When it rains in Thailand, it rains.
There’s rarely such a thing as drizzle - it’s more like a bucket being emptied over you. It’s best not to get caught in a shower, even if it only lasts a minute.
But rain has been the focus of our efforts over the last month. Or rather, collecting rain.
A view as lovely in rain as it is in sunshine
Our recently dug channel, canal and pond have been put to the test and they’ve all passed to date.
I can’t believe how much satisfaction we’ve got from a few holes in the ground filling up with water!
Since digging the holes in the ground we’ve been getting things ready for rainy season, and that means planting more trees and installing a water system.
Water filling up around our island of just planted fruit trees.
In the centre of our piece of land we have dug a canal around 3.5 sides of a square leaving almost an island in the middle. This will be used for fruit and veg - planting fruit trees from 1.5 to 3 metres high which will eventually provide shade for vegetables we’ll plant later in the year. We’ve planted mango, banana, Marian plum (mayongchit), guava, jackfruit, Burmese grape, and lime trees.
On the outside perimeter of the canal we’ve planted more mango, papaya, lime - lots of chili pepper bushes.
As well as providing nice fresh fruit all of these trees will help bind the soil too. We’ve already seen a bit of erosion on canal and pond walls, and even some soil just collapsing in the middle of the path, but overall it’s been pretty good and there's not been too much damage.
To prevent walls eroding we’ve used quite hardy plants that can survive without much water, but also grow deep roots. We’ve used a grass called Vetiver - or ya faek in Thai. And lemongrass. We’ll be using it to give our walls some protection and solidity, while also giving us a good plant to use in Thai food or even to sell. Perfect. The Vetiver will be cut and used as cattle feed or mulch.
As well as rain water this canal is being fed by our well, and we’ve made a few changes there too.
Gone is the original electric pump and we now have our first piece of solar-powered machinery.
For about $1,000 dollars we installed a submerged pump to fill both of our 2,000 litre water tanks - one for our house, the other for the garden.
Our rain soaked solar water pump panels.
Before the rains started we were pumping water into the canal, just to get the soil wet and get it used to holding water. It didn’t hold much at first, and then it rained. It’ll take a lot of water to fill in, but when filled it should act as an alternative water source for our land.
Of course, a few days after installing we woke up to having no water. Was the pump broke? Was there no enough sun? No, we had just drained the tanks by forgetting to turn off the tap at the top of the canal. Sometimes it's important to remember that sometimes solutions to big problems can be pretty simple.
The first few days after digging the canal I must admit I didn’t have much hope of holding any water here, but after seeing the post-rain catch i think it will be ok. It may never fill completely but it should hold more water in the soil and feed growing roots.
The Number 8 Pond
The land slopes gently down towards the house and that’s why we dug our number 8 pond; we wanted to catch the water draining from the higher parts of the land.
After digging, water was already filling with groundwater and it's continued to fill up ever since. It's become a favourite swimming sport for the dog, and I can see us enjoying the area just as much in the next year or so.
Dudley looking for the perfect diving spot at the Number 8 Pond
We're trying to give it more of a tropical garden feel - colourfully filled with flowers and surrounded by coconut trees. We’ll most likely build a sala on the edge - a small wooden shelter where we can sit and have food or drink - and maybe even add some fish.
As well as collecting rain directly, we’ve also sorted the problem of where our drainage goes. Originally we installed guttering on our roof, and although we collected this in a tank, we didn’t really use the water. It was a bit of a waste.
We’ve now added gutter to our garage roof, then connected house and garage drainage underground. This water then speeds it’s way a short distance to the pond.
You can hear the water rushing through the pipes, and again, it’s given me more satisfaction than I’d ever imagined it could.
The famous Thai blue pipes take water from the house and garage roof and feed it into an underground pipe that flows into Number 8 pond.
The pond has filled really quickly and the problem we’re likely to have is managing the overflow, but it’s directly next to rice fields so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The big surprise is the small channel we dug on our adjoining piece of land. We had a couple of big storms and it was full.
A few neighbours use this water for the cattle so it’s being put to good use already - hence the name.
We planted tall and fast growing eucalyptus trees on the western edge of this channel and that will eventually give it a nice bit of shade. Beyond that we don’t really have plans for it yet.
Over the past week the rainfall has increased, although it’s nowhere near peak.
But it’s been ‘good’ rain as far as our water collection holes go as there’s been very little wind - just reasonably heavy rain for around 30 minutes at various times of the day. We think this has helped the pond walls hold together a little better, reducing the erosion.
All in all it’s been a pretty nerve wracking project as you play around with the land a lot and often solving one problem can lead to new issues developing, but so far there’s been nothing we can’t manage. Long may that continue!
Dudley enjoys a swim - hasn't made a full length yet but we'll keep training him.
Wellies look a good idea ... until you get stuck in the mud!
Some don't care about the mud. They just see a doorstep swimming pool.
Some of the best sunsets happen in rainy season.