Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 07 15. Wednesday.

2009 07 15. Wednesday.

Yesterday I misplaced a spade that the metal shop had specially cut for the compost work (we needed a sharp pointed spade to dig into the thick ayurveda waste). This morning I met Chirandu next to the E Building and we talked about making more EM for the compost work. While we were chatting the door to the ashram store opened and one of the young Indian brahmacharinis (female celibate renunciates) who works there was holding the spade and saying "Please get this!" I slapped my forehead and suddenly remembered I had left it in the store. I exclaimed "There it is!" Chirandu called to the brahmacharini and said "You should charge him for keeping it!" I responded: "Yes! I have no shraddha (mindful awareness). She should hit me with it!" The brahmacharini smiled bashfully, waggled her head and said "No. No. That would not be good." I smiled and took the spade. If she knew my karma she'd do me a favor and whack me upside the head with it.

Lakshmi the ashram female elephant was at the compost area again today, chained to the same palm tree and happily crunching through a big pile of palm leaves. During the work we were running low on cow slurry (mix of cow dung and urine). I asked one of the workers to get a shovelful of cow dung so we could make more. He asked "How about elephant dung?" I said "Sure! Why not?" Instead of a shovelful, they brought back a whole bin full. He asked me with a smile "Will this be enough?" I laughed and said "It'll last us the whole week!" When an elephant poops, get out of the way! After looking at it more closely, it turns out elephant poop is not good at all for slurry. Its very, very fibrous and dry. Unlike cow dung which is moist and wet and great for making slurry. With a gloved hand I grabbed a chunk of the elephant dung and sniffed. It had almost no smell at all! I was very surprised. It had a very faint, almost pleasant sweet smell. Strange. I broke it open and it was basically nothing but almost dry fiber. They feed Lakshmi lots of treats and fruits so maybe that's the reason for the nice smell. Never thought I'd get to explore and compare the dung of large animals!

There was lots of food waste at today's pile and one of the usual workers wasn't there, so it was taking longer than usual. It was 4pm and I asked Mukhunda if we should stop for chai or keep going? He got all excited and said "Keep going! Keep going! What's next?" He frantically pushed us to finish the pile and we got in done in another 1/2 hour or so. A lot of work! I was really pooped. When it was all done Mukhunda led us in the usual compost pile blessing prayer then we all went to take chai and cookies. They had a big bag of cookies and I happily stuffed myself while sipping not-so-hot sweet chai. It had cooled down while we were frantically finishing the pile. The Indians were polite but I could tell they didn't like having lukewarm chai. I was too tired to care. It was delicious!

From my volume calculations on the piles, it looks like we're making about a ton of compost per day. It'll probably grow to about 1.5 or 2 tons when Amma arrives. If we're not careful we may start running short of space! The stackable compost boxes I want to get built should fix that. It takes a lot of work to turn the piles by hand and I'm thinking of ways to do it more efficiently. If you got any ideas send 'em my way.

My energy levels seem to have come back up to their usual levels. For the first 6 weeks here I would often feel quite tired, especially in my legs. The last few days I've been feeling better. I've started putting some ghee (clarified butter) in my chai and food. Maybe that's helping. I think also it took a while for my gut bacteria to adjust to the new diet, so maybe they're now working again at full capacity and well adapted to ashram food and water.

I met Svayam at dinner to go over some of the compost notes. I said I enjoyed managing the work and told him to give me feedback if I get too bossy or pushy during the work. He smiled and "You're doing fine. The problem is you're too easy going and flexible. In my experience Amma likes to put people in charge who are difficult to work with, so other people can get used to that. Don't be surprised if Amma moves you away from managing the compost work!" He's been here a long time so he definitely has lots of experience in how things work here. On the other hand, Murtena (a westerner) runs the recycling center and he's definitely very easy going and flexible, but that work area is all staffed by westerners. I think Svayam is referring to the ashram work centers that are staffed and managed by Indians. Amma has said She wants some western men to be in charge of the compost area.

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