The zen garden – our experimental patch. Here we experiment with new crops, heirloom variety, companionship, and build our seed bank for tomorrow’s meal. Each monsoon, this patch is left to rest… and as the skies dry, our work commences. Here’s a peak with its residents.
The torrential rains of the monsoon allow us a bit of a breather on the land. Mother nature waters, we sit back, eat cukes, harvest, and work minimally not letting the jungle overtake. Post monsoon, we get busy. A quick rendition…
Members – two new members have joined us on the land. In India, the cow is synonymous with the mother and considered a Goddess (Devi). Sure, the cow gives milk, but for a grower, she shits and pees all over the land. We’ve willed their presence for some years now and are stoked to be joined by these two gorgeous ladies, with their massive strength and gentle presence.
Sows – while the monsoons have stretched over by a month, we can’t pass up a sow period. We kickstarted the year with heirloom tomatoes (adding 3 new varieties to the collection from last), cucumbers (1 heirloom variety and another indigenous one), gourds (several local varieties). In store next are chillis, brinjal, radish, microgreens, and a host of weirdly coloured heirloom veggie seeds we got our hands on!
Ingredients – always foraging for food off the land. Sure, we grow, but what does the forest have for us?! This year, we were introduced to a whole list of indigenous monsoon vegs, also bamboo shoots, and we received some delightful mushroom harvests!
Ferments – our ferment continues to brew, feed for the soil, bubbling with life as we continually add new ingredients off the land
Harvests – harvests have included gourds, herbs, pumpkins, and flowers
Making Friends and Foes – as we ogle at the beauty and variety of nature’s creation, and delve into what role they play on the land… well, we make some friends and some foes. For the burrower, our til is kept to a mimimum. And the hornworm in all it’s beauty, does feed off our saplings and is now fed to the fish.
Spreading the knowledge – our goal is to see all growers evolve to clean practices. This year, we have begun work on PurnaMadhuVan, a plot of land around the bend from us, committed to growing clean and nutritious food. Here, starting from the blank slate, we sowed fruit trees for future generations, herbs for a couple years down, shared with them several of our saplings, and shared with you their bitter gourd and pumpkin.
And now, it’s back to the land.
This Spring left many growers wondering about their mango crop. Rains from the year prior hadn’t given the trees their fill. As we commenced harvests though, nature showed, yet again, she had plenty to offer.
For us, the season carries a short, intense, and sweet high. This year we brought nearly 3000 kilos of the sweet one to the city. Over the span of 3 weeks, you shared it with friends, family, loved ones. The stories, as always, kept us going… The lady who checked-in on mangoes in March, refusing to buy any for her mum until ours were ready 2 months later. The friend whose baby weaned with mango, gleaming eyes and mango-stained grinning face. Sundays that the boys joined us to unload crates, ending up more busy feeding crows baby mango. The even younger, whom, overwhelmed, gathered more mangoes than their arms could hold, dropping one each time they added another to their bounty, to leave only after putting the mangoes to sleep in their bed of hay. The principal who continues to share the fruit with all that cross her path, her job she says, is to spread the sweetness – we think she adds in her own. The flower seller on the street who shared the year before story, “didi, gaye saal mein itna aam tha, humne gaon leke sabh baccho ko khilaya” (sister, last year there was so much mango, we took it to our village and fed all the kids). The lady who, out of the ICU, is healing herself with mango. The gentleman, who starts his family’s morning with a mango smoothie preparation… he peels each mango with his hands. You all echoed the simple bottom line.. We’ve had much mango this season, but these… They’re something else.
Yes, land tires too! Here’s a peak at how we lay the soil to rest. This field provided us with a luscious crop of cherry tomatoes last season. (While we ate these tomatoes only in Feb, the soil has been working December-when the saplings made it in, through end-March-when we ate the last of the tomatoes.) Through the scorching months, we leave the soil covered with leaves of gliricidia sepium (a.k.a. khad jhad). This not only protects the soil from nutrients being burned up via exposure, but the leaves will also break down and by the time the rains hit, we’ll have a layer of “khad” (in this case, natural feed) in the soil. Beans will cover this field next season, allowing it to replenish its nitrogen, before we go into another crop cycle in the fall. After 2-3 such years, the field will be laid to rest for an entire season.
Packaging. When working with earth, a side mission becomes to rid oneself of our nouveau addiction to plastic. Here’s sharing our packaging practices…
We wrap fresh herbs, greens, berries in the leaves of indigenous trees, e.g., teak and fig, both solid leaves that hold for the purpose of transport. They also keep the produce extremely fresh, being of nature. Nature provides plenty of tie (e.g., sorrel stem, banana stem). For loose stuff (grains and powders), we reuse glass bottles/jars after sterilization. Fruits are loose in cloth bags. Newspaper is one of our last resorts, to avoid the leaching of printing ink into our food.
No, we’re no saint. We’re not entirely off land either. Our preserves and tisanes live in glass. But here’s the key to the thought process… While each industry comes with it’s own dirty history, think of the product’s lifecycle load on the ecosys, that is, during growth, to process, it’s reusability, it’s recyclabilty, as also it’s end-of-life disposal.
A US EPA initiative that bodes well in this matter: Refuse > Reduce > Reuse > Recycle
‘Long story short…
In October, we received life changing seed of this glorious fruit. By the end of the month, the seeds had made it into soil, well, into soil in tiny ol’ milk bags from the city yonder. First sprouts were in 3 days. A month later, they were moved to the land. Early December we saw the flowers followed closely by fruit. Jan 30th was our first harvest!