Friday, December 12, 2014


Since our house is liveable (to my standard.. probably not for too many other people) and because we had a carpenter, who is part gibbon and who offered to come out to work for us in the month of November, Ben commenced the build of our very first guest accommodation: a treehouse. About 16 metres from the ground, it is a modest first attempt and a sort of muscle flex of Ben's treehouse constructon brain.

We have a little shower room down below however our amazing gravity flow water system will bring the water to the treehouse.. so the treehouse can have plumbing!

Still a bit to do including finishing off the floor and some steps. Some wall. So life is finally moving ahead. Maybe we'll get there...
posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, November 3, 2014


We have all been having trouble with terminology. Maybe I have started it. Sometimes I tell Jarrah to put her dirty clothes in the garbage bin instead of the dirty clothes basket. Sometimes I say get the broom instead of a knife - stuff like that. There must be some kind of vitamin to cure this problem. A word recall problem. Maybe I am developing a dementia of some kind. Who knows. The problem however is even developing in the kids. But related specifically to our location and what we call the places we frequent.
We have now moved into our fourth house since Ben and I got married. Our first house which Ben (and a carpenter named Eye) built was in a village called Kruel (pronounced Krill). Sadly we only lived there two and a half years. Then moved north about 120 km away and to a village called Jombok Paim in Rovieng. We built a smaller house and not as finished as our first house since we realised our living there may be short term. We ended up there for the next twelve years. So it was easy to keep the two places straight. Kruel and Rovieng. Fast forward to 2014 and April. We moved to the forest here in Songkom Thmey near a village called Ta Bos but much closer to a mountain called Phnom Tnout (or Sugar Palm Mountain). Now, here lies the problem. Since moving out here, I have had a recall problem and almost exclusively refer to our house in Rovieng as Kruel. But it doesn't stop there. When we first moved here we lived at the "Teis-an-a-kar" which means headquarters or office or something like that. This was the building Ben built for the Community Forest Headquarters and for our temporary house. From April through to just now - October 18 to be exact, that was our home. We then moved to our permanent home. While living at the Teis-an-a-kar we called where the house is, appropriately "the house site." Now that we have moved to "the house site" we are now calling our house, the house (I guess) and the Teis-an-a-kar, "the house site." Why I don't know. And we all do it. Ben. The kids. Not just me thankfully.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Garden

We have been growing and trying to grow various green things in our garden. Some things work (like eggplant and pumpkin) and other things have not done so well with our sometimes negligent care (like the cucumbers). I brought back from Australia a bunch of seeds - lots of herbs that I want to use in my food and other miscellaneous stuff that my avid gardener mother gave me. So today before it got too hot, the family all trooped out to the garden and started working. The kids planted trakuen (or gas-zoon-u-et in Burmese or morning glory in English) and I planted cabbage, rocket, spinach and parsley. I was complaining to Ben that these seeds seem so small and my gardening efforts always seem to be for nought as nothing comes up, or little spindly things come up or bugs eat it or something happens. I am a pessimistic gardener. Well the first sign that my day was not going right was when halfway down the spinach row I realised I was planting on top of the rocket. It was only about 2 or 3 metres worth so I quickly corrected myself. Then I moved onto the parsley. I did a whole row of italian parsely imagining lovely tabouli salads in the future. At the end of that row I realised I had planted the whole row on top of my spinach. Ben made some smart comment about why my gardening efforts never work. Anyway, lets see what happens. We watered the rows and in 2 or 3 weeks we shall see what comes up. Fingers crossed. I better go out and water them every day too. What a lot of work!

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, October 27, 2014

Been a while...

Lots to catch up on but the most exciting event has been moving into our house. We have a garden shower, a kitchen sink.. all with a view of our mountain...
More later.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


A couple of weeks ago we had a little storm. It was short and had a very windy start. Ben was at the house site and the girls and I were at home. As Ben was returning, his workers who had left earlier came back and told him the road was blocked. There must have been a micro burst in that spot and about 50+ metres of trail was covered by trees and vines the main culprit being a huge huge fig tree, which now lay on its side. The girth was about as tall or taller than Ben.
I shall insert a picture when I get some better internet.
The tree had pulled down all sorts of vines and other trees so the trail was indeed quite decimated. We are using one of the trees that fell for floor boards on our house so that is the only benefit of the blow down. They cleared a detour and also took a good couple of days to clear the road again.

