The final line of Candide advises that "we must cultivate our garden." Your brain is probably telling you this is a metaphor and the true meaning requires effort on your part. Furthermore, the deep analytical skills required to properly decipher it would require an English degree or Philosophy degree or both. To the contrary, the message is simple- we should all start and maintain gardens (I did not do well in English classes). This was one of the things I was eager to do in South Africa. I had only intended to have a very small plot with a few vegetables and herbs to see if I could successfully keep plants. My last attempt was with a very nice bonsai tree I received for a present and then promptly neglected until it whithered away. It was shameful. With my project here, any fruit and vegetable would be incidental to the practice of tending to a garden. It turned out to be a much larger undertaking than I had planned and will probably be the only sustainable, or at least continued project, from my stay in my village. I am a little troubled to be leaving it behind because a lot of work went into it and I want to continue to see how it grows. I know it is in good hands though and will fair just fine without me.
I asked my host family if I could use a small patch of land. Our notions on what a small patch of land differed. The area that we ended up staking out was about 200 m^2. This was all for the best anyway because the smallest fencing I could buy was 50 m (I was not keen on using barbed wire or acacia branches ).
This was the most labor intensive part of the garden setup. Duties included measuring out the plots, tilling the soil and getting rid of the incredibly embedded grass and weeds and planting the first seeds. Clearing out the grass was the worst because ripping out the leaves and most of the roots is not good enough, you have to really get down there and get the whole root system and then don't make the mistake of leaving it out because it will just start growing again. You must dry it out in a big pile and then burn it for certainty sake. Calling the stuff zombie grass is appropriate. Also, all the work was done with shoddy tools. None of them were large enough for an adult human being and they have all broken and been repaired a couple times. The ensuing blisters made it so that I could have shaken hands with an actual farmer and he/she wouldn't have thought I wear cotton gloves all day and lotion them twice daily. Fooled them because I do!
These are little cucumber and pumpkin plants. That hole on the right belongs to the ant colony living nearby, we drowned them and the hole sunk in. I eventually had to resort to a borax ant trap that worked incredible well. I saw my dark side run amok when the ant massacre began.
Pretty little mealie (corn) plants all in a row. There is something incredible satisfying about plants growing in ordered lines. We have corn pretty well under our (green)thumbs. Just don't tell the rest of the grasses that we need them more than they need us, they might stop being so cooperative and delicious.
I have previously posted many of the other vegetables/fruits that was grown like melons and pumpkin, so I won't waste your time. Here is the remainder of the best looking produce from the first crop of the garden (green beans, cucumbers and watermelons). It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment to nurture something and see it grow successfully. I imagine it is similar to the feeling parents have for their children when they can walk around and have their own thoughts. I suppose the biggest difference is that parents don't eat the children in the end.
I never knew I wanted to eat a sweet potato the size of my own head but now I know that this is what I was put on the Earth to do. Now that my life's mission is complete though I am aimless. Maybe I should just keep eating larger and larger sweet potatoes?
At the end of winter things are looking pretty good. The weeds and ants have been vanquished and the JoJo (green cylinder) at the far end ensures that water will be around for a few days when the water tap gets shut off. Looking onwards, seeds are easy to come by and if there is one thing my village has copious amounts of it is fertilizer (animal poop). The only problem lately has been that the cows try their best to get the water out of the tank and recently broke the tap and water gushed out everywhere. The tank is going to have to be better guarded or at least ask the cows nicely to cut it out.
The neighbors and my host family have taken over every aspect of the upkeep of the garden now. I asked the next volunteer at my site to take some photos occasionally to see how it grows. It seems to me it will be more of an orchard in time (mostly peach trees) but that's fine because it is now theirs and they can do whatever they want with it but I hope that they keep it going.