Monday, April 30, 2012

It's all coming down to bananas once again.

I have been keeping an eye on my banana tree since a conical shaped flower appeared suddenly after the rain. My enthusiasm   is compounded by the fact it is long overdue to repay me with its dividend since I first planted it in my backyard five years ago. Until now, it is one of those bad investments that are not yielding a good percentage of its par value.

I am pretty sure my conversation piece at the dinner table in my house for this week will be the CPI barometer growing in my backyard. For Australia, it's all coming down to bananas once again by the RBA. The nation's 23 million people have always been very touchy about references to the yellow fruit. A previous Prime Minister Paul Keating from 1991 to 1995 once famously warned Australia risked becoming a banana republic. But the plummeting price of bananas over the past three months has been a godsend to the current Treasurer, Wayne Swan, by pulling down inflation. According to the some economists on the Reserve Bank‘s interest rate decision tomorrow; falling prices - led by a drop in the cost of fruit - have made an interest rate cut all but certain by the RBA board which always meets on the first Tuesday of each month to set rates with a view to holding inflation within a 2 to 3 per cent target range.

Like all investment in the stock exchange, it is all about timing. Unfortunately, my banana tree is flowering at the wrong time as it is mid autumn and a cold snap may wipe away my potential harvest of its golden yield.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lest We Forget...

Thousands of Australians rose early to pay respect to the nation's fallen diggers in Anzac Day dawn services around the country this morning. As a Singaporean migrant, who was away from his home country for more than four decades, bearing a Singapore passport, I once struggled to see how Anzac Day could have meaning for me when I change my national identity. During my earlier years, I found myself at a loss when watching ceremonies, parades and other activities were held on ANZAC Day to remember the lives of those who participated or died in military action. This wasn’t something to which I could relate except for marching veterans and military personnel trooping their units’ colours in the street as they reminded me of my own participation in street parades during my enlistment in the National service in Singapore. And I also knew enough to know that the Australian Diggers fought to defend the British Malaya, colonial Singapore and Papua New Guinea in World War II against the Japanese. In time, I came to accept the Anzac legend as integral to an Australian story, as a cornerstone of mateship and represent the comradeship that the soldiers experienced as they rose each morning to prepare for another day of military action, particularly on the Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I. Truth is, when you adopt a national identity you inherit a tradition, with all the benefits and responsibilities that come with it. And one of those responsibilities is to remember on Anzac Day that the soldiers risked and sacrificed their lives for Australia, a place we now call home. It has since developed into a day where all enlisted men are remembered and honoured for their service to the country. It is important not to forget the sacrifices made, hence the words; Lest we forget.

 Anzac Biscuits Recipe
 1½ cup Rolled Oats
 ½ cup plain flour ½ cup sugar
 90 grams butter 1 tablespoon golden syrup/honey
 1 tablespoon boiling water
 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda Method:
 1. Pre-heat oven to 180°
 2. Mix together the oats, flour and sugar in a medium bowl.
 3. Heat butter together with golden syrup or honey until melted.
 4. Combine water and bicarbonate of soda In a small bowl, then add into the golden syrup/honey mix while stirring.
 5. Pour syrup into the dry ingredients and mix together to combine.
 6. Roll a dessertspoon of mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Press down tops to flatten slightly.
 7. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown. Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chicken or the Egg?

Last week at a friend’s place, the sight of brood of chicken digging and searching for food over a pile of lawn clippings evoked fond memories of the kampong lifestyle I knew from my visits to my maternal grandmother at her village during my school holidays. Sadly, the old village was bulldozed to give way for the construction of blocks of HDB flats after it was zoned and destined to become Ponggol Housing Estate in Singapore. I am now seriously toying with the idea of having a couple of chooks in my backyard as they bring a bit of old-style living back to my suburban existence. I am pretty sure that I am not the only one going “chooku”, as it is reported recently in the news recently that the retail giant Bunnings who owns a chain of home improvement stores has noted a recent trend towards people trying to create a more eco-friendly environment for their kids at home. Before I build a chook pen and rush to buy a couple of day old chicken, I have to sell my idea to my wife who has always been not too keen of having backyard chooks. It is going to be a tough sell on the economic point of view. Not only will I get a negative answer but for sure to receive a question in return. Is it economically viable to produce your own eggs? Sadly the answer is no. I have done some calculations which to begin with, will make the cost per egg more than purchasing eggs from a store, especially when you take into the account of the initial costs involved with raising chickens in your own backyard. I also learned that chicks up until the age of around 2 months should also be fed a special chick feed, this will set you back between $10-$15.The purchase of a chicken coop will be your largest expense. Unless you are lucky enough to have an old shed that can be turned into a coop but if not you will either have to build your own or buy a pre-made coop. Pre-made coops can cost anywhere between $200-$2000. The other option is to keep an eye out for second hand coops in your local classifieds. You can save a lot of money by building your own coop. Costs in building your own coop with involve timber, chicken wire and nails and vary in costs depending on the size required. There isn’t much ammunition left for me to convince my better half to come to the party, but there is no harm telling her that chooks makes great pets even if you are not interested in egg production.