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Postcard from China - I've been out of reach due to the Chinese internet filter but Ive been busy harvesting lots of great ideas.

Postcard from China - I've been out of reach due to the Chinese internet filter but Ive been busy harvesting lots of great ideas.

by April Sampson-kelly -
Number of replies: 0

For the past 10 days We [April and Paul] went to North East China - Shandong Providence on a Rural China Tour with Shaoying Wang. The tour was very well managed, our hosts were gracious and hearty, local food aplenty.

Here were some of the rural activities we participated in:

* Lifting the Peanuts and eating them fresh. We noted that the peanuts were started under clean plastic - we asked what other methods could be used that weren't so polluting. Thin plastics are sometimes more dangerous than thicker plastic that can be reused. Biodegradable plastics need to be managed too - they often do not decompose without commercial heat treatment.

*harvesting and cooking with a lot of garlic chives (my mother in law thought these were inedible, she'll be shocked to learn how much we ate)

*marvelled at the complex process of vermicelli and glass noodles making

*Picking grapes as big as crab apples

*making dumplings, corn bread patties, sweet potato noodles and moon cakes from scratch

*shucking/husking corn cleanly so that we can use the husks as food wrappers for cooking and carrying dumplings

*riding in electric shared village cars

*cooking with traditional rocket stoves that also heat the bed in winter. This was a favourite of mine because Flo and I built a large rocket stove last year. The northern Chinese rocket stoves are in every home in the traditional farming villages. They have a giant work inbuilt, require only little sticks to cook with. As a result the cooking is by steam of griddle on the sides of the wok as protein is simmered in the base.

*winnowing corn and wheat

*coming to the village centre when the popping corn operator is in town. His machine arrived on the back of a tut-tut, ran on gas and pressure cooked the corn. When the pressure was right he blasted the top open and the popping corn burst into a 4m long funnelled net. The big boom was entertaining. Several households lined up to have their bucket of corn popped.

*saw revered ancient trees including the King of Trees that has edible leaves.

*ate jujubes, dried bugs, persimmons, pomegranates, taro, yams, hibiscus, wild-indigenous mung beans, millet porridge, goats milk, plump hawthorns (related to roses), and locally grown wheat. 

*participated in Chinese dancing, Tai Chi, 

*fishing-net mending - This was like tatting - it looked a lot easier than it actually is.

*the ancient art of paper-cutting which requires a different way of thinking - not as easy as drawing - one mistake and we had to start again. 

*made festival dough decorations which was fun like play dough. These are traditionally painted and put around the table for the harvest festival then a couple of weeks later they are steamed and eaten. 

*rode a village tuttut to the local markets [I bought a large 3 tine claw for raking areas with woody weeds, and a pretty bonnet for gardening. 

*saw aquaculture and fish farms on Mulberry Island off the yellow river. 

*traded Australian honey for a bottle of goats milk - watched the herdsman tend and milk the goats.

*tasted a wide range of fish sea cucumber and sea-snails. 

*tried bamboo painting (this was a surprise activity offered in thanks by the mountain villager who was touched by our work supporting their conservation efforts)

*enjoyed learning from a traditional carpenter who showed us various methods of joinery without nails. These methods are how the traditional homes were made. The roof, heavy with doubled tiles, rests on a simple structure made well with giant beams and no nails. The floors are traditionally made of earth or brick. The bricks are soaked in soy-milk before firing.

*fed grass-eating fish

* helped clean up the mountain forest as part of a televised campaign acknowledging the village Conservation efforts. This was broadcast on Chinese TV NEWS. That night, the village leader showed us how to catch scorpions with a purple light. The village children loved catching them. 

At the fishing village we cleaned up a big section on the tide-line of their tourist beach without any TV cameras. One group of tourists thought I might have something special in my bags and when I showed them they looked shocked and puzzled.  The cleanup attracted attention and we got our picture taken by our host. He was delighted with our big haul of rubbish. I held it up like it was a big fish I had caught - we all had a good laugh. Our host on the Island used to be a fisherman but the government is encouraging fishermen to find other work by providing subsidies. The fisheries and aquaculture are growing. The waste from the aquaculture system was fed into the mariculture systems but fish was still required as the initial input. Hopefully the technology of algae as food will reach them before the fishing industry completely collapses.

On the last 3 days we visited a few tourist attractions - museums and hot springs. 

The journey was a great cultural exchange and I am glad that many positive things came from our visit. 

One of my personal gains includes the positive effect of living without any sugar or processed foods. I loved my cooking lessons on the rocket stove (there were no ovens or microwaves and not many homes have refrigeration).

As a group, we reflected at length about the impact of plastic on a culture that traditionally recycles their waste locally. (only problem the cycle is disrupted by resistant plastics).

We are back in the office to check over your progress and continue with our major editing project. We will include photos and tales in a post on the site.


Here I am resting in the mountain village under a big hawthorn tree