With October now upon us, we will soon begin pulling our sweaters from moth-balls and dusting off our winter heaters here in Abbottabad. In honour of the new season before us, I have prepared a little update on some of my efforts during the past few months ~ a sort of follow-up to a few of my summer blog entries.
Planted two months late, on land I prepared hastily, with many seeds drowned out by summer monsoons and my struggling saplings devoured by hungry snails… this was the most difficult batch of vegetables I have ever tried to cultivate in my life. When all was said and done, of what I planted, only some beans, a few beets and a handful of tomatoes were harvested. Previous crops of mustard plants grown on the land, however, left roots behind that fought against the rain and snails, providing several meals of flavourful saag. Had it not been for my friend and fellow gardener Sarwardeen, who spotted their growth and nurtured them to full potential, even they may have been lost amid the foliage of my decrepit vegetable plants and my deep green depression.
“Live and learn” as they say. Next Spring ~ God willing ~ I will let nothing get in my way of planting on time and with full dedication.
The Terrace Saplings
Several tomato, green pepper and chilli-pepper saplings enjoy the sun of our terrace, rooted in their recycled milk carton pots…alongside happy neighbours of cilantro and thyme. Even the lychee and lemon seeds my daughter and I planted last July took root and grew ~ now awaiting careful transplant to our family’s village land near Haripur at some point in the next few weeks.
However, once we decided to begin the task of house hunting in August, we put the brakes on expanding our terrace nursery until our new home can be found. In the meantime, our saved milk cartons are just washed, flattened and put into storage.
The Herb Garden
The small herb garden we planted in a strip of land that rests alongside our drive way (near the grave of our brief furry house guest Peter Rabbit neath a lemon tree) is still thriving with dill, oregano, cilantro and mint… thank goodness! (Perhaps there is a little green in my thumb someplace after all?) Our daughter loves to pull off a few springs of dill to munch whenever she passes them by and mid-morning fresh mint tea breaks are an anticipated joy for us all each day.
The diffusion this particular strain of mint makes, when stewed in boiled water and mixed with sugar, is so light in colour, taste and consistency that it feels as if one is sipping fragrant air. Moroccan mint tea in Pakistan! Quite delightful.
As temperatures drop in coming weeks, I will cut the plants back and begin my haphazard herb drying process.
I have found that the small white elasticized-strings used on checked baggage tags issued by some airlines (which I have collected to recycle over the years) make great helpers in the herb drying process. They are smooth like string (so they tie better than rubber bands), but their elasticity makes them easy to stretch and bind around clusters of herb stems, then hang from small nails in front of my studio’s sunny window.
Autumn recording sessions will ~ no doubt – be delightfully fragrant. Thank you PIA!
My research into local rain harvesting techniques ~ inspired by July’s monsoons ~ revealed that many families engage in very simple methods of gathering rainwater, primarily for use with outdoor cleaning and garden watering. Some families just use buckets, pails or large pots to gather rain, while some have developed intricate systems of drainage from their roofs or the top surfaces of walls built around their homes. Vegetable oil cans or even old plastic pop bottles (with minimal modification) are often cemented or tied on the edges of roofs as collection troughs or drainage pipes, angled toward barrels or even underground reservoirs.
Again, since my family and I began our house-hunting adventures, I have refrained from putting any great effort into rigging up my own rain water collection system on our rental place. Adopting a basic system of keeping buckets handy when it storms, I am able to collect a good amount of rain-water for use on my terrace saplings during the dry days between natural showers.
Scrap Wood Book Shelves and Play-House
The book-shelves (wooden cube-like crates) made from the scrap lumber I came across last August, have been functioning nicely for many weeks now in my daughter’s bedroom. They took me longer than expected to complete, as my sawing and hammering had to be done between baby naps and other pressing chores, but after a little sweating and sanding, they have dressed up my daughter’s room nicely. More importantly ~ since her books are now better organized and easily accessible ~ in shelves which also made a perfect “home” for Alley The Alligator ~ my daughter has begun reading more!
…as for the play-house I wanted to build her with scrap materials found in my wife’s grandparent’s garage…. well, that project is “on hold” until we secure a real dwelling for our family.
The On-Going House Hunt
Over the past many weeks we’ve toured several perspective homes and come close to putting in offers a few times, but alas, we’re still searching.
Most of the houses we’ve seen are either too large, too expensive or too poorly maintained to be practical for an immediate move. But we’ve not lost hope and we still have several places to visit yet this weekend.
Basically, we want something simple and cozy, in a quiet area, not too far from where we are currently renting. Our primary garden plot, as well as the places where we want to keep animals and an apiary in the not-too-distant-future, are both located on land owned by my wife’s grandparents here in Abbottabad, and also about an hours drive away in a village near Haripur. Thus, my wife and I are not in need of a very large spot of earth for ourselves ~ just enough of a yard we can use for a small herb garden and compost pit.
Naturally, housing agents like to show off houses that are above the proposed budget we’ve stated, but we’re sticking very strictly and patiently to our price range so we don’t bite off more than we can chew. My wife and I work hard to live within our means, balance our needs with our wants, and are personally against buying anything we cannot afford to pay for in cash. Though we’ve agreed to accept a small interest free loan from relatives, to top up our savings in this case of a house purchase, we refuse to carry such a favour beyond a year, without paying the balance back in full.
So, the hunt continues…. as the calendar pages quickly turn!