Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When it rains, it pours

It may be a few more days before I could get a copy of the pictures from the farm. My brother has just returned to Manila and he's got more pressing stuff to do than sit down in front of the computer to e-mail me the pictures.

While he was in the farm, storm Ketsana ("Ondoy") devastated Metro Manila and submerged over 80% of the capital region in deep and filthy flood. Unfortunately, my brother's house was not spared. Chaos made it impossible to travel to and out of the metropolis for several days. Now that he's back home, he faces the daunting task of cleaning up the mess inside their house courtesy of the storm.

The strong rain also poured down continuously for two days in the farm. My mother said it was like there's no tomorrow. But since the storm was not packing strong winds, just heavy precipitation, the plants were left unscathed.

Its been several days of sunshine now, but there's something brewing in the horizon... two of them.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soilent Green

"Soylent Green is people!"

The problem with the type of soil we have in the farm is that its mostly clay. It may be good for something else, but it's quite a challenge for gardening.

Since we have all these plants that require good soil to grow healthy, they have been importing this precious commodity from another garden. Good thing is, it's free. The only catch is that they have to travel several kilometers and haul it back to the farm themselves.

After a few weeks the mound of imported good earth was getting used up. Then mom realized that there is a great source of fertile soil right within the farm. Remember the two drained fishponds? Well up to now they're still dry.

With all the fish poops plus other animal poops, uneaten fish foods, dead leaves and other biodegradable gunks all mixed up and accumulating at the bottom of the pond, the soil eventually got enriched by these free nutrients. After years of not seeing daylight the mixture of wastes have decomposed and aged into a rich plant medium. Today, this is where they're getting the soil needed by the ever growing number of plants.

By using the soil in the pond, they don't have to use synthetic fertilizer. Soylent Green is people, but our pond soil is 'green'.

"Soylent Green" is a science fiction movie made in the early 70's and set in the year 2022 when the world is burdened by over population and available resources are almost used up. To feed the people, food is rationed and one food being rationed is "Soylent Green" wafers.

If you haven't seen the movie, watch it and find out what Soylent Green is made of.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Say cheese!

Short update...

So that I could also see the changes taking place at the farm, I asked my 'unofficial' photographer (a.k.a. my older brother) to visit the place and take some new snapshots, particularly of the fence and the plants.

Some of the pictures I've already posted here are from the ones he took a few months back and some are the ones I took when I last visited a couple of months ago. Hopefully by next week I should have a copy of the new pictures.

There you go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video Feature

As I was searching the web for videos relevant to the current state of our environment, I stumbled upon this three year old video from National Geographic. It may be an old video but its message is even more important today than three years ago.

Our featured video deals with the burden of over population. The first half focuses on illegal logging as it exacts its deadly toll on a small village in the Philippines. The last half talks about carbon offsetting deal between Germany and India during the 2006 FIFA World Cup.


In 2006, the population of the Philippines was over 88,000,000. In 2009, the population is reaching 92,000,000. In a span of three years over 3 million people were added to the inhabitants of this small island nation whose land area will inevitably shrink due to the rise of sea level.

Blogger's comment:
Population control is a prickly topic in the Philippines. The government program is rendered inutile by its lack of determination and resources. And as long the government remains a marionette of the dominant church, majority of Filipinos will continue to breed uncontrollably like rats and rabbits do on a fine, fine day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Garden update #2 --- more plants

Another van-load of new plants came to join the happy bunch of other plants already thriving in the farm.

In addition to mother, who's been attentively tending the "unofficial" garden, two others have been employed just to take care of the growing brood of plants.

I remember just a few months ago when we first started collecting plants, my mom alone could tend to all their needs. Then as the number of plants began to multiply she needed to get help to do the daily tasks of watering, weeding, transplanting, pruning, etc. Lately, the two of them could no longer keep up with the workload that another person has been employed, though on as-needed basis only.

I reckon once this new batch of plants are added and begin to grow in size and number the as-needed only position will become a permanent one.

