Thursday, 26 September 2013

Prabhupadanugas Vedic Village

September 27, 2013.  Adventures in New Jayapur, Prabhupadanuga Farm in Fiji
It is Sunday again, and I am with the three children for their weekly garden expedition. It is good for them to practice their earthly skills and learn the ways of nature and how to grow garden produce. At least we are trying to move towards self-sufficiency, be it slowly and bit by bit, gradually shedding our modern “civilization” conditionings. We are part time gardeners, coming an hour twice a week. Still, though we are inexperienced, the good mother earth yields us something according to our efforts. We have 8 rows mostly with French, mung, and long beans. There is a row of staked tomatoes, some baby okra plants, and a dozen young pumpkin plants. Half is mulched with sawdust, which really helps control the weeds and grass.
Although the primary necessity is weeding, the children prefer to plant seeds and harvest- look! Our first tomato! Two, actually, and more coming… We find that we should pick them small and green before the worms discover they are getting ripe. They will ripen on the kitchen counter, away from the worms. We also pinch the top of the plants at about 3 or 4 feet so they will branch out more.
 I had taken a file to sharpen my hoe blade, and it chops the weeds’ roots quite easily, but is still hard on my back. In Auckland I found a little hand weed chopper that works really well, and the kids try it out in turns. After awhile we head back to the pigeon peas. These 10 foot high bushes give 3 inch pods of large peas that go into the dahl or the veggie dishes, and are high in protein. It is a grain that is easy to grow, bearing in cycles every few weeks or so. In Panama they gave out after a year; we have yet to see what will happen here in Fiji. As I reach for and pull down the straight branches to pluck off the ripe pods (you squeeze them gently to see if the peas inside are mature), I glance down below at the three cottages that are under construction, and I begin to muse…
How many devotees will be able (and willing) to extricate themselves from their modern circumstances, giving up their city lives, jobs, supermarkets, grid power, the crutch of sending their children off to the “slaughterhouse” public schools- and actually shift out of that kind of trap into a simple lifestyle in one of these basic cottages, here in the South Pacific? It is as yet an unanswered question, although some interested parties are scheduled to visit and see firsthand what all this might entail. The theoretical understanding may be there, and the intelligence has perhaps even accepted the principle of simple living, and it is also clear that Srila Prabhupada wanted the future of his Hare Krishna movement to expand along the lines of rural devotional communities based on land and cows.
To change one’s life so drastically would normally be very hard, especially it is later in life.  But devotees naturally begin to simply their lives as they advance in spiritual consciousness, even while they reside in cities or towns. Gradually comes the detachment to unnecessary things and artificial lifestyles, and attraction to the mode of goodness found in the countryside becomes stronger- and one day… it is time to make the jump! From New York City or wherever, the subways, skyscrapers, and air pollution- to the tropical islands, parroted rainforests, and pure air, water, and soil… of a Prabhupadanuga farm. And if world events deteriorate as quickly as they seem they will, surely our cottages and guest rooms will soon be taken with devotees even more inexperienced than ourselves! From somewhere, I feel an urgency to complete the list of basic project developments (a few more roads, two bridges, fields cleared, agricultural pioneering, and the five cottages too, of course).
We have an amazing property of virgin rainforest, 857 acres in size, and no debt. We have our own little river and a very suitable warm climate with plenty of rain. We have Sri Sri Radha Govinda, Their Most Beautiful Lordships to preside over us with Their boundless mercies. We have fortunately understood the critical and paramount importance of keeping Srila Prabhupada in the center as our bonafide siksha and diksha spiritual master. Krishna has given us a complete package, and it is not ours to keep for ourselves alone, but to share with other likeminded devotees who may wish to join in this transcendental adventure of simple living and Krishna consciousness in the South Seas.
Our Vedic village has a plan laid out in a project constitution. For those without sufficient means, through an application process, cottages and leased land are free to those who wish to take part in Prabhupada’s farm village. Residents will contribute one fifth of whatever they produce to the project. It is a Vedic concept, the way the human society was before Kali Yuga started, and like it was for millions of years. Varnashram dharma must be re-instituted because it is Krishna’s arrangement for making spiritual progress in the material world. While the present demoniac civilization degenerates into unemployment, poverty, war, and miserable chaos, the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, the Jagat Guru, must try to distribute and implement Prabhupada’s teachings around the world… including the “second half” of the Hare Krishna movement, namely the farm projects, or Vedic villages. We pray that New Jayapur here in Fiji will be a part of this Vedic revival of humanity.
After the rice was cut with small sickles, stacked in round heaps, and covered tarps, it turned rainy for a week. As the skies looked to be clearing, I drove over to the Dongoro Indian settlement a few miles away. Jayapal somehow had heard that I was coming, and opened his wire gate at the end of a long and muddy entrance drive. His great grandfather had come from India to work in the sugar cane fields near Labasa, and his grandfather had bought their 800 acres for 200 British pounds well before the 1930’s Depression. This was a rice farm, with great expanses of low-lying flats between the river, the hills, and the vast, swamp of mangrove forests. Jayapal was growing rice on only a fraction of the land his ancestors did.
