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From printer’s ink to planting pak choi

By Vernon Khelawan, vkmoose@gmail.com

The COVID-19 three-month lockdown has had a number of diverse and strange results. Imagine me, a journalist of more than 60 years, turning to the soil for solace. I now consider myself a small agriculturist. I, whose blood is saturated with printer’s ink and the smell of newsprint, am now a man of the soil.

Funnily, it all started by mere accident. Joan, a devoted and most helpful wife, threw a handful of half rotten tomatoes into a container in which there was some soil. Sometime later, I can’t remember the length of time, the seeds germinated, and a bunch of seedlings burst forth. With not much to do during the lockdown, I took the decision to plant them.

I sourced an old toilet bowl complete with tank, several old plastic buckets and transplanted the seedlings. But there were many more sprouting plants, so I decided to create two beds that accommodated some two dozen more plants.

I nurtured and cared for them, doing the usual watering and moulding. The plants were coming along nicely. I got what my mother called ‘chaleur’, meaning heat, enthusiasm. So, I decided to do more planting.

Two old sinks accommodated some Spanish thyme and chive plants and my friend Terrence Awai came through with four lettuce and four pak choi seedlings, which I duly planted in an old wheelbarrow I had in the yard.

I was now an authentic agriculturist, making sure that my ‘plantation’ was well-cared for with props for my tomato plants and constant watering and weeding. Now I sit in my porch and admire the richness of my garden, the result of my hard work and constant attention.

It was not long before I began to see the fruits of my labour—flowers and later young tomatoes began to show their heads. Now I was in a real tizzy! I did not know when the fruit was ready for the picking.

I contacted my brother Patrick in Orlando, Florida. He laughingly asked whether I had transformed from journalism to gardening, then advised that as soon as the fruit showed signs of yellowing with streaks of red, I should pick them and allow them to ripen on their own.

When harvesting time came around, I called my elder son Kevin and made a ceremony of his picking the first set of tomatoes. I allowed him to take them home, then his wife Nicol called to say they were having my tomatoes in her evening salad. I was now officially ‘agriculturist’ Vernon.

My wife meanwhile has already reaped thyme and chives, blended them and completed her seasonings, using it in her daily cooking. Produce has gone to my daughter Kendra-Ann and my other son Kendall as well as my sister, Barbara. And me? I am eating lots of tomatoes and foods seasoned with stuff from my garden.

By the way, I did not tell you about my cherry tomato tree which I did not plant. It blossomed in the middle of my planting blitz, grew in the middle of my flower garden and produced quite a crop of which almost my entire family participated especially daughters-in-law Nicol and Suzette and her son Nickolai.

So, there we have it, my venture into the world of agriculture.

Does my initial success make me a ‘qualified agriculturist’? I think so. If COVID-19 did nothing else, it made me a vegetable gardener. What’s next? I am planning to do more planting of more vegetables—melongene, sweet peppers and ochroes.