PART 29: FELL OF A TREE?NO PROBLEM


My right hand was in blisters and it was painful but it also hardened my hand as it healed. There is always a silver lining to whatever problem if you consciously look at it with a positive mind and many incidents like this helped inculcate in me a positive attitude .I was the eternal optimist always looking for the positive even in extremely negative situations and this has stood me in good stead during the latter part of my life.

The pruning work went without a hitch after my heroic effort. And my boss was also appreciative of my efforts. I also had fun picking up interesting shapes from the pruned branches which were polished and made interesting home decor.   This made interesting and unique gifts ,shaped ny nature ,each one an original.

The Shade Tree

The next major work was pollarding. The Tea plant needs a bit of shade and the best shade

The Silver oak leaf

tree for tea was found to be the Silver Oak .Grevillia Robusta in botanical terms. This tree has leaves which are serrated and therefore gives filtered sunlight to the tea bushes below. The underside of the leaves is silver colored and this is very visible at nights when light from a car headlight shines on it.  The tree is a native of Australia.

Just before the monsoons   these trees are regulated to regulate its growth and shade. This is also done as if the shade is thick the fog tends to settle in such areas giving rise to the disease called blister blight.

Blister Blight in Tea

And so we choose workers who are expert tree climbers to climb these trees and cut off or lop off the branches. The tree trunk is quite slippery with the initial monsoon showers and its quite common for workers to fall and fracture their hand , in spite of taking all precautions.

So what do they do? They make a paste of the common weed in tea plantations , Lantana Camara and they plaster the hand with this paste and tie it up with banana sheaths and the banana Strands and believe it or not .The guy is back climbing the tree within a week. I was pretty fascinated with this native way of treating fractures but when it is so effective  ,why not?

The cut branches are taken to the factory for firewood and the leaves go back to the earth as mulch and fertilizes the soil which is natures way of recycling.

I belonged to the Nadar ,traditional palmarah tree climbing community .

I found tree climbing came naturally to me!

 

 

PART 28: FIXING THE “TASK”.


As anticipated and as already told to me ,the workers were not completing the pruning task .They kept complaining that it was very difficult to prune 150 bushes and this went on for about three days. In a sense they were also feeling my pulse. They were waiting to see how I would handle the issue and how I would react.

So I decided to take things into my own hands. On that day I rode to the pruning field .I asked for a pruning knife and started pruning the tea bushes myself. I worked slowly but steadily. The workers looked at each other and they also commenced the work. It was hard work but I was determined to complete ‘the task’. My hands were blistering holding the wooden handle . To prevent that one keeps spitting in ones hand .Spit works .Water doesn’t as it would slip. It seemed like ages but I kept on and on.

I know I didn’t do a perfect job of the pruning but my aim was to complete the task to prove to the workers that it was doable even for an inexperienced amateur like me .I wanted to tell them that if I can do it ,then you can too. My hands were hurting bad .I found it difficult to even grip the knife .But I had let myself into this and I had to complete what I had set out to .I took one bush at a time . I could also not show the discomfort I felt openly. My staff and supervisors also took a knife and started pruning. The workers also following suit. By the coffee break I had completed about 60 bushes .My staff and workers requested me to stop but I said “No” and went on even after the break. Finally by 1.30 pm I had completed the 150 bushes .It was back breaking work but I had done it.

The workers now gathered around me ,very appreciative of the work I had done . I looked at the main guy ,threw the knife at him and walked out, got onto my bike and rode back to my bungalow.

I learnt something that day .That  I could get anyone to do anything if I showed them that I could DO it and that one needs to lead from the front.

From the next day “the task” was completed by all the workers without a hitch !!.

Right now ,I needed to shove my hands in ice!

 

 

Part 7: The Vegetable Garden


Vegetable gardening is an empowering activity for people of all ages and backgrounds. You can supply your family and friends with nutritious vegetables all the year around.  Vegetable gardening is terrific exercise and can help reduce household food expenses.

In my farm I would earmark another 1 acre for my vegetable garden. Now I am going to have visitors coming to my farm regularly both adults and children .Now many people have not seen many of the plants of the vegetable they eat! I want it to be a learning experience for them.

