Banana chips and guacomole, pavers and pesto

We’ve harvested another bunch of bananas, still green, and Nam makes chips by thinly slicing the solid bananas and then frying the slices in oil. They are excellent snacks for movie watching. I introduced Nam to guacamole recently but we didn’t have any chips. How about banana chips?

She liked the guacamole OK but has a real fondness for pesto. I found a jar of pesto made in Italy at the Rimping Market in Meechok Plaza and splurged. I also bought my first bottle of wine here (290 THB/$8.60–a red Australian), some pasta and a loaf of bread. They also had some soft, smelly cheese on sale because it was running out of time. I enjoyed the hell out of the pesto/bread/pasta/wine/cheese extravaganza — I’ve had farang food less than five times since I arrived here 3 and a half years ago.

Nam continues to create great food. She has been experimenting with tapioca. She made a tapioca cream desert with logan-lamyai fruit from our trees.

She has made some fried khanom kip morsels by wrapping a spicy filling with rice paper wrappers that she also uses to make spring rolls. Now she is wrapping the filling with tapioca beads and then steaming them.

Nam spends a lot of time gardening. I try to keep her in the kitchen by spending more time keeping the yard prettified than would be my wont. I never imagined becoming a man with a big yard to mow, but I spend some time every day trying to keep the grass trimmed.

We recently redesigned the front steps to make a place to clean your feet, now that the porch has become part of the house interior. We’ve started our long discussed use of pavers with this project.

Nam made the rock design in the concrete but the heart was my idea. K&k stand for Khim and Khing, Nam’s children.

Inside the porch we put a concrete table and benches. I thought it a remarkable bargain at 1300 THB ($30) delivered with the pavers (5 THB/less than 2 cents each). Nam and I sit here at night and play Thai checkers and I teach her the rudiments of chess. Our two kittens, Tung Tong and Tung Nuun, live on the porch until they are old enough for outside life. They yellow male is already sneaking out when he can.

Around and about the yard the Mango Tree garden area grows more luxurious:

If you zoom in you can see some of the many tiny chili peppers on the volunteer plant produced from seeds in bird poop.

My black grape is alive but the rainy season has not been kind to it.

But over at the fish ponds the passion fruit is kicking into gear.

Our mulberries are also paying off.

Nam wants to make some curving flower borders and I laid out a trial using some of the pavers near the path to the door.

The sihlamb near the mango tree is now an effective if not aesthetic shelter for the motorcycles.

More flowers and basil.

I’ve completed the cataract operation on my second eye and it is a pleasure to see everything plainly.

Landscaping

Perhaps we should call our property Anchaleephorn Park. With the arrival of our own weed whacker our ability to keep the grounds manicured increased exponentially. I started clearing a path to the end of the property to move the lorry easily and one thing led to another. We had been pruning the bottoms of the Logan trees because we liked the look better and it made it easy to clean out the weeds.

In front of the house four logans were reduced to one.

A reddish bush orients you looking north to the house and then east to the long axis of the property.

Below if you look closely to right rear you can see a very dense, very dark green long bean plant that is producing like crazy. We’re reaping beans and nearby cucumbers by the handful every day.

We were ruthless in the chiang dah garden area. It had been a jungle.

We left 10 chiang dah and 10 logans. I’m standing next to one of the remaining logans that has been very, very carefully pruned so that the red ants that live there bite me as little as possible.

Now you can really appreciate my cairn.

The passion fruit vines have taken off and are covering the trellis I built around the fish ponds.

Also near the house is one of many bougainvillea in the foreground, and then two egg plant bushes middle left and a mango right, in front of the banana trees. The egg plant bushes seem to be perennials that just keep pushing out product.

So now we have a new area to populate. We want to choose plants that will grow without needing chemical sprays. One problem with the logans was their need for a range of treatments. Our 30 mulberries are exemplary.
Nam is leaning toward more bananas since their parents are supplying us with lots of baby starts, she feels the plants improve the quality of the soil, she loves to eat bananas, AND you can sell them. I’d like to bring in a wide range of banana varieties. I’m partial to coconuts but I’ve learned that here you can only grow the kind that provide water. The upside is that they don’t grow tall and threaten to brain you with coconut bombs. I’d advocate for more cashews but we already have four trees growing.

