Permaculturing it up at Namo Buddha Resort, Nepal

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by JDouglas, Jan 15, 2011.

  1. JDouglas

    JDouglas Junior Member

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    Hello all!

    My name is James Douglas and I’m writing you from Nepal. I’m actually Canadian but I’m working in Nepal right now. I studied organic farming in Canada for one season then started traveling through Asia about one year ago. I spent some time on farms mostly in India before coming to Nepal.

    In Nepal I took a short course about permaculture and was invited afterwards to come and work at an organic farm/resort nearby. So now I’m at Namo Buddha Resort, https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&so....595935,85.559464&spn=0.279314,0.607681&z=11 .

    I arrived around November I’ll be here for the next few months. I started with the idea of a “permaculture redesign” but actually that is a bit too much me to handle, there is so much to think about! So I will narrow my scope and be doing some smaller project work here.

    The altitude is 1800m, decimal coordinates about 37.1,-95.6. It’s a very mountainous area in the foothills of the Himalaya. There is a lot of terraced space in the neighborhood where people grow mostly vegetables (onions, cauliflower, carrots, mustard leaf seem to be the main ones), mustard, buckwheat, mandarins, persimmons, potato and rice. The climate is continental I guess, with a large day/night fluctuation. In the day right now it is about a high of 21, low 3. There are only a few frost days per year. Rains come during the wet season almost exclusively. This past year the rains came almost exclusively in August. As is typical for a monsoon area, when the rains do come we get over a meter of rain in one short season. The soil is mostly clay, I don’t know what kind.

    The place I’m working at is a resort and the main goal is to provide food for people who come to visit or who live here. The resort has been in development for many years (land purchased about 20 years ago) but has never really been opened up officially. Next tourist season (October) it will be officially open. There is a team of about 5 people working on the garden. Vegetable gardens are inside the main complex, and there are some small fields used for corn, wheat, rice and other extensive crops. The total land area is 15 Ha, 37 acres. It’s extremely hilly. The resort has 12 houses for 30 guests and there are about 20 people living here as staff. The staff generally speak only small amounts of English and I don't speak any Nepali so I'm largely on my own. The owners of the place speak English and German.

    At the moment there the food produced only amounts to about half of what we eat, maybe even 1/3. In future this should ideally increase. There is quite a large area that we own which is not really being used and actually the soil seems a bit damaged. \

    A lot of the documentation of the site has been lost. There are no maps of the property, for example and no surveyor’s stakes to mark boundaries so the property boundaries are actually not very clear. There are no adequate maps of wiring, piping or anything else really. Records of food production and land history are essentially non-existent. So it’s a bit of a strange situation but that’s generally what things are like in Nepal :).

    I hope to post about what I get up to on the farm here and get into some discussions about it!

    Cheers!
     
  2. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Welcome :)
    Food produced by members here, ranges from .001% to 99.9%
    I am sure you will have lots to share
    What do you grow?
    What is your climate?
     
  3. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Michael did you read the post. He tells you about the climate and what they are growing or at least what is grown in the area. Or do you mean in terms of temperate or sub tropical?

    JD, in Ladakh and and on the road to Ladakh they grow the most wonderful apricots. Do you know if they are growing or would grow there Nepal? The altitude there is around 2500m. Maybe you could grow things like apples and pears. Also what about nuts like almonds? check out what they grow in Kashmir. Its in a similar region and altitude. Also HImachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand if you are looking for more ideas of what could grow there. If they haven't got orchards in perhaps you could encourage them. If you want to know, apart from wikipedia ask on the travel forum thorntree.lonelyplanet.com

    What are your ideas for the resort.
     
  4. JDouglas

    JDouglas Junior Member

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    Hello!

    According to Wikipedia I am in a temperate region in Nepal at 1600m. They say temperate but there are only a few days of frost per year. We are quite far inland so we have the relatively high temperature fluctuations associated with a continental climate.

