Cycling the desert, the Atacama in particular, is a state of awareness, a way of living, a manner of being perhaps best comparable to be on a high. The swollen covering of such an opiate is simply all encompassing. Of course, such a state can not last, unless perhaps one sinks into it and finds himself unable to reach the utmost crosspiece of the ladder, instead hovering half way, at best, most of the time.
Living on a high is demanding and can not be a constant. As a traveler you grow into a certain style, you will be shaped into that what the stream of life takes you to. Most probably that is the unquiet silence from a natural source, the seemingly uninhabited spread of the vista before your eyes, the notion that you are safe in an environment not meant to be.
Note: the cats are gone. They have walked off and never returned. Since I am busier than I thought I’d be, I have some backlog, therefore the cats appear to be still with us. July.
Can one who has not experienced high of natural opiates reach these levels of the brain in which hidden experiences are uncovered? Having pasted the tag ‘Farmer’ to my name I am as busy as trying to find a hidden spot in the plain desert.
To reach the utmost crosspiece of the ladder of the most high for long periods of time, unlike cycling the Atacama desert, or the Omani desert, the ordinary may not be present. And to be honest, such a state can not last, nor be copied. But once experienced, there is no comparison. Growing veggies is no traveling.
Without it, could I enjoy growing greens so much? What the answer may be, the greenhouse is stuffed. With temperatures over 30 degrees plants flourish, shoot and grow nearly out of the windows. Tomatoes break through their plastic containers and take root into the ground. The organic process is faster than I’d imagined. I am stuck with edibles we can not consume. I have to fling shooting salads, premature cabbage and eager tomato plants onto the compost heap.
I try to save what I can, yet in order to transplant the veggies, who’d become my own little off-spring by now, I need to prepare the sandy soil with manure. But first, I need to remove the turf. Working against the flow of nature? That’s me: check.
Huge amounts of mulberries reminded me of Pakistan. So, I started to collect heaps of it, only to find out they’ve turned pretty much to a mash once back home. Their second best use is to color cotton with.
Somehow I can not get the work that needs to be done accomplished. Is it because I also want to embroider in the forest and smell the pine trees, avoid resin smeared on to the embroidered piece of fabric, while listening to the birds?
Learned: it is necessary to thin out seeds which were sowed together and have all sprouted. In order to have a plant grow it needs space. Three plants on one square centimeter isn’t going to be a mature plant with produce.
Realization: tomato plants are super sturdy and almost grow like weed. They can handle a smooth transplant every few weeks, which is wise to do when you start growing them in a greenhouse and transplant them out in the open later on. I had a truckload of tomatoes and start transplanting them all over the garden, without a roof to protect them from rain. They do need a stick as support to which the plant is tied.
To maintain and grow a veggie garden one needs to work quite constantly. I can not wrap my head around it how people with a job and children do this? Now it is cow dung that I need. The bursting greenhouse has to be released but the dry sandy ground outside needs organic fertilizer first. I know a spot where we can pick free cow dungs. Geo and I set off on the Enfield with a big plastic bucket, just as they would do in rural India. We find plenty of dried and fresh cow dung, picked by me and smeared, splashed and placed into the big bucket, it goes on the back of the motorbike. The two of us balancing through the soft beach alike sand brings us the same faith as so often happened in Paraguay: we collapse and the cow dung splatters all over (Geo)…
‘Do you ever sit and do nothing?’ asks a friend of Geo. Two of his friends are over and my skills as a housewife are tested. ‘No. I do not sit and do not do nothing. Ever.’ I could not have cycled so much if not I was driven so much. As we speak, I try to remove grass from the soil. I often wake up exhausted yet in high spirits to get into the forest and roam, finding edibles, roots to dye with, materials unknown but to our ancestors. I want to know things. I want to acquire. Just as I did when cycling. Unfortunately, unlike cycling, the time stretched trice as long as so many impressions came my way. Keeping busy outside in the garden is often times seeing the same things over and over.
The precious early hours of the day, the only time of day where life is still, there’s space to embroider.
Despite the stress, the yearning to get things done in my garden, the desire to learn the direct surroundings and suppressing the arousal for a kickbike tour into the Romanian mountains or to the Croatian seashore. Despite all this, the act of getting out of the kitchen into the garden and pick the vegetables you need is an unrivaled experience, a feeling of sheer pride in the most humble way. To pick and eat veggies that grow in a seemingly poor sandy soil, planted by such an inexperienced cultivator… is wonderment of life itself. I feel truly wondrous about the seed that can become something so wholesome..
Learned: mark what you sow (the tiles with painted names is not my idea). It helps me to know what I am growing. I think it looks beautiful too, like a real botanical garden.
Realization: it does help to read before jumping into action. I am not a fan of it (a good example is that I cycled to Iran without taking cash dollars with me. I tried all the 4 ATM’s in Sanandaj to draw the local currency until I remembered from previous visits that Iran does not accept certain Western things. I had to go to the Dutch embassy, 500 kilometer further, to get a wad of euros, send by my mom.) Instead, some reading and watching YouTube and asking the locals does teach a lot when it comes to gardening.
