When I first came to this country in 1975, I had gardening on my mind. My family in India had just moved from Mumbai to Pune, where it became possible to plant a garden, and my mother was full of plans for this new adventure. Her excitement was infectious and I also became keen on gardening. As an exchange student, I started a garden in my host family’s plot. Later, when my husband and I moved to Stanford, I cultivated a communal plot at Escondido Village. In our first condominium/home, I spent several years working the very clay soil that is the legacy of every Bay Area homeowner. My efforts came to a standstill when I herniated my L5-S1 disc in the ninth month of my first pregnancy. Not only could I not think about gardening, I was also unable to pick up a cooking pot, sleep, or, worst of all, pick up my baby.
It took me several years to figure out what had caused my problem, how to solve it, and develop enough confidence to have two more children. With the additions of Nathan and Monisha to the family, we were attracted to buying a larger house. I was glad that when we sold our condominium, the music faculty buyer deeply appreciated the improved soil I had worked on.
Early efforts at soil improvement in our current home. I’m carrying Monisha on my back African-style.
Improving the soil remains an obsession of mine, and with the Bay Area’s clay-dense soil, it takes an obsession to turn the soil around! At my current home, I have developed a thriving edible garden, with many fruit trees, vegetables, mushroom beds and logs, lettuce lawns, and a vertical garden packed into my family’s land. To do so, I fed the soil many things, some of them quite unconventional: sawdust (no glue, no redwood, no walnut) from a friend, wood chips (not redwood or eucalyptus), city compost, manure from one of the many Augean-style stables in the area), coffee grounds (thank you, Peet’s!), and kitchen waste.
Hip-hinging to harvest artichokes (that magically have no choke!)
I was thankful for the new posture that allowed me to do the requisite digging, hauling, and turning to develop a fruitful garden. Over the years, it has become clear to me that each of these activities supports my posture project. Posture cannot live in a vacuum. It’s a set of principles and patterns that needs to be manifest in activity.
Today, I maintain my garden year-round and work in my garden most days. Lately I’ve been picking arugula, herbs, avocados, and nasturtium for salad, grapefruit and berries for dessert, persimmons for fruit leather, eggs for breakfast, and greens for stir fries.
Left: Hip-hinging in my fave Yao tribal jacket from Thailand to collect greens that Brian cooks into Indian saag. Right: Soil improvement does pay off in wonderful produce!
Have you had a similar experience? What activities support your posture project?