Thursday 17 May 2012

What is Orchardy Haven?

This is an important thing that I've been needing to write down for a long time, and Phil and Andrew kept on asking for a concise description. Well here is draft one, and this is about as concise as it can be for now - it may get simpler later. Any comments appreciated.

Orchardy Haven is an experiment in sustainable and eco-friendly living and learning. It is an 8ha neglected old farm in north east Poland, purchased in September 2011. There are several aspects to the project:

    image from of someone picking pears from a tree
  1. To convert the dilapidated farm house to an eco-house.
  2. To grow food and other useful crops on the surrounding land using the principles of forest gardening and permaculture.
  3. To involve friends and volunteers creatively in the whole process.
  4. To embody a culture of open learning: we're learning, we're inviting others to learn with us, and we can teach and be taught by the people who come and interact with us.
  5. To develop the barns to provide volunteer/visitor accommodation, craft workshop facilities, and to meet the needs of the farm.
  6. To create a ceramics workshop and other facilities for traditional crafts.
  7. To build on opportunities that come out of these activities and our other skills to provide financial sustainability for the farm and our family.
Obviously the financial sustainability of the whole thing is a big leap, but it is possible and we'll just have to have a go at it. For now we can't even afford to move there, so it's going to be a while before it's all up and running.

One question Andrew asked was whether there was a conflict between inviting volunteers to help us and trying to make a living for ourselves on the farm. We don't think that is a conflict. There are lots of organic farms that have WWOOFers, and we ourselves have been volunteering in various places where our hosts need to make a living. We think being able to volunteer on a project like this is a great opportunity and is all about sharing knowledge and experience and giving people a chance to go out and get a place of their own to farm...

Easter 2012 tourist visit...

So it's now a month since we got back and there hardly seems to have been time to spend on pleasure and future projects like posting on here. Of course it's always a pleasure spending time looking after Maia who's now 9 months old and already seems much more like a little girl than a baby - but she doesn't give us much time for extras.

Anyway, me and Andrew and Phil flew to Vilnius in Lithuania which is closer than Warsaw, plus we managed to get cheaper flights. It was great to be in Vilnius and we spent two days sightseeing - an uncommon pleasure for our visits to Poland. Part of the deal with Andrew and Phil was for them to comment on whether travelling to our rural corner of Poland could have an appeal to more ordinary travellers, and not only to keen eco-builders and permaculturists.

Phil only had a few days around OrchardyHaven but we did manage to explore the local town and library, and we went on a tour to the source of the Biebrza river and near the border of Belarus. There is all sorts of history here, and the Biebrza National Park is the biggest in Poland. The places we went aren't very touristy though - in fact it's not well set up for tourists yet...

View Our driving tour from Suchodolina in a larger map

In Lipsk we did find a well made camping and picnic area and an old bit of Polish WWII artillery over the road which pleased Phil. Then on the way back we took a detour to an agroturystyka (rural tourist accommodation) in Hamulka where they've done a great conversion of an old chata (small wooden hut) into a really comfortable place to stay. In fact we had our wedding reception in the barn there and they have other facilities for making traditional cakes called sekacz (see picture), having bonfires and rafting on the river. Click on the image or here for their website.

Photo of modernised old Polish cottage

We also found this old ruined windmill on the way which was very photogenic:

After Phil left we explored Bialystok (the regional capital) a bit, enjoyed the traditional Easter celebrations with the family, and visited Augustow (the most touristy local town).

Despite the fact that there were no cafes to be found for many miles (except Bialystok and Augustow), Phil and Andrew both say the enjoyed their visit. It is a beautiful spot we've found, although there's a lot of work to do. I'll have more details of the work we did in my next post.