Permaculture Workshop with Rico - part 2

The first thing you notice on reaching Ameli's place is the dogs on the roof. She got four dogs - Big B, Fiona, Luna and Neji, and they spend most of the day walking on the tiled roof. Ameli runs a consciousness expansion center called 'Beeja' which was home for us during the workshop. The workshop was structured to have indoor sessions in the first half, hands-on sessions in the afternoon and further discussions in the pre-Dinner session.

Shortly after we reached 'Beeja', Rico started the first session on 'the revolution disguised as gardening'. The topics for day one were Permaculture fundamentals and water. So we talked about flows, nodes, patterns, elements & relationships, water harvesting etc. Rico made each session lively with anecdotes, observations and his twisted sense of humor. We had our lunch at Ameli's neighbor Mala's house. She makes some amazing Coorgi dishes and we were treated to delicacies like tender pumpkin leaves curry and bamboo shoot pickles over the three days. Russel was the timekeeper of the group who ensured that we had lunch, breakfast and tea on time. So at regular intervals, all of us look towards Russel, waiting for his hand to go up, stopping Rico with his trademark smile, saying 'Enough for one session'. That afternoon we built a gray-water treatment system at Ameli's place, creating a small mulch pit and a plant guild around it. We ended day one with a documentary called 'The power of community', the story of how Cuba survived when US and other world countries tried to choke it with sanctions.

Day two started with some Yoga and meditation for those who were interested. I managed to get up by 6 and went for a long walk. Its such a pleasure to walk among the greenery early in the morning. The day's session started after breakfast and we talked about soil, composting, Vermiculture and foliar feeding. We went hunting for useful micro organisms after lunch. Rico showed us how to harvest these 'Effective Microbes' using some stale rice and bamboo, how to segregate the useful ones from the others, and how to cultivate and use them to enhance soil quality and increase productivity. It was interesting to stick our nose into fungi and mold to distinguish the stinky ones from the fragrant ones. It was full moon night and Ameli being the high priestess of some shamanic tradition, had arranged for a drum session and dance in the night. Drum circles are gatherings where people come with their instruments, sit together and play it loud, for the pleasure of playing and listening.

Ameli had a Djembe, a Dholak and a few other drums at her place. Soon all of us gathered on the rooftop. There was fire and all the dogs were also in attendance. Rita and Hanu (Hanuman) also came along. Hanu is an excellent beat boxer who had brought with him a plastic container to provide some effects to his sounds. We had a couple of Morsings also. The setting was perfect with a full moon in the sky, a chill in the air and a nice fire going. We started drumming and soon everybody fastened ghungroos to their feet and started dancing. Ameli and Pooja were doing some kind of classical dance while the others just let their bodies move to the music. It is an amazing feeling to be part of a drum circle.. the sheer energy of the event is mind blowing. In no time we had found our rhythm and were trying out various rhythms at different tempos. Ameli started singing 'Chandamama aa jaa..' in heavily accented Hindi, mixing it with some chants.

Once everyone retired to their rooms after the dance, Prithwi, Ameli, Pooja, Bala and myself decided to have a little more fun. So Hanu showed us how to do the Michael Jackson moonwalk. He dances so elegantly and we thought we all could master the moves quite easily. It was funny as we unsuccessfully tried to mimic every move showed by Hanu. Finally we settled for some less complicated moves and had a good group dance in the main hall. The lights in the hall were creating patterns on the floor and the walls and we decided to do a photo session as a tribute to MJ. So we clicked a few photographs in different MJ poses. We started with Michael and Janet and slowly moved on to Krishna and Radha. We were so upbeat that time and almost decided to climb the 1000 steps to Chamundi hills in the middle of the night. But somehow better sense prevailed and we dropped the plan and decided to catch some sleep.

The next day morning Bala woke me up by 5:30. We had plans to visit Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and Kaveri river in the morning. I checked with my roomie, Russel, who preferred a little more sleep after the late partying. So Prithwi, Bala, Pooja and myself started by 6.. we had to get back by 8:30 for breakfast. There was no boat service at Ranganthittu as Kaveri was flooded. We spotted a few cormorants, river terns, snake birds, herons and a lot of Black Ibises. The big guys - Open billed and Painted storks - were missing, and so were the spoon bills, the stone plovers and the pelicans. Without wasting much time we visited Kaveri and got back to 'Beeja' just in time for breakfast. Rico started his session on plants, talking about creating micro climates, building guilds & windbreaks. We tried our hands at making seedballs in the afternoon. By evening, Rico concluded the workshop with a commentary on the economic system, what he calls 'Rico's rant on money'.

As we traveled back to Bangalore, I was happy about three days well spent, in company of some amazing people. I hope I will be able to sustain the inspiration and excitement!

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