Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reflections- A week's internship at Hide-Out, Jhadpoli

  • From Day two onward we seriously started participating in the plantations. We planted @ 30 or more banana stems. Chellu helped big time - she actually did the digging , planting , covering up etc..Kunju actively participated in the pineapple plantations & other activities like collecting plastics, roof work etc..
1. We want this/ we need this:
While doing this it started to rain and everyone else ran off to the Mandap area while me & Shankar continued. It was a magical moment- smnthg that will be etched in my memory forever. We were in the middle of this lush greenery in pouring rain. It was like all of nature was there to show its beauty to us. It was beyond anything that's describable. And that's when it struck deep in our hearts that we really really want to own a piece of land to grow, learn and pass it on as a legacy. This makes so much sense to pursue- in that moment of intimacy with the soil, in the middle of the farm during pouring rain , all our fears seemed to vanish. What were we afraid of? Whats there not to be able to do? Going back to having an intimate relationship with Mother Earth is commonsense not wrong.
Also the possibility of Chellu weaving it all together - her interests as of today seem very complimentary: Farming, Cooking, Mehendi, Arts & Crafts etc...This seems very promising. She has shown GREAT interest in farming ..Even Kunju for that matter participated in some of the easier activities like pineapple plantations , collecting plastic etc..So the possibility of passing this on as a legacy became very clear. Or rather motivating that someone after us might also be interested in pursuing permaculture.

2. Extreme hard work:
Farm work is crazy hard work. Its actually back-breaking. I really still can't come to terms with HOW MUCH hard-work it would have been to turn @ 5 acres of barren land into the thick fruit forest it is now.  All the 7 days I've also been raving at the farm help's strength. Madhukar the main guy is amazing- a thin looking rural guy , his muscle/back strength can put any gym going 6 pack urban fitness freak to shame. Not just him but  the  other 2 young girls & 10 a yr old boy. Gosh its shameful actually. Our strength compared to theirs. I think its just our urban lives that makes us very weak. We really did get to experience what physical fitness is needed when doing nature's work ..just doing those 7 days itself we found our bodies becoming more flexible & strong. We slept like never- just the fatigue of all that digging & planting & other work was enuff! No wonder insomnia is so common in the cities. Our bodies just don't get enuff physical exertion!
And we realized that farm work is not just about physical fitness. Working for nature also requires a iron-like determination, a deep love for nature and lots of patience. Or rather these qualities get imbibed in you slowly & steadily.

3. Circular Cycle- Everything that comes out , goes back:
This is one of the things that really impressed me. Hemant had also told us that in a permaculture farm the general rule is if you get 50 kgs from the farm , then you give back 100 kgs. And that's what is glaringly lacking in the farming done today. All the produce is shipped to the cities and the waste from the produce never goes back. So a lot is taken out but hardly anything returned!! Shankar & I sat & discussed about this and he commented that maybe someday a system will start that will get all the waste from produce sent to the cities back where it belongs- in the farms.  Seems very impractical right now..but who knows what? when?
An example of a sustainable cycle with inter-woven processes is :
Farm gives raw food & sticks which is used for cooking . The food eaten with banana leaves also from the farm. The waste is all thrown for the cow to consume which produces milk & dung. The dung is again used to build the farm floor, the dust from which goes back in to the farm!
Isn't this an amazing cycle? Vs urban living where everything is linear. Maybe terrace gardening if done in a somewhat similar manner can replicate the above circular cycle? Everything that comes from the garden goes back into it? This is so doable even in the cities.

