Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Gardening in Swaziland

I live in Swaziland, and Swaziland is far away from home. Even as the 747 flies it is an impressive distance. Heck, the 747 even has to stop for gas on the way. As you know, the 747 holds a lot of gas. It does not, however, hold enough to get from where I am from to where I am now without stopping to get more.

Much of my time way over here, therefore, is spent making home seem closer than it actually is. This is why I have a Texas flag flying in my front lawn and this is why I have photographs of my family just inside my front door. I see those photos at least twice a day, going and coming.

It is nice.

To make home seem closer, I also host frequent barbeques. To further shorten the distance, I am having a friend of mine share with me his carefully-guarded tortilla recipe and rolling technique. (Tortillas here are imported from NYC, and that is too much time on a 747 for a tortilla. They end up both broken and a dollar each.) I already have collected a few margarita recipes, but Mbabane has been out of tequila for a few weeks, or perhaps I just don't know where to look.

In any case, there is nothing quite like a fresh burrito and margarita to make Texas and California seem just outside my front door, as they so recently were.

As a man cannot ward off homesickness with flags, photos, grilling, burritos and margaritas alone, I recently intensified my bring-home-to-Swaziland strategy for warding off excess nostalgia.

I took up gardening.

As a Texan, I suppose that I should pretend that I grew up farming, and that I only garden because I am no longer back on the farm.

Well, I did not grow up farming. We did keep cows and horses, but in my eyes they were for fun, sort of like big, fenced-in pets.

We did have a garden, though, and an impressive one, if I remember correctly. We grew zucchini the size of bowling pins. We used to supply our entire zip code with homemade salsa from our tomato/onion crop. We grew brussel-sprouts, strawberries, onions, potatoes, okra, pumpkins, an assortment of peppers, asparagus, carrots, yellow squash and plenty more.

Well, I am ashamed to say that my garden is not so impressive. There is nothing the size of bowling pins, and the tomato plants are falling over because I have not tied them up properly. I have little diversity, and if I were a subsitance farmer I would not be able to subsist.

Still, the garden looks pretty, and I really enjoy my time sowing and reaping on my tiny plot (pictured above), even if there is little to reap. Just this morning, in honor of the recent Swazi harvest festival (see entry below subtitled "Ryan's brush with royalty"), I picked my first butternut squash. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first butternut squash ever grown in a Phelps Africa.

It is a very small butternut squash, but I took the photo from an angle that makes it look more like a bowling pin, because I do have my pride to protect.

Next is a photo of my fledgling corn. The row on the right is maize, and the left side is sweet corn.

Though I do not have a picture of it, I also have a young lime tree. I am still in the market for an agave plant. While I have no plans to buy, feed and slaughter chickens or livestock, I do have many of the key ingredients for margaritas, salsa, and vegetarian corn-tortilla burritos just outside my front door. (If you like meat in your Swazi Tex-Mex, don’t be discouraged. We can either catch one of the neighbor’s obnoxious guinea fowl simply buy some beef at the store.)

So, if you are ever far from home, homesick, and somehow near Swaziland, drop by and we'll scavenge the garden for something edible and familiar to take the edge off that homesickness.


At 10:12 PM, Blogger Phelps Family said...

Chip off the old block, you can always cheat with Miracle Grow.
We are several months away from planting but Billy Talley is chomping at the bit (or tiller) which almost certainly will not start and has a flat (right tire ususally.) Keep up the good work, we love you.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger FlipFlop Mom said...

ooohhh this is a really cool blog!! Please update soon!!!!


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