Here's the list of the new batch of plants joining in.
  • Alpinia purpurata - "Pink alpinia"
  • Alpinia zerumbet - "Shell ginger"
  • Asplenium nidus - "Birds nest fern"
  • Cananga odorata - "Ilang-ilang"
  • Cestrum nocturnum - "Dama de noche"
  • Citrofortunella mitis - "Calamansi (variegated)"
  • Curcuma alismatifolia - "White curcuma"
  • Cyathea ?? - "Tree ferns"
  • Cyperus papyrus - "Dwarf papyrus"
  • Cyperus papyrus - "Giant papyrus"
  • Dichorisandra thyrsiflora - "Blue ginger"
  • Etlingera elatior - "Pink torch"
  • Gardenia jasminoides - "Rosal / Gardenia"
  • Gardenia jasminoides - "Rosal / Gardenia (variegated)"
  • Hedychium angustifolium - "Peach camia"
  • Hedychium coronarium - "White camia"
  • Hedychium densiflorum - "Assam orange ginger"
  • Heliconia bihai - "Chocolate dancer"
  • Heliconia caribaea - "Red caribaea"
  • Heliconia caribaea" - Yellow caribaea"
  • Heliconia Chartacea - "Sexy pink"
  • Heliconia latispatha - "Orange claw"
  • Heliconia lennartiana - "Orange panama"
  • Hydrocleys nymphoides - "Water poppy"
  • Iris ?? - "Water iris"
  • Juncus pallidus ? -"Broomstick"
  • Medinilla magnifica - "Medinilla"
  • Michelia alba - "Chamapaca (white)"
  • Michelia champaca - "Yellow Champaca"
  • Michelia doltsopa - "Chinese magnolia"
  • Platycerium holtummii - "Staghorn fern"
  • Tecomaria capensis - "Love and Devotion"
  • Vitex negundo - "Lagundi"
  • Wrightia antidysenterica - "White angel"
  • Zingiber zerumbet - "Shampoo ginger"
  • Zingiber zerumbet - "Shampoo ginger (variegated)"
  • ??? - "Bromeliad"
  • ??? - "Calios - bonsai"
  • ??? - "Carabao fern"
  • ??? - "Dry narie"
  • ??? - "Ferns - other"
  • ??? - "Ground orchid"
  • ??? - "Jasmine (Jamaican)"
  • ??? - "Jasmine (Singaporean)"
  • ??? - "Money tree -red"
  • ??? - "Money tree -white"
As you may have noticed some plants do not have botanical names. It's quite a challenge identifying their botanical names since local names may vary from place to place. I'll fill in the blanks as soon as I get their names.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Construction update #3 --- the fence

Invigorated by fresh infusion of funds, more needed materials were purchased to continue with the fencing project. They were ordered in Manila and had them delivered to the farm. They found out that these materials are cheaper in Manila and even if you add the delivery cost it would still come out cheaper than just buying them locally.

But for some "acts of men" reasons, it took over half a day longer for the construction materials to get delivered.

The delivery van left Manila early in the evening thinking that the night drive will be smooth. Indeed, everything went smooth until later on when they encountered some unexpected hurdles on their long journey to the farm.

First, they got stuck on a highway traffic. There was an accident involving a semi which caused traffic on both directions to back up for several kilometers.

After idling for several hours, they finally got moving until daytime arrived. And with the rising sun came a few more hurdles. This time they were stopped on three different occasions by some 'good' men of L.T.O. (Land Transportation Office) who were stationed on strategic sections of the highway. In all instances they concocted some bogus violations in an apparent attempt to extract some grease money. The threat equates to "either pay or have your van and deliveries impounded". Christmas must be drawing near. Oh well, may they burn in .... (you know where). Now!

After all these wild encounters with local vultures, snakes and crocodiles, at last all the materials for the fence have been delivered to the site. This should be enough to finally finish both the left and right sides.

After that, they will begin making hollow/concrete blocks (see "A penny for your thoughts"). This will take some time since by their estimate, it would need at least 20,000 blocks to construct the front fence. Yes, the front fence will not be made of cyclone wires this time. It will be a solid, 2.5 meter (8.2 feet) tall concrete block wall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rise and shine!

Exactly a week ago from today, I received a text message from my mother. I was a bit alarmed when I saw that the time was just past 5:00AM where the text message originated. And I'm pretty certain my mom doesn't get out of bed that early.

Apparently, she received a notification message from the bank. And she wanted to know if I had something to do with it. Partly, yes since I did send money but the text message was definitely not my idea. Here's what it said:
DOE JOHN X. sent you remittance 9876543210 which has been credited to the account. You may now withdraw the funds. - TheBank.

