Live Simply vs. Simply Live

The beginning month rolls by ,uncaring whether or not I join in the mad rush to be productive or to be left behind.I decided I will take my time. This contemplative stance is doing me good though. I usually fill this month with the usual suspects- goals to achieve of which the central focus is myself- career, well-being , physical fitness, security. Not this time. I wanted to stand in this precipice , as if I am just a spectator , able to observe what my surrounding is up to , and living in the knowledge that it is in my power really to weigh my options. Do I really have to do what I supposed I need to do , and do I have to do it now? Do I need to be conditioned that I need to be buying all the stuff I supposed my family need to survive? Do I have to work really hard to achieve the sort of happiness I expect to get? I am led to postpone any screaming concern that needs my attention for now. It’s good to ponder . It exercises my God-given ability to rest my ambivalent mind , and receive the gift of silence for once.

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Eyeing the papaya already.One was felled by strong winds.

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Enjoying my daily inspection of veggies in my little untamed patch.

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Air-drying Italian oregano for an idea of making an infused oregano oil.

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Early morning gardening. What a surprise to see my bitter gourd finally fruiting.

 

And as I sit joyfully , doing nothing ..all sort of inspirations are visiting me like ripples in succession. For once , there is no to-do list , no time frame. I am just led to sow seeds, plant , prune, gather dead leaves..and naturally , the empowered self seems to show itself. I begin to see this unhurried self doing a lot more.

I hope to be doing this more often . To commit to be mesmerized by the quiet persuasuions of nature. Living. simply .

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A good year that was

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While my daughter Bella helps me with the mulching , I go about transplanting the okra.

I decided to chronicle my accomplishments as a novice farmer of 2015 not to boast but to boost my morale into moving forward. My love affair with the soil came in so slowly..but when it finally warmed up..Oh boy.. it’s unstoppable within me. Like a good read it keeps me in suspense. And like some comfort food , keeps me wanting to always go back to it to balance my rhythm. January was when the time I made a pact with myself to start sowing seeds and start baby steps in living sustainably.I ate everything along the way to help me in my quest for a natural brand of farming. I was led to attend 3 major seminars that shaped the way I farm now. Natural Building , Intensive Beekeeping and Natural Farming. All of which only made my thirst for knowledge become severe that I decided to make my own backyard my lab to experiment with plants , seed saving and soil-buiding.I made quite a lot of progress and quite a couple of mistakes too that enriched my experience even more..

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Frehly harvested ginger. I sowed them eight months ago.

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Native pigs are my newest addition to my farm. They eat taro leaves and banana trunks that thrive in the farm.

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Every week , I formed this habit to sow seeds. This actually paid off..for this allows a steady supply of harvest every season .Plus,you get to hone your green thumbs.

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I grow these kind of chillies called panigang( finger peppers) and the siling labuyo; combination of which become naturally processed hot sauce.

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When I have ample supply , my husband and I process and bottle to sell.

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A sampling of a variety of harvest on a weekly basis.

 

 

Weekend farmer No more

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It’s been almost a year since I promised myself I would take farming seriously. The commitment wasn’t easy to make since I have a day job. But the bug has caught me and I simply dove into it. Just an overview of the year that is almost over:

  1. I became a natural farmer. This might be the most valuable training I did as a farmer wanna-be.I resolved to know how to make my own fertilizers, the natural way . I will not have it any other way. Farming by nature , is by far the most efficient and inexpensive method I know. Under the tutelage of Andry Lim  for 3 days, I immersed myself into the world where paramount is respect for how nature operates.

2. I did an edible backyard garden. This is what I call , my lab. Where I process all my experimentations for vegetable growing – both direct in soil and in various containers. I propose for every passionate soul to make your backyard your playing field, to test all varieties, what works in your area  and doesn’t. No expert can beat you if you make your hands dirty and create your unique brand of gardening.

Bottle Gourds hanging in my outdoor service kitchen.

Bottle Gourds hanging in my outdoor service kitchen.

3. I decided I will complement the farming with beekeeping. This is real daunting for me. But I heard bees help pollinate all my veggies and fruit trees so why not give it a try. I have been inspired of the seminar given by UPLB on Beekeeping , and so I put my qualms aside and went on to strat with few colonies of the stingless bees. IMG_0694

4.I had no luck with chickens yet so I told myself, why not native pigs, that way I will have steady supply of manure for compost and I can raise my own meat. It wasn’t long before the two pigs I have became 7 in a matter of five months. IMG_0422

The experiences of the past 9 months prompted me to realize that being a farmer needs only small baby steps towards becoming a skillful one. Before long, even nature will smile at the efforts of one’s hands .

Nowadays, you can call me a regular everyday farmer.

The things I won’t change for 2015

So much has been said of New Years Resolutions year after year so I am making mine different. I look back at my year that passed, and examine the things that I am happy I committed to doing regularly, and I say a prayer of gratitude. I shortlisted the 3 major goals I had of 2014 below. Yes only 3 , nothing ambitious , nowhere near miraculous but I will say this, by committing myself to these 3 habits, my life changed for the better.

