Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…

I’m a farmer’s daughter. Even after we moved to town, I spent summers driving tractor, hoisting bales onto the hay wagon, and swatting mosquitoes. While classmates were traveling to Europe, or hanging out at the local drive-in, I was thirty miles from nowhere harvesting alfalfa. And here’s the scary part: I liked it. Love for the land and its produce is intrinsic, a part of who I am.

So when I asked Ketut to take care of the garden, I imagined he would water it when it was thirsty and keep the grass cut. After all, that and a little fertilizer does the trick in Minnesota. Right?

What was I thinking? This is Bali.  A garden here looks more like the Disney Jungle Cruise on steroids, and I’m clueless. I’m learning to stand back and let those who know what they’re doing, take charge.  So when Ketut showed up with a wicked curved knife in his hand and said, “Cut garden,” I just backed out of his way, nodding assent.


Ketut in my ‘garden’

I didn’t pay much attention until I heard a tree crashing to earth. To my dismay, I found Ketut, knife flailing, doing battle with the jungle that appeared to be swallowing him alive.

“Ketut!” I must have sounded alarmed because he stopped hacking for a moment.

“What?” he said, looking at me, eyebrows raised.

“Snakes!” I think I may have been shouting. “Hati-hati!”

“Where snake?” he said and I immediately felt stupid.

“No snake,” I replied, “Just…please be careful!”

He grinned, “Ya,” he said. I don’t want to know what he was thinking.


Piles of branches litter the yard

Several hours later the ground was littered with hacked vegetation and instead of a mass of tangled vines, there were identifiable plants.

“What will you do with all of this?” I asked him, motioning at the piles of tropical foliage.

“Make new,” he said, whatever that meant. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. He grabbed a handful of the most colorful branches and carried them to the garden’s edge. With a few swift motions, he jabbed the stalks he had just cut, back into the ground.

I watched with my jaw hanging open. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Make new,” he said again. “Rain come, grow-grow.” I almost laughed at the impossibility of that idea. If I stuck a branch from, oh, say an oak tree, in the corner of the yard in Minnesota, no amount of rain would make that sucker grow! But I bit my tongue and said nothing.


Ketut jabbing the branches into the earth “Make new!”

Just then a movement under the bushes froze me in my tracks. I stared into the darkness. Plop! It wasn’t a snake, snakes don’t plop. I squatted on my haunches and peered into the undergrowth. A warty, brown blob stared back at me. It looked like an alien life form. “That has to be the ugliest frog I’ve ever seen!” I said.

Ketut joined me for a look. “Married,” he stated matter-of-factly. Then I saw the problem. It wasn’t one, but two ugly-as-sin toads, enjoying a moment of intimacy in the garden.



A song came to mind…Cole Porter…Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…

I left the garden, Ketut, and the toads to their business, poured a glass of wine, and pondered the rich layers of this experience. What a privilege to have so much to learn.

A few hours later we had another epic monsoon. Today those plants look like they’ve always been there. They didn’t miss a beat. No post traumatic transplant stress for them! Suddenly I’m aware of the possibilities. Seeds. Everything I eat has seeds, and here they’re probably not the GMO variety. What if I planted chili seeds, and papaya? How about a few garlic buds, and ginger root? Mango? Visions of eating delicious meals harvested from my back yard garden plays like a B movie through my head.

I run the idea by Ketut. “Possible,” he says. Of course it is. Just about anything is possible in paradise.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shanemac
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 16:54:48

    This may be my favourite of your published posts. It made me giggle and I know just what you’re saying about the amazing growth of vegetation in Bali. Bung it in the ground and it will grow. Our mango tree is only 3 years old and hasn’t fruited yet but I’m expecting it will soon. I’m also hoping the avocado trees may start fruiting within a year. I can give you some jalapeno seeds and also some red New Zealand red spinach which I love. Seeds aren’t that easy to find in Bali and I have heaps of them so let me know if you want any.
    I love your posts, Sherry.



  2. writingforselfdiscovery
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 20:00:31

    Thanks so much Shane! I’m going to get the building project done first. Then I’ve decided the back yard will be garden and I’ll come begging seeds! My initial curiosity was whether or not the leftovers from my meals would grow!



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