I had been having on and off conversations with Indira at the university about the project. In one such, I was letting Indira know about plans in school to make the liquid organic manure called Jeevamrutam and apply it on the farm land. Indira also had the know how and was willing to help out . She also hadn’t visited the farm till now so we decided to have her this Wednesday .
Laksh had suggested we weed out some of the grass growing in between the rows. There were some weeds growing around Tuwar too and we would have liked older kids getting their hands on to cutting and sorting the tall grass and bushes. This time, Indira, Vasantha , and Samhitha joined class 6 students. The sun was harsh and the soil wasn’t soft. But we spread around and pulled out the bunches of grass by hand. Of course we had to explain what needed to be pulled out first! The older kids (class 9) learning the home science subject on that day also joined us. It was their first time at the farm. And so I found myself repeating some basic instructions- walk barefoot if you can, walk around the plants, look where you step, you are crushing that Ragi plant! come on, talk less -work more!, use your hands - it is okay to get them dirty etc etc Phew… who knew that working with smaller kids was err…. faster and errr… easier? ;)))
There was some confusion about leaving the weeds in or not - should we have let the weeds grow along side? We discussed natural farming methods amongst us with indira telling us some permaculture principles but then we decided to farm one way this time. However we used the weeded out grass to mulch around the ragi plants to trap the moisture.
We decided to measure the tallest ragi plant but had forgotten to bring the scale so used a long stick instead. Again, we didn’t work around creating space and procedures around recording our observations systematically in a notebook. This has been a glaring gap since the project has started and none of us are able to find the time and space to crack this.
(Alongside this project, the class 7/8 kids of Poorna are involved in the Daily Dump project of growing food under the Hebbal flyover. I often see the clear instructions and clear expectations given to the kids and feel that this is how we should have run the project. Ours seems to be a dynamic one- ever changing-- ! ):)
Indira before heading back to school asked the children to gather around and asked them about what they observed. At first stating the obvious- ragi/beans/ soil/farm, slowly the kids started sharing interesting things that they observed. One had observed 6 different types of insects; one had observed a strange looking flower on the weeds, etc etc.
I thought it was a good idea to get a wrap up before the kids head back to school- something we should also start doing more.
Later Indira sent me a nice link about some perspective around weeding ,
"No weeding means that weeds are not removed either by herbicides or by cultivation. Fukuoka observed that weeds play an important part in the building of soil fertility and in balancing the biological community. So control, rather than elimination is the approach used in Fukuoka farming. This involves using straw mulch, a ground cover of white clover inter-planted with the crops, and also temporarily flooding his fields to effectively control weeds." from the link http://www.wildernesscollege.com/fukuoka-farming.html explaining Fukuoka farming principles.
Indira then met us all at school and we discussed possible new goal posts around the project. Some of them include: