Dryland farming with multicropping to heal the world ---Terra Lingua Farm

Dryland farming with multicropping to heal the world.

A working model to reverse desertification, end drought, grow enough food to feed everyone, and allow farmers to make a good living.

As I was traveling in India my eyes were opened to a way of agriculture that I had not known in the U.S.:

1. Dryland farming with no fertilizer and no irrigation added, no pesticides, and no herbicides produced better than did chemical yields.

2. The carbon holding capacity of the soil on large acreages could be drastically increased with microbe inoculation.

a. This increases the water holding capacity exponentially to allow the soil to hold water for many months to grow plants effectively without irrigation.

b. The microbes allow the minerals in the soil to become available and thus lead to fertility and increased production with no added fertilizer.

3. I saw the results of the Green Revolution where thousands of acres of forests and diverse orchards were replaced by monoculture. The farmers had borrowed money for equipment, irrigation, fertilizer and seeds. For several years their yields would go up but then would drop down to below where they had been before all of their investments. This led to many farmers losing their farms and hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides. There were still traditional systems in place with which I could compare these mono-cropping systems.

4. Chemicals require 4 to 5 times the amount of water used for non-fertilized plants. In a place like India where there are wall-to-wall farms this meant the ground water was seriously depleted. This is happening in the U.S. as well.

All of these things I could have learned in the U.S. Gabe Brown is farming in North Dakota with 15 inches of rain a year with no irrigation and no fertilizer. He has a mob-grazing practice, which means he has a lot of animals involved. The system we are demonstrating is a diverse food forest system with nut, fruit and timber trees, herbs, berry bushes, as well as annual and perennial vegetables, legumes and grains.

I have been practicing permaculture for 25 years. I led an organization called ‘Victory Gardens For All’ which helped folks in the Eugene, Oregon area put in 650 gardens. One of the focal points was putting on microbial inoculations. Most folks got great gardens the first year.

I did not understand before going to India how these techniques could be used to work on depleted soils while getting good yields on broad acre applications. Or, I could say that I was in a fog due to having plenty of food to eat and did not understand the real problem until I went to India where my fog was lifted.

I see now that such people as Geoff Lawton, a well-known permaculturist who, with Nadia Lawton, heads The Permaculture Research Institute, recommends what he calls ‘compost tea’ (a form of microbial tea), be applied to broad acre where compost is not feasible. Many permaculture practices such as hugelkultur, dry mulching, and sometimes composting are a tremendous amount of work for the practitioner. Many people want their sand, clay or other problematic soils to be friable soil before they put in their crops. I have put these microbes on all kinds of soil and planted at the same time. The soils change within months to friable soils. Broad acre permaculture without using microbe inoculation is too expensive to be doable by most practitioners. Even in your back yard, many people cannot do this much work. Increasing the carbon in the soil with microbe inoculations on broad acre applications is a matter of survival. I also see in videos that soil scientist Elaine Ingham, who is applying her science to help farmers, describes scientifically why these microbial inoculation practices work.

I have returned to the U.S. and have started a farm, Terra Lingua Farm, to demonstrate how with 8-14 inches of rain a year we can:

1. Interplant fruit, nut, wood, fiber, vegetables and fodder trees with medicinal herbs, vegetables, fruits and cereals, pulses, and oil seeds

2. Plant all of the above along key lines along with ponds, contour trenches, and green mulch etc.

Please check out details of our demonstration farm, Terra Lingua Farm, on this website.

There is a link on the right hand side to an interview with Narsanna Koppula, with Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, who has a 17-year-old dryland food forest that has never been watered or fertilized except with rain and mulch, as is similar in a natural forest.

The cropping system we have posted (see the buttons on the top of this page) is a major contribution from traditional Indian agriculture.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Amla orchard and the goats.


Baby John is the farmer who owns 100 acres of land about 70 of which is already in various orchards.  they have a sustainable agriculture history here in India which they have mainly abandoned in favor of the green revolution , monoculture and chemicals.   On this farm all the orchards are monocropped trees, with some other fruit and neem and teak trees. 

