Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Village Living: Gardens

Gardens and family are the mainstays of PNG village life. Families are the social network. Gardens are the economic and survival tool.

Garden when we arrived
When we arrived in the village they had finished clearing this year’s garden for planting. Clearing means cutting down larger trees and burning off all the undergrowth. Fallen trees are used to define the edges of the garden or collected for fire wood. With our wasfemili, we helped plant the garden with corn, taro and bananas. As in every garden everywhere, we also spent a lot of time weeding. In the area we were in, gardens were planted with a range of productive plants and never in straight lines. Corn becomes the frame for beans to climb up. Banana palms give some shade to taro.

Garden four weeks later
This year’s garden was across the road from the house on a steep slope. Last year’s garden, the one we were eating from, was an hour’s walk away on an even steeper slope. Here we could see the plants that had grown up together. Some food also came from the gardens of previous years. As we walked through the jungle  I could not always tell where gardens began and ended, but Papa and Mama could always tell us who the garden belonged to and when it was planted. We are each knowledgeable in our own field and this was theirs.

For us, the diet of cooking bananas, taro, yam and sweet potato, flavoured with ‘greens’ and coconut milk quickly became dull. Yet these are the staples which they are capable of raising with the land and conditions they have. Plenty of carbohydrates with whatever protein you can catch. Fruits (pineapple, pawpaw, pomello) seemed to be eaten more as snack foods.
Bananas anyone?

Close by the village were plenty of coconut and buai trees, the fruit of which was consumed daily. Near our house was a small garden with greens and tobacco for regular use. It also had a row of flowers for decoration. With all the energy that daily went into travel to and from gardens, work within gardens and work turning produce into food, a row of flowers for beauty was an addition that made me smile. 

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