltese.

My slogan for the trip is, “Everything is closer in Malta.” I felt as though it has everything you need but closer together. Everyone knows one other, and it seemed as though some people knew me simply because they knew Maria. I could walk to many places and a ‘long’ drive lasted a half hour. Even the cars tended to huddle by the curb, roads felt more intimate and the cars were cuter. Parking, however, was a challenge. The only thing that seemed further away was the end of a good meal. New Year’s lunch lasted from one o’clock till six, with breaks in between courses. But of course this enabled me to become closer to Maria’s family because we had plenty of time to get to know one another. Malta has a strong sense of family. Her parents were cooking for the meal two days in advance. They were incredibly sweet and cooked special pasta and lasagna to accommodate my gluten needs. I was very impressed by their capacity to let a funny Canadian boy who grew up in Bali into their home and hearts. They were extremely welcoming and hospitable. I picked a good woman with a solid family, with the added bonus that she’s from a novel little island called Malta – a place I hope to visit again soon.

Raising Ducks in Bali

A few weekends back I went on an adventure to find Pekin ducks here in Bali. Wayan, one of the Gardeners at Bambu Indah, took me to a breeder in Payangan, north of my house.  On arrival we discovered that the duck breeder was out of stock, but she recommended that we go down the road to her friend who might have a few. Her friend didn’t have any babies. He did have four adults, and agreed to sell them for Rp. 100,000 each:  just under US$40.00 for all four. It was a steal. It’s hard to find Pekin ducks here in Bali and this is a good price for a large Muscovy, much less a Pekin. I thought I’d take this moment to talk about ducks here in Bali and let you in on the first phase of my duck breeding adventure.

There are three types of duck that I know are available here in Bali. The most common is the Bali duck which is sometimes called a crested runner duck because it is close to the Indian runner breed. This duck is descended from the wild Mallard. Its scientific name is: Anas platyrhynchos domesticus. The Bali duck is a light breed that lays lots of eggs (although they won’t sit on them). Here in Bali they are an important part of the rice field system. Farmers keep ducks to help them fertilize the soil and to eat the snails between rice plantings. The ducks are also a supplementary source of income. They provide eggs, meat, and the occasional ceremonial sacrifice. If you go to the market right before Galungan you’ll notice that the price of a white duck is double the usual price.

The next duck you see here in Bali is the Muscovy. This is actually a separate species and is descended from the wild Muscovy of South and Central America. Its scientific name is Cairina moschata domestica. It will breed with the Anas platyrhynchos domesticus on occasion, but fertility is low and the offspring are sterile. The Muscovy still retains many of its wild instincts. They are low maintenance, good parents, and don’t require water to breed. If the Anas platyrhynchos domesticus is the dog of the duck world, then the Muscovy is the cat. I wouldn’t attempt to herd them through your rice field, but if you want a few ducks for your property that have a fair amount of meat on them these are a good option. Some people think they are ugly, but I think those people are missing out on their beauty. Don’t be surprised if they don’t swim around much. I have a couple that sat at the edge of my empty pond consistently for two weeks. When I finally filled the pond up they never got in and continued to sit on the edge.

The Pekin duck is exciting for me because until recently I didn’t know they existed here. To be fair it is harder to find. Like the Bali duck the Pekin is descended from the wild Mallard and will breed with the Bali Duck. Pekin ducks are big and heavy. The ones I just purchased weigh about 3 kg each. The lady says they lay, but won’t sit on their eggs. If I want to breed them I should keep a few Muscovies near by to incubate the eggs.

Any duck needs at least 1m2 of space (per duck) to be healthy and sane; of course if you have more room you should give it to them. Life is always better when you’re free. Also if you are breeding the Anas platyrhynchos domesticus you will need a pond. Otherwise the eggs are infertile. Ducks need to get wet to really get it on. The Muscovy doesn’t need a pond.  Low fencing 61m tall for Pekins and Bali ducks is a good idea if you have areas where you would rather not have your ducks go. My sister just sent me an awesome photo of a Cassava living fence. It is essentially a row of live Cassava cuttings that you plant close together so the duck can get out. You can then feed the ducks the Cassava leaves when they get tall.  If you live in an area that has dogs, the infamous lewak (asian palm civit), pythons, owls, water monitor lizards or cats, as I do at my house, I suggest making a secure pen for your animals at night. If your dogs are aggressive you will need a secure fence at all times.  I have heard that keeping a goose in with your ducks also helps ward off predators and I have to say I have lost fewer ducks since the goose was introduced. Keep in mind Muscovies must have a higher fence unless you clip their wings. If you have a garden you can run your ducks through the garden between plantings so they eat the bugs and poop on your beds. See Duck Housing and Management.

I read on Mother Earth News a comprehensive list of grains and greens to feed your ducks. You can check it out if you like. But like most guides it is geared for the western world not the tropics. The two main principles I picked up from it are: babies need slightly more protein and vitamins than adults. If you want them to be fat and juicy they should be fed more carbs, and if you want them to breed or lay eggs, they need more proteins and nutrients with less sugars. Its good for them to have a staple mix of food, but adding fresh greens is also important. They also get a fair bit of food from roaming the garden. So the amount of feed you should give them depends on how much food they can acquire from the land they are roaming. I’m going to feed my ducks a mix of 4 parts rice bran, 3 parts cornmeal, 2 parts mung bean (soaked), and 1 part red rice mixed with greens from the garden such as: banana stalk, water hyacinths, taro and kitchen scraps from a local restaurant.. This is because I plan on breeding them. If I were going to fatten them up to eat I’d increase the corn and rice content.

We’ll see how it goes and I’ll write another post when they have babies.

Ducks mating in the water