The people you see in this photo are special. They are wonderful programmers and coders with a treasure trove of technical knowledge. However, much like most tech folks, they lack the confidence to share their knowledge in writing. That’s when Suresh Sambandam, the CEO of OrangeScape and KISSflow, came with an idea. We discussed a writing workshop and I helped conduct one at Vaksana Farms over a weekend. This was a month ago and today we had our first review meeting. I was super impressed that all of them have consistently written their blog posts and on their way to successfully finishing their 100 day writing challenge. We even shortlisted names of Chief Guests who will headline the celebration event on March 26, the 100th day of the challenge.
Here are my key learning.
1) The Team Spirit is the Magic Potion. It’s no longer an individual goal but a group effort. We are all social animals and we perform better in groups.
2) Consistency is Key: Every afternoon the team gets together for a writing session. This is self-organized. No pressure from me or the CEO. Regular freestyle writing let’s the thought juices flow and makes writing easy.
3) Deadline Matters: March 26th is the 100th day of the challenge. Everybody has clear view of the end goal. This gives clarity and forces to put the writing as a priority task as no one person wants to be seen as a laggard during the launch function.
4) Just Ship it: Much like the agile method that the developers are very familiar, the trick is to quickly publish it and NOT put it in draft. For a person getting started with writing, publishing anything, even a half baked blog post, is better than putting it in the dungeons of drafts which may never see the light of day.
5) Have Fun: No wonder OrangeScape won the top slot in the best places to work category. There is such positive spirit, joviality and supportive camaraderie amongst the team.
Seeing the team succeed is what gives me high and motivates me to conduct the workshops at my farm.
Here is my list of learning from the visit to the three Auroville farms as part of the Food Forest Workshop I conducted on the first weekend of 2018. We visited Buddha Garden, Pebble Garden, and Siddhartha Farm.
Install Drip Irrigation: I was earlier pussyfooting on this because of the cost. Now, I strongly feel its worth the investment. All the three farms had drip installed and they were flourishing. Its no wonder they are able to run the farm with such minimal labor.
– Volunteer: I have decided to stay and volunteer for three days at Buddha Gardens. An immersive practical experience would be helpful to learn the finer aspects. They key things I intend to learn are 1) Do’s and Dont’s in drip irrigation setup. 2) Mulching and Composting best practices 3) Best practices in fruit trees maintenance.
– Neem Pesticide: This is an important lesson I learned from Herbert at Siddhartha Farms. He recommended collecting neem seeds, crushing it into powder, soaking it in water overnight and spraying it on the saplings. Pests are a big problem at our farm and this is something I intend to put into action right away.
– Ponds: In all the three farms we visited, ponds were a standard feature. I intend to dig two small ponds near the food forest region.
– Storytelling: I really liked how Priya of Buddha Garden had put up descriptions and key learnings in all parts of the farm. This is useful for visitors to do self-tours of the farm and still learn without a guide. This is not my priority right now but I foresee doing something like this in 3 years time.
– Compost Toilet: Definitely building one. Bernard of Pebble Garden mentioned the importance of urine and humanure. Besides, we need more toilets at Vaksana Farms to reduce the rush when large groups come to stay at the farmhouse.
– Outdoor Bathrooms: I’m sure the folks who took bath in the open and shivered at 5 AM will support this decision!! 🙂 Currently, we only have one indoor bathroom. The place clearly requires a few more outdoor ones.
– Raised Beds: While my entire focus will be on ensuring the survival of the fruit saplings, I plan to invest and build raised vegetable garden beds in 2019. I saw how well this was done at Buddha Gardens and Siddhartha Farms.
– Light Roofing: I’ve been wracking my brain on what roofing material to use for the second farmhouse I intend to build. Certainly concrete was out because of the cost. Asbestos is out because it is carcinogenic. Steel sheets are out because of the heat and noise during rains. Thatched roof is out because of the high maintenance and low longevity. Mangalore tiles are nice. The light roofing material at Buddha Gardens offered an interesting alternative. I will investigate more on the pros and cons but right now this looks like a good option.
I intend to organize one more Food Forest Workshop in a few months. By that time, I would have visited a few Food Forests in New Zealand and attended a few more permaculture courses to arm myself with more practical knowledge.
When I ordered over 15 varieties of tropical fruit seeds from AliExpress, I was very sceptical. The prices were so low that they were to good to be true. I checked with my friends on Facebook and had favorable response and so I went ahead with the ordering fully knowing that I might get scammed.
So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I received all the seed packets. The 15 packets came separately via regular post.
AliExpress had passed the first test of confidence. However, none of the packets had the name of the seeds. So now, I’m quite confused which one is which.
I read online that the seeds don’t match that if the fruits promised. I can only asertain after the seeds have sprouted which could be a few weeks away. This will be the second and the most important test of confidence for AliExpress. If they pass through this, they would have won an ardent customer in me.
I’m very excited for the Food Forest Workshop that’s taking place at Vaksana Farms, my 13 acre farm in Tamilnadu. It’s happening this weekend on 6 & 7 January.
The party I’m most excited is meeting other farm enthusiasts who are coming from across India. It’s going to be an amazing two days of knowledge sharing.
I’ve just begun the food forest journey at the farm and this workshop was the perfect reason for me to spend quality time preparing for it. I’m not coming in as an expert but as a facilitator to bring out the best from the participants. On Sunday, we are visiting the established farm in Auroville to learn from experience who have been farming for close to two decades.
There’s an intense goal setting for our farms in 2018 and this should be exciting. I’ll soon share my experience and photos from the workshop.
I’ve registered Vaksana Farms on WorkAway, the international volunteer website. We are open to receiving international and Indian visitors who have experience in building and carpentering. We are in the midst of constructing a second farmhouse, a chicken coop, a second cattle shed and a chicken coop. Help from people who are experienced in natural building construction and carpentering skills will come in very handy. If you are someone with these skills, we would love to have you at Vaksana Farms. You get to experience South Indian hospitality and a great way to experience rural India. More info here.