He wants me to help him turn them into food forests -- what they call plantations hereabouts -- meaning to interplant with other trees, especially nitrogen fixing trees and trees that like some shade, like pomegranite and limes, along with fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.  when it is all done there will be no need for fertilizer and with less watering and not watering inside the drip line hopefully no more disease and insects.  such a blessed responsibility for me to take this on.  i will also get the right to use this as my demonstration site, profit sharing and he will even build huts for folks to come and study here.

The family has quite a high end house, which like  all houses that i have seen in india are open to the surroundings.  i believe the idea is that the lizards on the walls eat the mosquitos and such like, also good for ventilation to have things open.  i have been living here for almost a month.  my room overlooks coconut trees and a about an acre field of grapes as well as flowering trees. i hear bird sounds all day long.

The night before i arrived, a mother goat who had just birthed 2 babies died.  the baby goats have been under my care as well as a mother goat and the goat herd.    they are just darling, they are small size goats will probably only grow to 2 feet tall, now they are one foot tall. i get to feed them a bottle of milk morning and evening.

Gere is a story about the amla orchard and the goats.

There are maybe 1000 omla trees here.  Omla trees are also called Indian gooseberry.  the only resemblance to our gooseberries that i can see is that they look like a gooseberry.   Baby John  and i have discussed planting limes and moringa, a nitrogen fixing tree (with amazing healing properties, as in cures aids), vegetables, fruits and medicinals in amongst them to create what i call a food forest and plantation seems to be the name for this kind of thing here.

i wanted to measure the distance between the trees to see how much room i had for new items and figure out a pattern of how to plant them.  i decided to take the baby goats along with me. every morning a goat herd takes the big goats somewhere for a walkabout. this morning they were out in the omla orchard.  so i let the babies go play with them, something i had been wanting to do as i thought they needed goats to show them how to eat real food.  they are about 15 days old now and it is time for learning to graze. 

on the way out to the omla orchard the baby goats were very happy leaping up on all fours, dancing and prancing. 

sure enough the mama goat who has been sleeping with them took them over and they spent maybe an hour foraging.  she was a little upset with me for taking them away from her, but the goat herd was not happy with them being there, have to find out what was going on about that.

he had a knife with him, so maybe there is a snake threat.

i had a concern afterwards that me taking them out so far away was not a good idea as small young animals are the perfect prey.  and i did some wariness about how to protect them from snakes.  i have only seen 2 snakes here but they were both 3 inches thick and although i could see 3 feet of length, i could not see the end of the snake.   today i figured out that maybe i could take some of the dogs with me so they would scare off the snakes.

something sweet  happened this morning.  after that excursion the girl baby goat has not been drinking her milk and is sickly.  i had her on my lap giving her a healing when she turned her head up and put it  on my belly and gave me a soulful look.   i was already in love. . . . they are so cute.  this are just about one foot high and tiny everything.

there are lots of lovely bird sounds and mountains in the distance everywhere i look. the down side is it is too hot for me except in the very early mornings and so i am not very motivated to work outside.

i am trying to work with myself, checking in with my inner linnette (a good friend) who tells me it is okay to not push myself. the inner charlotte says that if i push myself i will get used to it, but the body just says no.

the good news is that once the monsoon comes the temperature will be 10-15 degrees cooler than the current 100 degrees and hopefully that  will work for me. It is fortunately not usually humid.

i want to recommend this video about a wife and husband team that planted 4000 acres of trees in sand dunes over 28 years.  quite moving.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Breakthroughs, Santhom Farm, Shileigh School

Finally a break through

I have found 2 serious farming people who want to play with me.  What do I mean by play.  Well we can share ideas and energize each other.  We can discuss things in ways that are playful and meaningful at once, etc.   One is a farmer who has more than 100 acres of land and wants my help to turn it into an organic paradise (food forest).  He already has acres of mango, cashew, coconut, omla, guava, and sapota trees and is interested in adding  medicinal herbs,  other trees especially nitrogen fixing ones, as well as vegetables and fruits to all of these orchards.  He like almost everyone else has limited water and mostly very sandy soil which does not hold water well so he is excited about doing anything where can have increased yields without increased water demand.   With all of these fully developed trees, we should have vibrant food forests within 2 years.   I also want to start on some of his empty farm land to do some reclamation work for the soil as a demonstration of what can be done.

