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Update from Farm November 2016

October passed us by very swiftly here. I didn’t write much because I couldn’t seem to be able stay on track after our long road trip. I’m trying to get back on an old routine, shuffling between taking care of the boys, blogging and writing my novels. This is absolutely confusing, and when I get really exhausted, I talk to my mom.


(My mom with her sister’s grandson. And guess what! His name is Farm. Also, why she is wearing two pairs of glasses?)

I haven’t always been very close to my mom, you know. Maybe it was because I had always been away from home, and growing up, I felt more connected to my dad. It was after my mom’s accident which she fractured her spine that I started to look at her story differently. I had never realized that she was the strongest and coolest woman I had ever met. And then, she became someone I look up to for inspiration and strength.


My mom story is written in the land of dry, crumbling soil and bright sky— our farm. It’s where she was born and where she has lived throughout her life. Let me tell you a story of our farm. Like most smallholding farms in Thailand, the lands in my family were passed down from our ancestors. Our farm is surrounded by our relatives’ lands, which makes it easy for us to help out each other in the sowing and harvesting seasons. Our land is situated in the dried arid terrains, so my late grandfather dug the whole 5 km long canal with a shovel for the water from the Dry Forest to pass through all his children’s segments. There was no machine back then, and he did it all with his bare hands. The canal is filled with fine sand so the water drains pretty quickly. In rainy season, cool water from the forest runs in it, and even the fish, crabs and shrimp live here. In my childhood, that was my favorite time of the year because we could swim in the canal. In the summer past, the canal completely dried up so children played in the cold sand during the day while the adults worked in the farm.


Those were good time. We were taught to respect the land and the water, but I always wondered why we didn’t pick a better land. You know, like one those pieces of land with dark, moist soil where the river runs next to it. My mom said “You can’t always get a basket full of fruits. Life is about filling the basket with fruits.” Hard work is the real value of the land, and as long as we can stand on both feet, we can always turn things around and do better.


When I was a kid, I loved my farm, but I just couldn’t understand why my parents had to work so hard to grow rice while we could easily buy it from the markets. We weren’t poor so why did we need to work so hard? Why we had to grow our own food? Why we couldn’t buy rice instead of spending months growing it? I didn’t know the answers then, but looking back now I understand that farming is not a just a job, but it’s a morality.


Now in our farm in Thailand, the ponds have a lot of fish in them. We also have water lilies decorated the surfaces of the ponds, and we use their stems of these gorgeous blossoms to make curry. Fish from our farm is an important food source in my mom’s household. She also shares with the fish with our relatives and neighbors.


Purple String Beans is in season. They’re in such high demand that people come to our farm to pick them up on spot.


The lime trees are growing so tall, and soon we will need to trim them a bit. These limes go to my cousin’s café and other restaurants nearby.


She grew 50 more banana trees in our land so you can imagine what she’ll be selling next season.


Seasonal vegetables, fruits and whatever grow in the land will feed the community.


The cutest thing happened! My aunt’s buffalo just gave birth. And look at this little guy! My aunt said he slept in mud all day.


We recently harvested our rice. My mom’s friends showed up and helped out. They listened to the radio, drank homemade wine, and cultivated the fat grains of rice all day long. I wish I could comprehensively explain to you the smell of the rice field in harvesting season. The odors of the stalks are sweet like wild flowers mixed with the scent of the rain. My mom and her friends lied on the field as they took a break. It’s such the perfect place to be. 


The best reward of rice harvesting affair is a rustic feast at noon when you can share delicious food after all the productive cardio.


We also use a harvester to get things done faster, but cultivating rice by hands should never be forgotten and neglected because it’s the backbone of our culture and tradition. Although the majority of the work was done by machine now, the elders in my village understand the importance of cherishing the old system. It would be sad if we forgot traditional ways of life where everyone in the community come together to help out each other.


You work hard in the farm and go home to celebrate.


Every month, there’re festivals, rituals and celebrations. It’s a system that the older generations created to give us the quality and balanced life.


Look, my mom even got a couple of Rhino Beetles for Yaseen. I remembered having these bugs as pet when I was a kid. We fed them sugarcane and put them in wrestling tournaments. New generations don’t play like that anymore. Most kids play with video games and spend time online. Time flies, and everyone changes. It’s good to change, but I think old things shouldn’t be forgotten.


Now, we are drying the grains at home before sending them to the mill to process.


My mom will fill her rice storage full. It’s a place to keep the grain for household use for the entire year. The rest she will sell for profit and gives to relatives who didn’t grow their rice this year.


Meanwhile in Kerala, the boys and I arrived at our land. Sadik bought this piece of land 6 months ago. It’s on the mountain, and it’s surrounded by wavy hills and green coconut trees. This land gives about 1,000 coconuts per month. We are growing more food here as well, making the land happy and fruitful. A lot of work is putting into it right now so I will show you more about this place later.


I used to tell my mom that farming can never be profitable. It’s a job for the poor, and it’s hard work for nothing. I think the best answer my mom gave me was not in words but in stories and works that she had done to this land. Farming is the proudest work. It’s the most honorable and sustainable thing. Farming shows that the value of life is not in terms of money but the contribution to the society we live in. Today, of course I know better. I love farming, and that’s why Sadik and I decided to buy a piece of land where we can also start growing food. I do feel really proud of our decision as I recall someone once told me “You maybe poor, but you will never be starved when you have a land.”


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