Saturday, October 21, 2017


Arm's still iffy..which means I have been grumpy seeing all that needs to be done around the garden and that I have not been able to do. Bless the Mian- he's gamely taken on the job of lugging the watering can up to the newly-planted plants. But there is still much that I have allowed to slide. Which is why it is such a good thing that my garden gets along  just fine without me.
But here's my six this Saturday.
 1.  Birth: Remember Chaunch? This is what her chicks look like now:
And there's more! Red, one of our oldest hens and the one with the most personality has hatched three chicks so far. There are still three eggs under her ,so will wait another couple of days. But here's a photo of one- the other two are under their mamma.

 2. Promise: We planted three Kiwi vines two winters ago. Last year, the two female vines gave one flower each. Yesterday I tied them in preparation of winter pruning and saw some nice spur formation and some very nice fuzzy hints of buds to come. Keeping fingers you think we'll get to taste a kiwi or two?

 3. Potential: Here it is, the first ever glimpse of my succulent garden. The first few feet just after we enter our garden, right at the top of the slope, is a dry and rocky patch. G and I had optimistically tried different things there, to fail every time. And then I read about Ruth Bancroft and realised that instead of fighting the situation, I should celebrate it. This monsoon, I began slowly adding succulents to that bed. Haven't spent anything on it so the agave from a plant that had flowered by the side of the road, ditto for the opuntia. The smaller succulents a friend generously gave me.Doesn't look like much, you say? Ah, give us another three years, it will be spinily spectacular!

4. Potential realised: Remember the chrysanthemums I showed last week? Here's another look:
And this is what they look like now:

5. Potential lost: Something in the weather is making the plums flower now. We usually do have a pear blossom or two around this time every year, but I have not seen premature flowering to this extent before.Nearly every plum tree on the property is flowering. Of course, they will be destroyed in the frost, and with them, any hope of plums next summer.

6. Potential regained: Right opposite the porch where Mian and I spend most of our waking hours is an eyesore of a slope. Every monsoon, it puts on a rich and lush cloak of ferns and skullcaps, only to wither away by the end of September. Here too, I had tried many things. But a combination of chicken feet and tree roots meant that everything failed. But now, I might have a solution. Our winter jasmine had tip-rooted some branches and I have planted five in a row at the top of the slope (cliff, really). The idea is that in four years or so, they will cascade over the cliff and provide us with a lovely green and gold waterfall to look at. I can't wait! Here's what each plant looks like now:

And as always, do go over to The Propagator's blog. He started this, and you can read his six-on-saturday and those of many other wonderful people here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Snacks, plans and a visitor

Not much done around the garden this week..A slightly iffy arm and too much writing have kept me out of the garden. And Diwali is around the corner, so G has been on leave too. 
Which means I have been focusing on laid back dreaming and enjoying the fruits of my garden. 
Want to see? Here it is, my six garden things this Saturday. And do go over to The Propagator's blog..he started the Six-on-Saturday and has wonderful people joining in!

1. Harvest- All that plodding around in the monsoon, sticking a seed in here and there (in my case), and making textbook- perfect seed beds (in G's case)? This is what it was all for: Beans, corn, chilies. We are making stew this winter!
2. Snacks: Another harvest, but one in which we had put in zero effort. The persimmons are ripening! The barbets, magpies, woodpeckers, jays, and babblers have most of it. But we were determined to have some. So Mian went and picked out a whole box full. He is now patiently waiting for a dozen to ripen so that he can make his persimmon pudding. I do not think he is aware that I walk by the box several times a day and steal those that are ripe..
3. Chrysanthemums: They take three weeks to ripen, I am told. Sometimes, it seems longer. But here they are now!

4. Winter stuff: See that bench under the pear tree? It's my favourite place to sit on a winter morning. The problem is that it is located in my iris bed. While that bed is lovely in summer (early with iris, and late  with mirabilis), nothing much happens later on. Now wondering what I can put in to create some interest in the winter. And how many things can I put in before an iris bed ceases to be an iris bed? Also, those bare patches? They had iris rhizomes once. Then the chickens came by.

