Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A small journey of Ting

Hello seedsavers!

I'm one of the lucky new members of the Hills and Plains Seedsavers. I think I should write something to introduce myself.

My name is Ting. I grew up in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Taiwan is an island somewhere between Japan and the Philippines. It's about half the size of Tasmania, but we have a bit more population than Australia.

I was a typical city kid, most of the time I lived in an apartment. I had no clue where my food or tap water came from, or where all the waste went. I have memory of the paddy farms near our house, wild fields, and playing in the clean small stream. However the environment changed very rapidly since I was10. Maybe because we had to produce everything “made in Taiwan” or “made in ROC” to satisfy world's crazy consumerism. For a long time now, the stream near our apartment was no longer clean, and skyscrapers are all over the place. There are subways, expressways, cablecars. You could probably find McDonalds every 2 km.

When I finished my law degree at University, I translated several books in 10 months, and I saved some money. Then I packed my backpack and headed to South America. It was a grand journey for me. I was immersed in the colourful peoples and cultures. It was amazing.

I was lucky, just as usual, I met an artist who lives in a small town in the middle of Argentina. Guille, his name; Merlo, the lovely small town. He invited me to stay with him, and I did, for 2 months. He is an artist. He has a beautiful stall in the handicraft market in the town centre. I was helping in the market. From sunblock to shoes, from paper to earrings, you name it, you could find it somewhere in the market, people would make them by hand.

It was the first time I realised that some people have a garden in their backyard and harvested food from it. People would collect fruits and make them into jams or dry them! We visited friends who live on the hill. There is only a trail to the house. We walked to their house which they built on their own from local materials. On the way, we collected mushrooms for dinner. We had a shower under a small waterfall. A bathroom is a luxury not here yet. They have a very productive veggie gardens, some rabbits and an orchard. We had hand made noodles and mushroom sauces for dinner. Everything was beautiful.

One year later, I went back to Taipei. I translated another book for 6 months, and I bought a bicycle and a ticket to Bangkok. I started my first cycle tour. On the way, I met a Kiwi guy, who is very tall, very hairy, but at least he is on a bike. His name is Olly, and he is now my partner-in-crime. That's why now I am here in Adelaide, leaving my parents and friends in Taiwan behind.

In 2005, Olly went to Adelaide to work and I followed his footsteps. We rent a house only 2 km from Olly's work in the north west of the city centre. The old Greek landlords are very generous to let us grow veggies in the garden, even though she thought I am too lazy to weed, put ugly mulch on the bare soil and don't use the trash bins that she has to pay the city council for.

Life was a bit difficult in the beginning. Travelling is different from living. Everything was new to me here. I didn't have any friends. And I couldn't speak or understand English well. I wanted to start a vegetable garden, but I knew almost nothing about it. I complained we didn't have big enough land, and I wanted to live in the countryside. I tried to read those gardening-related books from libraries, but books just made me fall asleep very quickly. I made a trip down to far away Tasmania to wwoof, wishing I could learn something more practical.

In the winter of 2007, Olly and I left the country for our trip from Beijing to Paris on our home-made recumbent bikes, which we planed 3 years ago when we met.(

After one year, I came back to Adelaide. I started gardening right away in April 2008. Maybe because of the help of the rain, I found that this time was much easier. After few months, I have reduced my bills on fruit and veggies 2/3. I think this month would be even less. Mainly thanks to friend's neighbour's mandarin tree, vigorous silverbeets, spinach, and stingingy nettles in the garden, and vegetables from friends, like Maggie, Deb and all other kitchen gardeners.

Now I know learning is a life long habit, it's a slow progress. Only when after few years has gone and you look back, you find you have gone a long way. Now I more enjoy living on our small rental property in an industrial suburb. Olly likes his job and it's great that he could cycle safely to work everyday. Even it's small, it still has a lot of possibilities!

Final words:

Thank you to the bloggers of Hills and Plains seedsavers. You helped me find a lot of like-minded people and groups locally and internationally!

Our roof garden in Taipei. I had a worm farm in a bathtub.

Farmers in Taiwan usually live in villages and go out to the fields.

A Shou-Ming Natural Farming farm I wwoofed in the north of Taipei.

Weeding in a pineapple Shou-Ming Natural Farming farm in the east of Taiwan.

In the middle of
betel nut trunk is very tender delicious shoot.

The backyard of our rental house in Adelaide when we moved in in 2005.

In April of 2008, I came back since I left here one year ago. Olly has planted some vegetables.

After 3 months, it started to produce abundant foods.

Broccoli Vert Romanesco took awhile to grow. It has been feeding us, white flies, snails, slugs and caterpillars. Good on you!

Edible Chrysanthemums. Delicious! Typical vegetable in winter hot pot dish in Taiwan.

Beautiful Sunking sunflower flowers in winter.

Capsicums are a bit small in winter.

Zucchini has wrinkle in winter.

Eggplant is super small in winter.

Hope potatoes will survive after so many frosts lately.

Broad beans everywhere.

Frost came to my garden on 24, 25 and 28 of July.

Daikon Radish are thriving.

I love Daikon. They produce almost a meter long of food in small space. The root are good for soup stock, rice cakes, pickling, drying. And the leaves are definitely delicious and nutritious!

Stir fry radish leaves is definitely delicious. I'll write the recipe later.

Olly grafts
2 apricot scions on plum trees. We also planted an apple rootstock with 2 variety: Top-King of Tompkin, and Pitmaston Pineapple. Maybe I'll stay here long enough to harvest them.

For me, Adelaide is a City of Sunshine. I could still sundry my food in winter on the window sill.

Daikon Radish.

Mandarin skins


Eliane said...

Thank you for your lovely entry. I've just planted some Daikon in my garden - I didn't know you could also eat the tops. How would you cook them?

Maggie said...

What a wonderful big story of Ting.
From bare earth to veggies everywhere.
You are an inspiration to all of us Ting.
Riding your bike from Beijing to Paris!
Pattie take note!
I think you will be able to teach us a lot about asian vegetables and what we can do with them.
Thanks for telling your story Ting.

Kate said...

I am so glad that you have joined our seedsavers group Ting and I look forward to seeing you often and reading more on the blog too.I would love to come and visit you and your garden one day...?

Veggie Gnome said...

Hi Ting! What a great story, thank you! Gardening is a fantastic adventure, welcome! Hope to meet you soon! :)

Ian said...

Ting, thank you. I live in France and only started gardening with vegetables this year. H&P Seedsavers has been a constant inspiration to me. Now I see what you have achieved I'm fired up again. Thank you for a lovely post... Wonderful

Anonymous said...

This was a lovely post Ting, thanks for sharing your story with us! I really enjoyed your photos!
Hope to meet you one day at the seedsavers,

Ting said...

I'll write the recipe later.
In Taiwan, we'll salted the leaves first.

I started to cook 4 years ago in Australia. I'll be embrassed to teach you, since you are all experienced kitchen gardeners!Luckily I could find out more about Asian vegetable from net. Deb roasted a Daikon. I would like to how it tasted like.

You are welcome. But my garden is very messy! Everything is still under experiment. Stingy nettles are half of my height now.

Veggie Gnome:
See you too!I have to cycle to Lobethal to visit you oneday.

Ian and Glenys:
Thank you!