Sunday, 14 June 2020

Walled Street and Stack Exchange.

Every now and then we come across a ‘Walled street’  - narrow streets with walls on either side .  

Interesting looking walls built by skilled hands, placing uneven odd shaped stones perfectly to make an almost smooth faced wall enclosing a farm. Invariably you will find a little ramp from where one can haul stacks of hay or dried areca sheaths or any other bulky farm material directly onto a waiting pick-up truck, thus facilitating easy ‘stack exchange’.

The innate skill of the workers who build these walls is evident in the construction made sometimes of oddly shaped boulders, sometimes with flat tile like slabs of stone, placed so well that stones seem to fit into one another like a jigsaw puzzle. Then the final touch is added when a layer of mossy grass is scraped from the ground and placed like icing on top of the wall.  So that, in effect it looks as though a newly built wall has just been standing there for ages. 

Built with oddly shaped boulders
Built with flat stones.
A Close-up of the same wall.

This wall has just been built to fence in one of our neighbouring farms

Almost all the compound walls here have a narrow gap  -  what I call the ‘Girth Index Calculator’. The locals have no need for fancy stuff like “Body Mass Index” or ‘Body Adiposity Index’ and such like......If you can walk (side-ways)  through these narrow openings in the walls, then all is well in the world....or do need to visit the ....ahem..... a gym?

The narrow opening known locally as a 'Donnapa'

Now do these walls really keep out the creatures they are supposed to?  Our very friendly almost lovable wild boar can jump over it with enviable agility. The cows, though normally  not fond of jumping over walls, if cornered and scared, wouldn’t think twice before galloping over it, as we have observed quite a few times.  We have a couple of cows from one of the neighbouring farms, who true to the adage ‘Grass is greener on the other side of the fence’ had somehow been finding their way into our farm. Banana plants among others, our stack of hay saved for the rainy season and so many other things would get decimated in no time.  We  had no choice but to drive them out. They would lead us a merry chase, avoiding the gate through which they could easily run out and finally jump over some wall and gallop out of sight.

 The snakes seem to love walls as they glide over them peeping into every crevice looking for prey.

In and Out -gliding soundlessly

Our dogs love to sit atop the wall that separates our neighbouring  farm, drooling over their scraggly hens scampering all over their place.

Then there is this wall that we got built when we dug a well last year. The earth moving equipment had made a huge ramp leading into the well. We had to fill up this area with mud, that had to stay put and not fall into the well. The labourer who came to do it was so skilled, it was a joy watching him place the stones. The entire angle of the wall leant away from the well, he packed in mud as the height of the wall rose, and soon the sturdy wall was complete.

We found this so fascinating, that Vivek had to try his hand at it.  The cashew tree  just in front of our house is at a little  height and so is the clump of Bamboo behind the kitchen.  At both these places, each rainy season, some mud would get washed away exposing parts of the roots.  So, using the same technique he built two small embankments that holds in the mud.  Here are pics of his handiwork.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Cows are thirsty!

Finally we have a watering hole for our bovine family!

Each day after the cows are milked, they are let loose to graze around, walk around and sun themselves.  These are the Malnad Gidda variety of cows and unlike a lot of other cows who are content to stay the whole day in the stables, our cows get quite unhappy if they are not let loose. They need that exercise and the outing.  They all proceed out in a group and are capable of walking quite long distances. Quite often we have spotted them up the hill,  far from home.  But all of them unfailingly (barring a few incidents) always return home by 3 pm. 

When they return back, they have to wait until we open the gate to let them in.  We have a common gate that leads to our home and the plantation with a small path cordoned off for the cows to walk straight into the cow shed.  Our cows know the routine pretty well and walk down the path to the cowshed un-erringly. They sit patiently in the shade outside the gate and it is always a pleasure to see the content expression on their faces.

All throughout the rainy season, there are umpteen brooks and streams that enrich the landscape, but come summer and all of them dry up.  

