Thursday, March 10, 2016

The fence

For good or bad previous owner of our farm had not done anything in the farm. Minimum thing a farmer does is protecting his property with a fence. But this person was ultimate - he did not install a fence too. It had become open grazing ground for all the cattle in the village. Forested area of the farm (see The farm) is completely chemical free because nothing (except native forest) was grown in that area. Minimal amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides were used in the paddy fields (see The farm) though.

Cattle grazing in our farm
First thing we wanted to do after taking possession of the land was fencing. Barbed wire fence supported on stone posts is a common type of fencing in this place. Back of the envelope calculation showed we need approximately 2 lakh (2,00,000.00) rupees for the fence. Spending so much for not environmental friendly thing (stone mining and barbed wire making both are environmentally damaging) did not make lot of sense.

Then we started search for environment friendly option. It came in the form of several dead bamboo colonies in our farm. Bamboo flowers once in several decades - it is specific to the bamboo species. See Bamboo Flowering Habits for more information. Bamboo species here is believed to flower once in 30 or 40 years. Whole bamboo colony dies after the bamboo flowers. In last 2-3 years most of the native bamboo species here have flowered, produced seeds and died. This left us with around 10 dead bamboo colonies with loads of bamboo. We decided to cut the bamboo and use that for fencing.

Dead bamboo colony
Note: People in this area believe bamboo flowering brings natural calamities like drought. In a way it turned out to be true because this year we had major rain short fall. Hopefully that situation will resolve in coming monsoon.

Bamboo colonies are structurally very strong. All the bamboos get meshed into each other through the branches which gives them immense strength to withstand wind force and water currents. Therefore they are very good wind breaks and erosion protection devices. However, that strength makes it very difficult to cut and separate them. Already difficult work is further made difficult because of thorns on the bamboos. Those thorns are almost 1 inch long and very strong. They easily penetrate footwear and prick the foot if one steps on those thorns.

We found Mr. Bangarappa and Iranna to help us with the fence. Bangarappa though young is very knowledgeable about agriculture activities. He smartly optimizes his work so that he gets more work done with least effort. Iranna is aged, has lot of experience. Their team was very good for our work. They have helped us with most of the farm work so far.

Bangarappa (left) and Iranna (right)
These two brave hearts climbed the bamboo colony without any safety equipment, untangled the bamboos, and cut them. They had to spend almost a week on top of the very thorny bamboo colony to get enough bamboo for the fence work.

After couple of weeks we had beautiful and environment friendly fence :-)

Beautiful environment friendly fence
Best fence is live fence - a fence made up of live plants. It is best because:

  • It costs only a small fraction of artificial fences. You trade off time to reduce the cost when you install live fence.
  • It keeps growing, and repairs itself as long as some care is taken to maintain favorable conditions for growth. This means fence may need some watering under severe drought conditions.
  • It can be very useful if we grow useful plants as live fence. For example a live fence can provide fodder for animals, medicines, fire wood, help honey bees to produce more honey, can act as a beautiful wall around the property, etc.

Kinds of plants that can be grown as live fence are:
  • Grow thorny plants like Caesalpinia bonducella (Gajjaga in Kannada). Thorns keep the animals away. However thorny plants don't differentiate between us and animals; they prick everyone. It becomes very difficult to work near the fence once we install thorny fence. Also, it becomes difficult for people walking on the road next to the fence. Therefore we did not consider thorny plants.
  • Grow useful plants like Gliricidia, Subabul etc. They make good fence when grown sufficiently close and the gap between them is blocked using bamboo or some other strong material. I have plans to use thickly growing creeper/climber like Madhu Malati to block the gaps between closely grown trees along the fence. Madhu Malati grows vigorously and thickly. When in full bloom it looks beautiful. Any way we need the fence, why not make it a beautiful too?
Live fence is a long term game. It takes several years for a strong live fence to come up. In last monsoon I sowed Gliricidia seeds along the fence hoping to jump start live fence. Unfortunately the company that sold seeds gave us dead seeds. Not even one seed germinated. This year planning to buy Gliricidia seeds from some other source and try our luck!

1 comment:

  1. Ravi: What you have been doing is truly inspirational! Once again, I see your usual qualities, but altogether in different walks of life [unimaginable even in wild dreams]. Transitioning from city to village, software to agriculture, supper busy to simple life! It’s easier said than done. I know, you don’t agree with me and would say it’s not a big deal. I like your lucid writing filled with interesting facts and practical tips. I was so impressed with you blogposts that I read all blog posts in one go and also at the end of reading, I made-up my mind to visit your place [paradise on earth] within next one year! For now, I look forward to reading you future blogposts.