Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Over the 6 weeks of my travels I passed through 11 airports and so caught 11 planes......and one thing is for sure airports ain't airports and planes ain't planes and airlines ain't airlines....and as the ad on TV used to say "Oils ain't oils!"
Sometimes I just sat in the airport, waiting for a connection, and watched the crowds....and crowds there were, compared to Australian airports. At the Washington Dulles Airport the-man-at-the-podium made announcements about flights coming and going from gate 24, every few minutes, and each was like a 30 second act from a live comedy festival. He had that barely comprehendible accent (to me!) of some black Americans and I had to really concentrate to understand the fast speech, in case it was something I needed to know about my flight. The gate lounge was full of Americans.....I could tell because of their size and the volume of their conversations...and I suddenly felt very alien, so was glad of the entertainment coming from the podium.
One of his announcements was...."Ladies and gentlemen, if your name is Margaret or John Cameron, for flight 365 to Dallas, Texas then I am here to inform you that you have missed your plane and there ain't nothin' you can do 'cause that's it taxi-ing past the window! You are too late and shouldn't have had that last drink at the bar!" And another..."If you are waiting for flight 987 to New York then get over here to gate 24A, door 3.....not door 2.....that's for folk headin' to Alabama...why they'd wanna go there who knows .....so I reckon you better make sure you go to door 3 unless you want to get fried 'cause its hot in Alabama today!" He seemed to have lots of reasons why you wouldn't want to go to various American cities. Mostly they had bad weather or he had some relative there that you wouldn't want to meet!
Then there was an announcement I didn't believe until someone explained it to me later...."Anyone want a free trip to Miami for the weekend? Over at the podium at gate 26 they are looking for 2 people who wanna go tomorrow and come back Sunday....free hotel and all flights.... go see the man waving over there". Well, would you have believed that? Evidently they need a certain number of passengers or they have to cancel the flights and this one needed 2 more.....but all the people in this part of the airport were already going somewhere....still, I suppose they could have rung a friend and told them or something....seems to me they should have been advertising it out in the public area!
Twice on short legs, I ended up in the very back seat of the plane. This has its ups and downs...so to speak. Once, in America, it was horrendously noisy...and I wrote a post while on that flight, stating how dreadful it was. But, although the rest of the plane was full, I had the 2 seats to myself and the stewardess sat on a little fold-down seat and chatted (or rather, shouted) to me, telling me about her flight schedules and how often she gets home etc, which was nice. The other time was the flight from Sydney to Melbourne and I was in seat 57F.....the last seat on the plane. The Steward was chatting up the 3 young women in front of me who were off to Melbourne for a weekend of shopping..... and he gave them extra drinks and sandwiches for lunch the next day! But the bonus for me was that he started by serving me first.....and I was starving....when actually he was supposed to start at the front. He had been an electrician but changed careers only 6 months before...... I couldn't hear why..... and he was enjoying it so far......anyway, the flight was very turbulent .....I mean VERY, especially as we approached Melbourne and it was bad enough not being able to see out a window, but then when we landed, albeit very roughly, those who could see, actually clapped.....at least I was sitting beside an emergency exit! I have never been on such a rough flight and with the plane swaying around after landing, like in a show ride! Probably best I was in a seat with no outside view, just happily eating my lunch!
One of the most annoying things about some airports is the lack of clocks. Can you believe that some airports have no clocks at all. When you are changing time zones and catching connections you need to know the time. No wonder those people in Washington missed the plane! I would check my luggage in and they would say....your flight boards at gate 51 at 3pm......and I would have to ask what the time is now because my watch would have some other time from a previous day.....and every so often have to ask someone what time it is or, do as I did in Washington, just go to the gate and wait until they called my flight for boarding....crazy and stupid and a terrible oversight not to have clocks in all airports.
