Hands on Permaculture

Dryland farming with microbe innoculation, no-till and multicropping to restore ecosystems.

Month: January 2014


i am staying in my current digs for the meeting with the priest on the 9th who will help me with a tribal connection to see a tribal food forest.  today i took a day trip.  i noticed a lot of cutting down of the food forests, maybe 5%.  i had been reading that folks are replacing their food forests for monoculture.  it hurts me so much to see “our imperialism” spreading here to something which feels so whole, something that can feed folks for 7 and more generations. i thought it was only wars that we were exporting.  we are also exporting all kinds of takerism (alla ishmail)  there are chemical shops every block in all the villages that i see.  i thought farmers were conservative, how are they embracing all these chemicals so easily.  i guess for several years they give higher yields and then they need more pesticides and no one is counting those secondary costs.  except of course when the farmer goes broke because it has been very easy to borrow the money from the banks and the land is repossessed by the bank.  there are more than one million suicides here of such farmers.  i also expect that a lot of land owners who are not the farmers are reading about enhanced production from the chemicals and embracing them because they do not understand the land.  

i also got word back from the publishers of the book about bhuskar save.  here is how to get the book if you want it for the best price they know how to do. 

Dear Charlotte,

Thanks for your mail. 

It’s so good to know that you liked The Vision of Natural Farming and would like other people to read it.

We do not have a tie-up with Amazon. But if we send in bulk, shipping would be considerably less. 

Alternatively, individuals can pay by PayPal and we provide free shipping. The price per copy would be $16 and not $24. 

We used to send books by SAL (Surface Air Lifted) earlier. But India Post does not do SAL any more.

If you know of any other arrangement that we can explore, please do let us know.

Thanking you,
With best wishes,
Vinita Mansata
Earthcare Books
10 Middleton Street
Kolkata 700071

Phone    : +91-33-22296551 / 22276190
EMail     : 
Website : 

meanwhile i want to set up a videographer  for the indigenous food forest experience so i can put it on u tube, although i remember seeing geoff lawton’s u tube of a food forest in viet nam and it did not teach me much.  just knowing it existed got me started and this is all coming from that.

i stopped many times and looked over the edge to see the plantations.  these were very small.  folks had made wellings (rock surrounds on the side of the river enclosing water) so they could pull water out.  seems like they hand water when the plants are small and then no water, but i still cannot say for sure.  these small holdings were very beautiful.  river water stored in rocks, and then food forest with a small house.  (many of the houses here are meant for 30 people but these were small, of course the holding would probably not support 30 people.)

just got word from my friend miguel who was staying at solitude farm which i reported on from auroville.  miguel is the one who is working for an ngo up near mombai.  he reported this from solitude farm:

“Yeah, in solitude farm there are some indian folks learning a lot and working/teaching/learning with krishna almost side by side, giving their opinions and collaborate towards the development of the farm. It was also good to see satya, one of the indian boys that work there, don’t know if you met him, he is a great painter and really passionate about his art, and alberto, a spanish volunteer working in solitude for a year (with academic background in art history) is giving some lessons. Feels quite a holistic place to live and grow when you see this closed loops of learning, alberto learning farming from satya, satya learning art history from alberto, both developing their passions and help other to develop their own. Quite nice to experience that ambiance.”

so again everything is connected and me feeling at times isolated and how could one person have any effect on any of this, am being shown windows of light and air which are good for humans as well as plants.

The Alchemist

just went to get an acupuncture treatment here for my back and foot in the small village where i have been staying outside of katapana.   it turns out he is a proponent of organic agriculture and lives in a village about 50 kgm from here over into the state of tamil nadu.  he says that the grapes and most of the vegetables we are eating here come from there.  he is very connected and would very much like to share with me, his connections to the organic community.  so i am going off there on the 10th to stay there for a couple of days

wanted to share some of my process here.  i was reading a book called  The Alchemist by pavlo Caelo (or something like that).  one thing he repeats over and over in his book is that if you are on the right path, the whole universe will support you.  so here i  was several days ago up here with a hurt back, my nose running like a sieve, my foot hurting (but only when i walk), walking 3 hours to find a place to sleep, wondering how i can possibly learn about the wonderful food forests all around me.  of course he also says how you will be tested to see if your vision is true.  

