Nesting sunbird – update

I am afraid I have bad news for all those who were hoping to follow our little sunbird through incubating her eggs to fledging her family here at Lakeside.  Something, we think probably a local lizard, has been at the nest which we assume is now empty as we haven’t seen either parent bird for two days.  Hopefully they will try again soon.

As a consolation, here are a few pictures from last years successful nesting.

Mother sunbird feeding her baby.

Father sunbird taking his turn!

First flight nerves

Indian robin

You can tell by his silhouette that this little bird is a robin, but his colouring is very different to the European robin that I was used to seeing back in the UK with its red breast. The Indian robins behaviour is similar to his European cousin though – he can be aggressive when defending his territory!
Thankfully we have 7.5 acres here at Lakeside so there is plenty of space for more than one pair of robins to breed in comfort. This is a male, the female is a dun brown without the white wing flashes – but she still has the red under-root of her tail!
This photo was taken in the gardens at Lakeside.

Aquinas – or Karma?

Just a little about myself –

Every day I look around me and see the beauty of nature. My home, Lakeside, nestles at the foot of the western ghats (a chain of mountains in southern India), overlooks a lake and is backed by Reserve Forest – it is also miles from the noisy traffic which is usually associated with India! So, how did I come to live in such a secluded paradise as Lakeside which is so off the beaten track?

Saint Thomas Aquinas would have said that everything is caused by something which preceded it. If that is the case then my being here is linked to an event back in 1974 (and, of course, the causes which led to that event can be traced even further back!)

I was still a teenager at school when a man called Joe Homan came to tell us about the ‘Boys Towns’ he had set up in India to help educate homeless children. So inspiring was he that I began to support the charity as soon as I could, and encouraged the school where I taught to sponsor boys too. Joe would come to the school every year to talk to our English students; on each visit he also invited me to visit him and the projects in India. So in 2007 Pete and I ventured to Tamil Nadu and stayed at the guesthouse which Joe had built. He is getting on in years now and said he wanted to sell. Pete and I are not the sort of people who make quick decisions so it was a surprise to us both that we had agreed by the end of that day to buy Lakeside if at all possible!

What followed that decision is a long story, and I’ll write more of that later, but suffice to say November 2008 saw us the proud owners of 7.5 acres of paradise in southern India. Aquinas’ theory that everything has a cause is correct – look where it brought me. Yet, now that I am in India, perhaps I should look at the philosophies here to try to understand how I have come to be so lucky. If so I must believe that I was a very good person in a former life to allow me to have the life I have now. Living at Lakeside – that’s my Karma!

Sunrise at Lakeside

Sunrises like this are not uncommon at Lakeside and our guests often like to take an early morning walk around the lake to enjoy the sunrise and the amazing variety of birds which abound in the early mornings.  It’s at times like this that we realise what a beautiful world we live in and just how lucky we are.

Black velvet fades to deepest blue

As the stars go out,

One by one.

Mountains bathe in amber glow

As golden fingers

Caress their slopes.

Slate grey water now silver mirror

As the burning orb

Swiftly rises.

Natures palette paints rainbow hues

On still waters,

Sparkling reflections.

Sunrise.

Nesting sunbird in India

Last year a sunbird nested right outside my office here at Lakeside (the pictures were taken while she was sitting on her eggs last year).  She’s back again, has been building for about a week and is now sitting on eggs once more.  I can actually see her from my desk which is great.

You could describe the sunbird as India’s equivalent of the humming bird.  Very small (10 cm maximum) and fast moving with a long bill to get deep into flowers for nectar.  The nest is made out of bougainvillea petals, grass and cobwebs and has its own little ‘porch’ for protection from the elements!  She should have 2 eggs in there.

I’ll keep you updated with her progress.

Village potter – national treasure

Yesterday I took some guests staying at Lakeside on our village tour to see a little bit of real life in rural southern India.  This is our most popular excursion, and for this couple the highlight was a visit to see a potter at work.

This is not ‘tourist’ pottery, but a 76 year old man who has been making village cooking pots for over 60 years.  He is now bent from his hard work but is eager to show off his skills to the Europeans who come to see him.  His wheel is a very finely balanced old bullock cart wheel which it is not motorised like the more sophisticated western wheels, instead he spins it with the use of a long stick.  His old gnarled hands are still remarkably dexterous and he creates a variety of cooking pots, pots for temple offerings and small clay lamps with apparent ease.

