Its great news that our Farm has been accepted to be part of the WWOOF network, a global volunteer group specializing in farming. WWOOF is present in 99 countries around the world. What this means is that it opens doors for international travelers visiting India to come stay and volunteer at our farm.
This is almost like Couchsurfing with a pure farming focus! Having been part of the Couchsurfing experience, I can vouch that the best part of this is the cultural exchange and the chance to get new ideas.
Volunteers get a chance to work at the farm for 5 to 6 hours a day and in return they get to experience the rural life and live the life of a farmer. They get to be part of the family. Their stay and food are taken care of. People can stay at the farm anywhere from two days to three months.
There are many farms in India that encourage this type of volunteering. If you are interested in knowing more, visit WWOOF India
This coming weekend of April 13 & 14, we are inviting people who are passionate about farming to come be part of the farming activities at our village. Vaksana farms is an idyllic 9 acre farm set in a beautiful village called Rettanai, near Tindivanam.
This volunteering opportunity would be ideal for people who are exploring farming as a way of life or for city folks who want to experience rural life.
Recently, I was part of an organic farming workshop where a bunch of people passionate about farming got-together. Working on the farm became such a fun activity because of the bonding and team work. That’s when I decided to open up my farm too for people. Its a great win-win situation.
So, here’s the plan. We leave for the farm from Chennai at 7pm on Friday evening. On Saturday and Sunday, we wake up early and get ourselves busy with lots of activities. We start back to Chennai at 6pm on Sunday evening.
Option 1: We all meet up at Koyambedu bus stand at 7pm on Friday night and take a bus to Tindivanam and then to Rettanai. There are plenty of buses available. All buses that go to Villupuram, Trichy or Madurai is good for us. This is a cheaper option and all of us pay our own fares.
Option 2: We car-pool. It’ll be a fun road-trip. We share the fuel cost. Gives us flexibility for us to check out a few farms on the way.
Either of the two options is good.
Accommodation is taken care of. We have a lovely small house right in the middle of the farm. It has a large hall and a mezzanine dorm. There’s no electricity in the farm and this is a blessing in disguise. Its a very unique experience.
We typically buy food from a hotel in the nearby town. We go dutch and food is fairly inexpensive. Alternatively, we have a working kitchen and we can attempt to do group cooking. Will be lots of fun.
OK, here’s what we plan to do over the weekend.
1) Plan and plant a complete living fence. ( a fence made completely from plants)
2) Take care of the Millet and Paddy nursery.
3) Plant mango and coconut saplings at the fruit orchard.
4) Mulch and manure the fruit tree saplings.
5) Crete a balcony railing from Bamboo stems.
6) Plough and till the land and create 3×10 feet vegetable beds.
If you are game, please call me at 9841597744 or email me at Kiruba @ Kiruba.com. Look forward to having a very productive, sweaty, fun weekend !!
Announcing FarmCamp, the farming Unconference in Chennai on August 10 & 11. (Saturday & Sunday).
An unconference is an event where every participant proactively participates in the event. Each particpant must take up an active role in the event by helping with the organizing of the event, by blogging or recoding the event and speaking at the event. There are no passive audiences in the event. Only active participants.
Ever since I jumped into active farming, I have had the chance to meet up with other people who are passionate about farming. Each of them bring in years of experience and diverse skills.
Interestingly, all of them are eager to share their knowledge with others. We realized that its important to have an event that brings together these awesome people. That’s when an idea of doing an unconference cropped up.
We are currently looking for a good venue to host the event. We are hoping that we would get Spaces, a wonderful location in Besant Nagar, Chennai. With its tree laden open spaces, its vicinity to the beach and a cozy Kerala styled hut, its tailor made for an unconference. Hoping to get this approved soon.
The topics covered vary from Organic Farming, Raising Chicken & Goats, Preparing natural pesticide, marketing our produce, Growing Millets, Community Farming etc.
We are constantly striving to get people to come speak on unique topics at the event. So, if you know someone passionate about a particular type of farming, please do pass the word about the event to them. Or you can tell us and we will take the steps to get the person to the event.
Thank you and look forward to seeing you at the event
Today is a special day. Our first harvest of the black grams took place today. I could not witness in person as I’m back in the city to take care of my business. I spend the weekends at the farm and weekdays in the city. Black grams is a 60 day crop and the the pods have started to mature. You can feel that the pods have matured by the tension of the outer cover. Even a little pressure will make the pod covers to explode open popping the seeds out.
Now comes the business side of things. It will be interesting to figure out how much the produce sells for and to calculate the investment v/s returns.
