chase.capture….kill

chase.capture….kill

You would normally associate these words with violence, cruelty and murder. These are also normally associated with people who do such things.

So, why a group of 6-8 year olds would form a “team of commandos”, chase and capture a “maid’s son” as prisoner, then go on to torture and kill him? Weapons of choice? Guns and swords.

Shocked! I typed a frantic message to my wife. “He cannot play in the park anymore with these kids!“. Yes, my 6 year old son was one of the “commandos”.  😦

I watched the game unfold in front of me.

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The “prisoner” was captured and taken away. The so called ‘well to do’ kids will never become a prisoner.  They will always role-play an oppressor.  Why? Red flag right here! They have learned in this age that there are masters and servers. Haves and have nots, “They work for us”. Parents: equality lessons start right now! 

 

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The prisoner was then held to the ground and tortured. A sword at his throat. From where is this script getting copied? Parents: please check what your kids are watching on screen. Who are their playing partners. This could be a harmless ‘kids’ Lego movie YOU have taken him to!

 

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I tried to reason with this kid who was in-charge of the armory. I told him that, it would be fair if these two kids also had weapons, and they can chase you too.

“No! the weapons are not for them” He said. Weapons makes them more powerful. Weapons kill. This knowledge comes from harmless Lego mini figures. Which possess different ‘powers’.

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The game continues. The prisoner is thrown to the ground. He asks for his chappals. The kid in red gets the chappals and throws them on his face! ‘These people’ do not deserve any mercy! How do we teach them that there are no ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ ? How do we teach them compassion? 😦 

And finally, the kill.

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The prisoner is shot in the head.

Again, these are not scenes from ISIS promotion media or, by some execution squad of a terrorist organization. These are 6-8 year old boys playing in the park!

Rather than learning compassion, equality, sympathy, kindness. These kids have learned that, there are people in this world who work for us and they do what we order them to. They have learned that they can never be wrong because they are the masters. They have formed an opinion that a maid’s son can be ordered around and will always play a bad guy.  They have learned that guns bring control.

What are you going to do about it? If you let it happen, your kid will grow up to justify all this:

 

And this:

 

What will you do about it?

 

Keep The Honeymoon Going!

As i complete my first year of my second marriage, (my marriage to farming, if you still don’t get it!), I can feel that the honeymoon is over.  :-/

I loved the romance, the courtship, and the wedding. Now for the hard part, accept the new realities, adjust and adapt. Sometimes, the reality hits you so hard that you start having doubts, “What the hell was i thinking?”. Do i stop and go back? Quit?

I will answer this after i write down what i have learned in the past one year. Every challenge was an opportunity. Every problem had a solution.

Remote Management

I live in Chandigarh, and farm 173KM away! Ideally, i would like to live ON THE FARM! To achieve this, i either bring farm near to Chandigarh (extremely costly) or, bring my family to Mustfabad (extremely unlikely) or, leave my family (extremely unthinkable).

Hack

Must have a reliable person ON THE GROUND, regular visits to the farm (i do once every 8-10 days) and status phone calls every 2nd day. I have a full time employee on a monthly salary. I have trained him in the basics of Organic Farming. I have a daily routine for him to follow. Remember, you will also have to take care of accommodation and food for this person. A good person will cost you Rs.10,000 a month + wheat and rice ration.

Resources / Labor 

Once you have your full time employee, your small labor requirements will be met. E.g., spray, interculture, irrigation, security etc. You will face challenge when the job at hand is specialized, e.g. line sowing, mulching, manual harvesting / thrashing etc. The existing labor works on an age old model of ‘Chemical farming’. I have pulled my hair out in frustration trying to explain to them what i want and how i want it done!

How to cut it?

Engage a small team of people, pay them a little extra and PAY THEM IMMEDIATELY after the job is done. They will stick to you and will start calling you for work! They will become your go-team whenever you need extra hands. No one in my village pay the labor right after the job is done, they are paid 1-2 weeks later. I pay them as soon as they finish the job.

Invest in machinery! You will be surprised with the type of solutions available in the market for doing everything under the sun. Labor will always add to your cost. A godi to take out ‘weeds’ in 1 acre of rice field will cost you upward of Rs.12,000!

Time To Market

When i took my green pea crop to the market, they were selling at Rs2 / Kg. I gave away sacks full of peas to everyone in the village for free and tilled the remaining crop into the soil. I was 1 month late to the market. (This was in regular mandi, as i was still in my first year of Organic and was not selling at specialized farmers’ markets)

Fix it

You can pretty much calculate the exact week when your produce will be ready to market! It only require little planning to prepare and sow on time! If you are late, leave the patch empty. Sow cover crop for green manuring. Do not give in to the village wisdom of “पैली खाली नहीं छोड़नी”

Storage

30Kg of my Moong harvest went to pests and had to be thrown away! I had it in a plastic sack on the floor. Bad decision. Rainy season is bad for stored harvest. I learnt it the hard way.

Solution 

Build a covered area next to the field. Make a storage room in a corner. Use this area to dry your produce and store it. Never keep the sacks on the floor, make wooden shelves to store. Use Neem leaves and other organic methods to keep pests away. Most of the grains need to be throughly dried before storage.

