Sketches in ink – 36
After six years of practice, I am no stranger to hacking through an overgrowth of weeds during winter in the Algarve.
In fact, doing just that was an integral part of my embarking upon the journey of learning the Portuguese language; a kind of grassroots approach, if you like.
Our friend Marianne has an unruly piece of land in the Algarve. We had what is known in some circles as an “energy exchange”. For one hour’s worth of gardening, she gave me a Portuguese lesson lasting one hour. Sometimes, this was one and the same hour.
In my former place of residence, Zimbabwe, I spent many an hour on weekends extending the vegetable garden at the back of the property we rented. Its sole purpose was to produce food in a time of food shortage. Spinach, tomatoes and onions were the main things I grew because these are the chief ingredients for a sauce which Zimbabweans call “relish”, often eaten with meat (but without meat during the food shortages) and the country’s staple food, maize meal (also in short supply at the time), called “sadza” when cooked. I grew more vegetables than we needed, so that I could distribute the surplus – fairly indiscriminately – as required.
When I first arrived in Portugal, I needed to get grounded and I needed to learn Portuguese. My ability to hack away at overgrowth and make things neat was instrumental in achieving both things. Gardening while conjugating verbs and learning new words was the perfect solution.
There is something therapeutic about planning what you are going to do in the garden. I achieve this by gazing at it. Then, all of a sudden, as the mood takes me, I do what I have been thinking about since the gazing session. Obviously, learning Portuguese was not that easy, since I had to “garden to order”, and gazing was not required.
Now that I rent a home with its own piece of land, I can get back to some serious gazing. In the short six months in the new house, I have been away from it for a month and a half. My most recent absence was during the rainy December-January time, when everything grows incredibly fast in the Algarve. Had I been here, I would have kept it under control. Now that I am back for a good long while, I have made a start (pictured above).
I posted this picture on Facebook, and said that although it looks nice, there is a lot of work to do. A friend replied, “Then get started and make your own Paradise.” What a lovely thought!
So far, my paradise has a cobblestone frontage now completely cleared of silt and weeds, and half the weeds out back have been strimmed to ground level, thus liberating abundant seeds for the many birds which visit every day. Today’s joy in the icy late afternoon was the severe pruning of an old rose bush with black spot and a continuation of the task of weeding the front flower beds. I have purchased three packets of flower seeds and I am eager to get those planted soon. For the uncleared vegetable bed at the back, I have seeds for strawberries and lettuce, which variety goes by the name of “Summer Marvel”. How imaginative.
Oh, and I kept the seeds from that half of an enormous pumpkin my neighbour across the road gave me, but I have no idea when one plants pumpkin in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, my sister in Australia reports that the nasturtiums I put in a large planter of hers (near the hammock) on the last day of my holiday are beginning to peep through. I had forgotten that I had done that. Why nasturtiums? Because those were the very first flowers we planted in seedling trays and grew as little girls together “all by ourselves”.
©2015, Allison Wright