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Soil, Chillies and Onions

A day in rural Isaan

My life here is largely made up of small observations, which apeals to a small group of enthusiastic readers. This post is another example of my philospophy for Isaan living, which gets me involved and contributing to family life here, even if only in a minor way.

Yuan and Lud have been weeding and thinning the last few days on the only vegetable beds in operation ATM. Meanwhile on the farm next door, sister Bear and husband Tham are in the process of filling in a small pond to create more field area. We also headed to Udon Thani yesterday afternoon to collect Gaun’s older sister Yurt, stopping off on the way to pick up a load of dried onions and newly picked chillies.

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Building in Thailand eBook

When my wife and I bought some land in Isaan, which is a region in the north east of Thailand, and then started to build our house I wanted to record the daily events of construction life. For twenty six weeks I wrote a weekly blog update about all the aspects of the build and included as much detail as possible for others who might be thinking of going down the same path. I was surprised by the number of readers I attracted as a result of writing on this subject, many of whom followed the entire build from beginning to end. 

Based on this continued interest I thought I would revisit my original words and bring them all together under the one heading in the form of an eBook. Included in this process has been some extensive updating and expansion of many of the original posts and the addition of the many COMMENTS, which are designed to expand your knowledge and save you time or money or both!

Read more HERE and find out how to obtain the eBook.

I am loving your book – just on my second read at the moment, to make sure that I didn’t miss anything first time around (which actually it turns out I did!).  

Just a note of thanks at this point ……. I am a fairly methodical sort of bloke, but there are many issues which your book highlights which I just wouldn’t have thought about – or if I had, I may well have assumed they were “standard” building practice [U-bends, drain positioning, barge-board alignment] – if it hadn’t been for your excellent descriptions!!  I will probably still “miss” something – that’s the nature of building/design – but thanks to you, it shouldn’t be anything too mission-critical.

The income from my eBook pays for the upkeep of this blog, which is otherwise commercially free unlike so many others.

Soil, Chillies and Onions:

This is the small pond that’s being filled in today. Emptied of water and mostly filled with taro, a swamp plant whose stems are edible.

Colocasia esculenta is a tropical plant grown primarily for its edible corms, a root vegetable most commonly known as taro (/ˈtɑːroʊ, ˈtæroʊ/), or kalo in Hawaiian (see Names and etymology for an extensive list). It is the most widely cultivated species of several plants in the family Araceae which are used as vegetables for their corms, leaves, and petioles. Taro corms are a food staple in African, Oceanic and South Asian cultures (similar to yams), and taro is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants.

Taro will quickly re-shoot after the stems are cut as you can see happening here.

The iron buffalo set up to pump water.

The second pond, which now has the water transferred from the other one. Morning glory growing on top of the water.

Bear asked Gaun to transfer some taro from the old pond to new before the tractor arrived to bury it

Gaun preparing a new home for the plants. The world’s hardest working gardener.

I took this photo in November 2016 of this sole guy crafting this relief on the long wall under the Buddha.

A sunny day, which is illustrated well in this photo. Some days are like this and then the smoke rolls in and we get grey boring skies and a mist-like landscape. Gaun still in action.

The backbone of any working farm. Plough, pump and farm wagon engine.

Charcoal waiting to happen. I mainly took the shot because I liked the scene.

Tham and Bear doing a spring clean. With the recent divide of the farm between the kids their land boundaries changed a bit so they have been reorganising things to fit the updated space.

No ponds being dug this time. This is topsoil being used.

A full truck driving through Gaun’s land. 

For those of you who have moved soil in Thailand this will be a very familiar scene. The truck driver is given a ticket for every load delivered, which determines the money paid at the end of the job. 180 baht a load including tractor here because the soil being used is not being bought elsewhere.

Better than a wheelbarrow.

Yuan was picking the best loads to spread over this field.

The rest was being used to fill in a second small pond. With the recent split of the farm between the children this is part of the reorganisation of each plot. This is actually Gaun’s land but it is farmed by Bear and Tham.

Gaun’s nephew Tom picking papaya to take to Yurt in Udon this afternoon.

The tractor cost is normally 20 baht a load here in our part of Isaan.

