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Thursday, February 22, 2018

FriendLIER Neighbours

When I made the decision to get Max, the rooster, I was dreading my neighbours' reactions. I scared myself silly imagining that I would be the neighbourhood persona non grata. To me stunned surprise, neighbours who never ever spoke to me started to stop at my gate to chat.

All because of my rooster.

They stop by and tell me that they are kampong boys and kampong girls. It is quite odd to have these elderly folk with their mops of white hair describe themselves as boys and girls. I guess, somewhere inside all of us, we never really grow up.

My hen melted.

Sand ginger flower. I ate it.

Soursop flower bud.


Pea shoots.

Harvested pea shoots.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sun Plaza Nostalogia

Sun Plaza, next to Sembawang MRT station, put up a charming little installation that brought 1960s Singapore chinatown into the HDB heartlands. When chinatown looked like this, Sembawang was still jungle and prawn farms. 

Lots of old people are very taken by the installation. They linger to take pictures and reminisce. This is the best Chinese New Year decorative display that I have seen this year. It is interactive too. People sit on the wooden chairs and try on the slippers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Maggie Is Brooding

A hen lays an egg every day. Sometimes, she needs 2 days to produce an egg. Maggie laid 9 eggs over a period of 14 days. Yet, all her chicks will hatch together. How does that happen? I was quite bemused by this.

A fertilised egg is a life in suspended animation. The embryo within does not begin to develop until the conditions are right. There must be the right temperature and the right humidity. Maggie laid an egg a day over 14 days and she ignored them completely. It has been a very long 14 days for me because I was not confident that my silly young hen knew how to be a mother. I saw her sit awhile on the eggs and then run off.  Whilst Max moved sedately and with dignity, Maggie rushed all over the garden like Quicksilver the X-Man, but chicken style. I felt like forcibly picking her up and making her sit still on her eggs.

"Hey! You are a mother now. Stop acting disco or boom box age! Get serious!"

Finally, after her 9th egg, Maggie turned serious. She is now brooding in earnest. I am looking forwards to at least some chicks 21 days from now. I do hope something hatches. I haven't been able to catch Max and Maggie copulating (and believe me, I have tried to look out for them copulating) so I am not even sure if the eggs are fertilised. 

I am keeping my fingers crossed.

9 eggs.

Finally, a good mother hen.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gifts From the Heart

Our helper M came home with surprises for me today. She had gone out with her cousin who had just come back from her holiday in Myanmar. M had imposed upon her cousin to bring back gifts for me. They are princely gifts in my view.

I feel so blessed because my helper likes me enough to put so much effort in giving.

Asparagus roots. It is impossible to find asparagus in Singapore. I could not even find the seeds! I looked high and low for asparagus. All I could find were the asparagus spears in the market. I buy them whenever I see them. M says these grow like weeds where she lives.

Crocodile meat. Apparently, M had noticed that I was prone to eczema when I eat certain foods. This is supposed to set me right. She looked at me anxiously and asked, "Will you eat it?" Actually, it looks very oily but yes, I will eat it because it was the combined effort of M's family who hunted, cooked and hand carried it here. How to not eat?

M explained that this was pure turmeric powder made by her own aunt without the use of pesticides nor fillers. The fragrance from this is amazing. Nothing compared to store bought. This, too, is a thoughtful gift because I take turmeric tea 5 times a week. M specially ordered this to be hand carried in too.

One of M's male cousins fished this out of the sea last night. It was then stored in the fridge and kept on ice. M brought them home and gave them to me, asking me if I liked them. Of course, I do! This is 5 dinners worth of protein.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Garden Update

Now that the glass awning is in, I can put some order in the garden again. It has suffered somewhat from the lack of sunlight and too much water during the Nov and Dec monsoon. I lost 2 pots of rosemary to the unceasing rains.

I decided to do a stock take and realise that the garden does really feed my family. I rotate the harvests from plant to plant but there is always something to eat, instead of going to the store. I have not had to buy market greens for a long time.

Chilli... we had a few plants that were infested with broad mites. I was so irritated that I gave most of them away. This one miraculously fruited without much care from me.

Thai Watercress is yumzzzz in soups.

Amaranth Leaves (aka bayam or heng chye). This makes a yummy garlic stir fry.

Brazilian Spinach is soft and tender in a garlic stir fry.

Blue Pea leaves are great in soups. Sliced very thin, the bean pods can be stir fried. The flowers can be used as natural food colouring. The flowers make a tea that nourishes the brain.

Winged Beans are good in nasi ulam. See HERE.

