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.



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


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.


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.


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:


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:


And then Google Earth:

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);


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.


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 —















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.

Puppy love

Nam’s daughter Khim wanted to bring home a puppy from the temple where she does volunteer work. We agreed. Good decision.

We had three dogs. The two females were the oldest members of the pack and regarded male Brown dog as an interloper. When we introduced Coffee all three headed for the hills. Gradually Brown dog adopted Coffee and taught him how to play like a boy and is a happier dog.

I love the puppy but this view of the elderly farang with breasts does not mean I have started nursing him:




Now the two females have returned and will play with Coffee a little. A happy pack.

Walai Dhamma Sathan

Nam and I went to the next door village, Phrathat, about 1.5 km as the crow flies, to the retreat center, Walai Dhamma Sathan, for a ten day meditation session.
We had been there a year ago for a Buddha Day celebration:




For a small village, 180 families, (500? people), Phrathat has a lot of temples. Nam says that is because the area was a cross roads for traveling armies in the past and therefore a fount of visions about buried treasures.

Here’s a Google map showing the temples (and Royal Chiang Mai Golf Club) and their relationship to our home, Chiang Dha Garden:

Nam inveigled me to attend by planning to go for only three days. I was interested but never attended formal meditation ceremonies before and have grown less interested as I get older.
I didn’t like being away from home although I had a private cabin and the bed was short, but I enjoyed the actual meditation.


I was given a very short intro on walking meditation which had always interested me and then our core group of five people (me plus four women) and some 3-4 on and off visitors were left on our own during the days. In the evening there was a long chanting ceremony that I skipped after the first couple of days.

The style of meditation is Vipassana:

Contemporary exegesis

The four establishments of mindfulness are regarded as fundamental in modern Theravadan Buddhism and the Vipassana or Insight Meditation Movement. In this approach the emphasis is on mindfulness itself, as bare attention, instead of on the objects, mental states to be guarded, and the teachings to be remembered. The four establishments (Satipaṭṭhāna) meditation practices gradually develop the mental factors of samatha (“calm”) and vipassana (“insight”). Thanissaro Bhikkhu notes that “satipatthana practice is often said to be separate from the practice of jhana,” but argues that mindfulness is also an aid in the development of concentration.[21]


I’ve been paying attention to my breath for many years so this next step was pretty straightforward for me:

” Though of such a high order, the initial stages of this meditation are well within the reach of a beginner though he be only a lay student of the Buddha-Dhamma. Both in the Discourse here translated, and in the 118th Discourse of the same Collection (the Majjhima Nikaya), which specifically deals with that meditation, the initial instructions for the practice are clearly laid down:

Herein, monks, a monk, having gone to the forest or the root of a tree or to an empty place, sits down with his legs crossed, keeps his body erect and his mindfulness alert. Ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. Breathing in a long breath, he knows, “I am breathing in a long breath”; breathing out a long breath, he knows, “I am breathing out a long breath.” Breathing in a short breath, he knows, “I am breathing in a short breath”; breathing out a short breath, he knows, “I am breathing out a short breath.” “Experiencing the whole (breath) body, I shall breathe in,” thus he trains himself. “Experiencing the whole (breath-) body, I shall breathe out,” thus he trains himself. “Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe in,” thus he trains himself. “Calming the activity of the (breath-) body, I shall breathe out,” thus he trains himself.

These are instructions given by the Enlightened One to the monks who, after their alms round, had the whole remaining day free for meditation.


After five days I started walking out with three monks when they went on morning alms patrol:


We walked about three km and they were bare foot.
People gave them food. And at a half way point I shared the burden by carrying 2 bags of donations.


After the donations the monks chanted a blessing prayer:


Along our route a funeral ceremony was being prepared:


When we returned to the wat our group served the monks food the women had prepared while we were gone:


On New Year’s Day there was a special gathering [where the old school had been (before they started busing all the students from small villages to a central school)] :


The monks walked around the volley ball court and received the food. It was a real assembly line operation. The monks received the food in their alms bowl and then immediately transferred it to a large plastic bag carried by a person standing next to them. As the bags filled helpers rushed up with new empty bags to replace the filled ones. I felt rather honored to be drafted to be a bag holder and stand next to a monk and help transfer the offerings from pot to bag.


Our friend the Thai Sweet vendor was there with his moto vending equipage:


People also constructed money trees as a gift:


I was surprised and pleased to learn that I could sit cross legged comfortably for an hour. This is new and I credit Nam’s massage and a simple stretching exercise I’ve been using on my legs in hopes of fending off amputation.

The monks were friendly and relaxed. I was referred to YouTube videos by Yuttadhammo Bhikku for more info:


We packed the lorry, put the handle across the back of the motorcycle, Nam sat on that, and we headed off to P’a’s house to pick up the sticky rice.
At the bottom of the hill we passed the massive walkway being built to go up to the temple. The two railings are giant snake bodies.



They are working hard to complete the project by March.

We arrived a little after 10 and lots of people were set up. We got a spot and Nam and her friends sat down to package the rice and chicken in the banana leaves. Nam’s southern style wrap was superseded by northern style.









I walked around and tried as many different dishes as I could. It was fun but nothing was as good as Nam’s southern style cooking.