About David Kane Miller

I live north of Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the village of Huai Kaew on one rai of land with my wife Nam.

Watercress

My only exposure to watercress had been from reading about it in English Literature where it appeared in sandwiches with afternoon tea. Imagine my surprise when I saw the vibrantly green, robust lettuce Nam has been producing.

She liked her small patch.

So she planted much more in the new vegie patch I’ve produced — and she asked me to make a Sih Lamb to protect it from the grueling sun.

I found some usable pieces of bamboo and plastic cloth from the old Sih Lambs that I have just taken down.

The work Sih Lamb and the Parking Sih Lamb were falling apart under the onslaught of sun and ant. I have replaced the bamboo with galvanized metal poles that will last until we can afford permanent buildings. I have to keep the space filled with structures and thus available for future buildings or Nam will fill every available inch with plants.

The work Sih Laamb now has more area covered with water resistant tarps. (I finally found strong tarps!)

The parking area Sih Lamb was finished this morning with intense ‘help’, ‘advice’ and supervision from Nam whose patience has been strained and aesthetic sense bludgeoned by the make shift Sih Lamb that has been in place for the last two years.

Now Nam is in the kitchen making banana fritters. We harvested a stalk recently and we have 5 more ripening.

We have a number of different varieties of bananas. This is a Korat 50 and was given to us by the Wat Chom Kitti head monk for use during the house blessing ceremony two years ago.

FYI

Banana plants are not actually trees but large herbs with succulent, juicy stems that arise from a fleshy corm. Suckers continually spring up around the main plant with the oldest sucker replacing the main plant as it fruits and dies. Smooth, oblong to elliptical, fleshy stalked leaves unfurl in a spiral around the stem. A terminal spike, the inflorescence, shoots out from the heart in the tip of the stem. As it opens, clusters of white flowers are revealed. Female flowers are borne on the lower 5-15 rows and males upon the upper rows. As the young fruit, technically a berry, develop, they form slender green fingers which grow into a “hand” of bananas that droops due to its weight until the bunch is upside down. When to Pick Bananas The size of the fruit varies depending upon the variety of banana, so isn’t always a good indicator for picking bananas. Generally, banana tree harvesting can commence when the fruit on the upper hands are changing from dark green to a light greenish yellow and the fruit is plump. Banana stalks take 75-80 days from flower production to mature fruit.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Banana Tree Harvesting – Learn How And When To Pick Bananas https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/banana/banana-tree-harvesting.htm

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Directions to Anchaleephorn Garden

We had a call today from a French woman, a former client of Nam, who had arrived back in Chiang Mai and wanted to take a class to learn how to give Bamboo Massage. We directed her to Wat Sri Goet where our friends are still giving massages and lessons. However, she expressed interest in visiting us and I thought I’d throw together the necessary information. Thusly:
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We live 35 km north of Chiang Mai. The university town of Mae Jo is a half way point along Road Number 1001. Two tourist attractions near us are the Royal Chiang Mai Golf Club and Wat Phra That Chom Kitti.

This map shows our house/property and those landmarks.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1sNaIxI_a2hOC11T8_a7JGrRkFBg&ll=19.059083397815527%2C98.9310639759384&z=13

When you leave Mae Jo University there is a beautiful route along the canal that is suitable for motorcycles or even a bicycle. It will take you directly to the front gate of the Royal Chiang Mai Golf Club. From there follow this map to our house.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1OscrJQkEXYczbg3Tgj_OPu8Rgmx_SOro&ll=19.038119891011306%2C98.98193420000007&z=14

If you want to come via public transit you can take a “song thaew” — literally a two bencher — a pickup truck with two benches that carries up to 12 people. They are color coded and the one we take is dark green and is located near Warorot Market — http://www.openchiangmai.com/warorot-market-chiangmai/

To find the song thaew parking area from Warorot, face the Ping River and walk left about 100-150 meters. Just past a jewelry shop two or three dark green song thaews will be waiting for passengers. Now it gets a little tricky — there are two versions of the trip, one is shorter than the other. Our longer version brings you to Huai Kaew (Hoo-I Kay-oh) near Rom Luang (Rome Lou-Ahng), just past Rom Pho Thong (Rome Poe Tahng). It will only cost 25 Baht.

