On the Farm - December ’13
December is a colourful month on the farm as the mustard shoots up and flowers after its first watering. The wheat was all planted by December 13th and soon those fields were carpeted in bright green. The mustard remains in flower for five to six weeks and is a welcome sight through the winter mists. This year we have had more mist and rain than usual after a mild early December. Christmas Day was spent inside enjoying a log fire.
Politically it was all change. State polling day was 1st and voter turnout was over 80%. On the 9th it was announced that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 163 out of 200 seats and the Congress was booted out. A female calf born on that day was called Vasundra in honour of the new Chief Minister of Rajasthan: Vasundra Raje.
We have a new group of calves. After Ritu was born in October and Ramini on the last day of November, Vasundra was born on the 9th and then Mandela on 16th December. Unfortunately, Mandela was very weak and despite our best efforts to warm him with hot water bottles and expensive veterinary treatment, he died in the night. His mother won’t milk without her calf sucking her and she has gone dry.
On 29th December another healthier male was born and we called him Madiba as a second attempt to commemorate Nelson Mandela. Here he is being helped to stand at 2 hours old. When a calf is born the mother is given brown sugar and ajwain (carom seeds) in warm water morning and evening for five days to boost milk production.
On the Farm - November ’13
November is a busy month on the farm with the rice harvest going on all month. This year, Diwali was on 3rd November. Govardhan Puja, when we honour the cows, was on the following day. Here Mewalal in his best Diwali clothes is offering sweetened puris to Velvet.
A team of men from south Rajasthan cut some fields of rice and two ten–strong teams of women and girls cut the others. None of them were expert and experienced cutters and took a long time. Each bundle had to be hand–tied with a rice stalk and then bashed against an oil drum before threshing by machine. The rice straw is sold to outsiders who come in large gangs of men and overload their trollies.
Here’s one such trolley that overturned while maneouvring on the farm. Luckily, no one was injured in the slightest. For the first time, the pral (rice straw) for our cows was loaded and unloaded by a team of women and their teenage daughters. They had great fun in the tip–up trolley throwing out the bundles with squeals and giggles.
The price of rice was up 50% on last year at Rs.38 per kg but the yield was down and the income the same. One theory for the price rise is that a lot of paddy was destroyed by the recent cyclones in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
On 15th November the motor in the tubewell was found to have burnt out. We called a specialist business with a jeep mounted pulley to haul it out. It was rewound in town and reassembled and put back in the well. All is well now.
As the month drew to a close, electioneering reached fever pitch for the state elections to be held on 1st December. All legally licensed guns had to be handed in to police stations theoretically leaving people in possession of illegal firearms to run amok, presumably, on polling day!
And the final photo for November is of the splendid Sophie Gate to the vegetable garden, named in honour of our first grandchild who as born on 15th November. It is made of neem and eucalyptus wood from the farm to a Scottish Natural Heritage Countryside Access Design (Information Sheet No.2.8 Timber Kissing Gate) acquired over the internet. The posts had to be set in concrete because of voracious termites we have. Hope it lasts!
On the Farm - October ’13
By October the monsoon has usually finished but this year we had very heavy rain at the beginning of October and two days of unusual drizzle.
This cow Ira, who lost her tail by getting up when her father was sitting on it, gave birth to her second calf, Ritu, in an unexpected shower of rain at 5.30 pm on 5th October. Ritu was quite weak and caught pneumonia at two weeks but the vet prescribed a lot of medicine and told us to put Vicks on her nose! We tied a sack around her at night and she made a full recovery.
The rice thrived in the hot steamy weather and attracted the wild pigs. A man slept on this bed so he could frighten them away with fire crackers. Eighteen were seen exiting the farm one morning: two mothers and their litters of piglets.
A much publicised cyclone hit Orissa on 12th October but had little effect here. We had our last rain on the 13th and hot sunshine thereafter ripening and drying the crops.
A team of eleven women took the soyabean cutting contract and started cutting on the 19th with their sickles. The hand cut soyabean was threshed on the 27th.
On the 20th a team of six men from the Jhalawar district started cutting the rice. They are camping over here until their work is finished.
On the 24th we started sowing the mustard. We hadn't watered the fields this year as the ground was still wet.
Here threshing is going on of the soyabean and the happy cows are allowed into the fields to graze on all the weeds left behind. Only hand cutters can distinguish between crop and weed. A combine would have cut it all and we would have had to clean it somehow before selling.
The soyabean was sold at the mandi (market) on 30th October for Rs. 3351 per 100 kgs. The size and yield were both poor. We didn't weed the fields as they were waterlogged for most of the growing season so the plants had to contend with the weeds. We saved a lot of money by not weeding but made a loss overall anyway. We hope that the nitrogen fixed in the soil will benefit the next crop.
On the Farm - September ’13
The main event this month was the birth of Sita and Amarlal’s daughter, Ritu, on Friday the 13th; they have another child, a son. The rain had stopped by then and the mud around their house had dried out. This photo shows mother and daughter at two weeks.
As the land dried out the fields were ploughed to prepare for mustard sowing. We had three weeks of drier weather, and then at the end of September a second monsoon arrived!
On the Farm - August ’13
The rain and mud continued throughout August. Here is our front garden in a rare moment of sunshine.
