The summer solstice, the touristy summer month of June, the dry heat of summer… they are all part of the past now, as grey clouds and green creepers cover the sky and ground respectively.
Rain clouds spend their days hanging around the horizon, watching the hot sun steam up the valleys and forests. By early evening, after running out of cloud-conversation and drinks at the horizon-bar, thick grey clouds cover the evening sky and threaten marathon runners, football players and evening strollers . On some days, we get a brisk shower…on most days we get humid evenings and clear night skies.
The rains and clouds have softened the earth and its time to get down to planting trees. After the summer fires and accompanying brouhaha, I have learnt, in theory, the correct way to plant trees in the forest. It is time to put the theories into actual practise.
Two deep pits of 2x2x2 feet have to be prepared. Digging out this much of stone, rock and mud with Kundan was an eye-opener. It took us 4 hours of backbreaking labour to clear the growth, dig out the rocks, carry the mud to sieve out the stones and pebbles and to make that pit ready for a tree.
Next day, it turned out that digging was the easy bit! We started to sieve the entire mud to remove the stones and pebbles and everything else which cannot be called mud. After adding an equal amount of manure ( provided by our generous neighbour Prema), checking for Kurmul and other parasites, we had to carry the mud mixture back to the pit.
The pits look like bottomless monsters to my tired arms and shoulders. All that sieved mud and manure work of the second day covered a few inches of that huge hole. I will need another week of back-breaking labour, with Kundan, to plant the tree saplings!
The gap between theory and actual practise is something which has been thrust on my face. Its so easy to write ” dig a pit and sieve the mud”. It takes hours of hard labour, sweat and sun-burn to make one phrase of an instruction manual come true.
I can see what a difference this method of sieve and mix will make to the roots of the tree sapling. The usual tiny-hole-in-the-ground-and-put-sapling method is only to make the planter feel virtuous and noble about contributing to the greenery. No wonder trees take so long to grow to a size where cattle cannot harm them. No wonder that reforestation attempts fall flat on their face. No wonder that we have sad, stocky, stumpy little trees on our hill slopes which look the same size, year after year.
I now realise that old dictum that nothing truly happens without hard work and sweat…I have to now go and sieve and dig and mix manure for some more back breaking hours!! How I wish I had a “vanar-sena” of hard working monkeys instead of these gawking, hungry apes who are waiting to eat the fruits of my labour of many years. HMPH!!