Thursday, January 31, 2013

Week 103: Nivim at Night


It is romance, pure and simple. The love with which each detail for Nivim has been thought of, designed and executed is beginning to shine through in the near final product. As we install lighting, we did a tiny test one night last week and the results here to share.

I will also like to mention that the existing Scholar's trees (3-5 in number) on our site flower in November- December and have this intoxicating cardamom like smell at night that envelopes the entire site in the cool winter evenings. In addition, we are planting Jasmine, known as the 'queen of the night' in the entrance courtyard so it will scent the living room entrance and two bedrooms at night. Imagine walking to and from the main house to the pool and pavilion and every time you do so feeling the breeze of sweet floral smell welcoming you....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Building with Trees

Existing Trees at Nivim in Goa with tamarind tree in the entrance courtyard
In our last post for Nivim, we celebrated the 13 existing trees on our site that have been careful integrated into the design for the house. We thought that it would be a good idea to do a follow up post on the idea of building around existing trees. Following is a very simple video on why we need trees, common sense really but it is still hard to come by in the prevalent construction practices.

Continuing with the idea of 'building with trees', we have picked three projects from around the world that were interesting, thought provoking and included trees as key design elements for the building.

1. House Among Trees, Argentina. (Courtsey: Archdaily)

2. Tepoztlan Lounge, Mexico (Courtsey: Archdaily)

3. Franz House, Argentina (Courtsey: Archdaily)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#3 Transplanting @Yogi Farms

Cherry tomato saplings in the nursery 
Step 3 after planting the nurseries is to plan the farm for final planting. What plant goes where depends on quality of soil, availability of water and (very importantly) amount of sun. I am told that root vegetables do very well is sandy soil, and leafy vegetables and herbs will thrive even in partial sun whereas most other vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant require full sun. 

Since Yogi Farms is an organic farm, they try to reduce the use of active pest control. One effective strategy according to Karan is to plan to grow different plants in adjacent rows rather than have a large patch of the same type of plant or vegetable. Karan explains that this strategy confuses the pests (as I guess different pests like specific plants/ veges). Plus, he also says that if one pest does find his way to his favorite plant, then that means that he stays away from the others surrounding it as they are of a different variety (which implies that the infestation is controlled). At Yogi farm, they typically plant in rows of 7 types consisting of gourds, beans, leafy, fruity, root, cole, and herbs. These rows are successively repeated over the area of the farm.

Saplings are generally ready for planting within 20-25 days of seeding the nursery. Karan and Yogita have developed a method of hardening the saplings before transplanting so that the transplantation is successful and the delicate saplings don't die from the shock of being removed and replanted. One rule is to transplant only in the evening which ensures minimal moisture loss during the first hours of transplant. They also begin to reduce the amount of water given to the sapling from a week before it is to be moved. The amount of water is slowly reduced such that on the day before the transplant the sapling is not watered at all. Karan says that this kicks in the survival spirit in the saplings and they can endure the move better :)

Before transplanting, the soil beds need to be prepared. In general, the beds are raised (here is why). At Yogi Farms, they typically maintain 2-3' wide planting beds that have walking paths on both sides. The farmers ensure the quality of soil by mixing with compost and removing any big stones. Each sapling in planted with at least a foot in between so they have enough room to grow. 

Just before transplanting, the saplings are kept in water that is mixed with Trichoderma, a type of good fungus for sapling roots that keeps away the bad fungus.

To transplant:

1. See Yogita preparing the bed by removing stones and leveling the earth. (Yes, those are giant gourds in the background).

Close up of the giant gourds

2. Mark little pits a foot apart for the saplings to be planted.

3. Select the strongest saplings that have been soaked in water solution with Trichoderma, Stick the saplings in pits and create little mounds of mud around.

4. Water generously and mulch around the sapling to protect moisture and also the Trichoderma fungus.

Most vegetables are ready for harvest within 40-50 days of transplant. We will see how these babies grow and bear bright red tomatoes !!

Read more on Transplanting on Yogi Farm's website,

Brave little saplings newly transplanted ...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Week 102: Landscaping Next

Photo from site before starting construction (the window and old wall has been preserved as part of landscaping)
First post on Nivim in the new year and we are almost at completion... This is the time for numerous lists, for close inspections and several walk throughs, all to determine any mistakes, forgotten details, and bad workmanship...

When I say completion, I mean completion of all building works. The only major work remaining is the kitchen cabinets and the closets which will follow right after we are satisfied with the building works.

This is also a time for us to begin the installation for our furniture, lighting and landscaping. We have already bought most of our furniture and it is a combination of period pieces and very contemporary designer ones. Most interior lighting is purchased from Delhi and already installed. And then there is landscaping... Who would have thought that something so simple would be such a nightmare.... We can always execute ourselves but I was hoping to hire a sub-contractor so I don't have to run around crazy from nursery to nursery sourcing the right plants and mostly because I don't feel that I am right judge for the health of the plants, species and quality of soil, forget about the right way to plant, transplant and care for the plants. Now the tough thing about building in Goa is that first you pay a premium for all your services and material. Most material is brought into the state from elsewhere so there is usually a wait time and several delays. Also, the number of service and material providers is so limited that the good ones have too many projects and they are unable to manage their time effectively. We started our quest for a landscaper and landscaping about 6 months back and by now, we have been stood up by two landscapers after multiple site visits, advance payments, etc. etc. What really gets upsetting is when the service providers don't answer their phones... I mean really dodge your calls after agreements and after advance payments have been paid. I mean how does one deal with that?

Existing trees before construction

Same existing trees after construction

Landscaping is so critical for a project like ours that is built around nature. We have 13 existing trees on the site that we have incorporated in our house plan so the site is already quite green but then we have created really deep planters on the peripheries to we can plant fruiting and flowering trees making the site even greener and add a layer of privacy to the property. We have also chosen to plant mostly local indigenous species so once they are mature they require minimal irrigation and maintenance. Indigenous species have adapted to the local climate and therefore are accustomed to the dry and rainy spells in different seasons.

In any case, our quest for a landscaper continues. I am giving myself another week or 10 days then I guess we will have to jump in and figure it out ourself...

Until then let us just celebrate our special 13 trees. The existing full grown trees include:
1 Mango tree
2 Jackfruit trees
2 Tamarind trees
1 Kelful tree
5 Scholar's tree
1 Drumstick tree
1 flowering local tree

Existing trees before construction

Same existing trees after construction

Existing trees before construction

Same existing trees after construction

Existing trees before construction

Same existing trees after construction


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