Sunday, January 31, 2010

Garden update #6 --- the garden plants

Exactly six months after I started to transcribe into an online diary my experiences and thoughts about our farm project I close the month with a video slide of the plants we have collected so far.

Right now a certain portion of the farm is dedicated to the propagation and care for the plants that we buy. It basically resembles a plant nursery or a garden store. Mostly, related species are arranged in rows, still some are misplaced here and there.

Some plants species like the heliconias and zingibers look sickly and dying but in general they are okay. They look disheveled and tired in their present state since they are always subdivided whenever new shoots appear. Although it gives them undue stress, this encourages the mother plants to grow new shoots.

In an experimental step, they will begin to transplant a few of the plants to their [most likely] permanent location, that is, alongside the newly built dirt road. This will happen after the ruminants are corralled into their still temporary roaming grounds, and that is just a couple of weeks away.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Construction update #9 --- the access road (cont.)

Last Monday morning an engineer came to inspect the farm and he concluded that a bulldozer rather than a grader is better equipped to tackle the obstacles presented by the farm's irregular terrain. So later that day a bulldozer was delivered and for the rest of the week has been busy breaking, moving, hauling and compacting the ground. Slowly the outline of the dirt road began to materialize.

They tested the dirt road by driving the van all the way to the end, which terminates at the highest point of the farm. Success! The van navigated the new dirt road with ease. This is another milestone in itself since before only an ATV or a hardy 4x4 truck could manage to get through the uneven terrain.

The next task is to haul gravel in and lay them down the road. A thick layer of gravel must be laid down, else weeds and wild grasses will grow, cover and reclaim the road in no time. This part of the project requires a hefty sum of money so we'll have to tackle this project gradually. Ah, the bane of limited financing has manifested itself again.

Since it's the early dry season the urgency to lay down gravel is lessened. But before the rainy season comes, at least a thin layer must already be in place to check the growth of weeds and wild grasses. Later on, as the layer of gravel settles, a fresh layer will be laid down on top of the old. This process must be repeated several times until the dirt road stabilizes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The mango (Mangifera Indica) tree and fruits need no further introduction. Though I have to say, this is one of the major produce of our farm.

However, since the farm is not a commercial producer of mangoes, income from our little orchard is only seasonal and its success depends on the fruit yield during the fruiting season.

One thing these trees do not need when flowering is rain. Even a slight drizzle may be enough to dislodge the flowers from the tree and thus ruin the chance of a bountiful harvest. And for some reason, someone unbeknownst to us may be doing the rain dance whenever our trees start to bloom.

It's the beginning of a brand new year and soon these trees will be flowering again. Hopefully this year the harvest will be plenty.

As for its place in our little project, the small mango orchard will remain an integral component of the farm and garden retreat.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kids stuff

Within two consecutive days after the first pregnant doe gave birth to twin female upgrade (hybrid) kids, three more pregnant does added three (2 females, 1 male) more to the population of upgrade kids. Now there are five (4 females, 1 male) upgrade baby goats in the farm.

The three new additions were much bigger than the older twins. The latest arrival was a male and it was way bigger than the rest that it had to be pulled out of the mother goat.

All the kids trace their paternal lineage from our currently one and only purebred Anglo-Nubian buck.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

Last May of 2009, I stayed at the farm on a short vacation. That gave me the chance to inspect some areas which I have not seen before.

Upon reaching the easternmost edge of the farm and admiring the view of the plains beyond and the river below, how I wished there was a direct access to the river, even if it means jumping down a cliff just to get there.

View of the river and the 'ledge' as seen from the edge of the farm.

Now there is this not so narrow strip of land, which I call the "ledge", that runs parallel to the river down below and the farm above. Problem is, this desirable piece of real estate belonged to two different owners, with an invisible boundary running somewhere in the middle.

We took chance and talked to the owner of the lot on the left of the boundary to see if he is amenable to sell a small parcel of his property. After agreeing on the right price, a piece of the "ledge" a few meters wide was ceded to the farm. This small piece of lot now sits in the middle of the two properties. And that was the highlight of my vacation!

The strip of lot outside the fence and down below used to belong to our neighbor. It is now part of the farm and leads down to the 'ledge'.

After enclosing the farm with a fence, the only way to get to the "ledge" is to build a ladder, create a stairway, or a climb down a rope. None of these implements are in place yet so getting down the ledge is a challenge. Jumping is not an option either since that would result to broken bones and severe bruises. Well, at least the farm is now connected to the river's edge.

Continuation of the picture above, now also part of the farm.

Not satisfied with this sliver of lot a few meters wide, I still wished we could have a bigger area. If only...

Then one day in October last year, after the fence has been installed, the previous owner of our piece of the "ledge" offered to sell the rest of his to us. Gladly and without hesitation, we took the offer. All of a sudden the area of our "ledge" got substantially bigger. Also, access got safer and easier since now we can hike down to it.

Continuation of the picture above, now part of the farm. The land from here down to the 'ledge' is now part of the farm.

So the next time you wish for something, remember the rest of the wise saying because... might get it!

Now how I wish we could get the right side too...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Here is another type of plant which I think is a must for a tropical garden design, the Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae).

The leaves which usually grow in rosette form and their various vibrant colors make Bromeliads a sought after plant by collectors and non-collectors alike. They come in different colors, shapes and sizes from several meters tall to as small as the Spanish moss (also a Bromeliad). Price range vary from below a hundred pesos to several thousands of pesos.

