Then began a series of meetings with gangs to dig the holes. Turns out the land has hotted up and hardened. It was not easy to dig holes with a crowbar and shovel. Reluctantly, I settled for a back-hoe. These are popularly known as JCB after the brand J C Bamford, which dominates the market. JCBs cost Rs 600 an hour to hire but are scarce to find, because of -you guessed it- the real estate boom! We waited a week for one to arrive.
The JCB does an ugly, imprecise job of it but it’s fast. Digging 300 holes took about 3 hours. The posts were then transported in batches of fifty from Babu’s home yard about 3/4 km away. After several days of no-show, a team of four young men arrived to set the posts into holes.
How I wish I could have let the whole thing to a professional contractor! As it was, Babu was hard put to gather men and materials. I had to physically lay out the border lines and the hole locations on them. And when the posts were being set into the holes, I had to be around to check the alignment. We would first plant every tenth post and align them to be in line and then place the in-betweeners. One run was 820 feet and another, 430′, over undulating terrain. It was quite a job to align them. I was commuting to the site from my Muttukkadu home- after a few days, the 65 year old body was grumbling. Lunches were in ever-hospitable Babu’s house.
In between, I made a run to Aureka’s workshops in Auroville, to pursue the windmill on order. Before it arrives, its foundation has to be ready. This had two parts. First, 3 RCC pillars of about 3.5′ long had to be cast. Integrated in each are to be 4 foundation bolts precisely located. These precasts are then set into deep holes, where they are to be integrated with in-situ concrete footings. Now this is a challenge to achieve in a remote site. A rough and ready RCC-wise team can be found but not anything that can do a precise job that calls for welding and machining.
I then tapped my old machinist friend Venu. In the early 1990s I spent four years, trying -unsuccessfully- to develop a Stirling engine of my own design. It was passion then as much as pointReturn is now. But today there is the Internet and I have some money. In the 1990s there was neither. At my farm in Muttukkadu, I sold some land to set up a machine shop and a PC running CAD. Venu was a young man of 26 who lived about 6 kM down the road that has since become the swank the ECR. He would bicycle over everyday and we would build our prototype. When I wound up the project in 1996, Venu went on to set up a machine shop on his own. He has become a skilled die maker and a special purpose machine builder. We have kept in touch.