December 9, 2010

A garden grows in 'Uiha....

 Finding veggies on 'Uiha is a problem, since local Tongan diet does not include a lot of fresh veggies, nobody here grows them for market - they're meat and potatoes (or yam, rather) type of people and we, too, have become meat and potato types - here its called kiki (meat dish) and haka (lit. "boiled" but meaning boiled root crop).  Maybe the occasional pele leaf or lu (lu'au or taro) leaves make it in the pot, but on a whole, no veggie "side dishes" to be found on a daily Tongan table.  Hence, we started a veggie garden at our town lot, which is further inland and has much richer soil.   
Initially, I thought I could grow veggies right here at the house we're staying at which is on the water.  I planted a few tomatoes, and they withered and died, as did the beans.  It was my first attempt at growing anything, so I'm not surprised.  But I figure the soil right outside this house is suspect, its very very sandy.  Even the pele leaves which are usually troopers failed to thrive.  Maybe in time they will, with the application of compost once we get it (still in the process of making our pile, which will take about a year, and then a second year of curing).  At any rate, we started a veggie garden at our town lot (our Grandpa Vaiokema's house which is vacant), and this is what it looks like as of yesterday:
Sweet potatoes in the foreground, the veggie patch in the back where we've sown carrots, onions and radishes.  That's Grandpa Vaiokema's house, vacant right now.  We store our tools in it for the moment, but it is wired for electricity and has a fairly decent cement water tank, so it could very well be habitable with a little TLC fixing up. 

Hikilani (neighbor kid who helps out) and Dad take a break in front of Grandpa  Vaiokema's wooden house

A pretty, old mango tree in the yard. Dad reckons this tree is probably nearing 100 years old, and it appears that way - look closely at the roots, which are swollen up into gnarly toenails that serve as chairs during breaks from the sun.  The pic doesn't do the old tree justice - she really is bigger than appears.  We'll trim a branch back to allow more light to hit the sweet potatoes, which are off to the left of frame.