stepping stones gardeners

I begin the drive to Mochudi- the first sizable village north of Gaborone- my baakie laden with wooden pallets to construct a compost bin, empty glass bottles, a box of seeds, and bags of elephant dung from Mokolodi Game Reserve.  The sun shines strongly in the wintertime and I feel it baking my skin as I shade my eyes and maneuver the traffic of people leaving for the long weekend.  Ahead, a white covered baakie is packed with mattresses, blankets, jugs of water, jerry cans for fuel, and a coolerbox.  Day laborers in blue jumpsuits and men and women in business suits  stand on the sidewalk alongside the bus stop, waving down passing cars for a lift north.  A cloud of smoke wafts up from the bush on the horizon, drifting steadily north in a light haze.  Must be a bush fire on the Tlokweng side, near South Africa.  It’s the time of year when people burn roadsides and fields of crispy, colorless winter grasses, knowing the young green grass will appear quicker than if left untended.


Arriving in Mochudi at Stepping Stones, the kids are busy in the garden, pulling the hose through the fence, pushing a wheelbarrow with orange plastic watering cans, and forking the soil around the vegetables to let it breathe.  Glass bottles glint shards of sunlight.  The marigolds have released their color and moisture. Dried stems hold up flaky seed pods like sticks holding up burnt marshmallows. Choumolier, cauliflower, Swiss chard, and rape thrive in the winter climate and fill in the circular beds with broad strokes of green.

We open bags of elephant dung from the game park across town, Kgale side.  A young guy asks me in Setswana if it is elephant poo poo and cackles, more than partly because he knows I don’t fully understand his words.  Sleeves rolled up, hands plunge into bags and spread the composted elephant manure into the vegetable beds.  Parts of the dung are light brown and fibrous, like the dried grass was barely processed before returning to sunlight, others are chocolate brown and moist.

Elephant dung to feed the plants.

A young girl who I recognize by the small scar on the right side of her upper lip tugs at my sleeve, looks at me sternly and asks what seeds I have for her.  She sifts through seed packets of carrots, chilis, dill, onions, choumolier, and beans, settling on onions.  The other girls are singing a beautiful song, crouched on the ground, mixing the soil with bare hands.  A slender young woman wears a yellow t-shirt that reads “Got Brains?” and a white cloth around her head, knotted at the nape of her neck.  She pulls the seed pods off brittle stems and tosses them into a white plastic bag.  Occasionally she pauses to send a text message on her cellphone.

Neighbors rock up to check out what's happening at the garden.

Some of the young guys place bottles neck first into the ground to finish the borders of the circular beds.  They charge and roughhouse  with each other, laughing and clapping hands.  They are enjoying themselves in the garden and they are taking good care of it, both of which make me happy.  A group of kids walking by stop by the garden to see what’s happening.  They talk with the kids in the garden, have a couple laughs, ask for a photo and then carry on down the dirt road they rocked up on.

One Response to “stepping stones gardeners”
  1. Ruthie says:

    Hi, Prentiss – I’d love to see some news on your project! What have you been up to since your last posting? I’m fascinated with the work you are doing.

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