A whole new world


(Continued from “We’ll draw a green thumb”)

I watched my father-in-law poke a few holes into the bag with the screwdriver. He left it in the corner, and turned around to find me in a happy daze.

Here I was fretting about the lack of an actual ground. ‘One can’t possibly compost without a hole in the ground,’ I thought to myself. And there he was, coolly collecting all the kitchen waste into a plastic bag to make a compost bag in our tiny apartment balcony.

After my in-laws returned to their home, we continued to add kitchen waste to this make-shift compost bag, excited about harvesting compost.

But something wasn’t quite right.

For starters, it smelt bad. Very, very bad.

And it was super soggy – dripping brown smelly liquid wherever we kept it.

And then there were the maggots. Lots of them.

I was sure that I wanted to compost waste, and was determined to do so. But was it to be as yucky as this? Neither of us had any idea. And so we shot the question out into the electrical void – the internet.

The internet informed us what was going wrong. The short answer: our compost was out of ‘balance’ and had too much moisture*.

To solve our immediate composting crisis, we added shredded newspaper, and left the bag slightly open, in the furthest corner of our balcony. Next step: we decided to get a proper composter.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and we welcomed our Kambha.

The Kambha is a terracotta composter made by a Bengaluru based NGO, Daily Dump. There really isn’t much to it: three earthen pots with holes on the sides. While the top two had a rope mesh at the bottom, the third one was closed at the bottom. They stacked up neatly. I marvelled at the simplicity of its design.

We watched the instructional video and transferred our (now utterly disgusting) waste and added some of the ‘remix’ material supplied by the organisation. The ‘remix’ material and the terracotta absorbed the excess moisture, and within a couple of days the compost stopped smelling.

As I learnt soon enough, the compost pile is as much a living organism as you and me. Needing a well balanced diet, breathing in oxygen, and exhaling carbon dioxide. And if it is malnourished or there is something wrong with its digestion, it emits a foul smell.

As for the maggots, they stopped bothering me. The composter was now a self enclosed eco-system. The compost pile was its earth. And a host of creatures grazed on its lands. With the plastic bag out of the way, the air around the compost became more breathable, and the fruit flies joined the maggots. Soon the land sprung shoots of large fungi, and even a sapling here and there. And the fungus gnats appeared. The maggots slowly reduced in number, as the competition for food grew. And then came the spiders – the top of the food chain, preying upon the insects.

All the while the kitchen waste continued to reduce. What was first green, yellow and purple slowly turned a rich, dark brown colour, and it smelt sweet – like Mother Nature.


* The long answer comes in a separate post!

“We’ll draw a green thumb”


“Why can’t I have green fingers?” I asked my unsuspecting friend, one day.

“It seems everything I plant just refuses to grow. Everyone in my family has green thumbs. Why am I not able to grow even the easiest of plants?”

“Oh, is that all?” said my friend. “Don’t worry. One day, you and I will sit together and draw a big green thumb!”

I eventually married my reassuring friend. And sure enough, we began growing a few plants, most of which survived! One of my wishes had been fulfilled. But in my heart, I knew there was only one way my garden could be complete. If only we had a real garden.


A real garden, to me, was what my grandmother had at their house on the outskirts of Chennai – a lawn in the front, with three hibiscus trees, a car shed with a guava tree as a roof. Papaya on one side of the house, bananas on the other. The mango and lemon trees were in the backyard. There was even a pineapple plant, and two coconut palms – my father had brought coconut sprouts all the way from the Andaman Islands. There were numerous flowering plants and cacti too.

Almost every time that we’d visit, we’d carry a pineapple, mango, coconut or some lemons back home. Once, I saw my grandfather climb up a tall stool to harvest a bunch of bananas, while I stood nervously on the ground praying for his safety.

Having lived in apartments all my life, I had made peace with the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to have that sort of an area for growing plants. But the one thing that completed the garden, was a compost pile.

At a very early age, we were initiated into composting by my grandmother. There was always a separate bin for kitchen waste, which she’d dump into the pit in the backyard, near the fence.

Back home, my mother did what she could, to use the kitchen waste for the flowerpots – the coffee grounds and tea leaves almost always ended up going to the flowerpots in the balcony. And that was the closest, I thought, that we could get to reusing kitchen waste. Up until recently, that is.


“What are you doing?” I asked my father-in-law. He looked mischievously at me, and picked up the screw driver from the kitchen.

My father-in-law, I found out soon after I got married, loved plants. Our garden was minuscule compared to his large terrace garden. And when he first saw the small take-out containers I had re-purposed into planters, he remarked. “They need a bigger area to grow roots! These are too small!”

Perhaps he saw potential in the garden, or recognised our shared love for plants – he quickly warmed up to the idea of a small garden. He procured a few more plants and helped grow the garden – even helping me repurpose more food containers!

It wasn’t unusual for him to tinker around with the plants. But on this particular day, he busied himself with something new.

I followed him to our tiny balcony.

“I am making compost,” he declared.

Read part 2: A whole new world

From jeans to sleeves


I love denim – its casual and cool attitude, texture and multiple shades of blue…  I’ve always wanted to work with the material, but I dreaded even the thought of sewing. So invariably I asked my mom to create things like this beautiful pencil holder.

Last week, I teamed up with my mother-in-law to turn a pair of old jeans into a laptop sleeve.* This was the first time that I took up a stitching project and it was quite the ride. Denim isn’t the easiest material to work with, especially if one has never stitched before—first with cutting open the jeans, then running it through the machine, and the occasional need to reopen messed up stitches. To complicate things, we attached the zip after stitching all other sides—bad idea. It should have been the first thing to be done up.

