Monday, August 31, 2009

Icing on the cake

Whew!!! Bring out the cake and party hats!

Who knew? I could not believe that its been a month now since I started a chronicle (in short, blog) of our 'little grand' project. And hopefully (knowing myself), I will be able to sustain this blogging project until the very end, when our 'little grand' project is finally a working, breathing entity.

Since we have a long, long, loonnngggg way to go before the project is completed, let's get back to business. Unfortunately though, I don't have much information to update you with for now.

Once again, I called home to get the latest update and I was told the process of erecting the fence on one side of the farm is moving along nicely but its not even halfway. Finally all the chain links have also been delivered. So apart from acts of men or acts of nature, there should be no reason to stop or even slow down.

That's it. Told you there's not much to update you with. But...

My quest to find garden design ideas prompted me to visit one of the garden attractions here in Salt Lake City. It is called the Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. And I would say it was a fun, interesting and enjoyable experience as I strolled around this sprawling and beautiful city garden. Aside from that, I was also able to get some pretty cool ideas I could certainly use in our own garden.

Wisteria arbor

Modern water features that separate the Herb, Medicinal and Fragrance gardens

Herb (top) Fragrance (bottom) gardens

Entrance of Children's garden

Views inside Children's garden

Waterfalls (top), Koi fishes (middle) and Water Pavilion at the creekside

Other cool water features and foot bridges

Decks and garden patios

If you noticed that there are no close-up pictures of plants and flowers, you are right, there is none. It's because I am more interested with the structures and design concepts. But it doesn't mean I didn't take any, maybe they'll appear on some other posts.

I'm pretty sure though that the designers of this garden did not include this particular creature as an added attraction. Snake!!!!

While we were leisurely strolling and taking pictures, one of our companions suddenly shrieked in fear. There was a rattlesnake slithering its way across our path. And we knew it was visibly irritated because it was vigorously rattling its tail as if saying 'get out of my way!'

I took a snap of it after it found an empty crevice where it thought it can safely hide. Although we ran into a sign that says there may be snakes on the premises, we never thought we would encounter one. Now that's the icing on the cake to our stroll in the garden.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Video Feature

Before we proceed to our featured video, let me tell you about an interesting anecdote...

Several years ago (over fifteen years to be a bit more specific), my father had a foresight to plant several mahogany trees in the farm, thinking that someday we may just have a need for some hardwood. Years later, the trees are majestically standing, neatly lined on the left side of the driveway and a few more are deeply rooted at some other parts of the farm. Back then the farm was way smaller in area than it is today.

As years went by, the farm has grown in size and a new project was eventually conceived. This project will require several timbers for construction. Today, the trees planted way back then are just about ready for the 'need' that father predicted some years ago.

Now on to the featured video for today from Mother Nature Network...

What is a tree farmer?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Construction update #2 --- the fence

After fixing the hassle of going under budget because of a misquoted pipe posts, all the materials have been ordered.

In a matter of few days, all fence materials are in except for the chain-link (interlink). But that can wait since they have to erect all the posts first. Then they need to let the concrete that holds the posts upright to cure for several days. It sounds easy right? Well, if you're a carabao then its not.

A truckful of gravel and sand was delivered but the truck had brake problems and since the driveway slopes downward, the driver was a little afraid of losing control and risk damaging the truck or any nearby structures. The easy solution was to unload the gravel and sand at the entrance by the gate of the farm. Now there's a huge mound of earth blocking the driveway which needed to be carted to the construction site.

They had to find a way to get the huge mound of earth out of the driveway as soon as possible since not only is it on the driveway but the gates could not be closed either. They had to look for mechanical equipments to do the hauling but it's the middle of the harvest season so they could not find available equipment to borrow much less rent.

The only quick solution was to manually put the gravel and sand in sacks and load the sacks on a cart to be pulled by a carabao to where they need to go. And this they did for almost the whole day, going back and forth until the mountain of gravel was moved out of the driveway.

NOTE: Topography of the farm.

Poor beast of burden, she had to pull a heavy load from one end of the farm all the way up to the other end and down to the ledge. Hopefully she's okay since she may be on the family way. We'll see in a couple of months of she is indeed carrying a baby.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The buck stops here

I know, this is an idiomatic phrase.

But the buck did indeed stop, albeit not here but at the farm. It's an Anglo-Nubian buck.

NOTE: Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

An Anglo-Nubian is a breed of domesticated goat. Considered a dairy breed, it is known for high quality, high butterfat, milk production. It is of mixed European, Asian and African origin.

Remember my topic about a government bureau lending livestock (see 'Of good governance') to farmers? The bureau has granted our request for another goat (of different breed) to improve the breed of the goats that we have on the farm today. Introducing a new and better breed will not only alleviate the problem of in-breeding that usually happens but also improve the quality of the livestock's gene pool.

