Thursday, 9 August 2012

Harvesting Bush Honey

Our OATH (Original Australian Trigona Hive) - cleverly designed by entomologist, Dr Tim Heard to house our local stingless bee, Trigona Carbonaria. For detailed information about these amazing little insects, visit www.

Here is a very basic outline for how to harvest bush honey (as I'm no expert but absolutely fascinated by the process) - I had no idea what "my" bees were up to in there and was totally surprised to discover they construct these intricate spiral structures.

Step 1: Splitting the brood
Ensure the hive weighs a good 8+ kilos, which generally takes around a year of non stop pollen and nectar gathering. At this point, it is fine to split the hive (below) and/or harvest honey. This can be done by carefully edging a knife around the edges, ensuring the "brood" remains unharmed by splitting in line with the "advancing front". A new hive can now be created by the gentle division.

Step 2: Extracting the sweet stuff
Carefully remove the top layer of the OATH, known as the "super". It should be full of waxy honey pots just like this.....

Vigorously pierce your honey pots so the honey rises to the top........

Turn the super over to allow the tangy sugarbag honey to drain out, strain and consume (after putting the hive back together of course).

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Volunteer at FNPF, Nusa Penida

What is FNPF?
FNPF stands for Friends of the National Park Foundation, a local Indonesian, non profit organisation, founded by veterinarians in 1997. We spent a week volunteering at the Bali Starling Rehabilitation Center on Nusa Penida. The Bali Starling or Leucopsar Rothchildi is on the verge of extinction in the wild - the main predator being humans.

Since 2006, FNPF have worked with the local community on this unique island to preserve Bali's sacred bird and their habitat. Around 100 000 saplings have been distributed to the largely barren island, with many more growing in the nursery.

This is where volunteers come in - usually the morning is spent potting plants for the nursery or arranging compost for the demonstration organic garden. Families are also welcome to volunteer with FNPF, and my little ones loved preparing the worms (below) to feed the birds awaiting release, each day.

The community are mostly seaweed farmers, and the local children come to the FNPF to use the bi-lingual library, learn dance, music, practice English and just to play. Sunset yoga on the beach (above) became quite a popular way to end the day - after a snorkel around the world famous Ped Point dive site and a laze on the beach. It's a tough life being a FNPF volunteer - not.

A week on Lembongan

It was a pleasant surprise to accidentally end up on Nusa Lembongan, and a great way to end our time in Bali. We hired a bike and drifted from one beach to the next, sipping fresh coconuts all the way - sigh.

Mangrove Point:
Ideal for kids - paddle, snorkel, listen to the birds in the mangroves, sit and have your fresh fish grilled to order. My favorite part of the island because it was so quiet and so idyllic.

Dream Beach:
Stunning spot, Cafe Pandan any time of the day is unbeatable for views and cool vibes.

Mushroom Beach area:
We enjoyed just eating lunch, gazing out to sea, a bit of beach combing, a bit of a swim, a play in the sand.

Nusa Ceningan:
Just across the suspension bridge, then turn right to find Sea Breeze Warung - lounge chairs to watch the tide roll in or out, best local food we ate all trip. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bamboo Chocolate Factory, Ubud

Contrary to what you'd imagine, Ubud's Bamboo Chocolate Factory is a super healthy place to visit. Why? Because it produces raw, cold pressed chocolate - one of nature's superfoods. Every afternoon at 2pm, the general public may join a tour of "South East Asia's first Bean to Bar" factory to discover how this...... 

..........becomes this.

The organic cacao itself is harvested from hundreds of local small scale farms. Big Tree Farms sources this amazing cacao and is very particular about Fair Trade - or what they call "Transparent Supply Chains". Profitability for producers (often remote families) and sustainable farming with as little environmental impact as possible are their top priority.

This Vintage Ammann Machine (made in Europe in the 1930s) crushes the cacao nibs once they've been  fermented, dried, cleaned, peeled and hand sorted. The product is pure cacao mass (above), which looks so, so tasty (if you love chocolate). As it is not heated at all, this cacao remains high in flavonoids (antioxidants), magnesium, potassium, and zinc. My kids eyes nearly popped out of their heads seeing all that goo - and of course the final product tasted delicious.

Check out the amazing view across the warehouse from upstairs in the Bamboo Chocolate Cathedral - 3,000 bamboo poles reaching up to a 50 foot ceiling. 

We will have to return to visit the Wonder Choc Cafe which is due to open in September 2012. For everyone else, enjoy the welcome hot chocolate and all those samples.

Five Elements, Ubud

To celebrate our last day in Ubud, we had lunch at Sakti Dining Room, at Five Elements Healing Center. One of  The Healing Hotels of The World, Five Elements is a super special place to visit, let alone stay at. The focus is sustainability and creating as little impact on the environment as possible. This is a true sanctuary on the banks of the Ayung River, at the conjunction of eight major energy lines.

