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Love Living in Isan

26 March 2019

This is a minor post in contrast to the last one I published on the 22nd of March, which covered a week or more of activities. This story only covers a few days of small and even smaller events but as always I hope the detail of some of the topics I write about help give you an ever increasing knowledge and understanding of a real life in Isan. I continue to learn new things, none of which will rock the world, but they allow me to look at the everyday with increasingly educated eyes. Every time I discover something I didn’t know before it’s like another step in obtaining my degree in Isan Living, all of which I share with you.

Recycling

The village loudspeakers announced that we were more formally moving into an era of recycling and that households were required to have a three bin system for paper, glass and plastics. This is an odd announcement because Isan people are very good at recycling because there’s money in it. The place may be a bit basic and make-do but you will rarely see piles of rubbish and certainly never things that can be recycled at the side of the road or in villages. Anyway someone in the burearocracy had a bright idea to formal the separation of items and here we are.

In a western world that would require a rush to the nearest hardware store to buy plastic bins or something along those lines, but here it was a rush to the stokes of bamboo.

This traditional timber house now looks down on three recycling bins.

The Moo Ban 7/11

I recently came across a post on Facebook designed to be helpful for tourists promoting the advantages of Thailand’s extensive network of 7/11s. Now, I have nothing against 7/11s in themselves as they provide a useful and convenience service and I use them myself when I need basic farang supplies or when we are on a road trip.

What I worry about is that eventually 7/11 will start to creep out of the commercial areas of small towns and into the surrounding moo bans (villages) putting out of business what we would historically call the ‘corner shop’, a dead concept in our urban areas too these days.

I love these quirky local shops selling everything from beer to irrigation pipe. They are usually just tacked onto the front of the owner’s house and each village will have several, almost one in every street!

Instead of the commercially, pre-packaged and often over-sweetened food offered by 7/11, these local shops will stock food cooked by some of the villagers each morning using locally grown ingredients and distributed to these shops to on-sell. People on the way to their farms early morning will call into the store to pick up breakfast or lunch. All the money is retained within the community Small bags of vegetables or a few roasted frogs – whatever is being grown or caught in the fields find their way to these shops. They form part of the character of Isan and it will be a sad loss when progress overtakes them.

We were heading out to the farm so called into this local shop run by a lady who went to school with Gaun.

I was coming home before Gaun so we were taking the entire Eastmead vehicle fleet to the farm. Ice and soft drinks were what we were after. You can see the food on offer on the bench at the back. More commercial stuff in the front. Everything you might need as an Isan person inside.

Duk Dik’s annual bath

Duk Dik, the family dog who is well known to regular readers, is officially recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s scruffiest dog but this week he made his daily walk to the farm at the wrong time and met three ladies who were determined to make him look decent for a day.

Peng, Gaun and Puk, a niece. You might remember Puk from the local wedding I wrote about in the last post, where she was looking a little more formal. She’s much more comfortable in this dress-style!

Duk Dik is very docile and took it all pretty well. However, we didn’t see him for the rest of the day post-wash!

Who needs a swimming pool?

This was a funny happening because I had replied to a regular reader’s question just that very morning:

Frank: Does anyone else share your passion for early morning swims?

Tony: No, just me and the fish, swimming in the mornings or at any other time. I have seen Lud go in for a splash once but neither he nor Yuan can swim so I guess it’s not an attraction as it is with us. The heat just doesn’t seem to register. Gaun can doggie paddle and swam in the Land & House pool regularly when we lived in Chiang Mai pool but here she only gets wet fishing (net) or looking for snails 🙂

It was a very hot day and as Duk Dik had got wet the youngsters (and Gaun who was only there to keep an eye on Peng, who can’t swim) thought they might as well too. The high tech floatation devices had a work-out.

Did they enjoy it? The look on Peng’s face says it all.

This may look like Gaun is swimming but she has a small plastic kick-board underneath her, which is keeping her afloat.

This is such a typical Isan photo. Swimming must work up an appetite so sour mangos were cut, chilli powder and sugar added and there’s a complete snack to have poolside 🙂

Lunch for the farang – freshly made fried rice. Thanks Gaun.

It’s freezing here

I have been holding out on buying a freezer but took the plunge this week and a small 100 litre version has been added to the family. The freezer in our fridge is quite small because one third of the space is taken up with an ice maker. I find that for those of us who still enjoy ‘home-style’ cooking then some western supplies have to be bought in bulk, for example if we do a shop in Udon Thani or order online. The separate freezer will allow me to widen the scope of ingredients available for meals.

