For many years we have tried to have a vegetable garden. Sometimes we could grow things and sometimes not. Our workers have always done their best and we got some results, but it’s never been sufficient to provide enough vegetables to our kitchen – for the ever-growing number of children at Baan Unrak.
We’d like to have a great variety of vegetables but our soil is not very good. Some friends suggested that we should harvest soil from other fields belonging to friends and well-wishers ready to share their bounty. And so we did.
In fact, one of the jobs that the kids had to perform during the holidays was that of bringing new and fertile soil to Baan Unrak (See this article to find out more). So our children went into the jungle and to our friends’ fields to collect good soil. They packed the soil into bags and transported it to Baan Unrak.
Then came the second step: the “coconut operations”! We knew about the fertilizing properties of coconuts, by mixing its fiber and charcoal into the soil with seeds. And we were so lucky to find a producer of coconut milk, here in Sangkhlaburi, who needs to get rid of so many emptied coconuts. That was exactly what we needed: what was a waste for them, was so precious to us. And so, a big mountain of coconuts soon took shape under the big porch of our house.
The children sheared the coconuts to get the fiber. Then, the sliced coconuts were piled up and burnt.
The children used dried palm leaves to blow on the fire, giving more oxygen to the flames and accelerating the burning.
The resulting charcoal was then packed into big bags by hands. At this point, the work was over, but with the hands covered in oily coconut charcoal, naturally, the playing started!
The children loved to make their faces black and chase each other, culminating in an authentic “charcoal battle”, followed by a collective wash with the water pipe.
This work brought a lot of joy to our children, and it involved all of them, from the smaller to the bigger. Everyone could participate, having even a small task in this choral effort.
Finally, with our home-made charcoal and coconut fiber mixed with animal manure, we filled up pots and planted seeds in it. This was just the start in the making of the vegetable garden of our dreams. In the near future, we are also hoping to have a greenhouse, to be able to grow vegetables even during this time of the year with torrential rain.
Now we are starting to see the first results, and it’s so good to see our vegetables growing! We even succeeded with vegetables that normally do not grow here. For the first time, we could harvest tomatoes. We also had very beautiful marigold flowers to give joy and to decorate our homes.
We are trying to experiment with different kind of natural teas such as Butterfly pea and mint. The children enjoy making and serving those teas whenever they have an opportunity. They especially like to amaze our guests with the mesmerizing color of the butterfly pea. We are learning and the first results are encouraging.
The benefit is not only in the result of the final products. The children have the opportunity to get close to mother nature, to immerse their hands into the fresh soil, to feel it, enrich it and nourish it. To be together in a constructive communal task enriches our children’s life. By growing a garden they also learn how to relate to the inner garden of emotion. To tame the inner wilderness until they can harvest the fruits of patience and compassion.