Friday, July 31, 2015

In search of some really good sh*t

I'm looking for some good sh*t.  I mean really good stuff.  Not just any kind of sh*t but really good chicken manure for our Tilapia ponds.

In my previous blog posts, I noted that we started building some ponds out in the back of our resort for water retention and to raise fish.  We decided to make it as organic as possible, and decided not to use commercially produced fish food but to raise our own duckweed and other edible plants for food.  So now the task is to source some high quality products for the venture.  First on our list was finding organic fertilizer - specifically organic chicken manure.

You would think that with all the chickens being raised here in Thailand that there would be a large variety to choose from.  But that is not the case.  The industry is dominated by the CP Foods Group and other large corporate chicken growers.  They produce almost all the stuff for the country's big franchises (KFC, McD, etc.) and dominate most of the chain food markets.  They do an excellent job of creating the perfect size and shape of chicken for these markets, and thus they also have tons of manure.  My only concern with this manure is my belief that its tainted with residual hormones, antibiotics, and other stuff that the chickens expelled when they were forced fed to grow large quickly.  All the stuff that didn't go into the chicken came out the other end...into the poop!  Now use that same poop in the pond water?...nope not in our ponds.

At this point, I want to clear up some misinformation about chicken sh*t in ponds.  The fish do not eat the stuff.  The manure is used to fertilize the pond water and make it turn green with blue green algae.  The fish eat the algae and other plants and are primarily vegetarians.  They do eat bugs, etc,, but do not eat fish meal or other products unless its embedded in the fish food.  This is one of the reasons we want to exclude using commercial fertilizers and fish food for our Tilapia crop.

Anyway, after some searching, we think we found a source for high quality, organic chicken manure just over the hill in Nakhon Ratchasima.  They claim to have the best factory in Thailand and their prices are not cheap.  Here is the link to their site:

Its pellets not the raw stuff
Armed with that info, I think a fun day trip over to the factory might be the way to go...or on the other hand, just ordering a shipment might be wiser since I heard that really good sh*t takes a while to ferment - so the factory might not be a pleasant place to visit.  I want to preserve my nose for now.  Seriously, the manure has been fermented and is made into pellets and thus the finished product no longer smells like raw chicken manure.  

I will post more on this topic once I get my sh*t together later in the week.

A bit of a new look..

The blog look has changed a bit again.  While I really liked the Dynamic Views layout that blogger made available, it lacked the ability to customize and add certain elements, such as gadgets,  badges and advertisements.  So the blog has reverted back to one of its previous templates and now I can add things like Google Translate to make it available in a language of your choice, temperatures, exchange rates, etc. 

I've also submitted this blog to the Expat Blog community in order to make it more widely available.  Hopefully, we will get some new readers with an interest in how it feels to live here in the land of smiles.  Their badge on the sidebar links to many other blogs about living in all over the world (Including Thailand) and it will definitely expand your choices of available blogs to follow.

More later this weekend as I get settled down at the resort for the long holiday.  Its busy as we are full this weekend with regulars from Bangkok visiting family and going to their local Wats.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I didn't know....

It was a holiday today.  Wan Kao Phansa is one of the major holidays here in Thailand.  It varies each year and is the first day after the full moon on the eighth lunar month.  The day is significant for Buddhists because its the start of 'lent' where monks are supposed to stay inside one temple or place until three lunar months have passed.  Its also a period where many young men join the Monkhood.

While Wan Kao Phansa is important, it has impacted me very little in the past.  It was just another day when businesses in the Mango shut down or go into 'holiday' mode.  But this year, I postponed my trip back upcountry from Wednesday to today and boy was it a mistake!  Screwed up big time.  

My normal 4 hour drive upcountry took a whopping 9 hours.  Traffic was crawling from Bangkok to Farm Chockchai - took us 6 hours to get there when it is normally only two hours.  Marina was getting cranky, and both B and I were getting antsy.  

It seems like because the holiday fell on Thursday, people took advantage of the situation and took an extra day off (Friday) to make it a four day weekend.  Its also a tradition that families return home for this holiday when the opportunity presents itself.  The net result was a traffic jam very similar to going upcountry during Songkran.  Wasted an entire day on the road.

Anyway, we're finally here, and might stay put for a while.  Don't want to get on the road anytime soon and my bed looks so inviting right now...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Oneplus 2 is out !

I am anxiously waiting for my invite to buy this beauty.  At $389 for the big boy, its a bargain at about 1/2  to 1/3 the prices of the iPhone 6, or Galaxy S6.   It comes unlocked and the new phone comes with dual sim support!  Needless to say, my experience with the Oneplus one has been very satisfactory and I would not hesitate buying another phone from this company.

