TASSEL TOSSING          - 10/ 12/ 2006      <--Prev : Next-->


When the clouds start massing in Zimbabwe, something strange happens.

When the earth is damp and puddles form along the roadside, a distinct change encompasses the land and its urban people.

The leaves on the trees are fresh and clean, the plastic bags which normally festoon the verges are covered in verdant green grass. Wild flowers spring from nowhere and frogs and chongololos abound.

But the people also become different. Suddenly there are oxen in the fields and entire families are seen, hoes in hand, picks in place, wheelbarrows carrying the days repast, heading for the vacant fields around the towns.

Where there was once grass, suddenly there is a frantic melee of raking, hoeing and digging. Sundays after church sees a determined exodus of folk down to the "lands"

Each urban dweller has a sort of unwritten title to a small plot where traditionally, year after year, he has planted a small crop of maize.

Mothers fathers grannies and children, all repair to the plots in their spare waking moments, tilling, furrowing, harrowing and weeding.

Makeshift scarecrows abound, sticks tied with waving strips of gaily coloured plastic to scare away the menacing doves and queleas.

Who know where one plot ends and one plot begins ? Who knows which plots belongs to the Sibandas, the Moyos or the Dubes ?

There are very strict and unwritten urban laws which control these tiny small holdings. No leases, no title deeds, no written rules and regulations.

Of course the time to plant is the big question on every ones lips.. full moon ?... after the first rains ? Will we have early rains or late rains this year ? Will we have rain at all ?

Some folks' mealies are sprouting already, some are a foot high, some are barely embedded yet, in the soft brown soil.

Last year was an excellent season. There were smiles a-plenty at harvest time. There was much to go around, much debate on how and when and where the best deals were to be found as far as nearby and available grinding mills. And the best bonus of all, enough seed left over to be planted for this years crop.

Of course one always comes across the ever present theft once the cobs appear. It is the only topic of conversation when the maize tassels start waving in the wind.

Some folk sit back and watch craftily, knowing there will be easy pickings after dark, for very little of their own toil and graft.

There is very little "Honour amongst thieves" for the indolent. And so co-operatives are formed, pennies are pooled together and security guards are even hired to guard the crops.... !!

What will this season bring ? Promising so far.... long range weather signs are scanned .... are the masked weavers building their nests high in the trees this year ? Are the cactus flowers blooming early or late? Which way are the termites flying ?

Its a cottage industry to equal no other, its a way of life, its a comforting sight to behold this annual urban agricultural pilgrimage.

Most crops are in the ground now, all that is left to do, is to wait for seventy odd days of steady rain, and to see what Mother Nature and the Government, have in store for us this year !!