15 minutes of work

Our new battery powered weed whacker runs 15 minutes before it needs to be charged.

An early start to the rainy season has brought with it an explosion of ground cover — weeds, vines and grass.

I am caught up in a continual round of lawn maintenance.

The whacker is very light and Nam can use it to cut the portion of lawn around the house where she cares strongly about appearances. For instance the area near the mango tree and the new pond.

We’ve added more banana and bamboo plants and flowers keep erupting:

And a black grape:

Our first bananas were used to prepare a dish for a celebration at Wat Phra That Chom Kitti. It was in honor of the Thai New Year and was held on our birthday, May 21.

The banana (gluay) is cut in half, coated with a mixture of sticky rice, sugar and coconut milk, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.

These bananas were sweet and big; the first of our three species to ripen. The second crop is in the wheel barrow.

When we got back to the house in the afternoon we splurged on a large, lustrous, wooden couch. The sellers were guys from the province of Issan who drove up to the north with a truck full of furniture to sell. We bought the 6 foot by 20 inch wide couch for 3900 Bahts, about $115.

Another look at Anchaleephorn Garden

My step-son King has loaned me his camera so I have something to post about again.

Nam is off to a funeral for a neighbor. She was hit by a car on the canal road where the bridge meets it as you go to town. The car was going fast and clipped the rear of her motorcycle. Thailand traffic is frightening. There are 36.2 accidents per 100,000 inhabitants, versus 10.6 for the US.

I am making a day of using our new weed whacker. It’s a 24V battery operated Greenworks line trimmer. One charge only lasts about minutes. We had a man coming in mow the place and it took him about 3 hours so you can image how much longer I need.

I’m making my second pass through the property and starting to clear each section as I whack of large rocks and sticks. In a year I hope to have a gentle field I can mow.

Here’s how things are looking after one year of work by the Nam/David team.

When you enter the gate you look forward to house.

On the right is a planter of flowers.

On the left a planter next to a logan tree, near the mango tree.

Nam wants to make the mango tree a focus point of flowers, including orchids, with a fish fountain and a table.

I’ve finally got the nearby sihlamb in shape and, my choice, a black grape in front.

I’ve got a lot of rocks here and Nam has the idea I could build another cairn and put a table on top. Hmmm.

The gravel walkway to the house:

The vegetable garden is thriving with it’s second succession planting.

One year is enough for new banana plants to start producing. The banana flower’s outer leaves fall away to reveal a ring of bananas. After the last is revealed you can eat the flower. Nam eats lots of bananas and has started producing fried sliced banana chips.

The heavy pruning of the tamarind tree encouraged new foliage. Nam likes to plant flowers around the bases of trees.

Nearby is the workshop sihlamb that I’ve made water resistant with a heavy duty tarp.

The cairn is practical and I like its looks.

Now we’re down to the chiang dah part of the garden where the fertile ground means the weeds grow fast.

Nam keeps bringing in more plants and I dig the holes to plant them. We’ve planted almost 20 lemon trees along the south fence.

Lately we are finishing off the day with an episode of my favorite detective, Inspector Montalbano.

On the rocks

All of our topsoil seems to have been washed into the low lying section of the property where the Chiang Dah grows. The remaining ground is very rocky. It took me a long time to realize that I could never rake a section smooth — the best I could do was rake off the fist sized rocks. The only solution is to bring in a truck load of top soil to cover big pebbles and the bumpy next layer.
I’ve cleared areas free of brush (for a very short period of time), carted away the rocks and leveled them off a bit however. I’ve tried to think of ways to use the rocks. I’ve humped lots of wheel barrows full to an out of the way area. Out of the way until I started working there again.
I’m rebuilding the Old Sahlamb — again — and I’m waiting for the arrival of 50 sticks of long bamboo. Pottering about, getting ready, I cleared the fence line under the sahlamb and looked down the fence, south. There was the huge pile of stones I dumped next door on my first pass through and along the fence a jumble that was probably a result of spoils being dumped when a pipe was laid along the edge of the road.
Looking west along the fence you see my new tidy pile of rocks, a low mound of rocks and the old sahlamb.