Where is the Mandi?

Growing is easy, give me a patch of land, i can grow crops & vegetable. Even if i neglect my fields, i will still get a harvest! SELLING your produce is a challenge for many of us. Costing is an unknown territory for many of us. 99% of the farmers are not doing organic farming because they want to ‘give back to mother nature’ or, ‘help protect the environment’ or, ‘Do sustainable farming’. The inconvenient truth is that, most of the farmers are in this because it was SUPPOSED to make economic sense for them! Organic equals more money for the same produce. Well, yes and no. I have known many reputed farmers pricing their produce at 200% margins. There is no justification for this. Their costing model (if there is one) is flawed. They are taking unfair advantage of the ‘Organic’ label and movement. Others, do not know how to put a price on their produce. They simply check the market price and mark it up by 20-30%.

But, the fact remains that, the market for naturally grown food is unregulated and unorganized in the state of Punjab. Organic Mandis are mostly run by NGOs, and other small group of like minded people. These are small in number, do not happen everyday, have lose control over farmers and have their own standards of what is organic and what is not.

Then where do i sell?

  1. Get connected with local chapters of organic movement. Almost every city has one
  2. Network with KVM and other such organizations / NGOs
  3. Know how to cost and price your produce (very important)
  4. If possible, spare an acre of land to grow and sell to your ‘Dana Mandi’ . This ensures cashflow.
  5. Know what to grow! try niche crops / vegetable. Ask around, see that consumers are looking for. Grow exotic variety of the same cultivar. When all others bring hybrid, your desi or exotic variety will command a higher price.
  6. If you do not have access to a near-by organic mandi, do not grow perishables. Do grains / pulses which can be packed and stored.
  7. Try to do value addition. E.g. sell atta or dalia, not wheat.
  8. Eventually, make enough contacts to sell direct! 🙂 Farm to home.

Honeymoon is all about the excitement of doing something new, doing something for the first time.  What if we keep finding new stuff to do? new and exciting ways to grow food? Keep challenging the ‘default’. Focus on your newly found knowledge, keep your small achievements in front of you. Keep moving…

Keep the honeymoon going. ❤ 

 

 

Flower Power. Rated PG

Hindi cinema of the 70s secretly taught us the concept of pollination! As kids, we used to wonder why the flowers brushed against each other every time the actors went for a kiss? Now we know that the pollen from the ‘stamen’ was being transferred to the ‘pistil’. Well, you get the picture. Kids in the western world were told about the ‘Birds and the Bees’. Now we know how the birds and the bees help in pollination.

Just like every other living being, plants also need to propagate. They need to make and spread seeds for the  survival of their species. Flowers on a plant contain male and female parts. Flowers invite bees and insects to help transfer the pollen to the pistil (egg).

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Stigma catches the pollen to fertilize the eggs

Flowers with both male and female parts:

These have the stamen and the pistil in the same flower. It is also known as the perfect flower. Bees / insects and wind can help transfer the pollen to the stigma (the sticky part of the pistil).

Plants with only female or male parts:

These are plants with a gender. If you happen to plant only males (or females), forget seeing (and eating) any babies. Few varieties of Papaya plants have gender.

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Next time you go to a nursery and ask for a Papaya, the mali would tell you, ” Jode lene padenge (you need to buy a ‘pair’, male and female)”.

Plants with separate male and female flowers:

Your Karela (Bitter Melon) / Lauki (Bottle Gourd) and other cucurbits fall in this category.

bitter-melon-16.jpg DSC_0105 GOURD FLOWER

It is easy to identify Female and Male Karela flowers.

Bees and insets will help transfer the pollen. The fruit behind the female flowers will then grow to a fruit. Otherwise, it will dry out. Now you know why Bees are so important! Its quite common for these plants not to produce fruit in an urban area where there is no help from bees or insects.

You can help these plants make out :-). Take the male flower and brush it gently against the female as you remember Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz. This kiss of love will bear fruit.

-HF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get..Set..Clay Ball!

My wife calls me a ‘Crackpot’! I never listen, i always challenge the ‘Default’ and try to do things my own way.  There is more authority in saying ‘I have tried this, it works‘ than ‘Hmm.. i guess..not sure..‘.

While researching (ok Googling ) about Organic farming, I came across this Japanese farmer / philosopher named Fukuoka . He re-invented and introduced this ancient technique of propagating seeds using clay balls! Pretty fascinating, i thought. Something i could also try ..  I started researching (ok, YouTube-ing) ‘how to make seed balls’.

You can roll clay balls of any type of seeds but i picked Rice. Imagine if this works? We can simply broadcast clay rice pellets on fields, and watch them sprout and grow! No nursery, no transplanting needed. Hell, i could even win a award if this is successful! Tee hee he.

Get ready to clay… 

Gather the stuff.

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Mist Spray bottle, seeds, Sieve and and potters clay, a wooden board

You can also soak the seeds into water first or spray lightly using the mist. Mist is a must, you cannot put water with your hands, the clay will just clump together and will become doughy. So, phuss phuss lightly and then sprinkle the fine clay onto the seeds.

