Tag Archives: Travel

Home & Away Part Two: A Guide to Absentee Gardening

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The third golden rule of absentee gardening: MULCH!

This post is the second in a series of three. Collectively, the posts weigh the pleasures of roaming (travel) against the pleasures of homing (epitomized by the practice of gardening), offering practical tips and solutions for gardeners – who like me – enjoy long periods away from the nest. In short, this series of posts is about ‘absentee gardening.’

In this particular post I outline the crucial six-steps I followed prior to departing on a four-week holiday. It goes without saying that gardens benefit from regular attention, and so four weeks without maintenance is a lot to ask of any annual vegetable garden!

Why I was leaving… the back story
A few hours after delivering my Confirmation Presentation (a doctoral milestone!) to a mingled audience of faculty, friends, family and office of research staff at the University of the Sunshine Coast I decided it was time to celebrate. I jumped online and did the unthinkable: booked a ticket to Thailand and Vietnam for one month. I hold the endorphins released during the presentation responsible for the rashness of my decision – or maybe it was simply the fact that I was missing Richie, who had been away in Thailand for four-weeks already.

Hold on honey, I’m a-coming!’ was the subject of the email I posted to Richie that night. Continue reading

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Home & Away Part 1

Is it me, or are the desire to travel and the desire to garden at odds?

The reason I ask is that I find myself faced with the quandary of wanting to travel and wanting to settle (literally cultivate a home and garden).

Inside me, the hunter/gather and farmer/settler archetypes coexist in uneasy, sometimes antagonistic relation.

Me: the muddy boots of a permie (permaculture gardener) and the worn backpack of a bona-fide traveller. Eeck. A walking contradiction?

Me: the muddy boots of a permie (permaculture gardener) and the worn backpack of a bona-fide traveller. Eeck. A walking contradiction?

Not an ideal scenario, right?

Over the past few years I’ve attempted (with varying degrees of success) to harmonise my desire to travel with my desire to garden: I’ve gardened whilst dreaming of travel, and have even gardened whilst travelling, albeit in other peoples’ gardens (if the latter appeals to you I suggest you look into becoming a WWOOFer – a Willing Worker on Organic Farms).

Me WWOOFing in Central Italy - labors spent in service of anthers' garden

Me WWOOFing in Central Italy – labours spent in service of anothers’ garden

Although my heady months of WWOOFing during my overland odyssey from England to Australia in 2012-2013 were extraordinary and deeply rewarding, there was something that dissatisfied me, generally, about my experience:

I never stuck ’round long enough to reap what I had sewn.

The nature and manner of the type of travel in which I was engaged (long-term, multiple-country, terrestrial, low budget, low carbon) was such that no sooner had I settled down and begun to develop feelings for a place, than it was time to move on.

And on…

And on…

And on.

By threading one WWOOF to the next I finally made my way overland from England to Australia, via twenty-one countries. The entire journey took seventeen months to complete and is remembered as a series of falling in love with places, and then having to leave – learning gradually, and with distance, to let them go.

The good news, I discovered, is that as a species we’re admirably well-adapted to love broadly and widely, deeply and long. The understanding that I have cultivated over the course of my hybrid travel-gardening adventures is that humans are polyamorous in terms of their relationship to place: that they can belong to many places (and cultures) at once.

Mine and Richie’s beloved first-ever kitchen garden at The Patch, England

As I write, it occurs to me that one of the reasons I regard travelling and gardening as incongruous (and I admit, I haven’t decided outright that this is truly the case) is that gardening is something you do at home. Traveling, on the other hand is a practice you practice ‘away’ from home. Insofar as practices go, gardening and travelling share the characteristic of being place-specific. It just so happens that the places in which they occur are thoroughly incompatible, even opposite: home & away respectively. Continue reading

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Get it in the ground!

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Being without a home doesn’t mean you have to be without a garden. How many people do you know who have garden beds that are under-utilised? Use ’em!

It’s been 9 weeks since Richie and I returned from abroad, and while we don’t yet have a home of our own (or a garden for that matter), we’re by no means home-or-garden-less. Thanks to the generosity of friends, family and friends-of-friends-and-family, since arriving back in south-east Queensland we’ve had the courtesy of seven different beds and a range of experiences getting our hands in the soil.

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In the middle of August we took the plunge and planted over 100 modules of assorted vegetable and herb seeds gleaned from 18 months of travel in 21  countries. Each morning it’s a race to see who’s first out of bed, down on hands and knees, calibrating the success of one full night’s growth.

