Archive for gardener

Satellite Mushrooms

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby was surprised that tomatoes preferred listening to commercial stations rather than official state radio. Commercial stations were full of inane chatter and annoying jingles, rather than well-programmed classical music, but plants seemed to prefer them, probably for the same reason that humans did. They was more fun.

He tried a few different stations in the hothouse, and also began broadcasting in the fields. The results were consistent – always Munchies over Mozart, Burgers over Beethoven, and Wiggles over Wagner. It was sad but true. Crops preferred crap.

A forest of mushrooms grew beneath the satellite dish in the garden corner. Was this dish for television or internet access? There were no cables leading off from it; they must be buried. He called another worker over and said, “Hey dude, what’s this?”

“Duh! It’s a satellite dish. What do you think it is?”

“I know it’s a satellite dish. I mean, why is it here?”

“Who knows, my friend. I don’t get paid enough to answer technical questions. No one has asked me to do anything to it, so I don’t care.”

He pointed to the pink fungi growing beneath. “Maybe it’s there to protect the little mushrooms from the sun. They don’t like too much sunshine, you know. Why did you plant them there?”

People make strange jokes, thought Bobby. “I didn’t plant them there.”

“You did too! You planted them there! I saw you!”

Bobby could ignore him or play along. “Why did I do that? Please remind me.”

“Because you’re a fun guy. Get it? And there wasn’t mushroom under the dish, so you squeezed them in. Now when you pine for savoury flavour, you just pick one!”

Bobby said that’s enough.

“I’m not talking shitake, pal. Why should I button it?”

Bobby wasn’t paying attention, as he’d noticed something strange. Each mushroom looked like an upside down satellite dish. It was an exact replica in pink. Maybe he was reading too much into things, after all that was their natural shape – bell ends.

But there was something stranger. Each one looked the same but also seemed different. Each had a distinctive character, almost a personality. They seemed alive, more than a vegetable should be.  One mushroom was fat, one was thin, one was shiny, another, tough-skinned; one, wet; one, almost dead.

He hadn’t been smoking the good herb last night, so why was he seeing strange things?

The fat one seemed lazy; the thin one, active; the shiny one was happy; the tough one, angry; the quiet one, sad; the almost dead one, well dying, and in a way relieved.

The other worker said, “Look pal, no need to be so glum. I’ve got a trick I can show you.” He fiddled with the dish connections. “I studied electronic engineering,” – he looked up – “things didn’t work out, but I did learn a thing or two.” He hooked the satellite dish to his smartphone. “I can’t get a decent signal in this valley, but let’s see what we can get here.”

His smartphone had crystal clear reception. They flicked through food, health, beauty, action, romance, and crime channels. They forgot about the mushrooms, and any effects these channels may have on them. Lazy, active, happy, angry, sad and dying. They were now affected themselves.

Radio Tomatoes

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby liked his job on the farm. It was great to be out in the fresh air all day, even when it was raining or snowing; much better than being snowed under with paperwork. He recalled a time at year-end when his entire desk was filled with files, a foot deep or more. Now there was only rhubarb and squash to wade through.

“I’ll take care of the tomatoes!” he shouted to his fellow worker, pointing towards the eastern polytunnels. “You can do the peppers.” These were the two main hot house crops here, with two hundred metres of each in tidy rows.

The tomatoes had started the season really well, shooting up and flowering early, but they had slowed with balmy weather. Aphids were a bother too. The new batch of ladybugs had helped.

Bobby wondered why tomatoes in the corner were doing so well. The plants were taller and the fruits were bigger and brighter than elsewhere in the hothouse. He went to the western polytunnel to ask his colleague. “Did you use a special fertilizer in the corner? No? Any extra inputs? No? What? They were just the same as the others last week? Okay.”

Why were they so strong and healthy? So picture perfect, like the image on a seed packet. Yes, there was more light in that corner in the mornings, but when the sun crossed over there was more shade, so there was no real advantage. Maybe being near the door provided extra ventilation, the airflow helping to regulate temperature, and deterring pests. Or did they benefit from heat flowing past them?

There could be something special in the soil here, like a small rotting animal providing a sustained supply of nutrients. A microclimate? Other beneficial bugs?