Roselle leaves make a deliciously tart stir fry when combined with amaranth leaves or sweet potato leaves. Roselle fruits can also be infused to make a tea that tastes like Ribena.

Anredera cordifolia make a lovely egg drop soup and when stirred into mashed potato, makes a delicious portobello mushroom stuffing.

Betel leaves make a tasty wrap of oven baked fish, or minced pork/beef.

Mint leaves for my favourite drink - Virgin Mojito.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Rooster Alarm Clock

Black drapes.

Black polycarbonate walls and roof.

Roosters are protectors of the flock. They have 2 weapons of choice. Firstly, they have a sharp spur on each foot that they will use to claw adversaries. Secondly, they have an outsized crow. It is this outsized crow that rings out clearly up and down my street at 5am in the mornings.

I was petrified at the full throated blast that came out of Max. I remembered thinking the same thing when my son was born. How can something so small make a sound so big?

Happily, I live in a neighbourhood where families can still remember rural living. Yuppies have not moved in here in a big way. We have a neighbourhood of people who used to live in kampongs around here and made their living selling fish, mending badminton racquettes, selling bicycles and in construction. Neighbours have told me that the rooster crow brings back childhood memories. It is a comforting sound. 

Light Protecting the Coop
Still, it is my responsibility to ensure that my Max does not crow all night, nor too early in the mornings. So, we had to renovate the chicken apartment. We installed a black polycarbonate roof and 2 walls to block out light and give them a sense of privacy. Then, we bought black drapes to cover the cage at night. The chickens sleep in pitch black darkness all night. So, Max does not crow at night at all.

Hooding Max
However, Max still crowed at 5 am in the mornings. So, we decided to hood him like a badass falcon. The problem was, we could not find a rooster hood. So, we improvised with a sock (learnt this from someone on the internet). We cut a small hole at the end of the sock and hooded him. My rooster is no fool, though. He figured out how to wear the hood around his neck like Abercrombie and Fitch winter wear. So, we tried on a sheer sock with no hole. We had some peace and quiet this morning before he let out another full-throated blast. He had pecked a hole in the new sock. Hmmmmm... today, I will spend figuring out how to outsmart this clever Max. 

Hooded falcon. Badass right?

Abercrombie and Fitch modelling assays.

Sheer socked.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Rooster Husband

Maggie is sort of an energizer battery. She runs hither and thither, ready to kaypoh whatever I might be up to in the garden. Max is more laid back and chill.

Max is a very doting husband indeed. If there are treats, he lets Maggie eat first and eat most of it. In the first few days, he watched us suspiciously and flapped his wings around Maggie as she ate, as if to warn us that if we messed with his hen, he would mess with us. He stayed close to her wherever she chose to explore. I opened the screen to the cage late last night and could not see Maggie. He was hiding her behind his wings. Her head was leaning on his wing shoulder.

The above uncomfortable posture is what Max adopts when he is basking in the sun. I suppose it is the equivalent of The Husband lounging on the sofa. It is just Max's thing you know. He does that when he is feeling relaxed and comfortable.

The thing was, Maggie had other ideas. We were very surprised when Maggie pecked him on the wing and then used her head to ruffles his feathers, as if to say, "Come on! Get up!" Dutifully, Max did. Then, Maggie body-pushed him towards the long apron running down the side of the house. She wanted to walk there and she did not want to do it alone so she made Max walk with her.

Max was so indulgent that he actually did!

Apparently, roosters look after hens like this. They let hens eat better. They show hens nice nesting places. They stand guard over the hens. If there are multiple hens in the flock, he steps in to stop hen fights. See HERE.

I guess it is because the hens are the ones that lay the eggs and brood the babies. Even we spoil Margaret. Her eggs are important you see.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sprouting Grains for the Chickens

The Daughter refers to Maggie as Princess Hen. On Day 1, Maggie ate everything I gave her. Since yesterday, Maggie has been very selective about what she eats. She turns up her beak at shredded vegetable peels, chopped up greens, cooked rice, unhusked rice, unsprouted wheat and unsprouted barley. Princess Hen will only eat meal worms and sprouted grains.

If I mix the food together, she will only pick out stuff she likes. So now, I have to sprout for her. Sheesh!

This chicken is hard work and only gives me 1 egg a day. Very expensive egg.

I was told that she would give 1 egg every 3 days. When she got here, she gave me 1 every 2 days. Now, I get 1 every day. Yay!

Sprouting mung beans.

The rooster loves sprouted mung beans.

Soaking wheat, barley and mung beans.