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Latest news from us.

It has been a long time since the last post on this blog, but most of our friends who used to follow us probably know of the latest developments.

Last year we sold a part of the plot to Ian, a retired nature-loving Australian, who has since been living in Mae Mut for most of the time, apart from occasional trips, he maintains the garden and has also built a swimming pool.

We have been coming and going, Serena is now six years old and part of a Chiang Mai home schooling group, so we spend a few days a week in town and try to keep on top of everything, sometimes unsuccessfully, it has to be said.

Especially for me, the moment has arrived to dedicate more time to Serena and I feel that now this should be the main priority, for the next few years at least, time runs away from us very quickly.

With this in mind we are looking for a partnership to help us make the most of this amazing place without having to run ourselves into the ground, which we don’t have the energy to do anymore anyway…

It would suit a couple with an interest in simple living and some skills that can be readily applied to the site, some experience with social media would also be very useful.

There are four rooms in two separate structures, already being used for hospitality and very soon a large common area with a shared kitchen plus a dorm and space and infrastructure suitable for a small campsite will be ready to use.

If you know anyone who could be interested please share this with them, thank you.


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The garden as an outdoor classroom.

Many thanks go to our very good friend Jeff Rutherford for organizing a visit for a group of international students from Singapore Management University and their business ethics professor, the awesome Dr. Stephen. It was a very good day for us and we felt very fortunate to have had this opportunity to meet all of them.

20170802_101413We receive a steady stream of visitors, from groups of small farmers down to families with young children, but this was the first occasion where we prepared and delivered a somewhat coherent short speech about what we do and why we do it.

We have read in many different contexts about the benefits of conducting lessons outdoors, but we never really thought of ourselves as a demonstration site. This visit and the very positive reaction of the students showed us that the current set up of the garden offers many opportunities, not only for the sharing of farming techniques and strategies, but also for discussion of various issues.

A presentation about sustainability and uncomplicated living seems to possess a louder and clearer resonance, when it is delivered in a context where some of the ideas and methods discussed are actually put into practice. We talked about some aspects of our activities here, focusing on our efforts to achieve a level of sustainability while at the same time generating  a basic income that we can live on.


Self sufficient living.

We are working to achieve some level of self sufficiency in food, medicine and shelter, we grow a sufficient amount of our staple grain for our own consumption and there is a regular production of fruit and perennial vegetables, as well as herbs and roots that provide the basic ingredients for a number of natural remedies. In addition we grow annual vegetables and we have started harvesting home grown bamboo and planted a number of hardwood trees for future use.

The three R’s and permaculture design

Our choices are informed by the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, and we aim to show that most of the unnecessary consumption can be done away without suffering great hardship on anyone’s part, with the help of some conscious design. In our garden as little as possible goes wasted. We try to integrate our plant and animal systems to reduce waste but also labour, we compost all our excess biomass and any excess food goes to the animals, from the dogs to the worm bin. We design to keep the use of pumps and petrol powered equipment to the absolute minimum.

The social aspect

Community living is a necessary path to follow as we try to reduce our use of  non renewable energy, it also happens to be a very happy and easy way to live, sharing our time and effort with people we love and respect. On another level, meeting like minded people and sharing knowledge and experiences, like we did on this occasion, is one of the most rewarding by-products of our work here and something that we truly cherish. We also host a small number of volunteers/interns and run a lazy schedule of workshops about natural farming and earthen building.

The business model

We are focused on being as flexible as possible, so as not to be dependent on any one source of income, and to be able to incorporate other activities by future residents. We currently receive  a small regular income from long term residents,  organize the odd workshop,  at times host  interns who pay a small contribution and families with children for stays of various lengths. In addition we sell some of our excess and have begun making a small quantity of high quality organic jams and sauces from our own grown produce. We have made a conscious decision not to use mainstream tourism as a source of income.