If you want to get an invite to buy the new phone, here is the link (PS:  If you do, you will help move me up in the list):

The other talk recently is the Moto X, produced by Motorola (remember them?)  which can only be purchased outside of the US and at higher cost.  

The scoop on the hardware:

The scoop on the OS

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pantip, a shadow of its former self

Just got back from Pantip Plaza.  Was hoping to find some Cat 5 cable for extending some cameras at the resort.  Last time there, I found a vendor on the 4th floor where I bought a 1000 foot box pretty cheap.  But guess what, many of the stores are closed on the top floors and the mall is now about 1/2 empty.  There were rumors that Pantip was going to be renovated and go more upscale, but its another thing to see it actually happening.

A wide open entrance from the door - instead of 100s of booths

Gone are nearly all the places selling pirated software and movies, and many of the smaller, independent shops selling hardware have moved down the street to Palladium Mall.  Its not that Pantip was always the cheapest place to get things, but I knew if there was one place in the mango where I could find something odd related to IT, it would be there - if I looked hard enough.  There are other places like Fortune Town where its cleaner and easier to get to, but the thrill is to go to a dumpy center where all kinds of stuff in stores and bins, legal or illegal, could be had.  It was a tinkerer's gold mine, and one could build entire systems with parts sourced in one building.

But I guess it was time.  The laptops are almost at the tail end of their useful lives, and desktops are getting harder to find outside the corporate environment.   There were other places where one could go in the mango, and the crackdown on piracy and the desire to get more rents, forced the little guys out. Maybe it was a crackdown by the government, but the owner of Pantip, one of the wealthiest families in Thailand, could do whatever they wanted....leave the place dark for a decade if they chose, but instead I think they opted for more dollars from a fewer number of large retailers.  Get the government off their back and get more rents, etc.  So the little guys get screwed....TIT.

4th Floor 

Anyway, before you allocate too much time on a trip over to Pantip on your next visit, you might want to set your expectation down a bit as it is, truly a shadow of its former self.  Sometimes, things are best left the way they were - kinda takes the fun out of living here in the mango.

This is were the food section used to be on the M level

In the Mango for a few days.

Feels like I am a short timer here in the Mango lately.  Here for a few days only to pick up some packages, take Marina for her doctor's appointment ( 2 year old check-up), and a bit of city life and then its back up to the country tomorrow or Thursday.  Had a chance to visit the archery range yesterday.  The timing was perfect as just after our 2 hours on the range, we walked over to get something to eat and then it starting raining buckets.  That cooled everything down and provided much needed water for the region.

Today, I am waiting for DHL to deliver some stuff I ordered this morning.  In the afternoon, I want to visit Pantip for some cabling and maybe go over to Bobae Market (time permitting) for some shirts to use at the resort.  Time just goes by too fast here in the mango but we will stay longer if needed.  B's birthday is next week and after that, its Mother's day so it might be a while before I get back into town.  Have to play it by ear...would be great if we could come back this weekend for a few days.

Great chart of the mango varieties from

In the meantime, one of my projects is to research mangos.  It was B's father's idea, but we all agreed that we wanted lots of mango trees around the fish ponds and farm.  Mango trees can withstand some flooding and provide shade and tons of delicious fruit.  We already have about a half dozen around the resort bearing fruit, but the plan is to buy around 30 more trees, of mixed variety.  That will give us lots of fruit to eat and to sell to the locals during the market days.  I love mangos!

The mangos will compliment our Papaya, banana, and custard apple trees in the fruit department.  We plan on growing Moringa and duckweed for our fish, and peas, tomatoes, and potatoes for veggies.  No rice on our property...much cheaper to just buy at the Big C market or trade with some local farmers.

Critical week for the world's financial systems.  Without a Friday to save us from sudden changes, we might see some really violent swings and maybe even a halt in trading if things go badly.  That is the situation when only a few stocks are holding up the averages of indexes like the Dow Jones Industrials.  Most of the other companies in the Dow and most of the market stocks are in red numbers.  That gives a distorted picture that things are not so bad - when in reality, its not good at all.  Is the black swan China?  is she too big to fail?...we'll know soon enough.  

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

All the signs are there...but

For all intents and purposes, we should be in a recession already.  All the signs are there - dropping commodities prices, slowing economies, countries defaulting their sovereign debts,  and corporate layoffs due to missed revenues and earnings.  But something odd is happening...things are not going anywhere fast.  Everything is in a limbo state unlike anything I've ever seen in the past.

