Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

well well, the roof's coming apart

2 very large activities are happening as i type this...
1. a well is being dug (for future agriculture)
2. the roof of the pavilion is being re-thatched.

both big tickets items and the latter has temporarily forced us into the new home :-)

till we re-settle down, updates are just queueing up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

pesticide in food - dire warning contd...

in response to the cabbage warning, my friend surio, has come up with this comment which he said (and i agree) deserve main page inclusion.

The Internet is our friend. Usually Bioingestion and Bioaccumulation damage is a build up that takes years but manifests quite suddently. Do you remember growing up in 80s India, and reading about mercury / poisoning / through fish consumption in Japan?

This will be somewhat similar. The brave should click here and here to get educated (or more scared, whatever the case may be).

My own personal take is that pesticide poisoning disaster is already manifesting itself in the other species and it is a matter of time before we are stuffed and cooked! Take a look at here and also at something called Colony collapse disorder among bees. Of course, there are highly evolved bird species such as Bee-Eater (Duh!) that feed on these bees and die-off en masse. It's OK, seems to be the stupid refrain, so long as it is not us, but the birds and the bees, it's OK. Even bats are being affected, but no one knows why it is happening yet.

Honestly, I don't know what an alternative to pesticide farming might be. This becomes even more paramount because if we stop pesticide use, there will be major crop failures for at least 3-4 seasons as crops will take time to build their resilience to pests. And while this happens, many of the 6 billion infantilised wastrels of a bipeds will surely have to die. Horrors..

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

flying tiles

did you wonder when you read the roofing post, "how did all those tiles get up there onto the top?"
pretty sure that no one did :-)

that is over 6000 tiles - each weighing 0.5 kg - moved up by over 7 feet.
around 65 Kilo Joules of energy expended.

simple as ready, throw, catch and lay.

inviting readers to convert to an animated gif image and send.

raincoat for the house

you saw the four faces.
just as we finished that post, screeching winds, thunder and lightning woke us up in the middle of the night.
like we ran helkter-skelter for the roof protection a month ago, we did the raincoat routine - this time for the walls.
we were anxious that the slanting rain would damage the plastering.

so here is how it looked in the morning after.
well done team pR.

and the good news...
a small part of the eastern wall could not be fully covered and faced the full frontal assault of the rain.
and it looked like it managed quite well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

cabbage - dire warning

in an 'i-told-you-so' fashion, my avoid-cabbage warning has been expertly explained here by s kannaiyan.

stop eating cabbage - it is nothing but pesticide.

ash gourd misery

a diverse story.

white pumpkin (real name - ash gourd) is one of the best and easy crops that grow in the summer.
full of water, it is a summertime treat.

we planted 4 varieties of seeds 3 different locations since mid january. we picked the right season and in fact spread our risk by planting with such diversity in variety and soil type.
but NOT a single bud to show for the effort....
no idea yet on why we were blessed this way.

on the other hand, our neighbouring farmer grew ash gourds over more than 5 acres and had a bumper crop over over 5 tons per acre.
while he managed to sell one lot, over the last 2 weeks, ash gourds prices have tanked to Re 1/kg.
he will not be able to sell over 15 tons of gourds.

they are lying in his field, unpicked and in a vain expectation of a recovery of the prices.
even if they perk up a bit, his fruits will be too mature to be sold.
sadness, indeed to see so much food going unused.

home - 4 faces

here is a close look at the four sides of the house.

starting with the front - north face.

east face.

backside - south face

west face

Monday, May 16, 2011

building our house - part 6 - plastering

as the roof was getting laid, the plastering of the walls was parallelly being done.

as the mud walls would need protection from rain spray, we originally thought about a lime-based water-resistant plaster. lime is beautiful natural material for mortar and plaster.
but one experiment with hydrated lime powder we procured locally, did not inspire confidence in its quality.

hence we decided on a simple, reinforced form of mud plaster.
20:1:2 portions of sieved soil, cement and cow-dung slurry.

here is the mixing on soil and cement.

add the slurry and mix away.

this is the final plaster mix.

first hand applied, and then...

...smoothed with a finishing trowel.

a close up. the edges are tough going.

the western wall.

the southern wall.
post plastering, the walls are given a simple swab-coat of dung slurry. this aids in the binding and fills up the minor cracks that generally develop in the plaster.

the northern wall before the plaster, and...

...after the plastering. with the crew in full regalia. the gentlemen in white shirts upfront were the chief masons heading a very competent crew.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

building our house - part 5 - roofing

it was past mid-april when we completed the walls.
they survived a few rain lashings and we finally started to lay the roof a week ago on may 7th only.

refer to the design, the roof had the following specs:
1. approx 12 feet length.
2. a 2 feet drop (from 9 feet at the center to 7 feet at the edge) over this 12 feet length (along the slope).
3. to keep away insects (especially scorpions)
4. to protect from rain and heat.
5. to be a permanent fixture with low periodic maintenance.
6. no incentive for termites.

we discarded:
1. thatch roof based on item 5 and 6.
2. tiled roof based on items 1, 2 (not enough slope) and 3.

