The View from the Balcony
Despite our lack of action updating the blog we can see people still visit and read about what we do. Thank you.
In recent visits to the city a few people have also said they enjoyed reading about country life. Again, thank you.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why there hasn’t been a post for a few months because, as is often the case, there's more than one reason for the lack of writing. It can be different reasons at different times too, and not really worth getting into.
But here we are at the end of February already, and the view from the balcony is pretty good.
It’s been a busy few months for everyone.
We’ve had family visit – some returning home for new year, other visiting from afar for the first time.
Vegetable season has been good, and mother-in-law Yai Ma has been earning a few baht on the side with daily sales of lettuce, eggplant, spring onions, and whatever else she can grow. We are just coming into fruit season and if last year was the year of our mango trees, this year we’ll have enough papaya to feed an army. Papaya isn’t known for it’s difficulty to grow, but I’m still amazed at how trees no taller than four foot tall support a dozen large heavy fruits.
Yai Ma's vegetable patch has been earning her some extra income selling 200 baht of vegetables a day to the village
71 years old and a unique sense of fashion, Yai Ma works hard in her garden every day.
We’ve harvested rice, cut sugar cane, cared for our cassava, and seen our pond almost dry out. The landscape often changes quickly although nothing ever seems to happen.
One of our dog walks takes us down to the village pier next to Lampao Dam, about 1.5 km from us. Since September it’s been impossible to get there because the dam was so high after a heavy monsoon season, and the road just reappeared recently after I’d been in Bangkok for a week. I knew that the land close to the dam’s edge had no title deeds, and now I understand why.
Much of the land was still farmed and a lot of people lost rice crops weeks before they were due to be harvested and families lost a key source of food for the year. Sense prevails though, and you see the real value of living in a community that is used to helping each other out, as everyone hands over some of their own bags of new rice to compensate.
Our empty rice fields have been occupied by cow and buffalo belonging to our neighbours. They eat the rice stalks and leave some natural fertilizer which is good, but the fields will lie empty until rice is planted again after rains start in April/May. That leaves the land unused for six months – that shouldn’t be the case next year as we’ll plant something during the ‘dead’ period, although we haven’t decided what yet.
Rice harvest is a family affair and many hands make light work.
Hundreds of rai of sugar cane being cut within a short period of time also drastically changes the landscape. The cane grows to about 4 metres high, so it opens up views of the surroundings. You can see our house when it is otherwise obscured, for one.
Hand cut sugar cane tied with leaves. Without machinery its a long and laborious job. This cane isn't burned.
Burning sugar cane is dramatic, noisy and in this case, hot, as it was near our house.
Burned sugar cane the day after. The ash falls like black snow for miles around.
The sugar cane also gets burned and this has a lot of knock-on effects for other people around Thailand as much of the country burns at the same time. This contributes to poor air quality, and farmers are accused of laziness. Burning shouldn’t happen, that’s for sure – but the solution is not one farmers can resolve by themselves. Simply cutting, weighing and selling sugar cane is a hugely complex logistical operation within a short timeframe. Perhaps that’s for another blog.