Could it be that we are running so fast that we don't realize that there is no ground beneath us yet?  Just like the Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons, his legs are running full speed and he staying afloat, until he realizes that there is no ground beneath him.  It seems like the low information public is Wile Coyote in spades.  People are working so hard to pay their bills and acquire their toys that they don't realize that the floor beneath them, the very foundation of their belief system has fallen away and that they are running on air.

China is dumping its reserves as fast as it can to prop up its stock market.  That means billions in treasuries (last count 1/2 Trillion) have hit the market and that makes a rate hike unlikely until our own markets crash.  The only problem is that our markets are not crashing...just little dips and then money comes in to prop it back up again.  And its unlikely that the Feds can raise interest rates because that would severely increase the interest rate payments due by the government.

The weeks and days before the crash in 2008, I was blogging about how things didn't look right and that there was a deliberate attempt to paint a picture other than reality.  A crash was imminent.  And having lived and thrived through the last crash I see this pattern being painted out again, only this time in neon colors.  Previous posts here:

My guess is that there are also some hedge funds and banks who control large stock positions and sums of money who are running scared right now.  They know a crash is coming, but are trying to hold on as long as possible so that they can move their investments around to a safe haven.  The only problem is that everything is falling apart in front of them and there is no place to hide.  So the scrambling begins....

Forecasters of an economic collapse in the third quarter might be a bit late.  I believe it is already here, and like a train wreck in slow motion, we know what the outcome is going to be, but can't do anything to stop it.  Save your cash, get tangible assets, store provisions, and prepare for a tough half of the year.

You've been warned!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just chilling out.

Not much happening  up here.  Just routine stuff and watching the grass grow - vetiver grass that is.  I stay at the resort a lot,  just enjoying the environment and spending time with Marina.  She is a smart girl and I think I will home school her as long as I can before sending her off to the school system.  Likely we will have to go back to the mango when she is ready for school as I am not impressed with either the private or public schools up here.  Marina just tuned two and she already can identify animal pictures, count her fingers, and communicate is one or two word phrases.  

Made a visit to the local government fishery research center yesterday.  Didn't realize that there was a center just about 15 minutes down the road.  They have ponds containing frogs, shrimp, and all types of fish for harvesting.  We got there a bit late and everyone was going home, but B tells me that this facility offers free consulting and water analysis of ponds, etc.  As novices in this fish raising business, its good to have a resource like this available and I will definitely go in regularly and try to make some friends there.

Going back to the mango on Sunday so that I can get some stuff from Aliexpress.  Ordered a high powered spotlight, some drone batteries, and a water test kit.  Hopefully they will be in when I get there, but can wait until they come in and spend a few days in the mango hanging out.  Also testing out an inexpensive night vision goggle in the event we need to spot fish poachers.  

B and the family want to go into town tonight for a big Volleyball tournament at the local sports center.  Supposed to have teams from all over the country competing and there will lots of food and other entertainment.  Small town stuff.

That's it for tonight.  No free buffet, no lobby, and no bright lights of the big mango.   But we have the sound of crickets, a cool breeze blowing, and the sweet smell of plumeria trees.  Either is better than being in Kalifornia.

PS:  Its that time of the year when its bug city.  After the first hard rains and a windless day, the bugs are out in force.  Open a light or wear a white shirt that reflects light and you're going to get swarmed.  We have both bats and geckos on the property, but no way anything except a mass die off from the heat is going to do the job.  Think I will stay inside tonight, behind the bug screens and closed windows.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sticky morning

Its one of those mornings when you wake up and go outside and everything feels sticky.   The tables, the chairs, and everything you touch is sticky. The weather forecast shows 91% humidity outside. Its high humidity time.  It rained most of the day yesterday, heavy at times, and on and off last night.  In a period of about a week, I think we got about 1/2 of the normal moisture for the year.  But we could definitely use more - just spread it out a bit so that the ground can absorb the water and the lakes and reservoirs can catch most of it before it evaporates.  Needless to say, when it rains heavy up here, there is little to do except to surf the net, and watch the rain fall and the grass grow, read a book, play with Marina, but definitely a low stress lifestyle.

If the weather stays the same today, I will head to the kitchen to make some more pastries.  We made the samples the other day, but a few of the family did not like the yeast fermentation flavor so I think I will substitute baking powder for the yeast today and see how it turns out.

