Updated: Aug 4, 2021
When your hobby, work and helping the community come together as one!
Mark Twain once said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
I shall let you know about one of my useful and rewarding hobbies which led to a passion to improve the health and well-being of the wider community / large populations, as well as simply being there to help close neighbours and friends.
I had a lot of sickness during primary school but seemed to have a talent for planting most seeds and getting them to grow. Avocado, nectarine, nasturtium, broad beans, wheat, even difficult to grow orchards with great success – I turned my parent’s backyard into a productive jungle so I had a knack for gardening as a hobby well before I went to high school.
Finishing all the required high school work in Chemistry, I remember taking a plant from the backyard and separating out the chemical components to fill in time waiting for the others in my class to catch up.
My Honours project at university, investigated a mechanism to control a fungal root disease of wheat with the CSIRO. On completion, I was employed by a pharmaceutical company which would later take me around Australia and the World to improve treatments on many of the health conditions that we see today.
As Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. After I returned from working in the USA, the company branched into buying some smaller companies in the preventative health area rather than focusing on just treating symptoms. I moved into developing dietary supplements eg herbal medicine and vitamins/minerals and other complementary medicine products for some very well-known brands and have followed the factory around 3 different states of Australia since. Not many people work in research over 3 decades for the one company. The time has gone quickly as I have enjoyed every minute.
What makes me happy?: Eating well, having a sense of purpose and being grateful for what I have.
We have been in Queensland now for nearly 20 years and our backyard is also a jungle from my gardening success as everything I plant grows so fast.
In February, I planted some vegetables in-case we had to have a complete lock-down like they did in China from a growing viral pandemic.
After removing the leaves from Kang Kong / Ong Choy (Chinese Water Spinach), I put the stems that normally get thrown out, into the dirt, and they grew into new plants: (see photo)
I planted a climbing bean seed (see photo) which should yield a harvest in late April:
I also put a sprouting choko (chayote) into soil which should have fruit in May.
When the weather cools, I hope to plant some coriander, basil and chives.
Alfalfa sprouts, possibly, if we have to be stuck inside.
Sometimes during Queensland’s winter, I may plant cherry tomatoes and bok choy if needed and space allows.
I already have chilli plants and sweet potatoes where you can also eat the leaves.
We have curry leaf tree, moringa (drumstick tree), banana (see photo), passion fruit, dragon fruit and kalamansi tree as well as ginger but these take about 2 years of care and patience before you get something to eat.
If everyone planted something edible in their back yard, we would be more self-sufficient as a local community, have healthier people with a healthier planet instead of a polluted concrete jungle. It gives something useful to do and some sunlight / relaxation after a busy week stuck inside at work or study.
Any excess fruits/ vegetables you can share with friends and neighbours.
Hobby – work and community become further linked:
To help stop the spread of a pandemic here, I started to let the local community (neighbours, friends) know to keep away from large crowds as “social distancing” already started at my work before people even knew what it meant in Australia.
Helping the community hasn’t been natural to me as it was something I did unknowingly and indirectly in the background behind closed doors with my job of 30 years. In fact, my joy would just be walking into any kitchen or bathroom in Australia / New Zealand, now some countries overseas, and silently seeing some medicine or healthcare product I developed to appreciate the millions of lives I have touched in a small way.
As I got older, I also helped at my local church, was a mentor for the Smith Family to those going through university, helped reduce the scale of residential development on our local sporting field as well as neighbouring suburb and tried to bring our local Neighbourhood Watch group back from near extinction at a time when globalisation and overuse of the internet and social media has meant we have forgotten that the most important people and things are actually right near us.
If you are lucky to have a break at this time, just think about what is important in your life and how you can make a positive difference to those around you.
D. (name, company and suburb kept private)