Summer

It is mid-July. Summer in this region has not always been like this. The place is in the rain shadow region of the South-west monsoon. With the western ghats about 30 kms away, the skies should be cloudy, with a frequent, but light drizzle. But that was in the past, now the weather is a lot drier. The grass is like tinder,

dry grass

Dry Grass

wells have gone almost dry. People have dug borewells 500 feet or more deep, added side bores to their open wells, anything that would give them a hour or more of water to irrigate the farms. When rains fail like this year, they can run the pumps for about 15 minutes, good enough to save a few trees.

Guavas are ripening. The squirrels and birds nibble the fruit. Some of the guavas are raw, but half eaten.

Guava

Guava

Hard times, since there are not many birds   around, except of course for the peafowl.

A coconut tree  had 2 holes in its trunk.

Coconut tree

Coconut tree

Probably woodpeckers, yet another bird that has become rare.

The palmyra tree is quite common in this are. Unlike the coconut palm, the palmyra requires no care. It grows slowly,  usually producing fruits after 30 years. The sap is tapped to produce sugar (or jaggery), to prevent fermentation of the sap, the pots into which the sap is made to drip is lined with limestone powder. The fermented sap,  has alcohol, the amount depending on the time it ferments, and is drunk as is, or is used to made dishes that require fermentation.  Fresh sap without limestone powder tastes almost like tender coconut. Leaves are used to thatch roofs. The trunk is very strong, and (unlike coconut) long lasting, and is used in building houses. The fruit when young, has a sweet tasting jelly inside, cooling and refreshing. The palm fruit in this picture was probably pecked open by the birds. Usually they fall off when fully mature, and the insides have become yellow.  It is quite possible that this fell before it became fully mature, and was eaten by rats.

Palm fruit

Palm fruit

The fruits in this picture are ripening, as seen by the yellow tinge. An abundance of fruit with no care at all. The ripe fruits are very sweet, but have a strong flavor, that very few like.

fruits of palmyra tree

Fruits of palmyra tree

 

A bird quite common around this place is the pea fowl. A national bird, afforded special protection. It is not a favorite of the farmers, as it is a pest that damages rice, and vegetables that are usually grown in this region. But some farmers don’t believe the damage is great, and for religious reasons, even go to the extent of feeding them. Peacocks shed their plumage which is collected and used for medicinal and religious purposes. They are very efficient predators of snakes. Their droppings can provide a small but significant source of manure in orchards.  Somehow farmers seem to be getting more and more angrier with the peafowl. Some end up poisoned. A couple of peafowl skeletons lay in the dry grass, they might have died of old age, lost  their fight with snakes, or were poisoned.

Peacock skull

Peacock skull

Poisoning aside, the birds are the most abundant in this place, nesting among the trees. Flocks of 20 to 30 individuals are usually seen.  They have become wary of humans,  being frequently chased from their nesting places.

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