On the investment side, I bought some gold ETFs last night.  Not being in the US, it was the best way for me to lock in on the low prices before I get back to California.  I've been a gold bug since I started this blog and gold is pretty darn cheap right now.  I first started accumulating gold at $550 an ounce and continue to buy the big dips.  Personally, I think its a bargain right now even though it might go down just a tad bit more.  Its impossible to time the exact bottom or the exact top, but being close is better than missing the boat completely.   Don't like to own ETFs or virtual gold, but short of going to Bangkok's Chinatown and plunking down cash, its the best I can do from here.  When I return, I will convert the virtual gold to real gold by selling my positions and buying the real stuff.

Anyway, no sun out yet.  Maybe another overcast and drizzly day.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Safe upcountry

Safe upcountry after a challenging drive.  Started to rain buckets about an hour from the resort.  There was some minor flooding on the highway, about 2-3 inches, so I had to proceed slowly in case of hydroplaning.  Each day of rain for us is a joyful event and hopefully we will get caught up and not have a drought for next year.  

Once I got to the resort, some of the family was still out back planting Vetiver grass.  Soaking wet, muddy, and cold, they were laughing and having a great time...I guess its sanook work or no work at all.  I just love the Thai mentality of having fun doing some rather mundane work.  A flash of lightning in the distance finally brought them in.  

Plan to chill out for a few days up here.  Its like home now for me, with plenty of space to do whatever I want and family around.  I just wish we had a few more malls or good restaurants up here.  But I better keep quiet because I might get what I wish for and that would end the peacefulness and quiet we have in this part of the country.  

Going back to the country

After a very pleasant weekend in the mango, its time to go back up to the resort.  Had a chance to hang out a bit with the guys and even made a trip over to the archery range.  Before getting back to the mango, I had a chance to play a round of golf at Pak Chong with my Thai friends.  So it was a nice reward for working so hard last week on the resort projects.

While I was away, B, her family and some workers were trying to plant some Vetiver grass between the rain storms.  B's sister is visiting and jumped in to help, saying she missed working on the farm like she did when she was a child.  This is a good time for planting because the soil is soft and will stay moist enough for the grass to take root.  Its not hard work, just a lot of bending and trekking around in the mud. With the drought situation this year, its unlikely that we will get enough water for all of next year - let alone worry about a flood in the next few weeks.  

More later when I get up to the resort.  Rain predicted this week so I don't know how much we can accomplish outside.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Open

The Open Golf Championship is underway this week at St.Andrews, Scotland.  Interesting developments with the new faces and the demise of some of older players.  It brings up memories of my trip there in 2012.  Accomplished one of my 'bucket list' items during that trip which was to get a photo taken while I stood atop the Swilican bridge on the 18th hole on the Old Course.  St. Andrews is the self proclaimed 'home of golf" and major players make their final competition appearance there and cap it off with a photo on this same bridge.  I believe Tom Watson is saying farewell this time.

The way my game is going, I think it may have retired a long time ago as well, even before this photo taken back in 2012.

It was a beautifully clear day at the Old Course

Did you know that Old Course at St. Andrews is right next to a beach?  The same beach where the opening scenes from the movie Chariots of Fire was shot?  Didn't know that too until I got there......

Friday, July 17, 2015

In the mango for a few days + Oneplus 2

Decided to spend a few days in the mango after golf yesterday.  A bit longer drive to get here, but I get to hang out a bit on my own and take a break away from the resort.  That sounds a bit funny as a resort is supposed to be where you go to get away from things, but for me, its a place where I work  and I have to drive to the mango to relax...555

Spent the day doing some chores, visiting the salon, and dropping off a phone that I wanted to sell.  I had a oneplus one phone that was not being used (originally for B but she didn't want it) and they are very rare here in Thailand.  That will give me some cash for the new Oneplus TWO which is due to be released later this month.  Some great news (only about 2 hours old as of this post), is the it will have dual sim support!  Here is the link to the latest specs.  

As before, the phone will be for sale by invitation only.  At about 1/2 the price of its 2016 flagship rivals (less than $450), its going to make my shopping list as soon as I get my invite.

Still trying to get a handle on what I want to do during my few days in the mango.  Looks like some archery, some shopping, and maybe a night out for some dinner.  Kinda miss those things when I am upcountry.  

I have still been following Greece and China.  Must admit I was wrong and disappointed about the Greek people, thought they had more of a backbone.  They are just prolonging the eventual outcome by kicking the can down the road again like I predicted.  As for China...gamblers seldom win and the Chinese are known for their vices.  The stock market is the world's largest Casino...only the house is the big banks and the small independent investors are the sucker's hoping for a good luck streak.  The games and market are rigged...always has been.  Unfortunately it was time for the housewives and street vendors to get a expensive lesson in world economics.

