The farm in Hoskote part 2

The farm in Hoskote part 2
Once the fence was fixed and the gate in place,around the two acres, we suddenly found a surge of new found confidence looking at the farm taking shape and we started planting an orchard. But before that we built a check dam with our own hands, buying a lorry load of stones and cementing and building it across the nallah area. The boys and us and that cemented a bond with the land and us.

So, when the rain came down, it brought the soil towards our land and was stopped from flowing off by the check dam. Plus the water stood behind the dam and percolated down into the sub strata, bringing the water table up. Slowly the land began to right itself and began to show signs of recovery.

We also employed a team of six men for a week, to uproot the eucalyptus trees which had been planted in the land and which were toxic as they siphoned out all the ground water around. We had to pay them and they removed the roots, Huge balls of them, which were sold off as timber locally.

Do not plant any old tree advised my father. Only grafts, only the best from the Lalbagh nursery. You take years to nurture a plant and so just buy only the best quality and the best graft he advised firmly.Dad always knew what he stated and we never went against him.

So off we went with him to buy our first round of Mango trees from Lalbagh. All those many years ago they cost Rs 100 a graft, but we wanted only the top quality Karnataka mango and so we bought only Badami which are known as the Alphonso of Karnataka. Don’t let them fruit too early or it will weaken the plant said Dad, so when we saw flowers arrive barely in a year, we pinched them all off, the 2 feet tall trees.

A dozen of them were planted in 4 feet deep pits, filled with compost which we carted all the way from Hayes Road, where we had a massive compost pit. The compost was mixed with cow dung which we bought from the village and the trees were watered, with the new bore well we had sunk at barely 300 feet.

A local water expert helped us dig our first borewell. He just carried a forked stick in his hand and it was amazing to see it begin to quiver, when he reached a water source deep in the soil.The borewell machine was brought and they began to drill down towards the water. Ours was one of the first borewells dug and so we hit water at barely 300 feet.

Once the mango trees began to grow we went crazy buying trees every weekend and populating the farm. Silver Oak were put down along the periphery which are now over 40 feet tall. They never grew up overnight, it took time and patience and slowly the whole area began to look like what we wanted.

Feathery amla trees, Jamun trees, Avocados and Guava, Ramphal and Dads most favourite, a tree that he had kept in an old rotten steel bucket -- a Rose apple which probably rooted itself there from a fruit thrown down by a bat, from the next house, which had a huge Rose apple tree.
We put it down in the farm with much fanfare and it has grown massive and fruits impressively. Sadly we get none as the man who takes care of the land has two growing boys. We just see the stunning white, powder puff flowers.

Over the years I have put down over 25 chickoo trees -- both the cricket ball variety and the oval. I find the oval ones very sweet and delicious when small and the cricket ball have to grow to a particular size, before we can really enjoy them. The trees give us a rash of fruit, but it has taken us years to teach Narsimappa to only pick the large ones and wait till they grow.

In my excitement I bought pomegranate from little nurseries outside Lalbagh and sadly those were not as Dad had intoned -- grafts. Only later I got two from Lalbagh and those are the ONLY ones, that give the deep scarlet fruit with their insides like rubies, which pour out when peeled.NEVER buy anything but a graft is emblazoned across my brain!

I got a couple of Salem Tamarind and after 5 years they fruit heavily and we did not even know. One visit we saw a little hill of ripe tamarind being de-seeded by Narsimappa’s mother and MIL sitting outside their house. Kgs and kgs of lovely salem tamarind. So now I get a kg whenever he picks the fruit and share with friends especially those who make fish curry.

Later we did put down a few coconut, but they dont seem to be doing too well. But what does really well in Hoskote’s heat are the bougainvillea. Huge and pouring over the chapdis, they are the first to welcome us as the car draws up, in an out pouring of jewel colours. Magenta and orange, hot pink and purple, a Mary Palmer and a pure white Snow Princess, which was a gift from Dad. The farm is our little Shangrila and we pray that the greedy hands trying to snatch it from us are thwarted in their endeavour and greed.

Dad’s there -- we feel his spirit -- maybe it’s just imagination, but we hope he helps us to win it back and keep on enjoying it.

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