Looking for a Project Manager

At Solitude Farm, we are looking for a Project Manager and Operations Assistant for People Food Music & Solitude Farm

We are looking for One passionate person who is excited in learning, understanding and getting involved in Permaculture related activities as part of the Solitude Farm & Organic Farm Café
Interested candidates please contact Krishna: 9843319260

March rice harvest!

Look at this rice field. This field hasn’t been ploughed for 6-7 years. The field next to this one, for 3-4 years. And still the rice has germinated and grown beautifully. 

The day before the harvest, everyone is excited. After reading Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution we discovered that with a specific variety of rice, Fukuoka was able to attain a yield that came up to 1650 pounds per quarter acre. According to him, each seed had produced an average of 12 stalks with about 250 grains per head. Krishna runs into the field. He counts the stalks and he has 13 of them in his hand! The harvest was already looking promising.

But all that said, we are farmers, and farmers don’t like to speculate about their upcoming yields. So we settled down and went back to our work, preparing and waiting for the harvest.
There were peanuts growing in this field before the rice. We broadcasted the rice seed directly into the field when the peanuts were ready to be harvested, so that when they would be pulled out of the ground, the seeds would be gently, naturally covered with soil. After we harvested the peanuts, the organic matter that was leftover was laid across the field. This has decomposed into a rich humus that has made way for richer rice.
We use no machines and no chemicals. But look at this field. With this method it is possible to attain a harvest equal to or greater than that of the average farm.
One of the biggest headaches for farmers is weeds, and one of the most time consuming jobs is weeding. By spreading the rice seeds while the peanuts are still ripening, we are virtually eliminating the need to weed. Another method to cope with weeds, called Mulching, is to lay organic matter over the field. This layer on top of the soil suppresses the growth of any weeds. Of course, some weeds come up here and there, but by then the rice is already growing strong. There was a little weeding that was done in our fields, but not much was necessary. The usual way of dealing with weeds is to dig up the earth, turn the soil around. But this only gives a boost to the weeds whose seeds are lying deep in the soil, whose seeds wouldn’t have sprouted otherwise. It also ensures that little parts of weed roots are tucked away safely into the soil, from where they will grow again and again.
An interesting thing about this rice field is that it’s not flooded. The main reason for flooding a rice field is to control the weeds. Only a limited variety can survive in an environment like this. Normally, the survivors have to be pulled out by hand several times in each growing season. With our method of coping with weeds we save ourselves from this time-consuming and backbreaking jobs. Of course we let water go into the field some days but we never really let it stand. It is just for irrigation.
Most farmers agree on one thing: ploughing the land is essential for growing crops.  However, inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka, we haven’t ploughed our rice fields for many years. We discovered that the field cultivates itself naturally. Plant roots penetrate the soil, and in just a handful of soil, one can be assured that there will be several worms and insects. Those are our ploughmen.
Friday the second of March was the day of days. The day on which we harvested the rice.  After breakfast we all got a sickle and started in the far left corner of the field. We got in line next to each other and began with cutting the rice plants at the bottom of the stalks. As we followed our line and cut the rice, we put the plants in piles behind us. This we continued until we cut all the rice.
Piles became bigger and the sun became stronger as the day went by. We were all working hard and sweating lots, but to see all the rice, from which we could soon make delicious meals, was a great motivator. We started with 10 people but more people joined in to help soon after.
At lunchtime the rice cutting was finished. We took a rewarding jump in the well to cool off and enjoyed the-own-grown organic food.
After lunch we started to make bundles out of the rice plants and shifted them onto a big plastic sheet next to the field. 
All the rice made a big heap. After shifting all the piles, we went through the field again to check for rice that fell out of the bundle or had been forgotten during the harvest.  A few plants we left standing, because when the rice became bigger, we noticed that we mixed up some seeds while broadcasting them over the field. Some different varieties were growing next to each other. The other variety was not ready to harvest yet, so we left those plants standing.
At four o’clock we collected all the rice and covered it with the plastic sheet and called it a day.
The next day the threshing began. We uncovered the rice, laid two barrels on the sheet, and began to beat the rice on them.
Nagamuthu showed us how to make rope out of the straw, which we used to keep the plants together while threshing the rice out of them.
After threshing all the rice, we spread the straw out and picked up a stick each and started to beat the straw to get the last remaining rice out of it.
We shook up the straw well so we could be sure that no rice was left in it. And in the end, to complete the whole harvest we put the straw back into the field.
We ended up with quite an amount of rice, which we still need to weigh. With this we showed for ourselves that having done everything by hand and without using any fertilizers or chemicals too, it’s possible to be happy rice farmer.

Sweet potatoes – small is beautiful

The sweet potato has enormous nutritional value, being low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium, and a very good source of vitamins A, C, and manganese.  It is available from Auroville farms in the period from January to March which means there is minimal transport in getting the food from the field to your plate.  This year in Solitude, starting in August, we grew four different fields of sweet potato.  Two fields, which funny enough were the last two we planted, were fantastic in size and taste, while the other two had lots of smaller tubers but they were equally good in taste.  We have been giving these small sweet potatoes in the CSA baskets and have heard how tasty they were from the participants.  We have also been serving them daily to our guests and volunteers at Solitude organic restaurant.  Sadhana Forest and Center Guest House also take regularly and again the verdict is that small is tasty!  So far we have harvested around 300 kilos of big and small sweet potatoe  and we have close to 100 kilos left to harvest.

We have a small problem however, the smaller sweet potatoes are very difficult to move in New Pour Tous, as the conception is that sweet potatoes are only good if they are big.  This Saturday I gave the weekly tour of Solitude, and during a discussion on nutrition one guest asked me “why do the local villagers prefer white rice when brown is better for you?”                                                                                                                         

In the book The One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka discusses weather it is permissible that man  use chemicals in the fields.  He describes the miracles of nature and thus fertility that are destroyed by chemical application.  He suggests that philosophers and artists join the discussion to see weather man has the right to use chemicals.                                                                                                

The sweet potato is a small matter, just a farmer wanting people to understand that it tastes good and that we need to be educated about what is good for us – food that is grown locally, without transport, without chemicals.  I brought Nagamuthu, a local farmer who works with us at Solitude, to help me with the delivery the other day and he was very angry that good food should be rejected because of size!  But the consumer directs the market.  We have all the crazy stuff on our shelves because we demand it.  The irony is that humans choose foods that require chemicals and transportation with fossil fuels, but they are unhealthy for both us and the environment.  Consider also the ever-diminishing gene pools due to use of hybrid seeds (needed to grow the perfect round, red tomato).  All this is due to a lack of understanding about our food.  We search for solutions for our broken ecology yet the answers are right in front of us.  Please eat small sweet potatoes!