Have a nice weekend everyone !

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Photos of the pond project

Finally had a chance to go out this afternoon after things had dried out a bit.  Surprisingly the mud and dirt had dried enough for me to walk around without the mud sticking to my shoes.  Thought I would have to wait a couple of days, but it was better drained than expected.

Service Road leading to the ponds.  Back of resort fence is on the right.
To keep away thieves and trespassers, only one way in and out pass the resort.

Khlong is starting to fill with water.  Already about 24 inches deep

Also the workers had gone out in the afternoon and began planting the Vetiver grass around the perimeter.  I wanted to post these pictures today in order to chronicle the planting date and other conditions so that I can refer back to this post down the road.

Vetiver along the side of the service road

Vetiver along the outside of the ponds.  Blue pipe is for drainage of pond into the canal

The Big pond - for the Black Nile Tilapia

The small pond for the Red/Pink Tilapia

Small duckweed pond already seeded with duckweed and growing fast!
In the last picture above, the duckweed pond will get nutrient rich water pumped from the ponds below.  After the duckweed grows and cleans the water, it will be released back down into the other ponds.  

This will be the last of the updates for now until we get some more rains and the rivers and lakes around this area rise.  Hopefully by next month, out ponds will be full and maybe ready for some fish before I head back to California.

Tomorrow its golf at Pak Chong and then back to the mango for the weekend!

The miracle of Vetiver Grass

No pictures of the pond/canal project today.  It rained very hard and long last night and the land is coated with the kind of mud that sticks to the bottom of your layers such that your shoes become too heavy to walk with.  Mud cakes that don't come off without some kind of scraping, etc.  So we will let the mud dry a couple of days and so will the workers.

So today, I am posting something that I've been researching for a bit now.  Its called Vetiver grass.

On August 29th, 2009 HRM the King gave a speech and presentation to his Privy Councilor and agency heads about some research he had spearheaded.  He was the first to recognize that Vetiver grass (Ya-pha-eg) would be of great benefit to Thailand for erosion and soil control and thus improving the country's productivity.  Funding the research with his royal projects initiatives, varieties were studied and developed for use and dissemination throughout the country.

Vetiver grass has the unique property of sending down very long roots in a vertical manner that can run as deep as 6 meters in certain conditions.  They're like icebergs, there is more below the surface than above.  Their clumping nature keeps them from running amok in the crop fields (non invasive)  and its very hardy and can survive low water and obviously, flooding.

An idea of the length and fullness of the root system

These traits adds tremendous strength and stability to any soil and is especially good at holding grades for roads, levees, and troublesome soils.  Since its introduction, its been widely used throughout the country.  The agriculture department breeds and distributes the grass at minimal cost and supplies it by request.  Its also used in over 200 countries worldwide in a broad range of applications. For example, the video below shows how Vetiver is used in the Hawaiian Islands to control erosion.

Vetiver grass will be an important component of our fish ponds, canal, and roads as they are elevated and have a grade to them that can be eroded during floods, high water, or heavy rains.  Work has already started as we wait for the weather to cooperate to plant the grass around the outer edges of the ponds.  The cost for us in this area is 10,000 stalks for 1000 baht.  To begin with, I think we will order 100-150,000 clumps, but the major cost will be getting people to plant them on the slopes.  Might take 5 or more people a week or more to get the job done.  Luck may be in our favor as farm labor is available now due to the drought,  We have a couple of workers lined up for 300 baht a day, plus meals and drink so far.  Might see how far they get and if we need additional workers before the real heavy rains start.

Example of how its used on a slope to prevent erosion
Here is how they look like before planting - we've already obtained 10,000 plants

I believe that Thailand must bring technology into its farming practices to remain competitive.  The farmers are hard working and great people, but many of them lack schooling and a basic education. They are using generations old practices and have not reaped the benefits of technology and knowledge developed around the world.  In fact, farm tractors and machinery has just taken hold and now most farmers do indeed use machinery in place of buffaloes.  Farmers sub contract out work so that not everyone needs or owns their own tractor.   So now if your TeeRak says her family buffalo is sick and she needs money, its likely her family's Kobuta tractor needs a part or servicing - or she is giving you a scam line.

Today's buffalo in the countryside

Hopefully, what we are doing will make a difference in the area in terms of shared knowledge, better products,  and more income for all those around us.  We are going to use technology smartly, and stay away from such products like pesticides, GMO products, hormones, and the like.  We want a sustainable farm growing organic fish, fruits and vegetables - after all, we plan on eating the stuff ourselves too.