If you still want to eat western meals you will find Thailand as expensive for some of the basics as back ‘home’. 250 grams of butter is 120 baht here, although it does pop up on special but always over 100 baht. At Coles in Australia (a big supermarket chain) butter is 100 baht!  2 liters of milk 68 baht at Coles vs 92 baht here, Mainline cheese 125 baht vs 190 baht, and so it goes. Something like a lasagna, which I enjoy, is expensive because it is highly farang orientated involving beef (Thais largely don’t eat beef), cheese, milk, mustard, a splash of wine plus some for the cook etc. The benefit is that having made it there are a few meals left over and that’s where the new freezer comes in.

I have added a few photos of some of the online meats available here, which can be shipped pretty cheaply.

The freezette in our storeroom next to Peng’s treadmill.

For blog Isan farmer only

An update on farming activities I have recording in the last week, for those interested.

The broccoli has finally been ploughed into the ground. Yuan has been able to pick small heads way past what she was able to do last year so it has more than paid its way. All good things come to an end however.

Lud at work on the small tractor getting what was a paddy field ready to plant with vegetables. Hot, heavy work.

Because of the heat, which dries out the soil so much, Yuan felt that the long beans needed more moisture than was being provided with her afternoon hand watering. Here water is being pumped from the pond to flood the ex-paddy field holding the beans.

The tractor in one of its other roles, here  pumping water.

The long beans have taken off in the couple of days since the extra watering.

See the small beans sprouting from the flowerheads.

Sorry – I can’t help myself. All of this planted by hand by two people! Outstanding.

I thought that this was a bed that had been previously harvested and was full of weeds. Oh dear farmer Tony – you’re still learning aren’t you! This is actually morning glory in its early stages but a different type to the one I have shown before, see below. It’s a good thing I didn’t decide to help Yuan and Lud with a bit of farang ad-hoc weeding 🙂

This is the second type, which is a runner and has flowers like this. Happy to grow on dry land or wet…see photo on the right.

I posted this photo recently and it shows Yuan and Lud harvesting morning glory for the last Friday markets (I think). This one is growing in water.

Here’s that field Lud was ploughing ready for crops.

And here are some of those crops being prepared. These are onions that have been drying for a few weeks now. The stalks are being removed and the tops cut off ready for planting, which they were by the end of this day.

The farm pickup has recently had four new tyres and window tinting installed. Bought with a bank loan that has now been paid off. Note that in Thailand the front window can be tinted, which is illegal in Australia and I suspect elsewhere. If you are buying a new car here you usually get free window tinting in the package. Make sure you tell them NOT to tint the front windscreen if that’s your desire. Daytime its OK but at night a tinted windscreen is not a good idea.

Charcoal being made for the family on the other half of the farm. Wood is buried and then slow burned. Bear, Gaun’s older sister, got stung by a scorpion when moving wood for this fire. Very painful. Be careful around piles of timber here for snakes and scorpions.

This dog came with a neighbour who popped in for a chat. Young Labradors are the same here as everywhere – bouncy, friendly and always hungry! 

Back home 

A few updates of the garden but not overdone I hope. I mentioned before that I was going to write a post on gardening in Isan and that is slowly moving to the front of the queue so should make an appearance soon(ish).

The mix of red bougainvillea and the yellow of newly flowering Dok Khun is a beautiful combination. Dok Khun (Golden shower tree) flower every year over the Songkran period mid-April – Thai New Year.

I have recently extended the sprinkler system into the old garden and everything like these hedges are loving the attention. 

Our fourth anniversary of moving in happened two days ago on the 25th March. 

This photo was taken on 15 March 2015, 10 days before we moved. The garden had room for improvement.

Sawadee to all visitors (welcome).

Looking across the new garden to the house in the distance. You can just see the roof. The photo isn’t for the garden but…….

……for my only reference to nationalism, the Australian boxing kangaroo, which flies from our roof. Visible from the garden only. Funnily the pole was provided by ToT (Telecom of Thailand) for a microwave dish I once had for my broadband. When I changed to fibre optic the dish was never collected so I have used the pole for the flag. Thanks ToT.

I hope you enjoyed this edition. Please leave a comment. It makes my day.