READY, SET, SOW!
Words: SHRADDHA UCHIL
Photographs: SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM Mumbai, Goa, Pune
GREAT FOR Experiencing life on a farm
You sink your fingers into the soil, moist and fresh with emanating petrichor, a heady scent to your nostrils. Your fingers curl around a hard tuber and something else – roots. You tug gently, until you’re holding a brilliantly purple yam in your palm, dirt crammed in your fingernails.
Once you’ve lived a farmer’s life in the Konkan region, chances are you’ll come back wondering why you ever contented yourself playing FarmVille. Farm of Happiness, or Aanandache Shet, is a rustic homestay embedded deep in the Ratnagiri District. A drive along winding roads and a walk down a well-worn path over a plateau surrounded by eye-searing shades of green will lead you to this humble abode, which has been built in the traditional Konkani style.
Started by husband-wife duo Rahul and Sampada Kulkarni in January 2014, the property aims to be more than just a getaway for seekers of solitude. Here, you will know what it’s like to live with farmers (and get to play farmer yourself) on the 20-acre plot around the house, patches of which are used to grow veggies and fruits, all indigenous and grown seasonally.
Wake up to the carefree song of the Malabar whistling thrush, the perfect wake-up call for a spot of birding. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy an oriental dwarf kingfisher and even the Malabar pied hornbill.
After breakfast, go on a farm tour with Rahul to check out natural farming at its finest. You will be invited to dig out some turmeric, and you will discover warty yet delicious air potatoes (no, that’s not a made-up name). En route, you’ll even end up befriending the bees in the bee box. Later, savour the fresh produce you helped pick from the farm as you are regaled with the story of how Kalu, the resident stray, once hunted down a capricious porcupine.
Spend your evenings playing a game of carrom or darts, or just catching up on some reading as you lounge in one of the four hammocks in the mandap (shaded porch). The child in you can get on one of the swings fashioned out of tyres, or under the mini waterfall. There’s also a chicken coop and cattle shed here. You could feed the majestic bullocks Raja and Baja, or go looking for a fluffed-up mother hen sitting patiently on her eggs.
Once you’ve explored the house and its immediate surroundings, go on a nature trail down the meandering paths outside the farm, and into the valley below. On the way, you might just spot a scampering hare or two. In the village below, you can go meet some friendly villagers, who will happily welcome you into their homes.
Just before sunset, take the hour-long boat ride over the calm, clear waters of the Bav River. Watch the sun paint the skies orange, see a shoal of silver snappers splashing in and out of the water, and catch egrets flying back to their nests after a tiring day.
The clear, inky blue nights are perfect for stargazing. Take the telescope out and watch the studded sky come alive as you keep warm with a piping hot cuppa. On the other hand, if nighttime adventure is what you seek, try your hand at fishing in the dark – local style. The tide and weather need to be just right as you wade into the creek, using Petromax lamps to dazzle fish as you quickly capture them in your net.
You will leave the Farm of Happiness with sun-kissed skin and dirt-filled fingernails. And you will be glad for it.