June 22. Lazy day.
So we squirreled away the morning sweating and playing on the internet. This was the day after our return from the big weekend so I was okay with being lazy. But I can't sit for long. More often than not, I'm one of those people who just have to be doing something.
I went out in the yard and began dismantling our current shade cloth arrangement. I wasn't crazy about it to begin with but was in a hurry that day and had a hundred other things coursing thru my mind. When we were in Chanthaburi visiting the Rabiebs farm, I noticed how some of the farmers were shading their young trees. They were not completely covering them as I did in the beginning. They made a lean-to structure with the shade cloth protect from the afternoon soon only. There are plenty of larger trees in the yard so this shouldn't be an issue and that is what we set out to do. It was a hell of a lot easier and quicker to do as well.
Soon it was lunch time and the four of us were heading to our favorite Korean grill...Shukishi. This one was located in Central Plaza Mall Rama II.
Yessss...it was time yet again for beef. Not the most expensive cuts they offered but still pretty pricey, but good.
It's always fun to hit the markets. The people, stalls, and the food is always an experience. I walk around thinking how I would like to try something but knowing I didn't have the sack to try it. So many things look so good. Check out the grilled bananas below.
After every meal, fruit is placed upon the table. Tonight was no exception. We had a little of everything...mangosteen, longkong, mangoes, pineapple, durian, and lychee. The mango below came from Pakistan. Bee's aunt's son brought some back with him. Was okay. No where near as good as the maha chanooks we've been eating and definitely couldn't hold a candle to the Florida mangoes.
June 23. Around the house.
Here's the mayong chid and maprangs that are coming home with me. Looking good eh?
So after dinner I was busy getting everything together for the big effort of readying my plants tomorrow morning. I needed a big container to allow the plants to soak after bare rooting. I needed a container to wet down all the shredded paper. And I got my water absorbant gel crystals all hydrated and ready. This stuff is way cool I tell you! Here's a shot of it all swelled up and in the zip lok for later use.
Right now I'm more concerned with getting to Thai Ag tomorrow morning. Everyone keeps asking me how long it will take to bare root the plants. Hell...I have no idea! It all depends on what kind of soil I find the plants growing in. If solid clay, the process may take a while. I have to be very careful. I know the roots of maprangs suck. They are very delicate and brittle. I can't go spraying the shit out of them and have a hunk of clay fall away ripping a section of roots off. Everyone is concerned about traffic and how long it will take to get there. I'm stressed out and I haven't even started!
June 24. Thai Agriculture Department.
I head to the middle of the yard, start cutting away the pot the plant is in, and begin spraying. It was hot and muggy as usual. It had just finished raining a little earlier and the flies were out being their normal pain in the ass selves. Flitting here, then here, then bite there. Damn things were pissing me off. But back to gently spraying off the soil from around the roots.
I began with a very slow and very gentle spray. The surrounding soil was not bad. This is what each was "up" potted into. However, the plants seemed to have been initially raised in solid clay. Yippee. So it was tough going. The object was to get them pristine clean and lose no roots in the process. There looked to be like some kind of rice hull or some kind of seed coating in the mix. If any of this was left on, it was sure to get the attention of anyone back in the states who looked into my plants. So everything must go.
Dad had run off to the hospital early this morning to take another case but still wanted to go with us. Bee and mom were griping that the traffic would be terrible if we left now and besides, we had to wait for dad. Now I'm a bit miffed to say the least. Everyone was so fired up about me getting done as fast as possible. I did and now nobody wants to go until at least 10:00. I don't want these plants waiting in their present state any longer than necessary. I want to leave now.
Mom called and was getting final directions on getting to the building once we get to the university. The lady from Thai Ag asked what we were waiting for?!! That if we wanted to get done and out of there without spending the entire day, we better be getting our asses in gear...and to forget about traffic. Leave now. She said that the longer we wait, the busier they get...and it is first come, first served. Well, that seemed to put the giddy in giddyup! We are on our way and it's only 9:00. Dad? He should have stayed home. So we load up the suitcase, plants, and everything necessary for Thai Ag and packing, and at last got on the road.
Traffic was not bad...for Thailand standards. We made it to the Kasetsart Agriculture University by 10:00. There were a bunch of picnic benches beneath a huge, open-walled structure and that is where we dumped our stuff. A gentleman from the ag department came out to greet us and explain the procedures. A very nice guy who looked as if he really enjoyed his job. He stood by and assisted Bee in filling out the phyto application form and then took it to the folks inside to write up the first draft for review.
In the mean time, I could start packing up my plants. Huh? Isn't someone going to come and inspect the plants?! No. Seriously? Yes. Well hell. Okay then. I'm ready to start my packing. Bee and I had been fluffing up the damp, shredded newspaper for a while now and it was in perfect condition to sprinkle down into the roots.
