HD-26: Urban-Rural Bridge

Dec 13, 2018

Dear E.,

I find it challenging to come up with a precise subject line for my letters, as I used to do 🙂 . Things happened in a few days are organically connected in the flow of life, but they don’t necessarily have a prominent theme. 

By “Urban-Rural Bridge”, I meant to honor a visitor, Fred YANG Zongqiang, and the  project he founded: Urban-Rural Bridge (official site). They see the cultural, social and economic gaps between urban and rural areas in China. They are committed to bridge the gaps through empowering small eco farmers and connecting them with urban communities directly. An English teacher turned social entrepreneur, Fred assembled a team of international professionals on sustainability to work on the project.

Fred(left) from Urban-Rural Bridge, Zhan (right, a resident and an employee of Hua Dao) and I at Hua Dao community center.

Then it occured to me that “Urban-Rural Bridge” can also be a vivid metaphor for the benefit that my ecovillage, other urban ecovillages and CSA projects around the world strive to achieve. For a sustainable world to come true, the gaps between urban and rural areas must to be addressed. 

The sign of Tianfu Slow City

It was Fred’s idea that we checked out the Tianfu Slow City site a few kms from Hua Dao. I am shy to admit that I haven’t heard about it, despite having been here for a few weeks already. The project describes itself as being inspired by the Slow Town concept popularized by Cittaslow(wiki) and as following related principles to build a rural tourist destination featuring idyllic view and combining modern cultural elements.  Right now a central park area is largely complete, with more facilities under construction around it. Multiple statues of snails, similar to that in the logo of Cittaslow, dotted the park. Not many visitors on a weekday afternoon.

This bamboo-woven snail showcases ubiquitous bamboo groves in the region and a rich heritage of bamboo artisans.

Later, I curiously researched on local media the background of the project and on the official sites of Cittaslow and its Chinese branch. Tianfu Slow City is not an official
Cittaslow member yet. It’s my guess that they wanted to transform the area according to the concepts of Slow Movement first, whether or not there is a plan to certify with Cittaslow later. The project was mainly invested by both the province and municipal governments, clearly set in the policy background of revitalizing rural areas. In a sense, it’s a high profile, grand/fancy “bridge” intended to connect urban and rural 🙂 I will be interested to see how this project evolves. 

Ha! I forgot your “Beer of the World” collection! You likely won’t be interested in the generic bottled or canned beer from the stores here. To a rice-dominant region of centuries, it’s a relatively new thing that beer brewed from wheat and barley has become a popular companion to locals’ famous hot pots in summer. 醪糟 (Lao Zao), fermented glutinous rice containing alcohol content, is commonly consumed, especially in winter. Low alcohol content and sweet taste make it suitable for a delightful soup (often cooked with small rice flour dumplings). Sister Tu made some Lao Zao for our community kitchen. In the nearby Qiquan town, I was curious to notice multiple breweries showcasing huge earthenware jars at storefront. I keep wondering what kind of grains are used. I may find that out if I can remember it next time when I go to the town. 

I did go to the town Tuesday for errands. It happened to be a market day. Every town has its own market day cycle, usually on the days that ends with certain numbers. For example, Qiquan Town has the 1s, 3s, 6s and 9s.  I have never seen so many people on these street since moving here. Not surprisingly, old people make the dominant age group. Some traditional small businesses still exist. (Knowing that I wanted to take a photo of her Tofu, the woman happily moved the cover cloth aside to allow a clearer view 🙂 )

I made a little more progress in the farming-half of my life 🙂 3 times and about 5 hours in one week, still a modest record. On winter days, there isn’t too much work in the garden and the farm. I worked with Sister Tu to prepare patches in garden for cold-weather-liking leafy vegetables. We also rescued a big pile of aged compost that was occupied by weeds. 

On Dec 9, Sister Tu and I prepared this patch for sowing vegetables.
My work gears. We carefully picked up pieces of grass roots in soil as we hoed the land. This can effectively reduce weeding in spring.

In addition to breaking big soil blocks into smaller ones, it’s important to pick up pieces of roots of weeds. Though the root system is broken up during hoeing, the grass can regrow next year out of a one-inch long root. How crazily resilient! Sister Tu said, one ounce of effort to pick up the root now, saves you 10 ounces of effort to weed next spring. Mind the lesson from nature 🙂 

Dec 12, Wednesday. The first frost of winter finally came. Photo from my balcony after sun rise.

I brought some seeds of Swiss chard (rainbow color ones) with me and hoped to plant them here. As I researched on the species, they can hardly germinate off frost. So I will have to wait till next spring.  

We must watch these voracious creatures as they share our love for tender vegetable leaves. A few little ones are true “Hua Dao Babies”. 4 were born here this October.
We have visitors again for a couple days in the week. To avoid serving just the same vegetables, we had tofu dish. I think you would agree Sister Tu’s Mapo Tofu meets your benchmark for Sichuan spicy food 🙂

Good news and bad news! Which one first? The bad one: you missed my IKEA legos 🙂 . 

Who said one cannot use IKEA furniture in an ecovillage? After all, you could select natural materials and simple design, and with minimal chemical paint.  BTW, I tend to keep the original package of electronic appliances. The boxes don’t make me look a minimalist :-b 

The good news is that the 10th China Community Supported Agriculture Conference will be hosted in Pidu District, Chengdu on Dec 14-16. Hua Dao contributed 450kg its organic rice to cater attendees from all over the country. I am super excited about this event and will be there on Dec 14 and 15. I look forward to sharing new stories with you. 

From the official site of China Social Agriculture Network (中国社会生态农业联盟). Since the first conference in 2009, it has become the most participated and influential conference in the sector. This year, a new feature is an eco-farmer’s market. According to official media, there are over 1000 CSA projects around the country now. Another urban-rural bridge 🙂

Love with a hug,
Fan 

(About Letters)

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