The soyabean fields were too wet to weed and the grass grew luxuriously with the plants. The rice was happy and we hardly had to run the pump to water it.
The very popular festival of Rakhi was on 22nd. Here Dashrath shows off his rakhis on his wrists. His new brother or sister is due any day.
On the Farm - July ’13
July has been a month of rain and mud. On most days there were heavy thunderstorms or continuous rain. Good weather for rice. A team of six Biharis arrived on 11th July and planted rice for a week.
In preparation for our new farm baby we put broken stones and rubble on the worst muddy patches on the drive.
And here she is, the Honda Brio, delivered to the farm on July 19th. She is a dream to drive but not suitable for Kota’s monsoon conditions. On 23rd while avoiding a large pot hole, a calf knocked the near wing mirror off! As the potholes got worse, the Gypsy has been the vehicle of choice.
And what happened to Arti? On 12th July she gave up the valiant struggle for life with paralysed legs and died.
On the Farm - June ’13
June was a hot sultry month with temperatures around 45oC at the beginning, falling to 32oC by the end. The monsoon in north India arrived one month early. On June 15th there were cloud bursts over the Himalayas in Uttarakhand causing flash floods and landslides with whole villages being washed away and untold death and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people had been in the area on pilgrimages and over 400 are still missing from Rajasthan alone. The Indian Air Force air-lifted thousands of people to safety despite continuing bad weather and lost one large helicopter and 20 personnel in the process. The Army was also heavily involved in rescue efforts.
We only had a few modest showers here, but it was enough to be able to sow the soyabean by the end of June, the earliest ever.
On 27th June, our designer cow, Arti, featured in the Charlotte Taylor’s cow print on the home page of our website slipped into a deep drainage channel and could not get up and out.
Here she is being lifted to safety in her tum. Despite being severely traumatised she finally got up and walked back to the cowshed. She then sat down and did not get up again.
Arti is a big cow. This is the arrangement we tried to support her weight regularly but the back legs were paralysed. We fed her gur (brown sugar) with ghee, and milk with turmeric, supplemented with special strengthening food and medicine for days, which she ate hungrily....
On the Farm - May ’13
May marks the post-harvest wedding season and everyone wants to take holidays at the same time, but someone needs to milk and look after the cows. When there was spare labour, the stubble was burnt in each ‘combined’ field and the cow manure was spread on the land. It is sun baked, dry and full of grass seeds that germinate after the rain. Before sowing soyabean the ideal is for weeds to have sprung up in the pre-monsoon showers which can then be ploughed in before sowing.
There was a wedding in our family too. Here is a photo of Vijay and his three sisters.
On the Farm - April ’13
April is the wheat harvest month. On the 9th a team of women began hand cutting a 10 bigha field (4 acres). They threshed it on the 23rd working until 3.00am the following day to avoid the 40oC heat.
A combine harvester came on the 13th and finished the rest of the 28 bighas (11.2 acres) in a day. It was their last job and the team of at least six left the next day to head north, back to the Punjab where the harvest is later.
Here you can see the combine working on the wheat. The field in the foreground shows thick mustard stalks after hand harvesting.
There were all night queues to get into the grain market and we sent three trolley loads on the 28th when clear weather was forecast. Despite the constant threat of rain we were lucky in having a dry harvest. The price our wheat fetched was Rs. 1461 for 100 kgs. which is roughly equivalent to 171 GBP per metric tonne. The world price appears to be about 208 GBP freight on board.
In this second photograph, the organic heritage wheat for the house is being threshed. The chaff is softer and finer than that from modern hybrid varieties and the animals prefer it, but the yield is very low making it totally uneconomic to grow. You can see little Dashrath is helping to fill the sacks, and his pregnant mother, Sita, is sitting watching next to our dog Tigger. The labour was paid for in wheat.
On the Farm - March ’13
A new birth in March. On the 3rd, Arti, the cow featured in Charlotte Taylor’s cow print, gave birth to Kishen. But we also remembered a life. Here finally is a gravestone to one of our original pedigree wire-haired fox terrier Easter Delight known as Daffy, who died in August 2006 and was buried next to her mate Bandit (Talludo Foxtrot).
The women started cutting the mustard on Sunday March 3rd, and worked most days until the last load was threshed on 23rd. This year most of them wore men’s trousers and shirts for work and changed back into saris to walk home. Here they are holding their Indian sweets, traditionally given when the harvesting is finished.
Wednesday 27th was Holi. Here I am dancing with the women who came in a large group to greet us.
On the Farm - February ’13
February was a very pleasant and cooler month than usual. Having had no rain since October we had a very heavy thunderstorm with hail stones on February 14th and more rain the next day. Other than the total destruction of our garden umbrella, we suffered no losses, unlike many farmers in northern India. The watering of crops went on regardless. On the plus side, all foliage has been sparkingly clean and green ever since. In this unusual February photo, the well-developed wheat can be seen through the mist and a single rogue flowering mustard plant.
On the Farm - January ’13
January. An uneventful month of watering the crops - wheat and mustard, and chasing away stray cattle. Night temperatures down as low as 1·5oC, so log fires in the drawing room at night our only form of heating. Misty mornings with dew on the grass, but every day was sunny and no winter rain.
We paid to have four captured stray cattle loaded up and dumped elsewhere. “Elsewhere” loads theirs up and dumps them here. An ineffective solution to a real problem.