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. 




Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Gardens of China

This summer we enjoyed a trip to China - my daughter's birth country. There were many familiar plants since many plants we grow in Florida originated in China. 

 Trumpet vine
and daylilies were still in bloom.

The beautiful Weeping Willow trees are in abundance throughout Beijing.


We enjoyed this colorful display of flowers in Tiananmen Square.
And, no it was not a foggy day. The haze that permeates this photo is air pollution. 

The gardens of The Forbidden City are actually located outside of the city walls. The emperor was so paranoid that enemies would be able to tunnel in from the outside, he would not allow any garden beds inside the wall.

There are many beautiful and artistic outcroppings of rocks in this garden. 

and lots of vines creeping up the sides of the rocks and buildings.

They have their "very old" trees identified with a colored label which indicates how old the trees are. This particular Juniper tree is listed as 500 years old.

The walkways through the garden are also very artistic and ornate.

I very much enjoyed visiting Youmin Temple and its gardens for a second time in Nanchang. 

This very old Bonsai was striking.

These gardens are very typical of an Asian garden. Predominantly green foliage of varying textures, rocks and water.

I love the way the plants are growing beneath the roof line of the tallest pagoda peak. A very calm and peaceful garden.


 The views and vistas we enjoyed on a river cruise along the Li River were awesome!


I took a photo of this homemade fountain we passed on a city street in case I ever want to try and replicate it. Even the folks in the big cities find a way to have plants and water around them. Don't you just love the 3 little concrete statues on the bottom right. I don't know what there meaning is but they're really adorable.

We were lucky enough to visit the Cloud 9 Cooking School where we learned to cook 3 authentic Chinese dishes. It was a lot of fun! While we ate outside beneath the arbor this passion vine was growing above us.
There was quite a bit of fruit hanging from it, too. 

Don't you just love the way they dry their cutting boards, 

and cooking bowls. The Chinese culture is very different from ours in many ways. They still live very close to to the land and very simply, although that is changing rapidly in the larger cities.

We enjoyed the peaceful gardens of another Buddhist temple we visited near The Great Wall.

A steep climb to the temple but well worth it.

You would expect lots of bamboo in China and there is. And, they utilize the dried canes to the max in fencing and even scaffolding. That's right! There scaffolding on large buildings is made of bamboo . . . amazing!

And, last but definitely not least is a visit to The Great Wall. There are many points in which you can access the Wall. The entrance below that we used was just north of Beijing and was beautifully and artistically landscaped.

You can either walk up to the top or take a ski lift.

But even when you're actually on the Wall there is still lots of up and down climbing as the Wall meanders over the top of the mountain ridge. It is an awesome sight with a breathtaking view, and when you take into account its age (began in the 7th century), how many lives were lost there (it's called the longest cemetery in the world because when the men died they were buried within it) and how they accomplished this feat it is unbelievably amazing.
We immensely enjoyed experiencing the culture and beauty of China this summer. It was an incredible experience!

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