Nam calls this a dragon:

What to do with all these rocks….

Sometimes I sing while I work:

I was beavering away (can you ‘beaver’ with rocks?) when the word ‘cairn’ popped into my head. Thank you Mr. Subconscious.

I made a base and I’m going to store rocks in it and see how high I can go:

I’ve been ignoring the injunction not to work after the cataract surgery and have cleared the fence line:

Nam wants me to make a walk way all the way around the perimeter of the property for an evening stroll. I’m growing into the idea although at the start I just wanted the weed whacker to be able to be effective.

This month we splurged on plants, filling the lorry twice. I’d been waiting for the annual Mae Jo University flower sale (it’s an ag school) and we bought some plants for me — a black grape and three coconuts — and the start of a rose garden.

The local Buddhist Wats are having celebrations one after the other. The big wat with the large white Buddha, Phra That Chom Kitti, celebrated the half way point in the construction of a long stairway that celebrates the snake, the Naga, that protected Buddha during a storm.

We have a lot of banana plants but we are still one year from eating any. We CAN eat the banana flowers however. They provide a lot of roughage for Nam’s vegetarian meals. Our 20 odd mulberries are a lot quicker:

The flowers are coming

A few months ago I built The New Sahlamb to provide shade for the motorcycles. Whenever possible you try to protect things from the fierce sun here.

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I built it near the Mango tree but postponed eliminating a longan tree.

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This west edge of the property along the fence is a candidate for future construction — a real garage, or even a garage with apartment above. Nam is eager to make the mango tree the hub of a shaded garden area with orchids, a table, and a water fountain.

After a bit of discussion I’ve created New Sahlamb 2.

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Nam likes the shade for flowers that don’t like too much sun and now she’s come around to my preference for the new building to contain a kitchen.

The work on the New Sahlamb was a treat after a long, long period of boring labor chopping at weeds with a large, wide, heavy Thai hoe=== จอบ …..jaawp.

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I cleared weeds near the gate, on the south and north side of the house and then around the chiang dah plants.
You can see the (huge) chiang dah area at the trianglish tip of our property outlined on this new map that also shows the house and the fence with the mango tree nearby:

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I’ve been experimenting with different ways to make a map of the garden. The very irregular shape is difficult to draw so I thought of using Google Maps:

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And then Google Earth:
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You might be interested to see a map that shows the backcountry East of us (lower right corner) on the way (aprox. 5 km) to the dam (upper left);

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The demon gardener went for her six month medical review and passed with flying colors. Now she can work even harder and put the second planting in the vegetable beds.

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The small vegetable plots produce cukes, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, basil, native squashes, aloe vera and more. The mulberry trees are very young but produce a little; there is a small round eggplant we get. Papaya and mango.Then there are a lot of things in the pipeline: passion fruit, rambutan, lychees, and coconuts.

LOTS of flowers —

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All photos are courtesy of Nam and her Ipad since my Kodak camera died months ago and my BLU smart phone is frozen — and I am spending countless hours trying to learn how to thaw it out.

Out of the fog

On Monday, the 13th, I had successful cataract surgery on my left eye. Both eyes were problematic but the left was worthless. Now the left eye has excellent long distance vision — which just amazes me. I’ve been near sighted and wearing glasses for correction since I was 12. I thought the operation would just eliminate the cloudy haziness I’ve been dealing with. I didn’t realize that the new lens would extend my vision.

I’m supposed to wear sunglasses and take it easy for a month and so my pick and shovel work in the garden is going to be limited. I’ll work on a map of the property during the hiatus, try to repair my smart phone and do easy maintenance that I have been putting off.