Category Archives: Wiebke Koch

Nina, the green food expert

Nina finally relaxing at the hammocks after the big deadline

Today I want to tell you about our 1-week guest (and my friend) Nina Osswald. We all were very excited she finally made it here and happy that, despite a deadline for a report keeping her bound to the computer for long hours, we were able to introduce her to some glimpses of life in Auroville in general and at International House in particular.

Nina is not really new to things organic, zero waste or anything else to do with promoting a sustainable lifestyle. She has a background in Development Geography, with an M.A. degree from University of Freiburg, Germany. Since her graduation in 2007, she worked in different organisations in the sustainable consumption and production sector. Since 2009, she has lived in Hyderabad, A.P. and been researching the Indian market for organic food, focussing on urban market structures in South India. She is currently working for the Humboldt University Berlin, in the Indo-German cooperation project Sustainable Hyderabad (see www.sustainable-hyderabad.in), coordinating a survey of organic market structures in Hyderabad, Bombay and Bangalore in cooperation with International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA).

Nina also started the Hyderabad Organic network, which aims to facilitate exchange of knowledge and ideas between stakeholders in the organic and sustainable agriculture movement in and around Hyderabad. But why not ask her herself about the reasons why she is here.

W: “So what made you come to Auroville after all despite your hectic schedule?”

N: “Ever since I first heard about Auroville – that must have been some time in 2009 when I came to India for the first time – I had wanted to come and visit. Many friends had told me wonderful things about Auroville. And since all things organic are my work and my passion, I was looking forward to seeing all the great work that Auroville communities are doing in sustainable construction, ecological living, soil and water conservation, organic farming.

First of all, I came to stay at International House in order to spend time with you (Wiebke). Secondly, I was very interested to see the activities this community is involved in, especially setting up the organic vegetable garden and building new structures with a zero waste approach. Apart from my research work in the organic food sector and a passion for organic horticulture, I am greatly interested in learning more about locally adapted sustainable construction techniques, soil and water conservation, and ecological living.

I am fascinated by all the vibrant community activities in Auroville, from afforestation, horticulture or food processing to sustainable construction and renewable energies. And maybe even more so by the sheer beauty and energy of the place, the forest, the buildings and the people.

As a researcher, I also loved the idea that everyone here is a researcher, a learner and teacher at the same time. And of course the concept of living together peaceful in a community of people who do not only strive to make a living, but to make live more beautiful and fulfilling every day!

Even after my short visit of one week, I am sure to come back for longer once I am done with my current project in Hyderabad to volunteer for some time in different Auroville communities.”

W: “So, will we see you again?”

N: “Yes, for sure. As a matter of fact, I have just decided to come back with my family who will visit me at the end of the year and I am just in the process of booking accommodation and flights, so that they too can experience this other side of India. I really look forward to coming back!!”

W: “Thanks, Nina, for your time, for the German tea and candles, which will remind us of you and which we will cherish every time we use them. Have a great journey back and all the best with your research efforts. Please keep us in the loop with your findings about the organic food market in India. Maybe, you can share some of your case studies with us for inspiration??”

N: “Sure. That would be my pleasure!”

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New photo album on the flora & fauna at International House…

grasshopper on canna flower

…on our Facebook page

Of course, there’s many more plants and creatures that we didn’t (yet?) manage to capture on video or photo but we’ll keep attempting it for sure. There would be the various lizards and geckos that rarely wait to be photographed, caterpillars-aka-butterflies-to-be, the camera shy crickets, the spiders or cockroaches, which we don’t really want to see all that much and the various birds singing for us every day.

Will keep you posted 🙂

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Did you know??

Canna plant

The canna plants are used at International House to filter the grey water coming from the different tabs and pipes. The plants are very tolerant of contaminants and after the water being filtered in such way, it flows directly on into the banana fields.

All of the plant has commercial value:

  • rhizomes for starch (consumption by humans and livestock)
  • stems and foliage for animal fodder
  • young shoots as a vegetable and young seeds as an addition to tortillas
  • seeds are used as beads in jewelry
  • seeds are used as the mobile elements of some musical instrument
  • In more remote regions of India, cannas are ferment to produce alcohol
  • The plant yields a fibre — from the stem — it is used as a jute substitute.
  • A fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making paper.
  • The leaves are harvested in late summer after the plant has flowered, they are scraped to remove the outer skin and are then soaked in water for 2 hours prior to cooking.
  • The fibres are cooked for 24 hours with lye and then beaten in a blender. They make a light tan brown paper. A purple dye is obtained from the seed.
  • Smoke from the burning leaves is said to be insecticidal.
Got curious? Check more details on wiki here

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Zero Waste Super Cool Bamboo Tipi, ehmmm shower

…is definitely ready and worthy of any Auroville, Hollywood, Bollywood or other superstar.

Tipi shower in its full beauty

The structure of this outdoor shower is made of bamboo and chicken mesh, which then was lightly plastered around and whitewashed. Also, check out the super smart and zero waste details inside like the walls with broken mirror pieces and ceiling letting in natural light by using discarded light bulbs.

mirrors and light bulbs

All the pipes and tabs are made from or covered with bamboo.

tabs

There is even a washing basin made from clay in it too.

Washing basin made from clay with bamboo covered tabs

The floor design, too, is very Auroville. Does this shape for the water to flow out seem familiar somehow??

Floor in Auroville fashion

But the best feature has got to be the choice between 2 very therapeutic options: light rain or heavy waterfall?? What would you prefer?? The first is facilitated by a bamboo pipe with little circular holes, the 2nd one with slits in it. How super smart yet simple is this??

Rain or waterfall??

So, how much do you think we should charge the folks wanting to use this latest retreat feature of International House???

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B’s latest creation: Japanese Tea Garden

Stonehenge with shells

 

Tea Party

 

The Eternal Flame

 
 

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Snake alarm

Yesterday morning, I was happily enjoying a shower after our morning work in the garden when suddenly, Sundar excitedly called me to come outside quickly. Good girl I am, of course I rushed out immediately just to find everyone around the water channel surrounding the dormitory building of International House. A checkered keel back, a snake quite common in the water tanks, ponds, rivers and rice paddies in and around Auroville, meant to have its breakfast in… Well, I was just about to say it meant to have it in peace but what we saw wasn’t such a peaceful sight at all.

Keel backs living in fresh water are actually the most cruel amongst Indian snakes, even though not poisonous. It strikes really rapidly and holds on tenaciously to its feed, mostly frogs and fish. In our case, it had caught a really large frog. We’ve even got photos of it but in the name of non-violent communication decided not to publish them – they were just too gross!!!

The keel back snake didn’t like us all following it around the water channel whilst shouting and attempting to take pictures, so it actually decided to end this pursuit by jumping OUT of the water, cutting the corner of the channel and jumping back into it at the other end. What a performance!!!!

Sundar was brave enough to get the poor froggie out of the water and put it to its last rest. Thanks, Sundar. And thanks, nature, for yet another lecture in the cycles of life.

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Puppies’ home is ready

The new dog headquarters for puppies Magic and Sundari are underneath the water tank and more of a palace than just a small hut. For some reason, they really don’t like it at all despite the fact that it’s super spacious, with lots of natural light and of course, it’s all built with recycled materials…

New dog house for the puppies ready

 
So, until they change their mind we better get used to their crying throughout the night. Maybe, Manu will have to move in with them to keep them calm??
 

I don't like it here. Get me out!!!!

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