it’s gonna be …

it’s gonna be spring time soon! and i’ve been really away from this blog. the winter is not a time to be planting anyhow, winter is that time to hibernate and digest the bountiful fruits of the earth which we consumed aplenty in the fall. all that digesting will store away the good nutrients and energy cos we gon’ need it through the cold. we need all that energy to generate heat to keep ourselves warm. if we do it right, winter can be a very glorious and enlightening time to reflect and prepare for the next cycle of seasons!

so it’s february.

what will we do this year for farming?

last year: weekend farm at Dobong-san successfully planted, grown and harvested! LOTS of lettuce, korean pepper, zucchini, spinach (which seeded pretty quickly unfortunately…better luck this year!), beets (will plant more! turned out soooo yummy and beautifully wine red! love the color of those beets ^^), swiss chard, bell peppers,


땅의 여자 “Earth’s Women”

today i watched “Earth’s Women“, a recent documentary made by female director, Woo-Jung Kwon 권우정. it’s about three women who moved to the country to farm. each of them married a farmer. their goals were to work in the farm and fight for the rights of farmers in the countryside. most of the farmers in the country farms 시골농촌 are women well in their 60s to 80s- 할머니s..

it’s meaningful to see a film such as this, the director admits she was not so sure why she picked this subject for a documentary. whatever their dreams or struggles are, i enjoyed how the film portrayed the three women with sensitivity; tenderly considering their inner struggles, relationship conflicts, personal reflections and worries, feelings and thoughts. but most of all i was touched by their rawness; they exude a sense of ‘organic-ness’ as the film promo suggests. i cried a lot! ^_^ i wonder what kind of response this film will create? the theatre audience were majority all women…maybe we’ll move to the country and marry farmers.

a farmer back in hawaii once told me that the world would be a lot different if women started to think that farmers were hot and ideal husband material.

주말농장 (weekend farm)

i’ve heard of ‘weekend farms’ growing in Seoul for quite a few years now. and to be honest i disregarded them as faint attempts of a few who go away on the weekends to be pseudo-farmers. but i blame myself for lack of interest and research, because actually these ‘weekend farms’ are great models of community gardens. I’ve already found two farms for the local community located near our apartment! how did i not know this already? why is there not much exposure?

even with a shop that sells seedlings and seeds!
wow i love it!
these photos are ripped off from 무수골 주말농장 website

something i’ve noticed about many community gardens in many cities is that there is a sense of isolation. isolation not in the sense of being detached or hidden from the rest of the city, but isolation in the sense of creating a protective boundary around the garden. as we would to take care of what we love from harm. it is hard work to keep a community garden together! (it seems, i wouldn’t know because i haven’t worked in one…)

the purpose is not to commercialize or market themselves. if there are enough people who have their plots/raised beds or whatever, then it is more about dedication and consistency. not about getting as many people involved. hence, community gardens are anti-capitalist. humble in fact.
the structures of such community based growing must be very well organized and maintained. one poorly kept plot can ruin it for the rest of the gardeners.

one thing i read in a blog by a Korean working mom reminded me what growing food together is all about. she says working on the weekend farms bring the family together. it increases the time for family members to interact and communicate with each other. context influences the ‘nature’ of interaction-therefore, a family when watching tv in a small apartment as opposed to when planting seedlings outdoors in the fresh air greatly changes the dynamics of how family members think, feel and thus treat one another.

co-operation, mutual interest and joy from taking care of living-growing organisms together. this is also true for raising a pet together, a baby. it’s a group ‘project’, that is not a one-hit, one-time event, but an on-going process of learning and growing together. many things are to be learned; patience, respect, compassion, diligence, acceptance…..

so i hear that it costs about 50,000 won (about $50) / per year to hold a plot of 4pyong (equivalent to 0.00009 acres).

but alas it is chuseok 추석, a big time Korean holiday and it’s pouring outside. happy 추석!

