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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The spurfowl I didn't protect

G came today morning full of the news that our neighbour D had told our other neighbour K that there was a wild hen sitting on nine eggs near the stream that runs at the bottom of the orchard.

And matters would have stayed there if G had not gone to our spring to check on the water flow. He discovered that someone had been cutting grass on our land, and left a broody bird pitifully exposed.

He approached and she flew away, leaving nine eggs.

So clearly D had once more 'accidentally' strayed over to our orchard to cut grass. This is a regular source of mild irritation, but now I am incensed because he cut all around the nest, even after he must have seen the bird. I went to see the nest and saw a fairly fed-up Red Spurfowl.

Now she is very vulnerable. Leaving her as is means that she will be preyed upon by any one of a number of animals. Trying to protect her means that we scare her. Opting for the latter as the least of two bad choices, we piled some brush around the nest and left it.

Will keep fingers crossed now- nothing more I can do. At least this was with the excuse of harvesting grass for fodder. But I am so tired of the casual eco-vandalism that happens under the notion of 'tidying up'. We have lovely stands of wild roses in the area,which provide shelter and food for insects and birds. These are regularly chopped down because they 'look untidy'. Same with the berries. I try to safeguard the orchard, but there is nothing I can do about beyond it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A mixed bag

This is one of those times when I wonder why I garden. It's Saturday, when we present our the highlights of our week to Mr.Propagator.  But the white grub larvae ate my homework, honest! I have a long list of plants that I have managed to kill in every brutal way possible- and I am just talking of this week.
But let's start with the good stuff.
1. I spoke last year about how I mismanaged my sweetpeas. Thankfully, I saved just one pod's worth of seed and here they are:
2. My dianthus, grown from seed last year, have come into their own this summer:
3. But the azalea cuttings! I had planted 5, three got torn up by the chickens and then there were two. Those two I crisped this week by assuming the hailstorm we had was enough moisture to keep them going.
4. And this has been the year of the white grub. I don't know if the gloriously wet winter we had brought them out in full force.  Or it could be that they work in a three-year cycle and I just did not notice last time. But every day I  come across one or more wilting shrubs which is an indicator that the grub has eaten the root.Then we dig around the roots, feed the grubs to the chickens and water lots. This is often not enough, especially if the tap root has been damaged and then I cut the shrubs way back, which is heartbreaking in the case of things that we have nurtured for years and are just taking the stage. We've lost one pomegranate and one maple so far, the rest are poor shadows of themselves.

5.Persimmon flowers are not showy, though closeup they do have a structural beauty. The most stunning thing about them is the way they attract bees. I wish you could hear my trees- they hum all day and loud enough to be heard in the house. Is it just the number of bees, or do the leaves have some sort of resonating quality?
6. And we might have kiwis! Despite the battering from yesterday's hailstorm, I believe we have fruitset. Only problem is, rain is forecast for this week. We desperately need it to quench the forestfire smouldering in the valley, but please- no hail again.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Chicken tales

According to my garden journal, in February 2018 I had 21 chickens (including four roosters). Last month, I had six. Well, that’s sobering.
Of those, two I sold and two I gave away. The others, well...pine martens, cats, eagles and old age all took their toll. 

Gramma, who was slated to become christmas dinner 4 years ago, finally died of old age. She had been ill all winter, but we thought she had perked up again in the spring. That was just a artificial perkiness; she soon recovered her droopy self and then died. Mian undertook to butcher her out of scientific curiosity (she was probably the oldest hen in the subcontinent) and told me “We are not going to let our chickens get this old and ill again.” I won’t get into the details, but there was far too much wrong with her. She got a funeral pyre, not the stock pot. 
Gramma in the centre- note her slumped posture and 'off-colour' comb

But six chickens in that large coop seemed rather lonely. 

Thankfully, Red hatched 5 chicks two weeks ago. Right now they are housed in a separate room, but will join the main flock in maybe a month’s time. 

Chicks and Red enjoying watermelon
 And we caved in and bought two pairs of chicks from a travelling vendor. Looking at them, I was again struck by the difference between our freerange backyard flock and a commercial flock. Our chickens are if not tame, then atleast not fearful. They are not afraid of us and exhibit all sorts of chickeny behaviour. 
The new poults. Four are ours, we are fostering the other four for a while
The new poults are terrified of humans, do not know how to scratch or bathe. Just today, one poult tried scratching in her litter for the first time, and now they are all practising it. But they are not healthy and active enough to compete with the two-week chicks yet. Hopefully, they will perk up soon. 
The poults when they arrived yesterday. The one in the front only has one wing. =(
Grampa, you will be pleased to hear, is still going strong. We gave away the younger roosters so he is still reigning supreme and happy about it

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Foxglove madness!

"Seedlings exhibit some variations, often pleasing" says my RHS guide to propagation of foxgloves. As usual, they are right.
I started with two foxglove plants given by a friend. And now I have this
But here are the variations, all pleasing, that I have.
1. The light mauve with BIG dots:
Behind it is one of the originals.

 2. The little closely spaced dots.
3. The one with a curious yellow-red shading at the back
4. The incredible pure-white one! I do want to keep there a method for vegetative propagation of foxgloves?
5. The one with prominent splotches at the back
6. And this is cheating, but here is a cross-eyed dog. He was hunting a bumblebee

The 'six-on-saturday' meme is hosted by The Propagator. In his words, it's "Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a flower, a pest, a success, a project, a plan, an abject failure – anything at all!" So if you want to find out what's happening in other gardens, do go on over to his blog!