This week marks four years from the day the digger first showed up for work at the dried up rice field in Mae Mut that has since become our home. It’s difficult to understate the level of agricultural knowledge that we started with, basically we knew nothing, not to mention our total lack of experience with construction and natural building techniques. The journey so far has been made more special by all the wonderful people we met during these first few years, from Jeff Rutherford of Fair Earth Farm and Christian Shearer from the Panya Project, who visited the site even before the digger arrived and helped us make the first few steps, to all the Mae Mut people that have helped us with great patience, especially Sathian, Pee Hom and Suphan, the last two are still here now, and to all the volunteers, visitors, friends, with a special mention to Mick and Jackie Price who, from time to time have given us invaluable advice and encouragement from their thirty plus years of gardening when we really needed it, not to mention helped with the plumbing! The smiles you see in the photos below betray our complete ignorance of what lay ahead.
During the first couple of months the ponds and the canals that move the water around were dug, armed with the knowledge gained in a two-day natural building workshop, we made a start on the house and the first lot of trees got planted. The camping adventure was cut short by a very early and heavy rainy season, 2011 was the year that parts of Bangkok were flooded and remained under water for weeks. From May onwards we commuted from Chiang Mai every day, thinking that it would only be for a couple of months or so, in the end it stretched until December.
Fast forward to this week, we have been living in the house since January 2012, we built a guest room, also in adobe, during that dry season, we added the plot next door, with a traditional thai house already on it, if a bit decrepit (in all the site is now ten acres). There is also a large workshop, a rice store, a wooden bungalow which is now rented out and countless trees and shrubs. We have grown four rice crops and are now beginning to develop a rather large vegetable patch. Oh, and there’s baby Serena, born in Chiang Mai in October 2012 and a resident of Mae Mut Garden from the tender age of one week.
We are so very grateful to all the people that have worked, visited and helped us so much during these four years, it’s been quite a ride, exhilarating and at times dispiriting, we have learned about plants and trees, leaves and roots, about concrete and wood, bamboo and natural building, plumbing and electrics, but just as importantly about patience and determination and about what an incredible place Northern Thailand is and how special its people are.