This is quite a different year…

I can’t believe that we have reached the end of this shocking year with so many turn of events! Sure, Covid-19 threw us off our feet, but on a personal basis, I have never in my wildest dream imagined that I would do the things I do this year, and even now, I think I am still in recovery mode. This is the last chance for me to add one more post before the year folds.

Some of my most notable “achievements” and highlights include these:

1. Started gardening

Like so many people who contributed to the rising price of plants, I am one of them who caught the gardening flu during the Movement Control Order because of Covid-19. I have a whole blog post on this so I’ll save myself the hassle of regurgitating of how it all started. Here are some awesome pictures of my garden.

My little bromeliad corner
My little “princess corner” for the plants which couldn’t take too much sun
Another corner for those who love the sun
My significant other helping to create shade for the princess corner

2. Moved house

My moving house signifies a different stage of life and era for me. I rented a room in my friend’s house mainly because I find coping with lupus while travelling the distance (30km per way) to be quite taxing. I was very grateful that my bestie lent me a helping hand by allowing me to stay at her place. Two years went by, and many things happened to our lives. We went on to our separate ways, she moved out, and after 9 months I moved out as well. We kept in touch, but we have different priorities now. So moving out is a huge change to me. Furthermore I made a conscious decision to stay in a suburban area instead of in the city so that I could have a garden instead of staying in an apartment where I know I have to give up some of my plants. I was not ready for that.

I think this is one of the most tiring year for my other half

3. My blog gained more viewership even though I only wrote 6 posts this year

Truth to be told, this year has been a rather tough year for me, work wise. As much as I love to, I had no time, and was not in the state of mind to add more posts to the blog. In fact at some point, I felt that I was so overwhelmed that I might be mildly depressed. The strangest thing was my blog’s viewership actually increased when I was not posting any new blog posts. I suppose this has something to do with the “3-year rule”, i.e. many of your efforts will only be seen after 3 years, especially websites and blogs. I think the 3-year rule rings true for many things. Even for my plants, some took 5-6 months to blossom. If I gave up on them prematurely, I will not be able to enjoy their beauty.

In 2021 I am going back to develop my blog further, edit and weed out some of the not-so-great posts. I am going to think about content and have more interviews with lupus patients so that my readers could be inspired.

4. Quit a stressful job and moved on to a less stressful role

My job has always been a stressful one, as long as I lived. However there was something else end of last year and almost the whole of this year, which made me pull the trigger. Covid-19 was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to the pandemic, my team could not work at the client’s place, the clients were not fully digitised, and therefore work was delayed and there was nothing much we could do. By the time work resumed, it was already 3 months down the road, and there was just no rest for anyone. It was really tough.

I have been contemplating about moving on to something else for quite a long time. For me, the question was always: when will I hit my magic number for early retirement?

Amidst this pandemic, I have other questions such as:

-Is not working going to make me happy?

– Why am I feeling so reluctant to work?

– Is this money going to be enough for me to indulge myself in my expensive hobbies?

– Am I shortchanging myself trying to save more to early retire?

I think I have been in withdrawal for the longest time. I always spent time tending to my garden, surfing the internet to buy more plants, doing something else instead of spending time to pen down my thoughts in my diary. I thought once I have nothing to do, I could sit down and contemplate about these questions. But it turns out that I could not actually sit down and do nothing. It is tough. Or maybe I could, but I would be surfing the internet. I do not have answers to these questions, so I carried on with the other job that does not leave me depressed and exhausted all the time.

I tried a few new things this year, namely getting writing jobs, selling plants and trying to sell some printables. I could not persist too long with my full time job. I also dislike packing up plants and earning peanuts trying to sell expensive plants to people who will not appreciate it. I might be doing it wrong but I think even if I changed my method to sell, I am not entirely sure I want to make this a career, not before I have a piece of land to place all my merchandise.

5. Did not use my passport at all this year

This goes without saying with the current pandemic situation. I think this has to be the first time in 20 years I have not used my passport at all. It is saddening, yet I now sometimes consider what would happen to my plants when I am travelling. What about my dream of living in a different country every year? Probably just have to install some irrigation system that can be controlled from abroad.

6. Only read 2 books this year

I suppose for me the most surprising turns of events was reading only 2 books and adding more than 100 plants to my garden. Maybe deep down I will always be a hoarder, be it hoarding books or plants or some other collectibles. I also have a secret dream that one day maybe I will be selling off everything and start living a minimalist lifestyle. Until then, I will recommence my reading habit soon after I tidy up my garden and made it the one I have in my head.

