Happy Days in Isan

21 February 2019

Not a lot to report happening over the last few days, which is often a fact of life here and most other places come to that. Life drifts by and my daily schedule such as it is doesn’t make for publishable news! I ended up this morning with a few new photos, so I thought that I would share those just to keep this aspect of the blog ticking along. 

It’s Ant Egg Season

With the big Friday street markets happening tomorrow Yuan is looking for ways to maximise her income for the afternoon. Being February it’s ant egg season and you’ll see people all over rural Isan carrying long bamboo poles. This morning it was our garden’s turn to contribute.

The ants that produce these eggs are the large orange ones and their nests are made in trees by glueing together leaves, usually in mango trees. The poles have a basket on the end and the nests are broken open and ants plus eggs collected.

Here are two nests, which in this case made from dried leaves. Normally they are still alive.

It ended up that the timing was a bit off as many of the ants had hatched and grown wings ready to leave the nest presumably. Needless to say not all was lost because Isan people buy the ants themselves to fry up for a tasty dinner.

The egg on the right is the Isan ‘caviar’ sold for 100 baht for 3 small spoonfuls. Usually added to a soup. The egg on the left is further advanced and has started to form wings. I learn all this stuff from Gaun who knows how interested I am in the detail and is pleased to share her knowledge, which I pass onto you!

Here Yuan and Lud chase and collect the ants themselves for sale tomorrow. The white coloured bits are the eggs. Two for one!

Mama walked from the family home at the end of the street on the left to watch the action. This is the old wall outside our tropical garden. It will be replaced one day to match the one in the top header photo.

And a neighbour stopped to see what the catch looked like. People always have time to discuss anything to do with food. It’s a national pastime.

A mix of ants, some with wings, and eggs.

Mostly eggs at this stage.

Mama heads into the garden to see what’s new. It’s been a few months since she was here last. Mostly she does an assessment of things to eat. Goodness knows what she makes of the rest of it. All show and no go!

Harvesting ant eggs has only taken off big time more recently because there’s good money to be made. People who have access to the right treed environment can make several thousand baht each market in season. 

I do wonder whether the supply will keep up if everyone robs too many of the nests. Mind you in our garden, which Yuan and Lud were harvesting this morning, we had ten nests in the trees so not a problem so far. 

And yes, the ants do take exception to this whole procedure and they do bite. Lud and Yuan get covered in them and just brush them off. However, unless your allergic to them, the bite is only that and it doesn’t get tickly or infected like I used to find happened with the red fire ants for example. I seem to have adapted to those now, not that I get bitten often!

And it’s Election Season too.

With an election finally promised next month the candidates have kitted out every second pickup in Isan with loudspeakers and are making the rounds.

This guy was a local government official (an ex-Or Bor Tor for locals, which may account for the large house) and is now standing for election. These trucks are very loud and the main theme seems to be advertising the tick-a-box voting number. Bur sip song in this case (number twelve). 

Or if you prefer Bur gow (number nine). He must be happy because nine is a lucky number in Thailand.

Gardening in Thailand

Just a heads up that I am putting together a post on gardening in Thailand, which I hope will be interesting not just for outsiders who enjoy that sort of thing but in a practical sense by those living here or planning to do so.

It won’t be a technical read (no Latin names) but I thought that a few gardening tips along the lines of the things that have worked for us and pointers to the plants that work well in our gardens with photos might be helpful. I am still learning all the time as our gardens develop, having never lived in a tropical environment before, so I can totally relate to the newness of it all for first timers like me.

Keep an eye out for that.

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Just as an example this terrific shade tree in the ‘summer’ loses almost all its leaves in the Isan cool season. The green in this photo is an illusion caused by the mango trees in the background (and what a continual mess they make over this season – more on that later)

But when it does decide to replace the leaves as the weather heats up in February it happens super quickly. This photo taken less than three weeks after the one on the left. 

And finally:

Hard at work for my readers as always. Low twenties early morning so ideal for an outside breakfast. Warming up to high thirties during the day so expect more computer related activity the hotter it gets 🙂

With my sub-editor.