The tomatoes looked like large coloured party bulbs. They were sunset red and fist-sized, with flesh like ripe mangoes and juices like nectar. Over a few days Bobby checked everything, but could find no explanation for why they grew better. He wasn’t a proud person, but would be pleased to get some credit for this. These were the healthiest, tastiest tomatoes he’d ever seen. The best ever. They would soon be ready to harvest.

He thought about the tomatoes on his day off, and found himself licking his lips.

When he returned to the hothouse the tomatoes had wilted, and some of the plants had collapsed. The fruits were looking sick and pinched, as if somebody had strangled them in the desert. He checked the drip irrigation. It was still working.

Bach provided a tender soundtrack to this sorry state of affairs. The combination of dying fruit and sad music could be a still life by a renaissance painter. Or maybe the bright colours were more Van Gogh. Tomatoes fell as he stood there; the ground was covered with dead bloody bombs.

Then he recalled something. Last week the radio in the corner of the hothouse had been tuned to a commercial station. It was another worker’s choice. There was inane banter and non-stop ads. Had this affected the plants somehow?

Maybe they didn’t like classical music as everyone supposed. Maybe they felt it was plain and boring. He re-tuned the radio to LVR. A chorus of jingles began immediately.

“Good climes with Arctic Vodka!”

“Generali Cigars – Get Smoky!”

“Double-double burgers – only at Quenchers!”

“It’s party night at Dirty’s Bar!”

“Half-price cars this month at Valley Cars!”

Bobby started humming along. The words and music were designed to please. The wilting tomatoes raised their heads.

New Moon

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by javedbabar

It was almost dawn and the moon was setting. Sami was tired from his long night “working” with Guru Baba, which involved watching, discussing and walking in boggy fields beneath the full moon.

The last surprise was meeting his shadow, which equated to the dark side of the orb fast disappearing. Whether visible or invisible, it was always there, beyond the dusty cratered surface. Sami’s soul too was thus composed, of light and dark.

Something shifted at the precise spot where the moon was setting. A dark spot seemed to shiver.

Sami was intrigued by this occurrence, and also frightened. The strange events of the night had been thrilling but unsettling. Nothing was what it seemed.

Sami looked at Guru Baba for reassurance. His holy bossman gave him a quirky look – his eyebrows moving in opposite directions, and his bottom lip curling as if sad. He said, “There’s someone else you should also meet. I meant to call him, but it seems that he has come of his own accord.”

Sami now realised that the shivering spot was a man walking towards them. Moonlight bent around, giving him a ghostly glow; he seemed a lunar apparition; a moon mirage. There was something familiar about his gait. Sami had seen him before. His white goatee was a further clue…

It was the man who had founded Lucerne’s Botanical Gardens, a controversial figure known only as The Gardener. He had without doubt created a fine facility for Lucerne’s citizens; the Botanical Gardens were five acres of wonder. There was a main path and there were countless sub-paths, leading to different habitats; the Amazon Rainforest was filled with mysterious fertility; the Egyptian Oasis was a cool, calm haven; the Babylonian Hanging Gardens were so vibrant that it felt like you were in an ancient cartoon book; other mysterious areas were filled with strange flora and fauna including, it was said, walking trees and flying flowers, and unicorns and golden monkeys.

The Gardener approached them. He greeted them warmly and then stood beside Guru Baba. They admired the full moon together.

“How are the gardens?” asked Guru Baba.

“You should come and see for yourself,” said the Gardener. “Where are you these days? I haven’t seen you for weeks.”

“I have visited a few times,” said Guru Baba. “But you’re always so busy with your students. How are they doing?” He turned to Sami and said, “Have you visited the Botanical Gardens recently? You haven’t? What a shame!”

Sami knew that he was ribbing him. Working as Guru Baba’s assistant rarely left a moment spare. Tonight was a perfect example; he was “working all night.”

The Gardener said, “The Extreme Gardening course is progressing well. It is a ten year course, and if all goes to plan we’ll soon be ready for mankind’s next adventure.”

“What do you mean?” asked Sami.

“We are developing new methods for purifying air, growing crops, encouraging insects and plants to develop healthy ecosystems, building a sustainable atmosphere, and seeding hydrographic systems. Within ten years the technology will be ready, and ten years after that, well, humans will be living on other planetary bodies.”

“Will we still be around then?” asked Guru Baba.

