My first introduction to permaculture was at Navadarshanam, at a 3-day workshop conducted by Gopi Sankarasubramani. The subject was mind-blowing, and the teacher inspirational! I can never thank you enough, Gopi, for opening my eyes to the interconnectedness of the earth and everything and everyone on it.
Since then, I’ve been reading all the books and articles I can lay hands on on natural farming and permaculture. Bharat Mansata’s book on Bhaskar Save, The Vision of Natural Farming, is especially close to my heart. Right now, I’m doing the Intro to Permaculture online course offered by the Oregon State University on Canvas Network. This is a great course too, with a different kind of impact. The Navadarshanam course touched me deeply on several levels: emotional, moral, visceral and intellectual. (Though there was a practical component, it was rather a short time to learn skills.) Interestingly, the OSU course takes you to an entirely new plane, which can best be described as an analytical or planning or managerial one. The instructor, Andrew Millison, has laid out his material brilliantly, in an orderly progression. There is so much to read, think over and do, with a sense of moving forward all the time. And seeing the work of the other students has helped enormously – it’s getting me to really think about the design of our farm. Until this, for some reason, I’ve put off coming to grips with it. But now, into Week 3 of the 4-week course, I’ve analysed the topography, the challenges and opportunities in some detail, and have my sectors and zones mapped out. Only the final design remains to be done. Then it’s all decks cleared for action!
These are the sectors. Dark green is the wildlife sector – that’s the direction the elephants and wild boar come from. Orange is the summer sun sector, yellow is the winter sun, light blue is the SW monsoon, dark blue is the NE monsoon, and light green is the waterlogged area between the pond and the well.
And these are the zones. Red is the home zone, yellow is the home orchard, green is the farming zone, light blue is the semi-managed zone, and dark blue is the wild zone. I would have liked to have the farming zone between the home orchard and the wild zone, but the peculiar shape and topography of our land makes it necessary to do it this way. The lowest fields being the wettest ones, they have traditionally been used to grow paddy in wet years, and ragi or averai in drier years. Not that anyone knows what the monsoon is going to be like on a given year in these parts. It’s a lottery: you take a guess and then pray.
Having started off as a geographer, I must mention the great topography resources that are provided on the OSU Permaculture course. I spent several happy hours playing with this geocontext profiler (which will convert a line between two or more points on a map into a topographic profile), and poring over the Kaveri watershed on this detailed topography map, which I found in some ways better than Google Earth.