Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP - ishwarkaka patel

the inspiring man whose work made india cleaner and hygienic - ishwarkaka patel - physically left this world.

salutes to a beautiful person who will continue to light lives.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

tamilnadu farmers - disturbing trend

sainath comes hammer and tongs at many establishments in his latest salvo - "of luxury cars and lowly tractors."

the data point that concerns me is reflected in the title:
Tamil Nadu showed the biggest increase of all States, going from 512 in 2008 to 1060 in 2009. Karnataka clocked in second with a rise of 545. And Andhra Pradesh saw the third biggest rise — 309 more than in 2008.
this is not to be interpreted as a parochial view, but from a social angle, the southern states have been at the forefront and these trends are indicative of a deeper malaise, which is, as the final statement in the article - “The latest data show us that the agrarian crisis has not relented, not gone away.” The policies driving it have also not gone away."

at a recent public meeting/press conference in chennai, a well-known educationist and social scientist mentioned that there is a high level conspiracy to get the small/medium farmer out of farming and allow the big companies to take over their land and hence dominate food production/supply.
considering our good friends - MMS, PC and MSA leading from the front - it is very likely.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hypolimnas misippus - Danaid Eggfly

this guy is a beauty. when we first spotted him in august, we spent hours running after him for a open-wing pic. the one here is only a partial success.

Danaid eggfly male - closed

Danaid eggfly male - open

Danaid eggfly female

we estimate there are atleast 25 different types of butterflies in pR, so watch this space.

Eurema brigitta

the small grass yellow butterfly is very small, very grass-yellow and very abundant and very very tough to catch on camera.
karpagam's patience was well rewarded with these excellent ones.
these are from august 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010

scaling up vegetables

in the move towards fukuoka, we had mentioned that we had broadcast one field with green manure seeds.

more than 1.5 months later, here is how the field looked.

we have agreed to permanently split this field into a vegetable part and a grain part.
this post is about the preparation of the former using the trench and mound method.
the challenge was how to clear the field.
the green manure and the weeds (growing through the mulch) had to be cleared.
the poser was "to uproot or not to uproot?"
just going with the simple understanding that uprooting is another form of ploughing, we sickled the field via the carpet-roll technique.

the the trench digging and mounding the dirt.

adding some compost and levelling the bed.

and it grows

and then the sickled carpet is rolled back as mulch.

a total of 5 beds. each around 50 feet long and 3 feet wide.
it took us over 7 hours for 4 people to get it done.

the bed makers and trench diggers. (that is sid in the red tee who spent 5 wonderful work-filled days at pR)

candidates for these beds - okra, radish, carrot, tomato, brinjal, cluster beans, lettuce, cabbage...should keep us busy and healthy :-)
will keep updating this one.

common mormon

the common mormon is pretty and common.
and a beautiful tail at the bottom of the wings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


after cracking the banana code, papayas are next.
we have been planting seeds and saplings since early this year with near total wipe out.
we kept hearing that it is best left to nature. just cast the seeds after eating them and thats that.

so we finally gave up the attempts and followed the above principle.
and that worked from the germination end, but we chose bad areas to drop the seeds and the saplings died out.

then 2 strokes of luck.
one sapling we had forgotten about, survived the early stages and came through very vigourously. it is growing right at the exit of the wash water from the bathroom and get copious water.

the second stroke was from the 2 piles of compost that we bought from the nearby village.
each pile was a veritable papaya jungle. obviously some cow had munched through a papaya and fertilised it thorough its digestive system and dropped it intact and ready to take off.
and boy did they.

so now we are close to cracking the code.
papayas have male plants and female plants. and hence there is only a 50% probability of a fruiting tree.

the girl plant

the boy plant

and our jackpot tree.

as raj mentions, it is one of the least demanding of trees.
now we have a combination garden area with bananas and papayas surrounded by the pit and trench beds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Phalanta phalantha a sun loving butterfly commonly known as common leopard.

