30 November 2009

Sewers vs. Flowers ... continued

Yet another visit from a government posse to talk sewers and flowers. I'm starting to consider these guys part of the family.

This time they brought a detailed survey map and diagrams to pinpoint exactly where they'll trample the flower garden that we planted while they install sewer pipes. Not that we have any leverage, since the flower patch in question is on a narrow strip of public land outside our garden wall. We even put in a white trellis fence to protect it from dog poop and unskilled, careening cyclists. By law they could have fined us for illegal fencing of government land. On the other hand, we own a piece of the public footpath further down (not near the flower garden, unfortunately) and, although they plan to take it from us by right of eminent domain, I could throw a cog in their production schedule by submitting a series of objections.

So they promised me an official memo, which limits how much of the flower garden they'll wreck, and states that it will be restored afterwards to pristine dirt - no concrete - though we'll have to do the replanting. In return they want me to withdraw my objection to usurping our sliver of land intersecting the footpath. Could be worse. They could be bastards about it instead, prosecute me, confiscate a substantial piece of our garden, and spew concrete right and left. Instead they're counting buttercups.

I find it rather charming - hopeful, in fact - that this government - which is preparing to wreck a huge green swathe of the New Territories and raze an entire village to put in a useless railroad to nowhere, and is about to devastate the remaining pink dolphin habitat, destroy a pristine area of Lantau coastline, and exacerbate air pollution throughout the Pearl River estuary, to build a Pharoah's wet dream of a bridge that will lose money forever - this same government is going out of its way to negotiate over a tiny patch of flowers in a little island village. There is some humanity at work in this world. Maybe not enough to do much good on a grand scale. But here in Wang Tong Village, a little humanity is all we ask.

29 November 2009

The Art of the Scarecrow

While Ah-Po uses the anti-Disney approach of a twisted Magic Kingdom to keep the birds away, the two other significant vegetable gardens in Wang Tong--Mr. Tam's and ours--employ more classical scarecrows. Though Mr. Tam's might be better described as post-modern or neo-primitive. His is an almost Jungian archetype of the human figure: four sticks wrapped in plastic garbage bags, with a little stuffing, and topped with a hat. The fact that it works is living proof that birds have a Gestalt perception of reality, and therefore might appreciate modern art more than I do.

Our scarecrow, on the other hand, is more contemporary pop style, all clean lines, bold vectors, and solid forms. Whatever, it fooled our dog. When he first saw the figure from across the garden, he barked at it as if it was an intruder. My wife had to walk over and put her arm around the scarecrow to reassure him that this was a friend. Unfortunately our Golden Retriever, who is not always the brightest candle in the menorah, sometimes treats new friends with excess affection...by humping them. He's barred from the vegetable garden.

I hope the birds continue their sophisticated interpretations of Mr. Tam's and our sculptural masterpieces, so that we non-abstract humans can all look forward to some hole-free cabbage and choi sum.

28 November 2009

Teddy Bears versus the Birds

Can a stuffed panda save the world from magpie devastation?

Magpies are considered good luck in Chinese tradition; they're harbingers of positive changes coming. That's great. I need all the good luck I can latch onto lately. I doubt it was a Chinese farmer who came up with that superstition, though.

At first we thought all the holes in our cabbage leaves were caused by snails, until one morning my wife looked outside and saw a black blanket of birds covering our mini-farm. After one loud hand clap, a hundred magpies lifted off and perched in surrounding trees, waiting for their next chance to attack. There are a lot of magpies around lately, and they make sure you know it. We don't need an alarm clock to wake us up in the morning.

Those little black and white birds may be pests, but they're also kind of cute. Maybe that's why Ah-Po is fighting cute with cute. Instead of using scarecrows, her farm looks like an execution ground for plush toys, as if warning avian intruders: "This could be you!" She has pandas, Hello Kitties, C3PO, Disney characters and several species of teddy bear, all gruesomely impaled on bamboo spikes or twisting in the breeze on nooses. It isn't a sight you'd want your five-year-old to see.

Where does she get all these toys? Does she snatch them out of the clasping arms of her own grandchildren? Ah-Po won't say. She claims they just kind of "show up". Maybe she's breeding them in a secret room, like factory farmed animals, raised for slaughter.

I actually believe that plush toys are capable of procreating. The 5000+ stuffed animals in my teenage daughter's room came from somewhere, and I sure didn't buy even a fraction of them. Yet every time I glance at her closet, there seems to be more adorable animals. Maybe we should put some of them to use protecting our food supply.

On the other hand, would you want your garden to look like a cutesy-wutesy slaughterhouse?