Friday, 30 August 2013

Visitors at our farm


The most glorious of all the visitors on our farm is obviously the peacock.  The rains really have them dancing in full glory, but we haven’t  been able to capture one on the cam as yet.   They strut around delicately and can take off in a graceful flight when they hear us approaching.  They make their presence know  with loud cries that are answered by their counterparts from far. The whole forest resounds with their cries cascading and falling in decibels.



The other  feathered visitors sure make a cacophony announcing their arrival. The hornbills perch on top of the coconut trees and make loud raucous screeching sounds.

The resident snakes of our farm are indeed a fearless and curious lot. Most of them are the common rat-snakes. 

An occasional poisonous snake does make an appearance.  One of them apparently is a tree-top resident.   So I guess it was pretty easy for him to slide down the branch overhanging our kitchen and come into the house to escape the scorching heat.  He made himself comfortable on one of the rafters.  When I walked into the kitchen sweating after the farm work, the first thing I did was gulp down some water. As I raised my head to drink, I looked right into two beady eyes – probably awakened by my footsteps. But this visitor was pretty cool and did not panic, in fact he yawned and went back to snooze. I would have ignored him, but Revati our maid saw him just then and panicked.  She ran out and called Manjunath (our farm-hand) and came back with a long pole.  Both of them tapped the rafters and made enough noise to make him slither out of the roof.

The Russels Viper is a sluggish one who is sighted very rarely. And when he does come near, Johnny is the only one who growls a deep warning and stays away. The other dogs, city bred as they are will want to go close and need to be restrained. 


The other day, one young snake found its way into the cool area beneath the kitchen sink.  I would have never noticed it, had it not been for Posha our cat suddenly acting very strange.  He fluffed up like a massive fur ball with special sound effects thrown in for a dramatic effect.  I shone the torch into the area to see two beady eyes.  We directed and trapped the snake in a long hollow pipe and then carried him out where he slithered away into the greenery.


The un-welcome visitors are the silent, destructive types.  Many a morning we find banana plants fallen over with the white core of the entire trunk scraped out.  The heavy trampling around the plant and the huge droppings tell us that the wild boar had decided to pay a nocturnal visit to our farm.

Then there is the ‘Vanar-sena’ that leaps and bounds around at dizzying heights causing destruction in its path. Tender shoots of the bread-fruit tree, papaya plants,  bananas, mangoes, all are destroyed. The dogs try to chase them frantically, but they seem least bothered by the crazed barking and continue with their antics.


And then there are the countless curious visitors from the cities.  One looked  at the fresh creamy milk brought in warm from the cow shed and asked incredulously :You don’t pasteurize the milk?  “No we don’t but we do ‘Pasture-ise’  the cows”  I quipped, but the pun was totally lost for what sense does a cow grazing on fresh greens on the verdant slopes of Huli Devan Kodlu*  make when the milk is not ... er . .. .... ‘Pasteurized, de-odorized, supplemented with vitamins and packed in a tetrapack to stay ‘fresh’ for months?




Huli Devan Kodlu : This secluded patch of forest that we now live in is called by this name which translates in Kannada as Area of the Tiger God.  Legend has it that the Durga Parmeshwari Temple which is on the edge  of the forest bordering our area always had a tiger protecting it. The villagers take turns to conduct a Puja on every New moon day and on all the days of Navarati.  One day (this was way back in the 60’s) the Puja was not conducted for some reason. The old-timers of Chitrapur village recollect that the tiger terrorised them by walking into the village and his roar reverberated  all around.  Anandashram Swamiji who was the Mathadipati at that time,  personally conducted the Puja at this temple and peace was restored.  

Monday, 12 August 2013

The rains are here again.

After a scorching month of May,  the rains have hit Chitrapur with a boom, bang and dazzle.  The ‘Holle’ (stream) that flows past our home turns into a raging torrent which many a weak-heart (or weak-knees) has flatly refused to cross.
We have to wade through this stream to get home

 As for us, we wade through it at all times only taking care to get our supplies at a time when the force of the water is not much.  It is a task to try and hold up your clothes (no not to save them from getting wet, but to avoid tripping over them ) and wade through with all the bags, umberella and torch –if it is dark.  But it does invigorate the soul when you reach home dripping and realise what a blessing it is to have a home in such a place.  And does the water dripping from the tile roof ever bother me? No, frankly no.  Probably if it was our Bombay apartment, I would have been bothered. But here, we place a couple of tubs and buckets in seemingly strategic locations  and walk around or over them.  It is only later that we notice that the seemingly strategic location happens to be exactly at the point where the water falls on the edge of the bucket or tub.  So in addition to the bucket we now have a pool around it as well.

The late night sudden showers seem to upset the assorted population of beetles in the farm.  And they rush in to buzz around the lights in the house much to the delight of Posha and Kip our cats.  Many of them fall dizzily into the buckets or tubs most often on their backs and swim around crazily till they right themselves and take off again. The fireflies are all abuzz lighting up the sky and the trees around. 

The electricity plays truant for hours at a stretch and we always have to be our toes to get all essentials like cell phones, laptops, emergency lights and UPS recharged in the brief intervals when the current comes a-visiting.  Not to mention getting the water pump, washing machine, mixer etc all done before it departs again.  (Hey it is not so bad on all the days).

 And the 2000 piece Ravensburger puzzle is out of hibernation again.  We had managed to complete about half of it last monsoon.  You can’t really work on the farm when it is pouring and you cant work on your laptop with the last vestiges of battery left.   Ok  I don’t really need a reason ..but it is fun doing the puzzle.

Just the last 100 odd pieces left

A friend of ours braved the weather to visit us last week.  We had a brief respite from the rain and the sun shone down on the emerald landscape.  Our 4 dogs and 2 cats lay sprawled in the frontyard on the still damp ground basking in the sun.  And all of a sudden the sky darkened and a sudden outburst of rain had all the animals pouring in thru the door.   “Hey it is raining cats and dogs” he quipped as the animals shoved one another to get the warmest place to cuddle. 

The work in the farm changes drastically.  All the past two months we were struggling to ensure that the trees are watered sufficiently.  The mountain stream which is our source of water had dried up to a trickle.  Now it is a gushing waterfall.  The main focus is to prevent waterlogging in the farm.  So that means continuous cleaning of the water pathways, removing the fallen leaves and silt.  No more sundrying of the summer surplus – banana, jackfruit, kokum.  Now it is a struggle to keep the mould from getting to the nutmegs and mace that are harvested in this season. But we have learnt new methods of doing this so it is not a problem. And Vivek has designed a superb in-house dryer  - a cardboard box with a 40Watts bulb in it.  The heat generated inside suffices to dry the items placed in it.  (After all the research into commercial agricultural dryers – each one bulkier and more expensive than the other, we finally have a ‘light-bulb’ solution)

And so the weather continues to display its amazing shades. The sight of the swaying palms bending under the onslaught of the rain, the rich green carpet of rice saplings as far as the eye can see, all in the backdrop of the mist covered hills – Chitrapur is paradise on earth in the rains!
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