Even the ‘Holle’ that roars past our farm leaves not a trace behind.  So this means that the cows have no water to drink until they are let into the cowshed.  We  keep quite a few buckets of water for them, but they push each other to get to the water first and often overturn the buckets.  So we had to find a  solution for this, to provide ample drinking water for them. And we found it on one of our trips further south.  We were returning from a trip to Vitla and spotted a Plant nursery on the way.  We stopped to check it out.  It was really huge - lots of fancy plants and /saplings with fancy price tags too.  After the first few rows of roses, chrysanthemums and colourful hibiscus, all with perfect flowers, there were rows of indoor plants and colourful crotons. Then came the saplings of the large trees.  This was interesting as we could buy some for the farm and the forest.  We picked quite a few of these.  Then at the very end, I spotted a whole array of pots and planters- mud pots, plastic ones, hanging ones, name it and this nursery had it!  And in one corner I spotted a huge stack of giant tubs –just the type that I wanted for the cows’ drinking water.  They were meant to make fancy lotus ponds to place in the foyers /lobbies of buildings and hotels.  They had all the apparatus to make an artificial fountains and a mini water fall as well.  But the tub was all that I wanted, and we got it.

Back on the farm, we decided to install it just outside the gate, so that not just our cows, but all the ones passing by can quench their thirst.   

The Tub

Preparing to install it

Finishing touches  - all natural elements used.

Shabari is a bit suspicious- hey! that was not there when I left this morning....

Anandi is curious.....and Thirsty!

Hey that's for us to drink!!!!!

So there it is now, a watering hole for the cows. Watch them make a beeline for it when they get back after their daily jaunts.  

Friday, 17 April 2020

Cat's Whiskers


Is not a colour

I associate with a crow’s egg.

But there it is

A porcelain blue shell

Cracked just so

It wasn’t me that did it

But the nasty ‘other’ crows

The yolk is bright yellow

And clings to my whiskers

As I leap off the window sill

My whiskers stiffen

And the crow smell lingers

Long after I have licked them clean.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Perks of Farm Life!

Life on the farm-  work and more work as far as the eye can see.  The calves are having a merry time though!

COBOL - Sometimes you just need to sit down and stare!

Along with the hardships of a farm life come the perks – the perks of having a meal that is almost completely grown on the farm.  

Meet the players on our lunch plate today:

Red Rice – Starting its journey in the first week of June in a protected Rice nursery, then being transplanted in the first week of July under lashing rains out in the open fields, and then growing for three whole months. 

Protected Rice Nursery.
Rice tillers

The Rice grains

And here it is today cooked to perfection, ready to be accompanied by the Palak –dal.

Palak – This is a fast growing variety of local spinach which the locals call  ‘Bombay Basle’  where as the  Malabar Spinach is called just Basle. 

Local Spinach

I  can harvest  a reasonably sized bunch every other week.  Today it finds its way into a simple dal with a jeera tadka.

Raw Jackfruit.  The tall jackfruit trees are laden with green prickly bunches.  There are way more than we can deal with if we allow all to ripen.  So tender jackfruit is one of our favourite accompaniments at lunch. 

Would you like to carry some home ?

Today it is steamed and then stir fried with a dash of white pepper powder.  White pepper is the inner kernel of our normal black pepper.  So it is much spicier than it looks.

Ripened berries of Pepper from which  we get  the white pepper.

Ghee – Is any Indian meal complete without a dollop of ghee?  We have a choice of two varieties of ghee here – Golden yellow Cow ghee and the white Buffalo ghee.  Starring on our plate today is Buffalo ghee – made laboriously by collecting the cream from Madhubala’s milk, fermenting it, churning it to get the butter and then melting  and clarifying it with fragrant leaves – Betel leaf, Curry leaf and Tulsi.  All these make the ghee most fragrant and delicious. 

Madhubala -  Is this angle right - Don't I look prettier this way?

So here it is- our meal for today   

Red Rice, Palak-dal, Tender Jackfruit stir-fry  and a dollop of ghee.

Simple yet  delicious!


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