Isan Village Life
I would like to post big topics that attract hundreds of readers to the blog. The tourist sites of Thailand for example, the best beaches or exciting new eating places. The reality is that my stories are all based around my everyday events and none of the more glamorous aspects to life in Thailand seem to make an appearance. Oh well, these small happenings still have their own character – enjoy.
My ego has been given a boost today as Gaun has trimmed the hedge she planted for me at the farm. When I die this is by far a better memorial than the concrete alternatives.
There are few places I enjoy more than a morning coffee on the family farm. It’s why I have no great incentive to travel. What resort can match this and it’s free! No TM30 required either after a visit If you don’t know what a TM30 joke is and are an expat or even a visitor here you should read my post on the topic HERE.
Isan Grace our floating sala.
Gaun has been upgrading the landscaping in the background, which I will cover on my ‘Thailand Tropical Garden’ page shortly. I am in work clothes if you were thinking that my standards are slipping.
Or another option on this newly Gaun created bench overlooking her farm garden.
The master gardener herself. Everything you see was planted Jan/Feb this year.
It is rare to see Gaun sitting. Worth a photo in itself.
I came across this photo on Peng’s (my stepdaughter) FB timeline, which I really like. Many of you are her friends so will have seen the original already. I have heavily edited it in Lightroom to make it almost stylistic and although it is only a camera photo I think it has caught a lovely moment. Such a sweet girl.
Feeding spirits continued today with offerings to ancestors being made at temples across Thailand. The family were up early to pay their respects at the moo ban wat.
The lady on the far right lost her husband in a terrible accident recently so had a particular connection to the day. From left to right, a neighbour, Bear, Yuan and Gaun of course.
The recent rains have encouraged growth and this line of plants alongside the pond are looking healthy.
Yuan hasn’t been well the last ten days and in a typical Isan holistic approach she made a doctor’s appointment and then today we fed the spirits (Gaun calls them ghosts) at the farm in case they were upset….read on.
It was suggested that there might be two reasons the farm spirits were upset and making Yuan sick. The first was the work around splitting up the farm between the children. It turns out no one informed the spirits this was happening! The other possibility was that Yuan and Lud’s son Game had built a small sala (hut) on the farm and no advance notice was given of this event either. Here the family heads off to a San Phra Phum, a spirit house, set in the trees on Gaun’s land for a ceremony and to feed the spirits (of course).
This San Phra Phum is the one for the whole farm. The lady at the back is called Bun, and she is leading the ceremony.
Yuan and Lud.
Pouring some Lao Khao (Isan ‘whisky’) onto the ground for the ghosts. You will often see this happen in everyday life when a new bottle is opened not just on an occasion like this.
Food, rice, cigarettes, chewing tobacco (for the lady spirits) and drink. That ladder was built for the occasion to help the spirits get to the offerings! Lovely. There’s a whole chicken there, which the young boy who’s called Phum (named after the province Chaiyaphum), was pretty upset about going to waste as he hadn’t had breakfast 🙂
With the farm spirits advised and fed it was time to tell them about Game’s new structure, which is at the end of this path next to the motorbike.
Another batch of food and offerings made.
Bun and Yuan asking the spirits to accept the new sala and offerings. Particular spirits can be called in by name. The idea is that even if they’re not around other spirits can pass on the message that food is waiting.
A lot of effort has gone into this ceremony. Soup, main course and dessert.
And finally larb, a minced meat made from beef in this case prepared especially for Yuan’s father, who evidently enjoyed it, plus sour chicken and bamboo. A separate offering to him. He died when Yuan was 3 years old.
Papa’s meal being presented.
Some readers may think this is all silly superstition however, I love the connection between Isan people and their spirits, usually ancestors, which I think may reflect their Chinese origins. Who of us hasn’t offered flowers to a grave site, a candle for a deceased relative on an anniversary or a prayer to some invisible ‘spirit’ in whatever faith we follow? No different here and I hope that it is reflected in good health for one of the nicest people you will ever meet – Yuan.