so my english speaking internet cafe operator tells me about a restaurant up here along a side road i had not seen, and i finally go to  it.  the restaurant is hot and no one speaks english and i want to know what i am eating, so that did not work out.  but right next door was an acupuncturist.  not that day but the next i finally went in to see the acupuncturist and voila, see the above paragraph.  it was finding a long lost brother, who will help me with all of my wishes, dreams and needs for people to connect with.

then today i got out in this small village and started walking down the road.  several km into it,  i had to use a bathroom badly.  just around the bend was some sort of dam project.  i went up to the security person and asked for a toilet and voila, a clean toilet.  you have to understand that i am a little hung up on toilets.  everywhere in the “woods” i go, i see people and many of the toilets are filthy, so wanting clean toilets  is a big need and when i needed it it was there.  

so again if i do not clutch, things are working.

Plantation Food Forests

it seems there are a lot of catholic schools up here.  today i saw some Muslim girls at a catholic school.  the buses need to go on the opposite side of the road for the hairpin turns and they honk a lot and everyone waits for them to do their thing.

i was planning on riding to kumily, but after 4 hours of this bus, i decided to  i had had enough.  my new method of traveling is to listen to what i need rather than stick to my plans.    i met a wonderful man in his bicycle shop and he found me a hotel.  the first one he said would be 300 rupies and they wanted 1000,  hijack the tourist time.  it was a dog, and in town,  so i went back to my friend.  he found me another one which was in the next village over, so much quieter and it was 350 rupies (about 5 dollars).  in this village there is internet, great food and a woman at the internet place who speaks english and a place that i could buy some shifts (they use them for nighties) that are cotton and cooler than what i brought. 

i went to thekkady on the bus.  the tiger preserve is like a national park, you have to pay to get in  then i paid for a boat trip where i might see some of the wild animals.  the boat was on a lake formed by a dam.  they took 5-6 smelly noisy polluting boats in a group around this lake, as a way to see the animals.  well i did see a rhino running which was quite a site.  the good news is that all of these indian people did not talk on the whole trip.  there were signs that said if you want to see the animals silence is needed.    the bad news is that there are only 1411 tigers left, guess  they do not like to be polluted.  

i was expected to wear a life jacket on the boat.  it was a warm day and i just told them no.  i mean there are these riotous roads, no seat belts anywhere, room for 2 lanes which people treat like 4,  everyone goes through red lights, they leave the bus doors wide open  and they want me to wear a life jacket on the boat.  they said it was an insurance thing. the lake was about 30 feet on each side of the boat and i could easily swim or hitchhike indian style with the next boat.  hmmm

i walked in my first food forest in kerala.   again ecotourism and i had to pay for a guide.  unfortunately the guide talked and talked.  finally i told him that i wanted to feel the food forest and could he be quiet.  he could not until i asked him to go stand 50 feet away from me.  anyway at that point i got to spend some time in the food forest.  it was quite magical.  i counted at least 60 different plants and i am sure that there were lots more.  they are treating the lower story with neem and tobacco for fungus problems.  they are putting cow dung and earth worm castings on the ground (it sounded like he said 1 liter per plant).  they like the save farm (not buschar save) were using drip irrigation which they said they turned on both morning and evening in the dry season.  one of  the monsoons is just now over so it was not the dry season yet.  the best news from that experience was that he told me about the university program where they were doing research on the plantations that were tended by the local tribes.  these have been growing for thousands of year.  so that is my project now to get myself to those two tribal plantations.

i worked with nick bottner down in yoncalla, oregon  in his orchards and he had a severe fungal problem where he had planted the trees much too close together.  his aim was to have as many varieties as possible, so his version of his fungal problem was that he did not have time to prune the trees 

at any rate it seems that thinking like buschar save the problem with the cardamon is not the fungus so much as it is not knowing the ratio to plant the trees so they shade the plants but do not block the ventilation.  all these things to figure out if you do it by planning and thinking (as opposed to letting the trees and plants tell you).  but reminding me that a lot can and does go wrong.  

that reminds me, i was reading in the book about buschar save about the huge amount of  organic matter he brought in from outside his farm in the first 10 years.  he brought in trash from the nearly town until plastic made it unusable and he took out the silt from a community pond for many years.   he did not start like he is recommending to us with what he had on the farm.  he started more like these organic farmers are doing with a lot of loading up of organic matter.   i still believe his theory is a good one, that we can use minimums that we grow on our farm and turn our soil into a golden goose that feeds us for 7 generations (or more) , but it is quite a job to figure out just how to do it.  we want some kind of production while we are building our soil.  as i said previously he strongly indicates that too much watering is part of the problem or rather that watering a lot increases the need for imports.

