Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ramadan in the Garden

Just a little update on how my plants are doing. More pics than words :-)

Yellow pear cherry tomato in a used tyre with potting soil and rotting organic veggies from the local organic shop buried underneath. There is some mint and lemon? basil to keep it company.

Stock astral plants. I have moved one into the polystyrene box below with rainbow chard to keep it company. 

Pepper plant bought from Floria Putrajaya, a gift from my sister and her hubs. Thanks guys!

These sweet potato cuttings are a gift from my neighbour. I have moved these into another container,. Dotted around the cuttings are rainbow chard plants :-)

Top: giant russian sunflower plants, and in front, sawi menang.

Turkish leopard melon. There were 3 of these, but one of them died, I am not sure why.

Small sugar pumpkin plants from a previous entries. See how these babies have grown. :-)
Ok now I am off to cook for iftar. Have a good one, folks! :-)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ramadan Mubarak & A Meal Plan

I hope it’s not too late to say Ramadan Mubarak to all dear readers :-)
I went blog-hopping today, and was inspired by Shafirul Suffian’s post in her blog "Tangan Panas-Panas Sejuk", where she shared her excellent Ramadan menu plan. Why menu plan for Ramadan? Because despite not eating from sunrise to sunset, Ramadan is traditionally one of the busiest times for wives/husbands/mummies/daddies everywhere because the family usually eats together to break fast (iftar), and again when eating the pre-dawn meal, (sahur). There are always easy ways out of preparing home-cooked meals:
  1. Buy some of the many delicacies sold at Pasar Ramadan, or Ramadan Food Market. The array of food available is mind-boggling! Only thing is, we have stopped going to PaRams for the last 4 years. Main reason is that usually we are not satisfied with the quality of the food (taste, hygiene, MSG) and it can also be expensive. Plus when you shop for food while you are hungry, you'll usually end up with more food than you can possibly finish.
  2. Go for one of the many Ramadan buffets, available in restaurants and hotels nationwide. The downside is again, cost, although quality-wise you generally get what you pay for. Problem is that Ramadan is supposed to be the Fasting month, and gorging ourselves silly at the time of breaking fast seems against the spirit of Ramadan. Plus, we have been trying to eat healthier for the past year and found that we could no longer pack in a decent amount of food in a single sitting. We are often satisfied with much less.
So we made a Ramadan meal plan, which is simpler than last year’s. Last year I had 14 items in my Ramadan meal plan. This year, only 7. Because we are creatures of habit (like our cats!) who don’t mind eating the same thing over and over and over again. This also makes grocery shopping a lot easier and reduces impulse buying as we shop according to the meal plan. All dishes will be eaten during iftar and the leftovers are eaten for sahur the following morning.

Mama Pongkey’s Ramadan Menu Plan:

1. Tomyum

2. Karahi chicken 

3. Soup (chicken, fish, beef or bone) 

4. Egg + tuna + salad wrap 

5. Tandoori chicken 

6. Stew (chicken, beef or lamb) 

7. Shepherd's/Cottage pie

Insha Allah, we normally break fast this way:
  • Break the fast with a date and a glass of milk.
  • Pray Maghrib.
  • Eat the main meal.
  • No other sweets, cakes or sugary drinks are allowed, only plain water. And perhaps some unsweetened tea or coffee.
Tip: Drinking the glass of milk takes away the hunger pangs and the date gives instant energy for prayer. Then we find we don't need to eat so much during the meal.

This way we hope we can adhere better to the spirit of Ramadan, while keeping grocery costs down and eating healthily at the same time. Insha Allah.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sow, Sow, Sow Your Seeds: Gently

Small Sugar Pumpkin Seedlings
Annndddd... we have seedlings! Yes! Sowed on Monday, these babies came up by Thursday! Germination rate is 100%. Thank you, Diana of Kebun Bahagia Bersama. :-) I do wonder if these are too close together? The vines will sprawl all over the place, right? And I'll have to train them to go where I want them to, I suppose. Can they climb at all?

Small Bitter Gourd (Peria Katak) flanked by 2 Red Romaine Lettuce babies. In the front is a rather flopsy looking Rainbow Chard.
Oops the bitter gourd is almost invisible in this pic. It was looking a bit unhappy in the Glorious Gutter Garden where it is shady and slightly boggy, so I moved it to this spot where it will receive direct afternoon sunlight. I didn't want it to be lonely so I put these bright-coloured leaf veggies that will hopefully provide a nice contrast. They look a bit sorry here due to just being transplanted, but a few hours later they had perked up nicely.