And so I will really research my vegetables. What kind of vegetables will I grow? What kind of plant is it? Is it a plant, a shrub, a creeper or a ground cover? How much time do they take from seed to harvest? What is the max height of each plant? What is the color of the plant? What shade of green are they. If you spend a day on the internet and see both google and Youtube ,believe you me ,you will have all these information and more.

I would like to remind you that anything and everything has three creations .The first creation happens in your mind .The second happens on paper and the third creation is the actual.And therefore I will visualize what my vegetable garden would look like .Then I would put those thoughts on paper so that by the time I actually plant I have a fair idea what it would look like and that it would be aesthetically done .

 

Planning the layout

Then I would select a plot a little closer to the farm house as I would like to use the waste water from the house also to grow my vegetables. water is a valuable resource and so I would like to utilize every drop efficiently on my farm. I would then use marker sticks and ropes etc to mark out the various plots and the footpaths etc and would prepare the plots. Details on how to prepare the plots can be studied as there are enough resources on the internet. I would add the farmyard manure and then plan my irrigation and water requirements .I would also study one whole day as to how the sun travels along my plot so that I can plan the layout of the plants depending on height etc so that all the plants will get enough sunlight. I would make sure that the sensitive plants will get more of the morning sun and less of the western sun and that the taller plants will shield these plants from the afternoon sun.

Preparing the plot

The garden

planting and staking

There are certain vegetables that can be planted directly from seed and certain plants will require transplanting after they sprout. I would go for predominantly the so called Indian or native vegetables like the gourds, the greens ,the brinjals etc (hope you got the idea).I would also choose vegetables that an be eaten fresh and also processed to value added products, which can be sun dried and preserved as I do not want anything to be wasted. For example ladysfinger can be cut into pieces, sun dried and preserved. Tomatoes can be made into Jam and all left over vegetables can be processed into pickle!! It is also possible to make

 

It is Halloween season now and I am reading what all can be done with pumpkins some of which are pretty unique!!

 

And last but not least I would plan to use every available place including a vertical space so that my vegetable garden would not be just another vegetable garden but would get me enough media coverage to build my farm brand.

 

PART 27: HEY! YOUR LEG IS NOT BLEEDING


After that hectic weekend I was back concentrating on work. We were starting a new operation which was PRUNING and I was looking forward to that. The tea plant (camellia sinensis) is actually a tree which can grow to over 100 feet high but it is pruned or cut back every five years to enable plucking.

Pruning of na tea bush

 

This is another operation that one has to master to be fully acknowledged as a Planter. And it’s a tough one. This operation is usually commenced with a pooja where the workers pray that the whole operation will be completed safely. They use very sharp knives which curve at the end .The knives are sharpened with powdered granite on a piece of wood. The knives are given out a few days before the actual operations begin so that the workers can sharpen the knives. The bushes are usually pruned between 18 to 24 inches height depending on the amount of “knots’ on the bush.

 

After the ceremonial pooja the workers commence the work and they literally circle each tea bush to prune it. They have to prune 150 bushes each day as that is the “task” laid out for them. Holding the wooden handles of the knife causes “blisters” in the hand and there is also the possibility of the knife slipping or bouncing of the tough tea wood and causing cuts which bleeds profusely.

 

When this happened they would look around feverishly for a particular plant and pull the leaves out and grind it in the palm of their left hand with the thumb of the right hand .They will add a pinch of limestone paste to this mixture and apply it to the cut, however deep it may be, and the next day (I am not exaggerating) the wound would have healed. I got interested in several other such tribal remedies and shall record them here as and when it is applicable.

 

The best way of testing if the pruned cut at the end of the branch is proper is to balance a quarter on the cut end .If the coin balances itself then the cut is right. Otherwise if the cut end is split or if the cut end does not balance the coin then the worker is initially warned and after a few warning can loose his wage for the day. It is tough work and although one feels sorry for the workers you as the boss don’t show it out.

 

When one walks into a pruned field, however careful you are, the sharp cut ends tear into your stockings and your leg. So if your stockings are not torn or your leg bleeding then it means that you have not got into the field .So when the boss comes visiting the first thing he sees is your leg.

 

And God help you if you legs are not bleeding!