Give us a call when you arrive and I’ll come and give you a ride on the back of the motor scooter over this route.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1fgpv2J9WUHnoBw1Q9rgSipW4E9JUYgXT&ll=19.048044966739443%2C98.97375999999997&z=16

Busting sod

It’s raining today so I’m making this a blog day.

The soil down in what used to be the Chiang Dah patch is incomparably superior to the rocky soil at both east and west ends. I learned about it when digging a hole to dispose of cat litter. I could dig down 3 feet easily.

Beyond the eastern fence I have planted dozens of sunflower seeds but only two have grown up.

Nam’s ground cover flowers are having more success.

Just inside the fence I scratched out a small bed where the weeds I had piled up had disintegrated into a mulch. Nam planted our first corn there. She has a small number of each of a lot of different seeds that she bought and had mailed to us.She planted the dozen corn seeds there and now they are forming ears. We are concentrating on growing vegetables that we want to eat and can’t be sure of finding organically grown here.

The sak/teak trees in that area are shooting up.

While smoothing out the spoils from digging a ditch for the water pipe, I made another vegie bed just past the big Logan/lamyai tree. I put in some green onions and shallots that were lying around and Nam planted 4 asparagus she’s been grooming.

In the morning I did rush outside to finish breaking up the soil for a new vegetable bed.

In the foreground is a finished bed planted to corn. I’ve worked in 8 bags of rice hulls that we picked up at the local rice mill to start mitigating the clay soil.

We have now bought seed packets for three different types of corn — one yellow sweet (planted) and two with colored kernels that Nam calls ‘sticky’, in a reference to sticky rice. Huh??

They will be planted here and then I’ve marked out another area a little farther on to make another bed. I’d like to put in some more green onions and shallots — and some giant garlic that Nam characterizes as Chinese.

It’s late afternoon now, on a cool day with continuous drizzle ala the Pacific Northwest. Nam is unpacking a package sent from the south of Thailand with lots of special cooking material that she will use to make a vegetarian meal with Southern Style for the head monk of Wat Chom Kitti. He is having a house warming celebration on the 2nd of January and she is all agog.

I’ve taken you down the new garden path. Keep on truckin’.

Animal House

I’ve finally figured out how to bring photos from Nam’s Ipad into my computer so I have a huge backload of photos to process.
First things first and for photos you have to put cats at the top of the list. We adopted two kittens a few months ago and named them Tung Tong (gold), a male, and Tung Nunn (silver), female.

Tung Tong is big enough and brazen enough to go outdoors and resist intimidation from the dogs. Nunn stays inside. They live on the porch and have extensive visiting privileges in the house.

The cats’ enjoyment of each other makes me feel sad for cats that have to live alone. Sometimes they exhibit a loving, grooming behavior that is very sweet — and sexy.

Nam’s son Khing was gifted a puppy when a friend left town. Since Khing works during the day the puppy wasn’t getting attention and she migrated to our house.

Her name is Kai Mook (Egg Nog) and our troubled teen-ager Coffee is very jealous of her but likes to play with her.

Coffee has never gotten over losing porch privileges and is jealous of our attention to any other animal. Our middle aged dpgs, Nom Sot and Chow Guai, are indifferent to KM. Our other older dog, Brown, died of unspecified natural causes about a year ago so we have four dogs now.

Nam cares for them, talks to them, watches their interactions and reports on their soap opera intrigues.