Some airports have huge distances to walk and it seemed I always needed to board at the gate furthest from where I checked in my luggage. Some have those horizontal escalators that you walk on.....I thought they were great because if you were tired you could just stand there and if you wanted the exercise you could walk....and walk.....and walk. In Seattle, there is an underground electric train that goes every 2 minutes and whisks you off to somewhere near where you need to end up. In Singapore, there is natural light coming in from above and a wall of indoor tropical plants along the corridors so it is very beautiful and I would have missed my flight looking at all the colourful foliage and flowers if I had stopped to look at it all.... Heathrow (London) could do with a long look at the Singapore airport! Actually, everywhere should take a look at Singapore, where they focus on the amenity for the people, first.
One thing Terminal 1 at Heathrow does better than all the rest is coffee lounges, with comfortable couches, coffee tables and a nice, quiet atmosphere especially compared to the noisy, plastic, American airports I visited. There was even a powerpoint for my laptop....a nice touch....
The strangest and cheapest flight I went on was from Bergerac Airport in France to the Midlands Airport, in the UK. The only charge was for the taxes which amounted to something like AU$20....but there was catch! From the minute you boarded the plane until the moment you left the plane you were bombarded with sales talk and special deals on ......anything.....from holidays to watches.....and there were raffles and scratchy tickets and chances to spend, and to win, non-stop.... RyanAir.....very cheap but don't fly with them if you need peace and quiet! AU$20 is an incredibly cheap way to get across the channel, though.
I was very surprised when I approached the plane, across the tarmac, to take me from Seattle to Vancouver.....it had propellers....and only 50 seats. We bounced our way across the clouds to Vancouver, at quite a low altitude but arrived safely, in 45 minutes but it took over an hour to make my way through immigration..... mine was not the only flight arriving at this time.
The best planes I went on were invariably owned by Canada Air and the most comfortable and quietest was a Boeing 777, with a powerpoint for my laptop....luckily I had it with me in my hand luggage this time....and also luckily the plane was only 1/3 full so I had 3, second to front row seats to myself. Nice, especially when I was hungry and because I was at the front I didn't have to wait for a hundred or so other people to be served first! Tip....always take an apple and some nuts....it is embarrassing to have to ask for food in the middle of the night!
Friday, November 14, 2008
I wanted to write a thing about special foods of the areas I visited but I had forgotten until this moment.....now I hope I can remember what I discovered!
I was reminded of this idea while just now reading the October/ November edition of Sumptuous (a magazine all about South Australian food and wine) where there is a thing about black rice which reminded me of wild rice.....
I was staying in Agassiz, an hour or so east of Vancouver, with Kathy-from-my-garden-group's parents. Agassiz is in the Fraser Valley, a food growing area for Vancouver and beyond. Rosemary and Garth took me to a house that simply had a sign outside saying .....Coffee Roasting and Pottery..... sounded interesting! Inside was a woman sitting at a potting wheel, who barely spoke at first, while we followed the signs about the coffee roasting going on behind the glass screen. She heard my accent and, as we were leaving, asked me what I was doing there, in a little town like Agassiz. We got talking and she was so wonderfully interesting I would like to have stayed longer, and written a whole thing about her.....but we were heading for the airport as it was my last day. I have her email address somewhere in my as yet not-completely-unpacked suitcase.....I must write to her.
Anyway, the gist of the whole wild rice thing is that she has a friend who is from an Indian tribe further north in Canada, where wild rice grows.....wild....it is native to Canada.....I didn't know that! Anyway, only the Indians from that area are allowed to go out and collect the wild rice, and she had some for sale in her coffee, pottery and now wild rice house/shop! Rosemary bought some of the wild rice, which is not rice at all actually, and I must ask her how she got on cooking it, but as I couldn't bring it into Australia I had to leave it for next time! It is so lovely to come across such stories quite by chance, rather than by taking some touristy trap....I mean .... trip! She also talked about her chooks and her vegetables garden and how there is an annual bike ride that takes in her place and other local growers and crafts-people during summer. She has a daughter in Japan.... and so the links went on and on.....until we just had to go. As I have written before..... the earth connects so many of us.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Coming home has never been such a strange sensation as this before.... a lot changes in 6 weeks - the weather, the world, the vegetable garden and the vibes! It was lovely to be picked up at the airport by son Hugh, the roof off his car on this sunny spring day, and make a quick dash to see my mother, who lives not far from the airport. Her mango tree is flowering, with thousands of fruits possible - let's hope she gets a record crop in April. When we arrived home I saw that our peach tree is laden with fruit again and the apple trees have been blossoming too.