1. Rise Up Early. There is something magical about gardening just as the morning light is starting to peek. My being gets an instant refreshment as I work in my little veggie patch, while the whole world is still asleep.Not only is my mind redirected to inner peace , I am somehow inclined to make the right choices for the day, one that fosters simple joy and healthy living.

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2. Run 3x a week. Here is where I was challenged every single time. But the moment I SAID YES, the body syncs in too, and the after- run accomplishment gives me an renewed energy and an exercise of mental toughness.One that I do not get from any workout.

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3. Drink my Green Smoothie. This habit has been introduced by my good friend Tina Zamora. She gave me this super foods and ever since then , i am hooked. My personal formula:
Kefir , 3 fruits in season ( my favorites are: guyabano, banana and pineapple ), 3-4 kinds leafy veggies ( always with oregano and mint ).then seeds ( Chia, sunflower, flaxseeds ).For other concoctions, try looking up green smoothies.
Green Smoothies is like a wonder health elixir for me.
I hope with these 3 UNCHANGES, I can challenge you to create your own 3 goals for 2015 , all positive habits you like to maintain from last year. Share with me , okay?

Enter the hottest summer

Hello fellow gardeners! How is your garden doing/ In my part of the world, it’s the hottest summer. Not only are we used to the heat and humidity of it , the plants also bring out their survival instincts and learn how to cope. I feel so frustrated for the sad plants who begin to show discomfort in their yellowing of leaves and totally give up altogether.

Now , this piece is about the survivors , the ones who thrive despite this challenge, in fact, they are majestic competing with the radiance of the sun.

For my veggies, only the mustard , pechay , and  cilantro are showing resilience. I examined the soil..it’s parched. IMG_0559But these plants win hands down, with some watering, they don’t need so much care and attention. I can’t wait to turn the mustard into my favorite achara.I learned the recipe from our neighbor. Just chop the mustard , mash with rock salt , blend with chopped garlic and a little vinegar, you may or may not put in a little sugar, place inside a bottle , and toss in the ref . That is already preserved! Oh ! You must try this ! Perfect to go with  grill/fried fish or as an appetizer, kimchi style!

So I digress. For the fruit trees,these are the winners this summer: my ever reliable papaya , that I planted from seed is giving me so much joy. It’s big and tasty, and doesn’t seem to end fruiting still. If you want a no- hassle fruit to plant, I recommend papaya. My 5 mangoes that I planted some five years back are starting to flower and some are showing small fruits already. The Bananas that we planted last rainy season, its giving us pleasure this March.

The ornamental that are enjoying the sun: are anthuriums, bougainvilla  and the garlic vine!

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Nature has time and again taught me this lesson in gardening, Go with its seasons, and never go against its flow. So , here I am , eager to have the rains back but a happy camper with what Nature has to offer!IMG_0567

My New Passion: Hydroponics

Hey world. I had been a very bad blogger lately. Sorry for abandoning you for a long time , readers. Sometimes, it’s easy to get distracted from your first love and  I must admit, gardening took a back seat last couple of months. But I am back with a vengeance.

I will be featuring Hydroponics , the cheaper way to do it. I have to thank my friend Karen for allowing me to see how she grows her lettuce and other herbs successfully using Hydroponics. It is simply defined as growing plants without SOIL. You can do this using mineral nutrients and as I have discovered , you can do this in discarded fruit boxes ( the styrofoam ones used to store grapes, apples, oranges),etc.

Last Wednesday, and a good three hour trip from home, I went to see Karen in Orani , Bataan. I just transferred to a new house and Boy do I want to grow my own veggies in a limited space i have in the backyard. The trip was all worth it. I re-discovered my love for gardening. You see , Karen loves to experiment what works best so it saved me a lot of trial and error on this journey.

Materials you will use:

Fruit box, Plastic Screen ,Duct Tape,styropore cups,Plastic( one you use for greenhouse , Screw Driver , and a Milk Can ( to perforate the Perforate the fruit box using milk can( open it , sharpen with a grinder)

STEP I.Create the holes for the styrofoam cups.The middle ones are for aeration. Do not crowd the rounds so the plants can thrive.

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The base of fruit container , being perforated by an empty milk can . Note that the there are six holes. The diameter is enough for a styropore cup to be inside it with only the lip exposed.

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STEP 2.Create around 3/4 inch incisions on the bottom of the cup . The trick is to use pointed screw driver to punch holes as markers , finished by a cutter. Do this for the six cups needed.This will allow for the roots to have enough nourishment and water

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Brussel sprouts using the Hydroponic method.

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STEP 3 . PUt screens in the middle round and the sides. This is needed for aeration so you don’t have to provide oxygen for the water.This is probably the most important step you will ever do to ensure survival of your plants.

STEP 4.Put a plastic liner so that water will not seep thru the styrofoam.photo liner

Each cup has a date of germination . Here , you’ll see her Temptation and local Bagiuo strawberries on its 4 week existence.Note also that A and B SNAP( Simple Nutrient Addition Program which is available at HGS ) that is incorporated in the water using a 25 ml equal solution: 10 liter tap water .photo 3

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The DIY Hydroponic station : using bamboo, fishnets , plastic and your trusty recycled styrofoam fruit boxes. This is natural farming at its best , that uses the most optimal water to grow lettuce and other herbs in a most limited space.

