I have been so busy in the physical world for the last few months, camping with a toddler, that I’ve ignored almost everything virtual in my life, including the high aspirations I previously held for my garden website project (worldfoodgarden.org). When I do get online time, its has usually been to catch up on the Permaculture course which is serving to support my experience of this outdoor lifestyle with knowledge and theory. But basically I’ve had no time to blog nor stare at a screen, and its felt great.
When I last updated, we had been in Auroville for only a couple of weeks and I was looking for gourd seeds to potentially begin a project to grow gourds for musical instruments. The length of our stay would depend on whether or not we found these seeds and started this project. Well, I did finally track down some gourd seeds but the source warned me that their germination rate was only 10%. I soaked and planted them in starter pots anyway. I soon after tracked down better gourd seeds from a different source but in a rush to soak the new seeds overnight and get them into the ground during a new moon phase, I brought them with Trekker and I on an overnight trip to Pondicherry and, sadly, left them in the hotel soaking in a cut plastic bottle filled with brown dirt-water where they were promptly thrown out upon the room cleaning. Just as we returned to our campsite the next day and as I realized that the good seeds had been lost, I looked down to see that starter pots the original gourd seeds were in had also dried up completely. With a feeling of near defeat, I grabbed a bottle of what looked to be the brown dirt-water that these seeds had originally soaked in and doused them till they were all wet. I was late to meet a friend for dinner and I just shrugged and sighed when I realized that I had just poured Apple Cider Vinegar all over the poor little guys. Oh well, I thought, SMOTL and son will move on…
But little did I know- GOURDS LOVE ACID! Or acid soils anyway. The seeds that I was told would give only a 10% germination rate gave us nearly 95%. I can’t say for sure that it was the AVC, I did attempt to rinse them in water the following day, but whatever it was it worked because now we are growing gourds.
Over the last 3 months our Campsite, aka “Fort Trekker Baby”, has evolved from this:
(I made a last minute decision to use stone pillars for our trellis and hired some local guys to build over our campsite in 2 days. For <$20USD you can buy a 2.5 meter stone pillar in India. Total cost was way less than I would pay in rent in one month anywhere else, and now we will be leaving something useful behind. You can see the gourd plants growing up pillars. They will form a canopy above us)
Here’s another view:
I moved the mosquito tent to be near the hump part of the fallen trees and raised the earth a little underneath to avoid flooding incase of unseasonal rains (yes, I did this, NOT the local guys. I’m feeling quite proficient with a mumpty these days and a little regretful that I hadn’t build the whole trellis myself..)
We’ve also acquired a small solar powered fan from Auroville Energy Products since temps are nearing the 100sF each day now.
With nothing but a mosquito tent to sleep in it really feels as if we are completely outside. It is a wonderful way to wake up.
And as for having no time to blog- until last week, and other than a few hours on a a few saturdays in the last 3 months I have been with Trekker 24 hours a day 7 days a week, sleeping, eating, gardening, and doing EVERYTHING else that one does in their day, with no assistance or breaks. It has been wonderful, rewarding, challenging and exhausting and I am grateful for every second of it. I feel that we have figured out what works for us and developed a bond and trust that I know I am lucky to have had the chance to create. Overcoming night nursing in a one-parent home is the most difficult thing we’ve both gone through to date (except maybe the birth and it was a seriously hellish birth) but it has made way for so much less exhaustion in our day and has brought a deeper understanding to our relationship. Trekker is now able to be comforted by me without milk. I am now able to soothe and comfort Trekker without milk. This is a big deal. And we may finally be averaging 6-7 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Life is good.
(Trekker helping me collect and transport garden mulch)
Other than achieving decent sleep, the camping lifestyle is also flowing with an ease and satisfaction that might have been challenged were we to abide in a proper house at this stage in my toddler’s development.
Because we live outdoors Trekker is able to ride his (pedal-less) bike, climb small trees, chase butterflies, build dirt-castles, swing on hammocks, splash in water, experiment with pouring water into different vessels and back again, shovel dirt, play soccer, and otherwise make any kind of mess he wants to all in our home safely, while I cook or work on the house/garden. And I rarely have to clean anything up. There are no walls requiring us to both be either outside or inside at any one time and he has a variety of nature’s toys to choose from always.