After paying all the required fees, the buck was picked up and brought to its new home. When the quarantine period expires, it will then be allowed to mingle with the ladies of its own kind.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My two cents' worth

Actually its at least 10 cents.

Ever since we began this little project, my calls to mom have become very frequent. Used to be, I call at most once a month just to hear a familiar voice, something I don't get even from frequent exchanges of text messages.

Now, apart from text messaging, I have been calling (or should I say harassing) them at least once a week. Just so I could get the latest and greatest (though not always) news from them.

That is why I was deeply delighted when my long distance carrier has lowered their per minute charge to 10 cents (from 17 cents) when calling a number on a certain cellphone carrier. Now that is cheaper still than calling a landline, which used to be the cheapest. Its a good thing that my mom, the person I call a lot, subscribes to that carrier while the rest in our family use the competitor's services.

I won't be mentioning the name of my long distance carrier nor the cellphone carriers and their per minute charges since that would be free advertisement for them. Isn't it? But if you want to know, I'll gladly share the info privately.

I know there are still cheaper ways to call international long distance. But if it requires dialing an 800, 888, 877 or 866 toll-free numbers plus account number... forget it. I won't torture my poor finger pressing those extra numbers when I can dial direct.

But if you know of a cheaper direct dial rate to a cellphone, please let me know. Every penny saved is a penny I could use to stretch my limited budget for the farm.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Midnight dream

Around past midnight today, as I was about to be transported into dreamland, a sweet, melodious tone broke the silence that has finally descended on my room. My half-shut eyes were pried open and my mind awakened by the alarm of an incoming text message.

The message was from my dear mother. "Oh no, not another problem", so I thought before I could even begin to read the message.

Rewind to four days ago.

Whenever I read a text message that goes something like "your dad needs to talk to you", it translates to only one thing: a problem. And that's the kind of message I got four days ago. As quickly as I could, I composed myself, sat on a chair (just in case my knees would start to wobble) and prepared for the worst. Then I called home.

It turns out that the money I wired a week ago to purchase the materials needed to build the fence on the left side of the farm was not enough. The quote they previously got was wrong on one of the materials. Consequently, the budget was now short.... waaayyyyy short!

Rather than halt the construction and wait, I breathed in as much air as I could and coughed out the required amount (really, if only its that easy). I ran to the nearest money transfer shop (you know the ones that charge an arm and a leg?) and sent the money. Crisis averted.

Fast forward to early this morning. It was my mom updating me that they have the money, and that they went to some nursery to buy a few more plants.

Now if only I could get my sleep back...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Video Feature

The plants have arrived and will be transplanted soon so they could start acclimatizing to their new surroundings. I'll let you know about their condition in my future updates.

In the meantime, while there is not much news about the farm to update you with, I've linked a video that tackles news of environmental importance. From here onwards, I'll be posting videos like this and call it "Video Feature". And here is our first featured video.

Today's video from Assignment Earth highlights one man's novel attempt to repair the damage inflicted by man on a rainforest and earns a living in the process.

Re-seeding the Rainforest

For more videos of environmental news stories across the globe, visit Assignment Earth.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Garden update #1 --- more plants

As I write this update, a van-load of new plants is on its way to the farm. This will definitely augment the meager number of ornamental plants that are currently there (see "the greening begins" entry).

Below is the list of the new batch of plants coming.
  • Champaca
  • Black bamboo
  • Buddha-belly bamboo
  • Bird of paradise
  • Heliconia
  • Ginger (ornamental)
  • Traveller's palm
  • Philodendron
  • Champagne palm
  • Podocarpus
  • Triangle palm
  • Pandanus
  • Water cabbage - (aquatic plant for the ponds)
  • Schefflera
  • Ponytail palm
  • Norfolk island palm
  • Ti (cordylines)
  • Golden betia palms
Some of these plants are still in the seedling stage. For the next few months they will need much tender loving care in order to survive. Hopefully there will be no casualties, but the again, only mother nature knows.

My father was wondering why we have to repeat buying some plants that we already have. It's for the simple reason that we need to have a lot... and I really mean A LOT! To create a lush garden, there has to be an abundance, not just one or two of each kind of plants.

Softscaping will commence as soon as the road network and foot paths are laid-out and most importantly after the farm has been completely fenced in, lest we suffer the tragedy of seeing the neighbors' animals trampling or feasting on the plants. Hopefully when the softscaping begins, there will be more than enough to use.