learning about how to make a change

i will admit i don’t do a good job to reduce my carbon footprint either. sometimes i buy bottled water cos i’m thirsty, buy food from far away places, throw away stuff that i can reuse etc. most of the time i am pretty good about reducing – whether it’s food, clothes, stuff in general and i hardly buy things – but then again it’s not really all about that. i mean, i can do much more.

often environmental activists make the general people feel guilty about their life ‘style’. and i guess it is very necessary because a big chunk of us are really idiots when it comes to wasting energy and being mindless to how the world is dying slowly at our hands. luckily, over the course of a few years, the words ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ have become household names. we’re finally maybe catching up to what’s going on..unfortunately though, still at a pretty slow rate. to many of us it’s not really our problem because we don’t experience it first hand. but then to many many of us, it is a reality. that the weather and seasons are not the way they used to be. that now many people’s homes are demolished and their environments are disappearing.

but how actually can we make changes that will matter? instead of the usual ‘recycle all your bottles, cans…’ or ‘use reusable bags when grocery shopping instead of plastic bags’ etc. I have been thinking about this as i move around this busy city, I feel like there needs to be more than just the ‘we must do this because we have to’ mentality to start changing the way we live, but also an ahimsa – the practice of non-violence- approach that inspires us to not contribute to or create suffering.

for example, like eco-sattvas… i feel like an inner transformation and ‘awakening’ is necessary to become vessels that make positive changes and contribute to making our environment better. at least for me, i must remember to stay focused on why i want to do any of this in the first place, why even this blog? trying to find out more information and solutions can stray us away from our main primary goal. which is more of a spiritual one than a technical or political one. and that is: to love, take care and live in harmony with our environment.

how can we make ‘saving the earth’ something that we are encouraged, inspired and motivated to do instead of feeling obligated to do out of guilt?
kind of as in a relationship i guess.

i thought this image was pretty funny. got it from by Sierra!

fyi: some good podcasts to listen to on the subway or in-between-times.
Big Ideas Podcasts
#42 with Wade Davis on disappearing cultures
#77 with J.B. Mackinnon, Alisa Smith and Adria Vasil on the environment (from Canada, these guys talked about their mission of the 100 mile radius diet, in which they only ate food they could find from within a 100 mile radius. also including sail boat delivery of local CSAs!! great idea ^^)

Also came across a very cool NGO/Graduate School called Future Generations which “provides training and builds the capacity of communities and governments to shape sustainable futures, meeting especially the needs of children, women, the environment, and the poor.”

Their Core Values are as follows:

* Promotes respect for all lives and the conditions for their harmonious co-existence.
* Recognizes the dignity of every human being.
* Gives priority to the interests of women who have a particularly strong interest in the wellbeing of their families, children, and community.
* Emphasizes equity, empowerment, and self-confidence especially among marginalized members of the community.

The National Folk Museum of Korea

on an extra sunny day, cloudless of which, i trodded over to the National Folk Museum of Korea located to the NorthEast side of Gyeongbok-kung Royal Palace. Inspired by either the movie, ‘불꽃처럼 나비처럼’ based on the 조선시대, which I watched the night previously, or the irresistible call of the museum seeing as it was FREE to the public, I went, and was utterly impressed by the technologically sophisticated and welcoming atmosphere of the place. it’s very educational and well organized. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, the place was packed constantly with Chinese and Japanese tourists and their loud tour guides, and not to mention the endless line of kindergarten and elementary school troopers that stormed in and out of the museum halls, positively thinking-bringing the folk museum to life. loud and boisterous.

amongst the impressive array of artifacts displaying past Korean’s lifestyles, there was definitely an undercurrent, a unifying theme that tied everything together, one of deep spiritual connection and respect for Nature…which unfortunately is not so evident now after decades of extreme industrialization and urbanization. But walking through the museum’s three exhibition halls, I couldn’t help reminiscing and longing for a past in which my ancestors were wise to coexist with their environment. everything from the way their houses were built, where the house was built according to feng shui and geomancy, what they ate and when, how they made their clothes and from what, how they farmed following the natural cycle of the seasons. Their whole culture was based around agriculture as well-the music, the rituals, the ceremonies etc.. The “Korean Way of Life” exhibition hall was specifically divided into the Four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, each depicting the way Korean people adapted to the changing environment and climate. This is not to say that everything was peaceful and harmonious in the past, hierarchy and inequality and food shortage was extremely common.