Homeschooling and MyWay #4

Our daughter Serena is 4 years old. Before she was born I had never given much thought to children education as an issue, because I did not think somehow that fatherhood was going to be a part of my life. Things changed pretty  comprehensively when she arrived.

Being able to spend a lot of time with her and watching her grow and develop naturally, it became quite clear to me that, at least during the first 10 years or so, children don’t really need schools to learn, they just do new things all the time as a matter of course, they are naturally curious, imaginative and full of energy.

I thought (somewhat lazily) that schools are important as a social environment and that kids should be with other kids, I had very little idea about homeschooling until, during a casual conversation, a friend mentioned a camping weekend organized by a group of Thai parents and which was going to be hosted by our friends Pun Pun at their site in Phrao.

The group is called MyWay and this was their fourth gathering, people came from all over Thailand, we packed our basic camping gear and joined them.

It was a good move, which set us up to think seriously about homeschooling, we met many  interesting people with a lot of experience and we found a group in Chiang Mai with children of similar age, one of the families happened to pitch their tent next to us.

We dispelled many uncertainties and insecurities by listening to people who had been plagued by the same doubts and came through and we saw many children of various ages who had all managed to thrive and develop outside the school system. It felt positive and real.

Homeschooling also fits with our life here and is consistent with the choices we have made, now we just need to work out the logistics of joining (or not) various groups and activities. One group meets on Thursdays not too far from us and we have since met other people with similar ideas while visiting a friend’s place, so we are quite optimistic.

Serena is also on board with it and knows that she needs to cooperate and that the usual restrictions on computer use still apply…   Here she is with her new best friends.


A new guest cottage at Mae Mut Garden

Those who have visited our place in the last couple of years know that this project has been on for some time, and was almost but not quite finished for a while. We pushed on last winter to host a large sleepover organized by Lisa at Thai Freedom House.

After that we completed the last small decorating and plumbing jobs and the cottage is now ready for use, there are two large bedrooms, one bathroom with solar hot water and a large verandah on two sides with an outdoor living room space. The cottage is set in the garden’s orchard/food forest, surrounded by mango and lychee trees, coffee, limes and bamboo.

We are thinking about a medium/long term rent option, we love to host people here who can join with any of our activities if they want, but also just hang out or work on their own stuff, while being close to nature, breathing clean air and eating healthy food.

We prefer to connect with people by word of mouth and don’t advertise of Facebook sites or other similar platforms, so if you know of someone who is looking for this type of situation, please share this with them.


Home grown Mae Mut Coffee.


Yesterday we went to visit our good friend Hswe in his village Baan Nong Tao, half an hour up the road from us. He has been producing coffee in his farm for some years now, so it was the lazy choice to ask him to guide us through the process using our home grown beans.

As a first attempt, we harvested about 10kg of fresh beans, thanks also to the children of Thai Freedom House who helped us a lot when they came for their sleepover.

We then took out the first layer of skin before letting the beans dry in the sun for some days. Some of these beans we took to Hswe’s place so he could show us what to do. One initial comment he made is that the beans in their dry yellow state can be kept for a few months before roasting, if the drying process is totally completed, this will result in a more even result when roasting.

The second skin was removed using a mortar and pestle again and the beans were then put in the hand roaster, which is Hswe’s own design, and roasted to the desired level. After that we ground them and made our first ever cup of home grown coffee. I am not a connoisseur, but it tasted good enough to me, the satisfaction of it being home grown adds to the flavour somehow…


Thai Freedom House sleepover.


Thai Freedom House is a language and art community learning centre for refugees from Burma and Indigenous Peoples of Thailand founded by the awesome Lisa Nesser in Chiang Mai twelve years ago. The centre is supported by its  Free Bird Cafe and by donations and by the work of volunteer teachers. Nok and I also volunteered there for a time some years ago, before moving to Mae Mut and have stayed in touch with Lisa, but this was the first time we had the opportunity to host the group for a sleepover, in all about forty students of various ages came along with some family members and volunteers, and Lisa of course.