Our dearm farm and resort

With the weather delay, I might go back to the mango after golf tomorrow and hang out for the weekend again.   But now its time to get ready to take Vanna to the Isuzu dealer for her checkup and maintenance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Its Raining up here!

Normally nothing to post about, but we have had so little rain that tonight's downpour is great news for us.  Been heavy too, starting around 6PM and going strong off and on for a couple of hours now.

Going to check the ponds tomorrow, but bet we got at least a foot deeper because of the runoff and ground water!

Upcountry again...but for only a few days.

As planned, we left around 9AM this morning and we are now upcountry at the resort.  The workers were supposed to be pretty close to being finished and after a walk-through this afternoon, its getting pretty close.  The road around the farm and ponds needs to be compacted with a bulldozer, but the major evacuation work is completed.  There is even water in all of the ponds because we had some rain the last few days. Really enjoyed having this group of workers on this project as they took a lot of care to make sure it was just right.  We've known them for several years now and they have done jobs big and small for us on short notice.  For example, they did most of the work grading and digging holes for the resort. They also dug the big holes for our large palm trees and helped us get additional dirt to raise the resort before we did construction.  

Our endeavors up here would not have gone so smoothly without having a good working relationship with the local folks.  We are fortunate that some of the locals are tradespeople that do the same jobs for projects in the big mango.  When they are not working in the mango, they are home planting rice and crops.  If there is local work, they will gladly take on the projects at bargain prices.  Its especially true now as the drought has hit the farmers especially hard with many of them skipping planting of rice and crops due to a lack of water.  All the work up here was negotiated and completed with a just a handshake.  You are your word up here in these parts - like the old Chinese way business was done in the past.  

Anyway, the weekend in the big mango was very nice.  Had a chance to visit the Rama II archery range on Sunday with Bangkok Buddy and went to IKEA yesterday for some supplies to do some pastry making.  IKEA has a decent variety of kitchen accessories and baking pans in their Marketplace and the prices are fair.  Not cheap - just fair, but the quality can be counted on.  Will be going back after golf on Thursday to the mango for a few days and likely be back up here the following week.

Plan on taking Vanna in for her 90,000 km service in town tomorrow.  Counting my other Honda City, I've driven nearly 250,000 km here in the land of smiles over the last 12+ years.  Not bad for a part timer, with the roads and controls on the opposite side of what they are in California.  Vanna has been a wonderful truck and I would not hesitate to buy another Isuzu for my next vehicle.  That won't be for a while as I think she can run for 300,000 km or more on her diesel power train. Isuzu and 

Toyota trucks are the vehicles of choice up here for a reason - they last and can handle the demands of a farm truck.

More tomorrow, including some pictures of the project.  Going to rest a bit now as I had to stay up a bit late last night because B went to night market in Chinatown where they sold cheap cosmetics and other things for women ( direct from the various factories).  By night market, I mean like starting at 1AM and running until 4 or 5 in the morning.   How they source the stuff is likely questionable, but the prices are dirt cheap and the quality of the merchandise seems to be very good.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Weekend in the Mango

Its good to have a weekend in the mango.  Went to the free Friday night buffet and met up with Barnaby and BB.  Barnaby is a great guy and a great cook.  He made both of us some bread to thank us for bringing some stuff over for him from the states.  Being a former pizza man, Barnaby knows a bit about bread dough and how to make a great tasting loaf.

Told the guys about a new idea I had for the resort.  Bringing a very popular pastry to our area in Chaiyaphum for B's sister to make and sell and also to put us on the map for someplace to go in the mornings.  White sugar sponge cake (bok hong go) is a very popular item in many dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong and is widely sold in Singapore and Malaysia as a breakfast pastry to eat along with tea and coffee.  I tried to make it at the resort, but it didn't turn out right as I couldn't find all the ingredients in our area.  Specifically, I was unable to find a good yeast to make the mixture rise properly and get that beehive look.  Tasted good, but it had the consistency of cake.

So after our Buffet and hanging out at the lobby for a bit, we made a trip to Foodland where I found a lot of yeast and also bought some more flour and sugar.  So yesterday evening, I was experimenting again with my new ingredients and the pastry still didn't have enough loft to it.  I think that I didn't allow it to sit long enough so my third attempt will be today.  You would think that something this simple would be easy, but getting the right fluffy texture is somewhat of an art form and once we have it, I think it will be a hit at the resort and the local people's markets.  Lots of stuff on YouTube, but actually getting it right in your own kitchen is another thing - especially with the texture.

