Saturday, April 9, 2016

Summer - 2016

Summer is hot and temperature is at 40 degree and no summer rain yet. Neighboring district Trichur received good rain and it is still raining from morning there. Open well is almost dried and pond used for irrigation is also in the same state.

Some views...




Earth worm castings...it is there throughout where cows does not graze...


Rice field with horse gram grown after paddy harvest...field is mulched with straw, but does not cover the whole field densily



Papayas stopped yielding...but still there are some fruits left


Only some water is left...5 families collect drinking water from this well.. Some small fishes are there and one king fisher is constantly behind them...



Termites are attacking healthy trees also..but no harm done..


Termites do a good job...


Banana circle...


Tapioca growing on Hugelkulture beds..they survive without any water...



Effect of summer heat..some plants just fall down



Termites



Hugel beds opened up during tapioca harvesting...







It is mango season...





Some more banana circles....




Water does not reach here, no grass seen







Meeting a farmer who cultivates traditional rice varieties

Today met a farmer named M.P.Paul from Ottappalam who cultivates 14 or so traditional rice varieties on 5 acre farm. Now a days since labor cost is increased, he does all the work by himself. He has tractor, planter,tiller etc..all machineries needed for rice cultivation.

Chettiadi variety is grown by him and for the last 3 years, he just ploughs the field and seeds from pervious crop germinates and he gets decent yield, about 1000kgs from 1 acre. He says, the cost of cultivation is minimum for this. It competes with grass well and he does not do any manuring. Straw is completely returned to the soil.

Some other varieties can be seen in the photos...more about his farming, once I make a visit to his farm.



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Coconut Harvesting

Coconut prices are going down and may be at rock bottom.In 2011, I had sold at 30 rupees per kg (dehusked and with water), but now private parties take at 15/- per kg. Since price has crashed, goverment takes it at 25 rupees per kg, in an effort to save the farmers.Typically prices goes high in sabarimala festival season since demand for coconut is higher, but this time that also did not happen. Coconut oil prices are at 120 per litre, it is not that low, so why is that price for coconut has fallen? Price of all commodities and labour charges have increased drastically in the last 5 years, but the price of agriculture produce, goes down !!!!

Earlier I used to sell it to private parties, which involves no work from my side. They come harvest, dehusk, weigh and takes it.But since price they offer is very low decided to sell it to government procurement center. This involved some paper work and got it done quickly, but they said waiting period is 1 month, waited close to 2 months. 

Got one person to pluck the coconuts and then they are supposed to gather it at one place. Two ladies came for gathering and they complained of thorns and farm ground is not clean and they are scared of snakes and they just went away. I had to get my worker's family for gathering and they are not experienced in this job, so take more time...

Searched for dehuskers and landed in some tea shops. To meet such people, I should go there at 7AM, when they come for tea. Finally worker's family agreed to do that and I made a dehusking tool. But one professional dehusker came on that day, arranged by my helper and he did a good job of dehusking 2000 coconuts in 2 days. If he wouldn't have come, it would have been difficult to complete it.

Finally with all the effort, could deliver it in Krishi bhavan (Government procuring centre) and totally it was around 2 ton and got a decent price. Money comes later ,may be after a month, but still it is worth the wait.

I never used to put lot of effort in marketing the produce, since running around was not interesting, this time I felt selling the produce at throw away price is not good, so took the pain of selling it. Once the system is in place and experience gathered helps in selling it next time, and also I document all the expenses, hence next time I know how to go about it.

May be a co-operative movement of farmers would help to sell it better and I can see there are many examples in different parts of the country. It is about co-ordinating things, but without loosing the spirit of agriculture.





Saturday, January 23, 2016

Taro

Taro (called as Chembu in our local language) is very common in our area. I cultivate two varieties, in small numbers. Typically this is cultivated in raised beds or planting in pits filled with mulch. I wanted to try natural farming on this with minimal effort.

Last time I made a long pit put dried leaves under this and later planted its roots. Yield was not that good, but had some roots for making curry.  This time after harvesting just put some roots there itself without disturbing previous bed, and that is minimal work. Planting happens along with harvesting, but not sure, if we get good results. Also on the same area, cultivating again and again the same crop also is not advisable ? Only time can tell this.

This time made some pits and filled dried leaves in it and started planting roots directly. Next time after harvest, I can replant it at the same place and if it gives decent harvest, it will be taro natural farming.

Some photos..






Last harvest of small variety of taro.. yield is not that good, last time it was on raised bed, now put small holes using pick-axe and put the seeds and mulched. Will add some soil after some time and mulch again.



Seeds planted with minimal effort..to be seen if this become successful. Conventional type farming on raised bed need lot more effort. Existing raised bed will be reused. Cultivating same crop on the same place may not be advisable??? to be seen the result.

In Natural Farming book Fukuoka says ...As for potatoes, once these are planted in orchard, they will grow each year from the same spot, crawling vigorously along the ground to lengths of five feet or more and never giving into weeds. If just small potatoes are dug for food and some tubers always left behind, there will never be any want of seed potatoes.

