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Ankura, an idea that started as a bud in 1998 on a barren 1 acre ancestral land near Hoskote (Old Madras Road), has blossomed into a self sustaining "Green Field" today. We wanted to grow lot of trees on this piece of land so that it would attract varied birdlife. But somewhere along the line, without us consciously realizing, our interest and love for the trees also grew with them. With more than 500 trees covering 70+ species, it is looks like a mini forest. This place has not been tilled, de-weeded, added manure or watered for last 5-6 years....letting nature take its course. It has been an uphill journey, from restoring this land that was unused for decades, devoid of any topsoil  to make it support the varied flora that we wanted to grow here. We attribute the success in the endeavor to expert advise by our uncle Late Dr. V.S.Sheshadri and  immense efforts of its caretaker, Anjanappa.

  

Our interest in bird-watching was the igniting factor. Plant trees ...birds will follow was our understanding. Our ignorance about agriculture, probably was a great help. We thought that most of the lands before cultivation will be barren and only by hard work..... plants grow. Hard work certainly paid off, probably our ignorance helped us more, since we didn't follow any of the "conventional also read commercial" methods.

We started by tilling the land and leveling the ground as any farmer would. On hindsight, leveling may not have been necessary. Tilling certainly helped, as it loosened up the concrete like cover. Then we went about the task of planting the plot with tree saplings, few at a time. Several of them were from forest nurseries around the Hoskote area. Dr. Sheshadri advised us to plant the boundary with 2 rows of fast growing trees mainly Silver Oak, Teak and Rosewood and have mix of every fruit tree that we want in the middle.  We just went about planting trees that sounded new ... 1 or 2 of each species thinking that diversity will be nice. Since we were not too familiar with the identification of trees, the first few years was also a period of learning for us. It was good fun though!- at times, when we knew the botanical name (binomial nomenclature) but didn’t know the local name to convey at nurseries. Sometimes we had seen a plant that we wanted and didn't know the name ... but had to describe the leaves, flowers etc to get the sapling. We are indebted to many people in different forest nurseries for educating and helping us during these times. Then we started referring to books such as ‘Book of Indian trees’ and ‘Some beautiful Indian trees’ which made these tasks easier. It was in these books that we discovered that a tree ‘Red Sanders’ is on the endangered list.  Imagine our surprise when we found the saplings in one of the forest research nurseries. We pleaded with department to spare 2 saplings for us and were delighted when we could have this plant in our farm. Unfortunately, the saplings being very small didn't survive. We are glad to say that we have 5 of them growing pretty well at "Vanashree'. Today we have more than 500 trees cutting across 70+ species at Ankura. Detailed list of trees is available here.

Dr. Sheshadri advised us to grow 'Methi' as our first crop and follow up with 'Tur dal' to enable nitrogen fixing. Our ignorance helped us again.. as we didn't remove the tur plants immediately after harvesting the pods. The leaves of 'Tur"  littered our land and without our knowledge we had added organic matter into the soil. 'Tur' plants also prevented any erosion during the following monsoon. After the 1st year it was clearly visible that the land was changing dramatically. We followed up with few tractorful of silt from nearby lakebed and distributed evenly.   Since the saplings planted  were small, we had plenty of space to grow vegetables. We grew several crops in the land between the saplings for the first few years including beetroot,  potato, radish, knol knol & Tur.  Another thing we have learnt over the years is "Patience". Trees don't grow overnight and these methods don't yield results immediately ................ but persistence seems to pay!

The concept of organic farming was introduced to us by Dr. Sheshadri. Knowing our love for birdlife, he advised against use of any pesticides  and asked us to control thru' natural methods. Once, he remarked " Don't think of them as pests ..... its actually debt we are repaying to nature for using their land". He advised us not clean up the fallen leaves to make the farm look clean. Marigold was introduced to us as "more than a flower", it was one of the best way to control pests when we were growing Tur, Beans, Chick pea etc. Marigold acts a preferred host for pests and minimizes main crop loss. Over last 3 years we have not removed any weeds also...

Anjanappa and I admiring landscape

Ankura was also the place which brought meaning to "Dignity of Labour". Anjanappa and I had decided to do everything ourselves from digging pits, planting, watering and harvesting mainly due to scarcity of labour. It was a new experience as realization came that farmers literally toil with their sweat and blood. There were numerous occasions when a city bred person like me, had to battle bruises and cuts when digging pits. Just the task of planting was arduous initially, to bend for long hours during planting, sowing or harvesting was daunting. Seeing Anjanappa at twice my age doing 3-4 times my work was equally humbling. But we continued ..... and proud to say that  Anjanappa and I planted every single tree and probably have a story to tell for each and every tree.

Over the years the bonding with the trees grew stronger as they grew......resulting in increasing desire to have lot more trees and explore the possibility of self sustained living. The outcome of this desire was "Vanashree".