The act of placing a tree sapling in a pit seems to be simple. But the pre-work and post-work can take up a lot of time if you are planting lots of trees in a short period.
The pre-work involves figuring out:
- Where to plant and which ones in each location
- How many trees to plant and which species
- Where to procure the saplings and how to protect them before planting
- Setting up an irrigation system
- Arranging for mulching
- Preparing the planting areas
- Finding labour
Once we did the pre-work, the planting itself depended on how many men and women were available on a given day. The work involves digging pits for the saplings to be planted, having mulch ready nearby, adding some top soil so roots can home easily, carrying the saplings to the pits, planting them, and mulching and watering them. On a good day, with all the prep work already done, with 6 women and 2 men, we could plant around 500 saplings. Over a period of four months, we planted around 8500 saplings of 29 species. The work was delayed a few times due to setting up the irrigation system in three stages.
While all of this looks straight forward, the real fun (and the ordeal) was in working with the labourers to make sure they were doing the right thing. Now, that might sound straightforward too but of course it is not. We planned to plant the trees with six feet between two trees with no two adjacent trees being the same species. In order to measure the six feet, the men decided to cut a stick to six feet and use it to measure the distance. After admiring their simple solution, I checked on them after an hour: I found the distance between the holes vary from 4 to six feet! How would that be possible? When they were asked, I got all kinds of answers: “Yeah? I can’t believe it!”, “I see, well, I guess it is a little off”, “Oh, I lost the first stick and made another one and measured that with my hand”, “Well, it is the end of this trench and I thought I’d squeeze in couple of more saplings.” And so it went on with many follow-ups and hearty laughter (what else one can do?).
Almost every step of the process required very close monitoring and in spite of that, all kinds of mistakes happened that encouraged us to sustain a sense of humour.
We have probably lost around 10% – 50% of what we planted in different locations due to various reasons. Initially, it was painful to see a dead sapling. But now, we accept it as part of the farming life – to see births and deaths every day.
A very strange thing happened to me once all the planting was done: Earlier, I used to walk around “our farm”. But these days, when I step into the farm and see all the growth, I feel like a visitor – something beautiful is happening here, all on its own, and I am not able to claim ownership anymore.