So here I am working and sweating my ass off trying to get these plants bagged up, when some older gentleman, who's job is to seal off the box or luggage when packing is complete, starts questioning mom and Bee why I'm using newspaper. Says they have some white moss that everyone uses if I wanted to use that. Went on to tell how good it was and that even Hawaii accepts it. Why my wife and her mom felt that the translation was necessary seeing how we have been over this topic more times than is healthy, I don't know. But it was sure not making the process any more pleasant. After about the third time mentioning this, I think they all got the hint that I was going with the shredded newspaper and that the subject was closed. Jesus! It wore my ass out!
Another little tidbitI forgot to mention earlier is that maprangs are related to mangoes. And Ken, from USDA, made if very clear that mangoes were not allowed into the states. Ken was very surprised that the maprangs were not on the restricted list because of the close relation. But they Bouea Macrophylla(maprangs) were just fine.
So on top of the continuous questioning about the shredded newspaper, the girl writing up the document comes out with the first draft. For the names of the plants, I see Boughganvilla. WTF?! Boughganvilla?! Where in the hell did she pull that from? Well, we point out on the letter from the USDA that they plainly put Bouea spp. They put "spp." I suppose to give me more leeway with the naming of the plants. So where Boughganvilla came from Bouea spp., I'll never know. Back to the drawing board.
A short time later, she comes out with draft number 2. She's got Bouea spp. in the correct spot, but put the common name as "plum mango". Now this is one of many common names for this plant. Why she put plum mango down instead of freaking maprang, as every single person in Thailand calls them, I fucking don't know. All I see is "mango" and I'm sure once Customs and Border Protection looks at the form and sees "mango", it's game over. I can see the conversation going something like the following:
CPB: "We cannot allow mangoes into the states. They are restricted."
Me: "These aren't mangoes. They are maprangs."
CPB: "The forms says mangoes. Mango trees are not permitted entry."
Me: "For the love of God people! They are not fucking mangoes!"
CPB: "We are confiscating your plants and placing you under arrest."
So NO. Please do NOT put "mango" anywhere on the form. I once again point out the letter from USDA. The girl is not having anything to do with the letter. She says I should have an epermit from the USDA. We try and tell her that if I have 12 or fewer plants, the USDA does not issue the epermit, but gives this letter instead. Nope. Won't even glance at the letter. Then she basically says she doesn't care about the epermit anyway.
We ask why "mapgrang" won't work. Because "plum mango" is what shows up. What about if she puts the full name Bouea Macrophylla? Yes. She can do that. Draft 3 comes out with Bouea Macrophylla...and "plum mango" once again as the common name. I'm soaked completely thru with sweat and now I'm damn near in tears trying to convince this young lady that the word "mango" cannot be on the form. My wife and her go at it for some time when she finally gets up and walks away. I have no idea what is going on. The first gentleman comes out to talk to us and my wife tries to explain what is happening. He disappears next.
All plants are bagged up and now it is time to force them into the luggage. This ended up being a 3 person job. The plants were a little bigger and stiffer than they looked. But we did manage it without losing but a few leaves. I'm completely done it by this whole process. Shit...bare rooting and bagging them up turned out to be the easiest part of this whole deal! The older gentleman comes around and loops some wire thru and around the zipper pulls, puts on a lead piece and clamps it down with their seal.
Here comes draft number 4. Bouea spp. is back and for the common name? "Marion plum". That works for me! Everyone is happy and she leaves to do the final document. Didn't have to wait too long. The phytosanitary certificate from Thailand Agriculture Department costs us a mere $6. The phyto from USDA? $106.
What an effing morning! I am drained...mentally and physically. Got home and put the suitcase up in the air conditioned room. I crash on the bed for a while to unwind.
I wanted to say that I have been busy on the internet in the evenings researching as much as possible all of the USDA regulations on allowing plants into the states. There was a lot of concern about the size and/or age of the plants. There always used to be a restriction on the size and/or age of the plant you were importing into the states. I'm sure there was good reason for this a long time ago, but for someone like me, seriously...why should anyone give a shit how big the plants are? Sort of stupid no matter how you look at it. If I was shipping them? Why should anyone care how big they were? If I'm willing to foot the bill for the shipping, then so be it. Same with lugging them home in my luggage. Age as well. Why should anyone care? So I kept digging.
I found the following document in one of the USDA regs. It would look as though my plants would fall into the last category concerning age. Now who is to say how old my plants are? Are they sure these plants didn't achieve this level of growth in 2 years? There's a lot of plants that put on a crazy amount of size in 2 years. So again...this is just ridiculous.