Rows of Bromeliads growing in the farm.

Avid collectors would not flinch at spending thousands just to get hold of the rarest or the most beautiful kind. I humbly admit, I am NOT one of these people. The Bromeliads we have in the farm could be classified as the 'common' kind.

So why collect the 'common' species?

Simple. In combination with other plants or by themselves alone in thick clusters, even the most common Bromeliads lend a unique landscape look to a tropical garden. They are perfect ground covers especially when accented by outcroppings of boulders here and there.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, we started to collect (or should I say amass) Bromeliads a few months ago. The pictures above show the extent of what we have in the farm right now. For landscaping purposes these are not enough yet. So they are trying their best to tend to the ones we already have with the hope that they will naturally multiply by producing pups. Hopefully too, we can purchase some more in the future.

Below is the type of Bromeliad we used to cultivate in the farm, not for aesthetic but rather for consumption purposes only. Yes, pineapples are Bromeliads too, the edible type.

Our pineapple crops have given way to herds of goats and sheep.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New kids on the block

I just received a text message from my mother bearing good news.

One of the pregnant does carrying a hybrid (Anglo-Nubian/native) has just given birth to twin female kids. As of this writing the kids are only 3 hours old, still struggling to stand on their own feet.

I was told the distinctive characteristics of the Anglo-Nubian breed are very visible. The kids have long, dangling ears and longer necks.

The mother doe had no problem giving birth. Since she was carrying two kids the babies were smaller than if there was only one. Also a female kid is usually smaller than a male kid. Another factor was that this was already her third time to give birth (but first to carry hybrids).

The mother doe that died (see "Big") was carrying a male, big kid and it would have been her first time to give birth.

There are two more pregnant does due to give birth anytime this month. They are also first-time mothers so they are under careful observation.

At least we're happy that now we have our first hybrid (also called 'upgrade') kid. Not just one but two and both are females. Hopefully they grow up to be good mother does also so that their kids will be even closer to the Anglo-Numbian breed.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Red is green again

After missing the opportunity to take a picture of the "red" jade vine (read "Red is green" entry) when it flowered for the first time, a few weeks later the vine bloomed again.

The red jade's first flower buds.

At that time my brother was not available to travel to the farm to take pictures. Rather than lose the opportunity again, mom took pictures of the flowers using her cellphone's camera. The pictures sat on her cellphone for a couple of months since they had no way to extract the files from it. Finally last month, they were able to transfer the files from the cellphone to my brother's PC via bluetooth.

Granting that the image quality is not as good as those taken using a branded camera, they all turned out pretty much okay. Below are the pictures mother took of the flowers of the red jade vine.

After I saw these images, there is no doubt, this plant is one worth collecting and propagating.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


"And I'll do anything you ever dreamed to be complete
Little pieces of the nothing that fall (yeah slide... yeah slide...)"

("Slide" by Goo Goo Dolls)

Sometime in late November 2009, I was informed that there was a landslide at the far end of the farm, where the farm overlooks the river down below. The damage was not substantial and there were no casualties either.

My mental picture of the landslide based on how it was described to me.

At the time the news was relayed to me, I sorely wished I could see the damage (frustration, frustration... sigh). They said it was small, but a damage no matter how small is still a damage that needs to be addressed.

Finally, after over a month, I have the general idea of the scope of the damage. And to me that is not something I would ignore.

We can only surmise as to the cause of the slide. The just concluded rainy season brought heavy rains and storms which may have loosened the soil. There were also tall trees planted near the cliff and the ground vibrations caused by the trees swaying with the blowing wind may have aggravated the situation.

Admittedly, without human intervention, nature will continue to sculpt and re-form the land until it reaches a stable state, only to be re-sculpted again in the future.

Monday, January 4, 2010


"I wish I were big..."
- Josh Baskin ("Big" - 1988)

"Ang laki (very big)!" were the words my mom uttered in amazement.

Early last month we lost a pregnant goat. The doe was carrying a hybrid, the result of a successful mating with our lone Anglo-Nubian buck. It was expected to give birth any time soon. This could have been the first offspring between a local and a larger imported breed.

The doe was doing fine during the day but must have gone into labor sometime in the middle of the night. The following morning they found it dead. Upon inspection they found a fully formed kid stuck in its birth canal. It was much, much bigger than the usual kid a local doe produces.

Normally, the does need no extra help giving birth. And it's always a surprise to suddenly discover one or two new additions to the brood. But now that they're carrying hybrids, precautionary procedures must be followed.

There are two more does expecting to give birth this month. This time, they will be segregated and carefully monitored. At the moment they go into labor, someone must be there to help with the birthing process. It's no longer enough for the doe to push and let gravity take over. Someone must be there to coax and pull the kid out of its mother.

Another lesson learned.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Construction update #8 --- the access road

The reinforcement of the embankment between two fishponds is almost complete. This procedure is a must to allow vehicles to pass through safely when access to the back side of the farm is needed.


Earthen embankment before fishponds were drained of water.


Fortified earthen embankment after fishponds were drained of water.

Last thing to do is to backfill the embankment with soil up to the height of the retaining wall and spruce up the general area before it vanishes under water. After that they can let the ponds fill with water and then finally restock the ponds with tilapia fingerlings.

Eventually the embankment will be landscaped and footpaths will be installed on either side for people to walk on. But that will be, if the Lord wills it, in the (near) future.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

"... on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."    (Luke 2:14)