When Carol was still embroiled in the corporate Jozi world, her business was called Organic Optimism. Undoubtedly, she was already plotting her escape.
On a smallholding in Boston, over the last ten years, Carol, her husband Tyron and their team, have crafted magnificent food gardens – a veritable temple of good food. As it is tucked right up against a forest patch, there are plenty of monkeys about. While Carol doesn’t mind sharing, she has devised ways to ensure that her family get their fair share of the harvest. “I have learnt that the monkeys don’t eat celery, pepperdews, rocket, fennel, coriander and green pepper – so they are planted in the open.”
Inside the Cathedral (built of tall poles and shade cloth) there is an abundance of lettuce, orange sweet potatoes, tomatoes, basil, green beans and an array of colourful companion plants in full bloom. In the Lemon Tree Temple beside it, the cabbages are huge and the intofeshe (kale) plants are taller than people!
There are rocks amongst the veggies, which Carol believes add an important element. They edge the beds, hold warmth from the sun, provide homes for skinks and insects, add minerals to the soil and of course, are the skeleton of the garden. These simple structures that incorporate fruit trees and perennial herbs, enable Carol to keep growing right through the cold Boston winters.
Carol clearly loves her work of producing organic food for her family and the Pickle Pot restaurant on their property. Her positivity and energy shines.
She certainly knows what she is doing too as volunteers flock to spend time working and learning in the garden, and the Khula Shanti Training Centre grows in popularity as more and more people want to learn about agro-ecological ways of farming. “We are so fortunate to have the forest to use as a brilliant example of permaculture – it illustrates guilds (layers of companion plants) and biodiversity – both important principles of permaculture”. Along with the monkeys, everyone in the Segal family has a favourite vegetable. Carol’s lunch choice is red cabbage salad with grated apples and toasted sunflower seeds, her son Seth could eat broccoli every day, Fyrne’s favourite is celery and Brook adores crunchy cucumber.
Naturally, everything not eaten is recycled through big compost heaps and a worm farm to improve the soil. There is comfrey growing everywhere which is ideal for compost making (it mines the minerals from deep in the soil) and a great medicinal plant too. “Its my rescue remedy” laughs Carol. She grows plenty of medicinal plants including Echinacea.
Recently, she had some of her soil tested and the scientist was astonished at the reading for Nitrogen, Potassium and the balance of nutrients, telling her “It’s off the charts, you should be selling this at R200 a bag.” The secret to growing with nature is in the soil – chemical fertilizer destroys the intricate web of life in soil.
“Humans have lost their connection to the soil, to the earth and to real food. We need to rekindle that by growing food.” says Carol earnestly. Khula Shanti is a great place to re-ignite your connections. Here everything is unfolding organically, just as it should.