Monday, January 13, 2020

Travelling in Uttar Pradesh

And am nauseated by the hate here.
Everywhere I go, I see some example of how the muslims in the state are being oppressed.Things are doubly difficult for me because I am working on a project that requires me to interview people engaged in religious rituals along the river. On one hand, whenever I visited these temples and the associated fairs, I would always bring home trinkets for mum. Walking through those markets and seeing all the things that gave her joy is hard. On top of that, I see how this religion that she valued is being turned into an instrument of hate.
Yesterday, we walked along the river through a muslim neighbourhood. Just behind a mazhar, sharing a wall with it in fact, was a newly constructed temple to Ram. All around the area were posters claiming that India is a hindu nation. Anti-constitutional, illegal, but intimidating and encouraged by the present government.
It is not just religion that is used to foster hate. It seems that even river conservation has, knowingly or unknowingly, gotten into the act. We stayed to watch a Gomti Aarti, a prayer to the river. As we watched, we realised that it was a new ritual initiated here as part of the Gomti cleaning campaign. I understand the effort to involve people through social rituals. But in this case, there was a twist to the ritual. As is usual, the puja ended in a crescendo of generic requests- let there be peace in the world, let everyone prosper, let all be happy, and interspersed in all that- let cow slaughter be stopped.
At present, cow slaughter is a highly politically charged point in India, and used as an excuse to kill Muslims and Dalits.
 The Clean Gomti campaign, by only associating itself with a hindu ritual, especially when the ritual shocking ended with a call to end cow slaughter, is not something I want to align myself with. But today, I need to go over and interview those people about their expectations for the river.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Monsoon woes

It's that time of the year, when we have either too much water or too little, and are not happy either way. In this case, we have had both. Too little water to make the spring flow again, but enough to turn my garden into a green mush. I suppose it does not matter much since I don't like to go out anyway because of the leeches, the mosquitoes, and the invisible biters. And oh yes, the snakes.
Also, I have been feeling like a garden failure this year. The kitchen garden was not an absolute failure by any means, but it definitely was not what I had seen in my mind's eye this spring. Of the grand plans for the flower beds, quite a few things got done, but it does not look like what I had imagined.
But today is sunny and it is wonderful how that helps the spirits. The fall veg season is almost upon us, and this time I will get it right. And my garden is quite good in parts, like the curate's egg. Here are some of those parts:
1. Dahlias: The imperial dahlias still have a few months to bloom, but the others are doing nicely. Here's the magenta one
2. Jerusalem artichokes:
Last winter, I was lunching at Mrs. L's house and I ate some crunchy tubers that startled me into an involuntary gasp of pleasure. "they are a weed" she groused "but do you want some?". I did indeed. And here they are. Pretty flowers now, a fine dinner for thanksgiving.
3. Pumpkins: We planted several, and so many came to naught. The acorn squash got eaten by rats, the delicata only put out female flowers which shriveled for lack of pollination. We ate the flowers, but that was hardly the squash stew we were looking forward to. The Potimarron however did well, giving us three lovely pumpkins before the monsoon which we are storing.

Now there are still several on the vine, but it is to be seen if they manage to ripen before rotting. I do hope so. The one we tasted was very fine indeed. 

4. I have written about my rose arch before. Since I have been tying in the rose as it climbs higher and higher. Here it is now, with an additional bean vine:
5. Here is exhibit A for why I don't want to have a 'tidy' garden. This turned up by itself and I kept it because I was curious. I am so glad I did. It is lovely and has kindly placed itself between my rosemary and agapanthus resulting in a rather pretty medley of blues.
I think it is verbena. Am I correct?

6. And here is exhibit B for a 'wild garden'. The sunflowers are done with and looking rather bedraggled with the rain. I should take them of course. But then what would the finches do?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Mom, your sunflower bloomed!

And this is the first of many. Thank you!
1. This of course, leads the six things that I will be sharing this Saturday. Here she is, attracting one of our honeybees and a iridescent little thing.

This is 'Autumn Beauty', and another one is waiting in the wings. Is it not beautiful even when unfurled?
 All these seeds were given by Mian's lovely mum, which explains the title and also my delight.

2. The lilies are blooming, with their most intoxicating scent. They are a little battered by the rain, but I cannot complain considering how lush the garden has become.

