Bhaskar Save on Van Vadi

Condensed Notes*: Bhaskar Save tapes
Van Vadi visit, 22-09-04 to 25-09-04)
(* from the 21 page ‘original’ transcript)

General: “Here, you are very fortunate. Your soil is excellent. What you essentially need to do is prevent the entry of cattle and outsiders. It’s very easy then. Undisturbed Nature regenerates with great vigour…
“As for the crops you plant, it is insufficient sunlight (because of the shade from surrounding wild vegetation), rather than any deficiency in soil nutrients, that limits their yield.
“When I last visited, about 3 years ago, I also explained that most trees do not need much watering, just enough to keep the soil slightly damp. Mangoes, for example, are quite hardy, self-reliant species if planted directly from seed (rather than a pre-grafted sapling). Once they see through two monsoons, they become deep-rooted and require almost no labour at all. But till then, they do require attention and watering.
After my last visit, you dug your well, but since then, three years have passed, and you haven’t yet laid down a water delivery pipeline! Manual watering is too laborious.”

Re. Pruning of vines and overshading vegetation around mango trees in our forest (Similarly for jambul, mahua, other fruiting/valuable trees)
“The reason some of your mango trees have hardly yielded is because they are overgrown with other forest vegetation. But those that get full sunlight falling on their leaves have fruited well. You do not have to log entire trees around your mangoes, just do the minimum needed to ensure that the mango’s canopy gets full sunlight. So prune the surrounding forest trees and remove any wild creepers that have overgrown the mango canopy.
Enhancing exposure to sunlight is usually more important in growing fruit trees than provision of manure or irrigation. The scientists err in prescribing nitrogen, phosphorous, potash, etc. It is up to the tree to decide what it needs, and accordingly it helps itself. In the forest, the untended trees of mango, raini, jambul, mahua, imli, bor, etc. yield profusely each year for many years.

Exotic trees are not suitable. No birds are attracted by exotic species like gulmohar, Bengali babul, subabul, etc. Birds are greatly needed. Instead, Umbar (wild fig or ficus Glomerata) would grow quickly. So too would cuttings of banyan. These also attract many birds.

The fruit varieties that will grow well in our soil and conditions: mango, custard apple, chikoo, cashew, lichi, guava, pomegranate, coconut, banana, papaya, jackfruit, jambul,… Like mango, lichi, custard apple and cashew also do not need continuing irrigation once they are well established (2 monsoons). [Jambul, bor & awala are even tougher. But though these may need no watering, they too need protection from cattle till they are at least 4-5 ft tall. Jambul fetches a good market price, but grows slowly. Drumstick is another excellent, hardy, edible species, growing well from stem cuttings, but requiring protection from cattle for at least a year.]
All kinds of crops and fruit (climatically suited) can be grown here. Now, apples grow well in Simla. The apple trees would also grow here, but would not fruit, as pollination does not happen. The ambient temperature must fall to at least 10-12 degrees Celsius.
Where you plant your mangoes, you should not plant coconuts, for mangoes do not require watering (once they have seen 2 monsoons), while coconuts do. Post-flowering (in winter), mangoes should not receive any water at all, else they will not bear fruit, and instead new leaves will appear.
If you plant a chikoo plot, you could grow a line of coconuts around it, for both require irrigation during the 8 dry months. (The madhya-jeevi intercrop for these may be guava and/or bananas/papayas.)
Among madhyam-jeevi trees, bananas & papayas start fruiting within a year. Sitafal, guava, dalim yield fruit in 3 years. The sitafal (custard apple) is a good intercrop (at 10-12 ft gaps) among deergha-jeevi species like mango and leechi. These sitafals here should be watered till next monsoon and thereafter no watering at all would be needed. Manual watering is difficult. But with a flexible hose pipe (50-60 ft long), this would be much easier.
Among deergha-jeevi (long lifespan) fruit trees, Kesar, Rajapuri mango yield in 3-4 years. (Kesar has a good demand and fetches a good export price.)
Mangoes require only 20-25 days of care in the entire year. This is the period someone would be required to guard against any pilferage of fruit. Coconuts yield round the year, and hence should be planted closer to habitation to guard against theft.
Chikoos also provide fruit round the year. They should be planted at gaps of 30 ft by 30 ft. In between, you should plant Peru (guava) at gaps of 15 ft by 15 ft. In between the guavas, you could plant papayas at gaps of 7.5 ft by 7.5 ft.
[Anjeer (fig) would also grow from cuttings procured from a nursery and planted at the start of the monsoon. Anjeer needs filtered sunlight. As it gets established, you can gradually thin surrounding vegetation.
Sandal-wood would grow too, but its fragrance would only come after 25-30 years!]

