Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Growth spurt

Sometime last February I received a text message from my mother. She said she was very delightfully surprised when she went to check and clean the area around the row of Oldham bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) seedlings*. Almost all of them have suddenly produced shoots that are over 6 feet tall, some are even taller than the nearby concrete wall. And these shoots were not there yet when she last cleaned the area a few days before.

New shoots are now growing tall, some are even taller than the wall.

Soon this row of bamboos will provide a privacy screen from our neighbors across the street.

Their new trunks are still skinny but their sudden appearance is an indication that these seedlings* are now adapted to their new environment. They need a lot more time to mature, their trunks will eventually reach a height of 40-60 feet with culms of 3-5 inches in diameter.

Eventually these bamboos will be taller than those giant heliconias in the background.

More signs of new growth.

I too was very glad to receive this pleasant news and could not wait to see the pictures. Early this month I got to see what the shoots look like and I am now even more determined to complete my green privacy screen project which has been in limbo due to the exorbitant cost of one small Oldham bamboo seedling*.

* For lack of knowledge of the proper term, I call the young bamboos "seedlings" even though they were a product of vegetative propagation (either branch node cutting or air-layering).

Friday, March 16, 2012

A royal affair

One February morning our three dependable farmhands' daily routine has been altered for a couple of days. Although it seldom happens they are now used to this kind of unscheduled disruption. Almost always, this break in their daily routine is caused by someone who lives thousands of miles away.

Latest batch of Royal palms delivered to the farm one morning last February.

Unloaded and resting under the tall Royal palms. The palm on the left is a Golden Veitchia.

This time they have to plant ten (10) newly bought Royal palms. Some of the palms arrived bare root. They have been dug up a day before from a nursery in a neighboring province just south of where the farm is. Because of the state they're in, these Royal palms needed to be transplanted immediately.

One by one the palms are transported to the upper garden using an ever reliable water buffalo.

On their way to the upper garden. This method of transport using water buffalo is a typical rural (provincial) scene.

A few days after the transplant. These Royal palms are not out of the woods yet, only time will tell if they will survive.

Almost every plant suffers a transplant shock especially if the roots have been drastically disturbed. These palms are no different. In fact even the Royal palms that were transplanted last November have not yet completely recovered despite an almost daily dose of rainwater.

Summer has finally arrived and the forecast is a wet summer this year. If this is true then this is good for the sake of these plants which are now acclimatizing to a new life in the farm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Picture perfect

And to think that over a year ago I was so worried that we were not having any success in propagating our Lotus plant from the one and only mother plant we had back then. But patience and perseverance prevailed.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Garden update #10 - vertically challenged

It's been a long time since I've made an update on new plants for the garden. The last such update was "Garden update #9 - this time no new plants," which was posted in May, 2010. And even that post mentioned no new plant purchases.

For various reasons, all connected to the farm, I had to slow down with plant acquisitions. But from time to time (as dictated by necessity) I still manage to buy a few. So, as far as I can remember, below is the list of plant purchases since my last garden update.

February 2012:
  • Roystonea regia - "Royal Palm"
  • Cordyline spp. - "Ti Plant"
  • Veitchia merrilli - "Golden Veitchia"
  • Tabernaemontana pandacaqui - "Pandakaki-puti"

November 2011:
  • Bambusa blumeana - "'Tinik' Bamboo"
  • Bambusa oldhamii - "Oldham Bamboo"
  • Dendrocalamus asper - "Giant Bamboo"
  • Dendrocalamus latiflorus - "Machiku Bamboo"
  • Guadua angustifolia - "Colombian Thorny (or Iron) Bamboo"
  • Roystonea regia - "Royal Palm"

February 2011:
  • Wodyetia bifurcata - "Foxtail Palm"
  • Dypsis decaryi - "Triangle Palm"

January 2011:
  • Passiflora caerulea - "Blue Passion Flower Vine"
  • Passiflora spp. - "Lavender Passion Flower Vine"
  • Passiflora manicata - "Red Passion Flower Vine"

Last year's batch of Triangle and Foxtail palms.

Since February, 2011 I have been concentrating on purchasing palm trees and bamboos. Two days ago, 10 Royal Palms were delivered to the farm. Today and the coming days they will be planted in the upper garden, along a portion of the left side of the dirt path. These are in addition to the first 7 that were planted there in random locations last January. More ornamental palm trees are needed to populate the sparsely vegetated upper garden.

Another part of the upper garden has been planted mostly with coconut tree seedlings. The seedlings came from the farm's few coconut trees.

Three of the Oldham bamboos, pictures taken last month.

As for the bamboos, I still need 100+ of Oldham bamboo seedlings to complete my privacy screen project. There are exciting developments with our first 19 Oldhams (with 1 casualty). But that will be for a future post since I don't have supporting pictures yet.