3. Most of it anyway. Remember this rose?

This is what it looks like now.
A vine weevil grub got to it, and I had to cut it back after ejecting the grub. (and feeding it to the chickens, which makes for sweet revenge)

4. But that gave me space to try planting a second lot of sweetpeas.

5. I had read somewhere that a weigela is a one-trick pony. A short flush of flowers and the show is over for the rest of the year. Not true. How can one discount the impact of these gorgeous berries- like limpid rubies?

6. I probably should have swept before taking this photo, but we are all friends here. I have encouraged the evening primrose to self-sow in the cracks of the steps leading down from the house. It's looking rather well, is it not? I am so happy with it. 

Please do head on over to The Propagator's blog for more garden round-ups!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Don't look at the weeds!

Is there a trigger warning for weeds? There should be. Anyway, if you are the sort of gardener who begins to twitch when she sees a weed in a field, please do go on to the next post. This is linked to Six-on-Saturday, which means there will be lots of impeccable gardens on Mr. Propagator's blog. This is not for you. If however, you consider a weed to be a flower that has sown itself, please do continue.

1. An oxalis field! Actually, no. I just thought I'd get the weediest photo out of the way first. What this is, is an onion bed edged with french beans. I don't consider oxalis too 'bad' a weed- It does not strangle or overwhelm the other plants, it makes a fine chutney, and the insects love the flowers. Nevertheless, I do keep this bed weeded because the onion seeds were given to me by my Mian's mum, and the onions are special for that reason. I will do this soon.

 2. From an edging of french beans to a whole bed of them. These seeds were distributed by the horticultural department in our village. They apparently had a lot of these seeds and a distribution target. We gladly accepted a couple of handfuls. And they are good! We have a french-bean dinner every other day and are happy.

3. My poor curry-leaf plant. In the south, where I grew up, one only needed to stick a kadipatta twig into the ground for  it to grow. In our frosty mountains, kadipatta needs much more coddling. Amma and I planted our Kadipatta at the same time about four years ago. Her plant in the Western Ghats is now as big as a truck. Mine..well, just look.

We celebrated this year because the runt had finally put out two branches.
And then the rooster broke them. The plant is now patched up with some clay and sticking plaster. It has been a week now- let's hope the graft 'takes'.

 4. Mian and I had gone to a dear friend's house for tea. On our way back, we stopped to chat with her gardener and I noticed some plants I had not seen before. "What's that?" I asked. "I don't know what they are called, the root is spicy" he replied, scratching a root and offering it to us to smell. Mian took one sniff and -in a lust-filled, throaty voice I had thought was private- whispered "Horseradish!". Manu-the gardener- took one look at Mian's face and silently uprooted a plant. "For you, Madam." I brought the plant home and planted it where it promptly got eaten by a porcupine. Now it is recovering in a twiggy cage and I have plans to take root cuttings this monsoon

5.  And then there is the squash. I goofed while preparing the beds this year. I got a hole dug, filled it with chicken litter, and then covered the hole back up. The Delicata Squash I had planted (seeds given by Mian's mum!) seemed very unappreciative.
It is only after reading Weaver, John Ernest, and William Edward Bruner. "Root development of field crops." (1926) with its lovely root diagrams that I realised what I had done wrong. Apparently, the roots of squash and pumpkin do not go far into the soil at all, preferring to spread themselves along the top. Here is a picture from the book, available here.
Humph. I do hope it works, because I want to do Mum's seeds justice..

6. Finally, the celery. We use celery a lot to flavour stocks and braises. Which is why we were happy to buy the french celery on a visit to Montpellier two years ago. The celery did well, overwintered, and self-seeded so that I now may actually have a 'perennial' celery patch! I noticed this scorch on the leaves though..does anyone know what it is?

Also, I do feel compelled to explain myself- while I am never an immaculate gardener, my beds are usually not as bad as this. I sprained my ankle nearly three weeks ago and have not been able to go out into the garden till the last few days. And even now, I cannot squat or even get on my knees to properly garden. So there.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Of friends and dusting

Bless all young nieces who enthusiastically rescue their frazzled aunts.

