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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Garden Veggies Are Not Free

Let me ask you. Would you go to your relatives' or neighbours' fridge and help yourself to their fresh vegetables, smiling and saying, "It's just for me. One person. I don't eat much." Would you also go rummage about in their NTUC grocery bags and take some fresh tomatoes and a few pears, saying, "They're just laying there. Spare me some."

Would you?

I doubt anyone would. However, people do think that it is ok to help themselves to the vegetables in my garden. A neighbour I hardly know, passed by, and said, "When I pass by, I will snip those long beans hanging on the outside of your fence. She was not asking me. She was telling me. Relatives snip and take smiling and saying, "It's just for me. One person. I don't eat much." Friends look upon my tomatoes and say, "Pass me some!"

You know what, I prefer to go and buy vegetables for you than give you from my garden. It is difficult nowadays to get truly organic produce that is pesticide free. The "organic" labels cannot be trusted. So, the little vegetables that I produce for my family are precious. It is also precisely because mine are fully organic and pesticide free veggies that they stimulate veggie lust from relatives and friends. Everyone recognises the value of such veggies in today's chemically toxic world.

What they do NOT know is how expensive it is to produce these veggies. I spent more than $4000 on benches and trellises and close to $1000 on soil alone. These are only the sunk costs. What about the running costs? Organic fertilisers do not come cheap, and I buy them in bags of $25kg. Then, there is the TIME invested in inspecting the garden every morning to hand pick insects that would otherwise devour the veggies and herbs. How else do you think I can raise vegetables without pesticides? One physically pores through the leaves and removes the bugs by hand. It takes about 30 minutes to apply fertiliser and one needs to water daily too! It takes effort to make compost and vermicompost to feed the plants.

People assume that if the veggie is growing under the sun and in soil, that it must be cheap and free. It isn't. Home grown veggies are expensive to produce, in money, time and effort.

I regularly give away my surplus. To relatives, I sometimes give even though it means I need to go buy supermarket veggies to top up for my family. The irony is that it is because I give generously that people start to take me for granted... and then, they go through my garden and cut what they want.

The Husband is convinced that the witches of old are nothing more than highly intelligent women who knew herbs and could grow plants. The ability to make plants thrive and use them for medicine must seem like magic to some. The Husband believes that back in the day, I would qualify as a Good Witch because I know how to make children behave, heal my family with herbs and cast a spell on my garden so that leaves grow green and lush.

What readily comes to mind is the story of Rapunzel. Here is my take on that story. When Rapunzel's mother (let's call her Thief 1) was pregnant with her, she glimpsed the lush vegetables in a witch's garden. She really really wanted to eat those vegetables. To satisfy his wife's yearning, Rapunzel's father (let's call him Thief 2) climbed over the high wall and stole 3 NTUC bags worth of greens and root vegetables. He did this DAILY.

Every morning, the witch walked her garden and she saw bare patches here and there where vegetables should have been. Daily, there were more and more bare patches. The witch was broken hearted. She mourned the loss of her priceless veggies. She resolved to catch the thief. She did catch the thief, and to the Witch's mind, priceless must exchange for priceless and in return for her priceless veggies, she exacted from Rapunzel's Father an equivalent price - his unborn baby.

Now, tell me. How is it that the witch went down in history as the bad guy in the story? That is so unfair! If I had acres of veggies, I don't mind, but my garden is small. It is barely enough for us. Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to teach a certain relative some kindergarten manners. Don't worry. I will not be asking for a baby.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I Blinked

I faced off with Maggie our Princess Hen and I blinked.

2 weeks ago, Maggie crouched on her feeding bowl like a lump of exasperated feathers. She gave me an irritated look. I offered her some millet, corn and sprouted mung beans, along with normal chicken feed and high protein food for insectivores.

Maggie took one look, turned around and strutted away with the hauteur of Queen Marie-Antoinette. You could almost hear her say, "No mealworms? YOU eat the millet."

I told her that she was a naughty girl and then I decided to treat her the way I treated my kids. I said, "Fine! You eat the millet OR you eat NOTHING."

The thing is, my children don't lay delicious eggs. Maggie does and she has the upper hand. Out of spite, our NAUGHTY princess hen stopped laying. Then, today, she absolutely had to lay an egg so she laid such a tiny egg that she might as well be a quail. See below.

See that tiny egg on the left! This was Maggie saying, 
"No worms for me!? Tiny egg for YOU!"

I lasted 2 weeks. Today, I obediently went to the store to get 8 boxes of mealworms for Princess Hen. I faced off with a hen and I lost.