Some local carpenters (from the village right by us) came to work with us on Monday to help us finish off the house-which-is-taking-forever. All that is left to do is some decking, flooring our bedroom, roofing our bedroom, a few odd wallboards around the house, finishing off the floor and walls in the girls room and then the bathroom odds and ends (plumbing etc.) - Oh, and the steps. So not really that much is needed before we can move in. They half finished the deck as of today and most of the floor to our bedroom. The roofing supports are up mostly on the bedroom too. And that is just two days of work.

The weather has dried up and the rains from June and July have abated - good at the moment for us but the rice and gardens of everyones are drying up which is not good-including our garden. So hopefully the weather will hold up for a little while but maybe just a few little rains would be appreciated.

Ben went and visited the Forestry Administration who we are working with for permissions and all that horrible red tape necessary. He had a long 4 hour meeting with the director for the province (who only had 10 minutes as he was going out the door). The guy has always been very supportive and helpful but just always busy and has much much bigger fish to fry or whatever you do. But it was a very useful meeting and some paper work which was buried was dug out from people's desks and put back together again. They are also working on a community forest (CF) ADRA's Jombok Hoas site. One village is planning on enclosing Jombok Haos within their CF and then ADRA will make a continued use agreement with the village. But another village which is actually really close to Jombok haos are fighting it because they want the forest free to claim and cut. They already had their own protected area demarked and have since sold it all off or cleared it all of any valuable timber. So now they are looking at the land that JBH is on and thinking that they should have rights to it. So there is a village meeting this week between the village, the Forestry Administration and the Community Forest Committee from the other village to hopefully iron out some of the issues. Ben is attending to clear up some of the rumors that have been circulating ("Ben said this.. Ben said that...")
So, our roll on the house will stop again.. hopefully this carpenters will come back next Sunday to keep on going and hopefully they don't get another job in the meantime.

I have been working .. trying to work ... on some ADRA work over the last couple of weeks. Slowly putting together a proposal. Meaning kids are free to school themselves.. or not. Jarrah just brought me up some edible leaves... so they are learning survival skills. They walk to the garden and pick veges. They just had their bath at the creek. They have their new puppy, Mikey to keep them playing. I think they are having fun. Amelie baked bread the other day. Jarrah made up a recipe for pancakes - 'pleasure pancakes' she named them - basically flour, baking powder, salt and water. They don't taste bad at all. And Amelie and I have gone on runs for the last three mornings. They were not very long runs, but long enough for people who are not fit. The three legged Mikey followed us the first two days but this morning he made it as far as the creek (20m) and turned home.

Another thing I did lately.. I made my own laundry detergent. I had been importing this wonderful, natural powder from the US called Charlie's soap. It was only about $13 for 1kg which lasted me about 6 months at 1 tablespoon a load as recommended. Way cheaper than the junk that they use here with all its chemicals and not too impossible to throw in our suitcases. However are trips to the US are getting fewer and fewer so I thought I needed to find a more sustainable source of good cheap and natural powder. i had found a recipe of some detergent and a lady had written up how to make it and where to source the borax and baking soda in the labyrinth of Orussey Market in Phnom Penh. for $1, I made up about enough for ten or fifteen loads. It smells good and seems to be doing the trick. Nothing in my opinion can get our stains out of our clothes and I am lazy to spot wash absolutely everything - stains don't come out but they never did with anything I use - so I am quite happy with my home made detergent. Next to try is some home make liquid hand wash and then I need to tackle soap.

So we are still alive and life is good at the moment. I am approaching this life at present as an attempt at homesteading and living off the land. Need too see how much our grocery shopping can go down as we get ourselves more and more set up. Only when we get a cow however will we be happy as we all love our dairy. I did just read a book on stopping sugar so that should be one item less to buy (The Year of No Sugar by Eve O Schwab) .. a good book by the way. We should all stop this little additive if we want to be healthy.
I digress here from ending this post. I shall end here! Now! And get back (or start!) my computer work for the day. Oh, it is 5pm.. maybe I'lll get to it tomorrow. Sorry Ann!