Yellow Pear Cherry Tomatoes. I hope they like their new spot.
I moved these tomato plants because their original sowing pot was looking a bit crowded, and some bugs are sucking away merrily at some of the leaves. I sprayed these with some fruity enzyme and pray they will get well. I am thinking a basil in the middle would not be out of place. Or maybe some leafy greens? I am still undecided about the rest of the plants, I wonder if I dare grow some of them upside-down?

Parsnip seedlings?
Topweight carrots are now waving their tiny fronds in the breeze, but where, oh where are my parsnips? Turns out parsnips do take a few weeks to sprout. A few days ago I spotted these tiny seedlings in the area where I sowed parsnips. Could this be? There are about 3 of these in total. I forgot how many I sowed though.

Surprise Loofah Gourd??
Honestly I was very surprised to find this growing around the spot where I transplanted my first loofah gourd seedling several weeks ago. One fine morning I found that the seedling had disappeared, and a very satisfied-looking snail was heading away from the crime scene. I disposed of the murderer humanely (put it outside my house compound, near some grass), mourned the loss of my transplant and set about sowing new ones. It seems that the munched up loofah gourd has made a comeback. Hooray! Including this one, I now have FOUR loofah gourd plants. :-)

Monday, 2 July 2012

A Life Well-Lived

All gone now. The lettuce dried up under the unforgiving sun while I was away.

I have been mainly away for the past few weeks. Travelling, coming back for a few days, then travelling again had been my mode of existence. I became weary of the hotel rooms we inhabited, and busied myself visiting family and having friends come over to visit. So my garden was left to fend for itself, save for the kindness of my neighbour and a niece, who despite her busy schedule as a medical officer, not only managed to water my plants but also check on my cats. Speaking of which, my poor Yoruichi spent almost 2 weeks at the vet's during our absence, because she still needed daily care. Fortunately most of her stay was billed as 'boarding', which is markedly cheaper than 'warded', as she steadily grew stronger and required less specialised care. She came home a respectable weight of 2.51kg, a definite improvement from her sickly weight of 1.8 kg.

Today was the first day I had to myself after our return. I hit the laundry pile, and then started pottering about in the garden. There was a power trip while we were away, and we came back to a darkened house and warm fridge. Needless to say, I find myself inundated with rotting veggies. Some of them went into my compost pile. I think I am going to get some surprise seedlings from this lot: perhaps tomatoes, cucumbers or lime seedlings might spring up in the compost pile. The rotting coconut water I threw on the heap as well, and it was promptly licked by Yinkey Pet. I tell you that cat is definitely Paleo/Primal: she loves cheese, yoghurt, virgin coconut oil, lamb, and now, coconut water too. Or perhaps she thinks she is human. The particularly manky and slimy rotting veggies I buried in a veggie bed I am preparing. Perhaps these nitrogen-enriched beds can house the lettuce seedlings I have growing?

I took out the Small Sugar Pumpkin seeds I bought from Kebun Bahagia Bersama, filed the edges (to enable water to seep in, check this link here for more info), immersed in a cup of warm water, and planted into one of the sites I had prepared, pointy end down.

Can you tell the difference between the untouched pumpkin seed (above) and the filed one (below)?

I like days like these, when I can catch my breath and reorient myself. I guess I am a big fan of soltitude, although I do enjoy the company of others. I honestly wonder how do busy people cope with the demands on their time and their fast-paced lives? Perhaps they can multitask: be alone with their thoughts while a part of their brain is engaged at some mundane office task. Honestly that sounds a bit like a split personality to me. Creepy. How many of us tune out while faced with repetitious, dreary chores? Do their spirits take flights of fancy, while outwardly they seem to be focused on the job at hand?

In case you haven't read it yet, do read this article in the New York Times on how and why we keep ourselves 'busy'. The author has articulated well what I have thought about for a long time and never had the eloquence nor self-confidence to express: some people who claim they are 'busy' for other things in life, actually enjoy the fact that they are needed by others. But in the end are we dancing to our own tune or are we foxtrotting to others', at the expense of our selves? To me the author, Tim Kreider, said it well:

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams. It almost makes you wonder whether loafers, goldbricks and no-accounts aren’t responsible for more of the world’s great ideas, inventions and masterpieces than the hardworking. 

 I think it is time for me to be more forthright about what I really think, provided of course I can avoid coming across as smug, or self-righteous, or patronising while still getting my ideas across with clarity. Sigh. I am still very much a work in progress. And I ought to spend less time on Facebook *wink*. Ironically, I probably wouldn't have found the above article were it not for Facebook. Which begs the question, am I using Facebook for my own ends, or is Facebook using me?