We’re getting close to our favourite time of the year. The Thai ‘winter’ brings cooler temperatures and what feels like a sense of calm.
But as a country, Thailand has to go through a lot to get to here. The long and sticky hot season is followed by monsoon rains, and this year those rains have exacted a heavy toll on communities in every corner of the country.
Some areas remain over a metre under water as dams overfill and rivers burst their banks, sending huge volumes of water into nearby streets and houses. From a few recent visits to Bangkok we’ve seen parts of the city flooded that previously had no issues during rainy season.
Locally, our nearby dam has taken over rice fields next to our nearest village, and the boat pier has moved about a hundred metres up the road. But while some main roads in our province have been under water and parked cars in Bangkok have been almost completely submerged, our own little piece of land has coped with the water pretty well.
The end of the road...but usually the boats are parked under the trees on the right.
Last year we had a few sink holes appear next to our house after heavy rains, and last year we seemed to avoid most of the big storms. It’s fair to say we were worried about this year. We’d taken quite a few steps to manage the water flow around the house to prevent a repeat of last year, and we’re relieved and happy to say they seem to have done the job.
Getting plenty of trees, bushes and flowers planted around the house has helped solidify the ground – the roots have done their job. We also built a path around the house – we didn’t do much other than placing some heavy stones to create a walkway and filling the shape of the path with smaller stones. But these mean the rain just bounces off them and flows away, rather than eroding the soil underneath. We also reshaped a little bit of land and made some run-offs into one of our ponds.
I’m pleased to say that while don’t always know what we are doing – in fact we always never really know – we seem to be getting some of the important stuff right. We make our own decisions but the local knowledge we’ve been able to tap into to validate what we think is really the thing that’s held everything together.
But now that it seems the biggest of the storms have passed, we now enter the best time of year.
Cool nights and days, clear skies, rice harvests, and blossoming fruit await us.
Temperatures are relative, and so our cool nights are in the teens and cool days in the low 20’s Celsius, but it feels so much colder.
Just this week we’ve seen a difference, and a light jumper was needed on our 6am walk. By 9am its warm, but that early morning chill is enough to warm the soul.
Walking around our land it’s easy to see the effects of a second rainy season on our trees and plants. We can’t wait until year 3, 4 and 5 when we’ll be surrounded by a small forest.
Some of our teak trees already stand at 3m tall, as is our Hu Grajong (ต้นหูกระจง), or Terminalia Ivorensis. The latter is shaping up to be one of our favourite trees.
Already about 3 metres tall this tree is going to be a beauty. There's a row of four that will provide a good windbreak soon.
We’ve already had some good returns this year. We’ve harvested some really good, tasty corn: we’ve had two varieties – the sweet yellow corn most people know, and a Thai-style ‘sticky rice corn’ that’s quite different in taste, texture and colour.
Thai-style 'sticky rice corn'. Chewier, less sweet, and lighter in colour.
There’s been a ton of peanuts too, and long green beans. Most of these are sold quite cheaply to people in nearby villages, and we keep some for ourselves.
Yai Ma picking peanuts. She rarely stops working.
Yai Ma and Yai Mee sorting their harvest. Most was sold in our two local villages. It doesn't matter where you are, people love freshly grown food.
There’s plenty more on the way, so we walked around the land and took a few photos.
Next up - rice harvest. Another 2-3 weeks and it will be ready.
Passion fruit. All of a sudden we have a mass of fruit blossoming.
Long black beans. Not tasted any yet.
Galangal - a key ingredient of tom yam soup.
Marigolds grow in abundance - a popular flower for buddhist ceremonies.
Newly planted cassava. Let's see if we make more money this year!
Early morning work on clearing weeds from cassava field.
Frangipani beginning to stretch.
There are always chilis ready to be picked.
A few banana trees around the land are doing well. Need to plant more as they are good for the soil.
Flooded rice fields about 1km away. No time is spent lamenting a lost crop - there are now fishing opportunities.
Cooler nights mean al fresco dining and BBQs
Always keeping watch, the lord of the land reigns supreme.
He doesn't always help though, especially when digging up just planted patches.