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First it was the giant mustard greens, then the lettuce, closely followed by the tomatoes, coriander, and now the pickling cucumbers. It’s anyone’s bet when the eggplant and okra will raise their heads…

When all the seedlings are through, there will be more baby plants than we’ll know what to do with, at which point, we’ll do the rounds of friends’  and families’ gardens, planting them out and hoping, in time, to reap the rewards in the way of more seeds to grow on – locally adapted, and kept viable through precious grow-time in the earth.

So far we’ve trialled a range of watering methods for our seedlings. During germination seeds benefit from a fairly constant rate of temperature and humidity, but given our rather ad-hoc living situation we’ve been forced to experiment with all manner of irrigation (and household) devises for watering: hoses with no nozzles, plastic milk bottles with pin-pricks in the base, spray guns, and bonsai watering cans. We even considered using an eye-dropper for minimal splash-back and earth displacement… What do you use to water your fragile seedlings?

For my birthday this year Richie presented me with a timber box bursting with assorted flower, veg and herb seeds from Eden and Green Harvest; amongst them, heirlooms such as ‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant, and ‘Greek mini’ basil. There are flowers too! Borage. My favourite bee-plant.

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While we don’t want to count our tomatoes until they’re ripe, 9 out of the precious 12 tomato seeds given to us by our friends in Athens have germinated! These tomatoes, along with the pickling cucumbers from the Balkan Ecology Project in Bulgaria are among the rarest in our collection.

True to the spirit of abundance we’re eager to share our pool of biodiversity with people who, like us, take pleasure in propagating and harvesting unusual varieties of open-pollinated heirloom organic fruit and veg. On a visit to Stanthorpe in two weeks  my parents will be delivering miniature pear and nashi pear seeds (from Greece and China respectively) to friends who have a diverse and abundant backyard garden. Planting seed across a variety if  climatic and micro-climatic zones ensures a chance that at least some will survive, flourish, provide a yield, and begin the cycle all over again.

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transporting seeds from home-to-home… mobile gardening!

Happy planting !

GROW!

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marine-induced-semiotic-delirium

IMG_5359 Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea
– Keats ‘On the Sea’

Kupang is not Kupang: it is Tangier, Barcelona, Venice, Castellorizo, Istanbul, Kas rolled into one. Day 500. Day 9 at sea. Nothing is itself anymore. Under the solvent influence of the sea memories and vistas are breaking apart, dissolving. They’ve lost their crystalline objective quality. Physical form is detached from meaning. Signifiers bear no relation to signified. Places have lost their peculiarity. Everything is the same.

To my eyes, vexed and tired as they are, everything is composed of common attributes. Nothing is unique. Even the people I meet are not themselves anymore, they remind me of people I’ve met in other places. I glance about me at the boats, the shops, the cars lining the foreshore of Kupang and I’m confronted by a queer sensation. Places have lost their unique aspect. One is the other. One stands for all. Everything is familiar and strange. I’m neither here nor there.

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75 nautical miles northwest of Kupang we pass a village in the Solor Archipelago that, for all appearances, could be my Yiayia’s birthplace on Castellorizo. The Solor village convenes in a crowded fashion around the nucleus of mosque and marina, but substitute mosque for cathedral, coconut palm for plane tree, satay for soutzoukakia, and it could be Castellorizo, could be Istanbul, could be Tangier. The configuration is different but the elements are the same: trees, shops, houses, roads, parks, schools.

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The outcrop of rocks on the foreshore of Kupang is to my eyes, Sydney Cove. The sinuous camel-hump profile of Banta Island is the Olgas. 9 days prior , off the East coast of Lombok, we passed the Wallace line, the ‘faunal boundary’ between Asia and Australia, so it’s conceivable that the coastline here was once part of the Kimberley, part of the landmass I call home. None of us are strangers. All of us are kin.

Approaching a city from the water smooths out the differences. Buildings, objects and people come into focus slowly. There’s time to recollect. As Lea steers the boat headlong into the breeze and Keith drops the pick I hold on to Richie, hoping his presence will anchor me to the moment, preventing me from drifting 14,000km to Tangier, where 16 months ago we strolled along a seafront promenade not unlike the one here at Kupang and found ourselves seduced for the first time by the grace of mosques, palms, and the heady piquancy of anonymity.

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Sailing Home

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Out of office reply: Gone Sailing.

