I have got behind in publishing my small stories series as it has been a surprisingly busy time the last couple of months. “Busy” isn’t a word I was expecting to use too much after retiring to the backwaters of Isaan but there you go. I will focus on catching up on these little happenings and then I have a couple of larger single topic posts to write and publish to kick-start the blog again.

17 Nov 2016 – A Mix of Stories

Another mix of photos from this morning. Stage two of the rice harvest, problems with the cauliflowers, the difference between sticky and steamed rice, a wooden house update and essential farang survival meals – all major topics for the Thai enthusiast 🙂

With Yaun and Lud's rice cut the next stage is to bundle them using bamboo ties. In previous years Yuan and Lud would do this job but because they are so busy planting vegetables two locals have been employed to do the job.

With Yaun and Lud’s rice cut the next stage is to bundle them using bamboo ties.

In previous years Yuan and Lud would do this job but because they are so busy planting vegetables two locals have been employed to do the job.

These are surprisingly heavy so it's not as easy as it looks. They get paid 50 baht for 100 bundles or A$2.00. Yesterday the two of them completed 1,000 bundles so A$10.00 each for the day!

These are surprisingly heavy so it’s not as easy as it looks. They get paid 50 baht for 100 bundles or A$2.00. Yesterday the two of them completed 1,000 bundles so A$10.00 each for the day!

Caterpillars are chomping into the cauliflowers and broccoli despite the use of pesticide. Not much is organic here so do wash vegetables and fruits carefully when buying from local markets. Here Gaun, Yuan and Lud are hand picking bugs off the cauliflower and removing old and damaged leaves. Amazing individual attention and what a job :-(

Caterpillars are chomping into the cauliflowers and broccoli despite the use of pesticide.

Not much is organic here so do wash vegetables and fruits carefully when buying from local markets. Here Gaun, Yuan and Lud are hand picking bugs off the cauliflower and removing old and damaged leaves. Amazing individual attention and what a job 🙁

Broccoli - you can see the extent of the problem.

Broccoli – you can see the extent of the problem.

Cauliflowers on the right and broccoli on the left. The latter got hit by heavy rain and didn't like it as well as the bug infestation. It should recover OK. Who would be a farmer?

Cauliflowers on the right and broccoli on the left. The latter got hit by heavy rain and didn’t like it as well as the bug infestation. It should recover OK. Who would be a farmer?

My brother-in-law Tham cutting the remaining 2 paddies on their half of the farm.

My brother-in-law Tham cutting the remaining 2 paddies on their half of the farm.

Cut and bundled. You can see what I mean that from now until the middle of next year Thailand is hardly going to be the lush green paddies you expect from the photos.

Cut and bundled. You can see what I mean that from now until the middle of next year Thailand is hardly going to be the lush green paddies you expect from the photos.

My sister-in-law Paed.

My sister-in-law Paed.

Taking a break in the shade.

Taking a break in the shade.

Modelling with rice - it's an Isaan thing!

Modelling with rice – it’s an Isaan thing!

A bunch of Isaan flowers.

A bunch of Isaan flowers.

Sticky rice on the left and steamed rice on the right. Sticky rice is more yellow in colour and also has a more ridged external husk. Steamed rice is a little more refined to look at and is slightly whiter in colour.

Sticky rice on the left and steamed rice on the right. Sticky rice is more yellow in colour and also has a more ridged external husk. Steamed rice is a little more refined to look at and is slightly whiter in colour.

Steamed.

Steamed.

Sticky. So now you know - essential life knowledge :-) The rice when threshed will be stored with the husks on as you see here. It is only processed by the sack when needed.

Sticky. So now you know – essential life knowledge 🙂 The rice when threshed will be stored with the husks on as you see here. It is only processed by the sack when needed.

I called into the wooden house that is being moved to a neighbour's farm to see how they were progressing. This is as it was a week ago.

I called into the wooden house that is being moved to a neighbour’s farm to see how they were progressing. This is as it was a week ago.

And today.

And today.

Some of the timber is a bit rough after 40 years including some termite activity but most of it is in pretty good condition.

Some of the timber is a bit rough after 40 years including some termite activity but most of it is in pretty good condition.