Roger has looked after the vegetable garden really well but, despite giving lots away, there are still plenty of things ready to pick and lots that have gone to seed to make next year's food.
On my potting bench I found a foam box full of various little seedlings and next to it, a collection of magnificent plants ready for the garden. On the front door was a note.... "Here are some seedlings to give Kate something to do when she gets home.... besides the blog! From Deb". Thanks Deb, the best welcome home present imaginable!
After making a salad from the garden and a cup of my favourite coffee for Hugh, Roger and myself, I headed out to pick some things for dinner...
white shahtoot mulberries..... if you have never eaten them, you are missing a treat....much more yummy than they look. They are not just sweet but also full of flavour and quite surprisingly delicious. They are ready when they just fall off as you touch them. This mulberry is hardy to everything, grows like the wind, produces in its first year and is a prolific bearer of delicious fruit....what more do you want?
So, that's it, the voyage of the vegetable vagabond is over....but only for now. There are a lot more vegetable gardens and wonderful people out there and I would like to continue this journey and maybe spend a bit more time in some places.
Thanks you so much to all the people I have stayed with, thank you for your hospitality, friendship and generosity and don't forget you are welcome here anytime. I have had a fantastic 6 weeks and there wasn't one minute that I would change. Take care of yourselves and enjoy your vegetable gardens and please put some posts on your blogs about the progress of the vegetables that we planted together and other jobs I helped you with. Au revoir.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
First was oven-puffed pancakes with fresh blueberry sauce for breakfast at Jack's followed by some serious gardening in the vegetable garden.
Jack grows lots of vegetables but the thing about Jack is the number and variety of fruit trees he has planted over the years into a relatively small space.
Then we headed over to see some old uni days' friends and catch up on renovations and chooks and travel stories, have lunch and go for a walk to a nearby school that is doing great things in their vegie patch.
|Kathy's new, recycled kitchen looks great and it was terrific to see Jane from NZ.... ||Old friends and their families .... nice but crazy! ||Interesting things you can do with electrical wire! |
Have you ever seen a street sign like this?
Kathy's vegetable garden is looking pretty good !
It was raining at Sunshine today!
There are more photos here.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Today Roger and I took the train out to see Gavin and Kim at Melton to explore the ongoing journey of The Greening of Gavin. You couldn't meet nicer people and entering the gate through the high brick wall is like stepping into a food-grower's secret garden. Melton, on the whole, is a dry place with barren front yards of dying grass and sparse trees. Not only is everything lush and healthy and bursting with life inside the gate but it is also so beautiful.... and I felt just as the children in the story "The Secret Garden" felt when they opened the gate and were awe-struck with what they found inside. Just goes to show what you can do with an ordinary block.....
If you read Gavin's blog you will know that he has been suffering with a back problem for a year or so and yet what he has achieved here is amazing. His and his wife Kim's enthusiasm is highly infectious and finally I am actually looking forward to getting back into my garden and adopting some of Gavin's ideas, and others I have gained from my vegetable gardening friends all over the world and he certainly inspired Roger to get thinking on using some of his ideas too.
They have solar panels and produce an average of 75% of their electricity needs, as well as having lots of energy efficient appliances and water-saving methods. I think we could rightly say that Gavin has been greened, well and truly.
Gavin cooked us a quiche with his own vegetables and eggs and made us an excellent loaf of bread. Kim made a lovely salad and we had a great chat over lunch. Kim makes the labels for Gavin's preserves which fill a cupboard.... he even has pickled eggs!
