We then made some charcoal in a drum. Few may have escaped hearing about the virtues of charcoal in accelerating soil fertility. The buzz word ‘biochar’ is everywhere. Forgive the hype and do explore it. [This is a great place to start: a wonderful BBC Horizon documentary. Don’t miss it. It will be the best 40 minutes you will have spent in a long time]. A simple way of converting woody trash into charcoal is described here. An adapted version was tried out that day. We produced a good small lot.
It was then time to cook for 25 on the new modified rocket stove. It went like a dream. The use of the stove itself was a learning experience for the volunteers. My own agenda in this direction runs further than using the stove at pointReturn. If more people can be drawn to buying them as a backup source of cooking, there could be a lot of orders for potter Ramalingham who developed it based on my suggestions. Also it will make people think beyond gas for cooking.
That’s the state of volunteer participation so far. This event was organised for a Sunday, which is not always possible. It also took plenty of Ananth’s time organising. Will such days result in meaningful progress at pointReturn starved of physical labour? I doubt it. What might? Volunteers staying for longish periods would make a difference. If there were a floating population of between 4 and 6 people a lot can happen quickly.
The new pavilion
And thus it came about that I decided to rebuild the main shed into a facility that can host volunteers in some comfort and sense of private space. After much research I worked out a design with a builder Ravi, from Auroville. The pavilion as I call it, will have two floors -ground and first and two lofts. It can sleep over 30 dormitory style or a family and 6 singles with reasonable privacy. There was to be a verandah that will be used in a cafe mode. The ground level open to all sides will house the workshops, a small library and a place to browse the Internet. About 2,000 sft in all.
Construction was based on technology familiar and popular in Auroville. A later story at this site will detail the project, but here let me confine myself to stating that the project expected to be done in 15 days, stretched to 12 weeks! The General Elections were announced in the country all explosives supply to quarries were stopped. 10′ high granite posts, the essential feature of the pavilion became scarce – and we waited. My daily ‘work’ consisted of calling everyone I knew, following any lead that was suggested to get the 30 posts that we needed. Well, that too passes for work.