밀양백중놀이 one of the many farming ‘play/recreation’ ceremonies

so then, what’s so different now? in the so-called “leading digital city” and “tech capital of the world”, a nation of smart success-driven people, what’s different now?

here’s an excerpt from wikipedia

“During the first 20 years of South Korea’s growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment.[58] Unchecked industrialization and urban development have resulted in deforestation and the ongoing destruction of wetlands such as the Songdo Tidal Flat….However, there have been recent efforts to balance these problems, including a government run $84 billion five-year green growth project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology.

The green-based economic strategy is a comprehensive overhaul of South Korea’s economy, utilizing nearly two percent of the national GDP. The greening initiative includes such efforts as a nation wide bike network, solar and wind energy, lowering oil dependent vehicles, backing daylight savings and extensive usage of environmentally friendly technologies such as LEDs in electronics and lighting. The country – already the world’s most wired – plans to build a nationwide next-generation network which will be 10 times faster than current broadband facilities in order to reduce energy usage…”

a 할머니 (grandma in korea) in 밀양백중놀이

‘iris garden’

looking no further, the ‘Seoul Irisgarden’ 서울 창포원 park is visible right outside our apartment window. my grandfather actually takes a walk around this park every morning.

nestled between Dobong-san 도봉산 on the West and Surak-san 수락산 in the East, this park is a haven for so many residents in the area.

i shamelessly stole these photos from a blog
you can actually see my apartment in one of the photos.

the visitor’s center and office(?) building’s roof is lined with solar panels. the park boasts some really beautiful iris flowers, now withered in the late summer, in the well-made brochures, there’s a map displaying the locations of 12 different themes of natural ecology 도심속의 자연생태 공원 that can be found right smack here in the middle of the city. (actually dobong-san area is pretty ‘rural’ relative to the busy overcrowded districts of seoul such as gangnam or sinchon for example). among these 12 ‘themes’, i was impressed with the ‘aromatherpy botanical garden’, very small but includes chamomile, oregano, peppermint, vergamot etc. and they have a board where the names, photos and descriptions of each herb is written for visitors to read and enjoy. this is true for other such themed gardens in which grow numerous medicinal plants and herbs. 강정강장자원식물원, 십전대보탕식물원, 쌍화탕식물원 etc. There’s also a ‘book reading hill’ 책읽는 언덕 with benches shaded by trees. there’s always classical music playing through the speakers well hidden from view around the park.

a lot of things going on here. the seoul park did a good job in planning to make this park an educational, aesthetically pleasant, cultural, healing and resting place, amongst many other things.

having visited seoul last winter, i marvel at how green the park looks compared to the barren grays and twig-like state of plants and trees a few seasons ago. korea, often called ‘dynamic korea’ as a promotional slogan, used to boast its fine four seasons. the springtime and fall being the most beautiful, in my opinion. now they say there is no fall anymore. the summer will turn into winter all of a sudden sometime around october. global warming. the tree’s leaves don’t turn into the deep reds and oranges they used to. the climate change is doing some very unusual things to this country, as with the very unusual abundance of rain which poured down august and september, whereas the usual monsoon season used to be only in july.
ah. the fall. as a young girl i remember the fall time in our front yard when my mother fell down the tree trying to pick persimmons for her eager daughter….

more cool city gardening in seoul

-rooftop gardens project in seoul, called ‘mom’s garden’
for kids living with single moms in social welfare facility called 창신 모자원

