Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The humble potato – not just for eating.

The potato is a vegetable that is known around the world and doesn’t really need an introduction. However, I came across an interesting article of surprising uses for this humble tuber, which surprised even me.  I thought to share it with you.

The potato evokes some memories of my family farm where I grew up.
  We were planting potatoes, which means we put them in pre-opened deep furrows and then cover them up with soil and leave them to their own devices till their harvest – they need very little care
We had a lady visitor from Freiburg (Capital of the Black Forrest) who came along to the paddock. When my father told her that the seed potatoes are put into the furrow and get covered up with soil, she asked perplexedly, “How do you find them again?” To which my father replied: “We put strings on them,” which she would have believed had my father not told her that he was joking.

The funny thing about potatoes is, since we all grew up with them, we think we know all about ‘em. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation about potatoes; sometimes people think of them as a fattening starch, when in reality, they’re a healthy, fresh vegetable.

More and more, studies are showing they are a perfect fit for a healthy diet, assuming you go easy on the butter and sour cream. So-called “low-carb diets” love to malign potatoes. In fact, research shows potatoes are a great tool in weight loss. They are low in calories and are full of fibre, potassium and vitamin C.

Potatoes are a hardy staple of numerous dishes across a whole range of cultures.
You can eat them mashed, roasted, fried, baked, sautéed, or as part of a salad or soup and they are the fourth most consumed crop in the world, after rice, wheat and corn. But as it turns out, potatoes have many other uses outside of your cooking pot. Some of them are remarkably useful, others are great fun to try, but all of them are bound to surprise you! Here are some ways you can employ your potatoes outside of the dinner table. To learn something from the “Tater People”, Click here!  - Werner


Surprising Uses for Potatoes.
1. Remove Stains.
Foods like turmeric, berries and beetroot are fabulous additions to any meal, but they have a habit of leaving their traces all over your hands. It can take a lot of scrubbing with normal soap to remove these stains, and it's really hard to reach underneath your nails. Don't fear though, just keep half a potato back when preparing the dish and rub it over the affected area to magically remove the blemish! Make sure you get right under your nails too. This will work well on grass and ink stains as well.

 2. Make a Hot or Cold Compress.
This is one you might have read about in books, and it's been used for centuries. Potatoes retain their temperature for a surprisingly long time so if you are out and about on a cold night, keep a couple of hot potato slices in your gloves or pockets. Similarly, if you need to keep cool, use a frozen or chilled potato. If you want to ease aches and pains, then make a hot or cold compress using potato slices inside a sock.

 3. Clean your Windows.
Windows Potatoes make for a terrific non-toxic glass cleaner. Take a raw, uncooked potato and rub if over your windows, car windscreen or even eye glasses, before wiping away the juice with a clean cloth. You will be left with gleaming glass, without damaging your hands or leaving the smell of chemicals up your nostrils. This works well on clear plastic like swimming or ski goggles as well.

 4. Use Potato Juice for Your Ailments.
Ok, so potato juice might not sound like the yummiest mixture in the world, but it has been used for centuries to fight various ailments. It is considered effective against ulcers, sprains, gout, sciatica, heart burn and bruising. The juice is rich in vitamins and it's dead easy to make. Just put a couple of potatoes in a blender, zap them for thirty seconds and you're done. Add carrot or cinnamon juice to improve the taste and you have your own home made medicine.

 5. Remove Warts.
Warts are a rather unsightly annoyance, and if you get one, you will want to rid of it. There's no need to go and have it lasered off though, just treat it with a raw potato. Carefully rub the cut end of the potato across the wart, and leave juice on. Repeat the process every day until the wart is banished for good!

 6. Shine Your Silverware.
If your cutlery is cloudy and your trinkets are tarnished, why not use a potato to restore their sparkle? You can rub a raw potato over the items if you like, but I find it best to soak them in potato water. This also means you don't have to use extra potatoes to perform the task, simply use the water from the batch you have boiled for your dinner. Add any peeled skins into the water for great results.

 7. Remove a Broken Light Bulb from a Socket.
This use of potatoes is trumpeted by numerous sources! At some point in your life, you've probably faced the annoyance of a light bulb breaking as you attempt to unscrew it. You might be wondering why companies can't design bulbs that don't do this, but in the mean time, you have a trusty potato to help you deal with the problem. Cut the potato in half, and gently press the flat side on to the remainder of the bulb. When the bulb is firmly inserted, you can simply screw it out.

