Tag Archives: gardening

You don’t need an act of congress to heal the Earth

There are scary headlines these days of how our Earth’s climate is rapidly changing due to CO2 emissions caused by the burring of fossil fuel. Go to any Facebook page and you will get shouted down if you express any opinion about whether climate change is real or not. In the past two years in Hawai’i, I have had enough hurricane close calls to allay any doubt. Climate change is here and now.

It is frustrating to watch the news and see inaction from political leaders. The good news is that we don’t need to wait for them to debate on whether to take action or not. We can take action ourselves. Probably the most radical thing you can do is plant your own food. That doesn’t mean you have to live off what you plant, as that would take a lot of real estate. Start small. The smaller the better. Start a small planter in your window sill or patio. The aim isn’t necessarily to grow sustenance for your family. It is for you to slow down and watch how nature works.

We have become so far removed from nature that we are not even sure how plants grow anymore. By starting to grow your own food, you see the process. You even make errors and learn from those errors. Every year you gain confidence to grow more. After a few years, you are growing enough to feed yourself and family from garden to table several nights per week. You don’t have to garden the way I do, explore what methods work for you. If you can’t figure it out, just take a pack of seeds and plant them on a place on your lawn. Nature will guide you on what to do next.

By watching how nature works, you tend to develop respect for her. That leads to a lot of other choices: use less fuel, turn off lights when not in use, limit plastic use, and vote for candidates who want a sustainable world for their grandkids.

Its not too late. But we do have to act and the sooner the better. I would like to keep things nice for the next generation.

 

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Sensitive to the changes of season

Yoga practice and gardening have much in common. The one thing that stands out is that one becomes very sensitive to nature and its forces. This is the time of year in Hawai’i when it is brutally hot and humid. The air is so thick, that senior teacher Joan White was giving a workshop this time of year and said the air actually had “weight” to it. However, there is usually one day in the month of October where the weather changes radically from hot and humid to constant rain. Just before that is the optimal time to plant seeds in the garden. You have to time it just right. Every night I am aware of any temperature drop and feel of rainfall. Once it starts, it doesn’t usually let up for a month or so.

To prep for this auspicious time I prep my garden area which has been overgrown with grass with a hand sickle. I cut back the grass and let it decay for a while which makes a mulch bed for the yet-to-be-sown seeds.

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Coming back from my trip a month ago has left me swamped with catch up paperwork at my regular job. Not to mention caregiving duties and surprise visitors. With the stress, the time change, and the weather, my immune system has lowered and I caught bronchitis. Lo and behold, at the peak of my cold, the time came to sow seeds.

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Not to be deterred, I plotted along and scattered all the seeds I’ve been storing for this occasion. Here are a few. I am trying a few “red” varieties this year like burgundy okra (seen above) red malabar spinach and red Kyoto carrots.

With all the seeds finally planted, I went back into my sick mode and saw a doctor. Turns out I have bronchitis. I have found a good remedy is Korean tofu stew. I usually can’t stand in due its intense hot temperature and spiciness, but its all I have been craving.

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As far as classes, I manage to teach as best I can in my state. It is very difficult to teach when you are not feeling well. However, I do feel that somehow teaching has gotten “easier” since I’ve been back. A lot of my students who have been a way for a while have been returning. There are a lot of injuries and issues, so I have to divide my students into groups. I never had to do that much before now.

We are on the second night of Navratri, and I can feel the grace of Brahmacharini, one of the nine manifestations of Durga celebrated during this time. She was said to be resolute and did tapas for 5,000 years until she met her goal. I always enjoy celebrating and trying to keep up with the time difference between here and India to “catch” the right goddess on the correct night.

This is an auspicious time. A time of sowing, a time of celebration, a time of season change, and a time of recovering after a long journey.

Many blessings.

The treasures of gardening

I haven’t written much about my garden this year, but it has quietly produced about twice the bounty of the previous year. Even the size of the produce has increased and is even more delicious. I have been reflecting much about the readings of Masanobu Fukuoka’s books The One-Straw Revolution, and his general philosophy of farming, or in my case gardening. I sensed that he just like to watch plants grow regardless of what they produced. I am now seeing this two and a half years into my project. There is great joy in watching a pumpkin vine roam and sprawl, as with a bitter melon plant. There is great joy in watching a basil plant get so top heavy that it falls over and needing a trellis as a prop to support it. There is great joy in watching seedings turn to plants, and then bear fruit.

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There are also surprises. Like purple carrots and random bitter melons hanging behind another plant that you didn’t expect to find. I also like that this type of gardening seems to attract nearby wildlife from the marsh. I different types of birds roaming around the lawn feasting on insects.

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Even Fukuoka writes about how wildlife interacts with his farm. He writes, “We had just finished harvesting the rice, and overnight the rice stubble and low-lying grasses had become completely covered with spider webs, as though with silk. Waving and sparkling with the morning mist, it was a magnificent sight…The spectacle is an amazing natural drama. Seeing this, you understand that poets and artists will also have to join in the gathering.” (p.27-28 One-Straw Revolution)

At night I have been hearing the quack of ducks in my yard. That is not so unusual, but the quacking has gotten louder of late. I have even seen ducks roaming around in the garden looking like they were up to some type of no good. Then today when I was cutting down the grass under my trellis with a hand sickle, I caught a glimpse of something…

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My mother-in-law said she sees a duck come out of the thicket once a day for the past four days, and was trying to keep their secret. It seems the nearby marsh ducks are planning to hatch their eggs right in the middle of the garden. My first instinct was to remove the eggs. But I have a feeling that Fukuoka would just let it ride, waiting for the mysteries of nature to reveal something greater. I’m am starting to think more along his lines.