4. Nature is the Best Mother:
I really felt mothered like no other way. No human mother can do what nature can do for us. Of course humans are also nature but that speechless interaction with the trees & the insects & the night sky & the mud & the waterfalls is something else. It gives you a perspective of something really ABOVE AND BEYOND YOU.Also you never feel lonely.. I felt like I had constant company..especially all the insects & birds teeming @ you. Where ever you are there is life @ you. This is the single most thing I miss about living in an apt. It is devoid of you expect humans & that too just the family. Unless you go out you totally miss out on any other type of the farm its just the reverse.
One night we were chatting with Hemant and slowly the Kamini flowers @ us started to bloom. This is what is " Life happening @ you". It subtly reminds you of how much mothering is many things are being taken care of by the universal energy. If this universal energy can take care of so many things, if it can mother so many beings why will it leave me out? You are always taken care of no matter what. The real question is of being conscious & aware of it..The moment that happens then mothering automatically happens. Dadaji's ( Pandurang Shastri Athavale's) reminder of "God not only works with you but also works for you" can best be experienced in a farm like this.
Also I had this constant remindal /realization of this beautiful universe has been made for our enjoyment & experience. The rural night sky for example looks like God has studded diamonds in the sky for us to gaze at & enjoy. The wind has been made for us to feel cool. The fruits & the veggies provide for nutritious many plants are medicinal. In a sense nature takes care of all our needs if we shift our perspective from wants to needs. One experiences a sense of content in such a farm. And also a sense of BOUNTY.My goodness! Whether its the insects or the plants or the wind or the summer sun or the mangoes hanging from the trees its "so much" of everything.  No wonder our Rishis said " Dhanam Agnir, Dhanam Vaayu , Dhanam Sooryo, Dhanam Vasu" The fire, the wind, the sun and the land -these were wealth according to the Rishis. Cause this wealth alone can make one feel really mentally & physically. And this wealth doesn't make one feel insecure or greedy. There is no comparison or instability like the stock market. The co-ordinates are fixed and the results the same for everyone. If you have this wealth its for good. And it only makes you a better human being by the day. Nature indeed is the biggest & best wealth that once could really possess.

5. Nature needs TRUST:
Permaculture farming is really about trusting nature to know the best. Letting Her decide how to protect Herself, letting Her thrive at Her own pace. Hemant practiced ahimsa farming for a good 10 years or so which means he didn't even pick a leaf or fruit from the farm. Everything that came from the farm went back to it. And no chemical was added. No pruning done. Nature was allowed to thrive at her own and only protected from outside elements. And then the birds came..the insects came..the watertable rose..the plants started to support each other ..the wind pitched in..everything came in and did what it was meant to do. And the farm started to thrive and now its this bounty of everything. Its a treat to watch the mangoes hanging from the branches, a treat to see the ripened pineapples, a blessing to notice the bananas..So didn't nature do her work? Didn't She give back abundantly? It was just a matter of trusting that Nature knows how to take care of Herself.

 6. This suits my family:
The girls had a gala time in all that outdoor space available to run around. Their physical health would have greatly  improved during that one week. They ran @ a lot, played a lot, ate a lot, slept a lot. It was very easy on me too..because they had all this space , they demanded lesser from me. Of course the usual sibling fights etc did happen and they did get bored once a while especially during long plantations in which they couldn't participate but overall it was very nice for them.
I realized that both of thrive in mud which suits our future plans of having a farm ourselves. They love trees and animals & nature in general. Hemant had commented on the last day that Shruthkirti was blooming in the farm. That's so true! One of the days during the plantations when Shankar & I were in the farm the girls wanted to join us from the mandap area. And it was pouring. So Shruthkirti came with an excellent solution. She picked a huge banana leaf and covered herself & her sister . Both the sisters reached us safely without getting wet! A farm gives a lot of avenue fro such exploration. Nothing can beat nature when it comes to encouraging innovation, exploration & artistic expressions.  It is the best teacher becoz it teaches by " letting be". Also it occurred to me that a farm and HSing go hand in hand. They compliment each other.

Overall it was a great experience for our family . We came back healthier, stronger & more peaceful. A perfect 10th marraige anniversary celebration! Very simple,  very basic , no frills but deeply meaningful and one that touched our hearts, minds and souls. 

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