Living on a farm in Thailand | Our first year
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
What an epic first year we have experienced living in rural Thailand on our porpeang farm.
We faced challenge after challenge to create an off-grid homestead and begin our journey in leading a self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle.
Thai House Build
The first month staying on our farm was spent living in the garage. With no windows and no door, our only security at night was a head-torch, machete and our trusty dog Bambi (aka the Black Rocket).
The build progress was painfully slow with plenty of build quality related issues along the way. Looking back now we don't know how we managed to cope with the frustrations but cope we did, and we now have a nice sized house that we are content with.
The things we aren't happy with we pretend isn't there. There are still a few tasks that need completing like the guttering and finishing the painting. It will all get done in time, but the farm has to take priority at the moment.
Digging 4 Large Fish Ponds
The growing of fish in Thailand plays a big part in our lives. We both love to catch, eat and sell freshwater fish so breeding and growing our own makes perfect sense for us. It's also due to many of Thailand's farmed fish tasting a little odd. Many freshwater fish species that are grown in Thailand are raised via integrated livestock systems (using poultry or pig waste as feed).
We took the decision to construct four 15m (length) x 10m (width) x3.5m (depth) fish ponds.
Hiring the large size macro cost 1,600 Thai baht per hour. The driver averaged approximately 5 hours per fish pond.
The excavated earth was used to raise the sides of the ponds to prevent flooding and loss of fish during the months of the rainy season.
We are currently growing two species of tilapia, various catfish, snakehead, barb, pacu, carp, and many more native Thai species.
Installing a Solar Power System
After a jaw-dropping quote of over a million Thai baht to be hooked up to the main electrical grid, it soon became apparent that installing a decent solar power system was the way to go.
In the end, we opted for a 3kW system that came in at 140,000 Thai baht fully installed. The family running this company were lovely people and a joy to be around during the ongoing project.
We had a few minor blips that were soon ironed out in the first couple of weeks. We do have to be careful with our electrical usage when we get 3 or 4 cloudy days consecutively, but that is about the only issue we occasionally have.
On the whole, we are chuffed to bits with the installation and would highly recommend this type of system to others considering going off-grid. We are so impressed that we are even planning a second smaller installation to run all the farms irrigation on a separate system in 2019.
Installing a Borehole Setup
With our farm being approximately 2km from the nearest village mains water supply, a borehole setup was high on our agenda for our rural homestead.
The borehole was drilled down to a depth of 28m. It was then lined with plastic pipework before a submersible smert pump was lowered into position.
The whole setup cost 30,000 Thai baht including the drilling, materials and install.
The 3 man borehole team stayed on site in tents for the duration of the project. It was a joy to watch the process, and in the evenings we shared great food and numerous humorous stories.
We now have a seemingly endless supply of water that we use for washing, cleaning, and watering, but not drinking
First came our eight aging egg laying hybrid hens from the village property. We still have a few going to this day, and they are still producing eggs regularly. 12 additional young hens were then acquired through the local council office.
Next came our three white geese purchased from our nearest farming neighbor. Closely followed by 28 Khaki Campbell ducks. We were so impressed by the Campbells that we ordered another 100 quickly!
Turkeys and several different chicken breeds soon followed, along with four adult Muscovys ducks.
And last of all 100 quail were introduced to round things off.
Most of our livestock numbers continue to grow from breeding and incubation. We haven't got any livestock figures in mind, but if we did, they would be high.
Stocking the Fish Ponds
Our initial stocking programme was via relocating the fish we had been growing in 3 concrete ponds back at the village house.
The species included two types of tilapia, pacu, Siamese carp, barbs, giant Mekong catfish and many more. In addition to these, we purchased 1200 walking catfish fingerlings to be grown on and sold locally.
As numbers and size increase we sell some and eat some which helps to thin them out. Excess stock get fed to the dogs and ducks, and the remaining ones are put into the lake to grow on naturally.
Fishing Lake Construction Begins
Witnessing the construction start on our fishing lake was one of the main highlights of the year. It was something we have planned for many years and to see it begin was very emotional.
We were so impressed by the digger driver who had constructed the 4 fish ponds that we requested him personally to design the critical lake outline. He didn't let us down. Smooth, sweeping curves and slopes, he has created the beginnings of something that should look amazing for many years to come.
Now comes the agonizing wait until the next dry season. That is when the main dig will commence. It will require hundreds of truckloads to excavate the earth to the desired depths (which will be varied). Exciting times lay ahead.
Planting Our First Crops
There is something about growing your own garden produce that feels good for the soul. However, clearing the jungle that awaited us was not! To say it was hard going would be a vast understatement.
After what seemed like endless days of back-breaking land clearing we were ready to begin.
In went, numerous banana plants, galangal, papaya, beans, the list goes on and on.
Main crops of eucalyptus, palms, rice, and giant bamboo and more fruit trees all went in too.
The months of watering by hand were something we will never forget. Fortunately, now we have begun to install irrigation systems to ease the workload.
We have both developed a strong desire and drive to grow organic produce now and try to become self-sufficient as much as possible. The locals enjoy our extra healthy fruit and vegetables and sales are picking up nicely.
It is starting to look good for 2019.
Geography of Thailand
Totaling over 513,000 square kilometres, Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world. It is slightly smaller than Yemen & slightly bigger than Spain.
Thailand comprises several distinct regions. The north of the country is mainly a mountainous area. The highest point is Doi Inthanon in the Thanon Thong Chai Range scaling over 2,500 meters above sea level. The northeast, Isaan, consists of the Khorat Plateau, that borders the east by the mighty Mekong River. The center of Thailand is dominated by the flat Chao Phraya river valley, which runs all the way to the Gulf of Thailand.
The south of Thailand consists of the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens out into the Malay Peninsula. Politically, there are 6 geographical regions. Each differs from the others regarding population, natural features, primary resources, and the level of economic and social development. The diversity between the regions is one of the most pronounced attributes of Thailand's setting.
The Mekong River and the Chao Phraya river are the main watercourses in rural Thailand. Industrial production of crops use both tributaries and the central river systems. The Gulf of Thailand covers over 320,000 square kilometers and is fed by the Chao Phraya river, the Mae Klong river, the Bang Pakong river, and the Tapi River.
The river systems contribute to the growing tourism sector owing to its shallow clear waters along the coasts of the southern region and Kra Isthmus. The Gulf of Thailand eastern shore is an industrial center of Thailand with the kingdom's premier deepwater port in Sattahip and its busiest commercial port, Laem Chabang.
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