It’s been a while since one got any time to sit down & reflect on all what’s been happening on the farm & about life in general. On one hand there should be no excuse for not updating the blog, on the other hand after 7 years I feel it is natural that one takes a break. Since most of the things which is happening on the farm is repetitive, one doesn’t feel like writing more & more about the same things all the time. Many things has also changed in me in the last couple of years which has led to lack of time, to just sit down quietly, gather one’s thoughts, visualize a post, to write, to edit, to post etc. Since the last 7 months one has been on the farm every week for a few days & during weekends I have been busy with our “Underground Kitchen”. Sometimes when I have taken a break from the weekend cooking for Underground Kitchen one has stayed on 10-12 days on the farm. In many ways I have started to enjoy the quietness & tranquility much more than before. I have really started to look forward to the most bliss full & wonderful sleep one can get while on the farm. Now due to rapid ageing both body & mind seems to ask for this more & more from me. Our farm may be one of the best in Pune district in terms of the bio diversity; however one does not earn a single penny. Every farming household in this country will have a few members who are forced to migrate to the city in search of jobs & money. It’s the same with us, with one having to keep going back to the city to earn some mullah, which gets immediately recycled back to the farm.

Action on the farm during the past few months has been the more or less the same like the last few years. Sometimes we tend to go two steps forward & one step back, whereas sometimes it is one step forward & two steps back. Nothing is stagnant or constant when one is farming. Every 3 months there is a change for sure. Crops change, weather changes, what we grow changes, how we grow changes, relationships change, we also keep evolving as human beings, hopefully for the better like the soil on our land. As the organic content in the soil improved we can see a real leap forward in the health of our soil, especially in retaining moisture.  I manage to put in a lot of work on the farm from October to May. Then due to certain reasons the routine gets disturbed & one tends to ease off a bit. The winter was really cool, however by March the temperatures started to soar, yet still in comparison with the city the weather is pleasant and there is no reason to complain.

During the winter we had great sightings of the Great Hornbills on our farm, however I was not lucky to take some snaps. A pair of winter visitors from Eastern Europe (Orange Breasted Flycatcher’s) had decided to stay with us, which was really lovely. They were always there in our compound nibbling around in our Mulberry bushes for about 4 months & now they have gone 10,000 miles away. Hopefully they will be back again in November.

orange breasted flycatcher

Our Buffalos are doing fine and demanding more & more food. Our chickens were part of a winter menu in a very popular restaurant, we also introduced them in our Underground Kitchen menu, the quality of the meat was well appreciated. Kadaknath birds also grew very well & since we had too many roosters, we introduced them in our menu & for the first time many people got to taste one of the best meats, actually India’s only Black meat.

kadaknath

India's only black meat

In the meanwhile Galangal & Pea Brinjals have also become two of our premier produce.

All these years we had never consciously inter-cropped in our Turmeric plots. This year the inter cropping was intense. We had standing crops of Sunflower, Maize, Tomatoes, Chillies, Brinjals, Cabbages etc along with the Turmeric, even while we were harvesting our Turmeric & also even we replanted the tubers last month. This was a totally out-of-the-box thinking from our side and I am very happy that we pulled it out without damaging any of the standing crops. We harvested about 60kgs of fresh turmeric from about 700 sq ft. The final product of good quality turmeric powder is 13kgs. The quality of the Brinjals & Cabbages has been excellent. Some tomatoes have yielded really good quality tomatoes, whereas some have been disappointing. All put together for the first time our vegetable produce actually crossed 400kgs & more yet to come. On one hand one feels good about the fact that so many things are growing well, whereas on the other hand one feels sick because its been difficult to find takers for these vegetables.

Among field crops our Finger millets ( Nachni/Raagi) had done well and we have about 100kgs of the final product. This year we plan to introduce another very nutritious millet species called BarnYard Millet (Varai/ Bhagar). Our Paddy was a bit of a downer, one reason was that the last rains which we had in first week of Oct 2016 had come down quiet heavy, along  with strong winds, so a lot of paddy had fallen down. As usual immediately after the paddy harvest we planted Wheat by the last week of November 2016. We had heavily inter-cropped Wheat with Sunflower & Mustard. Last year we had sown 40kgs of seed, whereas this year we sowed only 20kgs. The output has been the same around 300kgs. So, when we plant Wheat next year, we can reduce the area of growing to half to get the same yield.

wheat

In end of Feb we lost all our dogs on our land due to a rabies epidemic. All of them were special, however one of them was really close to all of us. He was my best friend in the farm, his name was Babu.

Babu

It wasn’t a nice moment for me, when I had to hold him for the last time, so that the doctor could put him to sleep. Slowly almost all the dogs in the village died in the epidemic. For a couple of months we had no dogs on the farm and one felt really odd. It’s really an odd feeling when one doesn’t have one’s constant companion alongside. My co-workers on the farm also share the same feeling. We need dogs on the farm, dogs are also happy to be staying on the farm. However it’s a huge responsibility, especially when one takes into account the fact that the nearest Veterinary doctor is 60kms away!

For the moment it is back to the same story of water drying up, the river (our lifeline) adjoining our land has gone completely dry. We only have a couple of feet of water remaining in our open well to survive till the first week of June, when the rains come.

our well

The main casualty is our Onion crop. Since it is not going to be possible to irrigate, we are forced to take the painful decision of giving up on our onions. Agriculture in this country is such a mess. Only if we had other farmer’s in our neighbourhood who were also taking winter crops we could have done something in putting pressure on the government to do check dams and swales. On the other hand my neighbours (who otherwise have an hand to mouth existence) would think of taking winter crops only if there is a security of water. Who can afford to take these kind of risks ? Have a look at our riverside, it is completely dry…

river bed

I leave you in this rather serious & sombre note

Peace, love & Khudā Hāfez

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