My bookshelf had ceased to become a refuge and had become a source of tension to me. For nearly two years, it had become a dumping ground for books that were gifted, purchased at conferences and meetings, and worst of all the-books-that-we-SHOULD-read. Rather than address the issue, I tried to neglect it. There it sat, a dusty judgemental lump.

I could not do it myself and so approached D's daughter who had come home for the holidays. 'All the books you want to carry home are yours' I said, in hopes of offering a bribe. The bribe was not needed, 'It will be fun' she said.

And she made it fun. I loved being with her as she diligently (for five hours!) dusted, sorted, and arranged. Not part of the plan, but she took a rag and dishsoap to clean the covers of the more 'loved' books. She used cellotape to mend the torn books.

Here's an example. My much-loved, much used copy of Thangam Phillip's book.
and after:

And at the end of it, I had a bookshelf that was clean, nice-smelling, logically arranged, and full of the books that Mian and I turn to frequently.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude as she set off on her long walk home- down 'our' hill, up the other, and across the ridge in the face of an approaching storm. This is a child who gladly gave up a summer day to sit and work. That was not all. A sms from her father revealed that she had given up a trek that her friends had gone on to dust my bookshelves.

We are blessed.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Six notes of fragrance

Did I really let a week go by without a post? So much for my good intentions of a regular mid-week post.
But today I have a rather delightful six. Since the patio is where we spend much of our time, I have been trying to make it fragrant. And this summer, I succeeded!
And the best part is that all of them work in harmony together. The honeysuckle was the first, followed by the edward rose. And now we have a medley of spicy-floral-green flowers.

1. Take this exhibit for instance.
 Twice have visitors walked by, stopped in delight and been confused by the scent. "It's not jasmine", they say. "It's different..I have never smelt anything like this before". That's because the top notes of the jasmine are underlain (quite literally here) by the clove-sugar base of the sweet william. The two together make a most lovely duo.

2. Not that the jasmine on its own is not enough. Last year, it just gave us a hint of what it can do, and this year my creeper really took off. The window you can see in the top left of the first photo is my kitchen, and as I do the dishes I smell the jasmine. It makes me so very happy.

3.After the flamboyance of the jasmine, this is understated. I need to really get close to the blooms to smell anything, but then I am rewarded. This has a scent that I have never really associated with a rose before- it is green, grassy, and makes me think of chopped herbs.

4. Which is why I am very glad I paired it with the Cheddar Pinks. The pinks add their clove-sugar magic, and I would happily wear the result. And it looks pretty, doesn’t it? I think the pinks of the petals and the grey-greens of the leaves work so well with all the honey tones of the wood and wall and soil.

 5. And here is the old faithful. The last of the Edward Roses. For the first bloom anyway. With the rains, they usually gift me with another flush. A little traditional Ittar-of-roses to go with all the spice and greens that I have going on here.

6. Another faithful one. Sweet pea Cupani. Since I smelt this one, I have not been able to buy another. My cursor hovers over all those exciting deep crimsons and frilled edges, but I end up buying this. So haunting a fragrance, so lovely a story.

So that's the Six-on-Saturday for this week. Do go on over to The Propagator's blog, and read the six from his jealousy-inducing garden and that of many other enthusiasts from across the world!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A hurried six

With a  busy day ahead, here is a shamefully rushed Six on Saturday. Do head over to The Propagator's blog to read more!
But here is my garden:
1.The rose arch. It is blooming! The rose has not quite covered it yet, but I really like how it is shaping up.
 And best of all, the rose provides shelter to our new poults. Such a pretty little bower!
2. The daylilies are blooming. I wanted to try cooking some of the buds this year, but don't have the heart to
3. Monsoon project: I once had a clover lawn, and then I got chickens. So now, this is what the area in front of our house looks like, and I am fed up with it. Now, I will weed and till. Come monsoon, I will plant out thyme- the chickens don't seem to like that.
4. Harvest- the veggie harvest hasn't started yet, but we are harvesting seeds from the over-wintered plants. So here are coriander and mustard seeds for yummy tadkas.

5. Fuchsia. For two years I had this plant, and the chickens kept eating it. Last autumn I transferred it to a pot and look at it now!
I don't like all fuchsias, but this is rather elegant
6. My hydrangeas are about to bloom. I like them at this stage, and I like them when they are dry in all those subdued colours. The big bright balloons of full bloom? Not so much