Auspicious turtle appears in our garden on Chinese new year & we release it in a local temple

Our Urban Micro Guard-dog, Beaffin, discovered this Malayan snail eating turtle (Malayemys macrocephalaon Chinese New Year day.

See the amazing video Farmer Lu took just minutes after I called him out to the garden.

We interpreted the turtle’s presence as an auspicious omen for the coming year.

Given the number of snails in our Urban Micro Garden, we though seriously about closing off a section of the yard to keep the little reptile as a pet.

Since the turtle had been hibernating, we put it in a little box under a lamp in the living room to spend Chinese New Year in peace.

Then we decided to release it in the wild at nearby Wat Umong, the forest temple just a few minutes’ walk from our home. Given that the weather was already starting to warm and the frogs had started to sing, we decided that the turtle would probably be happier in a wetland, rather than in Beaffin’s heavily-patrolled domain.

Here’s the video by Farmer Lu of me (Farmer Jack) releasing the turtle in the turtle and fish pond at Wat Umong.

We named her (we think it was a she) “xiao ma gui“, which means “little (year of the) horse turtle” in mandarin Chinese. 

 

Because everyone loves a puppy doing yoga

Yes, this is a shameless ploy to get traffic through exploitation of my cute puppy, but I’m sure if Beaffin could understand computers he would be happy being a blog star. He is quite cute in the Bhujangasana position, don’t you think?beaffin in Bhujangasana position

His “warrior pose” recently made it on the “cutest puppy” blog here.

Crowdsourced identification of some garden finds

One good thing about the rainy season is that time usually spent watering the garden can now be focused on writing and cataloging. Given that I don’t have formal botanical training, my favorite way of identifying plants is to post pictures on flickr’s various “ID this plant” kinds of groups.

For example, I never knew what this common office or house plant was called. There are two varieties in the garden. Turns out it’s a Dracaena species in the Asparagaceae family. This is one case where increased knowledge of the plant has not led to greater appreciation, except the realization that it can be sculpted and bonsaid.

IDracaena species

 

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This Beaumontia, Sp (below) likely brevituba given its rather stubby flowers, is one of the kings of the garden. It is also known as the Nepal Trumpet Flower and the ”Easter-lily-vine”. It smells amazing.

Beaumontia sp., probably B brevituba -- a vine with very sweet smelling flowers--in chiang mai thailand urbanmicrogarden

This Beaumontia species came with the house. The landlord remarked about how expensive this vine was eight or ten years ago when she planted it. Now it’s fairly common around Chiang Mai. It likes to grow up trees and onto roofs. After two seasons of letting it grow wildly, we had to cut it off the roof because the branches were too heavy for the very fragile roofs of our subtropical house.

A very active climber with white sap and originally from India, the Wikipedia entry describes Beaumontia as  ”very showy when in full bloom” and “regarded as among the most outstanding vines of the world” and describes them as “rampant climbers.” Very rampant and showy indeed!

I made a flower essence from the leaves when we cut it back, but the essence is starting to turn sour after one week.  I don’t know much about flower essences, but apparently technically one is supposed to use rainwater and moonlight. I used bottled water and sunlight. Maybe I’ll try again with filtered water and moonlight. Maybe it then needs to be sanitized to avoid growth of bacteria and things.

 

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an invasive ornamental from the landlord--can anyone identify it?

Nothing too special about this Hemigraphis species (above) in the Acanthaceae family, now growing like a weed in my Thai garden after the landlord brought the plant over in an ornamental display. I haven’t been able to find any medicinal use for it.

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Sometimes I just want to know what the weeds growing in my tomato pots are. This plant below seems to be Heliotropium indicum (Borraginaceae). The plant is beautiful as a flowering adult, but the seeds that grow from those flowers are plentiful. It has a variety of traditional medicinal uses and contains toxins as well that make me question whether to ingest it. I’m drying a large specimen that I pulled from the taro bed. Definitely need a bit more information and a knowledgeable guide before any human bioassays can be attempted.

Probably a Heliotropium indicum growing in my tomato pot

Writing about these plants and sharing knowledge, even in my rather uncategorized way, just sharing as a passion at this stage, helps assuage my slight guilt at “crowd sourcing” these plants. Until I learn how to ID plants better myself using a taxonomic key, this seems like the best approach. On the other hand, the people who identify these plants seem to enjoy it and seem to compete with each other to see who can answer first, and I appreciate the help of these plant experts. The world could use more plant experts. Until then, plant enthusiasts are here to sing their praises.

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Singing praises all while looking out for scary things that may pop up, like Scolopendra subspinipes, a rather gruesome manifestation of the centipede. This creature below probably moved into my yard long before I did. I left it alone out of respect, even though one bite can immobilize ones arm. No deaths have been reported. Bad mosquito karma I can handle, but I don’t want to mess with the centipedes. They seem to have the potential to show up in nightmares.

蜈蚣 Scolopendra along the garden perimeter -- likely Scolopendra subspinipes

 

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Not wanting to leave on a sour note, here are some pictures of Talinum paniculatum (dirt ginseng) in all their glory. A relative of spinach, this invasive species is tasty and nutritious  It’s also known as the “jewels of Opar” because of its bright red seeds.

Talinum paniculatum 土人参

Talinum paniculatum growing in my yard berry and leaf close up

Cleaning up the bali curtain (Cissus sicyoides) around the house entrance

Bali Curtain wrapped back around the wall to open up the entrance I should have taken “before” pictures, but I only took “after” pictures. This vine in the grape family (VITACEAE) grows very quickly with the tropical downpours of the rainy season in Chiang Mai. It sends down roots that make the “curtain”. After 50 days away from home, the curtain had almost completely covered the entrance. So I tied back the “roots” and used some nylon rope and propped it up with bamboo.

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I’m hoping the Bali curtain will cover the entire roof. I probably need to get a sprinkler system set up up there first. You can see the rose bush and ornamental ginger plants poking out of the green giant that covers the front porch of the house. A green barrier! We do appreciate our privacy!

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Imagine walking under this at night with the vines all in your face. I did not have the courage to do so after a rain, even with my umbrella, for fear of snakes. I had to clear a path.

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I think it cleaned up pretty nicely.

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This is the walkway all cleaned up.

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The jasmine flower was creeping out too, so I propped it up with some bamboo.

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I spoke yesterday in (on? at?) a webinar about how to boost your career with your blog. I spoke about a different personally-branded blog. Until that webinar, I had forgotten about this site for the last 3 or 4 months because of work and travel. But I really do want my career to be closer to the earth and in a garden. I’m wondering about how I can market some of the plants that I grow in the garden. Perhaps I can turn www.urbanmicrogarden.com into the commercial arm of this www.urbanmicrogarden.org site.

I could sell aqueous solutions of bali curtain, which, according to Wikipedia have anti-lipemic and hypoglycemic effects. Anybody interested? The medical marvels in my garden astound me!

Well, back to environmental report writing…my paying work (for now). Dreams of financial independence in a lovely garden can come true, right?