This is a year that gave me a lot to think, and I see many different things in new light. It maybe my quarter life or mid life crisis, there was just so many things to think about, I rather not think. Humans are complicated beings, or can things be less complicated? Am I overthinking or there are some merits to the things going through my head? This is such a quizzical year, and yet I felt that I have done quite a fair bit this year. I hope things will improve next year, and I could find some answers to all my questions!

Happy New Year to you and I wish you all the best!

I am now my mom’s daughter – a passionate gardener

Warning: Plants ahead! Don’t continue if you hate plants.

Guess you have not seen any posts from my website for a long, long time. My last post was back in May 2020, a whopping six months ago. So what have I been up to lately?

One word: Gardening!

Yes I am one of those crazy plants people who literally go broke every month spending on plants! I started with a couple of plants exchange within the vicinity of where I live. I was like a busy bee, exchanging plants after work and before work. I mostly exchange with mints and tomatoes, the two plants I know how to propagate the best back then.

Slowly there were more and more plants. I started to propagate plants. Some plants start to give babies. Some died. My days are filled with joy when I greet my plants in the morning and come back to them at night.

I start to have more conversations with mom on how she took care of her plants. I am amazed at how gigantic some of mom’s plants are.

I continued with my edibles journey. I had many tomato trees.. they born some fruits and then died. It was a bittersweet affair.

I learnt to propagate by various methods. Most of them from cuttings. Sometimes from leaves as well, such as my gloxinias. I cut one leaf into 4 parts, and it grew into 3 plants! It took around 2 weeks for little leaves to shoot out from the mother leaf. Patience does pay off!

I started selling plants too! I need money to fund my addiction. When I see two types of plants, I have an urge to buy them: a plant that is below market price or a plant which is uncommon and pretty! My mom does not know how much I spend on plants. I used to ask her how does she defend her plants from pest or disease. She said she doesn’t. I asked: what if they die? Mom says: “Just throw them away!”

Oh my. We don’t have the same philosophy in terms of keeping plants alive. But mom’s natural selection philosophy does have its merits. Mom showers her love with her rice water and compost. Her plants are looking might well, many of them in sizes that you cannot imagine.

I have started to move on to ornamental plants. It does not mean that I have no more edible plants. Mind you, I am extremely proud of my rosemary. It is quite hard to keep a rosemary alive in our hot and wet climate. My bad boy has been staying alive for me for more than 6 months for now. I kept it under rain and shine. This is my rite of passage or badge of honour amongst my fellow gardeners.

My bad boy

I love all of my plants. I don’t think I have a favorite. I check them out everyday. I am especially happy when they woke up from their hibernation and started to give me babies or flowers. I am truly amazed by how beautiful nature has created these plants to be.

My flowering plants:

Gardening has helped me cope during this period of stressful time because of Covid-19. Things have been looking up for a while but now with the 3rd wave that has not recovered, the future is looking quite bleak. I saw a lovely quote somewhere that says:

“A garden is a friend that you can visit anytime.”

No wonder I have been seeking therapy from my friend all this while! I’m glad to have all of them. I am also glad that I have a boyfriend who is willing to help me with my gardening chores, including repotting more than 100 plants over the past few months. Oh my god. I gotta treat him better.

Last but not least, this is my “finicky plants corner” or the “princess plants” corner.

All the fellows who can’t get too much sunlight

What are your favorite plants? Let me know in the comments!

Gardening taught me more than what I expect to learn

I find myself an extreme creature of randomness. Sometimes inspiration just entered my mind because of either something I read, or someone I stumbled upon, and it grew into something I never knew it would become. The biggest randomness that happened to me was stumbling upon this financial independence blogger, Mr Money Mustache’s website, and doubled my networth within three years. Not that it was that much to start with, but still, it was amazing.

Another one of these randomness was gardening. My mother, my aunts and uncles all had green finger, and loved their plants very much. Apart from the part where I asked my boyfriend to help my mom pluck weeds to prove that he could get his hands dirty, I normally shy away from the garden.

About 3-4 months ago, I read about something called Aquaponics, which means plants and fish living within the same ecosystem, with humans rearing the fishes, and the fishes in return giving their waste to the plants as their nutrients. This is an urban farming method that is gaining popularity as this reduces pesticides and toxins in fishes since their environment is largely controlled by humans. It is also encouraged by the local ministry of agriculture considering the fact that our country is having an agricultural products import deficit, meaning we mostly import our food from other countries, although we ourselves are majorly an agricultural country.

