Tuesday, August 05, 2014

My New Passion : Gardening!

Old friends would gasp in amazement if they knew that I was now interested in gardening.  And if you had told me two years ago that this would happen, I'd have gasped louder.

But then here I am, wrist deep in black earth, getting all excited at the sight of earthworms... did you know that earthworms improve the soil?  Well, I have a lot of clay soil to be improved...

Actually I got into this out of necessity.  After getting a headache trying to get pesticide-free veg and looking at the prices rising around me AND reading up about the crazy things going on in and outside Malaysia, I decided to start planting my own vegetables.  A) I'd know for sure I'm eating pesticide-free greens.  B) I'd defray some of the cost of feeding my family.  C) I'd not die straight away if the shops closed for weeks.  Don't laugh...I'm deadly serious.  The Tanduo Lahad Datu scare was no joke and spending four days in Tawau just before the holidays opened my eyes real big.  (Hint : camouflage, wings)

Anyway this post is about gardening. 

I was never into gardening because my experience with plants have not been very encouraging.  My mum took care of a row of daisies for a year plus and they bloomed for her.  She turned them over to me and they died within 3 months.  I watered her jungle of plants for years and never experienced even a tinge of desire to plant some of my own.

But things changed after I moved into my own house and acquired lots of reddish clay soil.  My dad helped plant some grass.  I watered and babied the patches because I preferred green to red.  My mum donated rows of her flower pots to me.  The ones that survived were the cacti and the bougainvillea.  Yay. 

I planted vegetables.  The okra, tomatoes and chillies grew.  The pumpkins (yellow and white) never even sprouted.  One balsam plant grew... where the heck did it come from?? My long beans produced a lot for a while before they died.  My husband planted some fruit trees and they grew...but then stopped growing...
And I started to do a lot of reading about this puzzle called gardening.

Then my school was given the task of establishing an organic garden.  Thankfully the principal chose another better-qualified lady to head the team.  I played observer.  But the more I watched, the more I became interested.  Especially when they started using a microbial inoculant EM1 on their plants.  The effect was amazing... leaves grew like crazy and plants practically burst into bushes.  Well...you get the idea.

So I got hold of this EM1 and tried it myself.  My stunted fruit trees started putting out new leaves by the dozen!  My kaffir lime trees revived...my lemon australia tree came back from the half-dead!  My chillies grew big and fat!  My remayong stalks became remayong plants...!

I'm bit.  By the gardening bug.

The EM1 is not meant to be used diluted straight out of the bottle (RM25 per bottle).  It needs to be activated first.

This is the formula I used :

Mix in one 1.5L drink bottle (recycled and washed clean)
- two capsful of EM1 (I used the EM1 bottle cap)
- 2 spoonsful of molasses/brown sugar or white sugar (if that's all you have)
- 1 pinch of salt
- a few slices of lemon rind/lemongrass/pandan leaf (for scent) -optional-
- water that was used to wash rice (just wash 2 cups or so of rice kernels in non-chlorinated water, strain the kernels out...water should be milky in colour)

Shake the bottle and then pour some of the mix out into two other bottles.

Now you have three partly-filled bottles. Squeeze the plastic bottle before tightening the cap.  Gas will be released over the next few days and you don't want the bottles to blow up.

Now keep the three bottles in a cool place, out of sunlight.

Let the gas out on the 4th day.

By the 7th day, the mix should be ready for use.  You will know it was a success if the mix doesn't smell bad.  Mine smells a bit lemony (I used some lemon slices) and fermented.

Before spraying on plants, mix 10ml into a medium sized pail of non-chlorinated water. 

Spray on the leaves and on the earth.

Do this 2 atau 3x a week. Pick a nice sunny day.  Rain will wash off the good stuff.

Then just wait for the good things to happen!

P/S  EM1 is not a fertilizer.  Google it up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Joy and The Pain of Creating A School Magazine

Last year the admin thought it a great idea for me to be put in charge of the school magazine. Wow. Gee. Hooray.

So I got to work. I kinda made a mash of the committee meetings... LOL, there were none! With teachers anyway. But plenty of gatherings with my editorial board. Plenty of pizza too.

Went through a steep learning curve, learned how to use software (that I won't mention as I can't even afford to breathe on the CD box) and brushed off dust from old skills in design. I may prefer to dress simply and sometimes monochromatic but I know what looks good on a cover. I even dragged in an old friend Sufri into designing the cover (lucky thing he's school alumni).

Well, Bornean 2013 is done and I'll hold the finished product in my grubby hands today... yay!  I consider it my first draft. Bornean 2014 will be a groundbreaker.

Can't wait... :-)

I Love Being In School!

I was looking for some info in my blog this morning when I noticed the number of posts I'd been making the last few years. Wow, only two last year and two the year before that.

Heh heh. It's a sure sign that I'm in a happy place. Angst is a great trigger for prose... no wonder the most prolific writers tend to be the ones struggling with lots of personal grief. Well, to be fair, I love to write whatever my personal feelings may be at any given time. It's just that I've been writing more on my other blog.

I'm very happy with my career at the moment because I'm where I should be.. in school. Any school will do... as long as there are students in it and I get to teach English.