By Yogiraj |
Yogiraj and the Sat Yoga Premaculture team are heading up a new soil making project as part of the preservation and sustainability initiative at the ashram.
What is at the heart of sustainable community?
Since September 2018, the Premaculture team has been busily planning and building a dedicated space on the outskirts of the property as an initiative to collect and compost all of the organic material generated from day-to-day operations and to transform this “waste” into rich organic soil for all of our food production and gardening needs.
Our goal, in terms of food security, self-sufficiency—and just for the love of efficient systems—is to move away from purchasing soil, topsoil and soil additives from commercial sources, and to instead learn to implement the art and science of composting. This effort will enable us to produce all we need from within the land of Arunachala (as our sacred, mountaintop ashram location is called), and return this revitalized resource as compost back to Hridya (“the heart” in Sanskrit), the production site for a majority of the community's food growing efforts, and therefore the heart of Arunachala.
"The word ‘humility’ comes from humble. This is a Sanskrit word: 'hum', the word we get for the Earth; humus, soil. The 'bal' means power—the power of the earth, the foundation of the earth as the metaphor out of which all grows; the source of life. When we return to the Source of life, there is such power there and such beauty and such overwhelming love, one cannot be hurt or affected by anything unreal that does not come from that same Source. That’s what must be cultivated." ~ Shunyamurti
The Divinely Dirty Work of Composting
At the end of December 2018, we finished building the first windrows and began our active composting facility at what is now an out-of-service quarry (see photo below). This marks the transition from a culture of consumption to the humbling practice of processing and transforming all that lives under our care through the process of composting. We intend to create, for ourselves, the nourishing conditions needed for all life to thrive. As the stewards of this land, we are simultaneously cultivating our inner and outer horizons. In order to realize our goals in the phenomenal plane, this seemingly dirty work of composting becomes more profound when we recognise that we are also courageously confronting all that remains unprocessed in the collective unconscious of our dying and polluted planet.
“Only a stable community located in optimal natural surroundings, and organized around the Supreme Principle, can prevail once the grid of civilization has gone down. We must build such communities of love, trust, and faith now. There is no time to waste." ~ Shunyamurti
Sat Yoga Premaculture Soil-Making Strategy
In an effort to learn more about other such initiatives, the Premaculture team took a field trip to two local farms to explore some examples of how this work is being done in our region. We visited with Don Victor from Los Gansos to investigate the Biodynamic approach to land management, and Bolivar Ureña Rojas, the President of the Association of Organic Producers of Brunca (Asorgánicos) and his farming project Probioti Biological Products of the Earth to know more about basic organic land management practices.
Combining our own experiences, ongoing research, and the insight of organic farmers from around the world, we have arrived at a working strategy for the year ahead:
Active composting – bacterial based
Passive composting – fungi based
Mountain micro-organisms cultivated from the forest
Bio pesticides made with plants on the property – using plants to treat plants
Use of excess fruit like guava and bananas for organic fertilizers
Large scale production of biochar with wood cleared from roadways and around homes
Intentional planting of nitrogen fixing plants
Increased use of mulching methods ranging from chop and drop to sheet mulching
Improved grass cutting practices to encourage healthier root growth and soil health
Use of livestock to reduce use of fossil fuels for grass cutting
Some exciting experiments in the coming year include no till farming and a biodynamic preparations test bed.
Soil-Making Meets Meditation
The question of how to build soil is probably best left to the forest that surrounds us. One can easily observe a self-sustaining and thriving ecosystem that is capable of perpetual growth and nourishment for all forms of life when left undisturbed. This is not dissimilar to when the thinking mind subsides sufficiently to reveal the supernatural, undisturbed, pristine field of intelligence from which all creative solutions can emerge.
Our visit with Bolivar, the creator of Probioti, provided an example of some very hands-off solutions that can be used to deliver excellent results for the restoration of disturbed land on a large scale. Bolivar allowed his farm to regrow over a 10-year period, cutting the grass only three times and tilling just once. After the final cutting, he was able to transform a burned out and overworked sugar cane farm with concrete-like clay and dirt into a beautifully nourished and life-filled topsoil of at least a foot in depth. These are impressive results for doing as little as possible and simply abstaining from agrochemical forms of land mismanagement. There is a distinct similarity here to the practice of meditation—you have to stop doing and just be in order to heal, and more importantly, in order to transcend all the forms of self-mismanagement we are conditioned to endure.
Read Shunyamurti's essay - Meditation: The Joy of Transcendence
As we move ahead in 2019, we are blessed to have abundant water supplies, a fledgling soil-making center, and the exciting challenge of training and educating ourselves, our indispensable local workforce, our neighbours, and the many visitors who travel to Arunachala.
Come and see for yourself! If you are interested in learning more about Sat Yoga and our projects, please visit us here.