We will also not be able to host volunteers in upto February 2022
We are a couple trying to develop a food forest and regenerative farm near Papanasam, Tirunelveli. If you have read our blog posts / follow us on social media, you would know that we manage our farm fully hands-on and so, we are always in need of help at the farm. We want to share our experience, knowledge with people who are curious to know why we do, what we do. We have five employees who are working with us full time, taking care of the animals and routine stuff. So, we are looking for young energetic people who want to learn how to lead a simple healthy life at the lowest possible cost and impact to the environment.
This is not a fully established and functioning farm. So we continuously experiment with activities on a daily basis. Before getting in touch with us, we would recommend you to read our blogs to know what you are getting yourself into.
What to expect to do and learn
Activities that you would be involved in (but not limited to) are : harvesting, irrigating, compost making, preparing raised beds, planting trees, sowing vegetables seeds, propagating green manure, weeding, mulching, working with animals. If you come with some experience, we would love to collaborate in designing food forest, orchards, guilds, circles, windbreaks. Most of what you will learn will be from your own or our experience rather than from theory.
We almost always have our hands and feet dirty with soil or compost. Because we practice minimum tillage, we let grasses and weeds thrive. So, we are always accompanied by several species of birds, insects (including mosquitoes), amphibians (especially frogs), reptiles (monitor lizards, snakes and the like). Other than a brush cutter, there are no other petrol driven tools at the farm and we make maximum use of our arms and hands.
We are looking for people who can be as hands-on in the farm as us. It wouldn’t be mutually beneficial for us to host people who hold full time WFH or even part time jobs.
What are the seasons like
Monsoons are beautiful here, as you would expect from a farm bordering a wildlife reserve. Winter is the time for rains here. The top soil is clayey, so it can get quite slippery and tricky to walk around the farm between the months October to January. You wouldn’t be needing a sweater. But be sure to bring a raincoat and/or umbrella. The last half kilometre of approach road to the farm gets really slushy during monsoons and you might have to walk this distance. So, please travel light and plan your arrival during the day. While the locals are accustomed to walking around with just slippers, they are not the best footwear. Please bring something that has good grip and covers your feet as much as possible. This is the period with maximum farm activity : tree plantation, rice transplanting and weeding being the key activities.
Summers between February and May are quite the opposite with the ground cover turning dry and thorny. While walking around the farm is easier, expect a few cuts and bruises now and then. Please bring a cap or wrap a thin towel around your head while working in the farm during these months especially.
The South west monsoon usually brings only light drizzles between June and September. The temperatures are more unpredictable during this time of the year.
Accomodation + toilet arrangement and What not/to bring
We have built an earth house at the farm, which has two bedrooms, a hall and a kitchen. It also has a sitout and a terrace, both protected with coconut leaf thatch. Noushy and I are the only permanent occupants of the house for now. While Noushy and I occupy one bedroom, the other one is occupied mostly by our parents and family members.
We have space to host people on the first floor i.e. terrace. It is an amazing place to sleep, unless the thatch roof leaks during heavy rain days, which are very few and far between in a 1000 mm annual rainfall place like ours. We have enclosed a part of the terrace space with coconut leaf thatch for some privacy for 2 people or a couple to sleep. If you are pitching a tent or don’t mind sleeping under the open sky or the thatch roof, be our guest. It is best for those who are planning to volunteer with us, to visit us in pairs : the more, the merrier. We can host a maximum of 4 people at any given time. Please bring your own bedsheets, pillows, pillow covers, blankets, sleeping bags, towels, mosquito net etc.
We have detailed out our toilet arrangement in this blog. For practical reasons, we use the squat-style Indian-commode compost toilet to the fullest. The compost toilet is a short walk from the house. Only senior citizens use the flush toilets inside the house.
We cook as a community with firewood and biogas as much as possible. For efficiency’s sake, we try and cook only twice a day. We include fruits significantly in our diets. Our fruit trees are quite young and have not yet started to produce enough harvest for us. So, please feel free to bring local, seasonal fruits that you like. We have a couple of vegetable gardens, a few banana + papaya circles and are constantly upgrading them. We don’t cook eggs and meat in the farm. We have no domestic help and we wash our own dishes with ash, lemon peels and soil. We avoid deep fried and oily food because it is not suited to our lifestyles and also because they are tough to clean with the materials we have at the farm.
The solar plant suffices our energy requirements if 4 people stay in the house with two fans running through the night. Sleeping out in the open with nets is the best option in summers. We have hot water from a solar geyser if it gets sunny just 2 hours a day. Please bring a personal torch : mobile torch won’t suffice.
We don’t allow alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in the farm.
We use only biodegradable and compostable products such as citrus bioenzyme, soap nut solution, Shikakai powder, bath powder for washing floors, clothes, dishes and ourselves, as the greywater is diverted to banana and papaya circles. Please either bring your own biodegradable shampoo, toothpaste etc or you can ask us and we will be more than willing to share some. There is very little trash that we generate that we need to take out of the farm. We have noone to collect trash obviously either. So, we discourage sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, packaged food. Please investigate menstrual cups, cloth pads, cloth nappies. We understand that it might not be possible to avoid some of these things even with the best of intentions; if that is the case, please bring a bin-liner with you and be prepared to take your non-compostable waste with you back to the town/city and dispose it there appropriately.
We work for 5-6 days a week, 6-8 hours a day at the farm. The rest of the time is spent in eating, cooking, reading, listening to and playing music, debating, watching the night sky, birdwatching, listening to frogs croaking/crickets chirping, watching fireflies, playing board games, climbing hillocks around the farm, going to VKPuram to get daily needs, visiting touristy places close by and more. Please feel free to get whatever you can to add to the fun 🙂
First Aid and Safety
We have a basic first aid kit and use wildly grown herbs, native medicines, home remedies for cuts, fever, infections etc. The nearest Siddha and Allopathic doctors are about 10 minutes drive away; so, please bring your own medical supplies for emergencies.
We are socially distanced from civilization quite a bit by design – the nearest residence or shop is a kilometre away. We have reintroduced handwash soaps in our lifestyles after the Covid scare began. My parents, the labourers working at the farm, Noushadya and I are vaccinated. We don’t feel the need for masks any more given that we are privileged to be socially distanced.
While we would like to be self sufficient in all our needs as a family and eventually a community, we are not quite there yet. So, we are incurring the usual expenses any household incurs, albeit much lesser. And we are not yet generating enough income from farm produce to teach and host people pro-bono.
While you are welcome to stay as many days as we are mutually agreeable, if you are going to be staying for less than 20 days, we would request you to pay us Rs. 500 per day per person.
It takes time to learn and get accustomed to a new place before you can start contributing significantly to the farm. So, if you are staying with us for more than 20 days, you can stop contributing 21st day onwards.
We will not be available at the farm in January and February 2021.
Please look at this as more of an exchange more than anything else: an exchange of culture, knowledge and kindness. Let the tribe grow!
Please write to us on VivasayeesLife@gmail.com with a short introduction of yourself/yourselves and what inspired you to look for a volunteering opportunity at an organic farm. Let’s get a conversation started! 🙂
Noushadya and Sudhakar