Tomato planting journal

I collected the seeds of many heirloom tomatoes from the US. The trouble with these seeds is that they are not yet acclimatised to the terroir here. These are already two weeks and only half have sprouted, and they are growing very slowly.

The same thing happened last year, even worse actually. Out of four varietals, only one type, green zebra, managed to grow, rather poorly, and bore only one tomato. Just one tomato.

In plane view

The only one good thing coming out of Mandarin Airway switching from jet to ATR672 plane, is being able to spot Naked House from the air right after taking off from Taitung airport.

The flight path for this smaller propeller plane is different and also lower, making it possible to see our house.

Prairie or lawn?

Visiting Changbin on a mentoring project, we had lunch at this location. A sturdy hut with corrugated iron roof, surrounded by manicured lawn. It’s so much better than dining in the typical road side restaurant.

As we were leaving, right behind this hut is a gorgeous prairie of wild grass, reminds me of Piet Oudolf’s landscaping design. P asked the locals “which is more beautiful?” For them the manicured lawn is beautiful while the prairie is wild and unattractive.

Living in Taitung, I noticed the vast amount of weedkiller used in the country side, as it is the cheapest and least labour intensive way to keep nature from taking over. We engaged people to 打草 but it’s getting harder to find people willing to do the manual labour. We need a creative solution for human to live with nature, be gentle to the earth while preserving indigenous biodiversity.

P.S. My friend Shu Yuan, a landscape architect, pointed out that the plants in my pictures are not indigenous vegetation.

Pangolin Rescue 穿山甲

This morning, we found this poor little thing, clutching the pipe trying not to drown. Don’t know how long it’s been in the water. We have a reservoir storing water for irrigation at the edge of our land. It’s about 10m x 10m and 2m deep.

While Ping and I tried to figure out who to ask for help, our friend Bilhas already jumped into the water, without any thought to how he will get out of the reservoir.

The pangolin was fearful and would not let go. Bill had to pry his tail loose and grabbed it by the tail.

In my ignorant state, I was afraid to touch or hold it. Now I learned a few facts about this little known mammal.

1. It doesn’t have teeth, so doesn’t bite.

2. The claws might look big but they are not for attacking. In fact, pangolins don’t have the ability to attack, it can only defend by curling into a ball, using its tough scales as protective shield.

This morning’s rescue effort made me read up on pangolins. We know about trafficking of elephant and rhino tusks but I didn’t know about the pangolins. This is what I found from NatGeo #rachelnuwer article on pangolins. They are the world’s only scaled mammal, and that conspicuous distinction has contributed to their status as the world’s most trafficked mammal. Poachers target pangolins throughout Asia and Africa primarily for their scales, which are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Research indicates that hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of pangolins are killed each year.

But according to a new report in Conservation Science and Practice, scales aren’t the only reason people covet the scaly anteaters—and Asia hasn’t always been the only center of demand for them. Before 2000, the United States was a major importer of pangolin skins, which were used to make exotic leather cowboy boots, belts, and wallets.

Since 2017, all eight pangolin species have been banned from international trade. Of the eight extant species, four occur in sub-Saharan Africa and four inhabit parts of Asia. The ones found in Taiwan are wild Formosan pangolins (Manis pentadactyla pentadactyla), a subspecies of Chinese pangolins.

Taiwan from 1950 until the early 1970s, pangolins were rounded up in the tens of thousands annually for both domestic and international leather markets, which eventually caused a population crash. A hunting ban on the species came into effect in 1973, and this started to make a difference to wild pangolin populations across the island. To top it off, the Wildlife Conservation Act of 1989 seems to have largely crushed the trade.

While the Chinese pangolin is in steep decline throughout its range from Nepal all the way across through Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and of course China, the population in Taiwan is growing.

This is the rescue hero Bill Liu, who’s gentle touch finally broke through the pangolin’s guard and allowed itself to be pried away from the pipe.

Roof top living

Good architecture allows new narrative to emerge for the people inhabiting the space. Our roof is an underutilise area due to the scorching sun all day long. But it is perfect for a spot of sun salute yoga or sunrise meditation.

It is also great for sundowner, gazing into the far horizon where Green Island is still basking in the last ray of daylight.

Why is it so under-utilised? The empty deck offers a hint of what the place can offer, with a few pieces wisely chosen furniture, a hint turns into an inviting suggestion. It was a bit of an effort to transport the deck chairs up the spiral staircase and the effort is definitely worth it. We now go up there every night. The air is cool, the sky is dark, Milky Way spans across the entire sky, have your wish ready so you can wish upon a shooting star.

Sundowner ritual

As we are close to the mountain, we loose the sun earlier, around 4.30pm in the summer. It’s the best time to go up to the roof, with a G&T in hand, look out to the Pacific Ocean, with Green Island on the horizon, still bright and shiny from the last day of sun.

Taipei to Taitung morning ritual

Leave home at 6.10am to Songshan Airport to catch Mandarin Airline AE391 departingat 7.10am.

Today the flight takes a huge detour eastward above Green Island before approaching Taitung Airport from the south.

Normally we would grab a quick breakfast at our favourite place before picking up food for the entire stay at the wet market. Today we skipped this and try a new place along the coastline, to enjoy the view and a nice cuppa tea.

Next stop, paying our farmer friend a visit. He grows custard apple, mangoes and coconut. His hobby is catching wasps (farmers hate them because their sting can kill) to infuse medicinal tonic.

Pick up some fresh coconut juice and we are finally on the way home.

Arrived at Naked House at last. Time for a nap.

Northern tip of Taiwan: Jinguashi 金瓜石

This is an amazing area on the north coast only about 45 mins drive from Taipei. It is a place known to tourists primarily for the old mining towns of Jiufen and the geological features here. It also offers great hiking trails and amazing views of the nearby Teapot Mountain and Keelung Mountain.

I hope to hike up Teapot Mountain one day, heard it is quite a hike though.

This place is famous for its Golden Waterfalls due to the high mineral content of the rocks in this mining town.