I eat broccoli and some other vegetables almost every day. So I figured, this does not seem to be too bad a plan. My balcony only had two decorative plants anyway. The worst is that the plant might die, and I will end up with no plant. No biggie. (I was sadder than I thought when they died, which is something that I did not know back then) I started to kind of eat vegetarian at home, so I cut out the fish part.

Too much water is worse than not enough water

This is a very painful lesson indeed. But it was not me who over-watered the plants. It was the rain. Whilst I was away on holiday, it rained heavily everyday, but I had no idea. It never dawned to me that I should ask my housemate to move the plants indoor. Then I saw despite the fact that the soil was wet, the leaves on several seedlings are turning yellow. I wonder what happened so I googled the reason why leaves turn yellow. Contrary to popular belief, there are many reasons why plants turn yellow, lack of water is not the only reason. It seems when plants are overwatered, the root starts to rot, and once that happens, there is no reversing of that effect. The only thing you could do is just watch them die. The words “fragility of life” comes into mind. Well I actually dug out two of the seedlings and moved them to drier soil. It actually worked for one of them.

Loneliness (or a bigger container) could kill a plant

My most prized broccoli plant, one that grew into the largest amongst my other seedlings which survived through my two weeks’ holidays did not survive after I transplanted it to a bigger bag. I was guessing perhaps that big bag made it felt lonely, since there was so much space, and it was far away from its friends before the transplant. Its leaves were too heavy for the stem to carry that it fell sideways. I tried to put a straw to straighten the stem. It just prolonged its inevitable death. I told myself, it’s ok, just continue buying broccoli from the supermarket.

My head is too heavy

Later I stumbled upon a more logical explanation. Unless the seedling is really matured, otherwise transplanting it to a bigger pot or place will loosen the soil, and since a bigger pot can hold more water, it is likely to dampen the roots and cause the plants’ roots to rot.

Planting is like parenting

Definitely a strange revelation considering the fact that I do not have children and am not sure if I would like to have them.

After learning that too much water can kill the plants, and the fact that plants need sunlight to thrive, I was thinking how could both be achieved, and this was what I came out with.

A transparent umbrella! Maybe there is indeed something called the best of both worlds?

My boyfriend said I protect and care for them too much. I should just let nature take their course. Look at weeds, they grow well, although no-one cared for them. It was an epiphany that parents probably felt the same way as I do. As much as I have done what I could, and the results was not as what I hoped it would be, I could not just give up on the seedlings and move on. And why, you ask me? Could this be love? Unreciprocated efforts? I still could not put a finger on this.

Parents could do anything for their children, even if it means giving up their lives. I know to many, mints are the easiest to grow. It was not as easy for me. I got a few grown mint plants and stems from mom several times, and they never lived into the wild bushes I thought it would, since everyone says that they are like weeds. I bought some fresh mints from the market and tried to plant them. Surprisingly one of the stalks actually survived and little buds of leaves started to sprout. Look how the left “parent leaf” lived on long enough so that the tiny buds could survive. Once that goal is achieved, it just dropped dead.

Well I might be romantising this mint growth progress but what I learnt from this is, never ever cut off all the leaves and expect that the stem would be able to do the work for you. That stem is just like the blood transfusion system, if there were no nutrients, there was nothing to transport, and death is just a matter of time.

Parents giving their all to their children

Shit happens.. and sometimes you just have to cut losses

Well not before you put up a lot of fight!

Gross! I know

The first thing I did was locating the culprits that gave my Spanish spinach these hideous bites. So apparently it was not just one but two, and maybe three of those caterpillars. It was a cringey experience removing these caterpillars and their droppings. There was nothing that I could do but to cut off all the leaves that the caterpillars has “graced”. In fact I have chopped off quite a fair bit. I could not stand the hideous looking chewing marks, and caterpillar poo.

That’s all I can remember. I am still learning every day. My plants are a solace to me when I come back from work. The first thing I do everyday the moment I stepped into the house, was to take a look at how my plants are doing. Are they growing steadily? Are they dying? Did they have enough water? Did I do what was needed? How can I improve on my planting skills? I guess I will have to wait until a garden of greenery that I have always wished for will just appear one day when I am not looking and checking in.

Till then, just plant on!