Gardening in Africa is a dream I have had for a long time. How could I know that it would happen with the help of DIG and a group of smiling, energetic Ugandan orphans and would include learning how to make a special organic fertilizer called manure tea.
Little did I know a year ago when I met Steve Bolinger at a San Diego fundraiser for DIG (thanks to my friend and workout partner Adam) and bought a t-shirt that says “I worked for DIG in Africa” that it would foretell the adventure I find myself in. Steve co-founded Development in Gardening (DIG) to develop gardens in Africa as a way to help those affected by AIDS. A simple inquiry for guidance from Steve as I began to prepare for this trip and the next thing I know DIG is committed to working with Change the Truth at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage. Steve volunteered his expert assistance and last Thursday on Day 1 of our garden project change began to happen. Steve helped us figure out what supplies and tools we would need – the list was long and not all of it so obvious. In addition to the hoes, rakes and shovels we would need soap, garlic, onions, hot peppers, rice bags, tobacco, twine, 50 meters of black plastic, a tape measure, charcoal and twine. Most of these items we would have to buy using donations to Change the Truth from many of you reading our blog – fortunately there were some important things we would not have to buy like chicken manure, sticks and large rice bags.
There was organic pesticide to make (we can provide the recipe to any of you who are interested) and, oh yes, manure tea. The rice bag becomes your tea bag and the manure becomes your tea. You tie up what looks like a very, very large tea bag and soak it for 10 days in water - - constantly shaking the tea bag in the water each day to get just the right strength. But all of this was only for feeding the seeds we intended to plant and keeping them safe from critters.
The plans for the garden beds themselves seemed so complicated. Each bed would be 25cm deep, 90 cm wide with a 60 cm path in between each row. After we dug the grave-like holes there was more to consider – we needed to line the beds with plastic, put holes in just the right places and then create a mixture on the bottom of 10cm of soil, charcoal and chicken manure. We got on our hands and our knees and mix we did – yours truly with gloves! Then we could fill up the beds with the rest of the dirt, trim the excess plastic and finally get to pick what to plant. Steve was only going to be with us for one day of planting and I must admit I worried – would I remember all of it and get it done right. We had hardly finished our first bed before my worries melted away. Steve and I looked around to see that our energetic young workers, Amanda, Catherine and Bibian to name a few (Steve had already told me the girls would outdo the boys) left any concerns we might have had in the dust so to speak. They missed not a beat. If you ever think that kids are not paying attention and listening think again. These kids could not be stopped - they were on to the next bed – remembering ever step of the way and working together to make it happen. We just needed to get out of their way. It was a good lesson for me. Never underestimate what children can accomplish. They only needed us to provide them the tools and the “know how” - they can and will take it from there. Kids helping each other to do