very friendly and lovely co-resident :-)

winter is here

they say that the arrival of mists indicate the end of the monsoon and the onset of winter.
we were totally misted out for 2 hours today morning.

so, except for the rare-depression led rains, we are well and truly into the winter growing season.

enjoy the pics.

the sun is a ghostly galleon...

sorghum - chozham - jowar

continuing the millet series with jowar, the most popular millet after ragi.
in the karnataka/maharashtra regions, it is staple diet.

jowar rotis are served as fancy fare in upmarket region restaurants, but it is the source of survival for the dry-land farmers in interior deccan regions.

it is certainly the prettiest of all the millets :-)
the grain head is the largest among the millet family. and is almost a piece of art.

here is a close up of the variety we have sowed. we used it as an intercrop (with not great results) with varagu.
mesmerised by the beauty of the grain head, the locals call it 'alangara chozham' - ornamental sorghum.

there are other varieties with a much denser head. notice in this pic.

it is also called 'Great Millet'.

now you know why.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

potato planting

a year ago, on some random push from me, DV planted a (SINGLE) potato and surprise surprise, it was a good output. we had harvested nearly 1 Kg from that single plant.

my mail was inspired by the potato tower experiment of Rob (of one straw-be the change)

we were certain that we would try one winter crop of potatoes, even though it has never been tried in the local area. except for the hill parts of Tamilnadu, no other place grows potatoes.
but the reason is purely commercial and not because it would not grow.
with the warmer winters in these areas, the chances of good tuber growth for a good yield and hence good money is low and hence no one attempts to grow them.

but here is our attempt.
aim is to plant around 5 kgs of potatoes as seeds and be happy with what we get :-)

step 1 - prepare a very loose soiled bed. we dug/loosened the soil upto 4 inches depth and then added around 2-3 inches of compost/loose soil.

step 2 - select potatoes with strong sprouts. these were potatoes from agra, which has a better sprouting tendency.

step 3 - cut them into halves (not smaller than thirds).

step 4 - place them on bed with approx 18 inches spacing.

step 5 - cover with compost and mulch

the trick (we learnt from Rob) is to hill the bed (cover with straw and compost) as the stem grows and allow for each node to further develop into tubers. so the final bed will be another 6-9 inches higher than it is now.
we shall see how this develops.

another 4 kgs to go....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

trench and mound for vegetables

offline, one place i learn about farming/agriculture and general good practices is Krishna from Solitude Farm in Auroville.

online, one place i learn about gardening/composting and general homesteading action is One straw- Be the change
not only is the title a source of interesting appeal, but the content of Rob's blog is up there.

inspired by Krishna and Rob, here is the trench and mound system of vegetables/fruits growing.

the exact details of the logic and biology/chemistry is best read on rob's post.

the bed mounds are approx 3 feet wide and they are lined with trenches are 9 inches wide and 6 inches deep.
to start, the bed area is loosened with a shovel.
then, the soil from the trench is heaped onto the bed area.
after adding some fertility vide compost, ash, rock dust etc, the beds are smoothed out by hand.

then comes the wood chips which fill up the trenches.
rob uses a chipper, while we use our heavy sickles and knives to chop up wood.
this wood came from over 25 trips and 10 hours of scavenging the neighbouring areas for trees that could be pruned and overgrown woody shrubs.
and over 10 hours of chipping them into tiny pieces.

for this particular bed, we used amrut jal to dip these woody pieces - certainly infusion of microbes into the system will aid in speedier decomposition.

the pieces are then dropped into the trenches

and the trenches are fully covered with mulch.

finally the beds are mulched and then planted.
our first beds are growing tomatoes, kidney beans, brinjal and we plan to add cluster beans.

extending this idea, we have another parallel bed exclusively for greens.

if you noticed, these beds are smack around our banana and papaya mini-plantation. these trees will grow and enjoy the water and fertility around them and their shade will be a welcome relief for the vegetables.