Monday, 4 July 2011

First Steps Towards Self Sustainance

The rains are here and it's the best time for doing whatever it was that one wanted to do by way of gardening.
I've been waiting for these days to come ever since September last in order to give a good head start to the vegetable patch that i have been meaning to put in our back garden.
Needless to say, sky rocketing rates of inflation along with the thought of "God only knows what kind of chemicals go into the produce that one consumes from the marketplace", made all the more sense to at least not only take a few simple steps towards self sufficiency but also have some control over what goes into the soil, thereby controlling what goes into the vegetables which in turn controls what goes in our bodies and mind.

Ever since i read the book 'The One - Straw Revolution by Sensei Masanobu Fukuoka, the father of "do nothing farming", i was hooked on to doing a little bit of cultivation myself.
In his preface to the Indian edition, Mr. Partap C Aggarwal writes:
"In order to emphasize the long history and world spread of natural farming, I began to call it rishi kheti. I also hoped that this would prevent it from being called Japanese kheti. Later, when i told Fukuoka this, he heartily endorsed rishi kheti. He said if Gandhiji were alive he would also have blessed rishi kheti.
As readers will soon discover, this book is not only about agriculture. It is concerned with the total lifestyle. Hence it devotes considerable attention to nutrition, health, science and technology and to simple living. More than all this Fukuoka emphasizes the spiritual underpinnings of his idea."

I would certainly encourage one and all who are interested in living the above mentioned lifestyle, to go out and buy this simple yet wonderful book. In fact to that end, i keep a few extra copies to gift to good friends who may be interested in reading the same.

I would also like to share here, some basic principles of Permaculure as practiced and taught by someone i met recently.
I simply loved her opening remark "Feed the Soil, it's alive". It's simple and it makes sense as also it bolsters my views of monitoring what i put in the soil for my vegetable patch. Would i want to continuing to poison my family and myself through the chemicals in the vegetables? If no, then should I be feeding chemicals to the soil that will yield my produce? You certainly don't need me to answer that.

I quote below some basic principles of soil management as shared by Clea Chandmal

"1. *Feed the soil, it’s alive!* The soil is a living ecosystem, feed it
as if you were feeding a living thing, and it will build up, it will “grow”.
far more effective than feeding the plants themselves, feed the soil and
your plants will thank you much more for it.
2. * Plants prefer to grow like they do in nature…*
Try to emulate the patterns of nature wherever possible, they’re far
superior to anything humans can come up with. Plant trees, with shrubs and
ground covers* under them* . Add a few climbers on taller tress as in a
forest! They all look after each other and create a microclimate which helps
them grow better. And please, no wide spaces with bare dirt, you don’t have
a tractor to drive between your plants, so cover it up, otherwise nature
will cover it up for you, with her emergency repair crews, the pioneer
plants (who are often referred to by the derogatory term ‘weeds,
opportunists, invasives’).
3. MULCH, MULCH MULCH......cover the ground with live mulch (a usefull
groundcover) or a mix of dry leaves. make clear walking paths free of the
mulch if you are afraid of snakes. Mulch prevents water evaporation, is food
for soil organisms, provides a cool environment for beneficial soil
organisms to do their work, suppresses weeds in a vegetable plot, prevents
rain washing away newly planted seeds, prevents soil compactation and when
decomposed increases the water holding capacity of the soil.
4. * Plants need companions too, and they need variety…*
Create diversity – successful gardening is like a social party. If
everyone was like you, it would be terribly monotonous! It’s the same with
plants, they all have different qualities, and lend their unique
contribution when growing together. Use companion plants; some repel pests,
some strengthen their neighbours against disease, some mask the scent of
their friends from pests to stop them getting eaten. They all get by with a
little help from their friends, so don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit!
5. * Plants have a different sense of ‘order’ to you!*
Don’t impose human ideals of order on plants when it works against
them!!! Don’t line up identical plants like soldiers in a military parade.
Unlike the military, plants are peaceful, and are actually weakened in these
arrangements! Other than not having a diversity of helpful companions, they
are left open, vulnerable and exposed. Nothing would make a lettuce-eating
pest happier than rows and rows of lettuce in a nice line. When they’re done
with one, they hop to the next, with minimal effort! Even better, no other
plants that could serve as homes for pest-eating insects and their young, so
it’s a pest heaven and totally safe! Plants prefer to be safely scattered in
the crowd of other plants, if one goes down, the rest are safe! Use
“planting guilds” to make it harder for pests and better for plants!
6. *Don’t be afraid to experiment!*
It’s only by trying that you actually truly learn something first hand.
…. Try different things and see what works best for the plants on your area.
There are so many possibilities that you can never work out in your head, so
let nature do the work for you. Put the seed or plant in the ground and see
what happens. Try different species, locations, gardening styles, you name
it. It keeps it all very interesting. If you have the patience to see nature
through its cycle of the seasons, you’ll be greatly rewarded by what you
learn. If you never try, you’ll never know!"

And so, i set forth along with Krishna, the gardener, to take my very first steps towards a sustainable life style.
Needless to say, Krishna has more of the necessary experience and energy required for gardening. For the moment i can at best, only provide assistance by holding on to other ends of the poles, cut the wire, fetch water,tea and biscuits and in general keep him company.  I have noticed, Krishna is a "people person"... he needs someone to converse with and be humoured as he works. Otherwise, he tends to sulk.

The vegetables that we have sowed so far, appear below and just in order to make this all that more interesting i am providing respective links to recipes from the konkan region. Except for the string beans, where i could not find a recipe in the site/blog named "aayi's recipes", on which i have relied for all the other recipes.
I chose the coastal/konkan region since i happen to live in Goa, which all the same, seems to be the flavour since many a season.   
 Perhaps a few pictures of the veg patch would be nice to complete this blog?


Preparing the ground near a balcony

Clearing and prepping in the backyard

Clearing and prepping in the backyard

Clearing and prepping in the backyard

Clearing and prepping in the backyard


Fencing to keep the pets at bay

Support for the climbers

Sprouts in just 3 days.
Wire grid for climbers to climb on to.
Fencing at the back yard for the pets.

1 comment:

  1. I love that you made your own trellis. I think here in America, we have so many things commercially available that we forget that we can just make something ourselves, too!