Half into July
The desire to kickbike into endless bounties of forest on to the barren Croatian coast is present. This desire seems to be nicely pairing with discovering the endless possibilities of finding recipes to match with the garden’s produce. Except that the two can not be combined. An impossible match, unlike Geo and me.
With this travel-seed sprouting, I give in. I reckon a short tour of 3 nights would do. Plowing through the peachy soft sand of the huge sprawling forest I come to a halt at a magnificent tree and ought it the right location to set up camp, as an extension of the lunch. I conclude: ‘Why would I kick 40 kilometer to get to a particular spot when this spot is probably very similar?’ I further come to realization that a trip does not make any sense while at home I have loads of work to do. Work that I like doing. Instead, now, I am experiencing a travel while my mind wants to be at home. So, I abort the trip short and return back home.
Realization: why should I continue plowing and pushing through the sand while at home I want to sew a dress, cuddle with the cats, cook for my husband and above all, align with what the season offers: plucking cucumbers to fit tightly into jars.
Learned: single nights out and day foraging trips are the answer to the journeying seed. The strong dejá-vu moments I experience are not to be had ever again, if only because the world and its development moves in a linear eastward direction. I can never experience the same as I did 17 years ago, entering Sana’a for the first time, entering a living fairy tale that was.
Equally pulling is the excitement of finding huge gherkins, hidden in the rich foliage of their slight prickly leaves. I want to camp, I want to be into new surroundings, I want to have a never seen picture in front of my eyes, a vision unknown. An image unseen. I want to feel the world surrounding where I am, yet bottling of fresh cucumbers, plucking tomatoes and smell the almost repelling tomato plant odor on my hands, the wonderment of growth is wanting me to stay in my garden, day after day after day. Perhaps my garden is doing so well only to encourage me for the next season?
My first season, and I am proud to eat only from our garden. Nothing you see is bought, except beans, pulses and grains.
Learned: start to grow gherkins far removed from other plants as they will grab themselves like old-fashioned telephone cables onto the first thing they feel. The same goes for beetle beans, who by now grow into a tree, and the grapes have the same tendency.
Food from the own garden is attached to a strong emotion, and only possible when the desire has arisen. I look down on supermarket veggies and even roadside produce can possibly not taste as good as our own produce. Fully organic, bugs and worms attached at times. Though cleaning the salad takes a lot of time and careful examination (I realized after I’d seen hordes of white tiny things standing on the back of mint leaves).
We, that is mainly me, since I am the head of Farmers in our compound, do get compliments from local Hungarians. Come to think of it, in the street we are, the only one having a huge vegetable garden are the foreigners, safe for the mayor. ‘Yes, we have paprikast, just to show we are real Hungarians’, said a local Hungarian to us.
‘You can pull the garlic as the leaves are dead. Without leaves a plant doesn’t grow,’ says another friend of Geo. It is new knowledge to me, coming from an IT geek. I watch other people’s gardens and listen to every advice (also the wrong advice). Agricultural engineer Zoltan teaches us a few things, besides advising to pull out poison berries, which I deliberately planted as unknown tiny black berries, about pruning grapes, watering china cabbage and caring for tomato plants. Zoltan teaches us Haiku too, Japanese poems.
In the Ganga
And, my own:
Watching Big Brother Do I go along Climbing the ladder
Own food, bottling and hoarding has become a race, outlined by nature, I find pleasant. Though I wonder whether food should be given such a high focus, as quite a few live on sugared fizzy water, white bread and chips in our surroundings. Perhaps I am just on a catch-up race as I vividly remember the stay in an apartment in Missiones, the deep south of Argentina: I used the kitchen as if it were my own and went on the search for carrots and cardamom to prepare halwa, while actually I was there to rest my weary body.
The flat, humid plains of North Argentina were boring to cycle and I started to ask myself the reason of continuing.
Pulling own produce out of the soil could be compared with figuring out a difficult mathematical solution, although pulling a carrot has little to do with own efforts.
Still a student in sourdough but mastered the art in baking bread in camp.
Especially learned: be kind to yourself. There is no need to learn it all in one season (yeah, tell that yourself, Cindy). There is also no need to be the perfect cook (though fresh sourdough and crispy granola day after day I do fancy). Taking time out to learn is necessary and makes a better farmer of oneself. And remember, next year it will be all better organized and less ill prepared (I hope so!). All what has been learned today does not need any more time to be understood, thus there is excess time to learn new things (and make more photo’s and go on more tours). It all gets better over time, a bit like life itself.
Get new posts delivered directly to your inbox.
Trying to be self-sustainable in the countryside of Hungary: weeds and wild, tours and talent included.
This is not a guide how to grow veggies, there are enough of those. This is about failures, realizations and the learned when starting something new: the self-sustainable way of living in the countryside of Hungary.
A weeklong tour around the Balaton lake, not over designated cycle paths but a bit of everything, avoiding the start of cycling crowds but heavy on wild camping and camp fires.
Starting anew, not just passing through in the best season, but staying, growing and nurturing in ways new to me (us). How is it to learn that what our grandparents did on a daily basis?