A big part of the life at the Hill View Farm revolves around cleaning animal sheds, stalls and enclosures. With over 200 resident animals, most of them horses/ponies/donkeys or cattle/buffaloes/goats, there is A LOT of manure being produced on a daily basis. And all this manure has to be taken somewhere after it has been removed from the sheds and night enclosures.
Our solution for this is to produce vermicompost. Earth worms eat up the manure as well as any decomposing kitchen waste that we pile up on the compost heaps and from their other end they excrete what then is called vermicompost. Vermicompost is excellent for chemical-free soil improvement, and we have been selling it in truck loads for agricultural fields as well as in smaller bags for kitchen gardens and flower beds. Having so much of vermicompost available, has also meant that we have begun to develop a vegetable garden ourselves as well.
I was growing basil for sale among friends and to some local restaurants before the pandemic hit and I remembered thinking back then, many years ago, how one should be able to grow some food to eat if one has access to land. It almost felt somehow wrong for not use the land we have for some food production. But as with many significant life changes that people have experienced recently, it took the pandemic and lockdown and the time spent at home for us to start really developing our vegetable garden to something that would produce more than just basil and pesto to eat. Now we have several permanent vegetable beds and are learning and experimenting with no-dig gardening methods.
Perhaps the biggest advocate for no-dig gardening, the father of the movement, is Charles Dowding, who has written several books about the concept and continuously provides practical courses on his garden sites as well as through social media platforms and his YouTube channel. The main idea behind no-dig gardening is that the soil is disturbed as little as possible, it is not tilled but every year a thick layer of mulch is applied on the garden beds to improve and maintain the soil quality. This method works really well for us because on the farm we have access to not just the vermicompost but also loads of old straw bedding from the stables that works very well as mulch.
So far the most interesting experiment with this method for us has been growing potatoes in heaps of mulch. We literally just placed the seed potatoes on the ground and then covered with a thick layer of mixture of dry leaves, goat manure and straw from the horse stables.
There are lot of amazing gardening blogs and social media channels out there and this blog is not intending to become such – not with my rather relaxed and laid-back style in gardening. However, discovering the joy of producing food from your land and learning new skills to use and preserve the harvest, however little that may be, is a big part of our rural life on the farm.
This is our vegetable garden at the back of our house – it is protected by so-called elephant fencing, which is essential when living so close to the wildlife reserve, just at the border of the elephant corridor.
Stay tuned for a separate post about elephant-fencing as a way to reduce man-elephant conflict in critical areas.
Hill View Farm Vermicompost is available for kitchen gardens and small flower beds as 5kg bags for Rs 100 /bag, or Rs 400/5 bags. Please visit the WVS India ITC office in Aruvankadu, Kanigarajnagar, to get your supply of vermicompost.
For larger orders, packed in 20-40kg bags, please contact Nigel (tel: 944 36 99 376). Price depends on whether you arrange to pick up the compost yourself from the Hill View Farm, or whether we will arrange delivery/transport.