First let me start with a shoutout to my friend Peter! I hope everything is going really well for you buddy! Here he is rolling seedballs at SOS Organics. He's gone from India now, touring through Europe visiting apricot orchards, drinking belgium beer and so on and so forth :-).
Peter is rolling seedballs by hand. Although it is common to include compost in the mix here we are just rolling some clay with larger soil particles (micacious rock in this case) mixed in, kneaded together with the seeds we want and rolled by hand into balls. This gives the seed protection against insects and animals while providing a habitat for it to germinate in. Just throw the seedball on the ground and it will wait until the rains come. We are just starting experiments really. How much compost to put in? What seeds to use? How to roll them? Some of them crack upon drying. The beans swell and can crack the balls. Our hand rolling method is slow. We're working on it.
Here's a baby goat playing by the spring where we collect our drinking water! So cute! But it's partly because of these guys that this area is on it's way to becoming a desert. There are many factors of course, including historical clearcutting, humans cutting down the existing trees, extensive forest fires and cows that eat anything small. The lack of vegetation eventually makes the rains stop coming. The seedball project is meant to battle this problem by sowing seeds on a wide scale. What will grow beneath these acidic pines, ravaged by fire, humans and grazing animals? This is our challenge.
Here's our goal! A bean and some grass growing out of a seedball. The seedballs obviously work but how to bring our knowledge to the level of being able to produce a lot, with the correct seeds in them and the right coating composition?
We decided that one of our first steps is to raise our ability to produce. Rolling by hand is just too slow for the areas we're looking at sowing. This is a photo of the metal worker and a fellow WWOOFer Jack building a seedball rolling machine. It's a very simple machine, just a rolling drum. With a bit of practice you could probably build one in an afternoon with a visit to the hardware store in Canada or the US. But in India it is a challenge to find the right parts and put it together. Or rather I should say it's a challenge for us in our situation with the language barrier and lack of local knowledge.
We're still working on it, carrying out our designs. It has been quite a balance between deliberate design and winging it with whatever equipment is available. I hope that in the next few days we will be able to get it working. Right now it spins too fast because we haven't been able to find pulleys to reduce the speed of the rolling drum. But we have a lead on some in a store in Almora... wish us luck :-).