    From Wikipedia,
    “Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200*metres (3,937 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,937 to 7,874 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,874 to 11,811 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,811 to 14,436 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400*metres (14,436 ft).

    Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. “
    Kathmandu, which is about 30 km away as the crow flies, recieves 1300mm rain per year, almost all within 4 months of the monsoon season. BBC has a nice summary,
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/city_guides/results.shtml?tt=TT002640.

    Here are some more details on what we grow:
    We have over 30 different vegetables, but priority ones are:
    Carrots
    Green salad
    Lettuce
    Arugula
    Fieldsalad
    Spinach
    Palang (nepali spinach)
    Beets
    Cucumber
    Pumpkin
    Tomatoes
    Broccoli
    Potatoes
    We have some new varieties to propagate
    Radish
    Kohlrabi
    Eggplant
    Zuccini
    Cabbage
    Red cabbage
    green cabbage
    Sweet peppers
    Green beans
    sugarpea
    Chilli
    Bok Choy
    Onion
    Garlic
    Leeks
    Asparagus
    Celery
    Fennel
    Yam

    Herbs:
    Coriander
    Basil
    Parsley
    Thyme
    Oregano
    Ginger
    Lemongrass

    That doesn’t mean that we grow a lot of these, but rather that in future we would like to. At the moment we are growing more mustard greens, as well as some things not really on the list like ginger, tumeric and coriander.

    We have a fair bit of avocado, with three mature trees. There are a lot of trees, maybe over 20 maturing. They have been grown from seed so who knows how good the fruit will be! I would like to plant some comfrey as a companion plant and perhaps it would be good to add more orchard trees to the area. People don’t seem to grow apricots here but I suppose they would grow well enough. When I lived in Uttarakhand for a little under a month there was an apricot tree outside my door that gave lots of fruit. When I lived in Almora we got some amazing apricots from nearby. Much more common here seems to be mandarin oranges but actually I’m inclined to not plant them because we can simply purchase them from the neighbors. Persimmons do well around here, and I like the Japanese variety better than the local variety. There are some pear and peach trees on the property that have something kind of wrong with them but do give some fruit. I don’t know what’s up with them. The leaves die early.

    I think having more nuts would be good (walnuts are commonly grown nearby). I would love to have a tree that gave all three almonds, apricots and, oh what’s the third one that you can graft, plums? Just for kicks :). Treeplanting is normally done in the beginning of the monsoon season so I can perhaps prepare but I expect I’ll be off to Australia by the time the monsoons approach.

    We have lots of small stuff tucked away in the corners like soapnut, guava, maturing pecans, even a little coffee. Lots of flowers for the bees and tourists. There are some lovely flowering trees here, including the Himalayan Cherry and the funny little short legged animal that likes to eat the fruit! We have a fair bit of fig trees but the figs aren’t really sweet for humans. There is a fig tiger that was apparently here a while ago eating them :). I can’t find anything online about fig tigers but supposedly it’s a cat like creature that likes to eat figs?

    I have about 4 pages of ideas so far, after having discussions for a few weeks. The whole process is a big discussion I guess and it’s critical that we come to a consensus on what is a good idea. There’s not so much point in me doing something they think is silly and then it gets ignored in future. I think that’s an important part of permaculture design when you’re working with people you have to find out what they want! Sepp Holzer was going to come here and do some work but he was too strong wanting to do everything his own way, so it didn’t really work out. It’s a balancing act!

    I would like to install a drip irrigation system because in the dry season water can be scarce, get some mushrooms growing, and do some soil sampling in the next little while. I started a Fukuoka style rice field, but haven’t done a lot of solid work other than that. Actually for a long time I was distracted by getting a bit roped into re-designing the webpage.
     