Notice that most of the new purchases are plants with the ability to grow tall. With blessings from above, many more of these will be planted in the future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First water garden... 5 months later

It's been over five months since the first water garden was constructed. Let's see how it's doing now.

From the looks of it, the aquatic plants are loving their new home. Much of the water surface is now covered with foliage. In a few areas not covered with leaves you will catch a glimpse of the fishes swimming. The adult Tilapias have been removed from the pond. They found their new home too cozy for reproduction that they started to make baby Tilapias. Now only Kois and Tilapia fingerlings inhabit the pond.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hold the torch

I hold the torch for a certain ginger-head. I showered her with care, tender touch and kindness. But alas, the attentions I gave were all left unrequited.

But years of persistent waiting, though truly exasperating, has finally bore its fruit. Our Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior) has blossomed!

Just like the Bird of Paradise, this plant has kept me waiting for so many years to see it bloom. Last year, after three years plus of waiting, the former granted my wish. With that, I thought the latter's turn will come very soon.

With almost four years of no luck I was inclined to conclude I'm waiting for a flower to sprout from the wrong plant. Whenever I see posts of the Torch Ginger from other bloggers I can't help myself but be envious. One blogger friend, Africanaussie, suggested I send her pictures of our ginger so she can help verify if it is really a Torch Ginger. Immediately I asked my mother to take a picture of the said plant, but since we now have different species of gingers in the garden, she's already confused as to which plant is which.

Then one January morning, as mother was going around the garden to check on the plants, lo and behold, two Torch Gingers are in bloom. They may only have one flower each but that is more than enough for me, I'm happy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Annual visit

I really do wish I could make annual visits to the farm. Although this is something that I could not do yearly, I found out just a year ago that we do have annual visitors.

About this same time last year I noticed these white birds flying in and out of the farm, mingling with the grazing sheep. I think they are egrets. I inquired about this from my father and he said they come during the early part of the year and stay for a few weeks. Cool! The farm gets some wildlife visitors annually.

What other wildlife visit the farm?

Years ago I also learned that fruit bats roost under the canopy of the four mature Royal Palms. This may be the reason why we don't see any fruits from these palm trees. There are also undesirable guests like snakes and monitor lizards that make their presence known from time to time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Picture perfect

Seldom do I get a picture of the farm and/or garden that leaves a lasting, positive impression on me.

And on those days when I begin to question myself why I should continue with this farm and garden improvement project, such a picture helps uplift my sagging spirit
and gives me a validation that there is a reason to push on.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A shepherd rises

(conclusion of A shepherd's journey)

After taking a well-deserved rest from carrying the heavy statue of the Good Shepherd to its destined location, the task of erecting it came next. They had to act fast to take advantage of a break from days of continuous downpour.

Even though the sun was out that day, it was veiled behind thick and dark clouds. But that was good enough to finish the job. It appears like Mother Nature was bestowing her blessing on this project. Thus, the statue was erected without a single hitch.

I decided against the idea of painting the statue as had been previously suggested. I think it would look better in its natural color of concrete. I'm afraid it might look cartoonish if different colors are applied to it.

The open field in front of the 'Good Shepherd' is where the small flock of sheep usually graze.

The surrounding area needs a good landscaping to better highlight the image of the Good Shepherd.

The corn stalks will all be cut down as soon as the ears are harvested and there will be no more corny jokes in the future. In fact a gradual landscaping has begun with whatever plants are still available in the nursery. There are so many more landscaping addition I can think of (e.g.: falls/stream, fishpond, sitting areas, spot lights), but these will have to be implemented in small stages as budget permits.

With the statue of the Good Shepherd looking over much of the farm and garden, may it always remind those who sees it of the higher power that never fails to guide and shepherd His flock.

 Postscript: The first time I saw the finished statue I was very disappointed. I know I will never be satisfied with the craftsmanship. The most important instruction I gave was not followed, the face of the image does not resemble the picture that I provided. If I were to decide now, I would rather have this entire project redone, start from scratch and look for another artist. But there are other factors that must be considered especially the monetary part.

I could have injected my inputs had the artist given updates during the construction process. After all this was what we agreed to. I was completely surprised when the only update I received was a message saying the work is done.

Originally, I was planning on having our local parish priest come to bless the statue after it is installed but I'm postponing this until I personally inspect it and then decide whether it can stay or build a new one.

Once again I was hit hard with the realization that it is so difficult and frustrating to work on a project that is thousands of miles away and you can't be there to personally see the progress. If only I can be in two places at the same time. Beam me up, Scotty!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A royal treatment

The seven new Royal palms.
Whenever I go to the farm, two things never escape my notice: that I always sleep in my brother's bedroom and those four imposing palm trees across our house.

