Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, June 08, 2017

appudu has moved on

nearly 7 years ago, appudu (appu) entered our lives.
our first experience with pets. he entered as a rat-control remedy but he remedied us big time.
he was all things one has seen and read about pet cats - only a bit better on most fronts!
he taught us much and we are far better human beings because of him.

he protected his turf fiercely from others of his kind of others of the slithery venomous kind.

once, we had erroneously overdosed him while deworming. we took him to the chennai veterinary hospital and he overcame much odds to survive and in the process became a case study in the students' academic course work.

we attempted to move him from pR with us to our new location, but he moved back to his comfort zone and continued his reign over our hearts - from a little afar.

he died a couple of days ago. he will stay alive in other dimensions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

the relentless heat and other news

since september 2016 till date - over 240 days, our area has received exactly ONE day of recordable-level rain and another 2 days of sprinkly drizzles.
during this time, cyclone vardah demolished madras in early dec 2016, jaya amma died, jallikattu protests rocked TN (mostly forgotten now, i think) and more memorable events have transpired.

the failed north-east monsoon of 2016 is already in the record books as the second worst ever in 150 years.

and through may 2017, several parts of tamilnadu have received good summer rains, but a strip of width approx 30-40 kms along the coast from madras to pondicherry has missed out.

through may 2017, we have had at least 15-18 days of very hot (>40 deg C) days.
a scorcher of a month, never before experience by us (in 8 years).
even our well shaded house with high levels of ventilation is barely tolerable.

we had a sub-par agricultural performance in our main season from aug 2016-april 2017. yields remained low for paddy, dals, sesame and abysmal for groundnuts.

through all this tough times, our well has stood strong and we have a good level of water. we are eternally grateful for the previous owners to have picked a great spot and dug such a bounteous well.

as the south-west monsoon has set today (30th may 2017) over coastal kerala, we pray that we get some respite  over the coming month(s).
otherwise, some serious tragedies loom in the neighbourhood.

we have also taken on 4 additional family members, 2 oldish cows (kamala and her daughter haasini) and one female calf (abirami). kamala was scheduled for the meat market, but the kind owner was happy to let us take her away and tend to her till her time comes. haasini still has some mileage left and will go back to the owners in some time. abirami may stay for a bit till she goes through her first delivery.
and lastly sg kittapa aka kittu, a mongrel pup walked in seeking shelter and is currently 3 months old and a tyrant in the making.

one thing that all of us are looking out for - a respite from this relentless heat.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

anupam mishra - a recollection

sometime in oct 2012, we found ourselves with time to kill in delhi. as chance would have it, we decided to visit the birla house memorial of gandhi and to our delight, shri narayan desai was delivering the moving gandhi katha series.
we took our seats and were transported to the times of the freedom struggle.
as the lecture was coming to close, i noticed a familiar dignified gent in our front row. he was shri anupam mishra, whose spell-binding ted talk i had written about.
we introduced ourselves and he was all grace. he took down our address and very soon we received a copy of his book - aaj bhi khare hain talab - a veritable masterpiece on the water management practices of our ancestors.
it was indeed an unforgettable evening to be blessed by two legends.

shri mishra recently moved address and here is ram guha's evocative obit piece.

tennyson wrote 'the brook' with the memorable line - for men may come and men may go, but i go on forever.
it has been the lifetimes work of shri desai and shri mishra which has made this line a reality.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

being on the losing side

wendell berry responding  to the US Presidential elections, once again says it beautifully and precisely, "I’m still on the losing side and that’s where I’ve taken up my residence … If Hillary Clinton had won, I would still be on the losing side. And I would just have to go to work.”

we have been racking our brains for an appropriate response/comment to the many interesting events post november 2016. berry nails it.

as we enter the eighth year of this rural/agricultural based life, over the zillion interactions we have had, we can only smilingly nod at berry's wisdom and realise once again, that such a deep understanding will happen only to those who feel the earth between their fingers each day.

the demonetisation did not  affect us directly much, but its impact in our neighbouring areas has been severe. why would the govt do something this hurtful has been easily explained in this article.

new year greetings to all.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Our avian neighbours

remember our post on birds of pR back in 2011? well, the willing bird lover arrived in the form of our friend Sridhar with a brand new dslr! we set out at day break and dusk on couple of days and came home with these. 
1) Painted stork
2) golden oriole

3) little green bee eater

3) little green bee eater - eating dragonfly

4) loten's sunbird - female

5) orphean warbler or plain prinia?  not sure please help!

