Learning Something

With temperatures in the mid-30s every day, and the humidity sky high, it’s somewhat taxing to spend a day on the allotment farming. I find I can do fairly energetic work for about 45 minutes, such as turning the compost heaps or slashing the weeds attacking from all sides, but then I need about the same time, plus lots of drink, to recover. I sit there gasping for breath sometimes, yet I’m as fit as most people touching 60, so it’s not as if I’m out of condition. Consequently, I don’t get an awful lot done. Nevertheless, there’s nothing that makes me feel as content and at ease with myself and the world as working on that allotment. Having the green hills of Lantau looming over me helps, but there is also the almost complete absence of the sounds of engines or the gabble of people anywhere near me. The cawing of crows or the chattering of a shrike or the buzzing of a bee are much more usual sounds. Having had a long, dry spring and early summer, the most welcome sound is the babbling of the stream that provides the water for my plot. There have been long spells when no water was running, and I had to use the water standing in pools, but it’s always rained again before it’s run completely dry, so I’ve been lucky.

This allotment is supposed to be our community garden. In fact, there are just three of us working on it, and only two of us, Kate Ringrose and myself, actually planting things, while Merrin Pearse digs in his kitchen waste and bokashi for us. Hardly a model Transition enterprise, but it’s a modest improvement on what it was before. In fact, none of our attempts to get a proper Transition group going have been successful, as we’ve not managed to get anyone else to commit to doing more than a one-off activity. As a result we’ve got no groups looking into ways of reducing our community’s carbon emissions in areas such as transport or energy, and no one interested in envisioning the future, and so on. Never mind, we’re increasing the amount of land being turned over to organic farming – another four plots next to Mabel’s Organic Roselle Farm, of which I will rent two, are about to become organic, and we’re trying to encourage local restaurants to buy local and organic. But the truth is, I think, no one sees global warming as a problem for HK, and most people haven’t got a clue about Peak Oil, never mind economic collapse. So, we soldier on, taking baby steps and trying not to admit that we’re flogging a dead horse and mixing our metaphors.

I think I’ve more or less given up feeling anxious about our ineffectiveness. Did I really expect people to take any notice of what I might say, even if I was just passing on the information gathered by much more knowledgeable folk? Why should they? Did I think I had a special mission to educate people or to show them the error of their ways? It’s amazing how we can deceive ourselves – my own life is a mess, yet I think I can tell others what they should be doing with theirs.

Anyway, down on the farm you get back in touch with reality! Despite your failure to make a good compost heap, and despite your inability to grow pumpkins and courgettes and cucumbers – partly because of melon flies – and your failure to get your crop rotations sorted out and your seeds to see the light of day; despite all this, and more, the earth shows a bit of pity and gives you a good crop of beans and tomatoes, and your herbs survive, and you get a few aubergines and sweet potatoes. Organic farmers should be earning a princely wage for what they’re doing. It’s tough.

Don Latter


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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3 Responses to Learning Something

  1. Zoe says:

    Oh no! Don’t be disheartened Mr Latter. I set up some square foot gardens on my rooftop in Clearwater Bay about six months ago on your recommendation, and they have been going great! I have had so many cucumbers I had to learn how to make cucumber chutney, which was a bit unexpected. I probably should have written to thank you before now, very remiss of me. Maybe you are having more impact than you think?

  2. transitionsl says:

    Zoe, that’s amazing. I’ve had a terrible year for cucumbers, although I’ve had them in my allotment, not my square foot garden. I’m not much of a gourmet, but when I was in Vietnam we had a Japanese dish of cucumber chunks on ice with a bowl of soy sauce mixed with wasabi to dip them in. Very tasty. Give it a try.

  3. Zoe says:

    Sounds great! I will try it, I am running out of ways to persuade my husband to eat them. Thanks, and keep up the awesome work :-).

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