“I don’t think that we will, my old friend.”

Guru Baba turned to his assistant and said, “It will be down to you, Sami. Are you ready to be the Man in the Moon?”

Extreme Gardening

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on June 9, 2012 by javedbabar

Shama wanted to turn his life around. He had escaped from his life of crime in the City and found this peaceful village, but had yet to find a job. The opportunities were all in Strattus, half an hour away; the only jobs available in Lucerne were working in the grocery or hardware stores for ten bucks an hour. He would rather go back to robbing kids and selling drugs. There was also seasonal farm work, which paid about the same, but was outdoors and you got fresh produce. He might try that if he was still here in the summer.

He spent most of his time in the forest hunting rabbits and grouse, which he ate himself, and sometimes deer, which provided some income. He also hung around village cafes, getting coffee refills. When he discovered the Botanical Garden, he began to spend time there. He found inexplicable joy in the garden, especially in its Prime Indigenous Areas – the Amazon Rainforest filled with mysterious fertility; the Egyptian Oasis, a cool, calm haven; the Babylonian Hanging Gardens were so vibrant it felt like you were in an ancient cartoon book. It was amazing that there was no entry charge.

Shama saw workers toiling in many parts of the garden. They hardly said a word to each other, and rarely acknowledged visitors. This was a pleasant change from the village, where everybody wanted to know your business. He wanted nobody to know his business. The Botanical Garden suited him well.

One day a voice from behind him said, “I hope that you are enjoying our Garden. We take our duty here very seriously. We make every effort to ensure it thrives.”

“Yes, I like it,” said Shama. Who was this man, he wondered, with his gold-white beard and green suit? He’d heard the creator of this place was called The Gardener. Maybe this was him.

The man said, “I’ve seen you many times during the daytime. Are you working at present?” Shama felt nervous at the man’s intrusion but told him the truth; he was struggling to make a living in Lucerne.

“Have you considered studying gardening? It is the first of all human arts.”

Shama said wasn’t cave-painting the first?

“No, that’s not true. Gardening came before cave-painting, fire-making, and hunting with weapons. Where do you suppose natural colours came from, and kindling, and beasts?”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” said Shama. “They all come from the earth of course.”

“Yes that’s true, young man, as far as it goes. But there’s much we can teach you here that will benefit you, and the world. Why don’t you enrol for our next programme? It won’t cost you a penny. All of our students are fully funded by The Authority; it knows the true value of our education.”

Shama indicated the workers digging and planting nearby. “Can’t you offer me a job like those people? My need right now is for money, and I was never good at school anyway.”

The Gardener smiled and stroked his beard. “Young man, education always comes before money. Improve your mind and cash comes running, guaranteed! Those workers are all students too. After a month of successful study we offer them a five-year work/study contract, and as their skills develop, so does their pay. Rest assured, none are earning minimum wage, and they love their work.”

Even though it was getting dark, and an early moon was apparent, their pace did not slacken. “What do you teach them, and what work do they do?”

“They are enrolled on the B.Sc. Extreme Gardening course, affiliated with Luna University. In their first year they study Taxonomy, Plant Pathology, Soil Health, Entomology, Multicultural Landscaping, Sustainable Gardening, Nuisance Wildlife Management, and Integrated Pest Control.”

“All in the first year?” said Shama. “What about the other four years?”

“They are all dedicated to Impact Gardening. They learn the process by which impact events stir the outermost crusts of celestial objects; these erode over time to form the first soils on planets, from which life evolves. As I said, gardening is the first human art.”

Shama said, “I’m still confused about the order of things…”

“When our last home was threatened, humans terraformed earth; the soil we created made life here possible. Now our planet is threatened again, we must begin elsewhere.” He pointed up to the moon. “As a cosmic being, are you ready for your next challenge?”

Litterbug

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by javedbabar

After work Sophie often went for a stroll in the Botanical Garden. The West Coast flora belonged there of course, but the Amazonian Rainforest, Egyptian Oasis, and Babylonian Hanging Gardens had been nurtured by the Zoological Society of Lucerne. Still, once they were established, they would develop interrelated environmental factors and form a functioning ecosystem. She loved pristine nature, even if it was in the wrong place.

