Things are always going to happen

man-made obstacles

 A participant crawls through man-made obstacles at Masai Lodge in Kajiado County on April 13, 2019. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

It is said that by the time you see one snake, nine snakes have already spotted you. Now that’s a scary thought. One that is enough to keep me indoors, away from woody hiking trails and dry Savannah grasslands.

Houston, we have a problem. You see, I quite like nature and my idea of relaxing is pottering in my garden. And so it was, when I recently restarted my gardening passion that I spotted one snake in the hedge around my house.

 I probably would have been clueless about his presence but he fell to the ground, noisily rustling the leaves as he went. For a brief second, he and I were both stunned. I didn’t know whether to run or scream. In that brief nano second that my mind was processing several things – was he poisonous? Where were his nine cold-blooded cousins? – he slithered away in the opposite direction.

Running away

That’s when I started running away, screaming my lungs out. It was a few weeks and several motivational videos later that I had the courage to venture back to my vegetable shamba. He was a harmless grass snake, Google assured me and we needed to peacefully co-exist. Now my African soul has every intention of harvesting the kunde in my garden and no intention of co-existing with snakes so I am searching for ways to keep them far away.

However, in my gardening journey, that snake taught me a valuable life lesson. In life, things won’t always go according to plan, and we will have to budget for unexpected and unwanted visitors. As much as you can, plan for the snakes.

They may come like an illness, a financial emergency or a friend who betrays you. Even if you like to see the glass as half full, there may come a day when you need to see the glass as broken. That obstacle that you ran into was not meant to stop you, it was to help you build the muscle for the next one.

Once I had ensured the snake and his clan were nowhere to be seen, I was met with another issue. My plants got a disease. Again I described the pale powdery skin of the spinach and Google gave me an answer and a homemade pesticide.

Dishwashing liquid

Powdery mildew was the problem but it could be cured by a mixture of water, vinegar, bicarbonate powder and dish-washing liquid. I had to prune and burn the infected leaves and apply the solution regularly.

Eventually, the illness disappeared and we harvested our first spinach. The lesson? Fix your problems at first sight or you will lose your entire crop. Procrastination is lethal and expensive in the garden – and in life.

Pretty soon, the vegetables were in full bloom, and looking healthy. However, I was not the only one who had noticed. I went out one day to find little holes in the vegetables. Some birds had developed a taste for my vegetables even though I was not feeling very generous.

Get a scarecrow, a hardened farmer advised me. He forgot to tell me who stocked scarecrows. Using the available free child labour that I coerced my children to offer, we made one from their unwanted clothes. It is working so far.

Gardening, like life, should come with a disclaimer. It doesn’t. You need a never-say-die attitude and a sense of humour. Because when you least expect it, stuff happens.