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Sprinkle the clay powder

Coarse clay wont work. I got the clay broken and powdered by the potter who sold it to me. Cost me Rs50 for 2Kgs. Fine clay will stick to wet seeds. Another phuss phuss and a little bit of clay. Now slowly start rolling with your hands. Pyar se.. haule haule..

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Roll the seeds. Straight and circular motion

Once a seed is coated with clay, it will start gathering more as you roll. Pellets and balls will start to form. Keep a fine balance of water spray and clay powder. Excess water will make the clay chikni (don’t be discouraged, you can use it as a face pack later). If you roll well, you will end up with this..

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Balls and Pellets

Put them to dry under the sun. Never make balls if there is no sun! This clay needs to dry in 1-2 hours.

What next? Keep a small portion of your field to experiment. Just throw these around in the field when the rainy season starts. Rice plants should sprout and take root.

I will keep you informed of the progress / success or failure of this in the next few months.

09-Jul-2017

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Seed balls on the ground. Waiting for rain

15-Jul-2017

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Sprouted and rooted 🙂

28-Jul-2017

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Rain fed and growing

Romancing the Rice

Rice was never a crop of choice for Punjab farmers. It was introduced in the state sometimes in the 1970s (later part of the Green Revolution). The land was fertile, with almost 95% guaranteed irrigation. Farmers were forced to abandon their native crops of Maize, Bajra, Pulses & Oilseeds.

Rice is not native to this region, it’s predominantly a rain fed water intensive crop. Here lies the problem! Introducing rice to a region with insufficient rainfall meant most of the irrigation would be done using ground water. Since 1970s, the water table of Punjab has declined drastically. This slogan was coined way back in 2005 to make the farmers aware of the crisis.

“Chonne hetho rakba katao. Pani bachao, Punjab bachao”. Reduce area under rice. Save water, save Punjab.

Water crisis was made worse by the farmers using age old resource intensive methods of cultivation.  Where other states have moved onto more resource and environment friendly methods, Punjab farmers.

 

  1. Prepare nursery and sprout seedlings
  2. Wait for 15th June to turn the tube wells on. Idea is to make your fields look like a small lake! (few cheeky farmers start before 15th)
  3. Get the tractor ready. As in, make sure the DJ Boom Box is working.
  4. Put on the latest Punjabi songs at full volume and start ploughing like crazy! Go round and round around the field with a Suhaga (leveler) doing ‘Kaddu’
  5. Frantically start looking for ‘Bhaiye’. Labor from UP. (This is the only time Bhayie are in demand like the new Rs2000 notes after demonetization).
  6. Send your trusted men to nearest railway stations to poach and hijack labor.
  7. Keep your labor happy. Murga by the day and Paua by the night.
  8. Finally sow in puddled fields and keep them puddled for the next 110 days.

It is time for desperate measures. A comprehensive policy decision has to be taken and implemented. In the meantime, we must adopt new methods of cultivation and make new knowledge available to farmers. I am using SRI method of cultivation myself. It uses 1/4th the water and seeds per acre!

Punjab’s forced romance with rice continues. This is one marriage which should not last for long!

-HF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulch Magic

mulch
“material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil”

Mulching or ढकावन is a technique every farmer should know and apply. Given a chance, nature would cover every single patch of naked soil with vegetation. This is nature’s way to protect, preserve and sustain the environment under that green cover.
Today’s farmers leave their fields under the sun, waiting for the next crop sowing. Go to a field which is covered with crop, feel the soil, smell it. It will be moist, dark in color, with lots of insect (some you can see, others you cannot) activity. This is the micro-climate this cover has created! Bacteria, fungi, earthworms are having a party! They are feeding nutrients to your soil for FREE! And because the soil is not exposed to the Sun, it retains water for a longer duration. It will also take care of the number one ‘enemy’ of the farmer, ‘Weeds’. Or as we Organic nerds like to call them, ‘Competing plants’ 🙂
Mulching can be easily done using any crop residue. Jantar, Prali, Sarson or dry leaves. In the image below (left), i have sown haldi and have mulched it with a thick layer of Prali. I have only watered it twice so far just enough to keep the moisture in the soil. And, i do not have weeds. My entire crop cycle will take HALF the normal water requirements for this crop.
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Image in the right shows how dhaincha (Jantar) can be used as mulch as well as green manure. At a nominal seed cost, i can cover my empty field with dhaincha in between crops and get free nitrogen and the magic of mulch. I am happy 🙂

🌱Honest Farmer🌱

My story:

For 18 years, I worked for top IT companies of this world. For 18 years, I worked day and night, following orders.

Did I make a meaningful change in someone’s life? Did I contribute anything to the society? NO! Did I ever wake up in the morning thinking, “yesterday was a satisfying day”? NO!

Now I am your farmer 🙂

My promise:

I grow food for you using natural and organic practices. I build nutrients into the soil which in turn will feed the plants you eat.

I will never put poison on your plate!

-HF

 

 

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