In the Spotlight
By Sumiitra Yiohan Sooriaarratchi
Shankar: Be careful dude. There have been king cobra sightings around here.
Me: Really woah. Better be careful then.
Thilak (Shankar’s brother): We even had monitor lizards and pythons attack the chickens and turkeys; also wild boar attack the sugar cane and banana trees at night.
Me: Wow this place is full of wild animals! It must be crazy having to deal with them.
Is it a home garden? A farm? An edible garden? A neighbourhood hang out spot / beer garden? Its all of this and more. A fantastic achievement of the Ragavan family – Mr Ragavan, Thilak and Shankarr. This project has been three years in the making and is a true example of human ingenuity. Through patient effort and toil Thilak, and his dad Mr Ragavan have transformed an unused piece of land (roughly 1000 sq ft in size) into a thriving self sufficient suburban farm.
Using organic fertilizer and their own manual labour Thilak and Mr Ragavan have managed to grow almost every commonly used tropical vegetable, herb and fruit imaginable. The best part is how generous they are in sharing the produce from the garden with their friends, family and neighbours. They also encourage squirrels and other herbivores to eat the produce of the garden. In addition to this they also rare turkeys and chickens on the same land (the turkeys and chickens are not rared for consumption). One of Thilak’s long term goals is to teach children and adults how to rare chickens and start-up a garden.
The fruits and vegetables include banana, papaya, pineapple, pomegranate, jackfruit, cempedak, mango, dragon fruit, star fruit, durian, ladies fingers (okra), brinjal, tomato, moringa (drum stick), spinach, curry leaf, pandan leaf, neem leaf, lemon grass, lime, chili, beans, bitter gourd, coconut, sugar cane and a variety of local herbs and greens. The list is impressive.
Thilak plans to have a meditation spot under a jackfruit tree on the high-ground of the garden and also expand to rare fish near the lake.
Dealing with wild beasts is also a skill that these intrepid urban gardeners have had to learn. Thilak related the story of how a monitor lizard killed a few turkeys one night after it was able breach the perimeter fence of the the chicken raring area (Chickens and turkeys are blind at night). Due to their limited experience at the time the resting area for the chickens was not made at a high enough elevation. Had the rest area been at a higher elevation then the chickens and turkeys would have been able to fly to higher ground to escape nocturnal predators.
On another occasion a python attacked the chickens at night and they found the snake the next morning snoozing after feasting on the chickens and turkeys (in total they lost five turkey due to the snake and lizard attacks). Thilak was able to catch the python in a bag and hand it over to the fire department.
These lessons have led to Thilak improving the fencing around the chicken coop and to date there have been no new attacks by predators.
Just imagine if every household in the world were able to replicate this in a small way (even with potted plants) and grow food; we would be well on our way to being self sufficient and live healthily in tune with nature.
Kudos to Mr Ragavan, Thilak and Shankarr for a job well done.