ANOTHER round of lockdown started today, September 8, 2021, in the whole province where we tend to a piece of sandy beach land, which we are slowly transforming into a green space to grow food. On more counts than we could possibly think of, we are glad we are here at a time when life is more difficult than it has ever been before. With all these heightened restrictions for a province put on General Community Quarantine, or GCQ, it is going to be like the first 15 days we were locked down in March 2029. This time, it will be running until September 30, and all of three weeks will feel like everyone will be in a stand still, just like before.
Not worrying as much as before though. It is just the thought of having to go to the market only one day a week that really bothers me. I have been through this and it was really hard getting all the stuff for a week in one go. The first time the government experimented on this, we were all caught flat-footed. We were anxious. We tended to hoard all the stuff we could lay our hands on. Canned goods were mostly cheap sardines, what else? Rice, noodles like pansit and vermicelli or misua. Dried fish was actually tuyo and dried alamang. It was good to be near the seashore, and we were quite privileged to get the freshest supply of salt-water fish.
What was horrendous last time was the absence of public utility vehicles. It could have been more convenient if tricycles were allowed to be on the road. We lined up to hitch a mobile patrol car that would drop us at a designated point, regardless of how heavy our grocery bags were. We walked carrying what we had bought and it went on for quite some time.
This time will be a lot easier with the tricycles to ferry us around town.
The leafy greens and other veggies then got so pricey. Imagine buying a piece of banana blossoms at P95 and one upo for P110! Never was it so hard to live on veggies.
COVID-19 stifles. I am getting tired of these lockdowns. We are like pawns being pushed to our endgames. I am not used to staying inside all day, seven days a week, all weeks these past couple of months. The pandemic scare has been so cruel. It has separated families. It has tried to dissolve the basic unit of our society. It even crashed the economic power of a great number of people, not only the poorest of the poor, but also the so-called middle-income sectors.
Ah, the garden is now my refuge and gardening my rock. Here I can skip going to the weekly market, because this is where I can get an unlimited supply of vegetables, herbs and wild edibles. We have, whenever we need, malunggay leaves, wild ampalaya, wild passion fruit tops, camote tops, squash, its flowers burak, an eggplant or two, and patola with fruits every other day. Cassava comes handy too. Our okra has started fruiting and a steady daily supply of okra is an understatement.
We are actually on the once-a-week market day to get feeds for chickens, staples and some fruits in season. Not much spending on vegetables, except on occasional cravings for kamansi, arimas, or green langka. We are yet to realize our food forest and all we have now are small green papayas on a salvaged tree.
When we came here, there was not a single saluyot nor kalunay growing. We had to scatter some seeds in summer so that when the rains came our garden started to host a sprinkling of these supposedly wild greens. We do not uproot saluyot nor kalunay as some farmers do. We want these to bear their own seeds that will eventually grow voluntarily as we have wished. We have also introduced sesame seeds and we were surprised these grow on bushes taller than me.
Here, where the air is freshest, we need not fear of breathlessness. We even leave our face masks on the shelves and just pick these up whenever someone from downtown calls.
The sun is warmest here that the virus may not last longer. All things exposed under the sun gets sterilised better. We leave laundry to dry on the clothesline. Our backs, arms, legs and face get sunburned but we do not care at all. It disinfects even the dirt on our nails. Who needs frequent handwashing with strong detergents? Our hands are clear of Covid19 even without washing very often.
Mind you, here we do not have to worry about electric, water or gas bills. Our lights are solar-powered. Our water sources are hand-pumped. We have wood-fed stoves where we use branches, twigs and leaves of trees nearby to cook with. We have lived life as simply as it could get. Quite laid off but a little bit busy with work and all this stuff building the soil, getting seeds to germinate, nurturing new plants and animals that are also essential parts of the garden.
Our day usually starts at 4:00 a.m. when we check mails or messages on the internet, communicate, commune spiritually, and get started with either mulberry, moringa or calabash on the teapot. While the water simmers, we hear hens and roosters wooing, find the urge to throw some cracked corn or broken rice at the coop to get them back to their nests, lest these hens scatter eggs and all we see are broken eggshells, if not rotten eggs.
Harvest comes next and before we know it, some scattered eggs have been beaten into an omelette with herbs, or put inside the steaming pot of rice, shells intact.
After breakfast, work in the garden continues until the sun scorches and it is again time to rekindle the stove to cook lunch.
Siesta is until the sun gets down and the sand is cooler to handle. At around 4:00 .p.m, garden work rolls down again, the hens and roosters looking for food prepared for them again before they go up the trees to rest at sundown.
Meanwhile, if there are tree seedlings to transplant, we do it before dark, so with watering and mulching to conserve moisture until the next rains come. Sowing directly on the growing sites is not advisable on sandy soil. All seeds have to be started in seedling trays or black bags and these have to be kept in a nursery for extra care.
Long after the chickens have kept silent, our work is not done yet. Before dark, all tools and equipment are cleaned and tossed in a pail under the low stairs.
Dinner time is at 6:00 p.m. and another two to three hours of cellphone time caps our day.
COVID-19 or no COVID, lockdown or not, a day in this garden space passes without a mask.