Four workers taking it apart. 6,000 for the job or A$240.00. It will take them three days.

Four workers taking it apart. 6,000 for the job or A$240.00. It will take them three days.

I hope they remember how to put it back together again.

I hope they remember how to put it back together again.

And finally. Don't get to upset with me. If you do get a farang munchie urge and all else fails try these from 7/11 at 25 baht each. They have two croissants in them and they're not too bad. The cheese actually has a slight taste of cheese and they make a decent little snack.

And finally. Don’t get to upset with me.

If you do get a farang munchie urge and all else fails try these from 7/11 at 25 baht each. They have two croissants in them and they’re not too bad. The cheese actually has a slight taste of cheese and they make a decent little snack.

19 Nov 2016 – More Rice – Yay

Stage three of the rice harvest was happening today. Yuan, Lud and Gaun spent most of the day collecting the bundles of rice that had been prepared the last two days as covered in the previous post. They were moved to a central point for a threshing machine to process and bag soon.

Job done Yuan and Lud spent the next two hours hand watering the vegetables. A three o’clock start to the day yesterday to prepare for the Friday street markets. Farming at this level is a dedication 7 days a week and almost 365 days a year.

Yuan and Lud. That mini-tractor put to yet another use.

Yuan and Lud. That mini-tractor put to yet another use.

One load on its way.

One load on its way.

Gaun stacking the bundles.

Gaun stacking the bundles.

Sisters. It's like the old hay cart in our culture.

Sisters. It’s like the old hay cart in our culture.

Gaun and Yuan the bank robber.

Gaun and Yuan the bank robber.

The blue netting is to collect all the rice that falls off the bundles.

The blue netting is to collect all the rice that falls off the bundles.

Never ending. Hand watering in the late afternoon light.

Never ending. Hand watering in the late afternoon light.

20 Nov 2016 – Wat Pa Kittiyanusorn

Wat Pa Kittiyanusorn is another of those hidden temples that just never show up on sites like Trip Advisor (thank God). Situated outside the small nondescript town of Phu Wiang, a 30 minute drive from us, it has now joined a growing list of quality wats in our area that I have discovered.

We only heard about it because Noy, the guy who did such a wonderful job on our pebblecrete driveway, had spent a lot of time working there and recommended it.

This is a wat that’s had a lot of money poured into it and is still being developed. They must have a strong abbot in charge because the place is immaculate, which is unusual. It offers a variety of photo opportunities including the impressive reclining Buddha.

GPS 16.38 17′.52 N 102. 21 38″.78E for locals.

One of the side entries to this huge treed temple area. The Pa in the title = forest in Thai so you know part of what you're going to see.

One of the side entries to this huge treed temple area. The Pa in the title = forest in Thai so you know part of what you’re going to see.

The reclining Buddha still under construction. As always I am at a loss to understand where the money comes from for these massive construction efforts but thank those who have donated.

The reclining Buddha still under construction. As always I am at a loss to understand where the money comes from for these massive construction efforts but thank those who have donated.

The chedi, which is to the right on the main parking area. More work happening here.

The chedi, which is to the right on the main parking area. More work happening here.

Underneath the chedi (a chedi is a sort of spired building - pronounced JD in Thai). Lots of timber used in this wat to cover up the concrete.

Underneath the chedi (a chedi is a sort of spired building – pronounced JD in Thai). Lots of timber used in this wat to cover up the concrete.

The entry to the reclining Buddha area.

The entry to the reclining Buddha area.

A sort of cloister (a covered walkway) in the Christian tradition. Nicely done. How unusual to see concrete columns covered up in quality timber work.

A sort of cloister (a covered walkway) in the Christian tradition. Nicely done. How unusual to see concrete columns covered up in quality timber work.

The back of the Buddha. For those of you who followed the upgrade of our driveway you can spot Noy's work here.

The back of the Buddha. For those of you who followed the upgrade of our driveway you can spot Noy’s work here.

Love this one. Gaun and Peng.

Love this one. Gaun and Peng.

Great detail. This is a quality development.

Great detail. This is a quality development.

Now you get an idea of the size of the Buddha.