Anyway, today's plan for later is to go out to the archery range with BB.  After that, I think I will come home, shower, and head out to IKEA for some kitchen and baking items.  Once we have the recipe nailed down, I will try to convert it to batch/bulk mode so that we can make enough to sell on a regular basis.  It will give B's sister a product to specialize in as she has loved pastries making ever since she was young child.  Her present repertoire is only Thai pastries, and that is very common-place. This product, along with its variations, will hopefully give her an edge over her competition.  Besides, I like this pastry for breakfast once in a while too!

Once completed, I think we can sell it in squares on palm/banana leaves and cling wrapped to maintain freshness and moisture.  It can be served warm or chilled and all we need is a sticker that uniquely identifies our product - "Marina Palms Hong Go"  We will hopefully have some variations of the product, using different sugars, flours, etc.  Time and popularity will dictate those decisions later.

Anyway, batch three in on the steamer right now as I am finishing his blog.  Hopefully it will come out right.  Good thing that the ingredients are cheap - especially here in Thailand and most of it produced locally.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Heading back to the Mango

Just finished my morning walk, had breakfast, and checked a bit on the work being done at the resort and in about 30 minutes, I am going to head back to the big mango for a few days.  It will be good to get back to city life, restaurants, and the archery range, although its been really enjoyable up here in the countryside as well.  The secret to a happy life is having choices. 

Choices of where you want to be, what you want to do, and when you want to do it.  When one gets bound and tied down and is stuck on a rigid schedule at a fixed location for any length of time, one can't be very happy - can they?

More later as I look forward to getting a massage before going to the free buffet tonight. bound!


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pond and Khlong Update

The pond project is moving right along and they are getting close to completing the major evacuation work.  What remains is to have the various drainage pipes installed and then have the road around the ponds and farm compacted.  They had a little setback this morning when the backhoe got stuck in a hole he was digging.  But if things go well, the whole project should be completed in 2 -3 days maximum, depending on weather.  To my great joy, it rained hard last night - we needed it badly.

We spent the last couple of days getting cement pipes and PVC pipes for the canal and the ponds so that we have manual control over how much water goes where.  This will give us a lot of flexibility to manage water flow and to avoid flooding issues, etc.  It won't be foolproof, especially if we get one of those floods that made the resort an island a few years back and threatened to flood the city of Bangkok.

Anyway, here are some aerial drone photos of the progress to date.  The ponds have already started to fill up with groundwater and the big rain we had last night.  Its a good sign that we will have water all year round for our farm and for the resort landscaping.  We will definitely have to manage when to get our fish into and out of the ponds to avoid them dying or being washed away during a big flood.

Ponds are already getting filled with water

Irrigation canal with dirt bridge for vehicles to cross over

A road for vehicles is going to be cut and graded on the left of canal all the way to the ponds.

With work nearly done, and B having an appointment in the mango this weekend, I am going to go back to the mango tomorrow for a few days.  I also have to pick up my golf clubs for an outing next week up this way with my Thai friends so it works out well, timing wise.  

Lastly, while I am up here working away, I am also keeping up with the developments in Greece and even more carefully so, China's stock market.  Don't have any money in either, but I think that the contagious nature due to loss of 'belief' in the financial systems across the planet will get worse before its gets better.  I am out of the US stock market except for one stock and some gold so in a way, I really am just an observer of history at this point, having made all the preparations I could.  For those that think it won't impact them, remember when the government comes for your money, its going after those that have money... the more you have, the more they are going to take.  They will go after pensions, 401Ks, brokerage accounts, and anything that is virtual and that is not in your hot little hands.  Even then, they can confiscate assets like gold if you don't put it in a safe place.  Greece will be a good example of how this will be done.

China's sudden loss of paper wealth will impact US companies that do business in China (e.g. Apple, KFC, Walmart, etc.) so as the big dragon sneezes, it will be heard around the planet.

Anyway, time to relax a bit and get ready to go back to the mango...maybe even hit the free buffet tomorrow night and some archery on Saturday.  Too much else to do than to worry about the financial world coming to an end.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Hearts and Minds of the people...via propaganda

The war that is underway today is for the hearts and minds of the people.  Whether your own citizens or those that can be made sympathetic to your cause, information and news can molded and targeted to define what can be perceived as reality.  Through selective content or omission of content, most people believe what they read in their circle of newspapers or public media.  Some have an expanded view via the internet, but even those are limited by the sources they pick and choose to visit.

