Spring in the Maara
Our Maara is glowing with beauty despite the ripe and ready food crops being eaten, the torrential rain and the big winds. After two nights of Big Spring Weather, my walk in the maara looked well, devastated. Everything seemed to be lying down, flattened, defeated. But then the sun came out, optimism took hold and I took another walk around the Maara. I saw that the potatoes are leaping out of the soil with great enthusiasm no matter how many shovels full of soil I applied yesterday. Soon the raised bed is going to have soil hillocks well above the frame resembling a new local maunga range. I may have to raise the sides of the boxing, a good problem to have! Equally verdant and fertile are the weeds! Armloads of weeds are sprouting everywhere. No empty spaces. Warmer weather has instructed life to spring forth and we haven’t been quick enough in filling the gaps. On closer inspection many of these free-range plants may be desirable repeats on last year’s crops, so we are letting some of the growth be, as we need a little time to discover what kai it may bring. Seeds too continue to sprout. I am super excited about the mixed variety of sunflowers let alone all the kai self sewn and sewn by us.
Our nitrogen-fixing lupins are coming up in the soil that was wheelbarrowed out of the Maoriland Hub causing the builders an extra week of work at the beginning of refurbishment. Lupins, like all legumes, get nitrogen out of the air with the help of a symbiotic bacteria that lives in nodules in the plant roots. Regrettably, we are supposed to ‘chop and drop’ the plants into the soil at the beginning of flowering, the nitrogen-fixing action isn’t as effective if left to a later stage. Somehow I think at least some of the lupins might have to be left to flower longer – we just love flowers – and our compost box has amazing coffee grind nitrogen inputs from Salut and The Daily Coffee Co to make up for what is lost in the flowering of lupins!
Our gardening ‘Maara Mondays’ have begun, if you are local do come along… we put our hands in the soil regularly on a Monday 10 am-midday. Getting intentional in a garden space is somehow always good for the soul and more seeds are springing up at home for several maara wahine having got the ball rolling at Māoriland. We may take some adventures beyond the Māoriland Maara too – if there’s common interest and another time in the week people can make it.
We shifted some bergamot, there is baby bergamot potted up for people to take if you want a herbaceous ground cover that keeps on giving! Bergamot was used for tea by the Oswego tribe of American Indians and was adopted by American colonists during their boycott of British tea in the 1770s. This is an interesting piece of political history to look into should you be so inclined.
Localising food systems and working toward greater food sovereignty is an important part of our Māoriland Maara Mahi. Food is political. We are reducing waste, growing kai and are planning a project to share skills and kai. All resourceful and skilled chefs out there start thinking about what you might like to share or teach in a community context. We are about to build a kitchen in our container here at Māoriland and commence the Māoriland Kai Collective.