2009-07-31


We gardened yesterday and I have two blisters and a sore
body to show for it.  The house has a
large area across the footpath that is mainly brush and a small garden.  Samalu said we could plant a garden anywhere
so I chose a place in the back away from the traffic of dogs and chickens.  The only problem is there was a landslide
several years back and now the area is mostly small rock.  This was only part of the problem in garden
creation process.

 

The other small issue was the 18” tall brush covering the
area.  Samalu recommended spraying the
area with weed killer and then burning in. 
I would love to say my organic traditional farming roots kicked in but
it was really a matter of laziness and cheapness that I chose the traditional
clearing method, more on that later.  You
see to get chemicals involves at least 2 hours on a small fiber boat and it
probably cost more than I am willing to pay on a Peace Corps budget.  Then there is the issue of where to get a
sprayer, and lastly, if I burned down the village I don’t think PC would let us
stay much longer.  So alas it was me and
a cane knife (machete) staring at a grove of weeds and vines.

 

It is pretty simple. 
You bend over, grab a bunch of grass, and wack away trying not to remove
any limbs or fingers.  The knife is very
sharp!  After about two hours you have a
small clearing.  Then the detail work
kicks in with a combination of raking with the pitchfork and wacking at the
remaining grass with the knife.  The soil
is much different here than in Naila.  In
Naila you could stick a pitchfork 10” into the ground with one hand.  Here it goes 10 mm with two hands and a
foot.  So cultivating the cleared area is
much more difficult.  I had to hack at it
to remove the small rocks and then work it over several times.  Then end result was about an inch of lose
soil.  I clumped these up while Kelly
poured water over them allowing me to break the soil up below with a garden spade.  I placed them about 18” apart giving us a
nice 4×5 grid. 

 

Neither of us really knows what we are doing when it comes
to gardening and the instructions on the seed packages were in Arabic. There
were pictures showing how deep the seeds are buried.  It was interesting, however, that the pictures
showed burying in increments of millimeters. 
Some were 5mm and others where 6mm. 
I never knew gardening was such an exact science!  Of course I was not that exact and placed
them all about ½” deep.  Kelly continued
the watering process and we finished our first garden after about 4 hours of
labor.

 

Samalu stopped by later and observed our progress.  He recommended building a shade and said we
should have planted a nursery of small seedlings first and then transplanted
the plants over.  Thankfully Kelly had
already started that process with some cardboard egg cartons we got at the
market on Friday. 

 

Samalu’s son, Foua, also called ‘Disney’ (nobody knows why),
showed me the ropes on harvesting good posts from the bush to build the shad
structure.  We went to the far end of the
village, Cikobia, and hiked up a steep trail. 
Foua wacked down a few small trees with straight trunks.  I followed suite and found a few suitable
victims.  We then searched for trunks
with a fork for the corner posts.  I
really enjoyed hacking things with the cane knife and now understand why all
males over the age of 15 are usually carrying one.  On the way back from our lumberjacking Foua
found a Kavika fruit and shared it with me. 
It has the consistency of a pear and shape of an apple.  The inside is white and the outside skink is
white with lavender spots.  It was very
tasty and I hope to find a few more.

 

We set the posts around the garden by making a hole with a
large crow bar, also used for pounding Kava. 
We placed the straight trunks around the sides to build the frame and
topped it all with coconut branches. During the branch retrieval process Foua
knocked down a green coconut from a tree in our lawn.  He held it in one hand and wacked it open
with the cane knife in about three blows. 
It really is an art form to be able to do that.  I would probably slice my wrist open and be
found dead lying on the beach with coconut juice all over me.  I guess there are worse ways to go!  I enjoyed the tasty treat while sitting on a
boulder overlooking the bay.  A great conclusion
to a hard days work!

-Matt

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