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ben's Shoes

These are the shoes Ben is wearing at present... actually these are the mates of the shoes since these are kind-a worn. So he is wearing non- matching shoes which in this country they liken to hooking up you cart to a cow and a buffalo. In Phnom Penh we can repair them fairly cheaply but perhaps these are just a bit gone.,

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, July 28, 2014

Giant Black Squirrel

This little guy here is not so little.  He is resident just outside the office here and regularly visits the trees nearby.  These shots were taken by sitting at our school desk as he came down to investigate the something - bugs or leaves in the tree just outside our window.  He seems to be not too wary of us - which is good for now but hopefully won't cause him grief later.  He makes this amazing shooting sound when alarmed which our visiting Australian friends likened to the laser guns from Star Wars.  Due to interruptions like this.. our school day becomes very fragmented as I must get out the camera so regularly.  Ahhh, we can learn from our books later - this life is more fun.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Mundane

I need to give an update on the latrine project progress but will wait for Ben to give me some finer details. The boys left the village last week and our life has gone back to normal as is normal for us. Our workers at the forest had left a few days earlier to go work on their rice and so we were able to have some down time for a few days - just us.

The rains were still falling. The creek was up, and so when Ben travelled back from the village he walked in. So, no truck...just our trusty little Honda MD to get around on.

We had a couple of days of little projects.. putting conduit on the wires at the office, putting more gravel on the path. Then we started working on the floor boards at our house. As he was straightening some boards, Ben took a step back onto a board that was not placed properly. It flipped and he found himself going down. Catching himself on the floor joists (is that the right term?) He managed to slam his ribs against the wood. Without an xray he is pretty certain he broke a couple of ribs. Hopefully this is our "accident of the year."

So now Ben is now up and about... moto-ed out to the village yesterday to make a trip to Rovieng to pick up more stuff and importantly, two workers: our old guard, Ung; and Reth, another good guy. Ben still can't or rather shouldn't be doing much..lifting and stuff like that! Fun!

The girls have been dragging their dogs out on morning walks lately. Yesterday they went up the road to a sandy bit and built a virtual city in the sand complete with gardens and fairgrounds and houses and barns. Quite elaborate.

I have noticed that being outside has amazing effects on how well they play together, and just how whiney they are. Jarrah is the master or rather mistress of the whine. When I can somehow convince her to go outside she forgets her troubles and finds something else to focus her energies on. It is incredible the transformation that takes place. A good thing we have lots of outside and lots of nature here.

One other exciting item to mention: Amelie was finishing up her schoolwork late-ish about 6 just before dark and just out the window she noticed a troop of mavaques settling in for the night. She saw babies and adults. By the time Jarrah and i got there, we only saw a couple: one shuffling down a tree; and another staring at us. Quite exciting to see the wildlife becoming less afraid and moving in closer to us.

That is life at present for us.
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I've finally got a fancy phone. One that can email and do all that stuff so hopefully now we can communicate with the outside a little better. Our house has not too bad reception so when we get to move there life will be simple. Right now i am sitting at the house waiting for clothes to be washed by our washing machine. I wish I knew how to wash each days clothes, each day, as they do here but i don't, or rather i am too lazy. So now i sit with some spare minutes attempting to type a post here with this tiny keyboard.

We have visitors at the moment. Alex who came to help out in December and January came back with two friends. They, along with our other family and friends helped raise funds to do a small water and sanitation project. About four thousand plus dollars was raised altogether and the guys are helping to install latrines and rainwater tanks. They put up two and a half on Thursday and Friday. If it wasn't for the rain it would have been three.

The rain is also causing outher complications as the village is deviod of people. This year has been a really dry year. It is just the beginning of the rice growing season and people have been waiting and waiting for enough rain to plough their fields. Then they start the rice seedlings and they normally let them grow for about 20 to 30 days before transplanting. They should be finished transplanting by now but some are still ploughing and growing the seedlings.

So unfortunately we don't have all the households who want latrines lined up ready to go. The people do want them but most are just a tad busy at the moment. Having the guys there and with the attention a bunch of foreigners usually draw, is helping to promote the things in a positive way. More updates on the latrines later. And thanks to all the family and friends who donated money to this little cause. There were about three latrines put in earlier and they look great... clean and nice with all the things you need to keep them that way. So your help is much appreciated and we could not have done anything without your help.

