Life in gardens: tea stop

Tea and bicycle, ca. 1900, Univ. of Washington Libraries“Two women with bicycle,” Hoquiam, Washington, photographer unknown, via University of Washington Libraries Commons on flickr.

Modern and stylish, ca. 1900.   That’s an interesting device for keeping the kettle warm.

Young women of that time must have been pretty desperate to get out on their own — to bicycle in corsets, puffy high-necked blouses, and large hats.

Beautiful, thick vines on the porch behind them. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

. . .Tell, tell your griefs ; attentive will I stay,
Tho’ time is precious, and I want some tea.

— Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, from “Thursday; the Bassette- Table

Life in gardens: summer moonlight

Under the moon, Library of Congress“Yūgao dana nōryō zu” (cooling beneath an evening glory canopy), 1880s, a woodcut print by Yoshitoshi Taiso, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The image “shows a couple in the country with a child and a teapot, sitting on a mat beneath a trellis covered with yūgao vines, enjoying the full moon,” according to the Library’s online catalogue.

In the tea

My daughter and her friend visited us last week — after hiking to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. (It took them seven days, and my daughter reached the summit during a blizzard with lightning!)

While they were here in Rwanda, we went down to the southwest to see Nyungwe National Park, the largest protected mountainous rain forest in Africa.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureWe spent two nights at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge, which I know I’ve written about twice before.  But I still wanted to post these photos, because I find its landscape so serene. . . and so romantic — a tea garden at the edge of a rain forest.

The design is simple, yet extravagant — a few curving paths through thousands of Camellia sinensis bushes.

Above: the pool house in early morning.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureWe arrived on Wednesday in early afternoon.  There was a lot of mist, and it was so chilly that we turned on our room’s heater for about an hour. But it only rained once, briefly, during our stay.

Above: the Lodge gatehouse.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: the Lodge in the distance.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: yellow native Crassocephalum montuosum poking up through the tea bushes.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: views from the main building’s porch.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ure

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: narrow paths through the field. A local cooperative picks the tea and keeps the income from its sale.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: The cabins, with two to four rooms each, are sited at the edge of the tea field.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: the bushes around the Lodge looked like they had been picked recently.  Only the terminal bud and the top two leaves of each stem are plucked off.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove and below: the front of each cabin is planted with native perennials and small trees from the forest.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ure

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: these giant lobelias (Lobelia gibberoa) are planted right into the grass and other low weeds wild plants.

Nyungwe Forest Lodge/enclos*ureAbove: each cabin’s back balcony looks out into the rain forest.  The land drops down very steeply about six or seven feet behind the cabins, so their windows really look into the tops of trees. It’s not uncommon to see monkeys there.

On the road, part two

On the second day of our recent trip to the north of Rwanda, we visited a border crossing with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this one located between the otherwise contiguous cities of Gisenyi (Rwanda) and Goma (DRC).

Looking over the barrier to a street in Goma, DRC.

We watched a line of people, almost all carrying large parcels of food, waiting to enter  eastern Congo.

People laden with food to sell in the DRC.
I believe these chickens (who are traveling on someone’s head) would be called non-intending immigrants.  Nevertheless, they are destined for pots in the Congo.

We watched another line of people, now almost empty-handed, coming back into Rwanda.

The line to leave the DRC.

Afterwards, we headed about 10 miles east to visit a small hydro-electric plant.  The unpaved road to the plant was too rough for the bus, so we had a walk through the neighboring village.

Bananas outside a village house.
House door with a blue patch.  Cassava (aka manioc) plants and beans grow in the foreground.
Hollyhocks by a doorway.
A typical garden of bananas, taro, cassava, and beans.
A stream bordered by long-hardened volcanic lava. The fast-moving water runs approximately parallel to the water pipe supplying water to the hydro-electric plant.
A house under construction with a roof-line typical of the Rubavu District. It seems to echo the surrounding hills and nearby volcanoes.
The Keya hydro-electric power plant. The water enters from the blue pipe on the right.  Built by the Rwandan government with the support of Belgium, it provides 2.2 megawatts of power.
Water runs out the other side of the plant, beans planted right up to the edge. On the far left is a tank capturing rainwater from the roof of the plant’s office.

We ended our trip at the Pfunda Tea Company factory. Two thousand people work on the Pfunda Tea Estate, and the company also runs a cooperative for area tea farmers. All the tea is raised without pesticides, and, in February 2011, Pfunda Tea Company became the first company in Rwanda to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification.

One hundred and fifty people work 8 hours shifts in the tea factory, day and night. They will produce over 4.4 million lbs. (or 2 million kgs.) of black tea this year. The climate, altitude, and soil of the area is excellent for growing high-quality tea.

The Pfunda Tea Factory

The design of the factory and its surrounding grounds — even its signage — struck me as remarkably consistent, orderly, and pleasant.  Lots of straight, clean lines in red paint and low hedges.

A test plot of tea bushes.
A factory tree laden with moss and ferns.
The green tea leaves dry here for approximately 15 hours. The factory smells like a combination of cut grass and brewed tea.
Dried leaves on their way to be processed. 
The leaves are finely chopped.
After the oxidation process, the now-black tea rolls off the belt and into buckets.
And put in piles before being bagged.
The factory is very orderly and clean.
A relief to tea drinkers.
The testing and tasting room.

Waste water from the tea processing is diverted to a garden pool and treated with “Effective Microorganisms,” a product that cleans water and eliminates bad odors with a combination of microorganisms that were collected and cultivated naturally.

A barrel of Effective Microorganisms.
A waste water garden pool in the rain.

As we travel, I am always looking for recurrent elements in the landscapes and urban surroundings through which we pass, as well as in the architecture and craft.  I am trying to grasp what Rwanda really looks like, what it cares about, how it experiences its environment (and how I experience its environment) and how I can interpret at least some of  that in a garden design.