December 2012 Allotment Diary

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“Nature is a textbook from which we must learn. Each object in it is a page of the book. Each and every object in Nature teaches us something. Renunciation and selflessness are the greatest lessons that we can learn from Nature. Nature sacrifices herself for humans; whereas, we not only exploit Her, but destroy Her. Yet Nature serves us. The earth is serving us; the sun, the moon, and the stars serve us. What do we do in return for their selfless service? Nothing except harm.”

Amma from “Awaken Children Part 2”

Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha

Recycling in Ireland

The recycling team were fortunate enough to attend Amma’s programme in Ireland this November. It was interesting to see the lack of throw away items used in the dining area in Dublin. Despite the fact that the Irish team was relativley small, with some co-ordinators covering 2 or 3 areas, they still manage to use mostly washable and reusable items in the dining hall. They also manage to get the volunteers to wash them up! This is in stark contrast to what happens at Amma’s programme in London, where there is an abundance of polystyrene bowls, cups and plates, non-reusable plastic cups, plastic cutlery, and paper cups. Amma herself says we should avoid using throw away items. See for example, the following page on the Amritapuri website:

“At the conclusion of her satsang, Amma asked the crowd to reflect on how to minimize their environmental footprint. She told them to avoid using paper cups and to try their best to carpool.”

Last year in London a devotee said to the recycling team that using throw away items at the programmes makes Amma look bad, because it is against what she is saying. I am sure that the last thing that any of us would want is for Amma to look bad. In response to all this, a group of us hope to soon begin to draft a sustainability policy for the programme and for Amma UK, so that (amongst other things) we can quickly phase out the use of throw away items, and bring the London programme and Amma UK activities in line with Amma’s words.

Allotment Diary

The allotment is fully into wind-down-and-go-to-sleep-mode. And looking out of the window at a cold, grey, windy November day, who can blame it. There still is a little activity to do, however.

Now is the time of year to plant garlic. Well, when we say now, we mean ideally October and November. But garlic is a tough old thing. We have planted it in December before and still got a crop. The soil does not need to be particularly well fertilised, although you will get a better crop if it is. Dig over the area you want to plant it in, and if you can at this point dig in a little compost then all the better. Then you can buy an ordinary bulb of garlic, trying to make sure that the cloves are not too soft (as this will mean it is old, and may not do as well when planted). Split the bulb up into individual cloves, and plant it in the soil the pointy end up (we are sure your garlic does not want to be upside down!). You plant it so that the tip is below the surface of the soil. This is to stop birds or squirrels from pulling it out. You can plant garlic in a pot if you have only a small garden, as long as the pot is big enough, say 20cm (8 in) in diameter and similar in depth. This is not an issue in the winter, but in dry weather remember to water your garlic, especially if it is in a pot. Garlic can survive the coldest weather. The temperature reached -17oC on the allotment last winter, and garlic was completely fine. Here is our newly planted garlic bed, the patches in the soil are the depressions where we have planted garlic and pressed the soil down.

Last year the pond was full of leaves. These then formed a very smelly, muddy layer at the bottom of the pond. When they broke down, this in turn meant that the pond water was full of nutrients and the water went green. Now not all the little pond creatures mind this. In fact some like it. But it means that very little light gets in, and so the plants which we put in to oxygenate the water were not able to do their job properly, so there was less oxygen in the water. We noticed some creatures called rat-tailed maggots in the water. They look quite horrific, with a squirmy maggoty body, and a long white tail (which is in fact their “snorkel”, through which they breathe). But they are part of Nature so we should not look down on them. Their presence is a sign of low oxygen levels, and a lot of pond creatures cannot tolerate such conditions. All this is a long-winded explanation of the next photo, which shows the pond covered with a net.

This is recommended to prevent leaves getting into your pond, and will hopefully stop what we have described above from happening again. We hope that over time the pond will become a home for more and more animals, and that some of them (the frogs) will eat plenty of slugs on our vegetable beds! Providing a home for animals is part of the the InDeed Campaign for Nature that Amma has initiated. The Campaign focuses on six simple, concrete actions each of us can take, based on Amma’s recommendations to help restore nature’s lost harmony. See the link below:

These homes can be as big or as small as you can manage. We are lucky enough to have an allotment, with space for a small pond. But even if you only have very limited room, even a small pile of stones, rocks or wood in the corner of a garden can be enough. Ants, woodlice, snails, centipedes will all find shelter there. The InDeed Campaign is something we will hopefully talk about in later editions of the Enews.

The photo above shows the sweet peppers in the greenhouse getting dressed up for Halloween. Well, why should they miss out on the fun? Also, putting this fleece on them protects them in cold weather, as they are not really hardy enough to cope with this climate. All of the greenhouse plants had several layers of fleece over them for a few weeks in October and November. Now, the fleece has all been removed, and the plants chopped up and placed in the compost bin, as it is getting just too cold for them. It is quite sad when this happens. It is nice to say thank you to your plants in your allotment or garden (or window ledge) when you the time comes to chop them down, as they have given us so much. Even the plants that we do not use for food give us oxygen, joy when we look at them, and emanate loving vibrations. Amma tells us to talk to our plants and to kiss them, showing them lots of love. We don’t remember to do this often enough on the allotment or at home.

The beds are all being put to bed as it were. A few winter crops are still in apart from garlic, such as cauliflower, leeks and salsify. The perpetual spinach and kale always dies back in very cold weather, but then re-sprout in the spring, to give us 2 crops every year. The swede will need to be harvested before it gets really cold.

Many of the beds now have green manure on them. We have mentioned this before, and it is essentially plants that are grown not for food, but to improve the soil. We use 3 species at the moment. Tare or vetch, which is sown in the warmer months, and which adds nitrogen to the soil, as well as growing a large bulk of plant material, which can then be dug into the soil to increase the amount of organic matter. The second is Hungarian grazing rye, which can be sown when it is cooler, and which grows a huge bulk of plant material to add to the soil. This is useful on the beds that are poor in organic matte. It can also cope with cold weather. Finally we sow field beans, which add nitrogen to the soil, but do not produce as much plant material as the other 2. This is useful for beds which have organic matter, but which may be low in nutrients. Field beans are also very hardy and will grow in the coldest weather. The beds that we harvest from, and finish with in the warmer months are the ones we sow tare onto. When we finish with a bed in colder weather, grazing rye and field beans are better as they are hardier.

The beds that do not have crops or green manure on them, will hopefully have leaves dug into them, to increase the amount of organic matter. We have collected 10 bin liners of leaves, mostly from a very kind neighbour, who is glad for someone to take them away. He rakes them, bags them up, and we carry them away. All of us benefit!

Om Namah Shivaya

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