Even with this new batch of plants coming in, they are still far from enough. So for now, the mantra is "buy, buy, buy" (plants, that is).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I smell something fishy

We only culture two species of fish for our consumption, tilapia and catfish ('hito'). Some mudfish ('dalag') may have invaded the ponds and called it home but it's ok, they're edible anyway. But in one pond are fishes of different colors. Mutant tilapias?

The koi fish belongs to the family of common carps. However, they have been bred not for consumption but for their aesthetic function. They are edible still, but who would want to eat an artful, graceful and witty fish such as these even if they are related to Imelda (the fish, not the infamous and flamboyant owner of over 30,000 pair of shoes).

It's fun and relaxing watching Koi fishes. Curiously they are docile by nature. During feeding time you could touch them by their chin and some won't even budge . Otherwise they are just merrily cruising by, waiting for the next mealtime.

With the pond's current set-up it's a little hard to appreciate the charm of these creatures. They swim in a water tinged with earthy palette, concealing their resplendence from view.

Part of the plan is to build a Koi pond that would showcase their beauty and grace. The water will be fitted with filtration system to remove algae and other toxic fish byproducts and to keep the water clear. But until then, they will have to be content where they are and be good neighbors with the tilapias and catfishes.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Au naturel!

The natural swimming pool's popularity is sweeping across Europe. It began in Austria, spread to Germany and now has conquered much of Europe. It has become so accepted that in Germany alone there are now over 100 public natural swimming pools.

So what is a natural swimming pool? A natural swimming pool (NSP) is a concept that gets its inspiration from nature. Nature's ability to filter and clean a body of water is combined with man's inclination to swim in it. By incorporating nature into a man-made pool, the use of chemicals to clean the pool's water is rendered unnecessary. In fact, a pool is considered NSP only if it's 100% chemical free.

Why go chemical-free? For one, chlorine is toxic. Its ability to kill bacteria and germs in just a small amount is the reason why it's added to drinking water to remove pathogens. Put too much of it and it becomes harmful to human. In an enclosed system like swimming pools, chlorine must be continuously added to keep the water clean. And more often than not, too much of it gets added. As a result, it emits this distinctive 'swimming pool' smell that you don't even have to see the pool to know that it's there. You might have experienced itchy skin, red eyes, dry skin or chemical smell lingering several hours after swimming. That's the effect of chlorine on your skin. Not to mention are the damaging effects of chlorine to the respiratory system.

On the other hand, natural swimming pool is clean and chlorine free. Aquatic plants like water lilies, water lotus, irises, reeds, etc are employed to clean and filter the water. They derive the nutrients they need from the people who swim in it. In return, they keep the water clean. The pool is divided into two areas, the swimming and regenerating zones. Water from the swimming zone goes to the regenerating zone. The plants' root system and the natural bacteria that reside in them filter and break down the nutrient from the water, absorb them and the filtered water is then returned to the swimming area clean and free of pathogens.

This is an eco-friendly pool concept that is worth looking into. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages... which by the way is almost none. Now, when dipping your body in a water purified by nature, doesn't that invite you to go au naturel?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Of good governance

The government through the Livestock Development Council (LDC) under the Department of Agriculture has a very noteworthy project in assisting livestock farmers improve their means of livelihood.

Any qualified farmer is loaned with a male farm animal of choice as a breeder to improve the breed of his/her existing livestock, otherwise the agency loans the farmer a pair of male and female animals to start with. In exchange, the farmer promises to return one (or two) female offspring of the animals they received from the agency (per year for goats and sheep) for a specified period of years. Different return procedures are followed for different livestock animals since not all species breed at the same rate.

The reason why the farmer has to surrender a female offspring is so that other farmers may also benefit from this project. The animals they surrender are then given to new farmers and a new cycle begins.

To help the farmer succeed in his/her endeavor, the agency provides trainings, sends technicians and veterinarians to check on the progress and health of the animals. The animals are given free grooming (if applicable), annual inoculations against diseases and dewormers too.

This government project is truly worthy to mention with approbation for all the benefits it has provided to countless of farmers.

  • The statements above are based on the actual experience we had with this project, and as such may not be the same for others.
  • If interested in availing of this project please contact your nearest LDC office.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Construction update #1

Speaking of the water lily posted on Aug. 3, 2009.

I do not know now about the fate of this lovely creature when the pond was drained of its waters the weekend of 8/01.

Two adjacent ponds (see image below) have been drained to widen, support and stabilize the soil embankment between them. The soil acts as bridge that connects the front and back of the farm which are separated by a series of seven fish ponds. Once fixed this will allow easy access by vehicles to the back side when heavy construction there begins.

NOTE: The water lily is missing on the image above because this is an older picture by a few months. When I cropped the image, the water lily got unintentionally excluded, it only had several leaves then.

Last time I talked to dear Mom, she said the ponds are filled up again by the incessant rain pouring down straight for two days now. So work has to stop for now until the ponds have been totally drained again.