Needless to say there was plenty of food left over and no one living will go home hungry
Coming back from shopping in Si Bun Ruang this morning we passed a wall being built using concrete poured into formwork, rather than what is more often used which is concrete blocks laid between columns and then rendered/plastered. I have been wanting to knock down the wall at the front of our new tropical garden land and replace it with something more in line with what we already have on our original land. At 3,000 baht for 2.5 metres it looks like a reasonable option. We have 20 metres to cover.
I either haven’t noticed or haven’t seen this technique being used to build a wall here before. The 2.5 mtr sections can be poured in two batches and no rendering/plastering is required. A quicker process I would think than the normal block walls. As long as the supporting columns were dug in and concreted to a high standard I don’t see any problems with this method. Comments????
Painted up with some lights on it would be just fine.
Our existing wall on the right and the new land with its current unsightly wall and temporary fencing on the left. I want a solid wall this time so although it won’t match the existing I don’t think that’s a problem.
We haven’t built a new wall so far, partly because of finances but partly because we were using this entrance to have gravel, sand and bricks delivered while we developed the tropical garden area. That activity has mostly finished now. You can see why we want a new one!
A typical Thai wall. Many of them lean like this after a few years because they are built for show with no thought for the long term. This one will eventually fall over. Well past its use-by date!
The lady who runs the wall business for any locals interested.
Gaun started on this feature late last week but has since expanded on her concept sometime early this morning between delivering her mama to the farm at 5:00 am and me getting up at 8:00! The plantings are based on a tree trunk that’s been waiting for its moment of fame for a few months now. Everything you see is taken from cuttings.
What was a bare patch of weeds has been turned into this in a couple of days.
Gaun’s creativity and constant hard work still amazes me after over six years of living with her.
Now I would have just had the pot upright with a plant in the top but Gaun has made this look like a plant ‘waterfall’. These green glazed pots are old ‘fish dead long time’ (an Isan fermented fish sauce) containers and because plastic has taken over you can pick them up for free. Almost every house has a few lying around unused. Ask and you will receive 🙂
More additions being added later (it must be later because I am awake) this morning taken from farm cuttings.
And the view looking the other way. More work to be done to fill in the back of this area.
You are probably bored of reading this….but there aren’t too many farm in Isan that look like this. I am blessed to be able to enjoy Gaun’s green fingers every day. BTW I laid the paths.
The farm washing vegetable area with accessories!
The next challenge is to build proper steps here. Watch this space.
The adjacent garden area at the farm.
I am not going to make this an daily update but enough new progress was made on the new farm garden feature this morning to justify a follow-on from yesterday’s post. More plants, rocks, gravel and water feature have been added and the area looks almost complete.
At a total cost of well under 1,000 baht (A$44.00) it shows that you don’t need a lot of money to create something unique and interesting.
From bare earth to this is a few days.
That bed on the left has almost been taken back to bare earth. It will be fine and the copperleaf will be filling in the space in a few weeks
Ten days after pruning the bare shoots are sprouting new leaves.That bed on the left has almost been taken back to bare earth. It will be fine and the copperleaf will be filling in the space in a few weeks
Almost impossible to kill.
And the cuttings have just been stuck in the ground next to the entrance at the farm, shown here on the far right. Some won’t make it but most will.
Looks hopeless doesn’t it. As long as they get water they will be just fine.
Copperleaf are great because you can determine what size you want them to grow. This is one between those two dragon tongue plants at the back against the wall. Mostly green leafed because this is a shady area. They turn copper if in the sun. They will grow well in either condition.
A larger version. We have left this one to grow to about three metres. Copper coloured because it is in the open. Quite a thick screening plant if planted in bulk like here.
Another small version in a pot. It gets a little sunlight so the leaves are a mixed colour.
Two metres high here. Vigorous growers so you are constantly cutting them back.
And the final example on the left. Cheap to buy at garden centres and then take cuttings and you’ll never buy again.
Thanks for reading.