10 Things I Don’t Know (About plants, farming, and the soil) – JP028

I thought it would be a good idea, to mark it a place in time, to be able to say, here are 10 things I don’t know about plants, farming, and the soil (and the soul). Join me in learning what I don’t know, won’t you?

  1. The Ten Things I Don’t Know are
    1. Succulents
    2. Bonsai and other manicured plants
    3. Growing for yield and enough to survive
    4. Reading agriculture books cover-to-cover, following exact directions
    5. Most things about trees
    6. Breeding plants
    7. Following through with people I’ve made botanical promises to.
    8. What other people want to know
    9. Where my idea(l)s fail
    10. Making my own value added product

Asante Sana ߊߛߊ߲ߕߌ ߛߣߊ
edase Paa   ߡߍߘߊߛߋ ߔߊ
Modupe O
ߡߏߘߎߔߋ ߏ

Thank you for listening to



I am Mason Olonade and this is Jìgìjìgì: Africulture Podcast. Here we believe building a healthy soil builds a healthy soul, so we share strategies for how to do both. To do both we ask two questions: How do you grow while you grow Kale, Collards, Tomatoes, and Melons. And why, do you think, the healthiest soils are Black?
Ten Things I Don’t Know About plants, farming, and the soil
I was inspired to do this because, in a round about way, I ended up watching a lot of videos on programming recently. One instructor, who makes very good content had a similarly titled video. I thought it would be a good idea to do my own version of it, to keep myself honest, and to benchmark my understandings. It will be cool to look on to this later.
1. Succulents
In the way, wayback days of Tumblr I started my green thumb with a succulent I purchased from the now closed Behnke’s Nursery in Beltsville, MD. I saw a lot of these Lithops succulents online and I just had to have it. It was just one “stone” when I purchased it but eventually it began its first great division. This was very exciting up until the point where nothing happened. So, naturally, I began watering it and it would rehydrate and look like it was going to do something and then it didn’t and it would shrivel up again and this cycle repeated and repeated until it eventually did almost complete its division. As I was growing the second round of my Thai peppers in 2015 I knocked it off of the windowsill and saw that it never prospered. The tap root was wispy and then and it had silently passed on to the Sekhet Hetepet, or the Divine Fields of Peace.
Since then, I have only had success with Aloes. Aloes, to the succulent grower, I would imagine are quite entry level. It is bizarre that I have such difficulty with succulents, but I’ve re-framed my lack of success as destiny. Meaning, I like to: Drive Fast, Talk Fast, Think Fast, and Walk Fast. I have no chill. My favorite plants to grow are those that grow big and grow fast. I loved growing corn, amaranth, papyrus, and monsteras for this reason. These plants get me, and I get them. We are ballhogs, show-offs, hams, so to speak. Succulents really aren’t that. At least in the DMV they aren’t. A good friend of mine and his wife were expecting and gave out succulents as a very thoughtful gift at their baby shower. I was very excited to keep the, whatever it was, that I got alive but you know, it didn’t work out for me. There’d be times where I was drunk out on the town with friends and I’d see a particularly voluptuous jade. While we are begin greeted by the maitre’d I’d snag a petal and keep it in my pocked and forget about it for a couple of days and then at work I’d find it again and put it in the soil when I got home, in a couple days after I remembered it. Unsurprisingly, following this protocol, more often than not it would dry out in my pocket before it would, if it were still as full-bodied, dry out in the pot where I had it. 
In asking around I’d see friends who’d have jade plants and ask them how they got shorty to get so thick and they’d always never say anything that would help me. “I dunno Mason, I just left it on the soil and here we are, honestly I forget about it. It’s pretty crazy that you can’t get them to grow because I thought you of all people blah blah blah!!!” It took me, like I said on the Introductions episode, it is because some plants just don’t like you. And that’s fine. It took me a while to accept that, if that is my intention, to grow plants big and fast, and to dote over them with all of the paternal energy that I have, then it’s like what my, and most peoples grandma says, “a watch pot don’t boil.”
2. Bonsai and other manicured plants
It’s a philosophical thing. I know, but a philosophical difference is the case. I don’t get bonsai-ing plants. It’s not that they can’t be gorgeous. I’ve been to the arboretum plenty of times and seeing the older than old bonsais that they have there are awesome. But I still don’t get it. Why would you do that?
I’ve had braces and weirdly I wanted them. I wanted to complete the nerd trifecta when I was younger. They’ve definitely helped me but with an active lifestyle, and motile capabilities it makes sense to improve upon something that may not be 100% functional. What is the argument then for plants? The use of copper wire, string, spring and other widgets to bend the trunk, branches and roots over time, to replicate nature at scale, makes no sense to me at all.