So today, I took a sample of the headlines of the various English versions of newspapers from various countries, knowing full well they have been re-directed and sanitized for a totally different audience.
But here are the snapshot of the website's front page posted without comments.  Notice the differences in what is covered and how its been editorialized.  Pity those that only rely on a single source for their glimpse of reality.  (You can clink on any photo to expand)

Hearts and Minds....its a powerful thing to waste.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The tap water in the Mango may run dry....

According to the latest forecast from the MWA (metro waterworks agency), the tap water in the mango could run dry in 30 days if we don't get a significant amount of rain before then.  Its not like we drink tap water, but necessities like taking a shower, flushing the toilet, cooking, and other water based activities would be severely impaired without water.  Already in parts of Thailand, trucks are having to make deliveries of drinking water to meet daily needs of the people in those areas.  It hasn't been so bad for the land of smiles in decades and the strange thing is that there hasn't been any rationing programs implemented.  

Typical of Thai mentality, the problem will be dealt with, when it happens.  For some, that means around the 29th day or a day before the tap runs dry, someone important will call for a mad dash or mobilization of resources "to do something" to fix the problem.  Some people will begin packing their bags on the 30th day, others will wait a bit longer.     In the meantime, just be optimistic and go on using water like normal - mai pen rai!

The mango has seen it all the last few years.  There was massive flooding just a couple of years back and political demonstrations that tied up the city for months, and then there was even a coup - things just kept rolling along.   But running out of tap water is a show stopper.  Cities, and even entire regions have relocated in the past when the water supply ran out.  Its believed  that the mighty Khmer Empire that built the Angkor Wat  complexes eventually left the area due to a prolonged drought that made the area uninhabitable for decades. A lack of tap water would immediately impact the tourist industry, manufacturing, and businesses.  Why people aren't working 24 hours a day on alternative plans right now, is beyond me.

Going to be a lot of thirsty, smelly people pretty soon if we don't get rain.

Climates change, but I am not one that places responsibility for these changes on humans alone.  I believe that climates have always varied from day one.  Sometimes we as humans also do stupid things, like settle in places that were once deserts or dry habitats and try to change the environment to go contrary to the normal climate of the area.  Las Vegas and Southern California come to mind.   A few thousand years from now when they find casino relics in the desert, the people are going to wonder why we were so stupid to pick a place in the middle of the desert for such a large and complex city.  Didn't we know that we were doomed to fail if things didn't go perfectly as planned?

Mango trees can withstand some flooding and drought.  Will the big mango be able to get through this like the the tree if it doesn't rain significantly in the next 30 days?  I am going to buy a lot of bottled water, just in case.

Monday, July 6, 2015

and NOW what?

Well Greece voted no.  Now what?  

The next three days will be critical to the entire world.  First of all, expect some panic in the markets when the market opens and for it to drop again.  How far, only the shadows knows.

Second, both parties are going back to the negotiating table.  Only this time, Greece has a bit more ammo on their end.  Greece doesn't want to leave the Eurozone, but it can't afford to stay in it without some kind of reduction of debt.  The Greek people are also likely to get some kind of haircut from their banks.  But the 'No' vote means that they aren't just going to passively accept whatever the troika offers.  On the other hand, the ECB creditors can't give Greece a break in their debt without setting off a chain reaction with the other countries who are in similar circumstances.

Imagine if your bank gave one loan customer a discount and forgave some of their debt completely. Wouldn't you or other customers demand the same treatment?  That is exactly the situation, but on a much larger scale with the other countries.  What is even more critical is that some of the money that is owed from Greece is from a couple of countries are also in dire economic situations (Italy and France).  

The coward's way out is to postpone, once again, the debt and extend more money in loans.  In other words kick the can down the road again and wait for it to blow up under someone else's watch.  Its likely the scenario that will take place.   At some point, as every government is doing the same, the road is going to end and we will have to face the reality of an insolvent global financial system.  It comes up sooner and sooner and each kick of the can gets shorter and shorter. Maybe this is the last kick - no one knows.   I just hope we are out and safely prepared when it all goes boom!

The aerial photos

The three ponds are clearly visible from the air now..

As can be seen by the aerial photo above (click to expand if desired), the ponds are taking on great shape.  The river supplying the water can be seen and is still flowing.  

You will also notice other farmers in the background who also have ponds for their crops, etc.  With the current water situation here in Thailand, those that made the investment to build ponds are managing to survive and grow some of their crops.  The others who did not prepare...well they are broke and gone....or the bank now owns a lot of land in the area.

More later.

****Additional Photos ****

they are starting on the Klong today

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