She was awakened by the incoming message alert and was surprised receiving such a message because the bank didn't use to notify her whenever there's a fund transferred to her account.

We just concluded that this might be a new service implemented by the bank. Mind you, I really do appreciate this new service. It's quite nice because now they notify beneficiaries whenever they receive a remittance.

My only beef about this service is that the timing of their text message is simply bad. In my mother's case, it's like an unsolicited wake up call. Maybe they should fine-tune their system to take into consideration the current time where they're sending their courtesy messages.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get here... if you can

"There are hills and mountains between us,
always something to get over
If I had my way, surely you would be closer..."

so sings Oleta Adams, way back in the early 90s. A song which continues to be one of my few favorites. But then again, excuse my wandering because I am digressing from the real subject for today.

How do you manage a project and not be there to supervise and keep things moving? How can you check on its progress if you can't even see it?

To give you an idea how far away the project is, here's a skewed mathematical equation for you to calculate:
11,922 km. (7,408 miles) + 10 hours drive = the farm.

That's how close as I can be to the project site.

So, how am I bridging the distance so that I can guide this project (hopefully) to a favorable conclusion?

"you can reach me by railway
you can reach me by trailway
you can reach me on an airplane
you can reach me with your mind...
you can reach me by a caravan
cross the desert like an arab man"

Distance is definitely a big obstacle but certainly not a formidable barrier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In the grand scheme of things

A good friend who has long been reaping the joys of farming curiously requested some current pictures of the farm. I hope he won't be disappointed when he sees a sea of wild grasses and weeds growing unabashedly underneath the feet of the few grazing ruminants.

Well, as you can see from the photos above, that is what's currently on the upper side of the farm. Just think of this sparse piece of land as a blank canvass, waiting for the skillful touch of a master's hand to gracefully paint it with hues that depict the colors of life.

The lower, smaller side houses the fish ponds, a mango orchard, a few other fruiting and non-fruiting trees thriving here and there, and the pens for the pigs and poultry animals. The lower part also is where the ornamental plants we have been painstakingly collecting and propagating are temporarily located, safe from the voracious appetites of the grazing animals.

Eventually, a part of the farm will be transformed and dedicated to organic herb and vegetable gardens. We will also keep the small orchard of mango trees. The grass feeders will be corralled in one sizable area, and the rest of the ground will then be landscaped into a lush oasis of tropical plants, complete with water features and structures where hopefully, one can find temporary respite from the elements or rest from the daily grinds of life.

Just thinking about the enormity of this plan, this may be a grand scheme and quite ambitious at that. But hey, as long as imagination is still free, why not imagine the possibilities.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The art of fencing

Chain-link, interlink, chain-wire, cyclone, hurricane or whatever name one might call it, it's still a fence, the same kind of fence. That's what I've learned when we started fencing in the farm. I didn't know that this flat and uninteresting tangle of wires goes by so many names. All I knew was 'chain-link', period.

Why am I ranting about the different names of one kind of fence, you may ask. Simply because in the beginning it confused me a lot and most of all because I need to vent out my ire about this fence.

Why confusing? Depending on who I talk to, it goes by different names. Talking to my mom, one day she'd call it inter-link, the next cyclone. Talking to my dad, he'd call it cyclone, the next interlink. Wait a minute, are we talking chain-link here?

Why am I irked? Because of miscommunication or the lack of it. Years ago, a roll of this fence yields a dimension of 6ftx10m. So when I was handed the price quote, it was based on this figure. Yesterday, when they started to install the wires, they got a huge surprise. Each roll is 4 meters short in length. Apparently, that's the new standard. Grrrrrr!

So now they're several meters short of finishing the left side of the farm. And we need to recalculate the cost of fencing the right side plus the missing portion on the left side.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A penny for your thoughts

Remember the old saying "kapag maiksi ang kumot... (if the blanket is small...)"? It's all about making do with what little you have. And if you have a limited budget (stress on 'limited budget') be creative and see how far you can stretch it.

In one of my conversations with my father, he said that if the requirement is huge, it is cheaper in the long run to make your own hollow blocks (or concrete blocks) than to buy them. After all, all you need is the know-how, a mold, some sand and bags of cement... plus of course a lot of sweat. And that is the birth of another do-it-yourself project.

Hopefully this won't be a penny-wise and pound-foolish venture. We'll see, we'll see...