We went for a walk yesterday. The girls, David and I went only to the temple and back. David has bung knees so wisely didn't choose to go on the "Ben hike" with the other guys who kept going, after the temple. We came back and on the way spotted a cute baby green viper on the trail. Further along there was a troop of languars heading down the valley. These guys have been hanging around lately. I saw them near the house site and heard them in the trees just before their bedtime. They have a distinct piglike grunt. A couple of weeks earlier we saw another troop of them and in amongst them was sitting a male gibbon. I didn't think he was anything but a black bit of vine but zooming in could make out what he was and he was staring right at us so casually. I believe his picture is in my previous posting where i didn't have time to write anything.

The other guys hike was just a bit longer, at 20 km through a rainstorm and over and around the mountain. Typical Ben hike and they came back sore wet and hungry! Fun!

So that is a short update from us here in the forest. We are still living out of our boxes in a mess. We still have a forest and hoe toilet but we are getting by and really looking forward to moving into our house someday... walls and floor... walls and floor to go!
posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, June 22, 2014

No Time! Photos Only

Leaving the land of fast internet for who knows how long.  I have been in Phnom Penh for  6 days and heading back home tomorrow morning - I didn't get the chance to write anything on this blog. I am staying up to at least give you some photos to peruse.
The house is standing (our house that is).  It needs a floor and some walls - but really, who needs walls?
We have had some dramas which I shall write about later but all is good now and what might have been a tragic was not and we feel blessed.  Maybe looking at the photos you can take some guesses at what happened. There are a ton of pictures here to go through to find out.
I did finally invest in a smart or rather a dumb phone (I truly didn't want to join the crowd).. but hopefully we can now access the internet at the forest to some degree.  We shall see how it works. It better work after the investment we made.
So now, please enjoy the album.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two Months in the Forest

It is May 20 as I write this and hopefully not too much longer till it gets posted.  I don’t think I have written anything for almost two months in this space which is supposed to keep you all updated.  We have been offline most of this time – which has been really fun.  No more of that heading off to bed wondering what happened to the last three hours of time.  So we have been surviving.  I arrived home from our last trip to Phnom Penh at the beginning of April.  By home, at the time it was Rovieng.  We stayed there one night (in a semi-pulled down house) and then headed out to the forest and that proved to be our last night at our home there where we had lived for the last 12 years.  Sad. 

The next trip there, Ben had the house taken down and ended up staying at the guest house in town.  We hauled our house out to the forest in two big trucks – called “Lan Dumrey Tuk” which translates Water Elephant Trucks.  One of the trucks got a bit stuck coming up the bank of the little river.  But with some more cable, he managed to pull himself out with his massive winch which is powered by his engine.

The first truck was a dump truck and it was about eight in the evening when he arrived and even though we had hired six people to unload, he arrived at the house site and promptly dumped his load.  Effective.  I don’t think anything broke at least.

The next day the second truck arrived, slightly bigger with more wood.  Not a dump truck this time so the guys did actually unload all the pieces one by one. 

On this day, a very sad thing happened.  Our dogs had been out at the forest with us for almost a week.  They were having so much fun running everywhere – chasing squirrels, rats, and chasing Ben on the motorbike.  In fact, they were following him everywhere and getting lots of exercise.  This day the second truck arrived, Ben went to the village.  We had forgotten about the dogs following him and he was in a rush to get to the village and didn’t notice them.  About half an hour later, Sippy our black dog comes back tired, but not Reecy.  She never did turn up.  We suspect that some hunters, whose tracks Ben had noticed heading out, must have left the road when they heard him, and then on returning to the road, came upon the dogs following him.  They will eat dogs and don’t really care about anything except the free meat they provide.  So, one of our two favourite dogs is no more.  We are all very sad – Sippy especially.  We did get a new little puppy but Jarrah still says to me how much she misses Reecy.

We received our first guests in April.  Well, kind of guests.  Tim, Wendy and Shannon Maddocks from Siem Reap and 27 of their youth leaders (“pathfinders”) came out for a camping/leadership retreat and service project.  They brought all their own food, cooking and camping gear so there was zero work to do on our behalf.  They laboured for about 2 full days on digging some trails up on the mountain for which we are most grateful. 

Our house is slowly going up.  It took a while to identify a carpenter and we had about three who we were courting – or rather who were courting us, however everyone kept getting busy, or not having workers who would come out.  Eventually, someone agreed and he found some people to help him.  So we now have had a carpenter and five workers raising posts and planing, finishing wood for the last week.  They have the main house posts up, and right this minute are putting up the “ka-nee-ips” which are the cross members that go between posts... I think.  This is what it looked like this morning.

