For many people familiar with the term, permaculture is associated with gardening or a type of organic agriculture. For people who are deeply involved, permaculture can also be a way of life. Even though permaculture is an unknown and unheard concept, to our surprise and joy we found a family that has practiced permaculture for over 13 years as a lifestyle.
After our intruding request to visit his farm, Andrej Kiashko kindly agreed to accept us. The only question he asked before confirming was whether we were truly interested in learning permaculture principles. Andrej and his family left the busy city life about 13 years ago when he bought 40 ha of land close to the lakeshore in Grigorievka village.
This trip was organized for our local partners, as well as two representatives from five villages.
Our trip started with a visit of the family’s village house in Grigorievka. Andrej wanted to show the house that was passively heated during the winter time. The old house was repaired, and the southern side had a huge glass wall that would consume the sun’s energy during the daytime. The inner wall behind the glass was painted in black to absorb and store the heat, allowing it to radiate during the night. The house had clay floors specially designed to absorb warmth. The insulation was quite creative, as the family simply used the clay, straw and sheep wool. The walls were quite thick. Due to this system, the family at most needed to heat the house 5-10 times per winter (we have 3-4 months of winter). The space between the glass and brick wall was used as a greenhouse where they grew all types of vegetables, cacti, and even watermelons.
Our team was amazed with every piece of the house, starting from the door insulated with sheep wool, the staircase that was a wooden masterpiece, the clay floor, the appliances that were made for drying the fruits, and even the kids’ toys made of wood. The family did not use any plastic or cheap materials. All materials used for house furnishing was made from organic materials and available at each house.
While we were still managing our amazement and asking so many questions from Andej, he hurried us to visit his large farm next to the lake. Down the dwindling road through the planted forest, we came to a hidden farm of the family.
Just in front of the house spread the large area of field, where he and his children were collecting the harvest. The family grew quite unusual types of grains that was not typical to Kyrgyzstan such as oats, millet, spelled, linen etc. He explained how the permaculture principles can be used in main crop cultivation. They did not use any chemical fertilizers but left the hay from grain to rot. They had special tractors that did not cultivate deep, but rather ploughed the soil on surface.
Afterwards, we visited their mill where they produced their own products from the harvest. The mill was also designed to absorb the natural energy and was not heated in the wintertime.
Right at the entrance to his farm, we noticed the house and the furnace like in a fairytale. Their house was built from hay and clay. Andrej in detail explained the advantages of the hay house, such as being easily heated and well insulated. Inside the house, the family used only natural materials, and no single piece of furniture was bought. Even the lights and wardrobe were handmade. The house has herbs and vegetables gardens to the right of the house, so that they were easily accessible. One of the main principles of the permaculture is to make life easy. So, in designing the garden, usually the often-used plants such as herbs and vegetables should be planted next to the house. As when they are easily accessible, we will consume more.
Then we visited their huge greenhouse, where they grew melons, fig trees and all kind of vegetables.
Even the toilets were made following the permaculture principles: they usually dig a hole in the land and put the toilet tent. Deep holes allow for less frequent composting, whereas the small holes can be composted often.
Each family member has their own project: Andrej’s wife is designing the greenhouse as she likes, one of the sons is working on beehives and another son on chicken farm.
The family is vegetarian and do not keep any animals.
They sell their products in eco fairs, and their shop in Bishkek under their brand at a reasonable price.