5. Project: I may have mentioned once or twice just how much I love the main path to our house. There is another that I don't talk about much,because I have never done anything to it. It is a wild path where one just scrambles up the hill. Well, it won't stay like that any longer. Post-Diwali, on the 20th to be exact, two handsome (and strong-backed) young men are coming over to help G and me lay a set of wood+gravel steps. It will be a step-path no longer, once the nice steps are put in.

6. Owl right! I have been bursting to share this for two days. People, meet the Asian Barred Owl. On our Eastern pear tree. Watching us have dinner.
Get ready now..
A profile, such as it is
The front!
And getting fed up of the two gawking humans

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Crash and Tumble.

That's what it feels like my garden and I are doing this week. I was away for nearly two weeks, and when I came back, the garden had exploded. I have been picking up the detritus since.
But here's my six this Saturday

1. Staking woes: If vampire-hunters saw my staking abilities, they would disown me. For far too long, I teetered between wrapping plants up like parcels and letting them flop. These days, I try to remember the basics and take the trouble to tie each plant separately. All the same, I am not too good at it. Can anyone recommend a good online plant-staking class?
Before staking:

And here's after staking. And pulling my hair, and grunting, and some swearing.

But there is nothing I can do about these:

 2. The bane of my life. Cuscuta is. This year, I managed to get all but one little bit. When I returned home, this is what it had grown into. Need to get it before it sets seed now. Which means I need to balance on a ladder and reach into the prickles. Humph. Grumble. Gripe.

3. Lavender cuttings. I took 20 cuttings this year. And then I left for a week. All but two died. Then I left for two weeks. Now one is at death's door. At this rate, that lavender walk of my dreams is a loooong way away.

4. More woes, but not mine. I might have had a rough week, but the rooster has had a far worse one. Firstly, his eldest son is now grown up, quite handsome in an adolescent kind of way and making passes at the older rooster's wives. And they are not rejecting him either. And at this time when the rooster needs to hang on to every shred of his dignity and handsomeness, he goes and loses his tail feathers. The poor guy.

5. Shimmery grass: All year I nurture these for and wait for when they bloom. But it's well worth it, I think. I could not quite capture the satiny, shiny texture of these flowers, but do try and imagine it  please.

And here's a bonus shot of them against the sky

6. Promise. When I returned home,I did not return alone. Mian came back too. With his bag of gifties. Here's what he got for me. So excited about sowing these!

Do go on to The Propagator's Six-on-Saturday series. There's lots of good stuff to read there!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Beautiful inside and out- my compost toilet!

I have made no secret of the fact that right now, the prettiest spot in my garden is the entrance to the toilet. Let me show you a picture again:

Here I sniff marigolds, listen to the hum of the bees, and look at what the autumn light does to my plants.

But today I went around to the back and looked inside.

When I first saw these toilets in Bihar, I was told that it takes a year for a small family to fill one compartment. Then you switch over to the next. By the time that fills, the first pit has been slowly composting for two years and is ready for use. For the two of us, I thought, it would take two years to fill, so we would have four-year old compost. Gold, my friends. Pure gold. February 2021 would be the year of the Great Reveal, I told everyone.

I didn't reckon on my impatience.

I have just returned from nearly two weeks out, and thought it would be as good a time as any to check on the compost*. And so I did.

It's beautiful!

It's already decomposed- there is no raw waste at all.  The thing that has not decomposed well is the leaf 'bed' that I had laid down at the beginning, and some toilet paper that wafted to the corners. But the rest is clean, dry, powdery compost.

Here's a picture

And here's a closeup

How does it smell? Like the very best gill ittar available in Lucknow.

Forget February 2021. My roses are getting the compost the coming spring.

What would I do differently now that I have seen the compost? By the way, this might be TMI for sensitive folks..

  • I would still lay down the leaf bed..somehow it gives me some comfort. 
  • I would be less anxious about not peeing inside the bin. From what I see, because we use leaf-litter and toilet paper instead of ash, we have a lot of carbon and need extra nitrogen-rich moisture. 
  • I would not be too lazy to gather leaves and use pine shavings instead. They take forever to decompose
  • I might give a small spraying with water once in a while.

*  Why yes, I do shake the presents I receive before I am allowed to open them. How did you ever guess?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I am not late; I am just making an entrance: Six on Saturday

Here it is. This week’s six. (See how cleverly I have sidestepped the whole Saturday/Sunday issue?).