Kim is very artistic and creative and their home and gardens reflect this.....I wish I could co-ordinate things like Kim has done!
Thanks Gavin for taking the day off work to be with us today and I look forward to keeping in touch with you and Kim and hopefully showing you around my place one day....when I smarten it up!
Next stop tomorrow....home!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Now I am in Melbourne, Victoria and had a great flat white coffee this morning at The Convent Farmers' Market! It is located in an inner suburb but it is hard to believe when you look around and see nothing but bushland and the Yarra River... see the photos.
I enjoyed talking to the bloke from "Native Oz Cuisine" who sells several bushfoods, including my favourite, Bush Tomatoes. We bought some of his "Strawberry-gum infused pannacotta" which means a type of lovely, thick creme caramel kind of thing, infused with the amazing aroma of the strawberry gumtree leaf. His wife is aboriginal and together they have the only bushfoods company owned by Aboriginal people.
There was an Australian coffee stall selling coffee grown and roasted in Australia.....check out the website "Eureka Coffee".
Here is a photo of coriander with its roots and stems on, as I was describing to various people on my trip....it is always sold this way here, and you use the roots and stems in the cooking then add the chopped leaves only at the end. This is often used in Thai cooking.
We had breakfast at Lentil as Anything...a vegetarian cafe where you just pay what you think the food is worth by putting some money in a jar as you leave. They serve mostly organic food and employ refugees or disadvantaged people and now have 4 cafes in Melbourne so obviously they are doing something right. They also often have live music, featuring refugees such as African drummers etc.
I love the rusty steel cut-outs of typical Australian farm dogs which lead you along a path to the community garden and the Collingwood Children's Farm, from the Farmers' Market...
.....and the wonderful decorations on the boardwalk...
On the way home Jack insisted we drop into the "Pure Bread" bakery, whose selection of patisserie equalled most I saw in France!
Much later we went out for dinner to a Middle Eastern restaurant called ZumZum and finished our absolutely fantastic dinner with Mahalabia...... which was these soft, nut-flavoured threads on top of a delicate, rosewater and nut infused custard..... well, somebody has to do the research!!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Vancouver and the Agassiz area are not only picturesque beyond comparison.....
|Black squirrel||Raccoon||Salmon travelling upstream to spawn|
The view from my bedroom window
Some local scenes
....but also have a nice local emphasis, when it comes to producing food....
|Judy has a herb and vegetable farm just out of Agassiz...||Rosemary grows magnificent scarlet runner beans...||.....and George has a goat dairy. |
Agassiz is a food bowl for Vancouver because of its rich, fertile river-flats soil and yet it faces the same "progress" issues as Adelaide and other regions in that developers are being allowed to subdivide land for housing. The best soils in western Canada are being covered with houses and concrete driveways and along with Rosemary and Garth, my wonderful hosts, I do wonder at the power given to local councils to decide on important issues like land usage for the future.
Fuel prices here and in the USA are much lower than Australia, Europe and the UK, with petrol here today being C$1.15 and there are still lots of big cars, enormous road systems and traffic like you wouldn't believe. The motorways are full of semi-trailers trucking goods around the countries and Vancouver harbour, and Seattle and Singapore are a mass of ships loading and unloading never-ending supplies of the stuff that seems to be expected, to live in a modern world today.
And yet, only an hour or so away from Vancouver people are doing what people do best....growing and producing food with a passion equal to anything I have seen anywhere. You can see from the photo above right, how much George's goats love George! He has 400 goats, farmed out here and there, and most have a name! There are several breeds, which mostly looked the same to me, but George knows how old each goat is, who their parents were and how much milk they produce! His Swiss wife makes the cheeses and they are very, very good....I didn't meet her as she was away in Italy at a cheese conference. Soon George's land could be covered in houses and George would be a rich man if he sold his property but George loves goats, there is a shortage of goat milk already and it is a crazy world.....