6) Jerdon's bushlark

7) ashy prinia
7) ashy prinia - singing



8) Pied bushchat - male

8) pied bushchat - female


9) pied crested cuckoo

10) plaintive cuckoo

10) plaintive cuckoo - another view

11) red headed falcon

6) Jerdon's bushlark

6) Jerdon's Bushlark
12) paddyfield pipit
13) small green billed malkhoa

14) spotted dove

15) spotted owlet

16) white browed bulbul

17) silverbill or white throated munia

18) white breasted kingfisher

19) red vented bulbul

20) magpie robin
21) cattle egret - female - breeding

22) indian robin - male

23) Common Iora - male and female

23) Common Iora - female

23) Common Iora - male & female

24) koel - female

25) lesser goldenbacked woodpecker

26) crimson breaster barbet aka coppersmith

27) crow pheasant or greater coucal

28) black drongo

29) forest wagtail




30) baya weaver - female

31) indian roller or blue jay

32) brahminy mynah

32) brahminy mynah

33) hoopoe

Thanks again to sridhar for taking these fantastic pictures and to siddharth for quick spotting.

Here are a few more species spotted by us regularly but not captured in camera. we will update this post as and when sridhar visits us again and shoots a few more pictures.  A couple in (?) are the ones that only one of us have spotted. They will be confirmed with more sightings.

34) common babbler
35) blue rock pigeon
36) yellow wattled lapwing
37) red wattled lapwing
38) white breasted water hen
39) watercock aka kora (?)
40) indian peafowl
41) grey francolin
42) black shouldered kite
43) shikra
44) montague/pale harrier
45) white browed wagtail
46) common mynah
47) jungle crow
48) palm swift
49) ashy woodswallow
50) roufus tree pie
51) brain fever bird
52) pond heron
53) little egret
54) black headed munia
55) white rumped munia  (?)
56) purple sunbird
57) purple rumped sunbird
58) rose ringed parakeet
59) eurasian collared dove



Saturday, May 28, 2016

paddy production - an indicator

in the previous 2 posts - ruin after rain - part 1 and part 2 i had indicated a surge in paddy production.
here is some evidence to back this.
the state govt (parallel to the center (via the food corp of india)) procures paddy for the public distribution via ration shops (PDS), aanganwadis (ICDS), mid-day meal scheme in government schools and the amma canteens.

the surge in production has meant a surge in procurement and thus what you see below.

in this location, the supervisor indicated a total inventory of around 8000 tons of paddy.
from the time of taking these photos additional rows had been added. there is certainly one more such location in the vicinity and may be more in the overall district.
this is apparently a common sight in thanjavur - the main rice growing area of tamilnadu. and the entire crew is from there.
the stacking is highly artistic and the rain protection is superb. each sack is 40 kgs and each stack has 2992 sacks -> each stack has around 120 tons of  paddy. phew...




to answer a common query - this production surge is not likely to see any impact in the price of rice in retail. these economics are beyond us for now!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

watermelon - watch ur melon

as briefly touched in previous post, watermelon (WM) has been a money spinner to farmers this year.
one of the obvious reasons has been the relentless heat right from Jan 2016 onwards, keeping the demand high through this year's 3 odd months.

it is also a fact that WM has not been this big a hit since 2011.  so it could just be an one-in-five year blip.

WM growing and economics - circa 2009 - from the TamilNadu Agriculture University (tnau) website, gives a complete breakdown of growing/chemicals used/yields/revenue-expenses-profit calculations.
careful reading of the above, clearly shows the regularity and intensity of use of chemicals over the 65-75 day growing period.
and the costs of these chemicals is approx Rs. 25000 out of a total of Rs 45000.
the farmer misses out on seed cost which is pretty high.
this year farmers in our area have made a profit of around Rs.50000-75000/acre. these kind of figures are impossible with regular-joe crops like grains/millets/oilseeds.

WM growing fields used to be a classic ridge-furrow system with flood-watering in the furrows once a week or so.
since the advent and growing popularity of drip irrigation and plastic sheet mulching, most WM growing is now by this system.
just image search for "watermelon sheet mulch" to get a sense of how WM field looks like.
and the drip irrigation ensures that all the growth-promoting chemicals are delivered right at the root zone of the plant.

this type of mulching lasts for 2 crops (i.e., 5 months) on an average and then is gathered and burnt and the process is repeated the next season.
hence there is a slow but steady influx of plastic particles into the soil.

that the final WM fruit is riddled with multiple chemicals is a undeniable fact. it is also true that the WM farmers barely eat their own output. even the local villagers are now wise to the fact of these WMs ill effects. it is not uncommon to see fields strewn with "off-spec" WM (misshapen, too small, etc.) and no takers for them, not even cattle.

we avoid WM unless we grow them.
readers are advised to be careful, very careful when it comes to eating this fruit.

regular readers may recall - watermelon bonanza from 2011.