To his credit, David Williams at first appeared to avoid commenting to the press about his success in bringing an aircraft safely to earth despite dodgy undercarriage and then, pressed to say something, said that he was only doing his job. Quite right too. I would be bloody disconcerted at the thought that if anything untoward happened, requiring a pilot to actually fly his plane, it would be considered beyond the call of his duty and only a ‘hero’ could be expected to step up to the plate. If that were the case, then commercial pilots should only receive a council bus driver’s salary supplemented as required with an entitlement to put in a claim if something unexpected cropped up.
Today, being Sunday (OK, I am a day late posting), it was gardening time. I only intended to spend an hour or two pottering about but it was dark before I finished. I like gardening. I never did before but that was perhaps because I was always on the move. Even the houses I owned were rented out. It was only when I met Marcia that I started to throw down roots. It would have been nice to have met her in Europe but I am here now so I might as well have a nice garden.
There is a place here that sells trees, there’s two or three actually but the one closest to us sells palm trees at $5,000 a pop. That isn’t for a forty footer, that’s for something you could still transport in a pickup. The big ones are expensive. I have been growing my trees from seed. Everywhere I go, if I see a tree I like and there are seed pods hanging off it, I will nick a handful of seeds. I’ve even enrolled Dominic into my larceny. He’s far more agile than I am so while I keep a look out, he’s the nimble one to hop over a fence, grab a handful and be back before the Rottweiler reaches him.
At first I would scour the web, especially YouTube, for hints and tips on germinating these seeds but after sealing seeds in plastic bags with moist tissues only to recover acrid sludge after weeks of patience, or painfully sandpapering hard seed pods only for them to decompose rather than sprout, I gave up and started to copy nature. In most cases this was little more than half eating the fruit and then plopping it, along with a few others, into a plastic container and leaving it alone. Half the time I didn’t even bother segregating the seeds by type. In this way I have brought Papaya, Mango, avocado, tamarind, orange, lemon, acacia, baobab, Maboque (Monkey Orange Tree - Strychnos spinosa ), Moringa oleifera (Drum Stick Tree from India) and Royal Palms to shoot. Only then do I scrape them into a tray filled with moist soil. This method proved so fruitful that I realized I had some serious potting to do and, once I started, I kept going. Not only did I have to pot the saplings the roots of which were becoming irrevocably tangled in their trays, a lot of the earlier ones were now root bound in their small pots and required rehousing.
‘Where are you going to plant that?’ asked Marcia as I struggled with a five foot tall baobab.
‘I’m not, I’m sticking it in a bigger pot’ I said, ‘It needs planting out, though, look at the tap root.’ She looked at the tap root which formed a rectangle, a perfect indicator of the limits of the twenty litre cooking oil container it grew up in.
I waved my arm to indicate the trees I had planted out a few months ago, all of them doing well and all of them requiring daily watering.
‘I have to plant the trees with a proper spacing, no point me planting them too close together only to have to start chopping them down in a couple of years, but my planting area is limited by the length of the garden hose.’
‘Shall I pick you up a long hose in town tomorrow?’ asked Marcia.
‘Would you, Darling?’
If I had stomped into the house and demanded she bought a new hose in the morning, she would have told me to get stuffed, it would mean her having to fight her way through traffic to the hardware store. Allow her to solve a problem for her dithery husband, however...
All the trees I am cultivating provide sustenance one way or another save the Acacia and Royal Palms which are just bloomin’ bootiful. I got the Drum Stick Tree seeds from the ones planted by the Indian workers on one of the sites I managed. They used the young and still tender seed pods in their cooking. Even the leaves are edible and highly nutritious. The Monkey Orange Tree (Strychnos spinosa) is closely related to the deadly Strychnos nux-vomica, which contains strychnine. I know mine are the right kind. I found the trees growing in the bush and hadn’t a clue what they were but could see the monkeys had been feasting on them so I picked and ate the fruit. It is delicious. There is no delicate way to eat it; the hard shell is filled with seeds covered in a tart flesh. All one can do is pop a seed in and suck the flesh off. The Baobab produces a pendulous pod filled with seeds encased in what looks like chalk. It is also very tart (the kids suck on it) but comes into its own when boiled (the liquid changes colour to orange) and used to make ice cream. I have two baobabs, one in the ground already.
Of course, the wise old locals came round to take the piss, telling Marcia what a fool her husband was, didn’t I know that baobabs suck all the water out of the countryside and their roots wreck house foundations? Marcia agreed that they did only seem to grow in arid areas. I bloody wonder, sometimes. Are they suggesting that cacti sucked the deserts dry? In the end, I asked a group of opinionated rubber neckers how many colonial buildings there were still standing in the city with baobabs growing right next to them. Right, hundreds and they’ve been there a century. I think I shall grow a Strychnos nux-vomica just for them.
Christmas and New Year is an absolute nuisance. I am surrounded by unfinished jobs, not because I have run out of steam, but because I have run out of kit, and all the useful stores and suppliers are off until the 7th. The hole for the swimming pool has been dug and the base graded ready to pour the floor but I can’t get the blocks, cement, rebar and gravel delivered until next week. I have chopped the trees down that were in the way of the new workshop but I cannot clear them for the want of industrial gloves. These palm trees are bloody thorny and I have ripped my hands to shreds trying. I have built the frame for the swing but the rope I was given by a friendly fisherman is so old, it snapped when I tested it. The kids don’t get their swing until the shops open and I can buy decent rope. I have cleared the access drive from the end of the existing drive to the workshop but need to stabilise the sides with a retaining wall for which I need blocks and cement. The only thing I have a lot of is sand, I have a mountain of sand. I have been so frustrated I was pleased, not angry, when the water pump failed. It gave me a happy hour in the sun stripping it down and replacing the burnt out parts with good I cannibalised from the old pump.
Not sure what I shall do with myself tomorrow, might do some baking and run up some pizza dough as well. The Berliners I made the other day were a great success. I made 49 in total (it was supposed to be 48, two batches of 24 each but Alex helped me cut and roll the dough so somehow we ended up with an odd number). Anyway, six children devoured 49 Berliners in one evening…
|Alex, Marta, Mauro and Nadia|
|Place pool here...|
|Easiest way to compact, wet the ground and let the kids play football...|
|Cottages nearly ready|
|Fig Tree has a little brother thanks to the Considerate American Lady|
|Growing Mangoes in the desert |
(watering can courtesy of the Considerate American Lady)
|40 trees on that potting table|
|Just add rope|
|Pathways in, That's Basil and Celery in balcony boxes|
|One of my mixed seed trays in urgent need of thinning|
|Tons of Dill|
|Clearing a space for the joinery workshop|