It is the same with the corn fields and the buffalo breeder and the cow dairies and the market gardeners.....here and the world over....and swathes of beautiful virgin Canadian forests are being cut down and making very ugly scars on the hillsides too, to make way for people and their houses....as the never-ending cancer of human greed sucks the life from its own sustenance, like a parasite, not stopping until the host is dead. Fishing fleets that once plied the rich waters around Vancouver have sucked the life from those waters too and the boats sit idle in the harbour, while the restaurant and overseas markets' demand for seafood sends the bigger ships far north to plunder those seas, without much thought for sustainable methods.
This area of Canada is so spectacular and has such rich soil that there needs to be someone to shake the decision-makers and force them to see the inevitable demise they are causing, in the name of progress. Do what they do in some parts of the UK and Europe and draw a line around the towns and say "That's it! Develop inside these boundaries and leave the outside as farmland."
Suddenly this plane has hit a turbulent patch....again I have 3 seats to myself and have slept for ages, having left Vancouver at midnight bound for Sydney and it is now about 7.30am .....about half way there then. I have just been given a second cup of tea and excellent tea it is too. This is a beautiful new plane and I can even plug my laptop in to power! Maybe the next generation of planes will have free wifi.....next stop Melbourne to meet up with Roger and stay with some friends for the weekend and then visit Gavin, from the Greening of Gavin, on Monday......the vagabond is not finished yet!
Of course there are lots more photos here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Odd and interesting the way things change around the world...the English language, toilets, taps, cars, light switches, door latches, power-points, breakfasts and roads to name a few.
Bathrooms are the things I have had most trouble with and, in fact, at Roger D's I had to give up on turning on the shower and get dressed and go and ask him to show me how to turn on the water...you don't turn the tap, you pull it...hard! Toilets come in many shapes, sizes and flushing systems. I got quite a shock in the Washington airport when the toilet flushed suddenly and with great gusto, all by itself! On a train in France it took me ages to work out how to flush it.....I think it was a pedal... or was that Singapore? Toilet bowls vary enormously and of all those I have seen, I like the American and Canadian ones for water efficiency and design. There are a myriad of showerheads and temperature control methods but give me an ordinary Australian set of taps anytime!
And if you want to turn on a light, search all nearby walls carefully (and some not so near!) and then turn the switch up, for on, not down, as in Australia. Now, after all this time, I am so confused about light switches I spend some time wondering where I am and in the end just flick up and down until it all comes good! Apart from the different voltages and pins on the power points of every country, it was interesting to see that there is no switch in a lot of places.....when you plug something in, it is on. Some places have a switch so tiny any normal-sized finger refuses to operate it. On the whole, people have a lot of power points and I could always find somewhere convenient to plug in the laptop, even in 1000 year old farmhouses....better than a lot of Australian homes and hotels.
In the UK and Europe the cars drive on opposite sides of the road and people who drive on both deserve a gold medal. They can also have cars with steering wheels on either side.....I was a totally confused passenger many times. It is scary going around a round-about the opposite way the first 100 times and I have never quite mastered looking the right way before crossing the road, so I look both ways a lot. Car door handles can be interesting to use too. Some open from the middle, some from the outer edge and some are just difficult to find. And the road rules are often a total mystery.....what with some places having one flashing red light hanging in the middle of the road, some having flashing green lights and the French having traffic light poles as short as an old Frenchman, just here and there so you have to search for them to find out what you are supposed to be doing! The French also put their street signs on the side of the road where they point....so if you don't know which way you are going to have to turn you have to scan both sides of the road for a sign! Unlike in Australia, most often drivers will stop for a pedestrian who is anywhere near a simple crossing marked with white lines.