On my every visit I temporarily use my brother's vacant room. That's because I have no room of my own; it has long been converted into a storage room...sigh! Somehow I understand how the "Holy Family" felt when they were told "there's no room in the inn." Maybe next time I'll bunk with the goats, or better yet, with the sheep. Talk about royal treatment!

Now when it comes to royal, those four imposing palm trees across the house aptly fit the title. I was told they are called Cuban Royal palms, Florida Royal palms or simply Royal palms (Roystonea regia). Although it's now a very common landscaping plant, I never really cared until I saw them in our own place. They are impressive in size, height and stature, fitting to be called 'royals.'

The trunks of the original four Royal palms. Picture taken on my visit last February, 2011

Since we only have four Cuban Royals in the farm, I thought of getting some more and randomly plant them in the 'upper' garden. In the future as they grow tall, these should help this struggling garden look more like a true garden and not just an open field with scattered plants here and there.

With the money left from the botched purchase of bamboo seedlings and the purchase of two Labrador puppies they were able to buy seven Royal palms. The palms they bought aren't very tall yet. That's fine since the really tall ones with visible trunks I'm pretty sure would cost thousands and thousands of pesos, if not more.

Except for the second picture, the rest were taken on a very dreary day. It has been raining almost daily for the past three months. Taking advantage of those hours without rain they immediately planted the Royal palms in random locations.

Seven is still not enough. There should be more of them in the farm. But with no budget yet, the rest would have to wait... until I win big in the lotto.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A shepherd's journey

(continuation of I am the Good Shepherd...)

Last November, when Mom and Dad traveled to the capital city from the farm, their purpose was not only to buy bamboo seedlings but to fetch the finished statue of the Good Shepherd as well.

This endeavor requires that they have to take the van so they can bring the huge and heavy statue back to the farm. The journey takes more than 300 kilometers each way and because father was not in a good physical condition to drive the van we had to hire a driver. This is still way cheaper than having the statue delivered to the farm. Our concern was this van is very old and it might not take the weight of the load. Well, it did.

A truck delivers the Good Shepherd to our house in the suburb of Metro Manila.

After an overnight journey the statue arrived and unloaded at the farm.

Because of the unrelenting rain that poured down in our area last November and December, they could not install the statue at its designated place. Thus it remained in the front porch while they waited for at least a couple of days of no rain before its foundation could be constructed.

Waiting in the front porch while the foundation is being constructed.

Eventually mother nature quieted the skies and let the sun shine for a couple of days, more than enough to clear the site and construct the concrete base where the statue will stand. After the concrete base hardened it is time to move the statue but the sky wailed again for several days. Taking advantage of one day without rain, even though the sun hid behind thick and ominous clouds, father gathered up nine men from the neighborhood to carry the heavy statue from the house to the installation site.

Some adjustments were made to carry the load safely.

Slowly navigating the sloped road down to the pond area.

A short rest after crossing the pond bridge and before the start of the uphill climb.

Another short rest.

And the march continues...

...and continues... almost halfway there ...

... until they reached the site.

The journey from the house to the site was not easy. I was told the statue weighs around one metric tonne (~1,000 kilogram). Every several meters the men had to stop and take a breather. The constant rain from the previous days made the dirt road very soft, muddy and slippery.

Finally the Good Shepherd arrived at his intended location, the slope of the highest part of the farm. Thanks to the will and determination of the men who carried the heavy statue to the place where it will command a view of the rest of the farm and garden.

to be continued... (click here for the conclusion)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Every dog has its day

According to one online dictionary, "every dog has its day" is a proverb which means everyone gets a chance eventually. And that includes getting a chance to go to doggie heaven.

One of our two farm dogs died last October, 2011. One day our male dog's jaw suddenly swelled and the following day it died before it could be brought to the vet's office. He left behind a very lonely sister. Our dogs are not treated as house pets, they are never allowed to set foot inside the house once they grow up. They have the entire farm as their playground and the stars are their blanket at night. However they have the storehouse for shelter during inclement weathers.

Because our dogs serve as alarms with their incessant barking when someone enters the farm premises, the need to replace the deceased dog became a priority. Luckily there was more than enough left in the budget allotted for the purchase of bamboo seedlings since we did not get the number of seedlings we needed.

Meet our new Labrador dogs. They were 3 months old when they were bought last November. My eldest niece took the rights to name them and being a Korean movie, TV and music (K-pop or Korean pop) fan, she named them Leeteuk (black, male) and Sora (yellow, female). Because they're still puppies they sleep in the main house and are free to roam and play inside.

Four months old Leeteuk (left) and Sora (right)...

... temporarily resting inside their travel cage after a refreshing bath.

Yesterday Leeteuk and Sora received their third and last installment of vaccinations and their anti-rabies shot. In a few more months they'll be ready to help Tintin (the only adult dog left) guard the farm.

Congratulations Leeteuk and Sora! Welcome to our dysfunctional family!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year