Sakti Dining Room, along with all buildings at Five Elements, have been created using giant pieces of bamboo and alang alang thatch roofs. These bamboo spaces feel so soothing and calming. Upstairs in the restaurant are very comfortable lounge chairs and downstairs are several dining options - on layered decks next to the river or by the pond  full of koi and lotuses. We all were presented with lemon infused water and a face washer upon arrival - such a lovely way to begin reading the menu, which was mostly raw vegan fare, packed with nutrients and enzymes.

I ordered my first ever "Live Lasagna"  - impeccably presented and surprisingly satisfying with not a bit of pasta to speak of.The kids enjoyed Alfalfa Sushi topped with black sesame seeds - and of course amazing cashew mylk banana smoothies. Head Chef, Made, presented us with raw cacao chocolate treats to send us smiling on our way.

After lunch, we purchased some organic essential oil products in the Laboratorium, sniffed around the Medicinal Garden, dipped our toes in the pool and danced in the yoga pavilion, Mandala Agung (250 square meters of bamboo extravagance). I came away with the conviction that this is the ultimate place to stay for a total nurturing and rejuvenation experience.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Green School, Ubud

"Welcome to the Greenest School on Earth" - The Green School make their message pretty clear straight from the start. The focus at this International School is the environment, offering holistic education from Prep - Grade 12 in classrooms made entirely of bamboo.  As John Hardy says, why be educated in ugly concrete blocks when you could learn in these inspiring spaces?

As we emerged from the coconut grove for the 3pm Green School Tour, the kids were finishing for the day and parents were gathering about the organic coffee stand to catch up. We sampled the very popular FREAK Coffee made from beans grown at a local permaculture plantation. A brand new stall, Living Food Lab was serving raw, vegan delights such as peppermint chocolates, cinnamon infused coconut water, strawberry cheesecake and fig tortes.

The tour visited the mud wrestling pit - a traditional Balinese sport, then the farm animals, where students are responsible for rearing chickens, turkeys, goats, cows, and rare black pigs. My children got side tracked from the tour at this point by the bamboo swings, so we ended up there for the afternoon.

Next to the swings, was the "Heart of the School", a circular harp set in the center of an enormous double helix swirling building of bamboo. It felt womb like and safe in this living breathing building. Each wing belonged to a different grade of the high school and the entire structure was so innovative, imaginative and fun. Isn't that what school is supposed to be? It somehow cast a magical spell because everyone I spoke to, yearned to be a part of this incredible project in green living. 

Visit The Green School website here for details, check out the Youtube links, or better still visit the school just to feel the difference and be inspired. Some offshoots from The Green School worth exploring are - Bamboo Chocolate Factory, Five Elements, The Green Village, and Bambu Indah (and I'm sure the list will continue to grow).

How to make Canang Sari

"Canang Sari" are the traditional offerings which are made by  Balinese women every morning in every Hindu household. Making these hand sized baskets seemed to be a beautiful way to start the day. The weaving and gathering of ingredients is a quiet, reflective process and a genuine form of giving thanks. The ritual offerings are usually made of young yellow coconut leaves, flowers, food and incense. 

My daughter relished the opportunity to learn how to create these amazing sacred works of art. The flowers can be easily found in any Balinese morning market.

Step 1: Making a frame:
Gather together the supple young coconut leaves. Fold one frond/leaf into four even lengths about 10cm long. Using a short length of thin bamboo (sharpened at one end like a needle) "sew" each corner into place. Some women I noticed are now using staples for this part of the process. Make a "floor" by measuring the base exactly, using two lengths of palm frond. The base should sit neatly into the frame.

Step 2: (Optional decorative flower):
Fix another palm frond in the middle with a sharpened bamboo end. Loop pieces of palm frond back into the center, to form a flower pattern. We also sliced each frond to make it even more detailed (see below). Place the flower inside the square basket.

Step 3: Filling the basket:
Take the flowers and place with appreciation in each corner of the basket to represent five elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether (central postition). Peacefully place the offering in a sacred space as an act of mindul thankfulness.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Sari Organik, Ubud

Sari Organik is a gorgeous bamboo restaurant in the Balinese rice paddies. The sign at the gate bravely states that it is an "experimentation station" in organic farming - well I reckon this is one successful experiment. The restaurant was packed for lunch with everyone happily lounging on cushions, munching on home grown organic salads and sipping their smoothies.

The best part for us was showing the children exactly where their lunch was coming from - while lunch was being prepared, we poked around the rice paddies and rows of lettuces in the patch, patted the cows and said hi to the chickens and ducks.

The whole experiment is tastefully executed and certainly worth the adventure. We bought some environmentally friendly bamboo straws and Dragonfruit jam then skipped all the way back to Ubud along the local village tracks.