Bringing home the bacon with the blessing of the Buddha…
by Tony James
Ban Somboon’s departed have apparently looked kindly on our rice milling enterprise launched, with the help of a very Buddhist business plan and the blessing of a local shaman, about half-a-year ago.
A steady stream of small time farmers regularly return with sacks of raw rice to keep the machine busy churning out its primary, secondary and tertiary products. As well as fulfilling a clearly needed commercial need the mill has become something of a social centre; a meeting point where gossip is exchanged, arrangements made and messages left. This is gratifying. So much so that the temptation to see oneself in the role of Victorian philanthropist has to be firmly resisted. Ban Somboon was never set to become one of those subsidised, strictly teetotal model workers’ villages that sprang up across 19th century industrial Britain!
Pure polished white rice pours forth from the mill ready for bagging and delivery to its rightful owners by Hat, our senior family partner using his ancient motor cycle and home constructed side-car, at the same time gold dust tumbles from the machine’s other outlet. This bi-product, which retains most of the goodness removed from the ‘natural state’ crop to make it palatable for humans, sustains the second string of our agricultural enterprise, namely our nine and twenty grunting, gobbling and greedy young pigs.
Purchased as cute month old piglets some 16 weeks ago the creatures feed for free on the nutrient rich remnants of the milled rice. They have thrived and grown into hefty hogs now almost ready for an appointment with the butcher’s blade. A couple of them will however be spared. Two females are being nurtured for matrimonial duties. The next but one batch of piglets, we hope, will be truly home-grown.
The catcher in the sty, or ‘another fine mess…’
Having spent a decade or more living in Denmark, the home of bacon! And married into a local farming family I am not entirely unfamiliar with the pig rearing process – ‘svine produktion’ in the local lingo. However a gap of 30 or more years left me unprepared for certain situations that can arise in the industry as one such did soon after the arrival of our four-legged infants.
Picture this: As we have long known One singularly hot midday in late February as Ban Somboon slumbered the squealing of a panic stricken piglet rang through the village. Not a soul stirred except the crazy farang who, sensing something was amiss, braved the 35 degree heat to investigate the source of the sound. As the late genius Mr Noel Coward famously observed only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun!”
One of the wretched creatures had somehow escaped the sty. Panic stricken and screaming in the harrowing manner uttered by the species it was now desperate to return to the security of the sty and the reassuring company of its fellow piglets. As a part owner of the beast and loath to lose any part of my investment I scrambled about in a cocktail of Isaan mud and excrement in pursuit of the juvenile hog.
Its little piggy brain, however, could not grasp that our aims were identical. In my ignorance I decide the best tactic is to go for the ears—a big mistake. Every time the beast was cornered it successfully slipped from my grasp and the chase would resume complete with slapstick stage effects! Twice I trip and stumble falling headlong into piggy proverbial. The scene is straight out of one of those early Laurel & Hardy comedies. “Another fine mess you got me into…”
Exhausted I conceded defeat and called business partner Yung who within seconds succeeds in seizing the demented escapee – not by its ears but by the back legs. Another of life’s lessons learned…
Tony James, a former UK based business journalist and editor, has a home in the village of Ban Somboon deep in the Isaan countryside close by the border with Cambodia. He recounts the peaks and pitfalls of learning to live in a Khmer/Thai village in ‘First Tales of a Thai Village’ available in both paperback and e-book (kindle/mobi) from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.au as well as most other Amazon sites. James continues his tales of Thai life in a monthly blog ‘Idle Times in Ban Somboon and Chom Thian’ viewable at www.theidlescribbler.wordpress.com