August 10, 2010

Disappearing Miri - Water Lettuce - Organic Feed for Pigs

Today in some places in Sarawak pigs are still being fed in the old style I am sure - vegetarian diet so that their meat is sweet and lean and could be sold at a higher price....

I remember my aunts boiling large tins of water lettuce and yam leaves for their pigs whenever I went to stay in Nan Chong near Chung Cheng School in Sibu. Fire wood was collected from the river - from  the logs which floated down. And my cousins would be the ones to  saw them and chop them  up into smaller pieces and  later bundle them up with a wire for the open wood fire.

My two aunts who looked after the pigs would always wear two  long sleeved cotton floral  shirts and have their cotton pajama or sam foo trousers slipped into knee high boots. Their big straw  hats could be seen miles away in the swampy lowland as they bobbed up and down amongst the green leafy patch cutting the yam leaves. Sometimes they would disappear among the tall plants!! We were fortunate that these yams would grow wild in huge areas to support the pig population. Today when I see yam leaves I would think of my grandmother and my aunts and uncles.

The other vegetable given to the pigs would be water lettuce which were found in great abundance in the ponds next to the pig sties. Often we went fishing in these ponds and our normal tilapia would bite our bait to our delight. But as the Rajang River was still full of fish then we would not eat those black tilapia. We would give them to our cats which caught lots of mice in the smoke house and the upper floor of our grandmother's house which also doubled as rice storage. My aunts would scoop the water lettuce up in the evenings and put them into the huge tins to give their pigs a good warm meal of the day.

For breakfast and lunch the pigs got food scraps and leafy vegetables. We would throw these meals on the wooden food trays and the lovely pigs would snort and push each other. After their meals we children would bathe them and clean up the sties . This was the kind of holiday I had when I was young.

Sago and ya koo (copra bits) were also added to the organic and vegetative stew to make the food taste better. Pigs fed in this way grew fast and soon they would be slaughtered. The mother pigs would also start their gestation and little piglets would soon be born to the delight of the whole village. It was always a happy occasion for my aunts to announce that their mother pigs were expecting. And kids might even start to count the days. Most of our pigs were pink but some times some with black spots would be born.

Today  I can say that most Sarawak pig farmers no longer use organic feed. May be it is too troublesome. They depend mainly on animal feed. On the other hand they are also well educated in animal health. Several  pig farmers I know have their own  consultant vets.

Today water lettuce is for decorative purposes mainly and it is indeed quite difficult to find them in the wild .

But once in a while I can still catch a glimpse of them growing in ponds in some scattered and remote farm homesteads around Miri. And my mind would be transported into another world.

We must be thankful to the  free and wild water lettuce for helping us make a living all those  years  long ago!!


fufu said...

water lettuce?? erm never heard of it though... anyway thanks for sharing this :)

Anonymous said...

Forgot to sign my nick above.


Ann said...

We were fore front in organic pig farming. may be you should go and re educate the farmers. tell them the pigs will be leaner and sell at a higher price and cancer free to people who eat them.

I read some where these lettuces are an obnoxious plant.

Oh yes, the pigs were fed with pumpkins. that is why i don;t eat pumpkins. Remember the big longkang at the mosque? All those barges filled with pumpkins?

Foochow were very steady. Your women had gum boots. Our cantonese women went barefooted. LOL

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Sarawakiana, love those 'water lettuce'.....first time I read they are called that.
Old days used to love see them in ponds, then sure to have fish hiding around.
Glad to read you did some fishing too. I did not have much time do fishing when in Sarawak as always flying in, then out.....nor much time fish for SYT's, ha ha.
Or else today sure have a Sarawak wife.

I enjoyed your previous posting re Korean movie. And the grapes growing.

Toronto is known as Hollywood North, and everyday there will be filming done US film companies prefer do filming here, cheaper.

You have fun, and keep well, Lee.
ps, heard that in KL pigs only allowed to be slaughtered on certain days only. Betul ke?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
How's the beginning of the week? I had a great morning!! Sang Rasa Sayang with the International students and took photos. Almost towards the end of exams now.
I do remember my aunts have these two pairs of boots when they went into the mud for the yams/taro. But when they went rubber tapping (where the soil was slightly firmer)they were bare footed and they could really cycle!! One of them still cycles in Sibu in Lucky Road...remember that place near RTM in Sibu? She does not require her children to drive her anywhere around that area. She takes the bus sometimes. Very independent.

Sarawakiana@2 said... were about to give me the scientific name for water lettuce? May be there are several types...big ones and the small ones...thanks in advance.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
I am sure you would have chosen a wonderful Sarawak wife...
I am not sure about pigs being slaughtered on certain days only. In Sarawak the butchers have to have a day off each week and pigs are transported by road at certain hours only e.g. 5 p.m. Abattoirs operate from 2 a.m. onwards.

Fishing is a good hobby in SArawak mind you.... I always enjoyed going with my favourite third uncle for jala fishing by the river...we could get prawns and the special baong...very tasty fish indeed and rare nowadays. Have you eaten Sarawak Tapah? That's heavenly.

Nice to know about Toronto being a good place for movies...I always have this dream of writing a script or scripts for movies...

Photos I take often make me go on an imagination overdrive...

Have a good week...cheers.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Fufu...still in Brazil or back in Frankfurt?

Water lettuce is Piu Dieh (weeds floating in pond)..may some Perakians can tell you that.


Anonymous said...

Ya, Sarawakiana,

I thought I had posted the scientific name but my message didnt get thro. The water lettuce is Pistia and it is a species of the yam family (araceae).

Bengbeng said...

i like this recollections of the past.. an interesting post indeed

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks I can add a few more bits to the post...much appreciated..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Bengbeng
Really appreciate your reading and comments...I find remembering events and actions of the past very good for my brain health...and I do it also as I think there is a need for ethnographic documentation.

Anonymous said...

In East Malaysia there have a Aun Xin pork shop selling this kind of pork. It taste extra tender and much tastier.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Anonymous..must try to find this shop ...see if people can find it...thanks.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that water lettuce is rare in the wild in your area. In most tropic and subtropic areas in can be a serious pest. Here on my little pond in Gainesville Florida, I just harvested several hundred pounds of the weed. . . I have no animals, so I will compost it. . . It is only a 10 acre pond, so my efforts are actually visible. . . Bartram reported the weed on Lake George, and the Saint Johns river in the 1700's, but it is believed by many to have arrived in the bilge of sailing ships, and be originally from Africa. . . I've read that pigs readily eat the weed, while other foraging animals, such as goats and cows, do not care for it. . .

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