Not so many years ago there were 20 potters working in the sheds with him but now, sadly, he is the only one.  Plastic and stainless steel have taken the place of many of the clay pots, and the children no longer want to do this work preferring instead to get involved in sales or computers which pay a better salary. No one can blame the youngsters for trying to better themselves, and one can see from the picture that our potter has led a hard life, but it is sad to think that one day soon he will no longer be able to work and this glimpse of life as it has been for centuries in India will disappear from our tour, and from India, possibly forever.

Pongal celebrations!

Agriculture is the keystone of life here in southern India and the changing seasons are celebrated with puja (worship) at local shrines, but also with a great deal of happiness, food and loud music!  At the moment there are acres and acres of rice which was planted after the monsoon and is now about halfway to harvest.  The rice is a beautiful verdant green and the paddy fields look like an ocean of grass as the cool breeze we have at the moment sends ripples and waves across it.

Here in Tamil Nadu we have just celebrated Pongal – the harvest festival which welcomes the auspicious change in the suns direction as it begins to move northwards.  Winter is now behind us and we move towards the summer – but it’s not a winter that any of my friends in Europe would recognise!

Pongal is a very popular festival for all Tamils regardless of their religion – whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim or something else they all get involved.  The festival lasts for 4 days, so don’t try to get too much work done during Pongal because it just won’t happen! 

Day 1 is for cleaning out all the unwanted things in your house and repainting.  Many of our local villagers are poor but their houses look great with their new whitewash sparkling in the sun. 

Day 2 is dedicated to the sun god.  Prayers are said and Pongal rice (a lovely sweet mixture) is eaten. 

Day 3 is a day of thanksgiving for cattle which are a central part of life in southern India.  Cattle and oxen (and any other animals you can lay hold of such as sheep, goats or the pet dog or cat!) are washed and painted with brightly coloured powder paints in an amazing array of dots.  The cattle also have their horns painted, then all of the animals are fed pongal rice.  Best of all for the cattle, particularly the bullocks which pull the carts, they have a day of rest! 

Finally, Day 4 is a day to share with the family – new clothes, food fun and games.  Pongal is a great festival for bringing people together.

As well as Pongal rice everyone eats sweet sugar cane.  Even our Alaskan Malamute Loki enjoyed it last year! 

If you have a sweet tooth why not try making some pongal rice?

Ingredients 1 cup of long grain rice, 1/8 cup of moong dhal, 1 cup of milk, about ¾ cup of melted butter, 1 ¾ cup of brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder, small handful of raisins, about 8 or 10 cashew nuts, 

Method

1. Cook the milk, rice and dhal together until well done (you will need to add some water during cooking).

2. Fry the cashews and raisins in some of the melted butter until they are a golden brown then put them to one side.

3. Boil the brown sugar in some water until it becomes a thick syrup.  Add the cooked rice and keep stirring on a low heat until well mixed.

4. Add the remainder of the melted butter, stirring all the time.  Then add the cardamom powder – keep stirring!

5. Sprinkle the nuts and raisins on top and serve.

Welcome to my new blog!

Hi!

My name is Dorinda and I own Lakeside with my husband Pete.  We are both English and first came to India in 2007 on holiday.  While here we stayed at a wonderful property called Lakeside.  The owner said that he was selling, we had a mid-life crisis and…here we are!  Our aim is to help people travelling to India get an experience of rural life which they seldom see on an organised tour, so we have developed Lakeside to provide quality accommodation to western standards in a beautiful part of rural Tamil Nadu, South India.  For those who know something of the area, we are not far from the temple city of Madurai.  We have both rooms and cottages available for both short and long stays and are a popular ‘resting spot’ for many people on tours in the south.  With stunning views of the lake and the foothills of the western ghats, a large swimming pool, 7.5 acres of gardens, clean and comfortable accommodation to European standards, and a reputation for excellent food we have many guests who return time and again to enjoy the peace and seclusion of Lakeside. You can find out more about Lakeside here.

Blogging is a new venture for me; this is my first blogging site and my first post!  I intend to develop the site to give you an insight into my life here in beautiful Tamil Nadu.  Over the next weeks I shall be adding pages to tell you a little more about myself and the journey that led me here; allowing you a glimpse into life at Lakeside and the stimulating, interesting and overall incredibly friendly guests we get here; I will also introduce you to some of the flora and fauna we have here on the edge of the Reserve Forest including a stunning variety of wild birds.  For those who come to stay with us at Lakeside we give a taste of life in rural India which has remained the same for centuries but is now beginning to change with India’s changing role in the world; for those who travel via the computer screen let me introduce you to this world of villages, towns and cities, the welcoming and friendly people and the incredibly beautiful landscapes.  This is an exciting time to be in an exciting place and I hope I will be able to convey that to you through my posts.

Welcome to lakesideindia!

Dorinda