After we stitched everything up, we realised that the zip would rub against the laptop constantly, and it would be necessary to add some piping inside. Again, a lack of planning. With the multiple stitches bunched up at the corners, we extended our simple project by adding a small patch that doubled up as a pen and zip holder. To finish things up, we tidied up by putting in a few stitches by hand, and then trimmed all the loose threads.

For two-and a half days, we stared at the fabric; measured the laptop and fabric multiple times and drew chalk lines; had mini debates and discussions (no, there were no arguments, thank you); threaded needles; pulled the sewing machine apart to remove knots; lost the thread and threaded the needles again; stitched, reopened the stitches and stitched again; turned the bag inside out and then right side back up; and finally packed the laptop in. Phew!

Today, I am proud to introduce you to our new laptop sleeve!

From jeans to sleeves
Click / tap on the image to view them all on Flickr

This one was made using one leg of the pair of jeans. One down, one more to go 😉


* My mom is super happy I decided to give sewing a try. And now I won’t be able to ask her to take up my sewing ideas. Bummer.

Images taken with Motorola Moto G3 and collage created with Befunky.

The food channel comes home!


Having spent two nights in a hospital room with a poor WiFi signal, needles piercing my arms and eating some rather bland food, coming home was a heavenly feeling.

The hospital wasn’t all that bad. For starters, atleast we didn’t have to cook, or worry about household chores. Then there was a large TV – a device we have chosen not to include in our house. After all, who needs another screen and another monthly subscription for something we neither have time nor inclination to watch. So there we were in that homely room switching between food and science channels for pretty much all our waking hours. I have to say it had a little bit of an impact on me.

I’m not really a foodie. I know lots of people who are – they know which is the best place to eat in pretty much any part of town; what is the speciality of those food joints; and are even willing to travel a fair distance just to taste that one flavour which has the perfect contrast of textures and smells. For me, all that is Greek and Latin. But after a prolonged exposure to the micro waves of the TV shows, I decided to turn into a chef for a while.

The recipe – a tower of biscuits layered with creamy chocolate and dunked in coffee – was one my mother had been wanting to try out for long.

I took pictures along the way and noted down all the steps – detailing everything a TV chef would likely mention. Taking pictures meant that it took us four times the time it would normally take to make this sweet.

This week, Jen Hooks asked bloggers where their heart is. Right now, it is set on devouring this delicious piece of home-made tower of biscuits!

The tower of biscuits

To see how other bloggers interpreted this week’s photo challenge, head over to the Daily Post.


For those who are interested, here’s the recipe:

  1. Whip some milk cream with chocolate sauce.
  2. Add cornflour and heat the mixture over low flame, stirring constantly, till it thickens into a smooth paste.
  3. Spread the mixture over 6 Marie biscuits and place them one on top of the other.
  4. Cover the tower with an extra biscuit and press lightly.
  5. Pour coffee decoction over the tower, ensuring that the biscuits are fully soaked. Drain the excess coffee and place it in the freezer.
  6. Remove it after about half an hour, or till it becomes stable. It should be soft and have the consistency of cake. Make sure it does not freeze completely, or it will be nearly impossible to eat it!
  7. Serve as is, or sliced.
  8. Consume immediately – we did not keep it to test its shelf life 😉

H2O


States of H2O
The three states of H2O

View of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the holy glacier at Tsomgo (also called Tsangu or Changu) Lake beneath cloudy skies.

In response to the photo challenge on the Daily Post by Lignum Draco

Getting crafty


… and making a small mess in the process!

Thanks to this great tutorial, a few clothespins, a pair of scissors and lots of glue, a few brown paper bags lying around the house got a makeover – a mid-week holiday well spent!

basket_craft_collage_small
The basket at various stages of completion

And yes I used my finger to spread the glue and am enjoying peeling off the residue!

Check out how bloggers around the world are having fun at the Weekly Photo Challenge.

Grainy images from my phone edited with Befunky

Learning Curve


learning_curve
The corridors of the mathematics department at University of Allahabad 

For more curvy photographs, be sure to visit the Weekly Photo Challenge.

The time machine


This week, the guest at the Daily Post asks us to tell time. The challenge had me all excited and geared up!

I have a fascination for gears and enjoy watching them at work. The way the individual pieces interlock; their movement harmonious and in-sync; and that rugged metallic look! These simple machines have stood the test of time (pun unintended!) and can work reliably even after years of use, unlike modern digital goods. And so, for this week’s Photo Challenge, I decided to photograph the inner mechanisms of a mechanical clock. Until next time…

time_machine.jpg
A look inside a clock

Alphabet


Several years ago, my uncle gifted me a bead loom kit. Seeing the actual tools used to make bead jewellery got me excited. I couldn’t wait for my holidays to start using it. My mother and I read through the manual and she assembled the loom. I drew out an elaborate design on the drafting paper provided with the kit and had begun imagining a bracelet on my wrist!

It was only once I had drawn the grid for the design of my bracelet and begun weaving each individual bead into the loom that I realised the effort that is involved in beading.

I have always found it difficult to haggle with street vendors selling these kinds of bracelets. Having tried it out myself, I don’t even think of negotiating.

This one with my initial is one of the handful of bracelets I weaved on the loom.

alphabet_k

Explore all the alphabets over at the Daily Post

Weight(less)


This week’s weighty photo challenge had me jumping with delight. A perfect excuse to share this picture I took at Anandagram last month.

Anandagram offers a beautiful and serene environment to visitors. It houses 3 private museums housing traditional Indian household objects, terracotta and textiles from across the country. The buildings, styled like traditional houses, are surrounded by vast manicured lawns with discarded objects turned into art installations! Kept spotlessly clean, this leaf was about the only item which ‘littered’ the place – and it too was pretty 🙂

leaf_on_the_ground