Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Our Dacha

Snakes Embrace at Emerald Enclave


this video is from 2010.

Patchwork for a memory quilt
posted on 6 Oct 2013

Pieces cut out from a silk saree that my mother wore, and from two sarees I wore--one of which my father bought for me with great pleasure and another that my maternal uncle and his wife gave me as a wedding gift. All the 3 sarees show signs of fraying and wearing out. I don't have the heart to throw them out.

So, courage and scissors in hand, I began to put together selectively cut out pieces to make two bed covers to go on two single beds.

The sewing by hand has gone well, and now I shall tackle the finishing.

As ever, Mohan helped with suggestions about colour and proportions. He cheered me on, as over some ten evenings, I put in stitch after stitch.

Take a look.

31 pieces patched together by hand

closer look at the detail. the greenish yellow is from a saree my mother wore. the ivory is mine, a wedding gift from an uncle (1977). the red is the border from a saree of the same colour that my father bought me.

two similar patched bed covers, waiting for the backing and finishing.


Over the past  week, I have set up a little vermi-composting unit.  The first worms came form Maj Gen (Retd.) Sudhir Vombatkere of the Indian Army, a celebrated engineer, environmentalist, and FRIEND, who is an expert in raising worms to make compost. The next lot came from the Horticulture Department in Bangalore.

28 July 2013

Novice Gardener

Four years at the Dacha. Today I can take some satisfaction that the land around is beginning to do well. The soil is soft and yielding whenever it rains, and digging is not the back-breaking task it used to be. Where we have meticulously developed mulch beds following the lasagna-no-dig-layering model, the humus is fragrant, crumbly to handle. A good deal of planting has happened in these beds; no digging really. Just scoop out some of the mulch, go down for the soil, loosen it, and then plant. That’s it.

The water we use is gravel and sand filtered grey water, all the household waste water that goes through the filter bed. I guess the plants like this water. It is plentiful, a great gift, given that we live in a semi-arid region, as well as that we rely on ground water and harvested rainwater for all our needs.

Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who lives nearby and has always maintained a beautiful garden with tens of rose plants, yards and yards of marigold or petunia or dahlia depending on the season, and a sprawling lawn. Now that the rains have come I wondered if he was busy planting. He said sadly that all his plants had died because the ground water treatment plant he has installed in his property had broken down and the unprocessed water had destroyed the roots of his plants thanks to the mineral sediments it carries.

I was really grateful that we have a simpler and rather fool-proof way to ensure good watering for our plants, which are, in any case, hardly exotic.  That’s another thing I have been particular to follow—there’s no point trying to bring exotic things into this land where it is far easier to grow native shrubs and grass.

It has taken time to get here, to the fourth monsoon, and I am happy to have learned things by having to do everything ourselves, with our hands, hearts, and the help of many teachers. We haven’t used any pest or insect control. Over a period of time, the plants have adapted. Those that survived insect attacks and dry weather have done very well. The compost we use is our kitchen waste getting nice and crumbly between layers of teak-leaf mulch. We have loads and loads of that mulching material, but we have to collect it, pile it up, keep it moist, and turn it now and then. Sounds like a lot of work, but it is all seasonal.

When we began all this, we didn’t have a plan or a design for a garden as such. We tried this and that, tried to figure out what plant likes which spot, defined planting areas with border hedges or with stones, all of which we collected from our land.

Green foliage now climbs on simple brick walls. A few tall hibiscus shrubs flower pink and red. Many foliage plants cover the earth in shades of green, broken up by the odd red or yellow tinge. Cactus and cactus flowers thrive. Periwinkle is perennial in purple and white. When the rains come, lilies, small and large, appear in rows. There is oleander and wax flower (moonbeam?). And in the filter bed for the grey water, canna blooms and umbrella grass flourishes, relying on the water we use and discard. The outside of our house is a lively mix of greens and golds and rusts of hedgerows and brightly flowering bougainvillea. 

As I said, hardly an exotic flower garden, but a garden that doesn’t disappoint, doesn’t demand anything that I am unable to give.

This is our “little piece of wilderness,” as a dear friend described it, to my everlasting delight.


Vinay Shukla said...

I would love to come over and share experience.We have too much of water, because of forest land, Even though we had to fell 104 trees,mostly aspen, my wife has planted almost two hundred fir,pine,birch and other trees.After ten years they are taller than two Vinays. I will take some photos and send to you. Yours dacha is Dacha, ours is Forest Dreams.

Kamakshi Balasubramanian said...

vinaychik: is it in my fortune to visit matushka rossiya again and enjoy Forest Dreams? i have a pic of myself with Nadya against a birch tree taken on a picnic --i think we went to a place called solnechnaya polyana by hydrofoil boat -- what a beautiful tree. what a beautiful tree.

Jeffrey Konen said...

The memory quilts are beautiful! Your process reminds me a lot of my own relationship to materiality, sentimentality, and re-purposing. I really admire the process of turning something worn down that is sentimental back into a functional piece.

Kamakshi Balasubramanian said...

thank you Jeff. i am going to send you something for your wall. love you.