Toon and Leigh's Farmstead Blog #01
Updated: Feb 11
Welcome to our first Farmstead blog of 2020. This new monthly blog is to keep you bang up to date with events here on Porpeang farm Thailand. January has been as busy as ever with lots of ups and downs . . . so here's what's been going on.
Festive period on the farm
Seeing in 2020 was busier than usual this year here at Porpeang. Toon's youngest sister and brother in law got an extended holiday from work. This meant they had two weeks off to spend with us, their young daughter, and Toon's mum.
It was great to see them after such a long time. Toon's sister, Leu Gaew, helped out with the cooking and cleaning. Her husband, Dee, was volunteered to make the many motorbike trips into the village when something was needed or forgotten.
We enjoyed many meals, or rather feasts, together, and Toon's mum finally had a chance to get some much-needed hammock time.
Toon's mum looks after Leu Gaew and Dee's daughter, Kai Muk, fulltime while they work away.
At 64 years of age, I have no idea where she gets her energy from. Toon's little niece leaves us worn out after visiting us for just a few hours.
A rare chance to slow down on the farm
It was a nice change for us spending time relaxing and fishing on the farm altogether. Toon and I still had our list of farmstead chores to do, but we made sure there was plenty of time to unwind with everyone.
A few of our free-range cockerels graced the dinner table, along with a steady stream of tilapia and catfish caught from the lake.
You can't beat catching, cooking and eating produce you have grown.
Unfortunately, the vegetable production side of things is less impressive. We haven't had a single drop of rain here for months, and it shows.
New Year on the farm
Leu Gaew, Dee, Toon and myself saw in 2020 altogether.
We enjoyed playing a few rounds of Uno cards, which saw plenty of cheating and bad sportsmanship, cold Leo beers and plenty of nibbles on hand.
This proceeded some truly horrific renditions on the karaoke and endless cheesy selfies.
Who cares? Out of tune karaoke vocals and Thailand go hand in hand and we are miles away from anyone.
Love living in Thailand but missing the UK
As much as I love living in Thailand with Toon, Christmas and New Year are always bittersweet times for me.
I rarely miss our life back in the UK (Toon and I lived there together for eight good years), but this time of year is hard not being able to see my family.
Messenger video calls are great, but not a patch on getting a hug from your mum and having a good natter over a proper cuppa.
These are the sort of things that expats sacrifice when starting over in a different country. We make our bed, and we lay in it.
Kai Muk's parents had left to go back to work, so it was time to return to the farming groove.
It took a few days getting back up to speed . . . let's just say that we eased our way back into the swing of things.
Goats - First twin kids on the farm
Wow, what a day! Our oldest nanny goat, Geraldine, gave us twin kids a few days earlier than expected.
This birth was completely different from the first two on the farm, and far from straightforward.
First, a head appeared, then disappeared. Then the head reappeared, accompanied by all four hooves at the same time!
Although her second pregnancy, Geraldine was clearly struggling. It soon became apparent it wasn't going to happen for her doing things on her own.
Toon and I decided to step in and help her. In time with Geraldine pushing, we jiggled things around and helped to ease out a tiny kid (later to be sponsored as Ruby.)
A second, slightly larger kid, almost immediately followed with ease. A beautiful white doe with just a few dark patches here and there.
Toon wanted to name her Jasmine, which I think would have really suited her. Unfortunately, for Toon, a viewer on our YouTube channel requested the name of Tangmo . . . better luck next time, Mrs.
Goathouse floor problems
Not long after we had constructed our raised goathouse, we noticed two issues with the bamboo flooring.
Firstly, the bamboo would sometimes flex too much, causing the odd hoof to become trapped.
Thankfully, we had chosen to build this goathouse close to our farmhouse. The idea was so we could react quickly to any urgent issues 24/7.
We've had a few 3am call outs, but luckily nothing more than a stuck hoof.
The second, more concerning issue was the bamboo was rapidly being eaten! Not by termites, but by a tiny beetle that bores into the wood.
This meant respraying the bamboo was about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
Kind-hearted people in Thailand
With the bamboo floor section (not all the floor is bamboo) becoming increasingly unstable, a stroke of luck occurred. By pure chance, Toon nipped into our local building shop and asked the boss if she had any wooden pallets for sale.
'No,' was her reply, 'but you can have a load of old ones for free!'
A truckload of pallets was delivered several days later. No payment was accepted, not even by the two people delivering them.
Sometimes people amaze you with their kind nature.
Help on the farm
Toon got in a guy to help dismantle all the pallets while I got stuck into ripping out the infected bamboo. One and a half days later, the pallets were stripped and dipped, and the bamboo was piled up outside the goathouse.
Our farmhand had his family visiting so, unfortunately, wasn't able to help us anymore.
Toon hasn't been well this month, (more about that in a bit) so it was down to me, Billy-No-Mates, to lay the floor on my lonesome.