A very good video to make us all think about our own lives…

Why I want you to start your own garden

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Gardens can come in a variety of sizes. Here gardener, used a container.

Everything about gardening seems initially a daunting task. First , we fall in love with the fairest garden  we visit, and somehow, the idea of just creating your very own sneaks into your conscious thoughts.And here is where people almost always differ . Some would marvel at the inspired moment and then shrug their shoulders, ” Oh , it’s too much work for me.I don’t have the luxury of time right now.”Others become completely convinced and make a vow, ” I don’t have it in me, I just don’t have the green thumb.”

Gardening is just like a journey to self discovery. The more you open yourself to knowing, the more surprised you become at the transformations taking place.Such is the case with my love affair with plants. The more i try to pursue it, asking landscapers and sellers of plants questions like, Is this plant appropriate for sunny or shady?, Can you teach me how to propagate this? What’s a good start-up  collection here? -the more I discover people are just too willing to help and share their own joy of gardening.I love to visit someone’s garden and ask some cuttings. I also visit horticultural shows and agri shows, buying one or two interesting ornamental cactus or fruit bearing. It’s also an opportunity to learn from them how to grow and take care of  your selections.

And as I discover, with matters of the soil, nobody dares judge you if you do or don’t do it right. This is your own love affair. This is your own garden.

Of sun kissed farm and my quest for happiness

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Cassava plant (Photo credit: IITA Image Library)

Exactly 17 years ago, I dreamt of having a farm in Tagaytay , Cavite.One that was overlooking the sunken volcano.It was a crazy daydreaming that I and a friend would literally pull over in the side of the highway just to see the spot where the most amazing view of a house and the volcano beckon.I believe back then when I was broke that perhaps , someday, I will have the pleasure of enjoying the reality of this dream.

Fast forward to this present time and I still can not believe my eyes every time I go to this precious farm where the mountains greet me in such splendor.My eyes still turn misty and my heart never fails to skip a bit when I realize the graciousness of God.

Last Thursday, I went with my little daughter to personally harvest some cassava(kamoteng kahoy) and what other vegetables we can fill our baskets with.Thankfully, the bell peppers are still in fruition and the cassava are starting to mature.

For those who have stumbled just now in my blog. I am a weekend farmer. One who just enjoyed the learnings given me by kindhearted people who are willing to share their natural brand of farming and to which i lovingly applied to this hilly land.I consider myself to be an advocate of organic farming , but one that is more endemic to the land.So I have come to grow all things local like, tomatoes, saluyot, alugbati ,amaranth , oregano, eggplant, cassava, ginger, and now some peppers.

I also ventured into propagating ornamental plants . The idea of having cut flowers inside my house just by going out in my little garden gives me a thrill. Much like the thrill of seeing Barefoot Contessa on TV, getting her fresh ingredients and flowers right at her backyard. The passion did not come naturally . I once attend

Congo variety plant I bought in one of the horticultural shows in Qc Circle.THis has proved to be a very resilient beautiful plant for indoors.

ed a course on Tisssue Culture under the great Alice Acoba of Bureau of Plant Industry, and she then introduced me to the wonders of propagating rare ornamental plants . I was so enamored with the field trip to the house of Agnes full of anthuriums and other expensive plants which she then distribute to Manila Pen. Oh, that really started me.

And looking back , it might seem so daunting to even start. I am glad i took that leap of faith. Dear readers, whatever background you came from, you have what it takes.

Ps. If you are indeed interested to get started, want to take that step and commit to learning more? there are a lot of available help thats free. You may check out the Agrilink 2012 this coming Oct 4-6.There are a lot of free seminars there. You have a chance to see the players in the industry and get to meet like-minded people who can encourage you to move forward in reaching your goal.

Here’s to your daydreaming and quest for happiness!

Creating my little nursery

It’s been a while. I was roused from this cruel summer lethargy to actually bring myself to write again because of some visitors to my blog appreciating the little efforts of this hesitant weekend farmer. Okay, okay, I need to update ..update.
You’ll be glad to know my silence is not at all unproductive. The past months brought me to certain horticultural shows in the city that inspired me to propagate in my own makeshift nursery.I am talking about the annual horticultural show held in Quezon Memorial Circle.After looking at the nice showcases of plants in the show, I was compelled to buy a start up collection of tropical plants,succulents and indigenous flowers like ylang ylang.
I was excited to bring and start right away.I was told some plants have different propagation techniques. One is through cutting , another is thru division, and still some others need marcotting.The potting medium must not be entirely soil, you need to mix it with ipa(rice hull) or coconut husks scraps.All of these techniques are best explored if you will create a netted plant nursery with a bit of sun filtering it.You will never know the benefits of your little experiments until you set out to do it.

Staghorn fern is so expensive. Vendors fetch 2500 Php for a full grown staghorn like the one in the picture.