It really does remind me a lot of growing marijuana. The desired product of marijuana, the flower, is designed to retain pollen. The sticky-icky gets stickier-and-ickier and more and more dank, and bigger and bigger to get that grain of pollen to start making more seed. We’ve heard an alley cat in heat, and been annoyed by it. This is what the plant is doing, then once it is at its most fertile stage, it is lopped off at the soil and hung upside down to dry. It’s weird.
But with Bonsai, it is apparently about “contemplation.” And replicating nature to emphasize it. On the other hand, when it comes to Bonsai, there are more destructive things that have been going on for, at least, the last 1300 years. One of them is
3. Growing for yield and enough to survive
I haven’t yet done this, for anything I’ve grown. I want to make a point of this because I want to caveat what my perceived expertise is. I work and have worked with people that can do this, and have done this in similar plants that I have grown, and what I really know that one thing I haven’t done is grown things to scale. Perhaps with my peppers I have grown for a substantial yield. Yeah. So maybe I’m wrong here, but that is also wrong because it’s not like you can derive any sort of real existence from eating peppers. Though those skills in growing peppers year over year did translate to growing other similar and unrelated plants. What I’m trying to say that if you are listening to this podcast, don’t take what I say as gospel because it may not result in you, if this is your situation, getting 100% germination, 100% viability, and 100% harvest. Expecting those results from anyone, including yourself is setting yourself up for failure. I do think that I have grown a lot of very delicious and nutrient dense foods, fruits, and flowers, but I only guess until I test.
Related to that is that I have only grown enough to supplement my diet. I am so excited for the day when I am able to grow chickens from egg to egg, and grow the sweet potatoes I will eat them with. That day will be glorious. I haven’t also yet put myself in the position to force myself to eat only what I produce. I do think there is merit in the idea, and perhaps I will be in that position one day. However, my ideals is that my neighbor or someone close to me will also be producing, and that person will be producing things that I can’t or don’t want to produce, and that I am doing the same. In that, us having the ability to provide what each other doesn’t want to produce sets us up nicely for an equal exchange. I’d rather do that then have the weird self-imposed pressure of being 100% reliant. No man is an island.
4. Reading cover-to-cover, following exact directions.
You already know me to be an adherent to many of the practices of KNF and Fukuoka. However, it may be surprising that I haven’t read JADAM cover to cover, or followed any of the directions to the letter in either of those books. I’ve always taken those books as a suggestion and as a good foundation to jump off and to do my own thing. I do have, as many do, and as many millennials do, have an issue with delaying gratification. I could have, and possibly would recommend, following all of the directions in those books to the T and then, in a separate journal, write out all of your ideas and wait to implement them later. That is a good idea. I’m not going to do that though. One person that I do know that does those things, in my estimation, does them even better now because he is teaching others how to do what he has done, which is where the real learning begins. You, my loving sibling of the soil, are where my real learning begins. It’s not that I don’t follow directions so that you don’t have to, but its, you, as a guinea pig, if we both don’t follow directions, then, do you really have to?
5. Most things about trees
You may have intimated this point from listening to me talking with Arborist Silver Sprung about trees. I was saying this and that about trees until he reminded me that trees make oxygen. DUHH.
It’s weird to have forgotten that. I’m getting better at identifying trees, and have gathered plenty of resources to be able to help me in my identification, but sometimes they just defy language. I wonder if my difficulty with them comes from the fact that I am also intensely allergic to them. What a turn of events life is, and despite my allergy to the outside, I love it more than ever, every year.
6. Breeding plants
I really love Bok Choy, it by itself is very buttery and moist and when its sautéed just right it just flops around in the pan and the stalk becomes very crunchy. It’s awesome. But then you tell me it’s related to Dino Kale, which makes the perfect kale chip. And that that is the same as Purple Kale, and that that is the same as Collards, and Mustard, and Turnips, and Radish? It’s intriguing and mind boggling that certain expressions, locked in over time, will continue to lock themselves in.
Later in life I’d like the opportunity to be able establish my own varieties of crops, that would be awesome, but right now, I think I just don’t have the patience for it.
7. Following through with people I’ve made botanical promises to.