The above statement is the ideal situation...hope to achieve this for taro on some day.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Scythe - An effective tool for cutting grass

Since cutting and mulching is an important task in natural farming, I have been searching an effective solution for that. I tried Honda brush cutter, used it to some extend, but putting petrol, fiber thread getting cut now and then, being heavy, noise, all made it me to look for other options. I still use Honda brush cutter to clear path ways and some time to clear the grass grown in the raised bed, it is a good tool.

Then I looked for Scythe, and bought one from Alexander Vido of Scytheworks.com and made a handle myself and started using it. I was hitting stones now and then and its edge was getting bent and again I couldn't achive cutting larger area. Please see my earlier post on this, which started around 3 years back.

http://farming-experiments.blogspot.in/2013/06/scythe-tool-for-cutting-grass.html

Then I bought one from CEC hyderabad and it had proper handle,grip, but blade and handle was both heavy. Blade was not getting effected even if I hit the stones, so used it to some extend again.

http://farming-experiments.blogspot.in/2014/11/scythe-from-cec-hyderabad.html

Then I bought 2 bush blades thinking that will do my purpose, but some how didn't get a feel of it. Alexander Vido of Scytheworks.com visited Kerala as part of making Scythe in India and attended a training given by him. I could really see the power of Scythe and realised, the grip made a lot of difference. He gave me a grip and a screw for it and I made a proper handle and fitted this grip. I am using this tool now very effectively, I get more control and able to manage without hitting stones.

I would say, anyone who is into natural farming should try this tool, it really makes your life easy. I am able to cut large areas and since all the cutting is done without bending, it is not tiring. Also I use the first blade which I bought from Alexander which is quite sharp and light, that makes the life easier. I am trying to make it popular in Kerala, and approached couple of magazines to write an article about this, they wanted Scythe to be available in India before publishing the article. Alexander Vido is working on this, will update soon when it is available.








Friday, January 1, 2016

Sabu Joseph - Karshakashree Award Winner - 2015

Karshakashree Award is given by Malayala Manorama daily once in 2 years for farmers who excel in farming. This year award goes to Sabu Joseph from Calicut. Here are some videos about him, it is in Malayalam ....


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXuDniM2VIU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kq7gML-qNfs

He has 7 acres of farm and cultivates more than 15 types of crops. Most of the work is done by he and his wife and occasionally takes help of one old worker. One interesting thing is , he is into full time farming and enjoys it completely and makes a decent income. He makes about 100000/- Indian rupees per month.These are his crops and income from different crops per year. He does complete organic farming.


Crop Income (Indian rupees) Details
Coconut 150000 250 trees
Arecanut 100000 250 trees
Banana 200000 Different varieties 1000 numbers
Nutmeg 600000 500 trees
Pepper 50000 150 numbers
Coffee 25000 1000 trees
Herbs - Thippali 12000

Tapioca 70000 500 numbers
Big honey bee 20000

Small honey bee 30000

Fruit trees

For own consumption
Fish

For own consumption
Vegetables

For own consumption
Total 1257000

Some of the translation from the videos..

He inherited 6.25 acres and bought another 0.75 acre and totally has 7 acres now. Originally from Pala, Kottayam and now has been at this place for 45 years now. He has been into farming since young age and he observes well and tries new things. Main crops are coconut and nutmeg. He has bees and does fish farming also. He is keen in water and soil conservation activities. Earlier it was coconut and arecanut and arecanut started getting diseases so he started nutmeg. He grows root vegetables.There are about 750 nutmeg trees and 500 are yielding. He got around 30 quintals of seeds and 6 quintals of jathipathri. During rainy season, water should not be stagnated so he has put drainage channel throughout the farm. There is a canal through the farm and coffee is cultivated at the banks of this. Coffee plants prevents soil erosion to the canal and yields well. Tapioca yields throughout the year, each plant gives around 15Kgs. There is a good collection of lemon, orange etc.

to be continued....









Saturday, December 5, 2015

Owning 0.5 acre and remaining poor at 35 years is your fault - Biju Patnaik

Read an article about a farmer called Shanmughan, who was inspired by Biju Patnaik's statement  "Owning 0.5 acre and remaining poor at 35 years is your fault". He is from Calicut and is around 70 years old now. In 1982, he had a shop in Calicut and it was looted twice and he went to Bombay to go to gulf country for a job. But he lost his passport and money and he was sitting near a lawn at Gate of India and came across a piece of paper in which this famous sentence of Biju Patnaik was written.

It influenced him so much since he was 35 years then and owned 0.505 acre of land. He came back to his native place and decided to give a try with agriculture. Right now he is around 70 and makes a decent living from income from farming, but his life style is very simple. He has wife and three daughters and has been living from income from farming. His monthly requirement of money is about 1000 rupees unless there is some medical expenses. He has around 40 coconut trees and harvests about 1300 coconuts. Vegetables are cultivated in between coconuts and has 10 nugmeg trees which gives around 35000 rupees per year.

Initially he needed help to complete the work, but after 3-4 years into agriculture, he is able to complete all the work by himself, but he does it step by step.

He says "God used to give me just enough for each day. With the kind of money the youngsters spend today for buying chappals, we can meet one month's expenses. Without much demands, living with income from farming, we are able to living happily".