Feeling a bit miffed as a group of people from the Ministry of Agriculture in Delhi didn’t turn up as expected. In honour of their visit we had spent the last week clearing the place up. I had even weeded the cactus!
Then I thought – why do I do this? Is it a displaced domestic activity when you feel you have to spring clean the house when people come? Or is it an attempt to control nature? To make it look ‘tidy’ or pretty?
Recently we have been in the process of having 16 new brick raised beds built. Over the years we have found that growing vegetables in these raised beds is the easiest way to do it. The brick separates the weeds on the path from the weeds on the bed, making it much easier to keep the beds weed free. They are also easier to plant and because the beds are flat across the top the whole area of the bed can be used. When the raised beds were just earth banks we could only use the top piece for planting as the sides were too delicate – getting too dry in the summer and washed away in the monsoon.
Looking at the beds, however, I wonder at the element of control in what we are doing. Does the brickwork symbolise our domination over nature? Or does the brickwork symbolise our support and co-operation with nature? Within those bricks the soil that we nurture does not dissipate as it does on beds that are less well marked out. This makes it possible to grow food year after year after year, with much less work than if we had to remake the beds every season.
At least, that is what I have observed.
So for me, the new raised beds, the clearing up – even the weeding of the cactus – demonstrates our care for the land. The land that is caring for us.