by Anthony P. & Brittany S.
Wwoofed @Yamana June 5-19, 2015
We stayed for 2 weeks and enjoyed it very much. As the helpx profile isn't so detailed, we would like to share our experience with the community.
Volunteers prepared meals together, cooking over a wood-powered rocket stove in an outdoor kitchen, and eating vegetables primarily harvested from Yaman's land: rice (from his other Yuling land), leafy greens, banana, tomato, cucumber, green onion, pumpkin, squash, yam, peppers and berries. He supplemented these crops with some store-bought staples like tofu, onions, bread and oats. He produces a surprising amount of fermented and pickled delicacies, like soy sauce, wine, tofu cheese, and many things I don't know the name of. We hosted a pizza party where kids made the dough and toppings from scratch and from many things in the garden, then we baked them in his mud ovens. A lady came and made traditional rice balls with us on the dragon boat festival holiday. Overall, meals were abundant and healthy, although a good effort was required to make it happen as a team each time.
We worked from roughly 9-12, took a 3-hour lunch, and continued from 3-6 each day, 5 days a week. Other volunteers had variations of this schedule for themselves. Many Taiwanese came out to help throughout the week but didn't stay nights. At the most we had 6 helpers living there, plus many others coming out during the day. It was a nice environment where everybody seemed to take some partial 'ownership', and instead of taking orders, they found their niche and helped as they could. Yaman is a hands-off supervisor. He tells you things to do, then leaves you to it. Tasks were varied, some were tough.
Tasks included: Packing rice, lots of weeding, planting, chopping wood, watering plants, improvising makeshift constuctions (furniture, firewood house). We dug the foundation for a mud 'nature' house which will hold the rice supply, and filled it with rocks. A lot of manual labor: hauling tiles, rocks, dirt, plants. It was hot and tiring work, but we found a cool reward to look forwad to each day: the Creek! 100m down the road from Yamana Garden is a fresh water stream which we took a cool dip in after work each day. We might have been the first helpers to discover this watering hole, but it quickly became our great joy to share with all newcomers. Yaman will tell you there are snakes, but they only come out at night.
There are two spaces, one a rustic farm house with some mattresses and mosquito nets, and an empty attic space above the outside kitchen. We chose to set-up our own tent in the attic and use our own bedding, as it was a nice place to do so. Either way, bring your own bedding for maximum comfort.
It's a small jungle on the edge of Taipei city, surprisingly tranquil. The main nuisance were the mosquitos, as it's a very lush environment filled with plants, so bring repellent and long comfortable clothes to work-in! Getting there the first day was a little confusing, as I wasn't sure which way to walk from the bus stop, but after a while and a couple phone calls for clarification, we came down the steepest hill and found the big greenhouse after 10 minutes. (GPS: 25.138642, 121.53143) It's a 2km walk to Tianmu town, where there's a grocery, internet at the library, a dumpling spot, and 7-Eleven. There's also a public pool that can be used for a small fee, and some great walking tracks in the surrounding hills. There's also a great concentration of hot springs and historical mining sites very close by, which are atmospheric, but we didn't actually soak (as it's too hot for that in summer!) You can hike to a free hot spring and swimming pool in a nice park, about 3km up Yangmingshan mountain, accessible via the nature trail.
It was a great place to call home for 2 weeks, and I'm happy to have contributed to the projects we worked on. Perhaps best of all were the nice people we met who came through there; it's really a community space, and everybody brings their own positive energy to it. Highly reccommended for anyone who likes hard work, nice people, and a no-frills, rustic place to get away from the bustle of the city.