The lives of these children and their families are quite precarious and difficult, some of the children don’t have the necessary paperwork to enrol in Thai schools. Lisa has been working tirelessly for this community for twelve years, often on the brink of running out of money, having to move the school at least four times, it’s a testament to her never say die attitude that the place has been able to survive and it’s now become a Chiang Mai institution. Some of the older students are now being tutored towards their university entrance exams, some hope to go back to Myanmar some day once the situation there is more peaceful.

These are some of the images from the weekend, everyone had a great time, swimming, singing, cooking, playing and eating together, it was remarkably smooth and everyone was so helpful that the clean up on the next day only took a few hours. We managed to get our coffee harvest done too….

We are very happy when our place can be used this way, it fits in with what we are trying to do and what we believe, that nature gives us most of what we need to be happy and that clean air and healthy food should be available to all, which unfortunately is not always the case.



Marcel brings a drone (MaeMut Garden from the air)

Our friends Marcel and Ning came to visit this week and, along with many treats from the city, they brought a drone to take some aerial shots of the garden These four photos give a good idea of what the site looks like.


View from the top

This view shows the current volunteers’ house in the bottom right hand corner with our (watery looking) rice field and the house, dining area and workshop in the centre. To the left of the rice field, below the forested area, two ponds are visible, the square more muddy looking one was dug this year, before the rainy season.


View from W

The photos were taken at around 7am, the sun is rising over the hills, Mae Mut village is nested under them about 1km to the east of us.


View from N

This view shows the road leading from the village to our place, the garden terraces slope down from N to S. At the bottom of the garden, close to the forest at the top of the picture, runs the Mae Tian river.


View from E

The Mae Mut valley runs from W to E, to the W the mountains rise to gradually reach over 2500m above sea level towards Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand,  which in this photo is obscured by the clouds on the left.


Natural building workshops reviews

With the experience gained over the last four years of building, this latest job has gone very smoothly so far. We have developed a schedule that takes into account the different seasonal weather patterns. During the winter, Nov to Jan, we prepare the bricks, this is the most physical part of the job and it’s good to be able to do it when the weather is dry but cool and the sun is not strong. Before the rains come we prepare the foundation and the roof and we can move the bricks under cover. This allows us to work throughout the rainy season in comfort. Working under a roof has many advantages, and I would strongly advise this as the most convenient schedule and one that allows work to start and stop at anytime without worrying about sun, rain,etc.

During August we hosted three four-day workshops, with twenty two participants in total. We found that eight people is the maximum number we can have at one time and still be able to give everyone a meaningful hands-on experience. The work has proceeded well and it feels we are ahead of schedule, if there is such a thing.

All the kids who have been passing through while we have been building have had a good time playing with the mud and various homemade paints, Serena and friends also come and play sometimes.

These shots were taken yesterday, the work has advanced well and the quality of the workmanship of the volunteers is overall of a good standard. The rest of the job will be completed by our usual crew who have taken care of their seasonal farming jobs and now are free to come and work here for at least a couple of months, by which point the job should be done or very close to it.

Just as importantly, we have got to know many great people and shared many good moments together. We hope to see everyone again here at some point when our paths cross once more. Here is what some of them have said about their time here.



Our time at MaeMut Garden was short but full of great experiences and knowledge. Marco is such a great teacher with a laid back philosophy and character. Although short, we learnt all of the fundamental skills required to build a earth brick home. It was great to take part in a course where you are actually helping to build a house from the ground up. The small group of 8 lets everyone have time to get their hands muddy. The whole experience exceeded our expectations. The food from P’Nok was diverse and delicious and the accommodation spacious with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. We would have stayed for a month if there was time. Thanks you so much Marco , P’Nok and the beautiful Serena.

