July / August Update

TPM Show Garden

TPM Show Garden

Oops! I have once again failed to update the blog for more than a month. But once again I can say it is only because we have been busy making such exciting progress. The past month has been all about the garden program. We have finally gotten to the good part – working with families to create beautiful and nutritious gardens.

You never know who will stop by to lend a hand.

You never know who will stop by to lend a hand.

Over the past month we have worked with families to complete three home gardens and we should have a fourth done next week. I will post photos of the families with their gardens soon. I would do it now but it would just look like they were standing in front of neatly arranged dirt. More of a Zen garden than a vegetable garden at this point, but within a month families should start harvesting their first crops. In our case, Chinese cabbage is the first vegetable ready for eating and selling.

First family garden coming up.

First family garden coming up.

The build-up to now has been hectic. We have been learning as we go and the short-term concerns of the day often take precedent over long-term strategy and planning. Now that the foundation has been set, it’s time to get organized and efficient. Mary and I are working to create a two week schedule that will allow for one new garden to be planted every two weeks without interruption. This will mean regulating our supply of compost, pesticides, boosters, seedlings and other inputs. A two week schedule will need to include at least two days devoted to preparing compost, three days to plant a new garden, two days to make advisory visits to families, one day to keep up with nurseries, and one day to gather supplies. That’s my guess, anyway. We’ve got some experimenting to do to come up with the final solution.

Seedlings ready for planting.

Seedlings ready for planting.

Having a set schedule will make things much easier for Mary to run when she takes over management of the project and it will also make budgeting much easier going forward. It will also allow me to spend more time working on TPM’s other projects knowing that things are progressing smoothly with the gardens.

Janet carrying grass

The garden project has proven to have a number of benefits locally. Aside from the obvious – food security and income – the project has also provided an experimentation ground to introduce new vegetables. Kale, loshuu, corn, and beans are the four vegetables that everyone knows grow well in Mkyashi so everyone plants them. Venturing outside of these four crops presents substantial risk. If crops die, food and income are lost. We tried growing okra in our garden and it grew slowly for two months until its head fell off. Good to know. New crops also mean a learning curve for farmers and their customers. Even if something grows well, it does no good if nobody knows what it is or how to eat it. Just imagine if someone gave you a pumpkin for the first time. You probably would have no idea how to eat it and you would just carve a face into it and then smash it on your neighbor’s driveway.

Okra was a failure, but zucchini has proven to be a big success. We have grown some beautiful, juicy zucchinis that are thriving despite the unseasonably cold weather and prolonged rains. Once the rains pass and things start to warm up, we should start seeing even more zucchinis. At first people were confused by them, but we gave them away to people with simple instructions about how to prepare them. So far everyone has loved them. It’s pretty cool to introduce a new crop that grows really well to a community.

Fresh organic zucchini.

Fresh organic zucchini.

Babu Lyimo (who has diabetes) even said he felt like the zucchinis were helping with some of his side-effects. We gave him some more and told him to report back to us. I looked online and it does look like there is some precedent for zucchini helping with diabetes, but I think you can find a precedent for anything on the internet. We’ll wait for Lyimo’s report.
Finally, on Tuesday the 13th we had a visit with Better Lives (www.betterlives.org). Better Lives has been a pioneer of FAITH Gardening and has helped us tremendously. They were very excited and impressed at the progress we had made. Three cheers for Mary! We showed them around our garden site, nursery, and compost making operation and then took them to the three completed family gardens. We have been psyched about our progress this year, but actually had no idea how it compared to anything else. It was great to get such a positive report.

It’s been a great month and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for us.

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