 

PART 6: TREES



I had demarcated about 1/2 acre (21780 sq ft.1 acre is 43560 sq ft) for the Farm house and another ½ acre for the farm pond. Another ½ acre has gone for my creating my tented accommodation area with the Singapore Cherry  trees That leaves me with another 5and a ½ acres.

I would then choose another acre at the far end of my farm to create a natural jungle .I am having a vision here .Since I foresee lots of children besides adults visiting my farm in future I want to have as many tree varieties as possible . Assuming I work on a spacing of 20X20 feet then I would have 108 trees in an acre .So I would plant about 108 varieties of trees or what I call primary trees. If one googles “Trees of South India” you would get a whole list of trees which are endemic and do well in our climate. Between the 20X20 trees I would plant temporary secondary trees which grow very fast and which provide the shade etc for the primary trees. So in a few years the secondary trees are harvested and removed and so this will leave the primary trees in the plot in the long run. So overall I would have a spacing of 10X10 which means I will have about 435 trees in this plot.

I would plant this plot just before the monsoon rains so as to ensure that the plants strike root by the time the monsoon ends. I will not have a drip irrigation system here as that will be counter productive to the trees striking deep roots.

After planting the trees I still have a lot of space and so I would sow the space in between with a legume like black gram or groundnut as this would fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. After harvesting this short term crop I would plough the residue into the soil. This will ensure that the soil becomes porous and the fertility would improve considerably.

I would then let nature takes its course and in a few years I would have a natural Jungle in my back yard. This will invite many birds and small animals!

I would then have the next 1 acre planted entirely with various kinds of fruit trees and would plant them at a spacing of 15X15 feet. This spacing is justified as I would go mostly for the grafted and hybrid varieties as this ensures easier harvest as well.  This will ensure that I have 193 fruit trees in all. I would then make a list of all the fruit trees that would grow taking into consideration climatic conditions and decide how many numbers of each variety I would be able to plant. I would fill the interspaces with a short term crop like banana. I would need to irrigate this plot if I have a short term crop but this will ensure that my long term fruit trees will establish well.

After the banana is harvested I would use the left over plant to extract the banana fiber to make beautiful farm related merchandise but that’s another story!

PART 26: ALL IS FAIR IN LOVE AND WAR


I qently guided her across the dance floor to the far corner .She had her hands around my neck and I had mine wrapped around her waist and we just gently swayed to the music which had come down to a slow beat. The Rum and Coke had put me into a pleasant and heady state of mind. I had her laughing and she was quite comfortable with me but we didn’t know much about each other. I needed to find out more about her.

 I pulled out my matchbox from my pocket and pulled out two wooden matchsticks .Holding it in my left hand, my right hand on her waist, I told her “I will ask you a few questions, you need to answer them but by pulling out one match stick in my hand and after you answer put it back” .I could see she was amused with the stuff I was coming up with .There never was a dull moment! I started out by asking for her name. Very soon I had almost all her bio data and that included her phone number!!This always works because the concentration is on the match stick. Try it some time!!

 I asked her how she had come and she said that she had come with the guy she was dancing with. They had driven in his Ambassador car and she had to get back by 3 am .It was only 11.30 pm .Long way to go. I casually asked her for the car number .She told me .After more than an hour on the floor I suggested that we get a drink and guided her out.

 After getting her a drink I excused myself saying that I was going to the men’s room but I had other plans. I walked out of the club and went to the car park looking for a certain Ambassador car!! I finally found it and looking around and making sure that there was no one around, I crouched and choosing the front left hand wheel gently proceeded to let the air out. It took me a few minutes to make sure that the wheel was totally flat and then I went back to the men’s room, washed my hands and got back to the party. I told Subbed and Bejoy what happened and took the car keys from Subbu.

 She was still nursing her soft drink and chatting with her escort .I walked up, introduced myself and shook hands with the guy .I took the drink from her hand, handed it over to the guy and led her back onto the floor. I kept her amused and to myself much to the annoyance of her escort.

 Finally it was time to leave and we walked up to the car .I said goodbye and very casually looked around and then told her escort “SHIT……Looks like you have a flat tire. She got worried since her parents wanted her back at a particular time .

 And I knight in shining armor ….very graciously offered to take her home.