January 2010 diary

Time for Harvest and Harvest Festival [Pongal!]

The paddy test plot is finally ready for harvest. We get 4.5 kgs of paddy from half a cent land. This means we would have got an yield of 900 kgs of paddy per acre.  Close on heels of this harvest came the Pongal festival and in the customary manner we had an afternoon of  making “kolams”.

This year for the first time we celebrated “Mattu pongal” — traditionally a special day for the cows!!  The day also had a solar Eclipse occurance and made interesting shadows on the ground [through a kitchen sieve and through a tree foliage –see pics below].

The Paddy field gets ready!!

Encouraged by the results of the test paddy field, the students were enthusiastic about trying alternative in a slightly bigger scale. So it was decided to level the place near Thulir [ very generously offered for the experiment by Prof Ravindran, Mrs Ravindran and, Mr and Mrs Nagarajan; who also paid for the levelling costs for JCB and tractors — our thanks to them!].

An area measuring roughly a third of an acre got earmarked for this and was cleared and levelled.

Here we are checking the levels of the field


Building the edge bunds


Getting green leaves for spreading as green manure in the field


Stamping the green mulch into the field


Getting the nursery bed ready


Levelling the field again


the saplings are ready for transplanting after 2 weeks


The first transplanting in progress. In this alternative method a gap of 30 cms is left between rows and between saplings in each row. Also only a single sapling [with the paddy seed] is planted in each spot.

We realised that we had miscalculated seed requirement  and also our rate of germination was very poor, so we could only plant about 20 percent of the field.


This time we take the necessary precautions and ensure the seeds have sprouted before spreading it on the nursery bed


The second nursery bed under preparation


Spreading neem oil cake in the field


This time we got a good result in the nursery bed!


Saplings being treated before transplanting.


Finally we plant the rest of the field. This time we realised that we had over estimated our sapling requirement, so were left with quite a few saplings untransplanted!!!

The Bee Keeping update:

Perumal and Siva found a wild colony and decided to shift it into a bee box in Thulir. This was a good experience for Siva who managed to transfer some of the bees.

Justin from Keystone visited and conducted a 2 day workshop in bee keeping. This time he had brought a sample Bee box made from Bamboo and taught our students how to make one. He also showed how to make artificial queen cells [to hasten division of a colony!]

Soap making workshop:

Rajammal and Devagi conducted a workshop on how to make soap for a local women’s SHG.

The Training Centre:

Work on the roof of the training Centre was taken up this month by a team from Bangalore , so there is slow but steady progress … we are keenly looking forward to its commissioning!!

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