All the perfumes of Arabia

I have spent the last few days brewing a terrific stink! Usually Anilodharani is the sweetest smelling place. We have champaka, roses, jasmine – wild and domestic, angelonia, tithonia, water lilies, even thorny acacia and papaya flowers, perfuming the air all around. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the delightful smells. But no longer.

A few weeks ago I realised we had reached a plateau. Our trees and shrubs have established themselves, but many are refusing to make the leap from surviving to thriving. Several citrus trees, 8-10 feet high, haven’t begun flowering yet. Time for a catalyst! First, we sprinkled some rock phosphate powder around the roots. Then came Project Jeevamrutha.

Jeevamrutha is a well known biofertilizer used by organic farmers, made of cow dung, cow urine and water, plus small amounts of jaggery and besan, all mixed together and fermented and stirred for 3-4 days. I also added some banana peels, which are supposed to be rich in potassium.

This is the large terracotta urn in which I made the Jeevamrutha. I got it from a lovely pottery shop in Harohalli, on Kanakapura Road. It was a heartening experience to meet the enthusiastic young couple managing the shop and the kiln – the latest generation, I guess, in this 55 year old family concern.

At first this brew just smelt of cow dung and cow urine – quite pleasant to most people. But as each day passed, it got a little more obnoxious. Now, on Day 8 (I started distributing it to the plants on Day 4), it’s so foul that it has Topshe running excitedly from tree to tree, while I’m reeling from the fumes. The worst part is, I can’t get the smell out of my nose. As I stir it with a long pole three times a day as advised, I find myself staring into the murky depths and remembering the three witches chanting bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. I remember, too, Mrs. Sinha, my amazing English teacher in Class 10, who made Macbeth come alive for us. Meanwhile, Srini has taken to calling it the Jeevan mrutyu, which translates to living death. With all this insult and injury, it had better do the plants some good!

Speaking of stinks reminds me of an old joke – When Hitler entered the room, the skunk left.

Now, to get away from the topic of stinks, here’s some good news: the first palash of the year is ablaze!


20 responses to “All the perfumes of Arabia

  1. Why oh why do sweet smelling flowers and fruits require vile smelly stuff to grow?? Jeevan mrutyu it is! Try smelling some camphor – may keep the stink at bay!
    The palash (Tesu to us) is such a beautiful splash of colour. Already laden, and I’m sure the tree did it all without any help, hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good tip about camphor, Jaya. Will try. I have a good stock of it – did you know it’s a rat repellant? We keep some in the car after a rat chewed up the wires. An incidental (and doubtful) benefit was when I gave my one time boss a lift. He is a religious type who deplored our godlessness, but the camphor made him think I had turned over a new leaf!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A friend who went on a high altitude pilgrimage trip swears by camphor tied in a piece of cloth, around the wrist. She says smelling it on and off helped her survive. You can try the bracelet trick.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The flowers seen to manage without the smelly stuff, it’s the fruits that need it. Or rather, it’s the plants that feel at home that don’t need it, and the others do. Mangoes and roses need no inputs at all.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Orange, lemon, musambi, pomelo, jackfruit, coconut, cacao, avocado, litchi, phalsa, palmyra, amla, starfruit, dragon fruit, soursop, etc. Chikoos are doing well, guavas are doing ok.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe. But I do love a variety of fruits. And it’s not like growing it in an air-conditioned greenhouse with artificial plant food. What it really involves is some loving care, plus trying to find a suitable microclimate within our land. I’ve given up on exotic vegetables, they are too delicate. But trees are long term, hardier, and improve the land in so many ways, so the effort seems worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful that you have cultivated (some pun intended) love for farming. Something lot of us think will do in retirement.
    Your reference to Mrs. Sinha brings back memories of her very animated and facial expressions as she read out words from Macbeth – helped us remember during exams.. and beyond too!


    • What fun her classes were! Remember how thrilling and funny she was when she declaimed “Macbeff, Macbeff, Macbeff! Beware the Fane of Fife!”
      Hope you do take up farming when you retire, Tom. It will be interesting to compare notes. Kerala or illinois?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, my! I hope everything can return to normal soon for you. We used to brew beer in the house, and I thought that smell was bad–but this one sounds much worse 😦

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s