The other person, Mohan, has a  government grant and has actually done water conservation on more than 15,000 acres.   He says they are getting more like 10 inches of rain a year here.   Up until 2 years ago they were getting 30 inches of rain a year.    His project has included  dry land farming with many, many  villages, thousands and thousands of people in the  areas and community projects with the farmers, and  the women in the area.  Total water shed water conservation for 4 different water sheds.  He has a farmer training school and is about 60 km from my farmers, so this means I can bring my farmers up here to see what he is doing.   I get a tour tomorrow of some of the villages and the water conservation projects.  There is a 35 year old water conservation project up in  Maharashtra  another Indian state which I have been trying to contact for months and he went up and studied with them and applied a lot of the techniques in my back yard. 


I am finally finding folks with nonhybrid seeds, for the trees and  vegetables.  hybrid here  means possible molecular gene splicing.    Most of the people with the old seeds are saving them themselves so it has been hard for me to find the farmers who are growing in the old ways.  Mainly the problem has been that I want to find seed companies to buy seeds from and in india you buy seed directly from the farmer.  With Mohan, (see below) I will have access to thousands of folks with small amounts of seeds.

Speaking of rain fall, I was reading about a wheat farmer in Eastern Washington who is doing dry land winter wheat with rain fall being down to 6 inches a year where he is.   He is one of many farmers doing this.  When he started he was getting 12 inches of rain a year.  Desertification is alive and well and permaculture is much needed.

I have a story about Pandi, my first farmer.  There was a stretch of time where the tree seeds he planted would have died and he did not choose to water them.  His version of watering is flood irrigation and he did not feel he had the water to spare to do that.  I went out and took ½ cup of water for each plant and watered the whole 2 acres in about 2 hours.  When several days later it had not rained, I went and did it again.   He was sure it would not work.  3 days later it rained and most of the trees made it. 

I have this belief that if you do everything that can be done, even when the situation looks undoable, the universe fills in the rest, as in this instance, raining.  One time when there was a drought in New Hampshire we sprayed 15 acres of vegetables with a back pack sprayer.  We sprayed about 2 gallons  per acre, once a week for the 2 month period when there was no rain.   The crops all did well, where as most of the farmers in the area lost their crops.  We did walk with consciousness as we sprayed and told the plants this was the best we could do for them.

Mohan for his demonstration farm here uses drip irrigation for his young trees.  He uses ½ hour of water 2 times a month, through a tiny drip tube, just enough to keep the trees alive.  The dry season where he is near Vethalagunda is more like 8-10 months.  They do not have the June, July monsoon that while is a lot less in Theni district than other parts of India is still some rain.   I think there is probably not a lot of difference between the water his trees get from his drip irrigation and my method of using the back pack sprayer and one does not have to buy and install all that plastic.

He has gotten some of the new hybrid trees from nurseries and seeds from the horticulture folks so does not have the water resilience that I expect to have from planting only from nonhybrid seed.  Now my idea is to plant mangoes and sapotas which are complicated genetic material trees (meaning  they have been messed with a lot by plant breeders).  I will plant hardy old variety seeds, especially trees known to do well in dry land situations, and then field graft them for the larger, tastier eating varieties.  This way I get the hardiness to dry land as I see it that the seeds getting direct connection to the land from birth will give us. 

I went off several days ago to visit an organic high school.  I thought they had 100 acres in crops which was not the case.  They may have 1/2 acre, I guess depending on how you count the tree crops.  They connected me with Mohan and the head of the Indian biodynamic association which I have been trying to contact for months.   The principal of the school also owns 60 acres of coconuts and mangoes not too far from Mohan’s place so am eager to learn what he is doing there.   It is all organic.

Connecting with folks in this local area is very valuable to me, because seeds here can be used by me and if anything where I am in Theni district is a less harsh climate so hope that seeds will do better there, of course I still need to check out soil types, alkaline, vs acid etc. all of which are mitigated by organic matter in the soil.

The school was in the most beautiful place I have visited in India.  The whole area   was really clean, no trash anywhere.   It is a lot cooler than Kumily, 70 during the day, maybe going to 60 at night.  Much better temperature for me.  Too cool for coconuts so very few growing there.  Kumily is actually too cool for coconuts but still ¼-1/5 of the  plantations have  coconuts.  The food forests looked empty to me without the coconuts.   One of my first views of the valley where the school is was a  plateau  down  below the trees, with a lot of vegetable farming going on similar to  what I have seen in the mountainous areas of Virginia.  The difference in India was that all the slopes going down to the valley and back up into the upper hills were covered with plantations.  These plantations had teak, jack fruit, eucalyptus and other forest trees for the necessary shade for the pepper and cardamom and medicinal herbs. There is a large organic  plantation about ½ way between the high lands where the school was and the lowlands where Mohan’s place is.  I hope to visit there next time I am in the area.

