Monday, June 8, 2009


yesterday was my gardening day. till the day before yesterday, i had no desire whatsoever to venture into the hot sun and pull out weeds or apply compost to the plants... it is too hot and just watering the plants every now and then was enough, i thought. and thats how it is hereabouts. then suddenly, no rhyme or reason, i just decided that i had to buy "yeru" (thats red soil mixed with dried cowdung) to apply to the plants which needed nourishment.. the weather had to me, suddenly become gardenable...know what i mean? one day too hot, the next day, time just right to start gardening!! it is an internal clock, i think, i have no other explanation. so i trotted off to this "nursery" near our house, bought four bags of the "mixture" and four saplings of bouganvilla. dont ask me what colour. i dont know. the lady who sold me the plants was vaguer still about the colours, the saplings themselves obviously bore no flowers. she said they might be pink and orange, but she couldnt be anything more specific than that except, well yes, she did tell me in very clear terms that they were 'not red'. i was prepared to take my chances.. if all of them turn out the same color, so what...i had to have the plants then and there and i wouldnt wait a day longer for them. she did ask me to return in a week's time, when i could find plants with flowers and i could pick the colors i wanted, but i was adamant that i wanted to wait no more.
when i came home, it was nice and cool in the evening, just right for planting my saplings.. after changing into my salwar set, i got down to the digging of pits and planting of the saplings. mission accomplished and plants watered..... this was on saturday. i also spent some time in my roof garden deweeding and applying the compost i had bought that day to some of my plants etc and i had covered half the place, and had left the rest to the next day.
sunday dawned clear and bright, and by 9 am, yeah, i know rather too sunny to spend time in the garden, but i dont let things like that stop me, i was up there on the roof again, attending to the second half. at the end of 10 minutes i found i had two armsful of 'karpooravalli' cuttings ( Plectranthus amboinicus ). now, this karpooravalli plant has thick leaves, is very very aromatic, in fact smells of karpooram (camphor) and is supposed to be medicinal and very good for the throat. in fact, our elders tell us that every time you think your throat is going bad or you have a cough, just chew a couple of leaves of this herb and you will be alright. so here i was holding two armsful of medicine, and what was i going to do with these cuttings? already my garden was overflowing with the plants and i had planted them all around the house. and i just couldnt bring myself to chuck them out into the garbage bins strategically placed on the streets by chennai corporation's garbage collecting contractor. what to do? what to do? then i had this brilliant plan. there is a ganesha temple quite close to my house. i go to this temple every morning. i told myself that if i took these cuttings to the temple, i could offer them to the devotees that came there. no sooner thought than done! calling out to my mil that i was going to the temple, i collected the cuttings and off i went. it was close to 10 am then and the temple closes around 11am. happily, i thought the time was just right!! but to my dismay, i found devotees scarce on the ground!! it was then that i realised that sunday mornings, most people got up late and lazed and it is only in the evenings that religious and social outings take place... what to do? what to do? brilliant idea again..(surfeit of brilliant ideas and plans here, i thought to myself!) if devotees dont come, i go to them. the temple, if you have been to indira nagar(which of course, you may not have) you will know is surrounded on three sides by small independent houses. kind of a crescent with a tangent on top of the crescent which is another road with more houses and flats. between the temple and the almost circle and tangent behind the temple is a playground! so it is like this, temple, road in front of it, play ground behind it, a semi circle, which is more like a horseshoe,with houses on the outer edge, road in front... the top of the horseshoe kind of extends to the right and left for more road and more no houses adjoining the temple. get the picture? well ok, anyway....
the first house- a college mate used to live there decades ago, i remembered even as i rang the door bell. turns out she still does!! only, she was away from the city for a couple of days, and the doorbell was answered by her husband. i explained that i lived on first avenue, gave my name and told him that i had these karpooravaalli cuttings, and would he like some? u just stick the cutting in the mud, or a pot, water it and it just takes root... he said he would certainly like some and took a bunch of cuttings... next house and an old mami and her mil answered the door, they took more than a bunch.. they assured me that karpooravalli leaves made very nice "thuvayal" and "bajjis"... then the next house and the next house... ten houses later, my bag was empty and the cuttings had all found nice homes to take root and grow in. feeling mighty pleased and self congratulatory, i returned home. (btw, in one of the houses, a guest of the house thought i was a salesperson and tried to shoo me away. i explained i wasnt there to sell anything...then the couple that lived there came out to find out what was going on; they took rather a lot of the karpooravalli and said rather nice things to me...) my mil thought i had taken leave of my senses traipsing from house to house distributing karpooravalli...... come to think of it, this was just a couple of days after world environment day... so...
apron on, i slapped my son's hat on my head and taking up the "mun vetti" and "gadapara", i set out to explore my "compost" pit.. now, i have dug a couple of pits about 2 feet deep, 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, into which we dump our kitchen waste and the leaf fall. i had thought two years ago that i was making huge pits, but i find they are simply inadequate. we generate a humongous quantity of leaves! and of course kitchen waste. my word! how we eat fruits and vegetables!! before long a small mountain of dry leaves vegetable and fruit peels collects in that corner of the house. anyway. i pushed aside one portion of the leaves, and underneath i found a treasure waiting... lovely lovely black compost! to cut a long story short (yeah, yeah, i know it is already a small novel!!) it took me four and half hours to retrieve all the compost, and spread it around the house and apply to all the trees and bushes and plants. how lovely that felt! and my trees and plants must be so thrilled with all that yummy food!! despite my routine walking, step exercising, jogging and suryanamaskaring, i discovered a lot of muscles at the end of the day..but that is another story. what i want to say here about the compost is this: it is amazing, i tell you....leaves dry and full...brown and green....and when piled up and left alone, just disintegrate into almost black powder. and it smells so great! the bottom most lot becomes really really powdery and as you go up the pile the leaves are quite shredded and dark and you can use them as mulch.
from now onwards i am not going to simply collect all the leaves in one place. it doesnt make sense to bring them all to one place. i could and i will push them around all the trees around the house... that way the smaller plants growing under these trees would get nourishment... something like the delayed release medicines that humans take, moisture would be kept for a longer period and i wont have "double work" nor will my "help" have double work.
we have a lot of saplings of different plants, like ashoka, curry leaves, basil and a white flowering plant which is a composite, but i dont know the name now, will have to find out... i am asking myself why i shouldnt 'pot' them and distribute them to people living in flats... and distribute the semi compost too... must think this thing through.....and see if it can work.....

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