Overnight at a farm near Shanghai (picture-heavy)
Soon after we got to Shanghai, we stayed overnight at a farm.
This farm is not very far away from Shanghai. It's on the eastern end of the same peninsula, just south of Pudong airport. In fact I think it's technically inside the city limits?
Are those beds... shrink-wrapped?
The place we were staying had basically dormitory-style eating and sleeping arrangements. The farm pulls in extra money by offering Rustic Farm Experiences to city-folk like us.
A grid of sluggish irrigation canals criss-crosses the landscape. Behind our building, I found this decrepit cement barge floating low in the water.
I heard some squeaking coming from inside, and followed it to find...
A family of guinea pigs living inside the hold.
The thing about this farm that I found odd, from my American perspective, was the density.
In America we associate farms with wiiiiide open spaces. There aren't a lot of those in China. They have to farm every bit of land as efficiently as possible, as they've been doing for thousands of years.
This farm area had a density of roads and houses not much less than some American suburbs I've been to.
Imagine a suburb with irrigation channels, where everybody is intensely cultivating their front yards, back yards, the six inches of dirt between the fence and the road, etc.
Our hosts sent us out to pick some vegetables for dinner: Beans...
("青菜", which is called "qingcai" in Mandarin; Bok Choy, like many Chinese to English loan words, comes from Cantonese.)
We washed the vegetables with well water from a hand pump, then our hosts cooked it for us over a wood fire.
They told us to take the vegetable scraps and feed them to the 兔子. ("rabbits").
"Um, rabbits?" Sushu said "Your rabbits... have very short ears."
We found out the Chinese name for guinea pigs is "Dutch rabbits", so they abbreviate it to rabbits.
Makes more sense as calling them guinea "pigs"; they're closer to rabbits than pigs, anyway.
Apparently a location near hear was the site of one of China's earliest rocket launches, something the locals are still proud of.
Alright, lunchtime's over; it is now time for Activities. Let's go out and explore this farm.
Traditional Chinese food-processing machinery, on display for you to try out!
The foot-powered mortar-and-pestle...
The grinding wheel, for grinding soybeans when making tofu or other soybean products.
The loom! Sushu and me took turns sitting down at this thing until we figured out how to use it.
Man, looms are cool. When they were first invented they must have been the most complex machinery of their time. I'm still impressed at the ingenuity of using foot-pedals to raise and lower alternate threads of the warp so you can pass a shuttle through.
More activities! Boating in a pond!
The pond was tiny, but the boats were even tinier. No bigger than bathtubs.
In fact I think they were made out of bathtubs, with some extra foam and plastic nailed to the outside for stability. They were the lowest-tech boats I've ever seen.
Fishing for 龙虾 (longxia)!
I thought "longxia" (lit. "Dragon shrimp") meant "lobster", but don't get too excited...
In this case it just meant crayfish.
The ones living in the irrigation channels and ponds.
I was not patient enough to catch any, but whatever; it was about having an excuse to sit around outside.
Also harvested from the irrigation channels for eating: Snails!
Feeding the goats!
Ducks and geese.
Other crops grown here include corn...
Peaches (I think), individually bagged on the tree for protection...
...and various squashes and melons.
Note the ingenious use of trellises to extend the growing area out over the water.
Those bamboo-and-plastic-sheeting greenhouses you can see in the background are used to extend the growing season of heat-loving plants like watermelons.
We went and bought a watermelon from the neighbour. Well, I only wanted to buy one, but she guilt-tripped us into buying two.
That's one whole watermelon each for me and Sushu. Ever tried to eat a whole watermelon? We were eating it at every meal for the next few days.
It was really good watermelon, though, so that's OK.
Dinner that night, Yangtze-delta country style. Eggplant, kongxincai, egg-and-tomato soup, duck, and rabbit (normal rabbit, not Dutch Rabbit.)
Old dude poling a boat down the channel.
A wrecked ship in one of the channels.
Breakfast time, and we're still working on that watermelon.
After breakfast, our hosts sent a guy to drive us to the seaside.
We had to share the road with this herd of goats.
I wore my swim trunks, but unfortunately "seaside" in this case does not mean "beach", it means "wall of concrete pilings designed to slow erosion".
On the left is a wall built to stop spring tides from overflowing into the roads and fields.
Among the concrete pilings there were these huge segmented athropods that would scuttle away with alarming speed as we approached.
A fishing shack, on stilts. The fishermen can hang out in there, safe from high tides, and work the nets.
Nearby there is an enormous artificial lake, perfectly round, as you can see in this satellite photo. The farmland and seacoast where we just were is to the northeast of the lake.
At the exact center of the lake sits this weird ring sculpture.
It's supposed to be artistic, but it makes me think of some kind of alien homing device from Bliss Stage or something.
Near the lake there is a huge, brand-new, fancy neighbourhood of tall, modern buildings and wide, modern roads.
...with, as far as I could tell, absolutely nobody living in it.
Because it's inconveniently located to the rest of Shanghai, and the rent's probably too high for anyone to afford anyway.
So in contrast to the farmland, and to downtown Shanghai, the streets are all eerily deserted.
This is what you get with centralized government planning (by no means unique to China) -- huge building projects, delusions of grandeur, and then they make something nobody wants or can afford.