Once the embankment has been fortified the ponds will be flooded again to allow the fishes to return to their merry old ways.

I'll tell you about the fate of the water lily on steriods when E.T. phone home...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lily on steroids

On my last visit to the farm, as I was strolling around I was surprisingly greeted by this single water lily plant with an explosion of leaves that covered almost half of this fish pond.

The flowers are just lovely to look at specially since they're all bunched up in the middle surrounded by leaves radiating outward from the center.

I have never seen a water lily growing so fondly like this. Its either the water is rich with the minerals it requires to grow or this lily is on steroids. One thing is for sure, the fishes are having a grand time partying under the cover of the leaves, away from the preying eyes of creatures who are just happy to have them for dinner.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A River Runs Through It

... is the title of a movie I have seen several years ago.

Now what has it got to do with this blog entry? Nothing. But if I were to give it an appropriate title, it would be "A River Runs Below It".

The farm humbly boasts of a great view of a river that flows at its eastern edge. But access to the river is quite difficult because of a cliff that separates the farm from the river. However, the cliff gives the advantage of viewing the river from above, as you can see below.

The view from above gives you a glimpse of the simple life as it was decades ago. The water is still relatively clean. You can see people washing their clothes and bathing on it. A few anglers try their luck to catch some fish for dinner. Boaters leisurely paddle on a lazy afternoon. The floodplains on its left and right banks provide a vast plain of rich soil that gives a bountiful harvest to the humble farmers who lovingly toil to turn the brown soil into a carpet of green, which in time transforms into a sea of golden grains of rice or ears of corn.

This is the view bestowed to city folks who wish to escape the busy and chaotic life of city living. It is a reminder of how it was when things were simple, a bucolic vista long gone amidst the city's labyrinth of congested roads, tall buildings and toxic air.

Take time to enjoy this unspoiled piece of nature while time has kept it safe from man's destructive hands. May it always remain a sleepy scene, spared from the kiss of death of what we call progress.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The greening begins

The variety of tropical plants is so amazing. The colors are vibrant. The forms are varied. The flowers are stunning, a wonder to behold. The scent tingles the olfactory senses, from extreme fragrance to the wickedly malodorous. The leaves come in different sizes, shapes and forms.

This is how we envision our garden would be, a lush garden of diverse tropical plants. To achieve this vision, we have flipped the pages of garden books and magazines, surfed the web, visited nurseries and gardens, to look for the kind of plants we believe would suit our vision.

Here are the list of plants we have gathered so far.
  • Alpinia purpurata - "Red Ginger"
  • Araucaria heterophylla - "Norfolk Island Pine"
  • Bambusa vulgaris - "Buddha Belly Bamboo"
  • Calathea crotalifera - "Rattlesnake"
  • Calathea lutea
  • Caryota urens- "Wine Palm or Fishtail Palm"
  • Cordyline - "Ti Plant"
  • Dypsis decaryi - "Triangle Palm"
  • Etlingera elatior - "Red Torch Ginger"
  • Hedychium coronarium - "Butterfly Ginger"
  • Hedychium densiflorum - "Assam Orange Ginger"
  • Heliconia bihai - "Chocolate Dancer"
  • Heliconia chartacea - "Sexy Pink"
  • Heliconia latispatha - "Orange Claw"
  • Heliconia stricta - "Firebird"
  • Heliconia rostrata - "Lobster Claw"
  • Phoenix canariensis - "Canary Island Date Palm"
  • Phoenix roebellini - "Dwarf Date Palm"
  • Plumeria - "Frangipani"
  • Ravenala madagascariensis - "Travelers Palm"
  • Ravenea rivulais - "Majesty Palm"
  • Strelitzia reginae - "Bird of Paradise"
  • Strongylodon macrobotrys - "Jade Vine"
  • Tapeinochilus ananassae - "Indonesian Ginger"
  • Zamia furfuracea - "Cardboard Palm"
  • Zingiber Spectabilis - "Beehive Ginger"
  • Zingiber Zerumbet - "Shampoo Ginger"
Looks like a long list, eh? But if you have one or two of each of these, they're just not enough. And currently that's what we have. We are doing what we can to propagate each of them so that one day, someday, there would be a profusion of foliage.

We still have a long list of plants missing in our list but they're just a challenge to find. It takes time and effort to go from one garden store to another looking for a particular type of plant. And it's even more challenging when the vendors don't even know what you're talking about when you mention its scientific name if you don't know its common name.

So to spare yourself from the headaches and frustrations of tracking down a particular kind of plant, bring a picture if you can find one. This will really save you time and money (which you can use to buy more plants).

Happy plant shopping my friend.