  5. JDouglas

    JDouglas Junior Member

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    These past three days we went into Kathmandu to visit the National Agricultural Research Center. It was quite an interesting insight into the odd system that exists in Nepal. For example, the government official in charge of mushrooms sells shiitake mycelium. From his own business. While sitting with you in the government office. But that's fine since he has a reasonable price and nobody else you can find sells shiitake mycelium. And the vegetable growing expert sends you down the road to the store that pays him kickbacks to buy drip irrigation. But it's hard to be pissed off at him because if he hadn't started the store that sells drip irrigation, nobody would have and it wouldn't be available. So it's kind of a functional corruption/conflict of interest/abuse of post authority.

    We submitted 6 soil samples to the laboratory for soluble N,P,K, organic content, pH, texture and we'll see if they can test for Ca, Mg, S, as well as Mo and B. I would have been interested to see a complete soil analysis as can be done by a good geology laboratory, rather than just soluble contents. But, I don't think Nepal is offering that just yet. It's a gamble if the national agricultural research office can even test for micronutrients.

    We picked up 4 Anna apple trees and one Vared tree to act as a pollinator. The office there was great, they offered to grow whatever fruit trees we wanted for us, basically for free. And they gave us some pomegranate trees.

    So, here's an interesting exercise we've come across. If anyone cares to make some answers it would be great!

    See if you can come up with what you would do:

    ORCHARD DESIGN

    See satellite photos:
    www.namobuddharesort.com/Forumstuff

    Situation:

    You have a N facing hill, with a terrace that sticks out like an arrow head about 30m down from the top. Country is Nepal, with a barely temperate climate, and monsoon rain delivery (heavy rain for 4 months, and no other substantial precipitation). Frost appears in the winter at night for a few months.
    You have four apple trees (Anna) on medium sized rootstock, one pollinator (Vared variety, also using medium rootstock) and five pomegranate seedlings. The apples are low-chill variety which should do ok in this warm place. The pomegranates are a japanese variety with red seeds.
    The soil is a heavy clay. Avocado trees are also sprinkled on the terrace, and are about 5 years old. They can be seen in the satellite photos. The lighter brown dots are places where avocado trees have been planted but haven’t necessarily been successful; it seems they have largely died of drought.
    Wind normally blows from the SE
    There is a 10 000 L plastic water tank buried in the top of the hill.
    There is no fence and they neighbors love to steal fruit.

    Missing information? What important stuff can you tell from the photos? How would you plant your new apple trees and pomegranates or what would you have done differently?

    Anyone want to respond? I can tell you what we decided to do in a few days!

    By the way, maybe we should move this thread to the Member's System forum? I was a little confused as to where it should go.
     
  6. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Consider it done!
     
  7. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    mmmmmmmmmmmm I love pomegranates. I call the juice the divine nectar or nectar of the gods. That is when it comes from the really red variety. I've got a pomegranate in my garden. Just make sure it gets full sun. They grow to be quite big shrubs so give it plenty of space. I'd say not less than 8 metres between trees. All fruit trees benefit from plenty of space (except according to the avocardo density planting experiment that mischief writes about but i don't think you guys should go there).


    Pomegranates may be ideal because they are very hardy and don't need a lot of water. On the other hand, all those avos that died probably died from lack of water as you said so the drip irrigation would be great for them. But they also like good drainage, i read so perhaps you can improve the soil where they are planted.

    Do you think the farm has enough water capacity. It would probably be more important to be helping them get another water tank happening than all the planting stuff cause they seem to have done a pretty good job of that already. In fact, they seem to have done a pretty good job on the whole anyway.

    If they need an extra water tank, look into building one in ferrocement. There are videos on the net showing how its done but they probably have some system already. i don't know its just a thought. Its just cheaper to build your own than buy one. I can show you a good video if you think its an idea worth following up.

    I don't see any poultry.

    Ask them what ideas they didn't like that the other guy was trying to suggest.

    How do they get the water into the tank if its at the top of the hill?
     
  8. JDouglas

    JDouglas Junior Member

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    Hello!

