Two Months in the Forest

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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. 
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