Over the summer I finally put up some crintin woven fencing and turned the little space between my hut and my host mom Mariama's cooking hut into a little garden. My host family helped me get the crintin and I cleared out the trash and bricks, dug out some plots, and picked out some seeds to plant.
With the help of Mankaba (above) and his older brother Mamadou (below with the moringa) I planted moringa, squash, cherry tomatoes, wax beans, radishes, okra and cucumbers. I tried to plant hot peppers and bitter eggplant but they didn't sprout. Luckily, Mariama, Mamadou and Mankaba's mother, has a nice garden of her own and transplanted a few seedlings over. My little garden's right next to her sleeping hut and her cooking hut it makes for a convenient kitchen garden - if all goes well the tomatoes will go in maafe tiga (the peanut sauce we eat with rice for lunch), the spinach-ish moringa leaves will go in maafe hakko (the leaf sauce we have with corn couscous for dinner) and the other things will be mixed into cucumber salads, added to sauces, or eaten afternoon snacks.
When I cleared out the garden space I realized that the moringa that Lindsay, the PCV I replaced, had planted a couple years ago had survived the long dry seasons and months and months of neglect. In Senegal people call moringa nebba die, from the English "never die" because it's such a tenacious plant. It was nice, feeling like there was some continuity between my little garden and the one she and Mamadou had planted during her service.
My first harvest of radishes and wax beans was somewhat accidental. I'd gone in only planning to thin the radishes, which were growing in dense and tightly spaced, but most of them were already big enough to call it 'picking' rather than 'thinning.' I also snapped off a handful of beautiful purple beans (which turned green when steamed) and had a delicious mid-morning snack. Like many other Volunteers who haven't gardened in ages and who are lucky enough to live in southern Senegal (where the dirt seems to be made of Miracle-Grow) watching plants spring up in garden beds and produce recognizable, edible things seems slightly magical.
One day Mamadou planted a little banana tree. It's great, but I'm a little worried about its long-term survival outlook, since rainy season is drawing to a close and bananas need a lot of water. For the time being, though, it's a fun addition. Mariama's bitter eggplant and not peppers are coming along well, and the tomatoes are growing like they're trying to take over the world. I keep having to prop them up and trim them back so they don't cover the plants nearest them.
The squash has started fruit and also to climb up my hut; the tomatoes and okra are sprouting little tomatoes and okras, and the cucumber is blossoming nicely. I'm about to be out of village for almost a month because of work - project-related meetings and trainings followed by a Health summit in Thiès - and I'm a little sad that I won't be able to keep an eye on my garden. While I'm away I'll check in with Mamadou and Mariama, though, and hopefully they'll be able to start harvesting some useful fruits and veggies pretty soon.