The school was off the grid, all solar panels and microhydro.  Lovely stone buildings everywhere.  They must have a good stone quarry nearby.  There were building a new auditorium when I was there and the stone builders were local Indians.

I do not know if I have mentioned that I will be doing permaculture tours of this area, (yes in my spare time).   I have been looking for organic spice plantations in Kumily and then will bring folks down to visit the farmers in Theni district and now to Mohan’s place.   There are a lot of foreign and Indian tourists in Kumily and I and Mohan as well are excited about folks seeing real food growing.  And of course my version of these eco tours will have a hands on component which Mohan agrees is the way to really learn something.

Another great image:  When I came off the high lands, I could see hills with scrub plants on it behind the coconut and other farm lands.  These hills looked just like Utah, barren.  And backing up to them all these luscious farm lands.   I had my camera but still do not know how to work it.  Will learn tomorrow for my watershed tour how to work my camera.

Related to all these breakthroughs:  Everyone tells me that things take time.   I do not think it is a matter of time.  Something releases and the desired shift can happen instantly, in this instance me and India meeting a bit.  I can often get this to happen almost instantly.  It seems when it takes time, there is something in me getting in the way, perhaps a believe of how things work.  When that finally softens, then the shift can happen. 

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-- 
igh

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Under Planted Trees

The superintendent of police in Theni has at last been appointed and we can now get the foreigner registration done.  We went on line and after filling out the application 3 separate times because the computer lost it the first 2 times and paying someone to help us get the passport copies into the program because the computer would not let us do it, we will go to Theni tomorrow and hopefully get the paperwork done which allows us to start the NGO process.  I asked Joshua what is going on with the computer programming.  Supposedly Indians are the best in the world at it and what I am seeing is lousy.  Joshua says all the good IT people work for private companies not for the government. 

The 75 year old village head that had committed 6 acres to our program decided after talking with his family that he did not want to participate in our program.  Most of the farmers believe what their chemical advisers tell them that they must monocropping.   The chemical fertilizers that they pay serious money for will be used by the interplants that we put in.  It is just in the last 50 years that monocropping has been used here, but none of these people remember how the interplants actually nurture the main plants.  Fortunately I am finding documentation on the internet of this.  We will now have sessions with our farmers with this material to show them how the main crop profits actually increase with interplants and they also get the profits from the interplants.    I am learning to dot my i’s and cross my t’s.

I remember when I was a chiropractor working with people with end stage cancer.  I asked people not to tell their families what they were doing for at least 3 weeks.  Within 3 weeks they would notice a significant improvement and at that point they could share with their families.  Even then there families had all kinds of reasons that it was not working, but at least at that point, the patients had something to go on so they could tell their families that they would choose to continue. 

In India the families are even more intertwined.   In this case as he is aged, his sons who are also farmers did not want his land encumbered by a 5 year lease.  The idea that we might actually make them more money was not of interest to them compared to the security of doing what they know how to do.  This is so from the way that I think, I had trouble preparing for it, but I got the message.    When I asked one of the sons what he would do if he could no longer get water to farm, he said he would sell the land.  I started thinking that I was dealing with the richer element of the farmers and I needed to go to the poor farmers who yes could sell their land, but then what would they do.

We have a new program inspired by the Navdanya  (Vandanna Shiva) model.   We are advising the farmer of what to plant and how to do it organically.   The farmer pays for everything himself.  We come in once a week to help in an advistory capacity.  We are also offering to pay for the seeds up front and then take them out of the sales of the food.  This way they will be healthy, open pollinated seeds which have a chance organically.  We will also pay slightly more for the crop as it is organic and take on the marketing of the organic food.  There are some local markets for organic food and this will also give Joshua a way to make money, by running an organic food distribution program.   His family is also needs him to make money.  As they start to earn more money, they will spread the program to their neighbors and we hope that once there is a 20 acre area involved even if there are some spaces we will be able to get grants to do the earth works for what is called here water conservation. 

