Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Little Dry-Season Rain

The smoke and haze that's been covering Chiang Mai has been extraordinarily bad this year. We hate to think what this is probably doing to our health. But as March leads up to the climax of horrible air pollution and extreme-dry conditions the inner optimist keeps saying, "In two months time it will all be past."

Fortunately, as the heat and humidity has increased over the past few weeks some thunderstorms and scattered showers have broken out, giving most spots at least a sprinkle. And though this doesn't mean the end of the hot, dry season (actually, the worst is yet to come as far as heat and humidity are concerned), the showers have cleared the air significantly and rinsed the dust off any remaining foliage.

Even with minimal moisture, it's quite amazing how quickly certain plants are responding. Of course, the big greening that occurs every May hasn't happened yet. But the wild grass growing in the goat field has begun to express tiny, new shoots. And the goats are loving it.

What's in the garden?

Right now I'm appreciating the new leaf shoots of several bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)that are growing in our garden. You can find these fern tucked in the crotch of a few fruit trees. And some serve as ground cover of sorts in the mixed border that grows along the garden wall. Residing in the irrigated portion of our garden, they continue to thrive despite the present dry conditions.

Though not native to northern Thailand, bird's nest fern grows wild in more equatorial, humid climates such as in Thailand's south. In their native forests, being epiphytes, these ferns grow on trees and logs. Their natural basket shape enables them to capture and compost fallen leaves that collect within, yielding nourishment. Various leaf litter-dwelling insects and other creatures also make their home in the habitat created by bird's nest ferns.

Extremely easy to maintain, the bird's nest fern offers a bit of the rain forest for our garden.

As soon as I'm done writing this blog, I'm catching a bus for Chiang Rai and then hitching a ride with Kim and Jamlong from UHDP before meeting up with Bob Morikawa (from Floresta) at the airport. Our plan is to spend the night in the border town of Mae Sai and then enter Burma for a two-day trip to the Shan State town of Chiang Tung. There, I'll be offering some consulting assistance for Floresta.

And then on Wednesday, Bob and I plan to travel down from Chiang Tung, cross the border back into Thailand and then catch a flight in Chiang Rai for Phenom Penh (via Bangkok). Again, Bob and I will be making some Floresta-related contacts among several Cambodia-based NGOs. I'll also have the chance to do a bit of ECHO promotion before I return to Chiang Mai on April 5.

Hopefully, I'll have a story and a picture or two to share from the journey.

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