We loaded the portable Chinese made rice thrasher with a 3 Hp gas engine into the back of my pickup. I tied it down with a couple ropes. Asking about how to thrash the rice, and then what to do after that, Jayapal just grinned and said he would be over the next morning to show me everything. He did just that, bringing 4 others with him too. We set up the thrasher next to the rice stacks, and pulled back the tarp to find that it was leaky and the rice stalks were quite soaked. Fortunately the rice seeds had not started to germinate. Starting the engine, several guys began throwing clumps of rice stalks into the thrasher mouth. The machine beat the stalks onto a spinning drum and the seeds fell down onto the tarp while the soggy and mashed stalks blew out the back.
Since the stalks were wet, rice stuck onto them, and with sticks two men flipped and shook sections in the air to dislodge the loose seeds, then tossed the empty clumps of stalks aside. Suvarnamanjari Prabhu, visiting from New Zealand, and myself did the same by hand. It was sort of fun. Definitely a new experience- the slightly moldy harvest dust was billowing around, everyone was busy, all 9 of us now. After a little over an hour, it was done. By hand we sifted more stalks out of the rice piles on the tarps, then bagged the seeds up. I got some cookies and sodas from the farm canteen (general store), passed them out, and drove Jayapal and the thrasher back to his farm.
The rice seeds were brought up to the dharmashalla and we spread them on tarps under the porches, out of the rain. Whenever the sun came out, we dragged the rice tarps into the yard and turned the seeds over for drying. There was still plenty of moist stalk chips mixed with the rice, so we devised a screening method with large crates that had narrow slots in their bottoms. Shaking the crates, the rice was again purified, so to speak, a little further. The next day was sunny with a strong breeze. With 2 foot plastic pans, Vrinda, Saradiya, and I began winnowing the rice by tossing some up in the air to allow the breeze to blow aside the fluffy stalk pieces. By eye, we picked out some odd pieces like small stones or wood debris. After a couple hours, we had clean rice seeds in 4 big flour sacks.
Soon thereafter I needed to go to Labasa and dropped off the rice sacks outside town with an Indian boy who milled rice with his father’s tractor-powered husking machine. Returning a few days later, paying $7 in fees, I took away 3 bags of husked rice. The Indian boy asked about our farm, said “Haribol!” and advised that the rice was mostly broken because we must have let it get wet after cutting, which was true. We should have thrashed sooner after the harvest, and the rice would be higher quality. This was our first crop, and we are still learning the tricks about rice farming. There was over twice the amount we had planted, a good and normal return for broadcast planting.
I brought some to the kitchen and we have been cooking the farm rice with our daily deity lunch offerings. The taste is a little more crunchy and filling than the white polished jasmine rice we have been accustomed to, and the kids were not used to it, so I sold it all to the workers who were more familiar with local rice. Next time we will improve on our techniques, having learned from our first successful grain production adventure.
We have sent the deposit off to New Zealand for six Guernsey milk calves- one bred heifer 20 months, three heifer calves, 2 bull calves (7 month calves). They are being chosen, tested, and gathered in preparation for air shipment to Fiji by March 2014. This will be the only pure Guernsey herd in Fiji, probably the only pure herd of anything in Fiji! This is a major commitment and step in fulfilling our destiny… (actually our humble attempt to serve Srila Prabhupada).
The cottages are going slowly, so far we have 5 septic systems complete and 3 concrete slabs done.
We have planted 7650 dalo (taro) which will be ready to harvest in 7-8 months. We fertilized them with goat manure (bought locally for $5 a huge sack)… after all, we are an organic farm, right? Dalo will finance our continued development and construction next year.
In the last month we have had some visiting devotees. First Suvarnamanjari dasi came for 10 days from New Zealand and was a blissful guest who is very focused on various self sufficiency skills and techniques. She will bring us next time some cotton seeds and just acquired a beautiful wooden loom. Then Pranav and Stella Prabhus came from Los Angeles. Stella is a native Fijian Indian and had returned to Fiji to visit family. They stayed a few days and enjoyed the South Pacific experience in New Jayapur. Next it was Dharmabhavana and JaiGovinda Prabhus from Dallas. She is also a native Fijian Indian with relatives to visit. They took long walks and will retire soon to the Fijian countryside, perhaps here.
We acquired 1000 sandalwood seeds and will be now trying to sprout them, planting very steep hillsides in this valuable timber for future resource and, of course, the deities’ sandalwood reserves. The vegetable garden at the bottom of the hill is proving to be too wet an area and we are noting the bean stems rotting and the tomatoes behaving stunted. Yesterday we dug up a small area on top the ridge near the passion fruit vines as a new garden spot (eventually there should be many…). We moved the small okras and it looks like 20 will survive the shift, also a dozen smaller tomatoes were brought up.
Yours in Prabhupada’s service,
Nityananda das
New Jayapur, Vanua Levu, Fiji Islands
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