-more rooftop garden news in kyung-seng-won (a 사회복지원 social welfare home for abused/orphan kids and teens) sponsored by 메리츠화재 (Meritz Fire Insurance company)

photos from 경생원 website

지난 5월 22일, 메리츠화재 가족자원봉사단 45명과 경생원 아이들은 사회
복지법인 경생원 옥상에 모였다. 다함께 힘을 합쳐서 옥상텃밭에 직접 토양
과 비료를 섞고, 다양한 채소모종들을 함께 심어보면서 일일 도시농부가 되
어보았다. 또한 아이들은 머무는 방마다 향기를 전할 수 있도록 자원봉사자
들의 편지가 적힌 허브화분을 선물받기도 했다. 경생원은 제각기 아픈 사연
을 가진 50여명의 아동ㆍ청소년들의 따뜻한 보금자리가 되어주는 생활시설
로 경생원의 정지명 선생님은 “텃밭정원 조성으로 아이들에게 생태적인 공
간과 유기농 먹거리를 줄 수 있게되어 기쁘다”고 밝혔다. “I’m happy that
the organic garden plots on the rooftop can provide the children with
a natural environment in which to play and get healthy organic food!’

2009년 말 서울그린트러스트는 ‘숲과 복지의 만남’ (The Forest and Social Welfare meets’)
에 한 발자국 더 가까이
다가가고자 경제적으로 열악한 가정이 모여사는 수서임대아파트에 주민들
과 함께 ‘치유의정원’ (Healing Garden) 을 조성하였다. 그 열매는 매우 달콤했다. 우리동네정원
가꿈이 교육에 참여했던 주민분들의 만족도는 100점 만점에 93점일 정도
로 높았다. 불만족의 이유도 교육기간이 너무 짧았다는 의견이 대부분이었
으며, 정원 가꾸며 이웃들과 소통을 하는 동안 잃었던 웃음을 찾은 주민들
이 늘어났다.

2010년 서울그린트러스트는 ‘숲과 복지의 만남’이라는 연장선 상에서 우리
동네숲정원은 조성하고자 노력하고 있다. ‘사회.경제적으로 소외될 수록 녹
지소외도 더 크다! 좀더 일상 생활 속 녹지를 만나게 하자!’
경생원 텃밭정원 조성도 이러한 움직임 속에서 시작되었다. 경생원 텃밭정원 식재설계
및 디자인은 경생원의 초등학교 아이들 15명의 아이디어를 담아 진행되었
으며, 채소모종을 심을 때도 아이들이 직접 참여하게 함으로써 텃밭에 대한
관심을 이끌어내고자 노력하였다.
조성 이후에도 아이들은 생태놀이프로그램에 참여하면서 책상에만 앉아서
억지로 해야하는 공부가 아닌, 텃밭 속에서 자연스럽게 자연의 순리를 배워
가고 있다. 오늘 우리는 꿈꿔본다! 식물이 따뜻한 햇빛을 받아 열매를 맺듯…
언젠가 경생원 아이들도 많은분들의 사랑과 관심 속에서 과거의 아픔을 이
겨내고, 자신만의 꿈과 미래를 찾아갈 것이다. ^^
‘someday we hope that the kids in kyung-seng-won will be able to
overcome their past sorrows and build their own dreams and future through
nurturing their ‘seeds’ in the rooftop ‘field’…’

-article from 서울동네숲

-and the 우리동네숲 project: 우리 ‘our’ 동네 ‘neighborhood’ 숲 ‘forest’
is an exemplary organization getting community members together to plant trees and greenery in otherwise unused/abandoned lots around the high rise apartments. They’re working with the City, getting funds from various corporations (including ‘Guess’ the clothing interesting) and getting local volunteers since 2007 and so far it seems they’ve been able to get about 4-5 different little ‘forests’ up and running. example exhibit A;

research done for the day! feel great about all this stuff. now on to meeting with these project groups?