Now you get an idea of the size of the Buddha.

This guy is hand molding and carving a relief onto this wall. That's why that ugly blue tent is in place. If you see what he still has to cover on his right I am sure you'll meet him if you visit this wat in the next year or so!

This guy is hand molding and carving a relief onto this wall. That’s why that ugly blue tent is in place. If you see what he still has to cover on his right I am sure you’ll meet him if you visit this wat in the next year or so!

Nice job.

Nice job.

Under the Buddha is this sort of museum. Lots of glass cases filled with quality items. Their purpose is a mystery as there is no descriptions in either Thai or English.

Under the Buddha is this sort of museum. Lots of glass cases filled with quality items. Their purpose is a mystery as there is no descriptions in either Thai or English.

Those two reliefs lying down at the front have been covered with gold coins (0.25 of a baht or A$0.01) for good luck.

Those two reliefs lying down at the front have been covered with gold coins (0.25 of a baht or A$0.01) for good luck.

The frustration of places like this is that you walk out asking "what does it all mean?" You will probably never find out.

The frustration of places like this is that you walk out asking “what does it all mean?” You will probably never find out.

Daddy and son.

Daddy and son.

Another perfect weather day in Isaan helps make this photo.

Another perfect weather day in Isaan helps make this photo.

Selfies in action.

Selfies in action.

The view from the Buddha platform looking over the pond to the harvested rice paddies in the background.

The view from the Buddha platform looking over the pond to the harvested rice paddies in the background.

A fruit stall in the carpark was the final stop for this part of the day.

A fruit stall in the carpark was the final stop for this part of the day.

Food makes for a happy Thai.

Food makes for a happy Thai.

20 Nov 2016 – Threshing the Rice

The final stage in the rice harvest happened this afternoon after we returned from Wat Pa Kittiyanusorn, which I covered in the previous post.

The threshing machine turned up at the farm to process the rice that had been piled in the one spot yesterday by Gaun, Yuan and Lud. This is my fourth rice harvest and I have always found them to be a lighthearted occasion as the result of all that hard work, which started in June, pays off.

A super crop this year. Last year with the drought Yuan only got 30 bags of rice. This year 70 from the same planted area. She and Lud were happy farmers.

Step one was nothing to do with rice.

The workers spotted some plants growing that Lud was willing to share so it was plastic bags for everyone and an addition to several Isaan dinner tables tonight.
The mother of this guy in red had 14 children! Big families were the go in the last generation creating their own family workforce. Not so much these days.

Top of the range high tech rice harvester. As with many things Isaan if it does the job………..

This is top quality rice. A beautiful sight for the family (and me) who will be eating it for the next year. None of this will be sold.

Poured straight into these bags.

The residue slowly built into a small mountain. It is used as mulch for vegetables during the year.

Feeding the thresher.

One of those multi-purpose diesel engines on the front of this small truck. Take it out and it will plough the fields or pump water from your bore/well. 40 bags of rice loaded up.

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A sight you will see all over Isaan this month.

Best not to be downwind.

Gaun brings ice and a mattock. Yuan on the motorbike.

Part one. Payment for this operation is in the form of rice!

Each of the two trucks owners got one bag and the threshing machine operator took away three bags. The rice payments are combined and sold and the proceeds split between the team. I am not sure who is paying tax in Thailand as it all seems to be done like this or cash!

Isaan dogs seem to have very large tongues if you remember a similar photo I took of Duk Dik, the family mutt.

Now you see the purpose of the blue netting. Everything is collected and fed through the machine to extract the last grain of rice.

The management team.

That mountain has grown.

Payment in rice.

The rice outside the family home. We lived in the bedroom at the top left for five months while building our home. The rice hut on the right.

The final step.

Inside the family rice storage hut.

Gaun’s mama watches from a distance.

Gaun taking a call from the electrician we have been chasing who has now finished his harvest and can come to do some work at our place!

Lud pouring out some Isaan whisky for the spirits and good luck at the rice storage shed.

And leaves from trees that have a “good name” replace the ones put around the hut from last year.

Well done Lud.

22 Nov 2016 – Electric Razor Blades

Slightly odd topic but part of my life here so included.

