I don’t have my own garden, a planting ground or a place where I can play with soil and mud. So, when I saw this prompt request from Free Tree Society on seeking volunteers to become ‘temporary gardeners’ at Plateau Farm at Janda Baik, I hopped straight right into the wagon.
On a Wednesday morning (the air pollution would turn greyer later in the day), I had the pleasure to jeep-pool with Baida, the brainpower and vice president of Free Tree Society, as we cruised safely to the hills of Janda Baik, which was located about 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by the legal dwellings of the farm by their natural chuckles, cackles, honks and mews. Yes, the rightful and full time occupants were a black cat named Lemon, a couple of ducks and geese who seemed to wander everywhere in each other’s company but mostly near the aquatic pond mini reservoir, and a family of chickens from various backgrounds. The names of the birds were adopted from the likes of Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings would certainly require another session of write up. There was also a rabbit and a quail which preferred to stay in their simple hatch.
Before putting our limbs into actions, Baida suggested a quick cup of coffee at her humble, cosy and sustainable cabin, which is mostly made of recyclable and ancient wood planks and a good resemblance of a kampong house with mini steps. The cool morning air was still hanging under the misty clouds. Nestled in the hills overlooking a valley adorned with steeps cultured by other farmers, Plateau Farm seemed to be a perfect place for recreation and any types of planting activity. Agriculture and a holistic lifestyle of organic, semi-organic or non-organic produce were prominent in this area. The air was fresh and the surroundings were green. Bliss and gratitude hovered in my mind!
Once the final drop of Lazza coffee was gulped, Baida showed me the way to the nursery which was closer to the entrance, and this was when I found my lesson for today began. Before we began, Baida made sure we were equipped with the right tools and materials: Mosquito coil, mosquito repellent or patch to get rid of the mozzies; scoops, small spade and trowel to transport soil; thin rubber gloves; a pair of scissors for pruning and trimming; and a good selection of music. Gardening can sometimes be a solitary activity just like writing and I realized that listening to the music that you like can be a therapeutic and relaxing moment.
The objective of today’s activity was to give proper maintenance to the hundreds of seedlings in black plastic bags. Earlier on Baida emphasized on the essential TLC needed by these plants especially when they are still at the early growing stage, which very much reminded me of the importance of early developmental period of a child. Since established two years ago, Free Tree Society has been giving out seeds and trees such as bunga telawang, pisang berangan, pandan, limau purut, dragon fruit and flame of trees on special event days, similar to Arbor Day in Canada and Australia, to corporations, organizations and individuals. As the demands grow, there is a need to supply healthy, fresh and presentable seedlings to the public. Thus, a non-profit organization like Free Tree Society depends on volunteers to maintain the lifespan of a plant or seedling by watering, pruning, fertilizing and sowing.
My first task of the day was to clear the weed and dried leaves from the small plastic bags where the plants or seeds are growing, at the same time checking for fungus and pests like aphids, snails or grasshoppers and trimming dead branches or leaves on the plants. After that, I added mixed soil while Baida put fertilizer that looked like yummy black pearls. Finally, I sprayed organic water as extra treatment healthy growing leaves and Baida put the final touch of water based insecticide around the area.
That day we managed to finish three quarter of the work, had a satisfying lunch prepared by the lovely Baida, and mingled with the animals. As I bid farewell to Plateau Farm (and say hello to the nursery at Bangsar), it is nice to know that there are still high hopes of conserving and preserving the environment using innovative activities like the ones conducted by Free Tree Society. Although the air pollution index in KL increased beyond 100 on that day, which spoiled my mood a little, it was a day well-spent with Baida and listening to her philanthropically and environmental ideas.
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