 8. Feed Your Geraniums.
The nutrients in potatoes will help your pot plants grown. You can either carve a small hole in the potato and plant the stem of the flower inside it, before putting the whole thing into the soil; or you can sprinkle some potato shavings into the soil around your already growing flowers to give them a fantastic, natural boost.

 9. Sort out Your Skin.
Potatoes are great for your skin, so making yourself a potato face mask once a week can reap rewards. You only need to use mashed potato mixed with water, and leave the resulting paste on your face for 30 minutes. A couple of slices of potato can also be used to reduce the appearance of puffy eyes and black circles, and are a great alternative to the more widely used cucumber. The ability of potatoes to clear up minor rashes and acne have been known for centuries!

 10. Soothe a Headache.
Potatoes have been used to help ease headaches for centuries, and you will only need a few slices. You can rub them into your temples, or for more sustained relief, fix them against your forehead using a head band or bandage.

 11. Relieve a Burn.
If you burnt your fingers on a hot pan, or clipped your arm against the stove while it was still on, reach for a potato. Just 1 slice of raw potato should do the trick - apply it to the burn and fix in place using whatever you have handy.

 12. Make Some Great Personalized Art.
We all remember making potato stamps and dipping them in paint in art class at school. But don't for a second think that this practice is just the preserve of children. These great cushion patterns were made using a potato stamp. Just draw the shape you want on to the cut potato, carve out the shape and dip it in fabric paint before dabbing it over your canvas. Personalise bags, cushions, walls - whatever you like! It's a really fun and easy way to personalize your home, and is great for kids too. Click on “Source” to see a picture.

13. Absorbs Excess Salt from a Soup or Cooking Pot.
If you have over-salted your pot of soup or pasta by mistake, then throw in some potato slices or cubes to restore the balance. Leave the potatoes in while the mixture simmers for ten minutes or so, and then scoop them back out.

 14. Banish Rust from Metal.
Are your old tools or kitchen utensils starting to look like antiques? Restore them to former glories by chopping a potato in half, adding a liberal amount of soap or salt to the cut end and rubbing it over the affected surface. Rinse and dry the object thoroughly afterwards. This works great on along the edge of large carving knives!  Source
For more interesting.
About Potatoes.
Health benefits of potatoes.
Potato facts.
My thought for today.Werner
Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments. - Bethenny Frankel

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Managing Dr. Westaway’s Sugarcane Farm at Smithfield, North Queensland.

Here is another story from my life. By taking the position as manager of the “Smithfield Farming Company” at the Captain Cook Highway Smithfield brought me and the family from the south side of Cairns to the north side, and eventually to Yorkeys Knob. I hope you find this story interesting. Also read a relating story and click on the "Prawn" link.. Click here. - Werner
Dr. Lesley Westaway, a millionaire, bought a cane farm at Smithfield. The farm is 90 hectares and produced around the 4000 tons of cane.  Part of it was located along the Captain Cook Highway and the other part was along Yorkeys Knob Road. John, the 17 year old eldest son of Lesley & Margaret Westaway was working there to learn the ropes, and take over the farm eventually.

When I took over as farm manager in October 1969, I didn’t know what I had let myself in for, but that is a long story and I will shorten this considerably. Despite being a very rich man Dr. Westaway was reluctant to part with money, except for his own use. It was customary for farm managers to have a free hand in spending up to a thousand dollars on machinery repair or purchases needed for the farm, but not me; I had to ring him for anything that was more than ten dollars. I had a hotline to his office: as soon as I told the secretary who I was I got through to him. If, for instance, I needed 20 bolts, I had to first ring the business in Cairns to ask how much the bolts were, then I would ring him and say that I need 20 bolts and they cost $15.00, and he would immediately say to me, “Are you sure that you need 20 bolts?  Wouldn’t 10 be enough?” So, I had to argue with him that we need the 20 bolts and tell what they were for and, eventually he would say, “OK, get them.” This was always such a waste of time.

John and his siblings were not on good terms with their father, mainly because he wanted his children to also become doctors and they all rebelled against him. One daughter became a ladies hairdresser, the other girl married a businessman and the other boy became a motor mechanic.