Nature wasn’t always pretty, she knew, but it was perfectly self-regulating. A thin layer of gases, held in place by gravity, were the key active factor sustaining the planetary ecosystem. They allowed life on earth. The price of that life was the occasional hurricane, tornado, tsunami, and flood (in addition to geological effects like earthquakes and volcanic explosions), but beneficial atmospheric effects outweighed harmful ones. Life hung in a fine balance though; living organisms interacted with other elements in local environments, and must be careful not to overwhelm them.

Sophie noticed a man standing on the main path ahead of her. He was fumbling in all his pockets for something, which he found in his left hand trouser pocket. He withdrew a packet of cigarettes, unwrapped the cellophane, and threw it on the floor. He flipped the lid off the pack, withdrew a cigarette, flicked his lighter, lit up and began puffing.

Sophie couldn’t stop herself – she ran right towards him and said, “Excuse me; I think you’ve dropped something.”

The man had seen her running towards him, and rather than smile – either innocently or with embarrassment – he had stared at her breasts bouncing. He said, “No I haven’t.”

Yes you have,” said Sophie insistently. “You’ve dropped something.”

“I don’t think so,” said the man and turned away, and took a long draw of his cigarette.

“I saw you unwrap your cigarettes and throw the plastic covering on the ground.”

The man turned to face her. “So what? It’s not your business. If you don’t like it, why don’t you pick it up?”

Sophie didn’t back down. He saw she was fuming and tried another tack. “It’s biodegradable. I think it says on the…”

Here was a chance to engage further; he was stepping back; they could negotiate; end things nicely together.

Sophie’s confidence was due to her being a practitioner of One-Do, a rediscovered martial art. It integrated all other styles into a higher level of performance. She was scared of no one, not even if they held a weapon. The mind of a One-Do master triumphed over physical threats every time.

However Sophie was not yet a master. Her one year of training had made her a next-level novice. There was no real hierarchy in One-Do. Just levels and next levels.

“Throwing litter is disgusting!” she shouted. “It ruins the environment. You’re disgusting! Some people improve the places they visit. You make them worse. You’re a disgusting person!” She stormed off before she’d have to hit him. The man was bemused by her ferocity but continued smoking.

The Botanical Garden’s creator, known as The Gardener, had observed these events from the far end of the main path. He called his pupil Sophie over, and said, “Watch this.” He whispered something to the small silver monkey on his left shoulder, and it jumped up into the trees.

A moment later, the disgusting man was hit by a banana, then a coconut, and then a heavy palm frond fell right on his head. His cigarette and his life were extinguished. It was a natural occurrence. It seemed inevitable. This is the way of One-Do.

Fading

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by javedbabar

It was surprising how few people enjoyed the Botanical Garden. Danny was often alone there, or maybe there were other people around but in different sections – the Amazonian Rainforest or Egyptian Oasis areas, or in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, though these were being regenerated after the recent war. Anyway it was a shame that more people didn’t make better use of Lucerne’s wonderful amenity.

Danny had first met Sophie – with her long arms and legs, black hair and big brown eyes – at the seed fixture, and their date at the garden’s cafe had gone very well; he often saw the green-suited founder of the place, known as The Gardener, strolling around. But apart from some young rascals running between bushes, that was it in terms of regular visitors.

He spotted a new guy strolling along the main path and said hello. The next day he saw him again, and said hello again. The new guy didn’t look too well. Maybe he was recovering from illness and taking a stroll daily for his health. He moved with hesitation and his responses to Danny’s greetings were slow. Danny also imagined that he could be mentally sub-normal, or maybe depressed. He couldn’t enquire about these things of course; it would be considered most rude.

One day the man really looked terrible. His skin was greenish and his greeting was more slurred than usual. Danny said, “Excuse me, are you feeling all right?”

The man stopped struggling to walk and stood beside Danny. He said, “Yes I feel okay, thanks pal.” But this was difficult to believe when he was green and trembling, with froth forming on his lips.

There was a crash in the bushes and some cries for help. It must be those boys mucking about again, thought Danny. They’ll hurt themselves.

The man said to Danny, “Listen pal, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you don’t look so good either. Your skin seems green and you’re shaking.”

