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LOVING AND LIVING WITH PLANTS

Monsoon water management

By Laila Karim

These days we have been experiencing crazy weather, so much so that I thought everything is going in line with the 'Bodley Dao, Bodley Jao' theme. The other day when I looked at the sky it was so blue and the white patches of clouds were just floating around. I was thinking now is the time to change old creepers and pot plants and for the need to get ready with early winter gardening preparation. But the very next day the sky became dark and gloomy! To my surprise all my roof plants got heavily soaked by nature… even some of the pots became full of excess water from the consecutive rain over the next few days.

What to do when things happen differently and unpredictably? Wise men/women say just jump to emergency management. That is okay. But we, all plant lovers or roof gardeners, must know that 'readiness' is the mantra of all stages of container or surface gardening. Water-logging is a BIG no-no in any circumstance, whether it's rain or sunshine. While it is true that water is the lifeline for all living creatures, and very critical for the gardener who depends on piped water -- but water management is also key to successful and effective gardening. First we must always keep an eye on the drainage system of our garden -- the pipe or water draining hole should be clean and open, particularly during monsoon when the daily downpour blocks this drainage system with dry leaves, dust and all sorts of garbage materials. Clogged water can make the garden base slippery and messy, allowing moss and grass to rapidly (over) grow here and there. Rotten leaves spread foul smells and some insects also grow in the moist/wet areas. Simply put, our garden can become rather shabby and risky to walk through.

Soon after the downpour, we need to slide/tilt the pots for draining out extra water. Accumulation of excess water over a period of time will lead to root damage and within a few days the first signs of damage can be seen with green leaves turning yellow, gradually resulting in the death of the plant. So it is a must to clear out water first from the garden drains, pipes and pots. Then when the sunshine returns make the soil soft and fluffy with the garden shovel allowing it to breathe and letting the sun rays go inside the layer of upper soil. This will allow the plants to inhale some oxygen and feel good again.

During the late monsoon some of the plants already have done their jobs and accomplished life's mission… given us the fruits or flowers. So now is the time to clear out seasonal plants and make way for new ones. Sadly that is the law of nature. First empty the containers/pots, pile the soil out in one place to soak in enough sunshine. Meanwhile you may go for fresh painting of the containers making those ready and refreshed for the next season. Collect cow dung, fresh soil and other ingredients, natural pesticides (such as neem leaves) and let them dry together for a few days. Once again remember to protect those from untimely rain or sudden deluges with a cover or so. Later at the end of September or by early October, we hope, the sky will smile again and we shall be ready for the next episodes of our gardening. This is the time to work in present and for future!

Please feel free to send me email to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email: lifestyleds@yahoo.com


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TIPS

Skinny steak

Certain things just don't go together. For example, eating steak and you being on a healthy diet cannot go together, many people assume. After all, it is red meat, and red meat has a very bad reputation. Steak is therefore deemed a rich food that does a lot of harm to your heart and body. You may want to opt for chicken steak instead, which has relatively less fat. But then again, when it comes to steak, nothing beats beef!

The good news is that beef steak has healthy aspects too, and if you are a little conscious, you don't need to shun it. The thing is that it really is good for you. Ideally, go for a cut that is both lean and grass-fed. Of course, when you are in a restaurant ordering steak, it is not possible to control what kind of cow has come to your plate! But, there are times when you have your own barbeque party. And then you have Eid-ul-Adha coming up, which is again an opportunity to cook and eat some great steak.

Recently, a report says that meat from grass-fed cows usually has a higher level of conjugated linoleic acid (which has been shown in animal studies to combat cancer) and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than the grain-fed variety. Plus, meat from grass-fed cows is lower in total fat and calories.

And, when you are in a restaurant, be careful what kind of steak you choose. If you prefer a lean cut, such as tenderloin, you can eat it without a shred of guilt even two or three times a week.

Beef is a great source of protein, iron (a mineral that one in five women are deficient in), and heart-healthy B vitamins. But, of course, make sure you do not overdose.

- LS Desk


LS EDITOR'S NOTE

Smart and dumber

Okay, now that I finally have a smart phone I am dying to know how much my smartness has increased in the world of technology and gadgets and touch screens. Because one thing is certain -- my irritability has reached heights that I had previously not thought possible.

For me a phone or a cell is a phone or a cell, period; nothing more, nothing less. There is a button I press and I get connected; why should my phone direct me saying 'it seems you are facing trouble with smart dialling'? Excuse me, what is smart dialling again? And what does operating system mean: it's a phone at the end of the day; ginger bread, ice cream sandwich, jelly beans. Frankly I like these more when they are on my plate, not in my cell. Honestly, I am totally clueless.

I write a text message and my cell tries to predict my words and as a result, the entire message gets a new twisted meaning and the receiver replies by sending a smiley with raised eyebrows saying, “It seems you are struggling with the touch screen.”

