“I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.” -Martha Smith
Behind the Matrikunj main building lies a grassy space, 8 by 20 paces , covered in tall grass to prevent soil erosion. On Saturday I mentioning to Baburam that I wanted to plant a few herbs around the small tree that stands near the house, which is currently shading a pile of compost and a confetti of styrofoam chunks. He immediately perked up, saying I could use the whole plot if I wanted. “It would be good to have a model of a small kitchen garden, so people can see how it is possible on a small scale.” Before I knew it he was talking about planting pumpkins and directing one of the workers to clear the whole space for ‘Amelie’s garden.’ I couldn’t believe it, my own space to plant! I grabbed my weeding scythe and went to town on that grass all afternoon and the next. Baburam says “If your clothes aren’t dirty, you’re not a very good farmer.” I must be turning into a really good farmer.
I should still be scraping lyme off walls, but a crowbar just can’t compete with a puppy and a garden. (The painting will commence within the week, I swear…) I have been dreaming of quilted patchworks of tiered herb beds, wind chimes for the trees to wear, ferned islands, a reading bench, and trellises for winding vines of wild cucumber, snake bean, and passionfruit. This space will have a little bit of everything: sugar cane, banana, eggplant, sweet potato, mint, basil, jasmine, okra, aloe vera. Planning a garden is like painting, but instead of flat pigment your medium is creation itself, breathing and and four dimensional. What a heady and humbling purpose. My garden will not tame the chaos of this jungly place, but highlight the unifying perfection between the stones, animals, water and soil, sun and stars. Today I held a spider that was all white, albino with an abdomen of neon green, as if it was off to graffitti something.
I spent today hauling coconut shells and laying out my garden design with some rope and lots of patience. They are recycled from Mt. Coconut Shell that towers next to the blacksmithing shed. They will not last forever, but they are pretty and easy to set up. They will also help retain moisture in the soil. I am also building a small bridge over the irrigation ditch, which will be the far entrance into the garden. We will eventually cover the logs with earth to create a nice flat surface. I had so much fun working today, I barely stopped for lunch and a glass of juice at teatime. One of the farm workers who lugged coconuts with me ended the day with, “Amelie’s garden, super!” Tomorrow we plant.
Oh! And a new friend arrived one morning last week. She weighs 2.6 kg and likes to use my flip-flops as chew toys. She has huge ears and soft, golden fur. She is very smart and curious, sticking her nose in happenings all over the farm. The puppy follows me everywhere, so close underfoot that she gets tangled up in my legs. She is fierce too: when the other dogs snarl at her, she just growls back, completely unaware that she is four times smaller and in foreign territory. I’ve never had a dog before, it’s all very exciting.
I’m in love.