The previous farm manger liked to go to the pub at Redlynch after work and took John along. This was one of the reasons he got the sack. John was living at his parents’ place at the Cairns Esplanade. John told me that very often there was an argument with his father as he accused them of not doing enough work on the farm. Lesley often used his lunch break between 1 and 2 o’clock to drive to Smithfield and drive around the farm to see if they were working. Because John befriended himself with the farm manger, there was constant nagging by his father about the manager and the work on the farm. So one day John had enough of this and knocked his father down with a couple of blows with his fists.  This resulted in his father getting two black eyes and having to employ a locum tenens for a week, as he couldn’t go to his surgery until his black eyes had disappeared. John then moved into one of the two farm houses and the manager was dismissed. John recounted this incident to me later saying, “The (expletive) just remained lying on the floor without fighting back.”

The farm and the tractors were a bit of a novelty for Dr. Lesley Westaway, and he derived great pleasure from coming to the farm on the weekend and driving around on the tractors – very much to my chagrin. When we finished on Friday or Saturday, I had stipulated to John and a casual man working on the farm to have their tractor greased and the right implement attached on the tractor so that we would have a good start on Monday morning. However, to my shock and horror, when I arrived on my first Monday morning at the job, there were two tractors missing from the shed and some implements that were on the tractors before were dumped somewhere in the yard. 

So we had to look for the tractors and often found them somewhere on the other side of the farm, bogged down in soggy soil. Lesley never rang to tell me where he left the tractors. Very often the implements he used for some mucking around on the farm were damaged or bent, and we spent Monday morning looking for tractors and repairing implements. This happened just about every Monday and just about drove me crazy, but I could do nothing - he owned the farm and was the boss.

One morning, shortly after 8 am, the rear tyre of the tractor driven by our casual worker received a big gash caused by some object in the ground and consequently a flat tire. Other farm managers would have simply called the tyre company and have the tyre replaced, but not me - I had to ring Lesley. When I told Lesley that we had a damaged tyre and I asked if I should call the tyre company, he said, “No, I’ll be out at lunchtime and have a look at the tyre.” He finally arrived shortly before 2pm and after inspecting the tyre, he was now finally convinced that a new tyre was needed and I could now ring the tyre company. Dunlop could only come out the following morning and the tractor was idle in the paddock for more than 24 hours.

Margaret, Lesley’s wife, was a completely different person and I got on well with her.
Lesley was absolutely money hungry.  He was the only doctor in Cairns at that time who made house calls day and night, and his motivation was undoubtedly money. I asked him one day how much he paid for the farm and he replied, “I don’t want to reveal this.” A few days later Margaret told me in the course of a casual conversation that they paid one hundred and eighty thousand dollars for the farm and at the same time told me that they just made their first million.

Without fail, every weekend I got a phone call from Lesley telling me that they were coming to the farm and asking if I had five minutes time to discuss farm matters with him. Of course these “five minutes” often became two hours and often finished up with an argument between us. One day he showed me a book on cane growing in which he had certain things underlined with red, blue, or green. I told him in no uncertain way that I know how to grow cane and that was the reason he employed me. To show me a book about cane growing, I told him, is tantamount to me showing him a book on surgery procedure - of which I know as much as he knows about cane growing. I used to say to Karola after such weekend discussions that if I were here too long I’d finish up in a psychiatric asylum.

Lesley derived great pleasure in buying new big tractors and the newest implements, and then driving up and down the headland along the Cook Highway to parade them to the other farmers in the area, whom he referred to as hillbillies. He used to go to the farm hail, rain or shine every weekend.  I saw him on occasions when I went to the shop at Smithfield in pouring tropical rain planting grass or driving the tractor, wearing a rain coat of course. The farm was a new toy and diversion for Lesley.

Because I selected the right fertilizer and practiced intensive irrigation, which was very hard work, I produced a record cane crop of 5,600 tons. This was an all time record and the sugar mill in Edmonton congratulated me on this, telling me that the highest yield ever on that farm was 4,100 tons.  Not a word of appreciation or praise came from Lesley. The farmers in the area used to say to me, “Werner you are silly to work so hard and put such a lot of effort into this farm.  You will never get any thanks for it.” Of course they were right with their postulation.  My answer was, “Of course I know that I’m silly doing this, but when I leave this farm, I want to leave with a good conscience, having done the right thing by my employer.”

