Thursday, January 20, 2011

She's a shrimp

Almost two years ago, while looking for my way out of a huge mall in the Philippines, I heard a group of young men describe someone as a "hipon" (local word for "shrimp"). Their eyes were fixated on a young lady who was standing a few meters away. Poor girl, if only she knew that at that very moment she was being complimented and insulted at the same time.

I guess having a gorgeous body and a not-so pleasing-to-look-at face is both a blessing and a curse.

But such unpleasant description does not apply to the Pachystachys lutea, also known by its several common names of Golden Shrimp Plant, Golden Candle Plant, Yellow Shrimp Plant, Shrimp Plant and Lollipop Plant. Originally from Peru, this evergreen plant produces a  bright yellow overlapping bracts which appear year-round in its native habitat, but only during the warmer months elsewhere. The bright yellow bracts form a shape of a four-sided cone. From behind the bracts grow two-lipped white flowers

As to how it got the name "shrimp plant", it must have been due to the bracts that resemble a shrimp's overlapping scales, or it might also be because of the white flowers that look like cooked and shelled shrimps.

We have several of these Shrimps scattered in the upper garden. It's not included in my list of "must have" plants but it's one of those plants that found its way to my mother's heart and that's how it got to the garden.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's in store for 2011

Before I talk about the plans for 2011, let me just briefly mention the projects we've worked on for the past couple of years.

Three years ago when we started upgrading the farm into a farm and garden concept the first thing we did was purchase lots and lots of plants. Because some plants in my 'wish list' don't come cheap we had to buy those that are still small or young. We also started other plants from seeds. From these mother plants we began to propagate them on our own. The farm has become virtually a plant nursery. It came to a point where our neighbors began to think that we were establishing a garden store business.

The next major project was the building of fence around the farm. Prior to that, only a layer of barbed wires widely spaced apart encircled the farm which provided no security nor privacy. For the front we opted to erect a concrete wall and for the sides and back we just decided to go for chain links (or cyclone wires) due to financial constraints.

There were also some other major and minor projects we've worked on within the farm and garden. They have all been featured at length in my other blog entries.

So, are there any projects lined up for 2011? There are a few.

First we need to build some structures within the garden. This would include gazebos, trellises, pergolas, retaining walls, footpaths, etc. Other structures need to be fixed and maintained like the existing retaining walls, parts of which are already crumbling.

This path along the row of black bamboos need a retaining wall to keep the soil from sliding.

Next, we need to purchase more garden plants. Most of those that we bought and locally propagated have already been planted in their designated spots. However many they are, they aren't just enough to achieve the effect I am aiming for.

My fingers are crossed that the vegetable garden will begin to take shape later this year.

On the farm side, we are waiting for the release of the sheep grant we received from the government. Target date for this is around the first or second quarter of this year.

For sure there will be other unplanned projects that will just crop up as the year 2011 unfolds. The only obstacle would be the availability of funds to take on any of these unforeseen projects.

We look forward to a fruitful 2011!

new year gardening resolutions

Visit New Year Gardening Resolutions Blog Carnival

at my little garden in japan

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bridging the gap

The farm has a very uneven terrain. It's like a miniature version of a geological land formation called a "valley". The lowest area of the farm is where the series of fishponds are located. To go from one side to the other, one has to cross what I fondly call "land bridges", which are in reality just embankments to hold water for the ponds.

The main "land bridge" is wide enough to allow vehicles to cross one at a time. It has been reinforced to support the weight of a passing vehicle. After construction, both sides of the embankment have been landscaped with dwarf Heliconias.

After the construction. Heliconias lining the edge of the embankment. The surrounding areas are still being improved by planting more tropical plants.

They were wondering why the Heliconias on the left side are not growing as lush and thick as the ones on the right. My only conclusion was because the ones on the right have direct access to the water seeping from the nearby pond while those on the left are dry because the water level on the other pond is about a meter below the level of the plants.

I suggested that they diligently water the ones on the left since Heliconias love to have wet feet and use the water from the pond for added nutrients. We'll see in a couple of months if there will be improvements.

During the construction.

Before the construction.

My father is the one supervising the improvements on the embankments. There are two other "land bridges" which are not as wide as the one above. They have begun sprucing up the looks of the second embankment by planting along its edges. The third may have to wait since I gave my Dad another project to work on. That  should keep him occupied for several weeks. More on the new project in my future posts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hope floats

Our garden helper holding one of last year's Lotus flower from the mother plant.
My hope has sunk so low with regard to the future of our Lotus Plants. After encountering failure after failure, I have begun to psych myself up to accept that I am about to lose one of my "must have" plants for our garden. But when I remember that this is the single most expensive plant we have ever bought so far, acceptance of failure is just difficult.

