This is part 1 of a blog series I am doing on my experience at Yasodhara Ashram, where I have just started a 3 month Learning Residency (in-depth course). I am also filming my Youtube videos in this beautiful location, check them out here.
I am spending half of my time in the organic garden (which supplies the Ashram with upwards of 20% of its food) and half of my time in the preserving kitchen (an area where pickling, fermentation, drying of food happens). Being outside and learning a new skill is something I feel really privileged to be doing at this current time; the least I can do is share it!
My first two weeks in this role have shown me how little I do know about these two areas: it's been a real learning curve! Many times I have had to stop the garden manager (Molly) and ask her what a 'cover crop' or 'mulch' is, I even asked her at one point what constituted grass. What is brilliant about working in this Ashram setting is that there really are no stupid questions; everyone is understanding of people on their learning journey. This makes for a working environment that is calm, supportive and allows space for growth.
In a similar way, I am learning that the garden responds well to a kind, patient touch. We have spent much of the last two weeks preparing the beds for transplanting of 'baby' plants to happen - you can see transplanted garlic pictured here. To give these plants the best start, we have been turning the soil; adding COF fertiliser (an organic mixture of all sorts of materials; plants, it turns out, are not vegetarians...); weeding constantly and watering twice daily. Excitingly, I have learnt how to use a 'Jang', a bicycle-like seeding machine that simultaneously digs, plants and covers seeds much quicker than a human could.
Unsurprisingly, much of the work in the garden is physical: preparing the beds requires a good amount of shoulder action in digging and turning the soil. No pesticides or weed killers are used here to keep the soil healthy and the food uncontaminated - everything is done by hand. In contrast the sometime-delicate work of the preserving kitchen has included bottling foraged lemon balm - I spent one afternoon picking leaves from the tried stems as well as fanning rose petal leaves into jars. Eventually, these will both be made into tea.
In a similar way to growing plants in the garden from seed, many of the new preserving processes I am learning require a huge amount of patience. For example in making Sauerkraut (see video) we finely chopped cabbage leaves, massaged in salt (until juicy) and placed in a fermentation croc which was weighed down with stones. It will be left to ferment for a whole 30 days - one month!
For me especially, this practice of patience is teaching me to slow down. Both through this course, my new life at the ashram and in my yoga practise on the mat, I am finding more time to pause and appreciate the space between doing. I hope that you, wherever you are, are managing to do the same.
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