Electric razor blade replacements rate alongside colour printer inks as one of life’s greatest rip offs.

Trying to find replacements inside Thailand is impossible (bring some with you or get friends to bring when they visit) and you end up relying on shipping them in from eBay (most vendors won’t ship to Thailand) or Amazon (very expensive) and hoping they get delivered and not hit with 100% import tax.

It is a mystery why I can buy a whole new razor for $6.00 more than the blades. It’s like saying buying a new car is only 12% more than replacing the tyres (sorry the public servant coming out in me).

Don’t even get me started on printer ink! Is there anyone out there actually buying the genuine product? I read about one of the manufacturers of colour printers locking people into their genuine replacements and causing a big stir online. Back to the car comparison it would be like buying a Honda and only being able to fit Honda supplied tyres.

I could just grow a beard. I did ask Gaun once if I should and she said “Yes. I like Santa Claus”. Needless to say a white beard hasn’t yet made an appearance in our house.

22 Nov 2016 – Four Even Smaller Stories

Four separate small stories in this entry. Firstly I thought I would show you the current state of the wooden house that will be re-built on land outside the village, if they remember how to put it back together (originally photographed in the first story in this post). We visited a small guesthouse about 20 km from Si Bun Ruang called Nuch’s Apple Guest House to check it out on behalf of friends who are staying there January for a few days. Rice is being dried on the side of the road – why?……..and foraging Isaan-style.

This looked like value for money when it was a house. Less so now! Potential is the word that springs to mind.

I presume someone knows how to reassemble all of this to look like the one they dismantled. Time will tell.

Even the concrete posts were saved.

Rice drying on the side of the road. Steamed rice at the front (whites looking) and sticky rice the more yellow colour at the middle and back.

Gaun tells me that if a machine is used to harvest the rice it will often be dried as it hasn’t been cut and left to dry in for a few days before threshing like the rice at the family farm. Also some of the paddies in this area still have water in them from the late rains so even if harvested by hand the rice would be damp.

Nuch’s Apple Guest House.

Nuch is a lovely lady who speaks excellent English. Married to a Swiss man as you might guess. They are on most of the booking sites such as this one HERE

Only three rooms so it will never be crowded.

A proper bed, not just a mattress on a concrete slab, and a smallish but totally adequate bedroom. Immaculately maintained, which is something you rarely see in accomodation in Isaan. It looks brand new.

Everything you would need.

And another first – a shower that doesn’t drench the entire bathroom. So simple to do but so rarely seen. The shower base is actually lower than the rest. A Swiss influence?

Nice to see somewhere to put bathroom things. How many times do you get a washbasin like that and that’s it! Everything ends up on the floor.

A very pleasant pool area at the back.

Gaun and Nuch.

We stopped to take a couple of photos on the way back from the guesthouse and Gaun noticed these fruit on the ground. Yuan likes them and they go well with a pappaya salad evidently. There’s a meal in every tree and shrub in Isaan.

The reason we had stopped was to capture the difference between the local lake in the dry season – July 2016 here.

And post-wet season here. This is where the rockets are fired at a festival called Bun Bang Fai, which you can read about HERE

22 Nov 2016 – The ice Cream Man

The arrival of the ice cream “truck” brought with it Phu, my little mate from down the road. At 20 cents an ice cream it is easy to buy two, one for him and one for a friend back home. The smile is worth the modest outlay 😉

Oh the choice.

Often Gaun’s gardening gear is what she has been out in plus boots! Very fashionable.

Phu returning home the easy way.

Cute kid. The wife’s OK too.

Like the first sip of a Sang Som and coke in the evening for me that first bite of an ice cream for Phu is what life is all about!

26 Nov 2016 – Another Farm and Ducks

A very enjoyable morning being shown around a small local farm by Mark, an English teacher in Si Bun Ruang. We have met Mark a few times, firstly when he did some translation work for me, then he tutored Peng when his English school first opened in Si Bun Ruang and also we know Mark’s family through the wat we regularly visit called Wat Pa Silawa.

Today was an opportunity to see something a little different because as well as the the obligatory rice production Mark’s farm specialises in producing duck eggs, something I have never tried, as well as a few other sidelines.

