Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Castleton & Crafts

Today I visited Castleton's fields and continued with my craft project.

The trip to Castleton was very interesting. Suman showed me around again, explaining each step of the tea growth and harvesting as we walked. I saw where their quality teas come from up close. (The naturally rich soil and the location on the mountain, paired with watchful management explained the quality level well.) I saw some of their experiments-in-progress involving clonal teas. I also saw the difference between organic and conventional tea production. (I knew the biodiversity would be far lower at (conventional) Castleton than at (organic) Makaibari and that there were landslides due to insufficient ground cover, but what I didn't realize that there would be as much of an insect and fungus problem as there was.) Suman and I talked about the transition process (the change from conventional to organic, which they call the conversion process in India) and the possibility of organic production at Castleton. (I hope they make the switch!) While I was there, I had the pleasure of joining Suman, his wife, and his infant daughter for conversation, a splendid white tea, and a meal prepared by his "homely" wife. (In India "homely" is not a euphemism for "plain" or "unattractive." It means "good around the home.") We talked about Indian vegetarianism (which is different from American vegetarianism in that eggs, garlic, and onion count as "non-veg"), tea production, various tea blights, and the tea market in the US. All very nice.

Afterward, I met with the crafts group again. We talked about what kinds of things they want to make with the technique they've learned and where they can sell the crafts they produce. I often think of crafts as part of the Third-Wave Feminist reclaimation of traditional feminine activities, but in teaching women a technique that will empower them to earn their own incomes, I hope I've taken that notion a step further.

I'm flying to Delhi in two days and to London and NYC in three. I wish I weren't.

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