Kai and Jackie from Singapore (and other places)


I was lucky to participate in a natural building workshop at Maemut Garden over the course of 4 days in August 2016. Nok and Marco have created a wonderful permaculture farm in the North of Thailand and it was a wonderful experience to see how everything can be done and what amazing results can be achieved. The place is simply beautiful and a big source of inspiration.
The course itself was well executed and I learned a lot during the days. We came around all of the major parts of building a house using adobe bricks, from making the bricks themselves, how to mix the mud, plastering, putting in doors and windows, making corners, decorating, final plaster, coloring etc. etc. I feel well equipped to begin experimenting myself. Marco did a good job of explaining everything and best of all: we all got a lot of time to try out the different techniques ourselves. The group of 7 people was just right and it didn’t feel too crowded.
The practical details of the course were also smooth – we had delicious food and fine sleeping arrangements. The atmosphere of MaeMut Garden was warm and hospitable.
I can highly recommend!
Martin from Denmark (and Pai)


I really enjoyed attending Marco’s and Nok’s five day earth building course. I think Marco has successfully managed to take the unnecessary complexity out of sustainability and tell you plainly, simply and honestly how to build an earth house, based on his own experiences. I arrived hoping I would acquire the right information and confidence to pursue my own earth house project one day, and when I left, I felt I had obtained what I needed and could build on these useful and insightful experiences.

We worked through soil type selection, making of physical bricks, methods for mud brick formwork, suitable mud recipes for this region, production of bricks, how to correctly layout walls, doors and windows (making sure items are straight and plumb), how to place bricks for different functions, grouting bricks, general plastering and final plastering.  The course is hands on where we learn as we actually construct an earth house, which someone will eventually live in. Marco patiently mentors you through the process. It’s useful to make notes and sketches during the stay, so you don’t forget things.

We finished the five days with a brief overview of permaculture methods, as we walked around the surrounding farm with Marco. I look forward to visiting Mae Mut Garden again sometime in the future, and I wish them continued success.

Duncan, architect at Solarei


I would like to let you know that I really enjoy your workshop. With the reasonable and fair price I got such a great hands on experience and all the techniques in every detail I need to know about adobe house building.  And Marco is such a great teacher. He never get tired of explaining every single thing I asked and always willing to share his own experience. Thank you for your patience and being attentive to all students. Beside, I really enjoy local food freshly cooked by P’Nok and also lovely accommodation. Little Serena also make me smile everyday..I miss her soooo much..I can say that I get more than I expected from this course. I definitely would love to go back to Maemut Garden and enjoy a sustainable and peaceful life again in my next holiday.

Kim, director and star of Along Way Home


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First workshop and update.

We have hosted our first workshop and it went very well, more progress was made on the building than expected and everyone was satisfied with the work and the learning experience.

We managed to give everyone the opportunity of a hands-on experience of all the main aspects of the project, building, setting windows, using glass, first and second plaster coat and  and we had time to discuss all the construction basics, foundation, roofing, plumbing, electrics, etc.

The next two workshops start on Aug 11 and Aug 25, we hope to have all the walls done to a finish by the end of September.


Foolproof method for cutting glass bottles.

We are getting ready for the workshop, preparing all the materials that we want to use.

Glass bottles are often used as decoration in adobe building, in the right position they can also produce some neat light effects at certain times of the day. We also use them, even though we are nowhere near as creative and polished as more experienced builders. I also tend to prefer a more streamlined style and simple designs, which are not so time consuming, my focus here tends to be the garden much more.

Preparing the bottles for use as in the examples above is very simple. We score the bottles using a standard diamond tipped glass cutter, we fix the cutter to a work bench and make a cradle for the bottle, so that we always cut the same size. In this case  we are using two bottles to make the width of one standard brick, so we cut them 10cm.

We heat the glass using a candle at the point where we scored it, once the glass is hot, we dunk it into a pot of cold water for a few seconds, after which with a gentle tap the bottle will crack at the desired spot.

The bottles are then washed and dried thoroughly to make sure there will be no moisture once we tape them together. Only the ends need to be clean, the rest of the bottle is not visible, so no need to scrape off the left over bits of label.

That’s it, ready to go.