Kiruba is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, podcaster and a farmer.

Volunteering Opportunity at Vaksana Farms

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.

Transportation
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
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.

Food
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.

Activities
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 !!


Lucky Borewell at the Farm

Water is a lifeline for any farm. Finding water can make a difference between a useful farm and wasteland. We hired a local team to drill a bore and were lucky to hit a good spot.  We dug a bore for about 100 feet and had about 15 feet of sandy soil.  Getting sandy soil means the water recharge will be good for continuous supply.  While this may not be sufficient for the entire farm, it will be good enough for our home and for a few acres.



Drilling in progress. We first hired a manual team to dig a smaller borewell. Once we got the sandy soil, we hired a mechanized rig which comes fitted in a lorry. This uses high pressure air to dig and is very efficient. These guys did the work in a couple of hours which otherwise would have taken two days by traditional method.


This is a sight that cheers everyone. Seen in this photo is water gushing out. Its slushy and that’s why its looking grey. After a few hours, the water clears up.


Tips on Building a Farm House. Samuel Eddy on ‘If I Had 7 Acres’ – Part 4

Quick backgrounder: I had requested people to write what they would do if they had 7 acres of farm land.  This was done primarily as a way to crowdsource ideas for my own farm and also be useful for anyone else wanting to follow a similar dream.

This triggered Samuel Eddy to start off on a series of posts on this subject. This post is 4th in his series where he talks about his ideas for a farm house. At the bottom of this article, you’ll also find links to his other posts on this series. Recommended reading.

The Farm House

This will be one of the major projects in my farm. Assuming that I am going to live on the farm or I may be visiting weekends ,my home on the farm is going to be a unique resting place .It will be my hiding place so to say ,where I can spend my time being myself and be with my loved ones! And therefore I need to build something which my family will be proud off.

I will plan my home to be ethnic, rugged, close to nature or be an extension of my outdoors and which will let a lot of natural light in .I will spend time researching on how my forefathers built their houses and why? How did they enjoy much better health than me etc. I would also spend time observing how other animals and birds build their homes and if possible biomimic some of their ideas!!

I am not being very specific here because each and everyone need to figure out what he or she really wants in their homes and how it will reveal their personality. It should make them feel good.

But the principle of organic farming states that you need to build with the materials that are available within your neighborhood. Not only do you save on transportation costs but also the home becomes endemic to that area and truly reflects the materials available in that area.

Since I am going to give you ideas on how safe and secure your home is going to be, do not try to put fences, barred windows etc in your home .Let it draw in visitors and friends and let all who enter the portals of your home feel good. Let it be charged with negative ions and positive emotions and most importantly of love.


Photo by Exmoor Owl & Hawks


Photo by Tyson Burkele

I have shown 2 examples above of the entrance to the house .I would use a lot of stones that I can get on my farm or close by.

The above pictures are just to give an idea as to how the home can be made rustic and ethnic by using raw stones or wooden beams for the ceiling, walls etc.

Recently in a friends farm I saw that he had used the traditional brass urli as wash basins and the traditional brass lamp served as the soap tray and hung just above the washbasin. It was unique!!

So use art and artifacts to make your home unique. Get friends who are good in painting or in other crafts to come and add value to your home .I am sure they will love to do that.

I will also use lime mortar more than cement and mud blocks rather than burnt bricks etc as I would be particular about the carbon footprint that I would leave behind! As far as possible I would use natural materials than artificial or processed ones!!

I would excavate the ground and surely have a basement and also have an attic .My roof will have a definite slant so that the top can draw out the air. I would have air pipes at the ground level which will draw in fresh air and so this creates an air conditioning effort. The house therefore will be multilevel so that the outside can be landscaped with green lawns surrounding the house.

Put all the thoughts on paper and have a 3D plan made before starting the construction. If this can be done on the computer as a 3D model with a walk through, you can “see” your home even before you start building it. As you plan your house also take into consideration future additions and alterations and expansions as there will definitely be need for that.

Moreover as far as possible build it yourself, be involved in the construction, and don’t just outsource it. This will give immense satisfaction not only to you but to your children and grandchildren and the many people who will visit your farm house!!

Part 1 : Fencing Tips

Part 2 : Tips on How to Name Your Farm

Part 3: Building a Pond in Your Farm


Building a Pond near your Farm House. Samuel Eddy on ‘If I Had 7 Acres’ – Part 3

This blog post is part of the popular series called, ‘What If I had 7 Acres‘. It’s an online challenge that I threw to pick ideas on what would people do if they had the chance to play with 7 acres of farm land. You don’t necessarily have to have the land to take part.

Samuel Eddy‘s ideas have been brilliant and practical. His 3rd installment in this series talks about the importance of a pond in your farm. For his other parts, look for links at the bottom.

“Now that the area of 7 acres has been fenced and we have an impressive gateway, the next thing I would do is to get a contour map  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contour_map). If  you feel this is too much, figure out using your eyesight to identify the highest point in your farm and trace out or mark or peg a Farm pond! The reason why I am suggesting a farm pond is that you want to save every drop of rain water and thus “raise” your farm’s water table .

Also by excavating a farm pond you will be able to have enough soil for landscaping your farm. Stones if any from this excavation can be used to line the farm pond. The soil can be used to also make your own mud blocks to build your farm house. Use a JCB (earth excavator) to do this and estimate costs.

Photo by MassDistraction

A good idea to figure out the highest point is also by observing how the water runs after a rain and follow this contour. Having the pond at the highest point  also helps irrigate the farm using the gravity instead of pumping up the water which adds to the energy costs.

A pond also is aesthetically beautiful as there is nothing more serene than a pond. Also this can be used to improve revenue streams as I shall explain later.

A few pond suggestions are given below. Have a irregular shape .The following links help in calculating the surface area and /or calculate the amount of water your pond will hold. ( http://www.watergarden.com/calculate/Flex/FlexVolumeCalculator.html). I would suggest a half an acre farm pond which means it is about 21860 sq ft.

Photo by FireSign

When I build my pond I would also plan to have a water sluice like the one pictured below to control the flow of water, besides having a overflow section where the excess water will flow out during the rainy season.This overflow section can continue as a stream across the farm with a series of check dams which will help conserve water.

I would then plant a whole lot of water plants like the Lotus etc but I will elaborate that in another post!”

Other posts in this series:

Part 1 : Fencing Tips

Part 2 : Tips on How to Name Your Farm

Part 4: Samuel Eddy on Tips on Building a Farm House


Imbibing Ideas…Even if its from a Bar!

When you are building a (farm) house, almost every place you go to, you start imbibing the ideas from what you see. The other day, I went to the bar at Presidency Club to meet a friend. I couldn’t help notice the wooden reepers on the ceiling, almost the exact idea that I wanted done for the farm house. I immediately clicked a snap only to show the carpenter in our village so he gets the idea quickly.

These wooden reppers don’t add any structural support. They only offer decorative value. I like these because it replicates the way houses are built in villages in the olden days.



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