Re. Mango:
The seed should be planted directly into a prepared pit, preferably 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft. This allows the tap root of the mango to reach 30 to 40 ft deep into the earth and become self-sufficient. If saplings are raised in bags and transplanted, the tap root may get stunted or irreparably injured. Hence, direct planting is preferable. Later, in situ ‘tone grafting’ (crown grafting?) may be done, according to the mango variety desired. [If grafting is not done, the fruit yield will be of the small, gavti variety, irrespective of the species of mango (seed) planted.] If you graft different varieties on different branches of an older tree, you would get several varieties of mango from the same tree! (The ‘record’, apparently, is 60 varieties from one tree.)
It is important to remember that after flowering starts, you should do NOTHING at all to the mango tree. No watering, no manuring, and certainly no disturbance/tillage near roots.) Farmers often do the opposite. For 6 months after harvest, they forget about the tree, and when flowering starts in winter, they wake up and oppressively start providing irrigation, manure (often tilling around in the process), when the tree most needs to be left alone, undisturbed.
Among mango species, varieties like Rajapuri, Kesar, bear fruit every year. Not so with Hafus, ie Alphonso.
[Two pages of more detailed notes also available—re care of mango, its grafting, flowering, fruiting, etc.]

Papayas : Can grow well almost everywhere. May be planted in any season. But if you want to plant on a larger scale, raise saplings in bags (with good nursery soil), sowing in February or March. When rains come, these saplings (thinning out the males) can then be planted in the ground, where desired. (If you have irrigation facility, these may even be transplanted before the rains.)
Papayas require/prefer indirect irrigation from a little distance. Hence, this may be provided in nearby trenches, so that the saplings get the moisture/dampness required through capillary action.
Care must be taken at all times to ensure that none of the roots of the papaya plant get injured at any time either during transplanting, or later through tillage. Injured roots tend to get affected by ‘virus’. But in natural farming without tillage, such problems do not arise.

Surya Mandal:
Three concentric circles of 12 coconuts, 12 bananas & 18 papayas (as per diagram), with irrigation trenches in between, and interplanted with seasonal veggies or pulse legumes. Water only the veggies, and the fruit saplings will indirectly draw moisture according to their need. In the center, dig a 3 ft diameter (and 2-3 ft deep) pit, which may then be filled with biomass, which will get composted in time.
In four years, you would have taken the fruit harvest from your bananas and papayas, and these medium-lifespan species would have lived out their time. Their biomass should then be integrated into the soil by filling up the old trenches and digging a new one further from the coconuts. Finally, as the canopy and root-system of the coconuts spreads even more, irrigation would only need to be provided in the central circular pit, from where the coconuts would access their soil and nutrient needs.
You should have one Surya Mandal in the nairutya (southwest) direction of your farm. The monsoon breeze that flows over it is considered auspicious/healthy for the entire farm. Another (Surya Mandal) you could have in the agni (south-east) direction of your whole farm. (?)
A surya mandal, with its close planting – to develop a humid micro-climate – is particularly suited to low rainfall areas like Rajasthan or Kutchh. Such a strategy is not really necessary in humid areas like ours. (However, we do have the benefit of less ground area to clear and tend.)

Re. Coconut Cultivation:
It is a misconception that coconuts grow well only along the seacoast. Under conditions of moderate warmth and humidity, coconuts can also grow and yield well up to a distance of 200 to 250 km from the coast. A good sapling raised from a healthy, regional mother tree and cared for in the proper manner would  provide abundant fruit without decline for many decades.

