Imagine an orchard and a vegetable garden flourishing in a cramped space of six cents in the precincts of the metropolitan city of Kochi. Now, take a stroll around the Arakkal house in Chilavanoor Road at Kundannoor –Marad Junction.
You will be mesmerized by the small, but lush groves - around the house and on the terrace, with a large number exotic fruits and vegetables. The man behind the fascinating grove is Jose Anto, a retired Canara Bank Manager, who wanted to bring fresh air into his retired life.
Here, you have a water-lily pond, with lovely lilies blooming at night and withering by morning. You can also find rare but renowned varieties of medicinal plants in the grove.
Then you walk past the small but alluring flower garden, which won the first prize at the Kochi Flower Show 2011, set in half a cent of land. As you walk through a meter a long alleyway, there are white water apples, a drumstick plant, star gooseberries, soursops, sapodillas and choriyachena, leading to the grand backyard vegetable garden.
Following the aquaponic system, opium is cultivated in a tank. Three hundred grams of opium are harvested by the end of six months. Interestingly, opium also becomes an integral part of their daily menu.
In the tank, you will find a rout of fresh water snails, deprived of their habitation as a result of fields being encrusted. Jose asserts that the flesh of fresh water snails is highly expensive, as they are endowed with curative properties. Three varieties of black turmeric and two types of ginger are planted too.
Biogas plant in the backyard garden offers three fold advantages: waste management, ample supply of biogas and use of the residue for manure. A happy co-habitation exists among Kadaknath chicken breeds, rabbits, quails and white quails. Chemical fertilizers have no place here. The only manure that is used is the fouls’ droppings and water from the opium grown tank.
Ascend to the terrace to catch the glimpse of the lush orchard. A great variety of fruits are thriving there. You will find a sort of lemon resembling passion fruit, cats eye plants, five different varieties of guava grown in various parts of the world.
You also have Chinese orange, peanuts, four varieties of chilli, Sonia - a mango tree that yields in all seasons, sweet tamarind, Malabar tamarind, rambutan, Singapore cherry, Elantha pazham, Hong Kong variety of water apple, West Indian cherry, sugar apple and more.
In this remarkable venture, Jose is zealously backed by his wife Sophia, who is a teacher at Sacred Heart higher secondary school, Thevara and his three children: Maria, Minnu and Mia.