We apologise as we are currently unable to respond to your emails. We are onboard the Tientos with Lea and Keith bound for Darwin, Australia via Komodo and Kupang, Indonesia and and Dili, Timor-Lieste.

We are in capable and experienced hands and very much looking forward to the voyage, with our dream of flightless travel from England to Australia intact.

Wish us luck

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Bangkok Cheap Eats

plates don't stay full for long in Bangkok!

plates don’t stay full for long in Bangkok!

As travellers, Richie and I are devoted to cheap eats. Eat cheap, eat local! In Bangkok, where food is fresh, bountiful, varied and tasty, it’s hardly a difficult motto to live by. Nor does it require a spirit of self-sacrifice. By eating the food that locals eat, where locals eat it, we’ve saved ourselves loads of money and disappointment.

On average, Richie and I get by in Thailand on about 200Baht ($6.50) p/person p/day for food: that’s three light meals a day, one or two cold beverages, a sweet treat AND some fresh fruit.

So, dive into the closest alley, market and cafeteria with us and kick up your culinary heels as we take you into the world of Bangkok eats and drinks for under $2.

Eating cheap with the Lonely Planet 

If you’re feeling dubious about eating local or trying something new, the Lonely Planet (or other trusted guide book) is a good place to start. In general, we find their suggestions useful and reliable. In Bangkok we put the Planet to the test by eating out at two of the restaurants/stalls recommended in the 2012 14th edition. Here’s what we reckon:

  • Khrua Phornlamai; Th Plaeng Nam (Chinatown) for pàt kêe mow (wide rice noodles fried with seafood, chillies and Thai basil). Cost: 60B/$1.90.
pàt kêe mow (wide rice noodles fried with seafood, chillies and Thai basil)

pàt kêe mow (wide rice noodles fried with seafood, chillies and Thai basil)

The lowdown: This Chinatown street stall consists of little more than a few woks, a trestle table covered with bowls of fresh ingredients and a handful of plastic tables and chairs.

The pàt kêe mow arrived quickly on sizzling plates. Despite our request that the dishes be prepared ‘Thai hot’ they arrived with only a hint of fire. In order to achieve the required heat factor, we added fresh and dried chilli from the pots on the table, which included the ubiquitous fish sauce, sugar and vinegar.

There was a good amount of seafood in the dish, mostly prawns and squid. The wide rice noodles were not as chewy as perhaps they could have been. The dish was a bit flaccid and lacked the clarity of flavour I’ve come to expect in Thailand. Still, it was an enjoyable and filling meal, the basil was yummy and the location ideal. A perfect place to to sit and soak up the bustling atmosphere of Chinatow. Experience: 3/5 (In Richie’s opinion: 4/5).

blow! It's hot!

blow! It’s hot!

  • Thip Samai; 313 Th Mahachai; 5:30pm-1:30am closed alternate wednesdays, for pat tai (fried rice noodles with egg, shrimp and peanuts). Cost: 70Baht/$2.20.
pat tai perfection

pat tai perfection

Okay, we broke the budget on this one. But it was worth it! When we arrived at Thip Samai at 5:20pm after a hot greasy stroll from Wat Pho, the queue was out the door and down the road. The theatrics in the outdoors kitchen made the time pass quickly: 12 busy staff with woks rocking, flames jumping and food flying. In no time at all we were sitting inside eating. The place was spotlessly clean and the wait staff friendly and polite.

wok 'n' roll, the busy kitchen at Thip Samai

wok ‘n’ roll, the busy kitchen at Thip Samai

Out of the 3 dishes on offer we opted for the pat tai served in a crepe-thin layer of omlette.

The experience took my appreciation of pat tai to a whole new level. Each thread of noodle was separate, al dente and elegantly coated in flavour. We were liberal with the chopped peanuts, basil, bean sprouts, fresh chilli and lime (delivered fresh to your table when you order). No messing about!

Every mouthful a pleasure: the crisp crunch of the raw sprouts, the silky wholesomeness of the omelette, the pungency of the spring onion and the nuttiness of the roasted peanut. A full and memorable taste experience. Two days later, we were back for more! Experience: 5/5.

Our recommendations

 You won’t find the following options in ‘the book’ but we found them ourselves and reckon they’re just as worthy of inclusion.

  • Moo satay (pork satay skewers with peanut sauce) at Nothaburi Market. Cost: 40B/$1.30
moo satay on our very own plastic plate

moo satay on our very own plastic plate

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One Year of Faces: Part 2

Please click on any one of the images below to bring up a slideshow

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