Pondicherry does not have a desert. But the land on the outskirts of the town was very close to one. All the trees were cut down for wood and later for vegetation. This meant that with every rain, the rich top soil would get washed away to the Bay of Bengal. Completely barren and useless until two amazing people turned up to perform magic in their little farm. How a Belgian Man and an Indian Woman have painstakingly built a farm from an absolute barren land is truly inspiring. Watch the photolog.
This photo was taken a few decades ago. This is an aerial shot of the barren land with almost no green cover. All the trees were cut down and this has led to shocking levels of soil erosion. With every rain, the top soil would get washed away to the ocean leaving just lifeless hard soil.
Closeup of the soil. Its just pebbles and hard soil with no nutrients. All the rich top soil has been washes away to the Bay of Bengal. — at Pebble Farm, Auroville.
Bernard, a Belgian came to India nearly three decades ago and Deepika began the arduous task of reclaiming the barren, lifeless land.
Bernard demonstrates how they painstakingly created soil purely out of dry leaves.
The way how they do this is first planted an australian variety of eucalyptus tree. Its one of the trees that has the ability to grow in the most harshest of climates. Its also fast growing. The dried leaves from these trees serves as the main ingredient for starting up. They would collect the dried leaves and soak them up in water overnight. Then make a layer of dry leaves and cover it with soil. Then they would add a second layer of dry leaves and cover it with soil. They would continue to do this for 12 layers. They let this decompose and wait for nature to play its course. After two months, this turns into rich compost and is suitable to sow seeds and grow small plants. This is how they regenerated 14 acres of land.
The scene right now at Pebble beach. Rich vegetation all around. Bernard and Deepika have performed nothing but a miracle. We leaned a key lesson of the importance of biomass and its regenerative powers. No more burning of leaves and twigs. They need to be treated with respect and help make their way back to the soil.
I witnessed a shocking incident at our village. Beautiful looking cranes were killed so that they can make for free snacks for the evening booze. Here is a photolog that describes the killing method.
We grow paddy at our farm. Paddy requires copious water and we flood the paddy field. This forms a nice breeding ground for frogs and crabs which attract lots of cranes.
One evening, three young men came to our farm and asked permission to cross our farm to go to the neighboring field. They were carrying some stuff in their hands and out of curiosity I asked them what they intended to do. They said they were out to hunt for cranes. Usually it is the NariKoravas (tribals) who hunt these birds and so I was surprised why these youngsters from the village were after the birds. Out of curiosity, I decided to follow them to see what they were up to.
One of the guys carried a packet of Megafuran, a powerful pesticide.
He emptied part of the packed into a plastic bottle and mixed it with water to form a violet coloured liquid. He warned that this liquid is dangerous enough to kill a man, let alone a crane.
They had brought with them a handful of earthworms. They put the earthworms in a plastic cup and poured the violet coloured pesticide into the cup full of writhing worms. Within two seconds, the worms went motionless. Instant death. Now, the guys have the bait ready for the cranes. What they do is quietly crawl to an area where the bunch of cranes feed and sprinkle these worms in a small area. They then clear the area and wait for the cranes to take the bait.
The cranes do not know to distinguish a dead poisoned worm from a live one. They quickly pick it and swallow it. Its astonishing how quick the poison works. Just like the earthworms, the cranes dropped dead within two seconds of swallowing the poisoned earthworms. So strong is the pesticide.
The guys then skin the crane and get it ready to be cooked. See how proudly he holds them up. I ask him if he wasn’t worried about eating a poisoned crane. He says that that’s why they quickly skin the crane and remove the intestines before the poison reaches the crane’s bloodstream.
I was surprised to see how little body mass that the cranes had. They look large and even larger when they are flying. But after skinning, they are puny. Less than 250 grams per crane.
The guys take this to the open space adjacent to the TASMAC (booze) shop, set up a fire and barbecue it. They buy booze and use this as snacks.
I was curious to know how come these killings happen so blatantly. Aren’t the cranes supposed to come under wildlife or similar such act? I learned that nobody actually complaints. The farm owners turn a blind eye and indirectly encourage the killing of the cranes because they trample the young crops and cause damage. Since no complaint is made, no action is taken. Folks in the village also told me that complaining is useless because the Police never take this seriously and will indignantly laugh it away.
I learned that last week, the same guys had killed 9 cranes from my farm alone. I politely but sternly told them never to enter my farm and its strictly off limits. They got the message but unfortunately I didn’t see an iota of regret in their eyes.
The milky white cranes add such beauty to the lovely green vista of the village. I really wish we can let them live in peace.