“That’s funny,” said Danny. “That’s what I noticed about you. Maybe we should leave this section of the garden; there may be allergens here. Are you allergic to pollens or spores? I suffer from severe hay fever but I’m not sneezing. It could…”

“Look at those caterpillars,” said the man, pointing to yellow and black-striped bugs the size of his thumb. “I’ll bet one touch of those would make you break into a sweat. I picked one up when I was a kid and it…”

Danny wasn’t paying attention to what the man said. His eyes opened wider as the man reduced in intensity, became transparent, and faded away. Was it a trick of the light, or of his eyes? Where had he gone? Was this a joke?

Then he noticed that his own hands had disappeared. A moment later he was no longer in the Botanical Garden.

Danny was back in a bed in Lucerne Village Medical Centre. Misalignment of satellites had caused his signal to break up, and neither his, nor other patients’, virtual retinal projections could be sustained. He was just another client of the centre’s Permanent Life Enhancement unit. He would never walk or talk again, but once the satellites were realigned, he could at least continue to enjoy the garden.

Coco de Mer

Posted in Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny liked wandering through the Botanical Garden. He had visited most days since it had opened, either before or after work. The Zoological Society of Lucerne had done a good job with the garden; it had become a popular landmark to the extent that you were more likely to hear local people saying “See you at the garden,” than “See you at the pub.”

The latest addition to the complex was the garden shop. Danny liked its library, which contained unusual volumes like “Arid Gardening for Apocalyptic Times,” and “Return to Iram” (by flicking through which he discovered that Iram in Arabic meant paradise; it was a book about creating classical Islamic gardens). He became fascinated by seeds, which were the source of the wonders he witnessed in the garden daily; he was pleased when the shop created a dedicated seed fixture, and browsed it on most visits.

He saw a container of orchid seeds, such tiny things that produced rare beauty. Each was a treasure, a generator of wonder and untold possibilities. His mother had loved orchids. She kept them near the kitchen window, their tall stems reaching bravely, arching for light. When he was young he’d thought their buds each contained an eye to watch over him when his mother was away. Instead they bloomed into black and purple lips.

A woman came and stood beside him. He saw her black hair, her long arms and legs, but most of all her eyes. They were the eyes he’d imagined would bloom from the orchid buds, huge and brown.

“Is that a seed?” she asked him. She said it casually, like you would to a best friend. He followed her pointing finger, indicating a huge thing like a black man’s bottom, but pointed and flattened.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I guess it must be.” He leaned towards the fixture and read, “Coco de Mer. It says it’s the world’s largest seed.” He continued reading. “Most plants generate many small seeds to disperse widely, which travel by wind, water, and via animal fur and scat. But some put all their energy into a few large seeds, which tend to stay within the local area, closer to home.”

“Which kind are you?” she said, smiled, and walked away.

Danny was taken by surprise. Was she coming on to him, he wondered? Was she asking if he was still sowing his wild oats indiscriminately, or ready to settle down? He became restless and took a turn around the garden. He hoped to glimpse her walking away, to admire her from a distance, but she had disappeared somewhere into the garden.

The Gardener was strolling along the main path. Danny asked if he’d seen the woman. He said, “Can’t say that I have. Why do you ask? Did she make you wish to pollinate?”

He saw Danny’s red face and added, “Only kidding. I remember what it was like when I first saw my wife. I knew she was the one for me. Till then I had been lying dormant, awaiting optimal conditions to synchronize germination.” He often spoke in horticultural terms, which intrigued and sometimes confused Danny. The Gardener continued, “She was probably wondering if you were an orchid seed or a Coco de Mer. Dormancy is a state of the seed, not the environment.”

Danny said, “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, plants and animals have many similarities. The one that I find most telling is present from inception. A plant’s embryo has two points of growth – the root and the stem, and grows from the centre outwards. Similarly, humans grow in two ways also – physically and spiritually. Orchid seeds are tiny and have no nutrient supply, relying on soil fungi for growth. However the Coco de Mer has invested many resources in seed production, and provides everything needed to survive. This is what I found with my wife. She was an independent soul, and together we became interdependent souls. When she died I created this garden, to remain entwined forever.”

The next day at the seed fixture, Danny was looking at winter cherries and winter bananas, when he felt a presence at his side. It was the woman with the big brown eyes. She asked him, “Which seed do you like?”

He said, “Coco de Mer.”

She said, “It seems quite heavy. Shall I help you?”