Over the years of growing I promised many people I would write them up guides, find them information, make videos dedicated to their particular quandary or issue and I have yet to do it. I don’t think I ever will. If you are listening, I am sorry to have failed you. I understand that cheapens the trust you have in me and I regret having cheapened that trust that I’ve, that we’ve worked to cultivate within each other. I also can understand if you stop this podcast right now. I’d like to be able to continue doing what I do, and include you in that, when I have the opportunity, but only if you will allow it. Will you?
8. What other people want to know.
This is where you can help me out. I know the juxtaposition between this point and the last one is iffy. I do know that now I am in a much better position to be able to give advice and make good on those botanical promises. New slate!
On the other hand, I don’t think that that is the point. I have had plenty of discussions with other siblings of the soil about this podcast and what I am doing and, it was a surprise to me that I have been seen as going my own way, despite the fact that every now and then I am lost for ideas for what to create, record, and share. I had been curious to know, what does the layman want to know about growing tomatoes? Without asking myself why did you start this podcast in the first place. Without asking myself the first question that we ask every single show. I don’t want to hear another person talk about growing tomatoes, I want to know how you grow while you grow tomatoes. This show, I’ve realized, perhaps again, is to deliver a particular context to the listener to be in and appreciate working the soil in. The other outside sources of information I listen to, most of which still hold true to my Episode 2 Resources, talk about that the big change in building healthy soils doesn’t come from any particular technique, but from a change in the mind and heart that powers the hands that are working the soil. This is my goal, and mission to assist in delivering depth, from Ancient Kemet, Ghana, Nigeria, to Nana Kwame Afrani, to the present day, to help you in your future.
9. Where my ideals fail.
I know a lot about growing in the DMV. I’ve grown here my entire life. I have very strong opinions as it relates to what should be done in agriculture, and what shouldn’t, and a lot of those things are informed, obviously, by my own practice. What I don’t know is where does my idea, my ideals, where do they fail?
Rather than a set of techniques, as I described in the last step, is there a guiding philosophy that can help our brother or sister, whether they are in Alaska, or Angola, or in St. Petersburg or St. Croix? What kinds of stories need to be told to be able to help them identify the nitrogen fixing ground covers underneath their feet in all of these places? Where can I find that information? Have I already found it? Is this even possible? Even if it isn’t I can imagine that I’ll learn a whole lot even if I fail. I’m sure that there are plenty of similar plants all over the black soil on this blue planet, all regionally adapted to perform their functions, to provide self-healing to the earth. Wherever they are, we, at Jigijigi, want to be able to point towards some of those stories, to help our brothers and sisters, from Papua New Guinea, to Equatorial Guinea, to Guyana, to Guangzhou, to the Congo, from Palmares to Palm Beach and everywhere else that Black people are. Wherever Black people are we want to build healthy souls, by building healthy soils.
10. Making my own Value-Added Products
This was a hard one to admit. In our third installment of our Agribusiness series, in the Rooting DC episode I referred to trying to make the Holy Basil Incense Cones and although I formed them in a cone shape, I am pretty sure that using water as the binding agent actually took away all of the aromatic compounds that I wanted to smell. In the future I think a better option for them would be to take the fresh leaves, and grind those up in a mortar and pestle as I did, and then bind them together as quickly as I can and then dry them so that less water comes into the situation. Obviously they will drink as they shrink, but we will see what happens.
I also tried to make incense pellets with honey as the binding agent, and I have left some of those in the dark in various places in my room and in my girlfriends apartment. They smell amazing, but it has yet to be able to transmit that to fill the air with the same aromaticity that I enjoyed so much at Nu Ray Research Garden.
Once the formulation is complete, then its off to more testing, and sampling with friends and seeing if anyone will bite. If they don’t they don’t and that’s not a problem because people will bite for something. The economy has not stopped throughout this pandemic, and people are eating more than ever. You, my sibling of the soil, should you have your value-added product ready, we’re ready to interview you!
Share Jigijigi with your friends, family, and closely related siblings of the soil. Leave us a 5 star review wherever you listen to and we will say then as we say now, Asante Sana, Medase Pa, Modupe O, thank you for listening to Jigijigi, Peace.