(view from the kitchen)
(chillin’ in the tub)
(hitting the gong – turns out gongs are a great centering tool for toddlers, and for mamas)
(riding his “motorcycle”)
I highly suggest extended camping with two year olds. Potty training out here was an instant breeze because all it took was going 2 weeks with no pants for Trekker to realize what was happening “down there” and get a handle on when it was going to happen beforehand. Plus, if an accident happens outdoors its no big deal- you can scoop up a dookey with a leaf and drop the whole thing in a composting toilet. And pee is great for the garden.
Trekker is really thriving out here and learning new skills every day. He helps me water the gourd plants each morning and gets super excited about picking cherry tomatoes from the neighbors garden. He has learned early about the dangers and uses of fire, to be weary of scorpions and snakes at night, and to always zip the tent so the mosquitos don’t get in. I’m amazed at how well he retains and acts on information. And he is a super joy to be around. Of course he is vulnerable to toddler breakdowns if he is tired or hungry but these things are predictable and usually easy to avoid with a little self-discipline on my part. I know I am an extremely lucky mom, but I am also glad I that read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr Sears and followed its course of baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding because Trekker has so far turned out to be an incredibly smart and independent little joy to be around.
(Trekker with the wooden mumpty made by Johnny)
Community living has also proved to be quite enjoyable and to ease the load for me lately. I’ve begun volunteering on the farm with the others to harvest cashews and process jackfruit, and Trekker is able to play alongside, feeling that he is a part of something, while I get to be productive. This is actually amazingly close to the ideal “tribal” situation I had been seeking which was based upon the idea that kids feel safer being near a primary caregiver at all times and will develop most healthily if that caregiver is focussing their attention on doing something productive for society and not solely on the kid. And if the kid can be involved in helping in some way, all the better. Sort of seems obvious I guess. Anyway I’m lucky I was in the right non-position in my career to take advantage of this golden situation.
Another plus is that I have a built-in social life here, or at least other interesting, creative adults to converse with throughout the day. There are 10+ people living in Johnny’s Place at this time, mostly French, Australian, and Indian, but also a Brit and a Dutch family and me. The community hosts a potluck for the greater Auroville community on Sundays, and movie night Fridays where Johnny puts up a large screen and usually shows a kid’s movie first. Last night we watched Temple Grandin and I was so thrilled as I had no idea a movie had been made about her since the documentary “Woman who thinks like a cow” that I made Trekker stay up 2 hours past bedtime so I could see it. The movie was fantastic and Clare Danes was incredible.
Johnny, of “Johnny’s Place”, an architect/artist, who I’d originally though was British (maybe due to hints of an aristocratic upbringing and his quick wit) is actually and Aussie and is the type of person who can build anything and fix anything. There are usually many kids around from the school he is involved in, each working on their own project ideas while Johnny helps bring them to fruition. I’ve seen everything from blow-guns to bamboo boxes, leatherman cases to full “survival kits” and cross-bows being produced by these kids. There is an open workshop space here where they can work on stuff and Trekker has lately been hanging around “working” alongside them. I’ve also begun a couple projects of my own there too.
(Trekker sharpening something with the workshop’s stone grinder while the other boys work on their creations.)
(Trekker steering a go-cart that a boy brought here for an upgrade, while Johnny pushes)
In the last couple of weeks Johnny has also taken Trekker under his wing to help another early Auroville pioneer, a dutch man named Evar, to build a demountable house not far from where we are camped. Trekker has spent many mornings “helping” them while I catch up on my permaculture course. He now knows the names of all the tools and building materials and is able to even use some of them.
(Johnny assisting Trekker to use the screwdriver)
Life here is magic
…and when we need a break from life on the farm we walk across the street for a dip in the spa pool…
(Trekker in front of pool with spa resident “Kiku” on his shoulder)
or take a 10 minute drive on the scootie…
…often through goats…
I do know that change is constant and challenges do exist, and will likely come stronger in life’s unexpected waves, but right now I feel that Trekker and I are riding on some wondrous flow of manageable imperfections and magic and we both seem to find ourselves smiling and laughing much more than anything else. Thanks world!