Saturday, January 14, 2006

Chook tractor is up and running after all!!

Yesterday we returned to the village to find the cutest little chook tractor I ever saw. Things went really well and after asking again whether there were any dogs or other predators to worry about (no no), we moved the tractor up to a very high small plot of land about four meters from their kitchen (I think we'll plant lots of chillies and such like). We then went on a winding walk though the village to eventually find someone who sold us three chickens (for 150 rupees or about $5). After a delicious lunch we put the chickens in the tractor at which point the father asked us what to do about the snakes, giant poisen red millipedes, and an unamed chicken disease that come this time of year and makes the chicken's poo white before keeling over and dying. They asked whether they should just do the normal thing of leaving containers of carbolic acis outside the coo at night. We suggested they attach a removable nesting box to the side. I think I'll have one made out of galvinized tin and take it next time I visit in a week or so. I'm keen to have those chickens live long enough to give the system a fair trial. So my earlier concerns have mostly evaporated! Wonderful! The whole family seems into it, it is above the high-water mark, so let us see what happens. I'm curious as to how much mulch they'll add given their bare-earth style of argriculture. I also learned that each family owns and works a single small plot about 35m by 35m with a single crop on which they reply for their entire income. So there is really ample potential for future development of permaculture techniques here.
One other cool thing was the following nutrient cycle we unwittingly set up. All their (the family's) poo and wee goes straight into trench draining to a pond covered in azolla. They will hopefully continue putting the azolla in the chook tractor (with attached water snails and worms to incidentally provide protein, calcium, and shell grit) which the chickens will eat and turn into manure which will supply nutrient to the plants which the humans will eat and then poo back out to feed the azolla! I'll get pictures of each step of this loop when I make a follow-up visit on January 22nd. Till then I'll be living at the experimental garden site drinking tea and wearing a longi (sari-type thing) and hanging out with that cool old gardener who has been instructed that I'll do all the thinking and he'll do all the work!. We'll see about that.

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