Ever since I can remember, I enjoyed growing things. I had a coriander patch when I was about 8 years old. It did not produce much, but it did produce some coriander. I think the idea of a seed turning into a plant always seemed like magic to me. I would soak beans in water overnight to watch them germinate. Then I would take them out of the water and dissect the bean to look at the germinating plant. I was hooked, I guess.
By the time I was 13 years old, I had graduated to carrot, Sukuma Wiki (Kale) and parsley patches. I had no idea what parsley was at the time. Coriander is more common in our recipe’s than parsley. But I liked the way the leaves curled and the smell produced when you rubbed it. I also had a rosemary plant. Yes, one plant.
For whatever warped reason, when I went to high school, I did not take agriculture as a subject for my ‘O’ levels even though it was offered. I stumbled into university and once again, I completely bypassed any course that was related to agriculture.
For a time in my adult years, this yearning for soil died down. Then, I relocated to Lagos, Nigeria for work. Something about that city’s humidity, constant rain and variety of produce woke my dormant interest in agriculture. I knew then, farming was going to take up a lot more time in my life.
Time went by and I relocated to the Middle East. I had been there for a while when I got tired of store-bought herbs, plus I needed to fill up my free time, especially during the Holy month of Ramadhan, with something. Life during the hours of fasting comes to a standstill. When Ramadhan falls during the summer months of May to October, life truly comes to a standstill. Average temperatures of 45 degrees celsius ensure that everyone goes into hiding from the heat, whether they are fasting or not. So, I hatched a brilliant plan. At the time it seemed brilliant. I was going to start a patio garden! I lived in an apartment on the first floor of the building with a huge patio space. This was genius!
I went off to the garden supplies store, bought potting soil, pots, seeds, everything. I was in business. I even ordered heirloom seeds online from garden centers in the UK.
I spent evenings and weekends getting that patio garden going. In a few weeks, I had plants! I had dill, basil, coriander, heirloom tomatoes, chives; the works! That garden brought me so much joy. I would dash home from work to see how much they had grown. I had started the garden in spring when the temperatures were a lot cooler and amenable to plants.
My colleagues enjoyed gifts of basil and coriander. My house cleaner was overjoyed at the prospect of fresh dill for her kitchen. I made basil pesto for my delicious pasta dishes. My otherwise empty weekends were now fully occupied with me doting over my edible container garden.
Slowly, the temperatures crept up to their summer highs. I had noticed the slow temperature rise because I was watering the plants more and more. I never really gave it too much thought as the herbs were still blooming.
The harbinger of summer is usually a sandstorm. One night, we had a sandstorm that darkened the night sky and dumped soil everywhere. By midnight, it had died down. When I woke up the next day, I went to check on my garden! Everything had died. Every single plant was dead. The dill had upped the stakes and had turned to ash.
Then I thought long and hard. Who plants a patio garden in the middle east and hopes to make sense of it? The death of my garden was the beginning of my quest to return home and actually farm. On land!
That patio garden taught me a lot. Above all, it taught me to follow my dreams, using what I had, where I was. The death of my patio garden confirmed to me that I was destined to farm. So here I am. Farming, still broke and quite content with life!