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The Rain Drain

One of the most important things we’ll need to do on our land is harvest water. We need to keep it on the land for as long as possible to keep our plants well-nourished and maintain good healthy soil.

Thailand’s seasons make this crucial. In the north-east the summers are blisteringly hot and extremely dry. The monsoon season can be blisteringly hot but very, very wet.

Not being on the land at the moment is really frustrating as it robs us of the chance to do something very important: observe. See what is happening to the land and how it changes through the seasons, but most importantly just now, watch how water behaves during and after rainfall. Where does it flow? Where does it collect? Does it move soil when it flows? Where can we capture and hold the water?

That’s why I was really happy when the builders sent these next photos. They were taken to show why they’ve stopped working but they illustrate quite clearly where water is running.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying, in vain, to plan how we will set out our farm. Will we create ponds around the land for easy water distribution? Should we dig swales, canal-like structures that hold water? It’s been really hard to figure out what to do. We want to keep it as close to our the water naturally behaves without re-engineering the whole land, and that’s clearly not easy to do when you can‘t observe.

These photos have helped build a better picture.

Gravity plays its part and our house is down-slope. Probably a mistake not to put it on the highest area of the land but I realised this just a little bit too late, so we are where we are.

But at the end of the land on the west, just where our single eucalyptus tree stands, there is a ridge that dips into an old rice paddy. We’ve been thinking about digging a pond here, firstly to hold water, but also to stock fish.

The brother-in-law and his wife, who farm the land next to us, have made a decent little business the last few years selling dried fish. They use the local dam to catch fish, so having a regular supply would help them out. We could also sell at the local markets, and most importantly, have our own supply of fresh fish.

As expected, all of our water finds it’s way down to this area and below the level of the house. A simple channel would take it into our yet-to-be-built pond.

But a puddle also forms at the east end of the house, which happens to be at the driveway, so creating a 5m x 5m pond might be worth doing here, as well as raising the road. We could do this using the soil we dig out of the pond.

The main concern about making ponds close to the house is creating a mosquito haven.

More planning and thinking needs to be done, but it‘s been good to see a little more of what to expect.

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