Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Close to the Land

While traveling in China I noticed how simple the Chinese diet is compared to ours. In the large cities they do have Western fast-food places and also ready made noodles and vegetables. Just add water and microwave and it's ready to eat. Sound familiar?

But, overall they eat very simply from the land.  They eat what they grow and what's in season. During our summer visit, there was plenty of bok choy, carrots, spring onions, cherry tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes, eggplant, peppers (both red and green), and cucumbers (which by the way, are delicious cooked). And, there was of course staples such as rice (they grow 2 crops a year), bamboo shoots and ginger.

With a wok . . .

and your choice of chicken or pork, garlic, ginger and onion plus 2 to 3 vegetables and some delicious oyster sauce . . .

you can create a healthy one-dish meal in no time at all. It was surprising to see that they eat a pretty large quantity of food, but I guess when you're eating predominantly vegetables you can consume a lot without gaining weight.

They also garden very simply. The goal is to grow food and they plant as much as possible. No fancy raised beds or outlined beds with wood or stones. They simply maximize every inch of workable soil. To the western eye it may look messy and unplanned, but it soon becomes obvious that they are experts in healthy food production. A very necessary need in a country with a huge population.

Orchards of fruit trees dot the hillsides of the Li River, and as you can see in the photo (above and below) they put their abundance of bamboo to use by crafting supports for their vining plants.

Harvesting is not always easy in this country that still uses simple farming methods. After harvesting off the hillside these growers paddle-board (another clever use of bamboo) their fresh produce down the river. 

In the southern region of China you do not see large farm equipment. They use slow-moving Water Buffalo to pull their plows. These same buffalo provide milk to the farmer's family. These farmers still have a direct connection with the land they live on and the food they eat. 

There were farmers of many kind at work.

The local farmers can be found selling their bushel baskets full of produce beneath colorful umbrellas along city streets.

And, sometimes even more simply as this woman pictured below. 

Or, out along the highways that connect one city to another. It's definitely not an easy way to make a living.

Even folks who live in the city grow their own food even though they have a limited amount of land. We often saw vegetables growing from containers on balconies and on whatever little piece of land they may have.

In one of the old Hutong neighborhoods that we visited on rikshaws, four families grow fresh vegetables from a small plot of land outside their shared home.

Every inch of available space is put to good use. These vines also work to hide a bit of clutter and cool this side of the home.

Pots of herbs are a common sight outside of small business' that we passed.

This brief view of simplicity in rural China has opened my mind to the possibility of a slower and simpler more way of living. In the West we live stressed and hurried lives. We hastily prepare and eat highly processed food or restaurant meals. Progress and modern ways are not always better. I look forward to getting my hands in the dirt and growing even more of the food we eat from our backyard (and sometimes, frontyard) garden this fall. 


africanaussie said...

What a lovely post about everyday life in China. You said that they eat large amounts, but I see that what they drink with that large meal is water! This last dry season I have been growing lots of bok choy and grown to love it. I planted it very thickly and seemed to have less pests. I keep cutting off leaves, this never letting the plant get too big. I am now doing the same with lettuce.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Thank you Susan for this glimpse into a peaceful and lovely lifestyle.

I would love to grow vegetables, but night critters wreck them, by eating a bite out of tomatoes, strawberries, etc. and leave the rest.

I've been wondering if I couldn't grow veggies in the screened area where the jacuzzi and outdoor shower are. I have orchids and other plants back there.

Happy Gardening to you ~ FlowerLady

Leslie said...

What a fascinating post. I really like the idea of courtyard gardens and rooftop gardens and putting every bit of land to good, productive use rather than leaving it barren. It bothers me how wasteful we are here with land; we clear such huge areas around our homes and businesses and then do nothing with them but plant grass. Anyway, I'm really enjoying reading about your travels. Your pictures are terrific!

ChrisC said...

I've never understood why we don't do this in this country.It's so easy to grow your own vegetables.

Rusty in Miami said...

Very interesting, thanks for the post. That's the way of life we all should strive for, back to simpler times.

Susan said...

Hi Africanaussie, I do love bok choy, too, especially when cooked with mushrooms and soy sauce. I'll have to try your method of planting them thickly because I had a lot of little snails bothering mine last year. Thanks for that tip.

Hi Lorraine...I have grown veggies in my screened area. You will have to pollinate the tomatoes yourself by shaking the plants when they bloom.

Hi Leslie...I totally agree with you on planting large areas of grass. It would be wonderful if we used our little pieces of land in a more productive way.

Hi Chris...Amen! and Rusty...Absolutely!

Lynda said...

A very nice post with some more great pictures. Is this area your daughter's province? We saw a lot of these large gardens as we travelled from Changsha to Zhuzhou to visit Hannah's orphanage in the Hunan province, but it Shanghai where Lauren is from most gardens were small or part of the older home sites that still had a bit of land. There were lots of open markets where farmers brought their goods as well as very modern supermarkets with the usual as well as unusual (for us) things for sale. It was a great experience, and I love travelling to see new places. Thanks for sharing your photos.

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