We had a good rain night before last.  Maybe several inches, I hope it is enough to save all the rice where the irrigation water was turned off because of dam problems up in Kerala.  There would be a better chance of the rice being saved if it was open pollinated rice most of which is more resistant to drought.  It was the first real rain here since January and felt glorious. 

We found out more about the Indian governments tree planting initiative.  The government is supplying only 3 trees, sapoda (sapodilla), Indian gooseberry and mango.  The amount they pay for the manure and labor for planting the trees is about ½ of the cost of doing this.  The farmers tell me that where farmers have taken advantage of the offer and planted the trees, they have died within 6 months.  They believe that because of graft and corruption in the Indian government, only defective trees are given to the farmers.  From what I am learning about these farmers, they have a lot of what in the U.S. would be called superstitions and this may or may not be true.   They may not have watered the plants and that is why they died.  The literature tells me (and I have seen from experience)  that  drought resistant trees need to be watered for at least the first 2 years.   I would of course have to look at the trees, etc. to decide for myself but no one can even remember who these farmers are whose trees died.   They are adamant about not taking the government’s offer.  We will be starting a nursery where we grow the trees which make sense to plant for these dry land (or they call them here rain fed) practices.  I might try to get the government to at least pay them the ½ that they pay to plant our trees, but I have no patience for long talks with government officials.  I am making connections here though and maybe some group who works with the government will take this on.

I found this morning a great article about many drought resistant fruit and nut trees that are underutilized here in India.  The article was written just for the people I am working with, the low income farmers who do not have water.   I am excited to find other folks working in this area.  Also I learned when I was at Navdanya that they are launching a program to plant trees as part of their food sovereignty program, everyone needs to have some orchard.   They are only recommending 15% of the land, but that is a start.  I am forwarding them this great article.  You can see the article at


I heard about the California farmer’s crisis, taking out orchards in their prime because of no water and am hoping some permaculture person takes on the central valley with restorative agroforestry.    Maybe the rubber is finally meeting the road in the U.S.  I also heard that San Francisco and probably the central valley just got 8 inches of rain, climate change anyone.  I also heard that there is a move on from the central valley farmers to sell and move up to the Willamette Valley.  There is no new land to move to here in India so maybe the changes will be made here. 

I have not described living in an Indian village (of 30,000 people).  The houses are about 2 feet from each other.  Land is very expensive.  Each house has its own bore well.  The houses are built for air circulation and consequently when there is noise next door I hear it.  Fortunately I live on a small street but still lots of horn honking.  The dogs are the worst for me with their constant barking.   Hearing the chickens and the birds is glorious.   Also fortunately I have a ceiling fan and the noise from the fan keeps the other noises to a dull roar except during the 1-2 hour power outages each day. 

3 ladies and their children came to visit several nights ago.  They live in the houses directly across from me.   They invited me to dinner.  It was 8 at night and I had already eaten.  I am looking forward to connecting with them.  Yesterday when I was down on the big street ¼ mile away buying fresh pressed juice a man was helping me translate.  He said he was my neighbor.    The children are all curious and want to practice their English.  Unfortunately their English seems to end with what is your name.  Joshua tells me that some subjects are taught in English, but it is all written.  So the children and everyone else do not feel comfortable speaking English, although they understand some English.  As they say though the Indian’s speak better English than I do (meaning that they apply their rhythms to English and it sounds very different so the noises I make do not sound like English, not to mention that British English is easier for them).   One thing I really miss is parks.  There is a catholic church about ½ mile away, which has a little landscaping and some open space and I like to go there to get away from it all, but the caretakers have the job of keeping the space empty.   They try to be tolerant – I am a foreigner after all, and I am breaking the rules (who me?) 

With a lot of help from my Indian family, I got a battery for my lap top.  The old one had died.  Jones and Grace went to Chanai (the biggest city in Tamil Nadu 8 hours away) for a wedding last weekend.   They went on the bus.  Joshua called his cousin in Chanai and his cousin found me a battery as well as a video camera which also takes still shots.  So you will soon be seeing pictures.  This morning when the electricity went out I got to read my article on under planted trees as well as write this.  What a joy not to be controlled by the electricity.  It was fun to be flexible, go up on my roof and look at the mountains and take walks, even clean house, but it is always good to have some control of when I want to do things. 