Bananas: Can yield 15 to 20 looms (clusters) within 5 years. Retain a maximum of 3 young offshoots (new saplings) around the mother plant, cutting and mulching the rest. (Do not uproot by disturbing the soil.)
After you have harvested from the mother plant, cut it 8 ft above the ground., not from the bottom. All the nutrient sap in the remaining 8 ft of the cut plant will gently flow down to the soil, providing nourishment for the next generation bananas.
Do not cut/remove dried banana leaves that have drooped. The shade from these provide a cool microclimate to the main banana stem, which dislikes strong, direct sunlight. (The sunlight is rather needed by the leaf canopy.)
Fruit bananas: are shorter than vegie bananas, may be planted at 6 ft by 6ft intervals. They need more watering, but can manage with less sunlight.
Vegie bananas: grow quite tall; require spacing of 8-10 ft by 8-10 ft; can cope with less watering than fruit bananas; but need more watering than papayas.
(Preferably, fruit bananas, vegie bananas and papayas should be planted separately so as to provide the specific moisture needs of each. If on the outer side of the outermost papaya circle you have extra open space, you can plant one more circle of papayas instead of bananas.)

Alpa-jeevi Intercrops in the Surya Mandal:
The strategy should be to quickly shade the entire ground area with vegetation to hasten the regeneration of the soil, and to minimize moisture loss through evaporation. Additional edible yield is of course a bonus.
On the innermost side, you can plant tuvar.
In the 6 ft gap between the coconut and fruit banana circles, you could interplant one or two circles of ratalu (sweet potato) on ‘pads’ (raised ridges).
Then, you have an 8 ft gap between the papayas in your outer circle. Here, you can now plant onion, a winter crop.
All along the edge of the plot, plant tur (leguminous) in the monsoon. In irrigated plots, these tur shrubs survive and yield for 2-3 years, growing quite tall. In other open spaces, you could plant urid, chaoli (also leguminous & nitrogen-fixing). They grow very well in the monsoon.
The entire area between your coconut, banana and papaya saplings should be densely intercropped with seasonally suited vegetables and pulse legumes. In the monsoon, plant monsoon veggies, and in winter, the winter veggies (tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower, beet, carrot, fenugreek, coriander, …  Maize is also fine for growing now. Then again in summer: bhendi, gowar (cluster beans), various gourds, cucurbits, … The veggies that grow well in summer also grow well in the monsoon, and vice versa. You can get veggies round the year, through continued relay planting.
In the Surya Mandal plot, just water your intercropped veggies, and the fruit saplings will indirectly get their needs. These can easily be watered by using a flexible pipe.

Madi (stream bed/water body silt) may be added to the soil around the veggies. However, not essential since your soil is very fertile.
Mulching: Your veggies are live mulch, shading the ground. After these are harvested, you can mulch their biomass around your trees. With dry mulch, one needs to be careful that it does not catch fire accidentally.

[Two-three more pages of notes on the Surya Mandal (and on coconuts) are available.]

Clustering of rocks around your trees is a mistake. They (particularly the black rocks found in this area) absorb much heat in summer, which adversely affects tender roots of young saplings. Rather, the rocks should be removed from the soil wherever found near the surface (or in dug pits) in the planting area. Using these rocks for your compound instead would give you a double benefit. You have to stop stray cattle and outsiders from entering.

Field-cropping: Two pages of notes available re growing field crops like rice with pulse legumes in seasonal rotation. (Another 2 pages deal with self-sufficient, mixed farming on small/medium-sized holdings.)
The lower lying, stream flow zones/clearances (on minor nalas) are best suited for growing rice in the monsoon (after leveling and bunding). No other food crop would be suitable in such areas of high lateral water flow or surface accumulation. After harvesting your rice, you can grow unirrigated pulse legumes here like moong, chana, val during the winter.

