Returning to the Farm

I have been coming to the farm here in Isaan for eight years. Every time I return to the farm, things have changed. Trees grow and start to bear fruit, new plants are planted, some die, some get moved, garden areas are replaced with trees, new gardens appear in different corners of the farm. White and purple orchid, Isaan, Thailand

Depending on the caretakers we have had on the farm during the previous year, plants are either thriving, or in extreme need of attention. Actually, plants always need attention. Maintaining a farm is a full time job.

At times we have a focused crew of relatives, friends, neighbors and/or hired hands here, and the farm thrives. At other times, for various reasons, there is just one person here, and depending on who that person is, the farm either barely maintains, or it deteriorates to a sad state of thick, tall grass with lost trees and deserted gardens, that takes a couple of years to recover from. Even with the best of intentions, there is more work here than one person can handle.

Lately, Mae has been living here and is in control of the day-to-day chores on the farm. She has a green thumb, passed on to my wife, who is the mastermind of this small hobby farm. Mae understands the importance of tree maintenance and timing in the garden. When the long beans start to produce less, she begins to plant the next crop nearby.

It has taken a few years to get the family and friends who help us here to be on the same page. Now we are all pretty much there. Now we all, to some degree, understand that plants are good. Yes, the animals must be fed, but the more edible things we grow the less we have to buy, and what we have left, we can sell.

Even though we can’t eat the flowers and orchids, they add to the aesthetic beauty of the place, and visitors love them, as we do. From any way you look at it, plants, lots of them, healthy, in many different varieties, are good.

Right now, and the farm looks beautiful. Teamwork is everything. With my wife’s vision, our investment, Mae’s direction and hard work, and our very small crew’s very hard physical labor, the farm is a beautiful and peaceful retreat that is slowly nearing self-sufficiency.

I will continue to post updates on the changing state of the farm. Check back to see what it takes to create a small piece of paradise out of a rice field. (I’ll give you one hint: It takes a lot of work, a bit of money, and many years’ time!)

Do you farm or garden? Are you interested in sustainable living? Are you interested in farming in Thailand on a budget?

If so, please leave a comment or question below.


Related post: Our Farm in Isaan, Thailand

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5 Responses to Returning to the Farm

  1. Clarke Nattress 7 May 2012 at 17:31 #

    Hey Joe – I love that line: “It takes a lot of work, a bit of money, and many years’ time” – for sure! You’ve been up here to northern Maine many times, but I’m not sure if I ever showed you (individually at least) the nut trees we have. The hickories – including northern pecan and hicans – we planted in the early 80’s. This last fall – 30 years after planting – we had our first crop of nuts! People don’t realize how long it takes to get a crop off many different fruits and nuts. But then, the other side of the coin is that over the years I’ve had people say “when you planted those trees I should have too” – meaning that they had screwed up by not doing it, so therefor it was too late. The thing is, if they had gone out the next spring and planted trees, many of them would be producing by now. At some point, you have to jump in and swim..

  2. Kim KOPPENBERG 24 March 2012 at 21:24 #

    I was one of the lucky ones who have stayed on the farm. It seems that everything that is growing or being raised on the farm is edible and nothing is wasted and the farm is almost completely sustainable. The meals that were so carefully prepared were incredible and I loved every second of it.

    • Joe Nattress 25 March 2012 at 07:04 #

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks, Buddy! After all these years of visiting you at your place in the States, it was great to have you come to our place for a visit! We’re looking forward to your next visit!


  3. Gregory Gray 19 March 2012 at 02:29 #

    When can I visit the farm?

    • Joe Nattress 23 March 2012 at 01:09 #

      Hi Gregory!

      We had a lot of fun with you last winter in Bangkok. Please come to see us on the farm on your next trip to Thailand. We don’t have any beds there, yet, but there are hotels there nearby.

      I’ll see you in Japan before then!


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