Monday, November 23, 2009

Video Feature

Just a couple of weeks ago, there was quite a buzz over a news of people in Marikina City, displaced by two typhoons, cooking their meals on the ground where methane gas was oozing from a nearby old dump site. Read Marikina residents turn baseball field into methane gas kitchen for news details.

A few days later, the government closed down the makeshift facility (read Marikina ‘methane kitchen’ shut down) for safety reasons.

If only the local government could find a way to safely exploit this renewable fuel. Rather than let the gas escape into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming, maybe they could tap it to good use. Methane, after all, is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Today's video feature comes from Assignment Earth (courtesy of Mother Nature Network) about how a prison in Kenya employs biogas technology rather than using wood chopped from the forests to cook their meals.

Sustainable Prison

One of my future plans for the farm (if the Lord wills it) is to build a small biogas system using manure from the farm animals. This is part of my vision of sustainable "green" living.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cry for help

"Why don't I see a cry for help
Why don't I feel a cry for help
Why don't I hear her cry for help..."

("Cry For Help" by Rick Astley)

I received a bit of a sad news last Wednesday evening. One of our does (female goat) accidentally died, leaving behind two nursing kids without a mother.

It was Tuesday late evening. Everything was quiet in the farm when suddenly they heard the wail of a goat in distress. They were wary to go out to check what the problem was since it was very dark outside. Erring on the side of caution, they decided to stay put, safely inside the house.

They could hear one goat loudly bleating, crying out for help for over an hour. But thinking that it was just a minor problem, they turned a deaf ear to the sound of an animal in distress.

The following morning they went to check on the goats and found a doe dangling midair on her hind foot. It got stuck in a gap on the elevated wooden platform where they usually sleep. She must have tried to go down to the ground when her hind foot got trapped leaving her hanging between the platform and the ground. Hanging upside-down for the rest of the night, eventually she passed away.

Now they have to hand-feed the two orphaned kids, which are not yet completely weaned.

Knowing the terrain and location of the farm, it being in a remote area where unscrupulous elements could be lurking on some dark corners, I would completely agree with their decision not to go out that night.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Employer - employee relation

Talking to my mother one day, I asked: "How many are working on the farm now?" And she replied with a certain number. Then we moved on to some other important topic that needed to be discussed.

After our phone conversation, that's when it hit me. Technically, I am an employer now. Though I do not own a business nor am I a CEO or president of a company, I have a duty to pay everyone who renders work on the farm.

A caretaker trimming the overgrown grass

Yet I, myself am only a humble employee of some other entity. No wonder I could no longer feel my own income, in it comes and out it goes.

But wait. Whose face do they see when they claim for compensation at the end of a work week? My mom and dad. Ah, so it must be them, they are the employers.

Other caretakers tending the young plants

Now I understand what Rodney Dangerfield meant when he said: "I get no respect".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Construction update #5 --- front fence (the wall)

Building of the wall fence is in full swing.

We hired two more workers to speed up the project. Work is currently concentrated on the left side of the gate (facing the farm) all the way to the leftmost edge of the property. In some areas, the fence is now about four feet high. They will temporarily stop at this height and then start working on the right side. The idea is to totally enclose the property first and after that continue building the fence up to the desired height of eight feet.

Erecting the fence on the front-left is quite laborious. There are areas where they have to build around the property of a couple of neighbors and sandwiched between their lots is still a part of the farm. Thanks to us our neighbors will have three sides of their properties fenced without spending a single peso... isn't that neat?

Work progress could have gone a little bit further had they not encounter a little setback early last week. They have just finished laying down concrete blocks and before the mortar could harden, heavy rain poured down. Due to the angled terrain of the farm, a strong and rapid river of water from the road and the surrounding fields rushed down, scoured the fresh mortar and damaged a little portion of the new wall.

The damage was minimal, requiring only a quick fix. But work had to stop for three days due to the heavy and continuous monsoon rain that battered the general area.

After the rain the weather has been generally sunny and the industrious folks are out working again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Garden update #4 --- more tree ferns

As I mentioned in my 3rd garden update, the new batch of tree ferns and bromeliads have been delivered.

