The north-east monsoon this year was good, and it gave a lushness to the landscape. But this day in the middle of February was hot, it was more than a month since the rains had stopped. Tulsi (Basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum, துளசி) was growing wild in a few places, the one in the photo was the densest concentration of basil plants in the farm.
Used in theertham (holy water) in temples, this plant has more than forty uses in traditional medicine. It is used against colds, coughs, allergies, and poisons from snake and scorpion bites. Unfortunately, the war against weeds, has pretty much eliminated this from most farms. This plant flowers profusely, and is a source of nectar for bees. Goats and cows do graze on this, which might have similar health benefits for them.
There were a few other weeds with colourful flowers. This yellow flower (probably in the sunflower family, Asteraceae) is covered with early morning dew.
Avaram (Senna auriculata/ Cassia auriculata ஆவாரம் ) flowers several times a year.
This green spider is guarding its clutch of eggs wrapped in spider silk.
Another one is out hunting.
A few weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina), are outside their nest on a narthangai tree (bitter orange, citron).
There were a few damsel flies, and some butterflies, including this one with a nice pattern.
“Clean”, chemical agriculture has eliminated most of the insects which provided useful ecological services, and were food for the birds. With less insects, there are less of the birds around.
Scientists and breeders who have “improved” agriculture, are layering more fixes, ignoring and dismissing traditional wisdom. Occasionally when their experiments end in extremely weak crops, that fail to thrive, they come back to those who might have saved the traditional crops, and begin tweaking them again.
The pond has fully dried out, but several hundred feet away, the soil was moist (you can see the plants flourishing here).
One fashionable thing in cities is to have the creeks cleaned up, straightened, and have them deliver rain water, plus some amount of sewage to big lakes. The “environmentalists” and other activists believe that this will recharge the ground water. Even in a city like Coimbatore, such environmentalists have a big say in how to fix things. There was even an expert, who is part of the massive effort to clean Ganges, saying and doing the same thing – desilting creeks, straightening, and removing the shrubs lining the banks.
A little intellect, and observation, will tell you that lakes, however big can only recharge the immediate surroundings. In fact in natural lakes, a good deal of water reaches the lakes from underground springs, so lakes get recharged from rising ground water levels, not the other way around. The wider the area, where water seeps underground, into permeable rock, the greater the benefit. Water slows down, gets filtered, as it goes into the soil, and comes out as a spring, at some interface between the rocks, clean, and life giving, long after the rains, and overground water flows have stopped.
This of course doesn’t require any concrete, sand and gravel imported from far away, as is typical of government mandated rain-water harvesting structures. Just the ups and downs, and deep rooted grasses or shrubs, can clean the water and send it underground. One sees ditches, so-called storm water drains even on remote roads with few houses. Shallow pits, flow directing baffles, on either side of the road will send water underground, and will help establishment of small plants initially, followed by shrubs and trees in natural succession.
Much of our attention has been directed toward bottled “mineral” water. For farming rain water is the best. Next would be the water from local creeks, and small ponds.
And then water from shallow wells.
If that is not available, then borewells. Finally water that comes from far-off dams through canals, either heavily chlorinated for drinking, or tainted with sewage for agriculture.
But enamored of large-scale plans, that redirect and pump water over long distances, we destroy the base, that provides abundant, clean and living water. The easy solutions require no heroes, no love of money, and no desire for narcissistic attention. Permaculture and natural farming imitate natural forests, and one can follow the natural patterns and use nature’s intelligence with intuition and without any elaborate logic. And by being part of the cycles of nature, we can renew our souls.