Duk Dik turned up to check on progress. He’s recently had a bath so doesn’t qualify as The World’s Scruffiest Dog (WSD) today.

The three sisters Gaun, Bear and Yuan plus Bear’s husband Tham.

Sisters at work. No man-power required,

Yuan with a mate. She’s just using paper to check off the loads.

Almost the final result on Yuan and Lud’s farm.

This time Lud up a tree to get papaya for Yurt.

From farm to city.

On the way to Udon we headed into the side roads to pick up some dried onions. These will be planted not sold.

Here they are drying and ready to process and pack.

Ready to be stripped of their dried stalks and packed in sacks for transportation to markets.

These ladies are removing the stalks and cleaning them up.

This is the result after the ladies have finished.

And bagged. These are being loaded onto a pick-up that was heading to markets just outside Bangkok tonight.

Outside irrigation being used on a lot of these crops. Spring onions here.

Next door a new house was being built.

Which provided an excellent drying space! Not what you’d expect in your lounge room 

Part of Yuan’s load. 30 baht a kilo.

Across the road chillies were being picked and packed.

Chillies and lettuce in the background. Irrigated again.

The colour of Isaan!

Yuan bought 10 kilos (this size) for 200 baht (A$10.00)

Transaction complete.

Thank goodness I have a pick-up

A statement that applied even more as Yurt loaded us up with all sorts of things to take back home.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment. It’s the only payment I ask for.



  1. Greg Carroll

    Another great read Tony. Lots of useful information too, as we prepare to leave Brisvegas and start on the . next phase of our lives – a food forest in Ayong. Lud and Yuan have provided so much in the way of practical information and advice via your blog.
    Much like you did with Building A House in Thailand
    PS We leave 01/03/20

    • Tony in Thailand

      You read my mind Greg. I am having a day in front of the computer to catch up with a heap of correspondence and I wanted to check with you when the BIG day was next month. Now I know.

      As always thanks for your response to the stories I publish. Part of the enjoyment of living here is the constant learning in areas I had no interest or exposure to in Australia. I find myself walking around the farm most days checking out how things are growing and what has changed since our last visit. Yuan, Lud and Gaun are so patient in explaining things and don’t mind being photographed in many aspects of their lives.

      The blog will be updated later today so keep an eye out for that as there has been a lot happening (in a small way).

      All the best to you both and I will be thinking of you as the 1st approaches.


  2. Jim Busby

    I’m losing track of where I’ve commented, and where I haven’t. Lots of old and new photos here. It’s interesting that Yuan tops up here farm land every couple of years with rich topsoil. In special Gran Cru vineyards in France that are on slopes,
    they will collect the dirt at the bottom of the slope and redistribute it back up top. That’s neat to just climb a tree for fresh mangoes, papaya, coconut, etc. I can only climb in the car to go get mine at the store. Onion farming is probably a bit of a stinky business. So, yes, you wouldn’t want a dried onion rug or floor covering in your home. 10 kilos of chilies for $10 AUD. In America, Thai chilies, if you can find them, sell for around $4 a pound! In other words, that bag would cost about $88 over here!

    Take care,


    • Tony in Thailand

      You pop up everywhere Jim. It must be a chore to keep up with the comments! The stories keep on happening.

      I haven’t seen the soil being topped up before at the farm. The exception was when they extended the pond and used some of that soil, which was a mistake because they extracted it lower down and it wasn’t good quality. This new batch was basically to cover over that pond soil. Interesting and sensible information on the vineyards of France. I was watching a couple of cooking programmes only yesterday, one based on Italy here: and the other in France here: The quality of fresh produce and what they do with it in the kitchen makes me very jealous. I am in totally the wrong part of the world for my tastes in food and wine. Oh well. There are plenty of compensations.

      No smell to the onions. I guess once they are dried it’s in an odourless state. Yes, chillies are expensive in Australia as well. Gaun would be very sad to pay those prices if we lived there (hopefully never to be experienced). Part of the cheapness of living in our situation is Gaun’s access to the farm produce, the roadside foraging and her ability to piggyback on whatever someone else in the family is cooking. We will so often arrive at the farm just as Yuan and Lud are having what for them is lunch, and Gaun is invited to join in. Breakfast for her covered.


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