Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday

To TK on his 57th today!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fijian Longan / Kasai

My nephew, Chong, gave me a bag of this fruit which I have seen at Satok market before. We bought some then but it did not taste very nice - possibly not fully ripened. So I was a bit wary but my nephew told me that they are really sweet - the fruit is marketed as Australian Longans but it is actually Fijian Longan (Pometia pinnata) and known locally as kasai. Apparently, Fijian longan is a fast growing tree reaching a height of 60-90 feet (18-27 m). So it is certainly not a tree for the home garden!


The shell  is pretty tough and needs  to be cracked with a pestle or small hammer.

The fruits do look like longan and they taste like longan - sweet though not as sweet or as juicy as longan. It is a nice fruit and we polished off the whole bag in a few minutes :-)

The pictures did not come out very nice but no re-takes of the fruits as we have finished off the lot! :-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

中 元 節 / Ghost Festival

This month is the celebration for 中 元 節 (Ghost Festival) and today is 農曆七月十五日 (the 15th Day of the Seventh Lunar Month). The seventh lunar month in the Chinese Calendar is commonly known in English as the Ghost Month and 農曆七月十五日 (15th Day of the Seventh Lunar Month) is the high point of this month long festival.

The previous Sunday, my brother and I went to the tombs of our grandmother, father and uncle for the ancestor worship ceremonies. Traditionally we do not go on the 15th Day of the Seventh Lunar Month as it can get very crowded. Strangely, the tomb ceremony is not universal to the Chinese who practise ancestor worship but appears to be a Hakka tradition. In Sarawak, this event is mainly in Kuching and amongst Kuchingites who moved to other parts of the state.

Today at home, the ceremony is for all the ancestors of the family and for those whose tombs we cannot or have not visited. My grandfather, on his way to visit his family in China, died at sea off Macau at the start of WWII. His first wife also died in China. So today's ceremony at home is mainly dedicated to them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Cat Family

We finally let out the three kittens and let them roam the garden with the mother cat. They are about 5 weeks old and have been eating mashed rice with fish/chicken liver the last week or so .... but have not wean them off the mother yet.

Roaming the garden under the watchful eyes of the mother ....

All the kittens have already been promised - so once they are weaned, they will move to their new homes!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garden Shed

Finally, managed to get our new garden shed installed after a long search for a local supplier! The aluminum shed was fabricated in Australian and sold as a kit but inclusive of installation by the Kuching supplier.

It is a small unit - 4' by 8' - but more than sufficient as we intended to store only garden tools, spare flower pots, fertiliser and some bags of soil. The double sliding doors make for easy access to the shed.

We wanted this unit as the roof slopes backward and the run-off goes directly into drain at the back.

My younger brother, who runs a bakery ingredients supply business for the hotel, retail and wholesale sectors, provides two industry-strength plastic pallets from the warehouse which fit snugly into the shed - much to our delight.

The garden shed is in business though we still have to add some paving slabs along the front of the shed for easy and safe access.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The last two weeks...

We had a group of visitors, Mdm Harmit Kaur and family from Subang Jaya last week and we spend a lot of time catching as we have not seen each other for over two years. It also means lots of food :-)

The sky opened today after a week of sweltering heat that made it a chore rather than a joy to work in the garden and the plants and house animals suffered from the heat. On top of that,  I had a miserable week suffering from tonsilitis on one side of my throat :-(

Still, it was not a fruitless week as we finalise the plans for the rows of belian staking along the west wall of the house - the plan is for a wall of flowering creepers.

In addition to that, after searching for the last year, we finally found a supplier of garden sheds fabricated in Australia. The storage shed is of aluminum and 8' wide by 4' deep with two sliding doors and will be used to store garden tools and other paraphernalia.. There is a bigger one at the same price but we need to find one that can fit onto the concrete patch at the back of the garden!

To accommodate the shed, we have to move the dog kennel to the front and the cats and the serama chickens to the side of the garden. They will be installing the shed tomorrow.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Misai Kucing Tea

Yesterday was a bright sunny day after a week of wet, wet weather - so we decided to harvest the Cat's Whiskers (we are not referring to  plucking the whiskers of our poor cats!). Cat's Whiskers is the Chinese name for a local herbal plant. This is the Orthosiphon Stamineus or more popularly known locally as Misai Kucing or  Java Tea (in Western countries). 

This plant is use in traditional Chinese and Malay medicines for various ailments. I am not going to go into this here - if you like to know more, just google for it. 

This is about making the herbal tea. Each time we harvest one bush (we have six bushes of the plant in the garden) as we can only prepare a certain amount of tea each time.

We cut the bush down to until there was only about 15 cm (6 inches)  left of the bush stump  -  the plant will regenerate into a full bush in  about a month's time..


The leaves and stalks were separated and then rinsed a couple of times to get rid of the soil and dust. The leaves were then shredded and the stalks cut into small short strips.  I used a pair of very sharp secateurs for this. By lunch time, the shredded plants were ready to be placed into rattan trays to dry in the sun. The shredded Misai Kucing covered six of the round rattan trays (Sambas trays).

Normally, it takes about two days for the wet Misai Kucing to be dried properly. By late afternoon, the Misai Kucing tea felt dry and crisp but had to be taken in as the rain started.

Today being a very sunny day, the trays of Misai Kucing tea were taken out into the sun again. It is probably necessary to crush the leaves a bit more. The drying process should be completed by today unless it starts raining!

After drying, the misai kucing tea is then stored in air-tight containers. Use it as normal tea leaves - it makes a very pleasant herbal drink. Beside just enjoying the tea -  it is nice to know that there are potential health benefits of drinking this tea!