It has been continuously raining real hard for the past few days before the delivery so we thought they would have to postpone their trip. As soon as the sun was up, they were quick to deliver the plants.

I have gone a a little over budget this time since this batch is an unplanned purchase. We've been advised by the store owner to get as much as we can since they may not have a stock of tree ferns for the next few months. Their supply of tree ferns come from the province of Aurora and as we know this province has been battered lately by a series of strong storms and some of their roads are currently impassable and the source of the plants is unreachable.

So rather than risk the wait for availability, I chose to just go ahead and get more tree ferns.

Now, this is an experiment, just a shot in the dark. I don't know if these ferns will survive the climate in our area since it's searing hot during the summer and quite soggy during the cool season. From what I've read tree ferns need a constant cool and humid weather.

If our tree ferns wither and die, then there's nothing I can do but write off this costly experimental attempt. But if they survive and thrive, then at least we already have more than a few at hand. I'm hoping for the latter.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Red is green

And sometimes green is red, that is if you're color blind (like me).

"Jade vine" is a type of plant that is native only to the Philippines but is now popular worldwide because of its beautiful jade-colored flower. As the name implies, it is a vine. It bears little claw-like flowers which come in clusters a foot or even longer, and dangles like a pendant.

When I saw an online picture of this plant I just knew we have to have it. So on they went to garden stores and nurseries on a quest to find this plant. And find it they did. Then the seller said they also have jade vine in red.

That's how we ended up with "Jade vine" and "Red jade vine". Later on I found out that these two are not related at all, they just look and behave alike. The botanical name of "Jade vine" is Strongylodon macrobotrys while the "Red Jade vine" is Mucuna bennetti.

Both are doing well in the farm, but so far the red is faring better. In fact it has already flowered and they said they were really beautiful. Unfortunately ( for me), they did not take a picture of it when it was in full bloom. They did manage though to take a snapshot of the early flower buds.

They tried to propagate the plant from cuttings but to no avail. The flowers failed to seed either. From what I read, they need insects to pollinate the flowers. I guess we'll just have to keep trying. But for a quicker result the better solution is to buy more of these plants. And that's just what we did.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Garden update #3 --- yet more plants

A couple of days ago a van loaded with a new batch of plants arrived at the farm. Instead of the usual hodgepodge, that day's delivery was more specific, limited mostly to two types of plants. That was after all my instruction, that they would concentrate on tree ferns and bromeliads plus a couple of jade vines.

Below are some of the tree ferns already purchased a few months ago. If you notice they have no leaves, that's because they had to be chopped off so they could fit in the van. New fronds are now beginning to sprout on some of them.

In a few more days another delivery of tree ferns will arrive. These new ones are taller than our previous purchases. How I wish I could see them, if only they could send more pictures.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Plan(t)s for the future

One afternoon, a lady visitor started browsing at the plants scattered around the farm grounds. Then finding one that she liked, she asked mom if she could take it home for free. Mother declined and politely explained to the good lady that the plants are not for giveaways and that we are in fact collecting and trying to propagate them.

Seedlings lining the left and right side of the driveway

When mom recounted this incident to me, I cant help but laugh and at the same time worry about the fate of the plants when no one is on guard. Somebody with all good intentions may just pick up one or two bags of plants and then head home. This scenario is plausible since there were incidents before where guests on different occasions would pick things up and leave with them like souvenirs.

The area looks more like a nursery now than a farm. With the plants in black plastic bags neatly lined up one might think we are putting up a new business. And that's what some passers by think when they ask the caretakers.

As you can see, majority of these plants are still considered juveniles. And to achieve a lush tropical look that I aspire for in a landscape design, I may have to wait a few more years. Sure, we could buy bigger, taller, more mature plants but those would cost a whole lot more.

When deciding between quantity or quality, I usually go for quality. But in this case, when budget is severely tight, quantity might be the better option. In due time as they mature, they will achieve the quality that I am looking for.

Some plants are on plastic bags, others are grown direct from the ground.

These are just a few of the plants they are tending to right now. I do not think they're enough to landscape the whole farm though. Budget permitting, we will continue to purchase more. Mom and her crew are doing a great job of taking care of these plants.

These pictures were taken over a month ago, during the time storm "Ondoy" was busy drowning Metro Manila.