The gentle bikie Ringo, aka Paul Kean


Exactly a month to the day, since my mini excavator arrived, Ringo rode in on his beefy Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike. Given that he looks like a jazz musician, you would have thought the long yellow box he was carrying housed a trombone; but no, it contained laser surveying levels. Bike’s panniers were stuffed with a backpack, cameras, projector, working boots and a large machete. “To clear the thickets,” he said.

I soon discovered Ringo packed between his ears and in his heart, a great passion for earthworks, rain water harvesting and permaculture. He had been a bikie in Australia -he has tattoos all over to prove that- and says permaculture changed him overnight. Now, what other magic permaculture has wrought, I would like to know. He turned Buddhist as well.

Paul Kean’s nickname Ringo, is appropriate. I counted four rings on his face including one on his nose. “I had more when I was a bikie,” he informed. As a permaculturist he has worked in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia. Somehow, India had beckoned him and he thought he could travel the country on his bike and work as a permaculture consultant

Our initial contact had been by email. Within an hour of his arrival on Aug 30, 2009, I was to marvel at the coincidences on offer. I had bought the excavator and for a month had been gamely digging swales, the while teaching myself to operate the machine. I had already dug a 200′ long swale. And Ringo, it turned out had been an industrial grade earthmover operator for 25 years!ringo2.jpg

I had painstakingly picked out the contour line for my first swale using an A-Frame. It’s accurate but a lot of work. I had grimly resolved I’d discover the contours in the remaining 12 acres over time as I went. I had contacted a topo surveying company, to getthe job done quickly, but they were both expensive and more specialised in real estate developer work. Here was Ringo with his laser levels, telling me he can do the whole mapping in two days.

pointReturn was being directed me, a permaculture novice, albeit an enthusiastic one. Ringo breathes it and has worked his hands in the soil for several years. He was brimming with ideas and suggestion for me, thirteen to the dozen.

Were I man of religion I might have attributed it all to divine guidance; not being one, I am driven to wonder how I might explain all this! Anyway, Ringo got busy within hours of our first meeting and began surveying the land. The sun was harsh and the A-Team assisting him was worn weary but Ringo stomped on. Alignments of five more swales were picked and marked.

After a break of two weeks, Ringo was back. He began digging the first of the five swales. It was an object lesson in hard work, mastery of the machine and feel for the landscape. I am still proud of the first swale I had dug on my own. After all, I am a self-taught man with an experience of just a month. But no shame at all in admitting Ringo’s is skill of another order altogether. See the picture below of the swale he dug.

Ringo is meant for a large scale project than the 18 acres that pointReturn is. Whoever hires him will be rewarded handsomely. But I hope they hire him after he is done with pointReturn.

You can mail Ringo at this address: His website is alas not updated often but here’s the nice story of how he decided to come to India. While at his site do also check out the interesting permaculture links and videos he has listed in the sidebar


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