We have been home (in Estonia) for almost three months now. The end of the season got a bit of an unexpected ending for me and Kendrick. After a short visit to Estonia we were supposed to fly back to Georgia at the beginning of October, but the climate change (from Georgian +30 degrees Celsius to Estonian 5 degrees Celsius) and Estonian usual "pleasant" autumn weather cut both off our feet and flying back with a sick child didn’t seem very reasonable. So, Kendrick and I were cheering for others from Estonia and I was hoping that the season would have a positive end and Mario would be home soon.
Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against Georgia, on the contrary, this place is deep in my heart. But I missed the person with whom we share the happiest and saddest moments every day. When Kendrick said "daddy" for the first time while Mario was in Georgia, working like crazy to get all the tea packed and transported to Estonia on time, I got teary-eyed.
Everyone is alive and well
Living in Georgia for 5 months (April-September) has been ... interesting. Interesting in every way - both good and bad. My role during this season was to be, first and foremost, a mother and a supportive partner to Mario. The decision that we both won’t be fully hustling at Kendrick's expense in the first season was a certainty and I didn't see any other option. How did I manage my first season with a one-year-old abroad? Well everyone is alive and well, but to be honest, it was freaking hard. I never thought it would be easy to raise a child because it certainly is not, but if you are away from your family and there is no support system, it surely is challenging.
Just recently, we were discussing our last season with Kristiina and realized that we may have been a little misleading with sharing our everyday life there in Georgia. Don't think we've lied to you because we haven’t! However, we have not been keen enough to share those harder moments when everyone is tired and would like to drop everything and walk away, because it is always easier to grab your phone and capture moments when something funny is happening and life looks great. We still had a lot of fun, and as we have learned in Georgia there is no point to overthink and worry about every small little detail. But the reality is that we've been tea farmers for a year (others for 2 years) - we're not agronomists, or tea gurus, or just know-it-alls.
Just didn't get it
We're not quite sure why we couldn't make tea for essentially the entire month of June because the bushes just didn't grow. We didn’t know that probably there was no point to spend late hours in the plantation to spend on fertilizing (evenings because it was less than 30 degrees outside and the sun did not burn the fertilizer on tea bush leaves). As we found out later on that the soil samples were actually quite positive already before fertilization. Just to be clear - we used organic fertilization as we are not into chemicals :) We don't really know everything and lack of knowledge can often be frustrating.
When fern takes over
Although I just said that we don't know many things, I am actually amazed by how much Renegade Tea Estate as a whole has evolved over two seasons. Again, none of us had any direct (or indirect) contact with agriculture or tea farming before. What hit me with a big bang during the season was that organic farming is brutal! It's brutal in the sense that once you've decided that you don't use chemicals to kill weeds in the field, it takes a huge amount of time and financial resources to keep the plantations clean because fern in the tea plantation is like... I don't even have any good examples to describe how quickly one thing can have such a negative impact on the other. I believe you understand what I mean, but to actually get it you should stand in the middle of the plantation and then you basically can see with your own eye how fern is taking over the whole plantation or to be precise - our three plantations, which are about 50 hectares in total. Positive part is that despite all the challenges we managed to produce around 430kg of tea during this season (around 100kg on last season) and most of it is sold already.
Fern, me and Kendrick in Mandikori plantation
Personally, I have also a bit of sadness in me. I am sad because I didn't have the opportunity to help out in the plantation and the factory on a daily basis because there was and will be always tons of work. Meanwhile, Mario gave me some "days off" so I could go to work, which I really enjoyed. It was simply not possible to take Kendrick everywhere because without supervision he would probably eat all the tea bushes or just run away with cows. We went to the plantation and the factory quite a lot, but then I was generally chasing him. On the other hand, I am sincerely happy that he has the opportunity to grow up in such an environment - nature, animals, nice people both in our gang and amongst the local people. He has so much love surrounding him all the time :) As I mentioned in my first blog post, Georgians just love kids :)
Kendrick eating tea leaves
What will the new season bring
There is actually very little time left until the start of the new season, as Mario is flying to Georgia on January 8th. Not to stay there full time, but the field works begin at that time already. I and Kendrick will probably fly to Georgia in April when the season actually starts - the first pluckings and tea-making. As Kendrick is already in daycare in Estonia, it is planned to continue the same way in Georgia, which will also give me an opportunity to get more involved in our daily work. I look forward to returning to Georgia because the 5 months I spent there actually seemed more like years and this place has become very dear to me. On the other hand, I also have some fear of what lies ahead of us, because in reality, the first season was pretty emotional, but I will try to take it as Georgians do - "there is no point to worry, everything will go well" :)
Written by Hanna