i went again yesterday to walk in an organic food forest which they call plantations here.  it was the same company, Deepa,  although in a different place.  this time i got a lot of time to be with the trees.  apparently these deepa folks find that it is worth their time to charge the tourists for tours and grow their real outputs somewhere else.  i did not see them in either place using the mounds of accumulated debris that i saw at bhuskar save’s place.  again there are a lot more plants growing here.

 more on the  tribal food forests which are still managed in the traditional way:  i was told i needed an english translator and to connect with the peechi research station.  anyway the english speaking woman is helping me.  she also referred me to the cathoic priest of the local church complex and he is referring me to a priest who is working with another tribal folk, other than the one the peechi research station is working with, so hopefully within a few days i will be in that food forest.

Train to Ernakulam

i left mumbi about a week ago and took a train to  ernakalum  in kerala.  it is a lot wealthier than the parts of delhi that i saw, and almost no trash what a relief.  also no dogs or cows or goats either.    i had taken a 3 AC train class for the first time.  what a difference.  no 20 hawkers an hour going through the train.  in fact maybe only 1-2 people an hour going through the compartment  to the restroom.  no 15 people in 8 seats.  in fact in my compartment meant for 8 there were only 3 of us.   i paid the extra money for the lower 1st class train because i had a pretty bad cold and wanted to treat myself but did not know how much better it would be.  i hate air conditioning, but the peace was worth it.  the two gentlemen in my compartment shared their concerns about global warming, which were that the summers were lots hotter making them unbearable and less water from the monsoons were hurting agriculture.

on the train, my eyes were watering, my nose streaming fluids and my head was aching so i did not see much.  however there were several river deltas where i saw what looked like chinopas.  millions  of tea plants.  they must go out on boats to harvest the tea.  another delta about 5 km away had the same configuration of land in the river mouth but there was no tea growing there.  also the profusion of plants was much more jungle like about twice the profusion of plants as on the east coast of india.

i left ernakalum quickly, city as it is.   i got on a bus going up to thekkadi where there is a wild tiger preserve and the hill country with  lots of agroforestry.  it seemed like 150 km before i was out of the city.  there were small areas of agroforestry in between the suburbs of the city.  right about 150 km my heart quickened.    all of a sudden there were trees with many levels and variations of plants.  coconut trees, teak trees, silver oak trees, banana trees, cardamon, nutmeg, hibiscus, tea plants etc.   i thought coconuts only grew on the coast, but they grow all the way almost to the highest points.  the last 1000 feet it is apparently too cold for them.  these magnificent food forests on the hills  felt like home to me.  there is no terracing just planting in the hills, except for tea.  tea seems to be planted on about 2 foot wide terraces so that each row of plants has their own level.  

on most of the bus ride we went along a steadily rising valley.  the side we were on was all planted with food forest with houses,  again fairly wealthy compared with other rural parts of india.  (nice wood shutters, fancy roof tiles, some lovely sloping upward roofs i associate with thailand,  etc. still the same either concrete or concrete covered brick structures)  for  100 km on the opposite side of the valley was forest with very tall hills and steep rock faces.   then all of a sudden there were food forests on both sides.  there had been a large hydroelectric project including a dam.  and it was after this backed up water that the other side was developed.  there also were houses over there so a road must go over there at that point.  do not know if the sun angle changed, the soil changed, the steepness of the lope changed, or it was the water and the road that allowed the food forests to grow on the other side of the valley.  quite a site.

the bus was interesting, freight on the top including vegetables, mainly a full bus with folks getting on and off at all kinds of little village areas.  then after school a lot of students came on for standing room only and rode 20-25 km to go home  this made the total on bus with a 50 capacity of about 80 people.  here i am holding on to everything i can hold onto, making my plans for when the bus finally goes off the road (jumping out the window) and i look over to see to the right and left of me, the indian ladies sleeping, hmmm. . .  i kept thinking i could figure out a way to stabilize myself, but still have not figured it out, maybe trying to figure it out is the problem.  maybe i should sit near the back of the bus, where i cannot see what is happening and close my eyes and see if i can fall asleep.

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