Google has all the answers, we are told, and we've been able to learn a ton of stuff online. But we've also turned to books for deeper knowledge, as online articles and videos are usually kept quite short due to our supposedly limited attention spans.
One of our reasons for moving is also to spend less time behind screens. Between work and personal lives pretty much my whole day is spent looking at a screen. Even now, writing this. But that's a different story. I thought I'd share a few sources of inspiration and guidance we've been referring to over the last 9 months or so, and we'll start with books.
There are too many books on the subject of small-scale farming! This makes it hard to know what's what, which makes choosing the right one a bit of a nightmare. Bill Mollison is generally regarded as the father of permaculture, and as far as I can see a god to modern day hippies ;) His 'bible' is the imaginatively titled Introduction to Permaculture but it was hard to get hold of, and seemed to be largely theoretical. In the end I chose to look into Sepp Holzer's even more imaginatively named "Permaculture'. It claims to be 'A practical guide to small-scale, integrative farming and gardening', and so far, it is. Almost every page has been marked so far as there is a great little nugget of useful info, although this could also be down to the fact that I know nothing, so everything's useful. German speakers have a reputation for being direct and getting straight to the point, and this is one of the reasons I like Holzer's style. I've seen some other books and they talk too much about the culture and preferences of the writer, rather than permaculture.
But Holzer's expertise is in a temperate climate 1500m up a mountain. You couldn't get much further removed from hot, dusty and tropical north-east Thailand, but it still has enough useful advice. Fortunately he's also written 'Desert or Paradise'. As you can probably guess it's about farming in hotter and drier climates, often with poor soil, and how you can set up your land to manage water better. This could become our 'bible', as this is exactly the issue we face. I'm sure my neighbours will have tried and tested solutions of their own, but it's also good to have a resource I can easily understand. Like his other book, this is full of practical tips that can I think we can easily adopt and adapt.
You'll see there is third book in our collection. It's got really nice pictures.
But it also has case studies of more than a dozen US farms of up to 5 acres, including layouts, water management tips, insights about crop care and other useful info. It's not as in-depth as the others but it's really useful.
YouTube has also been a great resource and there are quite a few Thai language videos talking about the type of farming we aspire to. This'll also be useful when we move, as it my help explain my daft ideas to my brother-in-law and the neighbours.
Last June/July, when we started thinking about making this move, this channel gave me the reason to believe it was possible. While in different circumstances, Leigh and Toon, a Thai-English couple based in another province of Thailand, have documented the past few years of successes and failures on their land. It's a great source of info and has already helped us avoid mistakes when we drilled for water, and we'll keep referring to it when we need to.
It's also the first time I've found Facebook truly useful, other than for keeping in touch with a bunch of people. We've joined a couple of 'Expat in Isaan*', and 'farming in Isaan' groups and people have been very welcoming and offer extremely useful advice, with the objective of making sure others don't repeat their mistakes. A lot of the members live relatively near where we will be, which means within 2-3 hours drive, so that's also reassuring.
*Just to be clear Isaan is the name for north-east Thailand and the people of the region. It's closely connected to Laos and the food and language are distinctive from Thailand. For example, a Bangkokian visiting Isaan may have the same communications issues as an Englishman visiting Glasgow.
Every plan needs an aim. I came across this video this morning and it shows exactly what we are aiming for - and it's not a short term goal. If we can get close to this abundance of growth and greenery in the next 3-5 years we'll be over the moon.
This has been created by a lot of people over a long period of time and is really impressive, but you need to aim for something big, right?
That's all for now... back to my books.