The path to the coffee patch

6:30 Sunday morning — I’m expecting the end of the rainy season anytime now but an early morning downpour is putting my usual work schedule on hold. Hopefully the rain will let up later so we can make a run to the Sunday Mae Fak Market. Last week we went in for shallots and garlic and ended up buying some plants including an avocado. We’ve got one avocado Nam started from a seed but that is a very slow way to produce the desired result. Here are the two plants side by side:

We arranged with the garden stall vendors to order some plants that they will bring for us next Sunday, today. Two rambutan and two coffee plants. We have all the space that was devoted to Chiang Dah plants to fill up with a selection of plants.

Nam has been moving the baby plants that our large banana trees send out into the periphery. They are good soil builders and could be replaced by other plants if we desire later. We have about 20 bananas now. Two are producing bananas that are ripening and one big flower is starting a fresh batch.

I’ve got this urge to see what coffee plants are like although I understand we don’t have ideal conditions.

As part of the plans for that area I’m creating a walk path that will go down the center of our property to the end and make a loop. It will be about a meter wide, which will let me roll the lorry along it. Nam foresees a path shaded by intertwined mulberry branches and I’m intrigued to find out how she lines the path. She is thinking about the possibilities of having a two tiered layout of large plants covering an understory of plants that like shade.

It’s a pleasure to explore tropical plants after having a Pacific Northwest garden. I would never have expected to be growing a black pepper plant. One delightful addition to cuisine here is a sprinkle of twigs of green, unripe, peppercorns. Our pepper plant is young but beginning to produce:

In house we made a welcome addition to the kitchen. I had put together a work table made up of a piece of plywood supported by the handy modular plastic fruit crates. It was funky, couldn’t be moved, and was sitting directly on the floor so it couldn’t be cleaned underneath. We replaced it with an aluminum framed cabinet fronted by glass doors. Nam loves it.

I took the plastic boxes and plywood and created a better workspace in the workshop sihlamb.

The previous layout was being covered with sawdust from the industrious ant population working on the bamboo frame.

My aesthetic practice of successive approximations has certainly been put to the test in the construction of the sihlambs. I understand there are methods of producing bamboo that is longer lasting by soaking the bamboo in minerals but I think in my next iteration I am just going to switch to metal poles.

Nam picked up some young bamboo at the market on Tuesday and produced Spicy Curry with chicken and bamboo shoots. Too die for.

Nam thinks we should make a second bedroom out of part of the screened in porch. I think it is perfect as is. Her daughter Khim uses the table there to study.

The rain has let up and the ground is soft. Time to take the pick and work on the path.

Dogs and mulberries

We get about 100 families going by our property every day on their way to work in their gardens, go fishing or live in isolated, rural houses. Of the fifty percent who travel on motorcycles, half of them have dogs trotting along with them. Dogs and humans are matter of fact partners. The dogs converse with our dogs.
Our dogs spend time each day out on the road and they can be annoying to drivers by. Our middle aged dog Nom Sot was lying in the road the other day when a car approached. Nam was watching and yelled for her to move but she was too lazy. The car hit her in the rear and she has been unable to walk for 10 days now. She is slowly recovering but we don’t know how far that will go.

Nam has made some stupendous mulberry jam. I don’t find the taste of an individual mulberry piquant but perhaps because Nam reduces a large quantity of berries to produce the jam the resulting taste is superbly rich. She uses very little sugar and no pectin.

I’ve made three batches of flat bread (we don’t have an oven) and I introduced Nam to peanut butter — she likes the mix.

Nam has joined a Facebook group that shares pictures of food they cook. Her latest efforts include a PaNang Curry (with pea eggplant Solanum torvum) :

and a Ping River fish, steamed and covered with spicy herbs and lemon :

We’re also enjoying coconuts. We happened to be shopping at our small, local Huai Kaew market when local people brought in a load of coconuts to be sold on consignment. Since they were the bargain price of 10 bahts each (30 cents) Nam snapped up all nineteen. We had to get the lorry to bring them all home. We are eating two per day. Heavenly.