When we irrigated I put in three shifts a da
y. The pump was timed to switch off after six hours, and then we let the soil settle for two hours and then shifted the pipes further on in the paddock. This was an arduous job. The soil was muddy and we could only work barefoot as we often sank in to our knees, and rubber boots would have stayed behind in the mud. Our feet got cuts from stepping on cane stools.

John had two horses which were kept fenced in the horse paddock. One day, in the middle of the planting season and one of the busiest times of the year, a horse stepped on John’s foot on the weekend and he had to see a doctor – but he didn’t go to his father, he went to another doctor in Cairns.  Monday morning John told me what had happened and that the doctor declared him unfit for work gave him 4 weeks off. I had for some time a pinched sciatic nerve which got worse by the day, and I went to my doctor who wanted to give me six weeks off work. I told him that I couldn’t do it as I was the manger of a cane farm, that we are planting cane and I had several casual labourers employed, as well as John being off work. I asked him to prescribe some strong pain killers for me so that I could carry on working.

On day Lesley and Margaret turned up in their lunch break to see how things were going, or perhaps to see if we were lying under a tree sleeping. In the course of the conversation I told him that I was in a lot of pain with a pinched sciatic nerve, but he pretended not to hear it. But he must have been thinking what would happen if I would take sick leave. There was a flu epidemic around and he asked me if I’d had a flu needle. I said, “No.” He would have been clearly worried that if I got the flu besides having my sciatic nerve problem I’d be off work for sure – and what the consequences would have been for the farm. “Well,” he said, “the next time you are in Cairns call in at the surgery and get a flu injection.”

When I told Karola that Lesley had offered me what I thought to be a free flu shot, she said immediately, “That will not be free; he’ll charge you for it.” I argued that he wouldn’t. Sure enough, a couple of days after my shot I had the bill in the mail. Karola said, “See, I told you so.” And I said, “This is a mistake by the office girl, and I’ll prove to you.  When Lesley comes out on the weekend, I’ll hand him a cheque personally, and you’ll see, he won’t take it.” So, the weekend came and so did Lesley, as usual.  I gave him the cheque and he asked what it was for, and I said for the flu injection.  He said, “Thank you very much,” and put it in his pocket. No need to tell you that I was fed humble pie by Karola.

Money was no object, as long as it was spent on him or on the farm as a tax reduction.
I couldn’t blame him for that; nobody likes to give money to the taxation department. His first action was to have the low lying large horse paddock filled up with soil. About ten trucks were engaged to fill in the paddock which took more than three weeks and would have cost in excess of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I levelled it all with the tractor with a blade on the back.

Lesley's next project was to bulldoze down a natural waterway, which was on Robinson’s Road, off Yorkeys Knob Road. This was a wildlife sanctuary through which Avondale Creek was flowing. It was also bordering the farm of my long-time friend, Tom Robinson who was totally against this destruction, as was I. This put me in a difficult situation. According to the law, you cannot interfere with a natural waterway, and Tom knew that Lesley had a boundless supply of money, and if Tom would take him to court, it would be an expensive exercise for him - and for that reason Tom did not pursue that course. And Westaway practically got away with murder.

I was busy irrigating the paddocks along the Captain Cook Highway. When George Fleming, the bulldozer owner driver was going to commence knocking down the trees in the Avondale waterway, he found too much water in it and too boggy for the Bulldozer. So he came over to me and asked me if I would get the irrigation pump over there and pump water out. I said that I would, but only in about four days when I finished irrigating. He went away in a huff, and said in parting, “I’ll see about that. I’ll phone Lesley.”

Lesley came out in his Lunch break and came straight to me and said that he wanted me to shift the pump to the other side. I said I’d do it in four days. “No, I want you to do it now!” he said. I said that it would break my irrigation cycle, and it is very difficult to move the pump, break the irrigation line up and then reassemble it again in a few days time. I also said to him, very assertively, “If you insist on this I’ll do it, but I’ll tell you this much, I will not irrigate the rest of the farm again. It is up to you to decide if you want me to grow more cane or take the pump away and stop irrigating and get less cane.” He then said, “OK keep irrigating,” and walked away.

I had already reached the stage on this farm, when it would have been a Godsend if he had given me the sack. I remembered then that John said to me once that his father had no guts, and if you stand up to him he’ll give in – that assertion proved to be true.