One minute European drivers have to negotiate very narrow and contrary "roads" originally made for a horse and rider and must park in spaces shorter and narrower than their cars! The next they are expected to drive at 130km/ hour on multi-laned motorways, manoeuvring between dense traffic, including hundreds of enormous trucks, all travelling at equally hair-raising speeds! They get my vote for the best drivers, in my experience. And navigating through the villages of France is an experience that requires a lot of patience and preferably the help of a GPS aid, such as Lucy who is Ian's constant companion and who gets very agitated when she tells Ian to turn up what turns out to be a one-way street, the wrong way, and Ian calmly says "No, Lucy, we will try the next street" . Meanwhile, Lucy says "Turn around....turn around ..... recalculating...recalculating..." in a very insistent English voice. Once though, Lucy suddenly turned American and made us laugh and wonder if it was all too much for Lucy and she had quit the job and handed over to an American woman who we called Billie-Jean. After a bit of adjustment though, we found Lucy again and decided the break had done her good as she wasn't quite so loud and stressed as before!
Of the 1500 or so photos in the web album, I have none of any of these ordinary things and now that I have left them all behind, I wish I had taken some. Maybe some of the people I have stayed with could take some photos for me and send them to me and I can insert them here....that would be very nice.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Trees nearly as tall as mountains, in every shade of green as well as all the autumn colours....
Even the squirrels are multi-coloured - some black, some grey and the local ones which are brown.....
And the sea is everywhere, just like in the phptos of Seattle that I posted yesterday....
The rivers...dotted with logs being brought downstream ..... bordered with forests and mountains ... and driven over across a green bridge that seemed to arch straight up to the top of the mountains before curving gracefully back down to the shore.
Winter ski resorts towering above the Vancouver skyline.....I wonder how anyone ever gets any work done for looking in awe at those mountains.....
Stories of local goat farmers and cheesemakers, of beans picked fresh from the garden for our dinner, local markets and walks through the forest to visit friends.....
Stories of a violent storm that brought down 400 year old trees, and swept the car of a friend off the road and over a cliff.....
And people with a conscience who seek the ethical, the real and the local and whose garden I will drool over tomorrow when it is light.....while I sit inside alone at some ungodly hour and drink my all milk coffee!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Today was a bright and sunny day...the first since I arrived in Seattle...just perfect for being outside. Seattle is a city of hills, a harbour and lakes, at the bottom of magnificent Mt. Rainier and bordered on 2 sides by mountain ranges...evidently....so far it has been too cloudy to really see much of them! The roads are like San Francisco, up and down and down and up....always catching a glimpse of the view from the top before diving down again and popping up somewhere else. The houses are all built on hills, much like in Sydney, and the gardens remind me of Melbourne....full of plants that thrive in cool, moist places....as well as avenues of beautiful trees, some full of autumn colour, others the different greens of pines and spruces. The dozens of P-Patches are often on top of hills and command glorious views of the city, the sea and/or the surroundings. There are markets full of local produce to be found somewhere in Seattle every day of the week and it seems to me that people here have grabbed hold of the local and are taking it very seriously indeed. If I were to want to live in the USA, I would definitely consider Seattle..... because they do have pretty good coffee, on the whole!
I have been eating summer fruit for days....nectarines in particular!
Melinda and I went for a lovely walk along a new trail by the sea and caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier, looming up beyond the cranes in the harbour..... bottom right in the grid.
At the exit gate from the University District Farmers Market this morning there was a chef from a well-known restaurant sitting in a booth ready to answer questions on how to cook the produce you had just purchased and another ready to answer questions on growing food for yourself. I thought these were great initiatives.
There was a rainwater tank system at the University District market that was very creative. Just follow the pipe down from the gutter. left to right....
From a 3rd storey roof...down across the top of a fence to the tanks...
|..then the overflow goes out via a tin rubbish bin to a series of metal mixing bowls......|| |
...then onto a rocky outcrop and down into a drain under the surface.....
Thankyou so much for showing me Seattle, Melinda, it has been a wonderful few days with you and Matt.
There are more photos here.
Check out what Melinda has to say too in her post today.