Our cottages are located in a beautiful, serene and pure environment. To maintain the environment in the same way, there are a few steps that we have taken and some activities that we do from time to time.
Our cottages are totally environment friendly. Sunlight provides us with the required energy and by promoting rational use of electricity, we are able to manage without any dependence on fossil fuels. The design and the construction of the cottages ensure that they remain cool in summers and warm in winters. 100% of the water used in the cottages is recycled back. We also have a rain-water harvesting system. Almost all of the bio-degradable waste generated is composted and used for maintaining the gardens around the cottages.
Sustainable Farming (natural farming and organic farming)
Sustainable farming for us means environmentally sustainable. Organic farming is preferred where possible. We discourage the use of insecticides and pesticides. We give birds a natural ecosystem to thrive. They, in turn, pick up small worms from the fruit trees and keep the fruits healthy. Crop rotation helps in keeping the soil nutrition-rich. Even the organic waste from the orchard and cottages is composted and used.
Our farming practices have their roots in three similar philosophies of agriculture – the natural way of farming, organic farming and bio-dynamic methods of farming. We promote the use of soil-improving cover crops like white dutch clovers and green peas. Companion plantation helps in achieving good outcomes. When you visit us, ask one of our family members to explain how we do it and we’ll be happy to demonstrate. We also have patches of permaculture in some parts of our garden.
The villagers from the neighboring villages have also understood the importance of environmentally sustainable farming and now they too are moving towards it.
Employment to the Villagers
For almost everything that we do, we have been trying to first give work to the local villagers. Be it help required at our cottages, basic garden maintenance or technical jobs that require some training/experience. We believe that by empowering the villagers, we are creating a sustainable ecosystem for the region.
Earning Opportunities for the Villagers
We have connected some of the farms directly to consumers. By implementing from farm to the plate concept, the villagers earn good money and the consumers get to enjoy fresh farm produce.
We are now influencing the village ladies to take up knitting and crochet. These can then be sold online and provide an alternate source of income. Read more about this here – Hill Yarns
Helping the Birds
Himalayan birds are quite different from the ones found in the other parts of India. Some of them are even endangered. In our orchards, we have ensured that some wild trees like oaks, deodars, acacias, etc are also present. These are natural places for building nests, by these winged friends of ours.
During the fruits season, we keep telling people in the neighboring orchards as well to leave some fruits on each of the trees. These are left for the birds to feed on. Magpies love pears and sour apricots. Various tiny mountain birds are fond of apples when they are still sour.
We have been doing tree plantation for the past many years. There are many bare areas where trees have been felled unscrupulously. Instead of simply talking about it, we decided to act on it. Now we procure trees for planting from forest nursery and sometimes even from various private nurseries. Wherever we see a bare patch of land, these trees are planted.
The survival of these newly planted trees depends on various factors. The best survival rate is seen these are planted in the early rainy season closely followed by planting in the late autumn. Due to lack of water in the summers, small trees quite frequently fail to survive. Another problem is with the animals (including domestic cattle) that eat up these newly planted trees. The survival rate for trees from private nurseries (of around 5 feet height) is higher than the small trees from forest nurseries (that are around 1-2 feet high).
Trees that we prefer to plant are the ones that are indigenous to the region and can easily grow in the wild. Deodars, oaks, some wild flowering trees grow quite easily. We have also planted some hardy cultivars of apples too, in the hope that once established, people will not chop them down. These trees with their wide leaves, also help with rains in the region.
Preventing Land Slides
Plants and grasses come to our rescue here. From our experience and interaction with some of the forest department people, we have identified some of the indigenous bushes, shrubs, plants and fast-growing grasses that have an extensive network of roots. These prevent landslides and are quite easy to grow. Apart from planting trees, we therefore also encourage planting these, especially where the soil is loose and prone to getting washed away.