Here in Canada, I’ve made a special five hour trip by train just to see lotus in bloom at the Montreal Botanical Garden, where they have a fantastic collection. In Thailand, lotus flowers and plants are so commonplace, you very nearly become unaffected by them.
They even grow in ditches off the side of the highway. When I travel, these are the sorts of observations I like to make. These are the places I want to see. These are the experiences that make me squeal with delight and the fondest memories that come back again and again decades after the fact. This is what I want to photograph and write stories about.
What is growing in the ditches, lots, and brown spaces? I genuinely want to know. One of the most frustrating aspects of being on a media tour in Thailand was the inability to stop the bus and get off to explore in the way that I would were I in control of my trip. Alas, many of these fantastic sights had to be enjoyed at a passing glance through the window of a fast moving tourist coach while on the way to another banal tourist attraction that I didn’t care to see, had no interest in writing about, and would come to resent for all of the time it took away from the possibility of seeing something real and truly inspiring.
Give me time to spend gleefully exploring your country’s ditches, dusty roadsides, and messy, tangled lots. Visits to ostentatious, over-the-top gardens and demonstrations of opulence are wasted on me. I will choose a tour of your city’s urban brown fields or the backroads well out in the middle of nowhere over five star luxury accommodations any day. No contest.
I’ve taken the message on the side of this recycling bin quite literally and am recycling it by turning it into a salad greens garden.
This house came chock-a-block full of junk, especially the backyard. Not that I’m complaining — we’ve found new uses for a great deal of the items and have saved some money in the process.
First up are the recycling bins: there were several, but we have no traditional use for them as living in a house means we are able to keep a large-sized recycling bin that suits most of our recycling needs. It was practically impossible to keep one recycling bin for any length of time while living in an apartment — someone was always stealing them off of the curb! And now, here, we have too many. Go figure.
Fortunately, recycling bins make great planters, if you can get past the ugly. We’re still in a yard renovation holding pattern as we now realize that a tiller is required if we’re going to manage the back breaking work of levelling it out. I originally thought we could do the work by hand because I’m not a big fan of tillers and may have also been overly optimistic when the snow was still on the ground, and the backyard garden was just a dream. Levelling out a bumpy, slopped garden requires time, something I don’t have right now as we are in a crunch to layout book #3 (due out in Spring 2012!). I also have some stray photos to take. As a result, I can’t get my raised beds in place, which means I can’t plant spring greens or peas. GAH! One of our big goals this year is to become completely self-sufficient in salad fixings. Starting next month (or so), I don’t want to buy a single head of lettuce ever again, if I can help it. This should be easy enough to achieve over the long term as I intend to dedicate a rather large bed to greens alone. So exciting! Obviously, this goal is unachievable if I can’t plant….
Remember months back when I wrote about lampascioni, the Italian wild onion bulbs that are really a muscari (Muscari comosum) that I purchased at my local greengrocer? Click here for a refresher and more details.
Well, here they are! Aren’t they fantastic? I love their feathery plumage (the tassel in their common name, Tassel Hyacinth) and the earthy-brown bells that flank the lower part of the stem.
I’m still suffering from extreme sleep deprivation and killer jet lag from hell, and have decided to roll out the Thailand trip coverage slowly with this Polaroid I took at the Mae Sa Orchid Farm just outside Chiang Mai. Thanks so much to Heather Champ who kindly gifted me with three packs of 600 film for the trip.
This was our first stop in Chiang Mai, visited directly after leaving the airport and on our way out into the countryside to have lunch and visit the Botanical Garden (which I will post about later). It was exciting to see so many orchids in one place and I was surprised by how enthusiastic I was to see more since we’d already been in Thailand for a while by this point and had seen our fair share. Orchids are everywhere in Thailand. Literally everywhere, including street plantings and highway underpasses.
Most of the orchids grown on the farm were vandas, which are extremely difficult to grow here in Toronto as they require a consistently humid environment. It was probably their extra specialness that contributed to my enthusiasm.
The farm presented each of us with a fresh orchid corsage on the way in, and I got another one when I flew Thai Airlines to Beijing. I even got one as a garnish when I ordered coconut water at in a cafe.
It has been about a month and a half since I last wrote about the Office Tomato and it’s about time for a good news/bad news update.
The good news is that I returned from a 10-day trip to Thailand to two ripe tomatoes and a third that is very nearly there. I feel lucky to have made it this far and was equally impressed that our friend and house-sitter, David, was able to keep the plant alive, especially since the weather has been unseasonably cold and grey.
The bad news is that the reign of Office Tomato is coming to an end.
I had hoped that the plant would be able to hold on long enough to make it outdoors, but with another months or so to go before tomato planting time, it is clear that a quiet retirement soaking up the sun in the fresh air is not going to be a reality for Office Tomato. The hard work of producing fruit indoors in an inadequate lighting situation is taxing all of the plant’s resources — it is literally on its last legs.
But first, let me backtrack:
I took this photo on March 26, just before heading off to Milwaukee. Already I could see that Office Tomato’s days were numbered and that its health was on a downward slope. I observed that the leaves had begun to curl under and had lost their luster. They just weren’t as green as they should have been.