Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A mulch of money

After I wrote the last post, I emailed it to my family, sat back, and waited for congratulations. They did arrive eventually, but the first reply was not what I expected 'you spent 40K and don't even have walls', she said.

Ouch. 'I wanted it very much' , I replied. And then I thought about it.

The photo that started this chain of thought
 My reply must have seemed arrogant It probably was.
I definitely do not regret the toilet. It gives me great pleasure, it feeds my garden, it has removed a lot of tension over water, and I get a major kick just dreaming of all I will do with the compost. I would do it all over again, and happily.
But that conversation got me to thinking about my spending on the garden. Is it too much? How does one estimate whether spending on a hobby is justifiable?
This amazing display, all gifted by a friend from her extras
 As far as possible, I am a DIY person. The 'make do or do without' philosophy is entrenched in me, or so I thought. But now I wonder.
I don't spend on frills. My garden has no tchotkes, none of the fancy gear that is considered indispensable. My bird table  is a plank wedged into a tree. I propagate my plants. I handwater using a can and a pipe.
But the list of what I consider 'not-frills' is increasing. I spend a lot on labour. I got the patio-wall resurfaced, the veg garden fenced in, the upper fields ploughed. When Mian goes to the States at Christmas, he always goes accompanied by a list of seeds. Not all of them survive.
My seed stash. Part bought, part collected. Mian doubled this stash with his annual spring gift
 I now am in contact with a supplier of bulbs in Kalimpong and 'treated myself' to an embarrassingly luxurious order last fall.
Part of my luxurious bulb order- on the resurfaced patio wall
 I want a golden azalea, I have decided. I want a proper rose arch, not my current jugad one. I want a proper path down to the house. I want garden furniture to sit in. I want. I want.
The 'jugaad' rose arch I want to replace

But the rose couldn't care less. Definitely a 'want' and not a 'need'
And there are two things running through my head now. One is from a book  I am currently reading, which says that gardeners who don't have creative capabilities try to cover up deficiencies with 'a mulch of money'. And the other is what a friend had told me once, when we were discussing the concepts of 'high maintenance' women. 'You are the worst of both worlds' she said. 'You look low maintenance, but are high maintenance'

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The bestest toilet ev-AH!

 I rapidly grew tired of throwing away water and of losing nutrients. Especially when we were short of water, the idea of flushing away excellent compost fodder began to grate on me.

Finally I wrote to a friend asking him where I could find me a compost toilet pan. 'I'll send you one' he said, and he did. The village post service being what it is, it was many months till I came across the pan lying in a neighbour's garden.

And then the building started. I did not want it just for me, but I also wanted to share the concept with the village. A suitably prominent place, next to the village path, was chosen. I wanted it to be pretty, we decided on bamboo.Prakash, Bhuvan, Ganesh and I were all learning how to build it. Many measurements were taken, and many mockups assembled. We all blushed furiously as I tried to explain in my hindi just what the various holes were for and how they worked.

The cost? It came to around 40K, excluding the pan. I still have some material left over, and we pay a premium to truck stuff in from the nearest town. For the pan, I'd add another 10K including transport.

Would I do anything differently? Not for myself, I think it is perfect as it is.But as a demonstration unit, I'd go with a pan cast at home rather than one procured from outside. It would make it seem a lot more doable.

But now it is ready and it is stunning. Seriously. I have not seen a prettier one. The walls are bamboo, the roof is bamboo overlaid with tin. There are tall slits in the walls upto waist level to let in plenty of air and sunlight. It sits below an oak tree, and soon grasses will be planted along its base. The floor is prosaic concrete, but sprinkled with glass beads.

But  don't just believe me. Here are pictures

View from the front.We have a curtain instead of a door, which G rather disapproved of at first

This is the view from the house. Soon, I will plant grasses along the base.

The inside. Note the sparkly floor and the rustic TP holder!
I started off with dried leaves in the base.Not necessary, but I thought the carbon would do my compost good!
Here's a detail of the 'door' (hung on a sunflower stalk) and the 'windows'

Friday, February 10, 2017

Not a cakewalk

'Aunty only loves me, she doesn't love you' the small boy jeered. 'She gave me cake for my birthday, you got a great big Noo-oo-thing' he continued while his sister blinked back tears. It was all my fault of course. I had gone off to my mum's last year and missed G's daughter's birthday.

And so, this year, I had to make up for it. As per custom, I baked and frosted a birthday cake. My guilt for the last year led me to make a tall, tall layer cake. It was when I was making a swirly pattern on the sugar tower that I realised that 1.5km of mountain road lay between me and the birthday girl.

So the cake was on a plate, which was on a baking tray, which was in a fruit box, which was covered by stiff paper, which was taped down.

Which led to this contraption:
The first rest-stop was needed before I walked 50 metres. The others followed at similar intervals
 As we slowly made our way to G's house, Madhu and I picked up a little band of merry followers. I am not vain enough to think the kids adore my company, but I thought that Madhu was the attraction. And then I heard one child call out, 'Is the cake coming?'

Priorities, the kids have them sorted out.

Our walk back was blissfully carefree. And we received the gift of a moonrise.