Category Archives: flora

High altitude review

Standing on a rooftop, all covered in plants

we thought that an art piece might enhance the expanse

but papier mâché can’t survive a winter of rain

so we used fabric to weave a tree that shall remain.

(Thank you, Graze the Roof)


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Filed under education, flora, On the Move, storytellings, weaving

Beauties & a beast

I haven’t been keeping up the pace here, and I owe you an explanation. In the past few weeks, I’ve been up-down-up-dooooown-uuuuup-down the east coast, catching up with beautiful people and sparkling places and music that’s never been featured in any Ollywood. There’s been a minor drama motion picture in the backyard over the past couple weeks, where my father and I sprang into action with rototiller, compost, shovels, and peat moss to make a three sisters garden – this is a traditional Native American planting method for corn, beans, and squash, which form a wonderful symbiosis in the ground and in the diet.

Ground : Heaped into small mounds that help maintain proper irrigation and, we notice, keep dogs from stepping directly on your seeds. Beans/peas climb up corn stalks, while winding squash vines splay their giant leaves around and keep the ground clear(er) of weeds. The beans fix nitrogen back into the soil, improving the prospects for the corn and squash next season. Nice.

Diet : Carbs/corn, vitamins/squash, proteins/beans, oils/squash seeds, weaving our way up the food pyramid. Or should I say – beans and tamales with roasted squash? That’s how my dreams were running, until the groundhog waddled in.

Groundhog :

We watched the soft green tips stretch into the sunlight, and unfurl into curling tendrils, outstretched pumpkin palms, and silken fronds. We turned our backs for a moment, or maybe just blinked, and one triplet of pumpkins was suddenly amputated – an entire mound reduced to little green arms. Next we blinked another mound was denuded, and sometime in there all the bean plants vanished. A few corn fronds were snipped off and left carelessly in the pathways between the plantings, and from day to day each grouping of squash plants was cruelly razed.

We only had 8 helpings of squash to offer, and it’s been over a week now. If you run into that groundhog though, casually leaning against a pump at the gas station and picking his teeth with the remains of my garden, you tell him from me – this ain’t over.

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Filed under flora


my last few weeks in India, the hectic tragedy of exiting a place that I wasn’t ready to leave overwhelmed the usual news I like to report; but the usual newsmaking carried along nicely. Our remaining solar-powered flashlights winged their ways out to reach rural communities in north Andhra through a network created for an innovative library system. In order to serve a widespread population, a single library collection is divided among multiple communities, and the segments are periodically rotated so each community ultimately makes use of the entire collection. And when I say winged, I mean travel by train, then car, then by foot to reach these villages, along the same routes as all those books.


To my astonishment, delight, and surprise (it was hot out) our plants began to catch from their cuttings and sprout or survive –


As our last art project together, I asked the children to draw muggulu for me. Muggulu (or rangoli) are the geometric designs drawn as a symbol of welcome or celebration in front of entrances to homes, shops, schools… and sometimes inside too… and they’re beautiful. Traditionally, the dots and lines are formed by sprinkling rice flour, but in the city I usually saw them drawn with chalk or white paint. On special occasions, they would sprout sprinklings of red kum kum, yellow turmeric powder, or delicate flower petals that never blew away in the hot still air –

Muggu & photograph by Kavitha

Chalk, white paint, crayons, stickers, pencils, and markers actually.

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Filed under flora, India, One Million Lights, Sphoorti Foundation

And about time, too.






We planted with cuttings, a trick giving the bizarre satisfaction of instant gratification in gardening; but all that green will die off in just a few days and afterwards, the guessing game begins.

Which roots are growing?

Can’t wait to let you know.

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Filed under education, flora, India, Sphoorti Foundation

Hot news

Just one quick little rapid-fire update for you : we’ve got summer . Go ahead, keep track of our weather. I have no way to explain why I enjoy this heat.

Since I know you’re concerned, I thought I’d let you know that the garden is still plenty plucky and it seems there might be another little one on the way.

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Filed under flora, India, Sphoorti Foundation

A pause to play

Hello. I’ve been snaking across India so fast that by the time I was hanging out the door of my train car, watching the desert pelt by, I felt simple and enormous relief – because the landscape was finally moving as fast as my experience and that synchronicity let me begin to think.

Then the train slowed to a stop and I sped back up. I’ve begun to feel the pinch of timerunningout and I think this minor marathon was partly inspired by that; I have less than two months left in Andhra Pradesh and here I am wanting to see all of India while I have a chance.

But India is big.


It all started when my parents dropped in. I took them straight to you-know-where for a visit and then we picked up and went to Kerala. Kerala is renowned as beautiful, as soothing & relaxing, as tropical & fragrant with spices, but unfortunately the hype mostly obscures the beauty and relaxation. And I don’t believe that they have 100% literacy.
Even so :

Kerala from very, very high above

We had a lot of opinions about the 5-hour rumbles up and down the mountain

We sauntered our way into Jew Town in Kochi, to visit the synagogue built there in 1568, on just exactly the days that it’s closed to the public each week. We went to see, at least, on Saturday morning… and, being Jewish, were ushered right in to hear part of the services. It is beautiful inside with pinks and blues of glass chandeliers, hanging textiles, Chinese floor tiles, and a man chanting in the middle of it all.

And we went to Delhi. I don’t like Delhi particularly more than any other city I’ve visited, but I’ve found a few spots in Delhi where I could happily visit every day, forever.

Lodi Gardens was as wonderful as I remembered.

The National Gallery of Modern Art was as wonderful as I could have hoped.

Impulsively dropping by a concert at the Ravi Shankar Centre was beyond imagination and description, good. Holi was colorful beyond what I could photograph (since I didn’t want the interior of my camera to turn pink). There was the clash of Glaser-on-India, there was frustration, and there was food.

And then – they left. The assault of outside perspectives left me with as much to think about as I’m sure the assault of India left them. One week ago, they left me with this tiny sliver of twomonthsleft in India, and there I was wanting to see all of it. Give me a day or two to figure out what happened next.


Filed under Agra, Delhi, flora, holidays, Hyderabad, India, Kerala, music, Sphoorti Foundation

Compost to cow them all

So you’ve heard about the garden. Let me tell you, it is burgeoning.
Now all you victory gardeners, you composters, you champions of the local and the fresh, listen up. Because there was a time when I was planning to start a compost at Sphoorti. I was looking at places to put it, pondering containers to house it, and conducting a generalized survey to figure out if I could get any red bait worms in this unapologetically landlocked city. And one day I was talking to the director of Sphoorti about it, and he pointed out that it might be an issue to build a compost big enough to handle all the organic waste from the kitchen. Because – well, the organic waste goes to help feed the buffalo at the dairy next door. So if Sphoorti stops contributing to their feed, the owner might not be willing to give cow manure free of cost. And the cow manure – well, that’s what fertilizes the garden, of course.

Sphoorti has been quietly making use of a composting system so straightforward that it never occurred to me. Here it is :

I hope I remember to check out the neighborhood buffalo next time I’m trying to sort through a predicament.


Filed under fauna, flora, India, Sphoorti Foundation