In this issue, we bring you a beautiful poem about a snake, by Judith Wright.
Sun-warmed in this late season's grace
under the autumn’s gentlest sky
we walked, and froze half-through a pace.
The great black snake went reeling by.
Head down, tongue flickering on the trail
he quested through the parting grass,
sun glazed his curves of diamond scale
and we lost breath to see him pass.
What track he followed, what small food
fled living from his fierce intent,
we scarcely thought; still as we stood
our eyes went with him as he went.
Cold, dark and splendid he was gone
into the grass that hid his prey.
We took a deeper breath of day,
looked at each other, and went on.
- JUDITH WRIGHT
The monsoons are on in this part of Tamil Nadu, and we are frequently getting to witness that astonishing multisensory symphony event of Nature - rain! Sure, we’ve all studied about evaporation and cloud formation, but it still seems like a miracle that so much water, and sound and light should come bursting out at us from above. Today’s discussion however, is not about what happens above, but what happens below. Its a common observation that on open land, water does not stagnant in one spot, but flows away in natural channels till it finds the lowest spot. Open and untouched countryside has undulations that facilitate the collection of water in the lowest spots, and this is how lakes and ponds are formed and sustained. Since water channels naturally form in the softest and most permeable places, a large quantum of the water that flows through these channels first has the opportunity to percolate into the ground and enrich the water-table. If you’ve looked at large tracts of land, you would have seen how the natural shallow undulations, tracks and troughs (also called ‘swales’) meld beautifully together into a perfect rain-water collection and ground-water recharge system.
This system, if maintained and reinforced, can retain lakhs of litres of water within the landscape, instead of letting it drain away. One way of benefitting from these natural swales is to plant thirsty plants and trees within the undulations so that they can take up the water and as an added benefit, prevent soil erosion. This way of planting is called contour farming, and many communities around the world are now following it. One more way of not wasting the potential of the natural swales is to observe where the lowest point is, and then try to integrate it with the watering system in use in the land.
This is what organic farmer Alladi Mahadevan has done on his farm near Nedumaram in TN. With a minimal amount of trenching, he has connected together the natural water-channels in his farm so that all the water falls into one of the 3 wells on the land. “With this system, if I get even a few days of good rain in the monsoon, I can rest easy that the trees here will not be parched next summer. The path the water takes runs in different, circuitous curves, covering so much of the land. Everywhere the water passes, there is some percolation, and the land becomes water-rich. This makes so much more sense than randomly digging straight channels”. Mahadevan says he he has been able to retain 27 lakh litres of water in the landscape after creating this system of connected natural swales.The water in the well rose by over 10 feet after the introduction of the bio-swale system
Inspired by these natural swales, building bio-swales in city areas and gardens in now slowly gaining popularity. These bio-swales are being seen as ways to filter/clean runoff before further processing. They also add aesthetic appeal to the landscape. It’s good to see urban communities and planners looking beyond cemented storm-water drains, but if all farmers could look at the naturals swales in their own lands, and plan minimalistic interventions accordingly, we could well have a glorious water-revolution to look forward to in the coming years.
Welcome to the 10th issue of ‘Let’s Grow’, a fortnightly e-zine on Earth matters through which we strive to create a pleasant discourse on all matters related to sustainability and good health, ours and our planet’s.
In this issue, we’ve talked about castor plants and their myriad benefits. We’ve also brought you:
* ‘Verse-atile', a regular feature containing a beautiful poem on a snake
* The Finalists List for our Devi Krithis Competition
* Flower Quiz 10, and the winners of last issue’s quiz, and, the entry of Sony M, one of the finalists in the Carnatic Vocal competition we conducted earlier this year. This is in continuation to our effort to provide a platform to all the entries sent by our participants.
Here’s wishing you a happy and productive fortnight ahead!Love, Team Let’s Grow
The story of castor dates back to at least 4000 BC, where it made an appearance in Egyptian tombs, with at least one of the heroines in the story being Cleopatra who is said to have used castor oil extensively in her beauty regimen. The castor theme is woven into ancient Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Ancient Greece and many other civilisations too I’m sure, because of the various and multifarious health and beauty benefits of castor oil. Here are a few of them:
- Castor oil is a great natural moisturiser; it is rich in ricinoleic acid, which acts as a humectant and prevents our skin from losing moisture and becoming dry and dehydrated. This results in healthy, supple and beautiful skin
-Castor oil is proven to accelerate the healing of wounds by promoting tissue growth and reducing dryness
-It is known to be a powerful natural laxative. This knowledge is being securely handed down through the generations in rural india - children there are often given a spoon of castor oil when required to speed things along :-)
-Castor oil ingested or applied reduces inflammation and pain, especially in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis
-It promotes hair growth when applied consistently, helps control dandruff and keeps the scalp moisturised
-Castor oil’s interaction with some bacteria is known to help reduce acne
-It helps control oral infections caused by Cadida albicans
-The castor meal left behind after oil extraction makes an excellent fertiliser too…
Fostered by occasional benevolent showers, the organic castor saplings in our farm are growing steadily into sturdy plants. There’s a small story here too - all the castor plants are the progeny of one single plant which grew wild in a scenic spot between the coconut trees. It had already fruited when I first noticed it, and there was this incredible beauty about the glossy brown beans, nearly all of which we re-planted … If all goes well, the saplings will soon be ready for harvest, after which we will be extracting the rich oil - oil which has the power to bring us all goodness of health naturally.
You are welcome to The Organic farm at any time to see the story of castor unfold…