Turnips & Peas::
“Ooty is famous for English vegetables”, said our local friend.
With its perpetual spring climate and annual temperature hovering between 12-22 degree the Nilgiris are famous for its rich cultivation
When we moved to the mountains we visioned our own garden with flowers and home-grown vegetables
Fortunately our house came with a vast open area. But it was unkempt as the previous resident had moved 9 months ago.
The area marked for the vegetable patch was a thick shrub, one simply couldn’t enter. The flower gardens were run over with wild grass.
We decided to first settle into our new house and adapt to the rhythm of the hills.
Then backed with our zero knowledge of gardens we began the search for a Gardener.
Being non locals the potential Gardener’s quoted us sky high quotes. A couple of Gardener’s we finally did employ would vanish in the first week.
In despair we were about to make peace with a disheveled outdoor life when Mubarak arrived at our doors.
Here was a mini messiah. Powerful hands, broad shoulders and a terrific work ethic
Through pouring rains in September- October Mubarak lovingly created 17 vegetable beds.
Armed with his 4 foot long pitchfork he tore out the weeds from their roots, fixed the fences, prepared the lawns and even leveled a patch to view the lake.
Together we sowed the English vegetables including carrots, turnips, peas, cauliflower, radish, potatoes, besides coriander, mint and lettuce.
With our joy and confidence flying high we planted Dwarf Hydrangea’s and Foxgloves in the flower beds.
Finally by November the gardens were getting some semblance of order.
With the hydrangea’s blooming early we took it as a sign that we were ” settling”.
Then tragedy struck!
We were about to commence our road trip in the first week of December when Mubarak decided to shift back home to Mysore.
We hastily made some make shift arrangements to tend the garden and drove out of Ooty with a prayer.
Two months later – end January we got back to the sight that broke our hearts. The gardens weren’t tended as planned.
The wild shrubs were crawling over the 17 vegetable beds. Wild grass and weeds had grown and like a final dagger in the heart our beloved Hydrangea’s had perished.
We somehow managed to mow the lawns but the daily sight of the rundown vegetable patch was painful.
‘ Let’s make peace with it “, I said to Sim.
Maybe the vegetable patch isn’t meant to be.
Through the month of Feb the somber outdoor mood continued.
And then a funny thing happened
Our caretaker Anthony had come to visit.
While I was showing him our compost pit I pointed embarrassingly “well our vegetable patch didn’t turn out well did it”.
He walked towards the patch, looked around the mess and walked towards one bed.
Anthony bent down, sieved the wild leaves and amidst that plucked a Pea.
“But the peas have arrived and they are sweet”.
“And look here”, moving to another bed and putting his hands inside the soil and plucking a round purplish object, “you have got turnips”
And that’s when it struck me like a bolt.
While I had stopped visiting the vegetable patch and given up, the Garden hadn’t entirely given up.
True most of the vegetables perished but the spirit of the Peas and Turnips were like a new lease of life.
And as they say – when you want something truly and deeply the universe conspires to help you.
I shared my experience of the Turnips & Peas with the a few parents at Ayaan’s skating class.
One of the Parent a seasoned Farmer promised to send someone over to help us.
Soon we had Mr Dass over at our doorstep.
Powerfully built, Mr Dass furloughed the vegetable patch, while I scoured our town to procure organic manure, potato bulbs and fresh vegetable seeds.
As if on cue the Foxglove decided to bloom in the flower bed. Spurred on I went hunting for flowers and thanks to a tip-off found a great place to source seedlings. Geranium, Salvia, Fuchsia and Carnations were planted.
Now with the tall grass and shrubs removed the grounds looked trim and less intimidating.
Which led to the birds arriving at their respective hours to pluck their juicy meals.. the Nilgiri Flycatcher, White browed Wagtails, Nilgiri laughing Thrush became common visitors.
The grounds were alive again.
The wheel had begun spinning in a favorable direction ….. Thanks to the spirit of the Turnips and Peas.