We met at Mark’s mother’s shop in central Si Bun Ruang selling everything you would ever need related to Buddhist temple donations.

Pre-packaged donations to give to monks with everyday necessities.

The farm was very close to Nuch’s Apple Guest House, a place I covered in the last story, about 18km from Si Bun Ruang town.

This floating raft was the first thing I spotted. It only caught my attention because I am in the process of designing one to go on the family pond at the farm.
The 600 fish we stocked the pond with are getting bigger I have this vision of dropping a line into the water (or a net – Isaan style) and catching lunch. It has to be done from a boat doesn’t it.

Mark’s grandma has taken advantage of the space between rice paddies to plant up with veggies. I haven’t seen it done this way before.

Mark, Peng, me and Mark’s dad.

As with everywhere the rice harvest is either underway or finished. The few bags on the right are steamed rice…….

…..and this is the sticky rice! Most Isaan meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner are combined with sticky rice not steamed, which accounts for the disparity in quantities between the varieties being stored.

My Thai family have only planted steamed rice this year for my consumption, as I don’t eat much sticky rice, plus Lud my brother-in-law has some occasionally.

Duck manure. 30 baht a bag in case you wanted to bring an extra suitcase over when you visit.

The variation in size between a duck and goose eggs.

Quite a output.

The ducks and geese enjoy the sunshine on the edge of the pond, which reminded me of similar scenes of farang chasing the sun on the beaches of Phuket. However these feathered sun worshippers are a lot more attractive than many of the farang I spotted 🙂

A mix of livestock. All in very good condition.

A bloke showing off of course.

Who’s a handsome boy then. Whether you hang on the left or right takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a turkey 😉

Mark’s dad. A lovely bloke.

Boar.

What are you looking at……..

Ah. Like puppies if only we could genetically engineer them to stay like that…….the time will come I am sure.

One for the duck fans out there.

Very similar to commuters heading to work.

They are all look like they’re on a mission don’t they. Possibilities for a zombie duck movie from Hollywood, which seems to be about the only variation on the theme they haven’t made so far. Has Marvel Comics done ducks? If so it will definitely be in the making “Iron Duck” one, two and three.

Although there are 1,000 ducks in a small area they all looked pretty OK and are obviously well looked after as you can see.

The main laying area.

Fighting cocks. You see these cages a lot in rural Isaan.

Gaun and Peng feeding the fish. Also an Isaan pastime. A decent sized pond. Over twice the size of the one on the family farm. I might need to extend once the boat is launched!

One of my very few vices (true!) – coffee.

Unusual to see a coffee plant in this part of the world. My coffee beans are shipped in from Chiang Mai where the cooler climate and hillier landscape makes coffee a natural fit. Coffee was one of the crops introduced by the Thai royal family in their program of projects to encourage the switch from opium to alternative cash crops. Never having been a big consumer of opium I appreciate their efforts every morning 🙂 You can find more details in my “Recommendations” tab HERE.

I had to take this photo because that’s the ice cream man heading out into the country to try and sell to the many farm workers harvesting rice. As I keep saying if you sit still for long enough everything you will ever need will pass you by at some stage.

And finally a fruit I recognised even though I had to come home to remind myself of the name.

This is Noni, as discovered on a recent trip we did to a city in the north called Nan, which you can read about HERE. Described as:

“Polynesian healers have used Noni fruits for thousands of years to help treat a variety of health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, aches, pains, burns, arthritis, inflammation, tumours, the effects of ageing, and parasitic, viral, and bacterial infections. Ancient healing manuscripts cite the fruit as a primary ingredient in natural healing formulations. Today, fruit preparations are sold as juice, in dried “fruit-leather” form, and as a dry extract in capsules.”

And of course we are now the proud owners of 30 of Mark’s duck eggs. 120 baht or A$4.80 = $1.90 a dozen!

Thank you Mark and dad for a real Isaan farm experience. We have been invited back for a fish lunch on the raft! Not to be missed.

Lots more to come so keep an eye on the blog for updates that will take us into 2017 – finally!

Thanks for reading.