The organic shop found some treats for me, peanut brittle bars and donuts made from chick pea flour.  They are also supplying us with lots of organic vegetables and grains.   I finally have a way to cook,  a 1 burner electric  job.  Almost no one here uses ovens.  I will make a solar oven one of these days.  Grace and Jones brought back some treats made from deep frying chick pea flour and raisins.  I will make some of these.  There is no flour sold here.  Joshua tells me that there is a local mill where flour can be ground, so it is a matter of getting a 50 kg order together.   And after my trip to Theni tomorrow I will have 5 or 6 things to be ground.    There is also a web site where organic treats can be bought and shipped to me, as well as another web site for English books so I am finding ways to do what works for me. 

My fixation with organic here is partly that all the banned chemicals in the U.S. are sold in India, so chemically treated items are even more toxic here than in the U.S.  Of course since it is wall to wall farming here and anything organic is next to something chemical, it is not exactly perfect.  Some of the old farms have hedgerows which help and we are recommending to our farmers to establish hedgerows.  If you are buying products from India that say they are organic, the chances are not good that they are.  The certification process is very long and drawn out and bribery based on political pull is rampant.   Joshua tells me that the politicians can even kill people without punishment.   Often corporations will have a small 1 acre plot that is organic and then ship items from their other thousand acres which are chemically treated.  The great news is that Vandanna Shiva’s organization has pretty much stopped GMO’s being used in food here in India.  Cotton is another matter.

Ananthi (Josh’s wife) is from a family where the women make nutritious drinks from combining various healthy foods.  I am encouraging her as a money making venture to mass produce some of these and sell them on the organic circuit that Joshua is developing.   I have offered up my kitchen for the process.  Though my flat is small it has a big kitchen even with a pantry, I expect necessary in a country where almost everyone cooks for themselves.

Another fun story for you.  I mentioned previously all the organic materials that are on the roadsides here and how it is beneath the dignity of Indians to pick up stuff from the road side.   I told him how permaculturists picked things out of the garbage can in the U.S.  He found this very hard to reconcile with his ideas of the high living  Americans.   He did not think it would be happening any time soon.  It turns out that as we passed some of the organic piles I mentioned to Joshua this is what I am talking about and it has been here for 2 months.   He said oh those, I was talking about something else, ah the old miscommunication.  Anyway I have found that when the banana trees have finished their life cycle (one banana crop) these are removed and taken away somewhere.  It is okay for the Indian dignity to make arrangements to pick up  this voluminous banana trash and bring it to the farm.  So for the time being I will be happy with this.  A friend suggested that as time goes on they understand the value of the organic matter they may be willing to pick it up from the road.  I think it more likely that the local government will pick it up to use for their fertilizer program.  Meanwhile the roads are filled with organic trash. Though the cast system here is supposedly abolished, some things are very strong.  People think that there is something wrong with me that I do not have a cleaning person.   We all have things in our subconscious that do not work for us.  I was speaking with a friend about how the space boundaries here are very narrow, people get way to close to me when they talk and especially when they drive.   Of course I have my limitations that I do not even see.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Moringa

I went to the district seat which is in Theni.  It is about 20 miles away but took at least an hour to drive there.  We go through at least 3 villages to get there.  A village here seems to be many thousands of people like the one I am living in is 30,000 people.   A friend told me about some research that was done where they discovered that about 300 people made the ideal sized village to have enough people so that someone could bake bread, and there would be enough people to have a doctor etc, and folks could still really connect together.   After that folks would move about a mile away and start a new village.  Even in this huge village there is a lot of interconnectedness.   Folks who need help come along outside the open doors and ask for food or what they need.   When Joshua gets me a price, it is a lot less than  when I go into the store myself.  A woman farmer goes door to door here selling cilantro and cucumbers that she grows. 