DV's design solution was a sandwich roof.
1. bottom layer - corrugated Galvanised Iron (GI) sheet.
2. middle layer - bitumen aka tar sheet.
3. top layer - country tiles.

a. the GI sheets give the rain/water protection and the slope is sufficient for rain run off. these sheets will rest on 4 GI pipes/per house which will run perpendicular to the sheets along the entire breadth of the house.

b. the tar sheet adds a layer of insulation, provides extra life to the GI sheet and gives an extra grip to the tiles.

c. the country tile provides the heat insulation (both of above layers are known to the notoriously hot fellas.

to our best knowledge, this has not been attempted earlier, so we had to go with just our theoretical constructs.

the bigger issue was over usage of steel and tar.
over several discussions and arguments (of experiences), we steeled ourselves to the risk of being tarred as eco-insensitives.

so here it goes.

once the GI sheets have been laid.

they are held down to the pipes with J shaped bolts with appropriate water ingress protecting washers.

the central ridge. the uneven finish was due to a slight non-rectangularity of the right side rooms.

hence it had to be cemented to cover the gap.

unrolling the tar sheets. done in peak summer sitting on a hot tin roof. phew.

as the heat builds up, the tar melts and for a water-proof coat on the GI sheets.

the tile laying starts.

a close look at the packing.

the ridge is tiled with a larger sized tile and plastered into place to prevent wind lift-off.

the final look. pretty neat:-)

the current overhang is not sufficient to save the walls from rain. we will be extending the roof.
and that will be part 5b, wont it!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

watts the bad word

one of the design elements at pR is being off-the-grid.
it has been simple and non-controversial to be off-the-grid with human waste management and water.

and but being off the power grid has been very simple from the implementation standpoint, it has been a challenge from the ideological and environmental standpoint.
we currently have:
1. an installed solar power generation of 1.15KW (20 panels) in a 24 V system.
2. with a battery system capable of storing 400 Amp Hours and
3. an DC to AC invertor of 1.5 KW capacity.

it is well known that item 2 is an environmental disaster (inspite of many recycling claims) and this has been a point of concern for advocates of solar technologies.
in germany, a simple solution of connecting household solar electricity generation to the grid has changed the game and knocked batteries out of the loop.

while we marinate in this challenge, tehelka's latest cover story, highlights the energy issue that the country faces.

there is a argument for rationing...
How is one to bridge the gap between rural India’s search for basic light and a fan and Mukesh Ambani’s monthly electricity bill of Rs. 70.69 lakh?
Meanwhile, according to research by Bharat Jhunjhunwala, former IIM Bangalore professor and author of The Economics of Hydropower, we require only 2 percent of our present electricity generation to provide lifeline consumption of power to unelectrified villages. According to RGGVY, 30 units per month are enough to meet the energy needs of a village household. “Going by that rate, we need 1.2 billion units per month. We are currently producing 67 billion units per month,” says Jhunjhunwala.
even before fukushima, the issue of nuclear waste disposal has been a reason why i could never support this technology.
Perhaps most worrying of all the downsides though is that, as sources in the nuclear industry in France admitted to Tehelka, there is as yet no long-term sustainable solution on what to do with radioactive waste. Even in a country like France which depends on nuclear power for 80 percent of its electricity, research is underway. Areva told Tehelka that 96 percent of its used fuel is recycled, but a research programme is underway to find solutions for the final disposal underground of the remaining 4 percent radioactive waste. That final disposal would be at about 500 metres below ground. For the time being, however, the hazardous waste of all French nuclear plants are temporarily stored at the Areva plant at La Hague, 20 km from the city of Cherbourg in Normandy, which has 80,000 inhabitants and is surrounded by several villages.
While radioactive waste is currently stored in containers on site in India, Jaitapur will perhaps be India’s first experiment with storing waste underground in lead containers. Any leak could contaminate ground water.

there is a definite an direct correlation between our GDP growth and the growth in power demand. maybe even by a factor of the second exponential.
and the reckless search for 10% growth will lead to reckless push towards installing new power plants.

there are many solutions which need to be worked upon parallely.
1. creating decentralised, local generation/usage solutions like the examples in the start of the article.
2. investment in cutting down on distribution losses over creating new capacity using any technology.
3. decreasing consumption has to be a vital part the overall solution and
4. as tusha concludes,
Which brings us full circle back to the original riddle: Yes, we all want electricity. But not generated in our backyard!
Perhaps the first step to unravelling this will be for governments and corporations to insist on the very best practices possible – on humanitarian, environmental and technological grounds.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

ammu is a boy!!!

our inexperience in ex-identification and the late development of organs in cats, make it difficult to clearly mark out the sex in kittens.
baby ammini, as it turns out, is a boy. we are retaining the name 'ammu'...

our desire to give appudu a future mate, has supremely egged our faces and now we will have two boys isolated and looking for female company very soon.

point return's body guard - chokkalingam

after many deliberations and delays, we finally got our stray/mongrel - Chokkalingam aka 'chokka'.
2 months old when he entered our home, a week ago.

many thanks to 'organic' krishnan and priya nagesh at Theosophical Society for this stunning 'chocolate' coloured boy-pup.

all 3 are well adjusted to each other and even eat off each others plates.