On raising and widening the present rock dam (beside rock pool) after inserting culvert pipes (3 or 4) at present dam height level.
These pipes may be of 8 ft length and 3 ft (or 2.5 ft) diameter – to enable excess stream flow during the rains. (Later, when the rains stop in October, you can cover the mouths of the culvert pipes to hold back more water.)
The precise diameter of the pipes should be less (about 9” ?) than the proposed increase in dam height, which should come to the level of the embankments on either side. You can also deepen and widen the reservoir, and use the rocks excavated for the heightening and widening of the dam wall. This way, your reservoir capacity would also greatly increase, without posing a risk of the dam breaking in heavy rains when the stream current increases. (If the culvert pipes are of 10 ft length, the extra length may project out on the downstream side.)
Making the dam entirely pukka would entail significant expense. However, 9 inch cement masonry with rods may be done only on the upstream, reservoir side.
At such stream beds, where you have huge sheet rock, you can gradually deepen each year (blasting at a safe distance from the dam wall) finally going up to a considerable depth, over 40-50 ft. You would get an enormous amount of storage without having to build any masonry wall to hold back the water. Such an option is extremely cost-effective. The rock you excavate would also fetch good money, paying back all the additional cost you incur. (Only where the rock is seen to be fragmented, some masonry work may be needed.) You have abundant water and very high rainfall every year. Hence, there should be no problem at all here of any water scarcity.
(Opting instead for a full-fledged, pukka dam with proper sluice gates has the additional danger that – if your dam gates happen to be closed, and there is very heavy rain some night, greatly increasing the stream flow and water pressure in your reservoir, the water may burst through, breaking your dam.)
Instead of spending too much money on cement mortaring one dam, it is better to build a few more low-cost dams in different parts to feed other stretches of your land. This way, you would also save money on your water delivery pipeline.
Re Ground water recharge: Since your well is close to the dammed reservoir, you could insert one or two pipes (6 inch diameter) feeding water from the reservoir into your well to further increase ground water recharge. (After passing through a filtration pit?)

Importance of making a good outer compound so that no cattle infiltrate.
The outer boundary may be a raised rock and earth wall, about 3-4 ft high, with a live hedge planted over it, to keep cattle & goats out.
Bamboos should be planted all around the border, preferably the thorny kalak/kantis variety.
Protection is vital. No cattle, goats or uninvited people should stray into your plot.
Where rocks are few, a 2 ft high wall may suffice if you supplement with a few (perhaps 3) strands of barbed wire, using your existing trees as stakes. But ensure that you do not lose any land in the process. For additional stakes, you have an abundance of material on your land to embed (after tar painting the part that goes into the soil), or to plant as live stakes.
The expense and effort you invest on your compound would pay you back manifold.

Importance of installing pump and pipeline: Protection and water are basic. You took so many years to build your well, and then another 3 years have passed, and you still do not have a delivery pipeline. By now, you would have got good yields and net income after meeting all your salaries and other expenses.
A planned watering system with pipeline and outlets as required is most important. You have seen on my farm… I have outlets from the pipeline at the mouth of each irrigation trench. I just remove the outlet cap, and water flows in the trench. No manual watering is done. (At the age of 83, Bhaskar Save alone tends to the entire irrigation of his 14 acre farm!) By manual lifting and watering, one tends to provide less water. With inadequate water, heat is generated in the tree pit, which is harmful to tender, young roots of saplings, which die as a result.
Since you have no electricity, which will take time to come, considering you have not even applied yet, you should buy an oil pump.
When laying your pipeline, you can keep outlets at 100 ft gaps so that the intervening distance may be watered by a 50 ft flexi hose pipe from either end.
At the Bamboo House clearance: If you drill a borewell somewhere here, you would not need to bring a pipeline up to here, and can thus save on that cost, while securing an additional source of water. Either a pipeline or a bore is needed here to make full use of this high clearance that gets abundant sunlight from all sides.

