Status report: June, 2009

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.

7 thoughts on “Status report: June, 2009

  1. Hello Mr. DV,

    I’m following the posts here as well as on twitter closely…One problem with the twitter though – We miss the thinking process / the emotional highs / lows and photos which you were describing in the posts on website posts….those were more important…because that is what matters in such projects. Twitter gives just the plain updates. Hence, request you to start giving updates and yes – photos etc on the website articles.

    – Kedar

  2. shobhan…
    you make a good point. active RWH and recharge is the next major exercise at pointReturn. the problem is, the pond’s floor is impervious clay, in the summer when water is most needed, the windmill has poor supply and the hardpan soil all over the site facilitates rapid runoff.
    the solution is to trap rain water where it falls and guide it underground.

  3. DV,

    I have read all the articles. I am a regular visitor to your site. I wish your pR to be a success.

    I have a question though. When you had rain last year, there was excess run-off from your site. Also any excess pumped by the windmill goes into the network of pipes you have installed. Why not make all these excess water be led into the borewell itself? It will stay there as is and you can use when you want it? you can install a filter ( RWH type) which will clean the water and then let into the borewell.
    Let me know what to do you think about it.

  4. We totally understand your pain. Some 8000 of our tree saplings went without watering because the motor failed and the repair service men made mistakes on top of it. But most of these saplings survived with two feeble showers in between.

    I read somewhere that plants decide very early whether they can survive or not. They do not waste time and energy growing up into sick adults.

    Incidentally, we read a couple of pieces recently that lifted our spirit.

    Kareem’s forest

    The Man Who Sowed Gandhi and Reaped Happiness – from GNI!

    Our village near Coimbatore received a fair amount of rain today. Hope the clouds go where you are too.

    Ragu and Nisha@greenlocal

  5. Wow. This was a very interesting article DV. Thank you for such an honest and lucid piece.

    I am wishing the wind brings you rain soon :)

  6. Dear DV,

    Good to see an update on the happenings at PR.

    The whole project is indeed a mighty challenge,and one can clearly visualize the amount of endurance, and resourcefulness that’s needed to pursue and progress.

    Results apart, I am sure you are having a great experience in all of this. and is certainly inspiring to follow whats going on.

    As for a shower, I am sure a whole lot of us are already praying for it :) its probably just a week away.


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