 

Happy New Year! Startin’ with the garden

As many of my readers are probably having to wear a heavy coat now, I’d like to start the new year right, with a few pictures of warmth from my garden. It is year two of my Fukuoka-style of gardening. An unusually wet Hawai’i December has yielded wonderful results.

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Chilly? How about Chile? This pepper plant barely survived last year’s summer. Now it is producing long delicious capsaicin-rich Cayennes. I think these are the kind that Chef Pasquale uses and calls “Oh yeah babys.”

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The tall grass is a natural trellis for these snap peas. Once they reach the “roof” of this table-like trellis my wife and I put up last year they start going wild. Can you spot the camouflaged gecko on the bamboo? Those guys help me control the unwanted pests in the garden.

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This patch of bush beans produced so many green beans I was able to make a dish for Christmas dinner with family visitors.

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Across the yard our Meyer lemon tree is staring to produce its first bounty. These in time will swell up to full sized lemons. Enough to give away to family and friends.

I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the produce, but there is also a pumpkin, eggplant, bitter melon, saluyot, and daikon sprouting in this space.

The only work I did in the garden was throw seeds and trim the grass with a hand sickle. Nature has taken care of the rest of the labor. Stay tuned and happy new year!

 

Simple dinner from my garden

I harvested a few items from my garden recently. My vegetables are so small that they would barely be a mouthful. Look how tiny my eggplant and Roma tomato turned out…

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Since there is no good sense of scale here, the eggplant is roughly the size of a lemon, and the tomato the size of, well you can do the calculations based on the photo. I have a guilty pleasure of viewing Conor Bofin’s site called “One Man’s Meat.” Although I don’t eat that much meat, I like his sense of authentic preparation and photography skills. So I will channel my inner Conor for this blog and attempt to do with veggies what he does with lamb chops.

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Luckily I had a good picking of leaves from a mustard spinach green plant and a few stray basil.

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I chopped up the eggplant (not seen) the tomato and a half a shallot.

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I sautéed the eggplant in a splash of olive oil soon followed by the shallots…

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Then added the mustard-spinach and basil.

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Once reduced in size I added a dash of salt and pepper and a twist of lemon to brighten it all up.

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Voila! About two or three delicious bites.

And a nice mango for dessert given to me by one of the students at my studio. (Thank you Sandy!)

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Then I scarfed a huge bowl of unsightly left over pasta (not seen). Hope I did you justice Conor!

 

 

My wife’s green thumb (more like nuclear)

If you have been following my garden escapades, you’ll know that my wife and I have his and hers gardens. While I have been somewhat successful in trying to retrace Masanobu Fukuoka’s method of “do nothing” farming, my wife went straight to the traditional method of spreading soil and planting seeds.

I have struggled mightily to grow cucumbers in my garden which is on the the sunnier, drier side of the yard. In Hawai’i we have “microclimates” which can vary in a short space like in our backyard. My wife has the more shaded, cooler part of the yard.

While I harvested this a while back, it was the only cucumber I have successfully grown as my plants have all dried out and developed gummy stem disease which renders the fruit dry and prickly.

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My wife’s Japanese cucumber plant on the other hand has taken over most of the large trellis we put around it and has begun producing gargantuan results. I harvested this today. It was so big and ungainly that it scared my poor mother in law Toshiko. She could not even bear to be in the same room with it which verifies my suspicion that she is actually part cat.

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This monster weighs about 2 pounds (a little less than 1 kg). It is spikey and you could probably use it as an effective battle club. My mother in law even questioned if it was indeed a cucumber. “I’ve never seen a Japanese cucumber like this, maybe this is an English cucumber or squash.”

After work today we all came home and tried a slice with great trepidation. It was probably the most delicious cucumber I’ve ever had. It was even a little sweet with a strong cucumber taste.

I snipped this off my trellis also. It is a tiny bitter melon from my Fukuoka garden. I sliced it thin and salted it, washed it off and added ginger, bonito flakes and shoyu (a traditional Japanese preparation). It was small but delicious. To get a sense of scale see that it occupies about a four inch circle on my table cloth compared to my wife’s battleship above.

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The good thing about gardening with your wife is that no matter what size, you always get to share the harvest 🙂

Letting your plants go seed

When I was a teenager, I can remember waiting in the doctors office and perusing a hunting magazine. I had no interesting in hunting, but it was the only thing to read in the days well before iPhones. Between the articles of using store bought fox urine versus to the real deal for God only knows what, I came across an article that has apparently stayed with me for years. It was a first hand account of a man who successfully tracked down a prized deer, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot it because he was in awe of the beauty and strength of this animal.

As my plants in my garden are maturing, I haven’t been able to pick some of them for very much the same reasons as the hunter above. Watching something grow from seed since nascency, then becoming ripe and the flowering, then seeding, then dying is a beautiful process to watch. It is hauntingly a fast forward preview of our own cycle of existence in this embodiment, and in mankind itself.

I knew I was too late picking my freckled lettuce when I snapped off a leaf and chewed it, only to have an extremely bitter taste in my mouth. I have developed great respect for lettuce plants a they are some of the most disease resistant, insect resistant, drought resistant, and delicious plants that can be grown. When they are mature, they go right into seed making mode and grow a crown on top reminiscent of something truly Royal.

It is odd growing plants in Hawai’i, a place where you can plant any time of year and produce. As this past week was the first day of Spring, many of my plants are behaving like its Fall and either harvesting or going to seed. Rather than greedily picking them all, I am letting some continue their short life cycle on this earth with hope that they will produce more offspring with their withering.

On a bright note, I did harvest my first pumpkin. It was small and beautiful and made my mother in law very happy. I plan to take it on “tour” to show all my students, coworkers, friends, and clients with whom I was showing weekly pictures of progress like some deranged parent. Who knows, I might just eat it one day 🙂