We have been enjoying the wildlife around the place here.  A giant black squirrel is resident right here by the Office.  He came very close to our window one day while the girls and I were doing school and we managed to snap this shot...

lots of red squirrels here too.  Unfortunately Buggy, our ferocious red squirrel friend from Rovieng who we brought here must have succumbed to a night time predator or was chased out of the territory as he isn’t hanging around the house anymore.  Two Indian mynas who we had raised – chirpy little guys we let free when they arrived here, also and one by one disappeared.  It may have been the same predator – they had a fine time for a few days and we were enjoying their all day chirruping so it became very quiet when they were no longer.  We have been on a number of hikes but our talking and stomping have scared away most of the animals.  We did see one troop of silver languars just last week on top of the mountain.  Earlier, Amelie, Ben and a friend, Savuth who was visiting again saw four troops on one hike – so pretty successful there.  Birdlife has been all around but with amateur birders such as ourselves, we don’t identify much.  Jarrah was proud of herself spotting a Pied Hornbill.  A serpent eagle was circling us very low today and sadly to took one of our baby Indian Rollers (which had been given us by someone in the village who had purchased them for $62 after being told they were hill mynas – the talking kind).  Ben was out patrolling for loggers recently, and on one occasion saw a Giant Ibis and on another day a White Winged Duck.  That is our first confirmed sighting of the Giant Ibis and second for the White Winged Duck.  Both species are quite rare here in Cambodia and anywhere for that matter.  We have relocated about seven of our deer from Rovieng to a large holding pen here (about a hectare or more maybe) and then will release them when there is a bit less evidence of hunters.  Still a few more trips to get them all our here.  A rather large job, but easier than we originally thought, as Ben made a large pen in the back of the trailer where they settled down quite nicely once they were in.

Most of my photos have been of little creatures and flora as we have gone on our hikes.  They are easier to find and stay stiller to have their pictures taken.  I shall have to put together a selection soon.

Our garden has had its first fruits and we enjoyed our first salad of cucumbers today.  Unfortunately, while harvesting the cucumbers, there were some others also found enjoying the garden.  A little pit viper was resting in the shade of the leaves.  Amelie spied him first and we jumped away quickly and called Ben who quickly disposed of him.  That will teach us a lesson to watch carefully in the vines.  The trakuen (morning glory, or “gazune-u-eh” in Myanmar) has been growing nicely and we can now stop buying it for the rabbit who eats a ton of it.  We also have eggplant (yay!), pumpkin, chickpeas (an experiment) and kidney beans (also an experiment), tomatoes which have not yet come up, a ton of basil, some coriander which also has not yet come up.  Fruitwise, there is papaya, limes (which the caterpillars are gobbling leaves from), mangoes, guava, rose apples and bananas.  So in a little while we should be self sufficient – just need a cow and a rice field and we won’t have to go to the market again!  The kids are getting into gardening and we were discussing the word hobby and Jarrah decided that she wanted hoeing to be her hobby.  A couple of days later she told us that she sometimes got tired of her hobbies.  But here they are working pretty hard.

Meanwhile, the logging continues.  There is still zero will to curb the current frenzy for Tnong wood (rosewood).  The Community Forest (CF) Committee have been patrolling and trying their hardest to catch any chainsaws, oxcarts and “go euns” which are logging in the CF boundaries.  They can’t catch them all and people caught are getting annoyed with others who are not caught.  The other day, a group of non-CF committee (i.e. normal villagers) decided to mount their own patrol and followed out a go-eun – they caught up with it only to discover that it belonged to the CF Committee leader and his sons were driving it.  They weren’t too eager to capture it but they were in too deep already and there were too many of them there to back out so they confiscated it.  It was a good catch nonetheless as the CF leader here is deep into the logging facilitation business here.  We’ll see what the outcome is.  They CF leader was voted in as leader for a second term by the village just a few months ago.  As we have found out, villagers generally vote in someone who can be helpful to them – but not necessarily to the cause at hand, so a natural choice in this case. 

Lastly, our friends and family in Australia and the US have been supporting a small latrine project in the village.  Alex, who was out here helping Ben in December, and a few of his friends from Avondale College will be helping to install about 20 plus latrines in June/July and we have a friend, Chea, from Rovieng who has started pouring the units.  Here is some of his work.

And that, friends, has been a very long and at the same time brief update of what our last month or two has included.