A Travellerspoint blog

How do you like your tea?

Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia

sunny 33 °C

I had an hour spare today so I went up the hill in search of some tea leaves to harvest. This property was originally a tea plantation and amongst the vines and scrub, a few trees remain.

When I found a suitable tree, I began collecting the smallest leaves, discarding the bigger ones. Matured tea leaves become very bitter so it is important to only use the very light green leaves that have recently unfurled. These leaves are roughly 7 days old, so with regular picking and pruning, it should be possible to harvest once a week.

If these leaves were left to dry, the result would be a batch of green tea. I am taking the leaves between my palms and rubbing them back and forth as if trying to start a fire with a stick. In this way, the leaves a crushed, breaking down the cells and releasing their enzymes. The enzymes combine with oxygen and begin to wilt and turn black - black tea.

I spread the tea over an old piece of newspaper and leave them inside to dry. The tea should not dry in temperatures over 60 degrees so I have decided not to put it outside in direct sunlight. After 24 hours, I collect the dry tea leaves, pack them into a small pouch and slide them into my backpack - a little piece of the jungle to take with me when I head back into the city tomorrow.

Posted by dzito15 01:47 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Effective Micro-bacteria

Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia

semi-overcast 29 °C

Effective Microorganisms, or EM, is an organic mixture that we make to boost the nutrients in the soil and make them available to the plants in the garden.

Many minerals are already present in the soil but are not soluble, and therefore not accessible by the plants.

Chemical fertilisers act quickly to provide crops with the nutrients they need but an effective EM can do the same job just as quickly, without spreading inorganic chemicals.

We cultivate the EM in buckets with a mixture of water and manure. Then nature does its thing. We aerate the mixture every day simply by plunging a hoe to the bottom and turning the mixture over.

A whole community of different bacteria grows in the water, like wild yeast for example. These bacteria, when applied to the garden will break down the nutrients and make them accessible to the plants.

The EM can be applied to new plots of soil, or simply sprayed over existing crops. If these mixtures are used to properly manage soils, the result should be better growth and higher yield.

Posted by dzito15 02:32 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

The Magic of Mushrooms

Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia

sunny 28 °C

Rather than grow from a seed, mushrooms grow from spores. Spores can be collected very easily and from any mushroom, including the ones you buy at a supermarket. Stand a mushroom upright on a piece of glossy paper and leave it overnight. When a mushroom is not refrigerated, it begins to ripen and releases its spores. In the morning, the mushroom will have left an imprint on the paper. Though not visible, the microscopic spores are there. They can be stored between two sheets of plastic, or mixed with distilled water for immediate use.

The spore mix is then injected into a substrate. The intention is for the spores to produce mycelia, the spreading vegetation of a fungus, which then grows outward. A male mycelium and female mycelium meet, go out, have a few drinks, do some things they will probably both regret and then, the miracle of life: a mushroom is born.

Mushrooms are grown in a sterile environment, usually in a petrie dish, on a substrate of sawdust, straw, or dead wood. As a trial, we are attempting today to grow them in a non sterile environment (the barn) using resources we have lying around the place.

To begin, we built a 1 meter by 1 meter brick enclosure, 3 bricks high. To prevent, the bricks from absorbing any moisture, we lined the inside walls with plastic. The concrete floor has been left bare to allow just a little drainage. The mushroom environment should always be damp, but never wet. A roughly cut, polycarbonate sheet is being used as a lid to contain the humidity.

To create a substrate we have made 3 rows from old egg cartons and covered one row in coconut fibers. The other 2 rows we covered in a 50-50 mix of coconut fibre and elephant dung, kindly donated by our big grey jungle friend. He must have felt bad about the banana trees he flattened.

The first row, of just coconut fibre is injected with some oyster mushroom spores that we collected. The rows of elephant dung will already have spores from the mushrooms that were growing on it when it was collected.

Tomorrow we will be making another mushroom environment, this time spreading some lime that we found, on the concrete floor for sterilization. The other improvement on design will be to stand the mushrooms on the substrate overnight, allowing spores to drop directly on to the bedding. Mother nature never uses glossy paper, so why intervene?


Posted by dzito15 03:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

The Potato Tower

Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia

sunny 30 °C

Saving space and increasing production - it's like causing serious harm to two birds using only one stone. That's (metaphorically) what the potato tower does. In fact, throw in recycling and we are practically taking out a whole flock with one flex of the arm.

I went with Ladia, the local farmer on a quick scout around town where we managed to fill the back of the car with old motorbike tires. Back at the farm, we had a real workout attempting to turn the rubber tires inside-out. By turning them inside-out, there is no lip for water to pool inside, meaning no place for insects to breed or for soil to become flooded.

The tires are used all around the property to hold and protect a variety of crops. I plant these ones with potatoes, creating the first layer of the potato tower. In time, the plant will grow a stem and leafy foliage and begin to produce its potatoes beneath the soil. Once the plant has reached a reasonable height above the soil, we place a second tire on top of the first and fill with soil.

Soon, the plant will continue to grow and begin to produce more potatoes in the second layer of soil. Again, once the plant has reached a suitable height, another tire can be added to the tower along with soil, encouraging the plant to strive for greater heights.

Hopefully, by the fourth or fifth layer, the tires will be able to be removed and a large quantity of potatoes harvested. In order for this to be successful, the potatoes need a long growing season which means plant early and harvest late.

The benefits of this method are obvious and exciting to me as it allows potatoes to be grown in small spaces. It shows that you don't necessarily need a large plot but simply a small courtyard in which to stack a few towers.


Posted by dzito15 02:39 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Three Dimensional Planting

Lenggong, Perak, Malaysia

semi-overcast 31 °C

Sustainable farming is all about minimising. Simplifying. Reducing. Not just reducing waste or reducing our impact on the environment but reducing the time and effort it takes to produce food, and importantly in the current state of the world, reducing the space that we use to produce it.

Today we are creating crops in the sky. Overhead, hanging baskets planted with vegetables like cucumber or pumpkin which will creep and spread over the nursery so as not to take up any ground space as well as provide some much needed shade for the young plants below. Farming - Now in 3D!

To begin, we put a few drainage holes in a plastic liner, then put it inside a hessian sack, or reuse the plastic sacks that contained garlic and onions from the supermarket.

Then we layer the bottom of the lining with an alternative to peat - the fibrous peelings from the outside of a coconut shell. Then a layer of compost, another layer of "coco-peat" and a final layer of compost.

Once the seed is planted, we tie the makeshift pots to wires that have been strung across the nursery. A netting has been put in place to give the plants something to grow on.

We've used this style of gardening to reduce the amount of land that needs to be cleared for farming but it would also prove very useful for growing food in the city, providing shade for terraces and suburban back yards.

For more space saving idea's, tune in next week to see the crazy things we're doing with potatoes.


Posted by dzito15 21:29 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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