Truly I feel old and archaic; I am not technology savvy and thus am not in sync with present times. Last week I went to get a new cell because most of the keys on my previous QWERTY dial pad had gaping holes in it. Everyone around me was like the red-faced smiley when I brought out my phone to answer a call. So under pressure I decided to let go of old ways and embrace the new -- I mean, I do have to earn a living so I might as well try to look savvy.

To my utter surprise I found out that the entire market now is targeted towards the younger generation for whom technology change and adaptation is exactly like changing clothes on a daily basis. Anyway even the low end sets that fit my budget were touch screen; and yes, everything was so pricy yet they were selling like hot cakes. Thank God my brother decided to surprise me and buy me a pretty looking device. Or else my heart would have stopped right there and then there would have been no refresh button to press to get me up on my feet again.

I still love the staccato sound my analogue phone set made every time I dialled a digit, back in the eighties. It was very hard to give that old phone set up for wireless sets and then cell phones that still had buttons. And now they are making life even more difficult by suggesting how easy and simple it is to touch and dial.

Let's not ignore the accessories that we need to maintain these touch screens and smart phones, the memory card, the screen protectors, backup battery packs, this and that. However my biggest shock was when I went shopping for these add-ons. This young boy behind the counter was showing me screen protectors and was encouraging me to buy a diamond sticker saying it would dazzle.

As it is I was dazzled enough and insisted on a frosted matte finish screen protector. Within seconds he deduced that I am not 'latest' and reluctantly worked with the sticker on my screen. As I was trying to make sure he rubbed the existing finger prints off the screen before working, he put up a finger and said, 'Ma'am wait and see'. I was duly warned and after he finished his job, he handed me the set and instructed, 'Touch and feel'. Totally flabbergasted, I could only find the courage to say meekly 'Very cool'.

Anyway, after a week of twiddling with the touch screen I have landed myself in the smart and cool present times, or have I? Anyway it's all about adapting and surviving. Earlier it took me 20 seconds to type 'yes', now it takes me 60 seconds, but I am pretty sure I am getting there.

-- Raffat Binte Rashid


UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY

Man on the moon

By Iffat Nawaz

My father had a signed photograph of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon. My father was all about writing letters. He was one of those kids who wrote letters to famous people, the photograph was in response to a letter he wrote to Armstrong, it must have been a fabulous day in my teenage father's life when the envelope arrived smelling like America, smelling like the moon. He had framed it. Pre-war East Pakistan, a two storied house in Narinda Dhaka, many mouths, many legs, and a coloured photograph from outer space.

The photograph was 15 years old when I saw it. It had found a dark corner in our storage room in old town. We called that room “choto ghor” and almost all things in the “choto ghor” were considered can't-throw-away-but-almost-junk, which made this room more attractive to five-year-olds like me.

That's how I found Armstrong, amidst old certificates and medals, my grandfather's thrown away reading glasses and my mother's half-made fabric dolls. That is when I heard about the expedition to the moon. But that somehow did not feel so fascinating to me. All things conquered lose a bit of their magic, like the moon or the Great Wall of China.

However, my Father, and his letter writing, that was of great interest to me. I wanted to see a copy of the letter he wrote to Armstrong and was upset to hear that the copy of the letter was probably rotting amidst Armstrong's million fan mails, or worse, probably thrown away.

A few years after my father stopped writing to famous people, he started writing letters to my mother, hundreds of thousands of them. They were slipped between books or left under the dolonchapa tree on my mother's front yard. The letters continued throughout 1971, letting my mother know he was leaving town on 25th March with his brothers for Sylhet. And then showing up at my mother's doorstep on March 27th, frazzled and fierce-eyed, there was a war, and my father's brothers were lost, the ones he was supposed to accompany but at the last minute he had changed his mind.

Through letters he told my mother about the different missions he was involved with in 1971. My mother did not want to know; knowing meant participating and carrying the heavy pain of fight before freedom, before all hopes of conquering what should have been theirs all along. Through letters he wished my mother happy birthday on a December morning when bombs were falling from the sky and the moon was invisible to all Bengali eyes in that smoke-covered sky.

The moon shone his usual light once again over Bengal, and my father stopped writing letters in the liberated Bangladesh, and started to keep unused bullets in Fuji film roll bottles, bullets of a returned gun to the government. My father's letters were everywhere but in his possession. In different trash dumps near famous people's houses, or burned and ripped by my mother, who was worried about exposing their relationship to her parents. My father's letters had no physical form, they were all hearsay and outcomes. They were all trickled down lifeline, decisions, one word and then two.

My father did not conquer the moon, he didn't conquer anything really. I just know he wrote letters once, to Armstrong and other famous people and my mother. And those letters, burnt and buried, through hundreds of moonless nights, make me restless. They make me yearn for his unconquered words. Like the half smiling photo of Armstrong, those unread letters form and deform, a man on the moon stares down, a woman reaches out from her window, and I look for the “choto ghor”, the storage room inside of me to conceal it all.



 

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