Continued from Volunteering at Peepal Farm part I…
Going by the rules, the large animals (bovines/equines) and the small animals (dogs/cats) are housed in different enclosures. However, it’s not uncommon to see some of the dogs and cats lazing around in the large animal section, interacting or playing with the baby calves or the sheep, basking in the sun, or “helping” out the vet and his staff in caring for the large animals.
As volunteers, we bathe the dogs, groom the dogs/large animals, and spend some quality time with the animals who are recuperating in the recovery section.
We also get to play with the pups who have been adopted, helping them get more accustomed to being at ease around humans so that they fit in easily when their adoptive parents take them home. Some of the volunteers also assist the vet in treating the animals.
On certain days, we have to do some office work, which is again something I find boring. However, I notice that some of my co-volunteers find these tasks meditative. Josefina, a sweet, petite lady from Argentina who always has an air of peace and calmness about her, is one of them. I sometimes find her doing such “boring” office work voluntarily, even during our “free time!” I realize I need to learn a thing or two about sincerity from this lovely woman.
While some of us are engaged in “physical” work at the animal section and the farm, there are a few others like David, Sarah, and Agathe who are engaged in “mental” work in the office, working on developing software, illustrating stickers and pamphlets, creating content for Peepal Farm’s YouTube channel and website, and planning potential new projects. The volunteers who are artistically inclined create various types of artwork as well.
For a few days, I help out in the kitchen, assisting the staff in preparing meals for the human residents at the farm. I thoroughly enjoy the hours I spend there. Even the mundane tasks like chopping tomatoes and onions, picking mint leaves from the garden, and doing the dishes seem to take on a meditative aspect.
While helping the staff in the products department make soy milk, pack granola bars and weigh the jars of freshly churned nut butters, I wonder how the folks at the farm are able to run a small business alongside the animal rescue and organic farm! Such commendable work they’re doing!
My mind drifts to my own small and cozy kitchen back home, “Would it be possible for me to have my own little vegan food business someday in the future?” In the magical atmosphere of the Himachali village, no dream seems too big…
The Evenings 🙂
The volunteers, in general, are expected to work till 12:30 pm. We have lunch at around 1 pm, following which we are free to do our own stuff. There’s this cute little hut-like structure, the “meditation room,” where you can meditate, read, or just relax in the afternoons.
We also have a “common room” with an inbuilt library.
I’m totally in love with the meditation room! It’s so calm and peaceful here, and the only sounds you hear are the cheerful gurgles of the stream flowing just outside the farm premises and the chirping of the birds and insects. My absolutely favorite thing to do after lunch is to grab a bottle of cold kombucha and catch up with my journaling, basking in the stillness and solitude of the lazy afternoons.
Sometimes in the evenings, we go for a walk as a group. Dhanotu is a hilly village and a long flight of stairs winding down from the main road leads you to this lush valley where a shallow freshwater stream flows.
The hillside and the valley are overgrown with “kadhi patta” plants laden with pink and purple berries; lantana bushes in full bloom, speckled with bright clusters of tiny yellow, pink, and orange flowers; and shrubs of mint growing wild, infusing the air with a distinctive spicy-sweet aroma.
There are butterflies and dragonflies in different hues of yellow, orange, and blue, hovering over the lantana bushes and the other flowering shrubs.
Right here, right now, I feel so alive, so rejuvenated. I wish I could freeze time and capture these moments forever!
We either flop down on the bedding of the soft, thick green grass growing on the bank or take off our slippers and wade into the stream and find ourselves nice big boulders to sit on, paddling our feet in the cool flowing water. While I totally enjoy coming here with my co-volunteers, I also come here by myself often.
The serene natural beauty of this place is therapeutic, a direct contrast to the chaos of the city life I’m used to. I’m in love with this valley and the stream, as I’m with the farm, my homestay, and the village. The simple, meaningful life at the farm is healing and I’m connecting to myself in a way I haven’t in years.
Another route I love to explore on my own is the one we take the dogs on their morning walks. A beautiful road bordered with flowering bushes and fruit-bearing trees of various kinds on either side, it connects Dhanotu to its neighboring villages. Each walk on this road feels like a new adventure to my city-bred mind and I’m drawn to every butterfly, every worm, and every insect I cross paths with.
The dragonflies with their brightly colored delicate wings captivate me as do the vibrant butterflies in hues of orange, green, and turquoise, hovering impatiently over nectar-laden blossoms.
The earthworms wriggling in the muddy ground, grasshoppers hiding amongst bright green mint leaves, little snails eating away on crepe jasmine flowers, fuzzy caterpillars crawling on slender stalks of grass… every little creature I come across fascinates me!
It often rains here and you can see clusters of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes sprout up the day after a good shower! I’m aware that colorful mushrooms also grow in Himachal Pradesh but I haven’t been able to find any. But I have nothing to complain! I feel totally blessed to have found these lovely mushrooms here.
I really wanted to find some big mushrooms, the kind you don’t find in the cities, and I did! They were growing on the banks of a poopy swamp near a human establishment, but who cares when you finally find what you’ve been seeking for a while 🙂 ??
And I found these pretty clusters inside the farm premises…
To be continued…