Panchakavya for insect control:
Buy a plastic drum of 50 litre capacity. Take 5-7 litres of desi cow urine, 5-6 kg of dung (fresh?), 2-3 kg of Neem leaves (bitter?), 2-3 kg of karanj leaves, 300 grams of black molasses/jaggery (used for brewing liquor); one kg of bajri flour, tak (butter-milk, about 20-25 day old) – 2 to 4 litres, 2 or 3 leaves of korphad, 4 to 5 leaves of rui; 2-3 kg of adulsa leaves; (Ghaneri leaves – 2 kg?). Let this mixture ferment (under a tree), with cap closed, stirring every few days. Within 21 days, the mixture will stink terribly (Keep the drum at a good distance!)
Before using, dilute (in a smaller container) one litre of this panchkavya mixture with 8 or 9 litres of water, and spray on any of your crops (particularly those where some pest damage is noticed, or even as a preventive). This is a nirdosh, non-violent and harmless measure. It does not kill, but acts as a repellant and inhibits reproduction of insect pests. (Its non-veg.-like smell also attracts pest predators and helps biological control of crop pests.) And if some of this panchkavya solution falls onto the soil, micro-organisms develop in large numbers, stimulating root growth, leading to better plant health, and higher resistance to crop pests.
You should keep adding in the drum – cow urine, dung and other ingredients like rui leaves, etc. and stir every 2-3 days.
There are on earth 12.5 lakh kinds of insects, creatures. Of these, only one percent is pure vegetarian, the remaining 99% are non-veg. Now, how would the 99% survive on just 1%? To provide for them, nature has made the 1% (mainly tiny, short lifespan creatures) into rapid breeders. Through checking the reproduction of this 1% — by spraying panchkavya – crop damage can be greatly curtailed. (In any case, mixed cropping checks any rampant build-up of crop damaging pests, while the organic crops themselves, growing on healthy soil, are more resistant to insect damage.)

This tulsi plant: fruit flies are attracted to its manjula (flower/seed cluster). Sitting on them for 15 seconds, they become temporarily infertile. Since these fruit flies have short life spans (2 to 3 weeks), their reproductive cycle is effectively disrupted. (Their lifespan gets over before they can reproduce.) Tulsi also has great spiritual value, which is why the mantra-jap malas are made from tulsi wood. Continued contact with such a mala also lends resistance to diseases.
The crabs come to eat the insects and organisms that form on rice, though they may also cause a nuisance by making holes in your rice-field bunds, where they sit to intercept the insects that flow out with the flooded water. (Control measure: sitafal leaves or shen at the bida (?) of crabs.) Similarly, each frog consumes its own body weight equivalent of insects in a single cropping season. The frogs stick out their long, sticky tongue, and the insects that come in contact with it are trapped. These frogs are great friends of farmers. But by using chemicals, the farmers have killed off all their frogs, crabs, fish, earthworms, bees, …

T-perches for owls to aid their predation on rats.

Meetings: should be held on the land, not in Bombay. Make basic living accommodation. For roofing, you could use asbestos sheets over metal angles. This would be cheap and quick. Old, second-hand doors and windows can be bought cheap from Bombay. Add netting to keep out mosquitoes. If all members contribute another Rs one or two thousand each, you can also get a decent generator (or at least a solar panel) for operating your lights and fans. Then members would be more willing to visit. Otherwise, even if people come, they will run back before sunset.

The Spiritual Connection:
Om Purnamadaha Purnaminda Purnat…
This amazing Nature is a complete whole. From this emerge creations that are each complete and whole. And yet, after harvesting such creations daily, the complete whole remains behind, undiminished. Herein is the regenerative power and mystery of Nature. Following the laws of Nature, all creatures, birds, animals, etc. are able to meet their needs without any worry of the morrow. They have been doing so from time immemorial. So why not man? It is only man, who in his greed and arrogance, violates the laws of Nature.
All the talk of increasing crop production, by this means or that, reveals our ignorance, and is an insult to Nature, overlooking the abundance that she has already gifted so generously.
Your soil is alive and excellent! It is the tunneling action of soil dwelling creatures (microbes, ants, earthworms, …) that creates soil porosity, allowing for both soil aeration and absorption of rainfall. In these conditions, a huge amount of rain soaks in and percolates to underlying aquifers. Agro-chemicals devastate the organic life of the soil. With the loss of the soil’s porosity, much of the rain flows away via streams and rivers to the sea. All our present problems are self-created by man!
Factories do not create, but transform from raw materials supplied by Nature. In their trail follow a host of problems – pollution, depletion, degradation, … The only path to creation and regeneration (navmirman) is through natural, organic farming!
Look at this tree. It never goes on strike, never demands a bonus or pay hike, … but keeps on producing. Why should there be any loss? If we need to learn anything, it should be directly from Nature, from the tree.

Post Script: I do not mind coming to Bombay for another meeting at Vijayaben’s Centre, or anywhere else. If you can arrange for the presence of your members, I can explain to them what needs to be done, and what should be avoided. And then, we can answer any questions they pose. I would be happy to help.