This place had been featured on a Thai news program and called a "hidden gem". It was family owned and run...and it was busy. They had no cold Singha so I tried a new beer for me. Leo beer. Didn't taste much different than Singha to me. It was cold and smooth going down and that's all that mattered.
Many dishes were ordered and as they started coming out, every single one was a winner.
June 25. Back to the good Ol USA!
But man! Business class was sweeeeet! My own little cubicle. Larger video screen. More and better meals. And more room! You name it...there was more to it. I didn't want to sleep. I was holding off on that until the 15 hour leg from Hong Kong to Chicago. I watched 3 hours of the first season of Cheers. Sat there and laughed myself silly. Actually enjoyed the flight.
Hong Kong was rainy and gloomy. Seemed to have walked forever getting to my gate but I had time to spare. I spied a very attractive young lady behind the Cathay Pacific gate desk. I walked right up to her and showed her my boarding pass from the previous Business Class flight. I flashed her a big smile, told her how they had bumped me from Premium to Business back in Thailand, and then brazenly asked if there was any way possible she could do the same for this 15 hour flight. She flashed a big smile right back at me and started typing away at her terminal. This could go either way and I'm figuring she's heard my kind of plea a thousand times and that she was just going thru the motions to show she tried her best for me. I then heard something being printed out. Huh? Could it be?! She handed me new tickets across the counter and told me to enjoy my flight. I'm in Business for the beast flight!!!
I'm not one to gloat, but I had to call Bee right away. I used Face Time on the Ipad and waved the ticket in front of the camera lens. She starts screaming how jealous she is and how much she hates me right now. All I can do is grin!
First time I've ever really slept on a plane! I watched a couple movies and had a huge meal. Took half of a sleeping pill and...woke up with 2 1/2 hours left in the flight! Wow! Time for another meal and one more movie! I love Business Class guys. I could really get used to how the "other half" live!
I waited for a long time for my bags to come out. The suitcase with the plants looked like it had been run over by a plane. One side was caved in and the other had the zipper ripped open. Some asshole got curious somewhere along the way and wanted to know what was in my suitcase. They knew the TSA combination to get the zipper pulls out but instead of cutting the wire tie connecting the zippers...and thereby preventing the suitcase from being unzipped, instead just pulled the zipper apart to look inside. What an effing pecker head! Douche bag! There were many other unkind names I muttered waiting for my other suitcase. I think the plants were okay but I certainly didn't want to draw attention by looking closer. I just got it zipped back up and fumed.
The other suitcase finally arrived. It was time to head for the possible confrontation. The main thing I had to do was to stay calm and cool no matter what was said or what happened to the plants. They were not worth my ass going to jail for. So stay cool man. What happens, happens. Stay focused. My main goal was getting home to my dogs. The plants were a bonus.
Bags pulled behind and my customs declaration receipt in hand, I stroll up to the guy and hand it to him. Now I've been watching this process while waiting in line. I've watched several people being pointed to rooms down the hall. Obviously these were rooms where agents discussed your declaration items or you happened to get singled out for any number of reasons. They guy grabbed my form and pointed me to the main exit. Huh? Main exit. No room. No inspections. No confrontation. No worries! I'm out! My plants are out! First Business Class, now this? I need to play the lotto man! The bad news for everybody else? We have no idea if the process work as it should. But I'm not one to argue.
I'm on a high here. I'm floating to my next terminal. The only thing that could cock things up is American Airlines. Hey...gate says we're on time. I go eat. Come back. Sign says still on time. Sweet. But it's not. For some reason we're left standing there long past time to board. Once we do board, we sit and sit and sit. Yeah...don't bother letting your passengers know why we're still sitting here with our thumbs in our asses. We hit Columbus 1 hour later than planned. 1 hour you say? Well, when you've been in airports or on a plane for nearly the last 30 hours, yeah, 1 hour late getting back to my dogs pisses me off. Collect my bags. Get the truck. Speed like crazy getting home!
Big reunion with the dogs. Hugs and kisses, jumping and rolling. Damn! I sure missed these two. I'm half crying I'm so happy to be back with them. We continue the hug fest for a bit and then we all head outside to start potting up the maprangs. It's after 10:00 p.m. It's done nothing but rain since I've been gone. The mosquitoes were merciless. I had my soil concoction mixed up before we left for Thailand so all I have to do is get them out of their plastic bags and into pots. I want to get done, get a shower, and lay on the couch with the dogs.
Today is July 12, 2015. I'm happy to report that the plants are doing fine so far. They look really good actually. There has been some leaves drop and a few small branches die back. But really, this is to be expected given the brutal process of being bare rooted. The leaf loss is very minor so I'm not overly concerned. I'm not happy about it, but nothing to be getting excited about just yet. I'm not celebrating yet either though. I know how fast plants go turn to shit. So fingers are still crossed.