We wrapped up our second class late last week, which gave way to fall break…or mid-semester break, since it’s not fall-like here. The fifteen of us split up into three smaller groups: one group went south to Kerala, another group went north to Dharmasala, and the group I was in went to an organic farm for a farm-filled break.
The five of us took a cab to the farm, which was only a two-hour drive from Bangalore near a village called Doddaballapura. The paved road we were on turned into dirt and the dirt quickly turned to mud as heavy rains fell the previous night. The driver stopped the car and got out to assess the situation. He said that he couldn’t drive through it, so he pulled the car into a field and escorted us by foot the rest of the way. The thick mud squished beneath our feet and we had one person fall. Luckily, it wasn’t a far walk.
Upon arriving at the farm we met the farmer, Narayana Reddy, who began to talk about his farm and his life after we were served tea. Courtney interrupted him mid-sentence saying, “I think your cow is giving birth.” He kept talking, so she repeated herself. Eventually, he went outside to see what was going on and sure enough. So within the first hour on the farm we saw the miracle of birth. The farmer talked for the rest of the afternoon and gave us words of wisdom such as, “If you want to be happy for a couple hours, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a couple years, get married. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, become a farmer.” We had some free time before supper. It had begun to storm and I’m fairly certain that lightening struck the property—it thundered so loud that I was immediately given a headache. The power went out, so we all sat in the dark and unfamiliar place and questioned what we were doing here. We walked over to the house around 7:00p and sat in the dark while the farmer talked some more. We ate dinner around 8:00p—rice and a curry made from weeds. We walked back and got ready for bed. I didn’t get much sleep. It was a very strange day.
|Momma and baby cow|
We went over to the house at 7:00a for coffee. The farmer handed us some small tools and we walked over to a piece of land owned by someone else and began to weed it. I had to be crouched down and hunched over to get the weeding done, but every time I stood up I became dizzy and lightheaded. I kept going. We had breakfast in the field around 10:30a and I was feeling a lot better after food and water. But then it got hotter and I started feeling faint, so I went back to the hostel to recoup. I stayed in the hostel by myself for a couple hours while the others finished up. At this point I just wanted to go back to Visthar. Fortunately, we had a relaxing afternoon and evening. Lunch at 2:00p. Break. Tea at 4:00p. Talk until supper at 8:00p. Sleep.
Day three was the same routine as the day before. I felt a lot better—drank more water, took more breaks. I got some impressive blisters on my hands as well. The farmer left us in the field to finish weeding since he was going to be training a group of 20-some farmers. The farmers stopped at the field first and asked us where we were from and what we were doing on a farm in India. We talked for awhile and then there were some group pictures. We finished weeding around noon. Same routine—break, lunch, break, tea, talk, supper, bed.
The next two days were spent harvesting chili peppers. The land was about 4 km away—a small tractor pulled all of us in a wagon. There were so many chili pepper plants, but more astonishing was the number of peppers on each plant. There were big chilies, small chilies, green chilies, and red chilies. I did a little taste-testing—my mouth was pleasantly fiery. We picked chilies until all the bags were full. We loaded up the wagon and squeezed in for the ride back. The chilies were dumped on the floor and sorted according to color and size. We had free afternoons and evenings, which we filled with reading, writing, thinking, and group bonding.
|Taking the tractor through the mud|
|All the chili peppers|
|A full bag of reds|
|Sorting the peppers|
The next morning we woke up at 6:00a to the farmer banging on the door telling us that if we got up in the next ten minutes we could milk a cow. We got up and went out to the cow. We were each allowed to milk two squirts. When that was over we went back to the room to wait for coffee. After coffee, we lifted huge bags of chilies onto the roof to dry. There were two people on the ground, two people on a platform, and two people on the roof—we passed the bags up—no machines needed. We had a lot of down time, which I was very much OK with.
|Courtney milking the cow|
Our last day on the farm was spent picking marigolds. This was by far my favorite task. When you pick a marigold it sounds like popping bubble wrap—so satisfying. We packed up, had lunch, and left only 40 minutes later than anticipated. However, we made incredible time. My head was spinning as we got out of the car at Visthar.
|All the marigolds|
The farm was…an experience. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. I’m starting to be OK with it just being OK. I’m very happy to be back at Visthar. We leave for Zahirabad and Hyderabad on Monday night for course on Environment and Ecology.
Thanks for reading!