    I said that I would report back as to what we did, so here we go:

    Here is a map,
    https://www.namobuddharesort.com/Forumstuff/MotherHillOrchard3.png

    What do you think? It is a bit of a funny, haphazard pattern.

    We put the trees in spots to replace dead avocado trees although upon creating a decent map it is obvious that the avocados aren’t particularly carefully planted anyways. The pollinator is about 15 m from the trees, I wonder if this was a mistake (too far?). However, it is in a spot with more water which will increase it’s survival ability I suppose. The southernmost apple has a sandy soil underneath it, different from the clay of the other ones.

    I wonder how things will work out as the avocados get larger.

    To plant the trees, we dug holes 1m diameter, 1 meter deep (which is rather a large hole), mixed in some compost with the soil while replacing it, planted the tree firmly, trimmed to 60 cm tall, put a post to support the tree and tied the tree to the post. Then, mulched with about 4cm of Eupatorium adenophorum, chopped with a straw chopper. The Eupatorium isn’t a special thing for mulch, it’s just that we have a lot of it growing under the trees. It tends to take over the forest, and has the nickname “forest killer”. We’ll aim to water the trees every week.

    Because we trimmed the top of the trees, now I have some cuttings which I am trying to root in some moss, compost and hardwood rooting hormone. If it works we’ll have a few more trees I guess.


    Hey Sun Burn,

    The pomegranates we we will plant in the rainy season, when it starts. Thanks for the advice!

    That's right, we don't have any poultry. They do eat eggs here so I guess it could be good from that point of view. I'm vegan and am not convinced that eating eggs is actually useful considering the effort required.

    The water must be pumped into the tank with an electric pump, from quite far down the hill. It's about a 70m climb, and there are two pumping stations. Actually the tank is not hooked up right now, I'm not sure exactly what needs to be done to put it into service. Thanks for pointing out the ferrocement thing, I've never heard of that and it seems a promising way to make a concrete tank that doesn't leak.

    The water system on the farm is not properly figured out yet. There have been shortages in the past, for example the rice crop apparently failed this year because of a lack of water. In the past people have come onto the property to steal water as nearby springs ran dry. You can imagine the alarm that people feel when even their drinking water runs out. The owners of the farm here had to buy water brought in by tanker truck which is, of course, expensive.
    They want to try a grey water system as a first step rather than increasing tank capacity which seems like an OK idea to me. We use a lot of water for the washing machines, but we don't use any detergent in the machines so the effluent is fine to use in the garden. The water system is generally poorly documented so it's hard for me to tell where pipes go, how big tanks are, how much is used, pumped and leaked. There is no metering. We'll work on it :).

    It seems that Mr. Holzer wanted to heavily re-landscape with heavy equipment which would set the entire project back quite far in some spots. But actually I think a main point of contention was over method; he wanted to rent heavy equipment but the owners said that this is not really available in Nepal, and proposed instead a team of people with shovels. They couldn't see eye to eye on this.
     
  9. JDouglas

    JDouglas Junior Member

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    Mapping at a scale too small for satellite photos

    Hello all, I thought I would share some of what I'm up to here at Namo Buddha Resort.

    I'm making maps to help us with crop planning and records. It's been going fairly well so I thought I would share some. Here's an example,
    View attachment 1108

    What I've really had to work on is making maps for areas that are too small and detailed for Google satellite images. These images are useful at the large scale, but resolution is not good enough for smaller scales.

    The maps I'm making are made only with a measuring tape, compass, my computer and some free software. First, I determine polar coordinates of important parts of the area, then plot them in Grapher (I have a mac), import these plotted points into Inkscape and draw a skeleton around them. Then, I adjust the skeleton and add details. For calculating area I export into a bitmap and use The Gimp histogram to count the pixels in each place.

    I'm really interested to try balloon photography but I don't have the (quite simple even) equipment that I need for that, so I won't be experimenting with that anytime soon I think.
     

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