Since we last spoke, the garden has gone further to autumn.

Here are the marigolds that were just a promise last week. They have really come into their own now. And do not the stripey one- that’s a first this year, it is!

The beans too, have ripened. This is not the peak of the harvest time, but the trickle has begun. Pretty , aren’t they? This is a local variety called ‘chitra’- it means ‘picture’ and is probably called that for it’s markings.

The agapanthus is done flowering and just the seedheads remain. These will be dried and hung from the ceiling this winter.

We are still hanging on to the last of summer though. This is not strictly within the garden, but Madhu and I walked down to the stream at the bottom of  the hill. She had a swim, I paddled.

Another person who still believes in summer is Chaunch-e-Cheel (Beaked-like-hawk). She was named for her sadly deformed beak; Mian and I had despaired of her ever being able to feed herself. But she’s survived and become a very good mother. Here she is, sitting on 4 as-yet unhatched eggs and two chicks.

Finally, a view down the path to the house in its late-summer glory. The weigela and foxgloves are over, the chrysanthemums are still to flower. The marigolds and salvia  are very much here.

 Do also go on to The Propagator’s blog. He is hosting this weekly get together – lots of lovely gardens up there!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The end of summer: six on saturday

I have enjoyed reading The Propagator's 'Six on Saturday' series for a while now (Actually I enjoy his whole blog..but this is about the series). In his words, it is "Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday.  Could be anything.  A job completed, a project, a pest, an interesting plant, a boring plant, anything at all!"
Why not, I thought..might just refresh this blog of mine.
Here are my six.
1. The mornings. Autumn is just coming in. And at no time is this more evident than at that magic moment when the sun just peeks over the hill. The mist is still there, backlit by the sun, and for a few minutes the whole world is made of copper and pearls.
2. Fragrance. The honeysuckle is putting out its second flush of blooms. And in the mornings as I potter around with my coffee, every now and then I catch that lovely, lovely,scent. And then I miss my Mian.
3. Birds. Marauders. Actually, they are the latter only when they attack my persimmons. The amaranth, buckwheat, sunflowers and bajra are grown for them. And to be honest, for my pleasure when I watch them snack on the seeds.I wish they would leave my persimmons alone though.

4. Sex. At least I think that's what was going on with these two butterflies. They were flying around each other all around the garden before finally resting on a leaf. Lovely to watch, but if they've laid eggs on my beans, I shall be very cross indeed.
 5. Food. This has been a good year for beans. We have planted two types, a white bean a friend had given me many years ago, and some 'chitra' beans. All fruiting nicely, so I think we will have enough beans for the next year. Despite my habit of snacking on the tender beans as I walk past.
6.Glow. I planted out lots of orangey-yellow flowers for this fall. The chrysanthemums are yet to come  in, and quite a few of the marigolds too. But the sunflowers are quite enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Garud Buti

 Today G came and showed me this plant. He found  it  among our corn.
Lovely, isn't it? And it is so much more than that. It's called 'Garud Buti' or the 'herb of the eagle' because it vanquishes snakes and scorpions. The bulb is considered to be a sure-fire remedy against all poisonous bites.

Sadly, after the initial gushing, G received a gentle reminder to allow the next herb he finds to set seed. I do want to propagate this. So instead of keeping the bulb in my medicine cabinet as G instructed me to do, I have planted it. Also,  I looked it up and it is the Indian Grass Lily, or Iphigenia indica. I haven't been able to find a mention of its medicinal properties, and that's okay.

Chances are high that the bulb works as a placebo. This is not to be sneezed at. Given that there are far more non-venomous snakes than venomous in this area, statistically chances are high that a bite is non-lethal. Administering a respected and safe placebo can help alleviate panic and some of the more gruesome 'remedies' that I have heard of .
It is a shockingly pretty plant. I hope, in a few years, to build up my stock enough to have a passable garden bed. Maybe planted with fleabane..

If you are interested in trying it out, the remedy is as follows:
Grind up one bulb (dry or fresh) in a bit of water, add one or two crushed black peppers, close your eyes and drink.

The bulb is bitter, which means that Mian and I are thinking of adding it to our bitters..after I build up a stock, of course.