Heather in Senegal

Thursday, July 13, 2006

June 30 Friday
An hour before dusk on Thursday I set off on my bike with one empty plastic bag, an idea that I’d seen cows grazing in a nearby field, and a mental image of a beautiful, well fertilized garden to call my own. I pedaled to the field and lay my bike in the grass. Instantly, as usual when I am anywhere near my house, some girls called my name and asked what I was doing. At first they seemed to think I was mispronouncing the word, but when I did a charade of how cow-patties are made and explained why I wanted to find some, they volunteered to help. The girls were better than I at sighting the cow-patties, but I had to do the picking-up. Thankfully, I am told that fresh cow droppings are too powerful to mix directly in dirt in any large dose, so I was able to avoid the soft, hot, fly-covered cakes and only take the hardened pieces.
While we four were bent over the field, Malik, a friend of my family’s, joined us and helped in the hunt. We were not finding a lot, so Malik suggested we relocate to another field that he knew was frequented by cows. As we walked to the field, the conversation went from the usual topics of the sun being hot and hair-braiding hurting to the use of drugs in Senegal. It is very minimal, I am told, because Islam forbids it and because most people think drugs are very mysterious and evil. Even marijuana is discussed in a hushed, horrified tone of voice. From drugs we went to Islam, to Judaism, to the religious populations in the USA, to New Orleans, to Katrina, to Weston volunteering there, to Malik telling me he would pray for Allah to bless Weston, to the way the US government in handling the aftermath of Katrina. Such a pleasure to stray from my normal conversations. My Pulaar vocabulary is growing.
Today I broke ground in my backyard and mixed crumbled cow-patties with water and sand. With the help of some of the children in my compound, I filled pepinaires with dirt and seeds. My host mom found an old wooden something that is now our pepinaire table. Aliu, a twelve year old boy, lit up when he saw the pictures on my flower seed packets. These packets were sent from the USA to a prior volunteer. They are old, and they were not prepared for our kind of weather, but Seck took these seeds to a friend of his who specializes in flowers, and his friend thought they would all work here. I let Aliu choose a packet, and he very carefully broke up some ground, planted, and watered. Then he pulled me over to show off his work.
So far we have marigold, lettuce, cucumber, and tomato seeds in the pepinaires. I plan to do direct seeding with carrots, watermelon, okra, and follere. (I don’t know the English word for follere.) I have visions of a wonderland of color and vegetables in my backyard accompanying a sea of flowers blooming all over the compound.


At 7:18 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,
I don't know what "pepinaire" is. I checked an online dictionary but got nothing that way. Then I went to Google. The second hit was your blog! I'm guessing the word is pepiniere, but I still don't know what it means.
I think "follere" might be sorrel. Look at http://www.gardenguides.com/seedcatalog/herbs/sorrel-bulk.htm to see if this is follere.
My daughter is gathering cow patties!?!
All my love,
Mom (:-)

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,
Aha. A pepiniere is a nursery or breeding-ground, so that's where you're starting your plants. And that makes you a pepinieriste.
All my love,
Mom (:-)


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