Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Kolkata Permaculture Demonstration Garden at the Close of the 2006 Visit by Friends of Kolkata.

This was the banana circle as we left it on January 25 2006. I see the old fellow has gotten on board with the mulching concept (at first he was somewhat sceptical). Check back this time next year to see what happened!

And here is where we left the mulch experiment, again taken 25/1/06. We put brick edges and sunken paths around half of one of the existing vegetable beds. We then added water, a layer of newspaper, a layer of food scraps and azolla, and then a thick layer of water hyacynth (walking on it to fit more in). Then made holes through the mulch, filled them with some compost (which was apparently from food scraps and cow manure but was very old and dry), and then planted in some Eden Early Gem Sweet Corn seeds. We planted the same seeds covered with the same compost in the rest of the bed so we get a direct comparison of any benefit that the mulch gives us.

These pics are as far as we got with the chook tractor based mandala garden. The frame is complete, from bamboo strips drilled and wired together then braced with wire ah la Linda Woodrow. Base diameter is 3.4 meters. Bhaskar has chicken wire netting to cover the whole dome and has started putting it on. He is also researching chickens and hopes to have them at work by the end of February.

We have marked out and dug out the paths for the whole mandala, and Bhaskar is planning to get sawdust for the paths, to plant lemon grass around the perimeter, and to get various legumes growing where ever they will fit. Again, check back in a year to see what happened!

Finally, here is a chilli, corriander, and flower spiral we knocked up just before leaving. Bhaskar (God bless him!) is going to plant it out. Dan only had time to plant one nasturtium seedling right at the base...

How-To Brochures in Bengali

Here are the translated (into Bengali) brochures, respectively explaining the bare basics (what it is, why it can be useful, and how to do it) of banana circles, chook tractors, and hot composts. If these will be of use to anyone in the future, just contact

The Phosphate Company

This is a hard case. In the house at the main demonstration garden, there was a complementary poster from "The Phosphate Company" advertising itself with a picture of an affluent Hindu God. Below was written "Use our granulated fertilizers with much more promise of security & higher yields." As if the gods would condone destroying the planet with chemicals!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Rare Find: An Organic Farm in India!

Well after Kolkata Dan Palmer ended up in Northern Goa below Mumbai on the West Coast for a few days whilst waiting for his plane home. One day while cruising around on a rented scooter, he saw an organic sign out the front of a farm. Turning around he went and said hello before being treated to a wonderful tour of this truly amazing farm. They were doing permaculture in the sense that permaculture is just sensible applied ecology and I recommend this to any permaculture people who happen to get down this way. The name is Parsekar Organic Farm, and their phone number is (0832) 2247281. Contact Dan (darnample - at - for their email. The guy who showed me around was called Mr. Anant M Parsekar. Anyways, here is a little description followed by some photos I took during my time there. It was just so damned refreshing after seeing how reckless agriculture has become in all the parts of India I saw (including this part).

They had developed the farm by trial and error over about 18 years and knew nothing about permaculture by that name, but were doing almost everything: mulch everywhere, all organic matter returned, drip-feed irrigation, food forest (based around mangoes, coconuts, bananas), promoting beneficial insects, compost toileting, and generally just massive polyculture planting something everywhere possible – he called it “harvesting sunlight.” I saw nutmeg, baby mangos, pineapples, tumeric, vanilla, cloves, jackfruit, berries climbing all the coconuts, lemons, and so much more. He showed me the ants and spiders that look after the mango trees – an ant on his skin didn’t bite him – he said they knew he was their friend and then carefully put it back on the tree. Later a few ants got on my neck and bit me. Then they took me inside for a delicious drink and an amazing meal – fish curry, pea and banana flower dish, drumstick curry, and a creamy milky curry...

It was beautiful - a fair dinkum food forest.

Here are the ants the fellow proudly explained protected his mangos, not allowing any other insect to come near. White Ants he called them.

Here's how he took cuttings, actually getting them to produce roots before removing them from the tree - very clever.

Jackfruit which apparently get about three or four times this big when mature.

The drip irrigation system.

They planted ground covers of tumeric everywhere finding it was a great natural insect deterrent. As a by product they make a lot of tumeric powder (root is boiled, chopped, then ground). Note the knife - which the cut item moves relative to - these are everywhere in India.

Drum sticks. Apparently monkeys often come and sway the branches till the drumsticks fall. "It brings them pleasure," I was told.

And this is a perrenial tree leaf and flower which are used like salad greens.