I wonder how others are able to successfully propagate their Lotus Plants. Do they say a prayer, offer a sacrifice or utter incantations first before they dare touch this sacred plant?1

After dividing the mother plant into two, the other half died. After submerging a basin of Lotus plants in the shallow side of the pond, the snails ate them up. Those that are left have weak stems they could not even support their leaves. The leaves are just floating on the surface of the water behaving more like Waterlilies.

The remaining half of the mother plant stopped flowering after it was damaged by the nasty October storm. It was good that it kept blooming before the storm that Mom was able to collect plenty of seeds. Still, we don't know how many of those seeds are viable since some rotted after sowing.

The very first Lotus plants from seeds harvested from the mother plant. Notice the leaves are small but at least one stem has finally managed to break out of the water.

Despite the setbacks Mom continued to experiment with different methods of growing the Lotus Plant and finally it seems like her efforts have paid off. A few of the stems have began pushing the leaves completely out of the water and there are even a couple of stems still with unfurled leaves already protruding past the water surface.

Two of the most recent seedlings are now growing healthy with broad leaves. More stems are propping up their leaves well above the water level. They are only around two months old.

We still have no place to permanently relocate these plants so for now they'll be growing in buckets, basins and other suitable containers. I thought someday I could create a water garden utilizing the ditch water flowing from our neighbor's pond but I was told that too is infested with snails.

Hopefully these plants mature and eventually bloom and produce more seeds so that their survival could be secured. Later on I'll have them transferred into urns and other decorative containers and moved to desirable spots in the garden.

...beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will...
from the movie "Hope Floats" (1998)

1 Another common name for Nelumbo nucifera is "Sacred Lotus."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A house is not a home... an update

There was an old house in the farm that was in a state of deterioration because it has fallen into disuse. That was the subject of an older entry I called "A house is not a home."

To make a bad situation worse, the wicked October storm blew away the roof of this unused house. And so it looks like it is just waiting for the final blow, for the walls to crumble down into a heap of rubble.

The state of the badly damaged house after the passing of a strong storm...

But as part of the farm's rise from a hard fall, along with the other damaged structures, this old house was also refurbished. A new roof and door frames were installed, the surrounding areas were cleared and spruced up, and a cable fence was erected around it. It looks like someone is going to call this a home after all...

...and its spiffier look after some repairs.

Because our flock of sheep were left homeless when their shabby house was demolished by the storm, they have been left to weather the on and off downpour in the open field. Since the evenings have been cold and wet for the past couple of months they needed a warm and dry place to stay in after sundown. A vacant house and some homeless sheep, just the perfect fit.

The sheep leaving their new house in the morning to forage on the fresh grass outdoors.

One particular blogger friend (hello Andrea...) commented on my "Home-made" post that the house for our goats are way better than some of the houses of the rural folks and more so than the slum dwellers in the urban areas. I wonder what she'll say when she reads this post :-)

Even the veterinarian who regularly visits the farm to check on the health of the animals was surprised when she saw the new residents of this old and once empty house.

In the rural areas, a typical house is either made of wood, bamboo or hollow (or cinder) blocks. Most hollow/cinder block houses have unplastered walls due to financial constraints.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The whole ten yards

"The Whole Ten Yards" was a sequel to the movie "The Whole Nine Yards." And just like the movie, this post is also a sequel to my post "The whole nine yards."

In my original post, I wrote about the transformation that happened to a stretch of forgotten ground below the patio of our humble home. Due to my constant prodding, my mother embarked on a mini project to groom the yard and make it more pleasing to look at. And that was the birth of yet another mini garden.

It has been around six months now since I wrote about that garden below the patio. Below are some pictures of its current state.

Weeds growing around the plants are just unrelenting in their attempt to reclaim the ground.

Open spaces still need to be filled with more ornamental plants.

There's still plenty of room for the garden to grow beyond the clumps of bamboos on the left. Wouldn't it be nice to put a bench to sit on while fishing or resting at the edge of the garden?

Below is a picture of how the yard looked like before it was transformed into a more inviting place to stroll through.

There are so many other things I can think of to improve the appearance of this place, but for now this will suffice. The plants still need to take hold and claim the land like they have been there for quite a while.

In the future we'll add a winding path, an arbor, some garden accents (like rocks, driftwoods, etc.), a few benches to sit on especially close to the pond so that lazy anglers can sit down while waiting for some unlucky fish to take the bait.

I don't know if there will ever be a "The Whole Eleven Yards" movie in the future. But I'm quite sure there will be another blog entry with the same title.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

"... the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come."
(2 Corinthians 5 : 17)