Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kidding aside

In my two older entries, "Kids stuff" and "New kids on the block", I wrote about the new additions to the farm, the hybrid kids (or 'upgrade' as the locals call it), offsprings of our native does and a purebred Anglo-Nubian buck. Missing in those entries are pictures of the baby goats.

Finally! After waiting for several weeks, I got hold of some pictures of our very first batch of upgraded/hybrid goat kids.

There are now six kids, four girls and two boys. Although brothers and sisters from different mothers, they all display distinct traits of their father, a bulky body and long, drooping ears.

The kids aren't weaned yet so their moms have to be around to feed, groom and change their diapers while their dad is busy flirting with the other ladies of the flock.

These pictures were taken using Mom's cellphone camera, so the image quality is not very good. But still, aren't they cute?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Familiarity breeds contempt

Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens).

I have known this plant since my childhood years before I even knew its name. That's because I've seen a lot of it along the road as I traveled from the city to the country and then back. And I'm the type of person who loves to look out the window and enjoys the view of the passing scenery.

For such a lovely name, too much exposure must be the reason why I've learned to ignore this plant, a too familiar sight that has become too bland and too boring.

When they started to propagate this specimen, I scratched my head and wondered why. But when I learned that Mom and Dad deeply appreciate its beauty, my contempt for this plant faded away. After all my idea of a garden is not just about a vision, it's also a tribute to those near and dear.

In my head I heard the heavenly host play their instruments. The angels blew their trumpets, and joyfully I said "Amen".

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Divide and conquer

Finally, some of the plants have been transplanted to their permanent location, that is, at the elevated back side of the farm. Those that are hardy and don't require too much water were the first to be moved. The delicate ones are kept in the 'nursery' for the mean time so that they can be better taken cared of especially now that 'El Niño' is in full swing.

A view of the 'nursery' from the uppermost part of the farm.

Because much of the farm is not equipped with any water system and the back half is elevated and sloping, the men are tasked to take care of the transplants. It's a laborious task since water must be manually fetched from the wells and watering holes to where the plants are which are then individually watered or soaked. This chore must be done daily until the wet season sets in.

The women are in charge of the plants in the 'nursery' where water is more readily available and easier to fetch. Their task is a little easier since they don't need to lug buckets of water up and down the slope in the heat of the day.

Part of the farm's upper area that needs landscaping.

As seen from the picture above, the upper area is a blank slate. Aside from the very few trees randomly planted here and there, the vegetation is composed mostly of wild grasses and weeds. Because there are no structures to shade the new transplants they are exposed to the heat of the sun from sunrise to sundown. So they are carefully being monitored for signs of stress until they are acclimatized to their new locations.

Now that they have been moved around, it has become really apparent that the number of plants we have collected and propagated since early '09 is a mere handful compared to the area that needs to be planted.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hot child in the city

"Hot child in the city, young child
Running wild and looking pretty
Young child, running wild
Hot child in the city...."

("Hot Child in the City" by Nick Gilder)

"El Niño" is in the middle of a hissy fit.

This weather phenomenon is bringing extremely hot weather not only in the city, but in the countryside as well. And there's no relief in sight.

Our province has been declared under a state of calamity due to the drought's widespread damage to rice and corn crops. The fields, already bone dry, are still baking under the unrelenting heat of the sun.

The farm is faring a little better so far. Well, primarily because we don't have crops that require extensive irrigation. But we do have plants and animals that need daily rations of water in order to survive.

One of the few holes in the ground where water naturally accumulates (image take summer '09).

Fortunately, the few watering holes are still accumulating ground water and the (not so) deep wells have been retrofitted with hand pumps to make fetching of water easier and safer. The little spring where they get their water for household use is still flowing.

The ditch that runs across the farm is a different story though. I was told it's currently dry. I had a lofty plan for this ditch, and that is to turn it into a water garden. But now that I know it does dry up, I have to rethink about my planned water garden.

The ditch flowing during the summer of 2009.

I took the picture above of the ditch in late May of 2009. Though it hasn't rained for months, as you can see water was still flowing. But now, it's only the middle of February and nary a trickle flows. I know the "El Niño" phenomenon is only temporary, but a water garden needs a permanent soaking of water.

So does that mean my plan for a water garden is dead? Not at all. Ditch or no ditch, a water garden will someday rise from the dust.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waste away

A few days ago, I came across an old but established technology of sustainable food production.

In a closed-system method of aquaculture, fish waste accumulates in the enclosure which, if not treated, pollutes the very water the fishes swim in. This unclean environment adversely affects the growth and health of the fish. Coincidentally, the dissolved wastes that pollute the water are the same nutrients that terrestrial plants need to grow healthy. This is where the science of aquaponics come in.

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. In essence, water from the fish tank or pond is pumped into beds of edible plants growing in a soil-less media (like pea gravel or other suitable materials). After the plants absorb the nutrients from the water, the filtered water is then returned into the tank or pond. This cycle is repeated at regular intervals.

As a result, the plants and fishes benefit from each other, grow healthy and in no time ready for harvest.

A sketch of possible aquaponics set-up in the farm.

I believe this is one project worth looking into. Incorporating this system into the farm would be a blessing to the fishes in the ponds and would provide a healthy source of vegetable produce.

My only concern is that the system requires a pump to constantly circulate water from the fish tank (or pond) into the plant beds. This would require the use of electricity and unfortunately electricity in our location costs more than gold [exaggeration fully intended].

For a brief discussion into aquaponics click here to watch this short presentation in YouTube.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let's have a quickie

Nope, this is definitely not about the secret tryst that goes on inside some establishments of ill-repute.

This is just a quick update of a mishmash of activities in the farm.

The temporary pens for the goats and sheep are almost done. In a few more days, the animals will no longer roam freely around the farm. And free from foragers, it will be safe to transplant some of the landscape plants to their new location alongside the dirt road.

In the meantime, they are waiting for another pregnant doe to give birth to an upgraded kid. The five upgrade baby goats I mentioned in my older post are now a rambunctious bunch of young kids.

The plants for landscaping are also doing well and growing in number through cuttings and divisions. In fact, for the first time in the garden, a few of the lobster claw heliconias are in bloom. As for bought plants, there are no new purchases to report of at the moment.

The drained ponds are getting filled with water and restocked with fish. The two leftmost ponds have been drained next for fortification and to remove the silt that accumulated through the years. They will then be combined into one bigger pond.

Lastly the little mango orchard has been sprayed with bloom inducer by a third party under a contract agreement with the farm. Hopefully the yield this year will far exceed the yields of the previous years, which were dismal!

There you go, the quick update just went by so quickly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Two is company...

With the growing number of plants to tend to in the garden, the two permanent gardeners mother hired to assist her with the chores can no longer keep up with the demanding tasks of planting, watering, weeding and other gardening-related activities.

With much hesitation, Mom hired a new helper, a nearby neighbor who badly needed a job to augment their meager family income. Although there were other applicants much qualified for the job, Mom chose this lady out of her kindly concern for this person's financial needs.

The two garden helpers taking care of the plants as seen in this picture taken several months ago.

After several days at work, a rancorous atmosphere began to develop in the otherwise peaceful garden. There developed an enmity between the two oldtimers and the newcomer. Could it be that mother unwittingly hired the proverbial 'serpent'?

It has become apparent that the newbie has an undesirable personal and work attitude, a perennial complainer with the tendency to bite back whenever her work is critiqued.

In one of our phone conversations last week, Mom asked my opinion if she should just let her go. I said just be patient with her and see if she would change for the better, otherwise she should find someone else. She commented that things were much better when she only had two helpers.

In this particular scenario three is really a crowd.