Three days later the reclaimed timbers were all in. By more luck than judgement, there was only a few small scrap pieces leftover.
The sun shines on the righteous, as they say.
A few weeks on and not a single trapped hoof or any more 3am call-outs.
Long may it continue.
Big plans revealed for our farmstead in 2020
This month we shared on YouTube what we had planned for the farm in this coming year.
After two years of trying out different ideas on the farm . . . some successful, some not, some profitable, some not, we've had an epiphany.
We have now decided on what our primary focus will be for the future.
Unsurprisingly to many of you, it's our much-loved goats.
We're going for it big time. The grand plans include:
Increasing the herd size considerably with more does
Remodelling the island on the lake to create 'Goat Island'
Constructing an enormous goathouse on the Goat Island
Once the island has been completed, the lake will be stocked with some huge fish.
We have been growing these giants on the farm for the last few years. They include the Giant Mekong catfish, regarded as one of, if not the hardest fighting freshwater fish in the world.
As well as the arm-aching big stuff, we'll also add lots of other species that are great sport on lighter gear and good eating. Tilapia, walking catfish, snakehead, carp, barb and jungle perch will all be going in.
Fishing platforms will be constructed that will also double up as camping pitches for those who fancy overnight stays.
Catch and cook what you land, kick back with a few beers, then slip into your tent next to the lake.
It should make for a great view in the morning when you eventually resurface (depending on the number of Leos you consumed the night before!)
Just give us a shout to send over a hot brew and a fresh bucket of bait.
2020 hasn't started great for Toon's health.
The previous month she attended her supposedly last blood test. This was to confirm that her radioactive thyroid treatment (i131) had been a success.
Before this, each blood test result was given the next day, and her medication adjusted accordingly.
Basically, blood test and meds adjusted accordingly within 24 hours, job's a good'un . . . simple right?
On this occasion, her records weren't read in full. Toon was told to return in a month for her results. Toon questioned the change in procedure, at which point she was reminded that she wasn't a doctor.
Proper proper sick
A couple of weeks passed, and Toon's health was clearly deteriorating. Her energy levels dropped, she had trouble sleeping, gained weight, felt discomfort in her neck, and the dreaded mood swings had returned!
We couldn't wait until her next appointment, so we returned to the hospital pronto.
As usual, Toon checked in at reception, then waited to see a nurse for the customary chit-chat. The chat lasted less than a minute, Toon was queue jumped to see a doctor immediately.
As luck would have it, it was the same doctor Toon had previously seen.
Her first question was 'Why didn't you come back for your blood test results the next day? You're very sick!'
Toon explained to the doctor that it was her who told her to return in a month . . . no reply.
Medication adjusted, and plenty of rest was prescribed. We were out of there in a jiffy, both pissed off but relieved to have things finally sorted.
Toon has now picked up well, but this cock-up has set her back a full month. It's a month she should have been taking a new hormone drug.
Now it's another poxy month wait until she can start taking the meds she needs . . . penny for her thoughts.
Fingers crossed she'll get the all-clear at some point this year, and we will finally get 'Super Toon' back.
Joking aside, running our 50 rai farmstead is hard enough for two of us, never mind when one of us is out of the game for a while.
It's been a wakeup call for both of us, and something that needs addressing as our bodies begin to fade.
Giving up farming ducks
To coincide with pursuing our plans for the goats, we recently decided to bin off our duck egg venture. The work involved to make a 'poultry' 10-20 baht per tray had become unfeasible.
Rising duck feed costs, preparing supplement feeds, feeding, cleaning, and collecting the eggs was incredibly time-consuming. It was time that we could no longer justify.
Success hatching goose eggs
It has to be said that we had a terrible run of bad luck with our geese in 2019.
One of our adult birds was eaten alive by a 3m long Python
Numerous eggs were taken by two big Water Monitor Lizards
BUT finally, have some good news to share with you.
One of our four remaining geese laid two more eggs. Thinking they would be safer nearer to the house away from predators, we snaffled them away.
At the same time, a Muscovy was laying a new clutch of eggs in an old tyre. Goose and Muscovy eggs both take 35 days to hatch (other duck breeds take 28.)
Sure enough, 35 days later, two goslings appeared from under the duck's wings. A few days on now, they are looking strong and healthy and being tended well by their surrogate mother.
To top things off, yesterday three more goslings hatched (they had laid another clutch.) This is where we usually keep the geese in a fenced pond area.
There are still several other eggs being sat on, so our hopes are high that a few more can make it out safely.
Having snowy-white geese around the farm is a beautiful sight, although they can make your ears bleed when they all start honking.
Looking ahead to February - Farm visitors & accommodation bookings
This next month should see two more new visitors to Porpeang farm. Interest and bookings for accommodation in our nearby village house are gradually picking up.
Plans for February on the farm
We are now busy sourcing our additional goats and organising the lake dig.
With a bit of luck, we should have things moving in February . . . see you then.
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