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Where to WWOOF in Fujino, Kanagawa

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Welcome to part 3 of a series on Fujino, Kanagawa, Japan. If you’re smitten with what Fujino has to offer and would like to work for board and lodging as part of a WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) arrangement, here are four places you can WWOOF at, and if you’re adventurous enough, you can do them all!:

1. Fujino Club

I have written an extensive post on Fujino Club here, it’s a great first-time WWOOFing location, and ideal for those who enjoy farm as well as kitchen work. Fujino Club uses natural farming methods, and from what I understand, they will also be employing permaculture methods from 2017.

To WWOOF with Fujino Club, find them on the WWOOF Japan network under Kanagawa in the Kanto region.

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Permaculture Center Japan in Fujino, Kanagawa

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In my recent post on Fujino Club, I mentioned my visit to Permaculture Center Japan (PCCJ) in Fujino, Kanagawa. Here is a walkthrough of my experience there. It would not have happened without the help of the people at Fujino Club, who helped organise this trip, and I would like to acknowledge them for their kindness.

This is part two of a three part series on Fujino, Kanagawa, with a focus on WWOOFing and permaculture. WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunity on Organic Farms).

PCCJ Founder Mr Kiyokazu Shidara found some time amid his busy schedule to give a few of us a tour of their permaculture demonstration site. He elaborated that it has been designed as a self sufficient site, and in summer, it is possible to live there.

Here is Mr Shidara, explaining the design of the plot of land from a vantage point. He walks around with a toolbelt, and the ‘kama’ – a popular Japanese hand tool for weeding, was visibly sticking out at the side.

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Learning the craft of Shibori

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This is Leong Minyi of Mai Textile Studio, she is a textile artist who runs shibori and sashiko workshops in Singapore. Shibori is a Japanese fabric dyeing technique, where indigo dye is commonly used, while sashiko is a Japanese embroidery technique used to reinforce fabric. She also specialises in katazome, which is another dyeing technique, but the fabric pattern is created using a stencil. In the above photo, Minyi is holding a stencil which she has been working on, it is an arduous process of cutting shapes by hand.

I spent my Saturday afternoon learning how to dye a tenugui – a cotton hand towel measuring 35cm x 98cm. The workshop goes for 5 hours, mainly because of the manual and repetitive effort required to adhere the desired deep, indigo colour on the fabric. But it’s all worth it in the end, when you see the result. There are eight 10-minute sessions of steeping your tenugui, and in between, you expose the fabric to the air to oxidise the dye.

But first, we need to fold the cloth. There are several folding techniques, and we learnt some basic ones.

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Soil Mixing Workshop on 3 December at Make Your Own

Old woman hands holding fresh soil. Symbol of spring and ecology concept

I have organised another soil mixing workshop for December, come join us!

Wish to learn the basics of soil and learn to make your own seed raising mix and potting mix for edible plants? There are many recipes out there, but it also depends on what you’re growing. Hear about the variations of soil mixes and participate in this hands-on soil mixing workshop.

Date: 3 December 2016

Time: 3pm – 5pm

Venue: Make Your Own, Blk 4 Upper Aljunied Lane, #01-06, Singapore 360004

Fee: $55 per person, with limited spaces available, so booking is essential. Reserve your seat below!

What you will learn in this session:

– Nutrient requirements of plants
– Physical needs of plants
– Soil amendment basics
– How to grow and care for seedlings
– How to mix your own seed raising mix and potting mix

What you will take home:

– A list of seed raising and potting mix recipes
– Notes from our workshop
– Seed raising mix sample
– Potting mix sample

Garden Stories: Natural Farmer & Permaculturist Mr Tang Hung Bun

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Meet Mr Tang Hung Bun, a joyful, down-to-earth and all-round lovely gentleman. An avid nature lover and experienced permaculturist, Mr Tang is a former physics teacher, and has co-authored a book titled “A photographic guide to the dragonflies of Singapore“. He has since retired from teaching to focus on his passion of farming. He now volunteers with Farmily, a social enterprise which works with senior citizens through farming naturally-grown, pesticide- and chemical-free produce, it is also the farming arm of non-profit group, Ground-Up Initiative (GUI).

I first learned of Mr Tang through his blog, where he shared a soul-crushing video of his established permaculture food forest destroyed by heavy machinery. His landlord decided to lease the land that he rented to a developer, and what he had created in almost two years was demolished in three days. I would later hear my urban farmer friend, Ong Chun Yeow, mention Mr Tang in many of our conversations, and it took me quite a while to make the connection that he was that same person.

I had the immense fortune of meeting him during my visit to Kampung Kampus, and he gave me an impromptu tour of a permaculture garden that he and other volunteers had been working on since mid-January this year, after a few of them discovered a small, temporarily unused plot on the premises. Here is a video of that plot before and after Mr Tang and other Farmily volunteers worked on it. Incredible and inspiring. One of the remarkable things about this garden is that they do not water it.

As you can see from the video, he grows wintermelon, eggplants, roselle, taro, chilli, currant tomatoes, okra, winged beans and bittergourds. Some of these edible plants are intercropped with marigolds, a wonderful companion plant, and the garden features several pigeon pea plants, a shrub favoured by permaculturists for its nitrogen fixing qualities and as “chop and drop” material, there is also a neem tree, which is also a nitrogen fixer, and has many medicinal properties, its small branches can be used as a natural toothbrush.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Mr Tang. Please read on to find out more about him and his interesting perspectives!

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