I was told by my landlord that I needed to register with the police, so off I went to Theni.  It turns out the person I have to register with is the superintendent of police.  Well there is currently no superintendent of police.  We are to go online and fill out the forms and try again in a week or so and maybe by then a new one will be appointed.  Hmmm.  Can we call first and find out before we come.  You could try.  A manana county I guess as most tropical (or subtropical places) are.  How did I get myself here.
 Oh well, I guess the u.s. is now a manana county.  Oh forms can still be dealt with, but to me government is there to serve the needs of the people.  Who is taking care of
a.      the decreasing water tables in the u.s.,
b.      of the wasteland involving hundreds of thousands of acres caused by gmo’s in our nations heartland,  or for that matter of all the medical problems caused by gmo’s which of course means getting rid of gmo’s.
c.      of  chemical pollution,  (Joshua tells me ships bring it over and dump it in the Indian ocean),
d.      of all the hormones that are dumped into the rivers because our sewage treatment plants are not dealing with them.
e.      of the problems of climate change,  or preventing them.
f.       of nuclear power plants never being  built to be safe as the atomic energy commission did not feel they could enforce the safety standards needed to make the power plants safe and  now almost all the power plants are having problems and rather than coping with this, there is simply a news blackout.  Even on the internet the power plant problems will be hushed after several days. 
g.      And then there is Fukishima. 
h.      Manana and manana will not be pretty.
We heard of a permaculture project which transformed a sacred mountain which had been deforested into a beautiful lush food forest, a lovely story.  We contacted the guy who started the project because it was in tamil nadu and we wanted to take farmers to go visit it.  He said that after he left the chop and drop trees that had been planted for mulch were not chopped and dropped and they grew tall and the fruit trees grew very tall trying to get to the light so most of the fruit is not picked.   Also they seriously overgrazed the land with sheep.

We want to educate the farmers here so they will continue the effort after we are gone,  hopefully learn what works and not give themselves away.  (what Vandanna Shiva calls sovereignty)  To that end Joshua is getting us a team of folks with various skills to have an ongoing effort here.  Primary to that is to form an ngo.  Getting me registered with the police is a necessary step to starting the ngo (at least If I am involved in it and at least for the beginning I should be).  We will need serious funds by May so we can start the major plantings in the dry land area, (monsoon starts in June) so if anyone knows about crowd funding we would love your help.
Joshua, who will be in charge of our marketing coop originally wanted to aim our production to foreign markets.  I said we can have 20% for export, but mainly everything we do will be aimed at local markets because who knows how long the world markets will hold before they collapse due to for one thing no oil.   

Did I mention moringa.   Moringa has many healing properties, one of which is curing aids.  It is a serious pioneer tree.  Someone said it is a nitrogen fixer and am still checking out if that is true.  It will be the main tree that we introduce into dry land situations.
What will the ngo do:
a.       We will educate farmers.  Like Navdanya we will teach the farmers how to convert to organic for free.  We will also consult with them for free on the organic steps.  For the next stage which is learning to make better money through using interplanting of herbs we will charge for our workshops and our consultations.
b.      We want to have a separate section of all the above for women farmers (this is how it is done in India)
c.      We want to start processing things such as moringa leaves making dry powders of healthy foods.
d.      We want to teach marketing classes.
e.      We will have demonstration farms.  This is our current focus.
f.       Probably at some point we will work with the Indian government helping with water conservation.  Many of you know my feelings about working with the u.s. government and it does not sound any better here, maybe worse.  What all the farmers tell me is that the government allocates money for reservoirs, and other earth works and the politicians divert the funds to their own pockets.  I guess this happens in the u.s. as well.
g.      There is in Delhi some recycling happening.  Plastic bottles are converted into furniture.  I would like to set up something locally.  Elsewise the plastic will take over this country.

Anyway my new digs have a lot more ventilation.   The best news is that in my old place I was waking up all through the night thinking I was on the train and rounding up all my valuables and putting them under my pillow.  At least that is not happening here (as the dog downstairs is barking and barking.)  Renting a place here is interesting.  The landlords do not supply ceiling fans, screens, stoves, refers, light bulbs and of course no furniture.  You have to wait a year for a gas canister or get it on the black market or use a hot plate.  The problem with a hot plate is that the electricity goes off a couple times a day usually between 6:30 and 8 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m.  If you want your food hot, you have to be very flexible with your eating times.


