2017 January Update

Just a quick photo upload for people to have a look at the exciting growth and developments of PermaPai, especially for those who have no seen it for a while. A new firebreak, a new metal roof, drain and water tank for rainwater catchment, mulching the old roof, new adorable kittens (Pooh Bear and Mango), catfish, honey oranges, coffee flowers, lots of bananas, humongous lemons, harvesting all the condiments for tom kha from the land and beautiful sunrises. Pairadise! 🙂

Lab Results

The results from the laboratory tests outlined in the previous blog post are now available.


These graphs below are the results of the Cation Exchange Capacity tests:

CEC results

The land use types tested are as follows:

ORT – Organic Rice Terrace

CRT – Conventional Rice Terrace

PF – Pioneer Forest

FF – Food Forest

NF – Natural Forest

HR – Hillslope Rice

Land use notation is followed by the soil horizon.

The organic rice terrace, pioneer forest and food forest are on the PermaPai property. The rest are in the surrounding area and neighboring properties. By comparing the same soil horizon ( ie. compare the A horizon) between all land use types, you can get an idea for differences in soil quality between the different sites.

The PermaPai property has higher nutrient values than surrounding fields. Though not necessarily a direct correlation with land use, these results are an indication that permaculture land use can have beneficial effects on the soil.

Good news to know that our hard work over the years is gradually paying off in improved soil quality!

Laboratory Soil Analyses

Despite a long blogging silence, the land is still in good order. The trees are growing and cared for by our neighbors while I am at university. Currently, I am beginning my thesis research, using our land as the focus of my research. Soil samples were taken from the soil horizons at 6 key locations. 3 on the PermaPai property, and 3 from the surroundings. The idea is to provide a comparison of topsoil quality over a variety of land uses. In collaboration with the Geoscience laboratory of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, we are conducting the following soil tests: pH, bulk density, cation exchange capacity, organic carbon content, potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus and a soil particle analysis.


Above are the preparations for the cation exchange capacity tests, which require 3 days preparation. These tests will be finalised on Wednesday.


This fancy 25,000 euro piece of equipment above is a LECO EC-12 Carbon Determinator, which burns the carbon in the soil at 1000 degrees C. The CO2 produced can be measured using infrared sensors. By multiplying by a factor of 1,724 we can convert the CO2 gas to the soil organic carbon content.


Here we see the preparations for the pH tests with the pH meter in the background.


I look forward to sharing the results with you soon!

Return after 10 months absence

After 10 months absence due to family and studies abroad, I returned to the land hardly recognizing the plants we planted just 1 year before! In the tropics, the rainy season can be an intense growing period. In our case, most plants doubled in size!

Here’s just a quick look at how much things have grown:


Banana Firebreak


Coconut Palm


Terrace of the Food Forest


Coffee in the Shade of larger legumes and productive trees


The Swale – a passive water harvesting ditch on contour


Cassava – an edible root crop

SAM_6478 - Kopie

Stubble after our first rice harvest

SAM_6485 - Kopie

Star Apple

SAM_6489 - Kopie

Pondside Plants (Papyrus and lemongrass)

SAM_6500 - Kopie

Flower in the Ginger Family used for shampoo

SAM_6504 - Kopie - Kopie

Aloe vera and Brazil peanut groundcover


Moringa oleifera – a superfood, every part of the tree is edible and rich in vitamins!

The Bare Necessities: Electricity and Running Water

A bit old this post, but a year ago we finally got electricity and running water.

This has been a consistent problem due to local bureaucracy. The stream bordering our property divides the districts. The village is on the other side of the stream, therefore in another district.  For this reason, we can not connect to the village electricity or running water.

Luckily, Sailin, our local manager/caretaker bought the property opposite the stream from us.  So we have hooked up to his electricity and running water with permission from the village chief.

This was an interesting endeavour.  First we strung a metal suspension cord across the stream. To this we tied the water pipe.

From this we get water from a natural spring above the village. This we use in the house for cooking, showering and cleaning.


For irrigation, we have a pump that pumps water from the stream into the tanks at the top of the property. This is an electric pump, since we are no longer living here (due to work and studies). The electric pump is easier to maintain in our absence.


Electricity we also hooked up from Sailin’s house. After years of refusing to hook up to the grid, we have now done so for convenience sake and it has been worth it.  The small investment of electricity used helps us to use electric tools for other sustainable projects (most recently a thermosyphon solar hot water heater) and irrigating the food forest, which mitigates climate change. We have considered the costs and benefits of hooking up to the grid and in this case it has been worth it.


Our newest addition to the PermaPai team!


These little guys will grow to poop, fertilising our food forest and pond. The snails in their diet means this fertiliser will be rich in Calcium, a key component in many reactions in the soil.  And most importantly, they are adorable to look at. Daily entertainment!





Our new bathroom, how exciting!

The walls were made weaving muddy rice straw through bamboo.


Rice straw was mixed with a mud mix, before being woven through the vertical bamboo poles.


This technique is most applicable in tropical climates, since the thin walls provide little insulation. Here, in Thailand it is a quick, cheap viable alternative to other more complex, time consuming or expensive techniques. And the results are beautiful as well of course!


Snake Soup Converts Vegetarians!

Our neighbor Sailomjoy, Shan musician and chef extraordinaire, kindly offered to cook us a meal. How could we resist? Especially when we had just caught and killed two edible snakes (nguu jing) on the property!


The result: Tom Yum Ngoo. Tom Yum is the traditional, delicious Thai spicy soup, most commonly cooked with shrimp.  Ngoo means snake.

The snake was killed with a quick nail to the head. It was then gutted and roasted over a fire, so it wouldn’t go bad until we cooked it the next day.

Next day for lunch, our snakes were chopped up in tasty morsels for the soup (with a machete of course).


Mmmm Tom yummy!


People had to concur, it did indeed taste like chicken..


Even the vegetarian had to give tom yum ngoo a go! The event was properly documented..


Food is one of the best ways to surmount cultural differences. It brings everyone together, even Thai-yai snake killers/eaters and vegetarian westerners. So hooray for tom yum ngoo!

“The Hungry Bear Doesn’t Dance” – A Turkish Proverb


As luck might have it, our current volunteers are excellent chefs. We would like to pointedly thank Mother Marie and everyone else too for the delicious home-cooking we have been enjoying around here.


Such as grilled fish..



Fresh salads




Yummy curries



Chilli Pastes and Condiments



Millet and Greens



Impromptu Deserts



Bread for Breakfast



Experimental Breakfasts..



Good company


Good campfires


Good laughs


Thanks everyone!


Chickens and Compost

Now with all the new chickens, they need a home; hence our bamboo chicken coop.




They are quite comfy in there with nooks and roosts to sleep and lay eggs. The coop is also an excellent place to collect poop for fertilizer.

And to add to this fertile atmosphere, we made a fairly large cold compost behind the coop using organic matter from neighboring fields which would otherwise get burnt!



We used fresh cow manure, banana leaves, corn husks and cobs from a neighboring farm, and chopped legume (nitrogen fixing) branches and leaves. Important is to layer your greens (nitrogen: fresh manure and leafy greens) and your browns (carbon: dried organic matter such as old leaves, dried corn husks, straw, hay. etc) like yummy lasagna.



And remember to water every layer and at the end. Parched microbes simply won’t do their job.