Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where were we again?

Yours truly, who cannot muster any enthusiasm for writing blog posts when she has no photographs to go with them, has finally figured out how to capture still photos from her video camera, and posts can resume.

We had a cold, windy, sodden spring which held on until the last minute of its official term of office, like a politician who has long worn out his mandate but cannot be coaxed, bribed or blackmailed into stepping down.

But, right on schedule, on the morning of the 21st, Summer arrived in all her shiny glory. Plants which have sulked and hung back through May and most of June have suddenly burst forth in wild and joyous exuberance.

Our friend Tony up the way, who has what must be the most spectacularly beautiful garden in the park, brought us a beautiful bouquet last Sunday. A melody of every bloom from his flower garden in the nearby orchard where he works, it is still gracing the counter. Though one or two of the roses are a petal shy of their original glory, the fragrance is heavenly.

All Sunday evening we kept wondering where the fragrance of ripe peaches was coming from, until we tracked it to the white roses in the bouquet. Who would have thought that a rose would carry with it the scent of a fresh peach?

In the vegetable garden we are covered up in rainbow chard, Asians greens, every kind of lettuce, and beet greens. Every other day I practically have to take a machete to the mint to keep it from enveloping every other plant in the garden. The neighbours are beginning to wince when they see me coming down the street laden with yet another bag of chard, bok choi, lettuce, beet greens or mint.

Next step is a market stall on the highway, maybe set up like a border crossing. "No M'am, we don't want to see your driver's license, we just want you to take this bag of bok choi and keep on driving."

For our potluck on Sunday I made bbq'd ribs and an enormous salad - a 16" wide bowlful - of baby chard, beet greens, half a dozen types of baby lettuce, mint leaves, Asian greens, bok choi flowerets, thyme flowers, and lavender flowers. I dressed this with the lightest drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and it was a great hit. It was the first time I'd ever seen people go back for seconds on salad.

But never mind, though we turn green from salad and/or greens at every meal, it's a bounty we long for all winter. Chard, bok choi and beet greens five minutes out of the garden are an impossible dream in the depths of winter. The "greens" at the grocers in January bear only a passing resemblance to what's bursting from my garden today. Gather ye chard-leaves while ye may.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

KIVA Loan for June 2010

Our KIVA loan this month goes to this smiling group of women from Bougoula Ville, Mali. In this Group: Sali Bamba, Fatoumata Kone, Habi Ouattara, Aminata Traore, Macoura Traore, Chata Sangare, Mariam Coulibaly, Oumou Bagayoko, Rokiatou Djire and Sarata Coulibaly.

All the group's members are married, some in the traditional polygamous family structures common to this part of Africa. They have a median age of 34 and between them have 40 children.

This is their 11th loan with the microfinance institution Soro Yiriwaso, and all their previous loans have been paid in full. This ability to access capital to invest in their businesses is vitally important to business people everywhere, but even more so to women like these, who have no access to capital through the regular banking system which demands collateral and is only interested in large dollar loans. This is the reason microfinance is so important, especially to women in the Third World, who have little hope of improving their lives otherwise.

The women in the Benkadi Group each have their own business selling diverse articles like potatoes, soap, second-hand clothes, etc. Sali Bamba (a group member) sells potatoes and will use her loan to purchase 20 cases of potatoes at the large market of Médine in Sikasso. She will resell these potatoes at the local village market and from her home on a cash basis. Sali envisions making an average profit of the equivalent of $31.00 US monthly. A part of the profit will be used to support her family's needs and the other part will be invested back in her business.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Seriously Amissing

But then I get bored reading my own posts, so I expect everyone else must be absolutely stunned into unconsciousness by them!

But to list the last week or two's most exciting occurrences:

1) I added a new bird to my list - the yellow breasted chat. The book says this is a shy bird who is more often heard than seen. Apparently the one coming to gobble the seed I toss out morning and evening hasn't read the book. Or perhaps he is just the extrovert of the family.

One of the blackbird pairs is bringing their four or five noisy, begging youngsters to the seed pile. The kids follow the parents around with gaping beaks, shaking their wings and screaming like a banshee reunion. After poking seed down the kid's throats a time or two the parents start dealing out peckings and beatings instead of seed, and the kids get the message and begin to pick up their own food.

We have a pair of quail who come from across the road to eat seed. I get very tickled watching him trying to herd her back across the road if she hasn't yet eaten her fill. She runs a circle and ends up right back pecking seed while he dances and curses in frustration. (Women are not always easy to herd!) One morning I hadn't gotten out with the goodies yet and Mr. Quail marched up the walk and crowed his head off until I came out and served breakfast. Birds are very entertaining.

2) Our weather has been uncharacteristically cool and damp. Evening before last there was a double rainbow across the entire span of the sky. It went from the clay banks right across the lake to spill onto Naramata. I'm not sure I'd ever seen such a brilliant rainbow.

3) The garden is progressing at a satisfying pace. We've eaten a couple of salads out of the 4 x 4 behind us. That's the 4 x 4 where all the cherry-type tomatoes were planted last year and it is now chock full of two-inch high volunteer tomato plants. Although I have planted about two dozen tomato plants I cannot bear to pull these plucky little volunteers, so I'm not sure what will become of the chard, beets, leeks and onions I planted.

I'm going to pretend it's an experiment. If the volunteers do well I will seed my tomatoes directly in the garden this fall and let Mother Nature do the work next spring. To heck with greenhouses and trouble lights and packing flats in and out of the sun. It will be "Back to Nature" for me. I grew so many tomatoes I've been begging neighbours to take the extras and finally got desperate enough this afternoon to put the last 30 on Freecyle.

They are going like hotcakes, with people mailing to ask if they can pick up four or six. Yes, please. I'm tired of babysitting them and have no place to put them! I'm beginning to consider sneaking out in the dead of night to plant a tomato into each flower bed in the park.

And that is the extent of my exciting life. Practically comatose really. And loving every minute of it.