And Then There's Food

Food is getting easier for me.  I connected with the organic shop in Theni and he is looking around for treats for me.  He has got some vegetables and we will get broccoli today.   I wanted to get puffed rice organically.  He says no way.  I am so spoiled to have treats that are organic but I did find dates and a kind of mixed nut and fruit treat.  No real candy that is organic.  Okay so really clean living ahead.  I saw in the market the other day they have chips which they deep fry from tapioca roots, will try those (not organic of course)  Tapioca is a big crop around here, a lot of which goes to kerala (a neighboring state).  Tapioca likes full sun and most of the planting in kerala is in food forests.  They are starting to take out the food forests to plant tapioca in kerala.
We are hoping the organic shop owner will be on our team.  He has well networked with all the organic folk.    Also he has been trying to get a piece of land to grow food on there in Theni, so we have a lot of common purpose.


There is a small back yard at Joshua’s house and we bought some tools yesterday and I got some seeds from vandanna shiva’s place, Navdanya.  They also have some rice bags that we can use for planting on the roof.   So we will plant a garden tomorrow and voila 45 days later we will have organic vegetables.  I have been following the family around and saving all the food scraps for the garden.  They think I am a real weirdo.  I will not use new plastic bags.  I take buses whenever I can.  No one with their own transportation takes buses apparently.  I said today that we could pick up some of the waste along the road to use in the garden and they said this is not done.  I said okay I will not use your cars to do it, but I can hire some of these oxen I see hauling trailers and bring back some waste.  Joshua said the waste is picked up and taken to plants to make fertilizer for farmers.  I looked at him and said that sounds like a great idea, but I have seen the same waste piles on the road every day I have been here. (months counting the last time I was here)  D├ętente for the moment anyway.

Today another of Joshua’s friends, Harry, came in with 12 acres for us to use now for an interplanting demonstration.  He has access to another 20 or so acres but wants to see how we do with the first 12.  Joshua is very conservative about using other people’s land.  The lease is just for 3 years and in this case he will give us verbal agreement to renew for another 2 years.  Josua feels with his friend that he will honor his word, but does not trust “just anyone”.  The legal system does not work well.  Fortunately a lot of these areas already have trees so it is not a matter of waiting for the trees to mature.  The main problem is not other people using the land but the possibility of selling the land if they need the money.  Land is worth  around 10,000 an acre here with water. 

Some of Harry’s land is planted in what they call country coconuts.  These are the old  time coconuts that are for coconut meat.  The new breeds of coconuts are for the coconut water that is mainly exported .  They harvest the coconuts before the meat develops as the meat takes away from the juice.  Anyway the country coconuts grow well without chemicals and the tender coconuts need a lot of spraying, water, etc.  We have a friend who grows them organically though it is a lot harder than country coconuts.   6 acres is in tamarind and what they call cotton trees.  This is dry land farming.  The sooner we can demonstrate that the interplants actually help the trees rather than as the chemical advisers tell them, everything in the plantation except the trees at their proper spacing takes away from the trees. Why they ever bought this I have no idea as all the old ways involved interplanting.  I guess they just wanted more yields and decided to do whatever they were told.  Again I cannot understand why when it did not work, they kept at it.   Although of course I understand that if the chemical consultants told them they did something wrong and it they would do it right it would all work.  We will use medicinal herbs and some vegetables, maybe potatoes for the dry land area.  The other 6 acres has water and is planted in country coconuts and has been organic for 2 years.   We want to work with the existing farmers and see if they are willing to learn our methods and to keep on farming the land.  We shall see how this goes.  Harry said that he would not allow us to plant cashew trees as folks around here are taking them out as they believe they decrease the water and no one wants to have any less water.  He also has a ½ acre area we can use for a nursery with good water that is about 9 km from here (bicycling distance).

There was a dam up in Kerala which used to feed irrigation systems here in the Theni.  They cut that off about a month ago.  Babu showed us as we were driving around several days ago where the rice is dying without water (many, many acres of rice).   I think this is so that they can rebuild the dam but am not sure.  Still it is a bad time to cut the water in the middle of the rice crop.  (I also read that they do 3 crops of rice a year here and maybe it is always in the middle of a rice crop.)  The low land areas where they grow rice work well for rice crops without a lot of additional water in the monsoon times.  Now folks are growing 3 crops a year to meet the rice demand.

It is a miracle being given some land to use that already has a reservoir on it.  I talked about this in the last blog, but the miracle of it for the purposes of a demonstrating water conservation project did not really occur to me.  Also not having to raise the thousands of dollars to build the project is a great gift.