Eventually I got the irrigation pump into the waterway and started to pump out water. Through the middle of this waterway was a causeway for Remo Catana, who had cane on the other side. He had to haul out cane and I had a pump hose (150 mm diameter) lying across the causeway, so I got the men to dig a trench to lie the hose into, and then to close it with dirt. When the time came to remove the hose, I told George Fleming to push the soil away with the bulldozer; he went too deep and damaged it.

Once a week I called in at the Westaway’s residence on the Esplanade to discus farm matters. I rang Headrick’s at Cairns to find out how much a replacement piece of hose would cost and I was told thirty dollars. That evening I paid my usual visit to the Westaway residence and told him about the damaged hose and what it would cost to replace it.  He exploded and like berserk walked around the table shouting, “This is a flagrant waste of money,” repeating it over and over and at regular intervals hitting his fist on the table to give emphasis to his histrionics.  After watching this performance for a while, I said, “For heavens sake, if these thirty dollars will break you, for bloody peace sake take it off my bloody pay” – and walked out.

In the 1970s and with the Vietnam War, the Australian government was using a ballot system to conscript men between the ages of 18 and 21, needed for the Australian war commitment. It was like a lottery; when your number came up, you were conscripted. Well, John Westaway’s number came up, and in due course he was called up for a medical examination by an army doctor in Cairns. If the person was declared fit, he was sent to army training and eventually to Vietnam. Whilst John was not against serving time in the army, his father had different ideas.

When John got a letter from the army, he was surprised to find that he was unfit for army service because of health reasons. And when he read on, he nearly fainted when reading how many health impairments he had. He found that he was colour-blind, was myopic, had difficulty with hearing, had breathing problems, hip displacement problems, and had a heart condition. John could immediately smell a rat and suspected that his father had a hand in this and possibly knew or bribed the army doctor to come out with such a result.

John would have none of this and got in touch with the army in Brisbane, and demanded that he be re-examined by an army doctor in Brisbane, and stated the reason for this. The army complied and John went to Brisbane, and was found totally fit to serve in the army and was called up for training. It would be interesting to know what happened to the doctor who examined John in Cairns and found how “sick” he was. John was lucky – when he had finished his training, the Vietnam War had ended, but John admitted that his short stint in the army was beneficial for him and made him a different and better person. John and his wife Gail and I have good personal relations. When John read in the Cairns Post about my dog attack, he was the first person to ring to see how I was.

I was getting sick and tired of Lesley’s peculiarity, the limitations imposed on me, the constant arguments with him etc. The thought that I had to terminate my employment here before I finish up in an asylum was foremost in my mind. There was no future here for me. Two farmers in the Smithfield area were looking for a manager for their cane harvesting operation and approached me and offered me the position, which I gladly accepted. The position was not available for a few months and I had to keep it quiet and also had to look for a place to live. We had intended to look for a place to rent, but couldn’t find one and then found a house in the process of being built, which was for sale – so we bought it, and have been in it ever since.

When we could move into our new home I quit my job.
I gave my resignation to Lesley in writing and handed the letter to his secretary at the surgery. I tried to do the right thing to the end, although he never did the right thing by me. I told Lesley among other things that I will stay on for up to four weeks until he found a new farm manger. There was no response from Lesley at all. The following day his wife, Margaret, was playing golf with lady friends.  When one asked Margaret if they were looking for a new farm manager, Margaret said, “No, we have a farm manager.” “But,” continued the friend, “you are the “Smithfield Farming Company, aren’t you?” “Yes we are,” replied Margaret. “OK then, in today’s Cairns Post there is an advertisement which reads that the Smithfield Farming Co is looking for a new farm manager.”

When Margaret got back to the clubhouse for lunch she looked into the Cairns Post and found that they were looking for a farm manager alright. Margaret then rang me and wanted to know what was going on and asked if Lesley had given me the sack. “No,” I said, “I quit.  Didn’t Lesley tell you?” “No, not one single word,” she replied. She went on to say, “Werner I don’t blame you - we had it coming, and I wish you all the best for the future.”
Lesley found a replacement within a week and I left. To make a long story short, this manager didn’t know much about cane growing and constantly came to me for advice. The following cane Harvest produced only 3,100 tons, as compared to 5,600 tons under my management, and he was sacked.  Lesley phoned me and offered me the job back and told me that I could set my own salary.  I kindly declined the offer, but I was pleased no end that the offer was made.
My thought for today. - Werner
We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon. Konrad Adenauer

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