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Home work

Before we get into part two of 2021, which we will do, we’ve been quite busy at the beginning of 2022, so I thought a little update is in order as writing about the second half of our year gives me the fear as it could take a while to write. An awful lot happened.

We may not set the same blistering piece as we did last year in 2022, but we definitely have a long list of work and tasks to get through and there’s no time to tackle them like the present.

If you remember back when we wrote about our plans, one of the things we wanted to do was to build a house for Hana‘s mum. Since we built our house she’s been living with us, but as she gave us the land to build and farm on, we think it’s only fair that she gets a little place of her own.

Work began at the end of last week to clear zone B. If you can remember, that’s where we plan to begin planting vegetables in greater volume and build her house. Plans have changed a little and we’ve moved the site of the house to be closer to the driveway, which means the new place will benefit from the upgraded water supply and we can easily upgrade the electricity supply.

She’s asked for something small and simple and, to be honest, she spends very little time indoors from 6am until after dark. She spends most of her time working in the garden, tending and watering her vegetables and finding new things to plant, or out hunting for crickets or fish in the fields. At dusk, around 6-7pm, she builds a small fire to cook dinner, and then comes into our house to sleep.

She’s joined every day by Mee, her sister. Both are in their 70s, and they are both superheroes. We wouldn’t have been able to do as much as we have without them.

Mee and Ma - our Isaan Superheroes

As an aside, Ma, Hana’s mum, often comes to my rescue when I’m out walking in the morning – although she doesn’t know it.

Locals rarely see anyone walking unless it’s with their cows or buffalos. When they see a farang (foreigner) walking along country roads and lanes just as the sun comes up, they tend to get a bit of a surprise.

“Why are you walking?” and “where do you come from?” tend to be the most common questions. Sometimes I manage to explain, sometimes, between a mix of their strong north-eastern accent, and my Scots-Thai accent, one of us, sometimes both, struggle to understand.

The easiest solution is to announce: ‘I’m married to Yai Ma’s daughter’, after which a large, knowing smile appears and rapid conversation begins. Most of it passes me by but I can catch a few words from time to time. But my acceptance at having a local ‘approver’ is complete.

Ma and Mee’s house will be small, but self-contained. As they know everyone in the local neighbourhood we figure they’ll have plenty of visitors, so we’ve made sure there’s a big spacious balcony so where everyone can chat, grab a snooze, prepare food, and have the odd game of cards. There’s an undercover cooking area where she can continue to make the most perfect grilled pork, nam prik (chili dip) and sticky rice. A favourite of mine.

And they’ll also be directly in the extended garden patch, so they can work or rest as much as they like. Ma has been raving about the soil in her patch, and that’s it’s better quality than we have around our house, so we’re hopeful of a bountiful return.

The clock is now ticking as we need to get it planted before rainy season begins, otherwise all the healthy topsoil will wash away, and we need to get control of where the water flows to prevent issues of land erosion around our own house.

Building has been going well and hopefully the new place will be ready by early February.

That leaves a spare room in our house which will be used by visiting friends – if anyone manages to make the long trip here – and we’ve also listed it on Airbnb. That might provide us with a little extra income from time to time, but Kalasin doesn’t attract many tourists so our expectations aren’t high. We listed it at the end of last year to see if there was any interest and we’ve had a couple of enquiries, so it might work out.

The small house isn’t the only thing being built at the beginning of the year as we are testing a few One Tree Farm products. While we haven’t grown anything of note in the garden yet, Hana has been busy baking. In recent months I’ve become the CTO of the One Tree Farm – the Chief Tasting Officer – as she perfects a few different recipes. I went to Bangkok before Christmas and took a jar of various cookies with me to the office. I came back with an order for 25 bags, so since then we’ve out together some basic branded packaging just to get a little bit of branding, and hopefully make repeat orders easier.

The One Tree Farm cookie packaging

... and the cookies.

Hana did a bit more promotion to friends and by the end of this weekend she’ll have sold over 50 bags in total. We have choc chunk chip, cranberry and oat, and golden raisin. Let’s see how it goes, but we have a few plans to expand what can be made, and if orders remain consistently good, we can move out of the house kitchen and set up something more suited to larger volume in the recently built workroom. Exciting times ahead!

Now that the water system is set-up, she has a bit more time to do other things, and as we move forward being able to refine as much labour and time intensive work as possible is the only way we’ll make the time to do the things that we want.

The plants and trees are also benefitting from getting a better water supply, and you can see a different in the area that has been finished compared to other areas.

Over Christmas we also found another specialty product. Well one that will be a hit with visitors at least.

The One Tree Farm Mosquito.

Nope, it’s not what you might think. It’s a blend of our super-fresh and super-refreshing mint, lime, soda, rum and a name that comes from Hana mis-hearing the drink’s name when we first started going out 13 years ago.

It’s our version of a Mojito, and it’s got a much nicer bite. They kept us well-refreshed throughout the festive season.

We’ve also been regularly using coriander, chilis, and other herbs growing in the garden for a while, and more recently lettuce, peas in the pod, and corn have been picked. We are slowly getting to use our own food in our meals. It reminds me of being a kid and going out to my gran’s garden, so hopefully we have plenty more to come.

Perhaps the next post should take a walk round the garden and see what we have been growing – both for food and for beauty.

The difference from six months ago is pretty amazing. From a dusty patch of land in July we’ve made good progress. Until next time!

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