partnering with local crafters

appreciating all things handmade…

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As an artisan producer myself, I have deep appreciation for all things handmade. I have mentioned before that I am not very artistic myself, so knowing ladies who are artists in their own right is a privilege.

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The lady behind Banonay (@banonaystore) is Turo’s childhood friend. She makes beautifully handcrafted jewelry and accessories with gemstones, beads and charms. I’ve ordered a couple of necklaces from her before. This time, I asked her to make customized brand tags for The Garden Kitchen, which I can give away to loyal clients. The end product… these hand stamped charms! They’re really nice up close and truly one-of-a-kind. They add so much oomph to my own products.

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I also recently learned that my friend’s sister, Lovely Grace (@jaded_jade_things) has been doing calligraphy and watercolor painting. Calligraphy is so “in” these days that I wanted to get in on the bandwagon myself. Besides I also find them really pretty. So I asked her to make product labels for The Garden Kitchen. And voila!

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She wrote the product names using brush lettering, and painted the product ingredients in watercolor. It’s so inspiring to see the different herbs and vegetables that I use in my own products as works of art. These are produce that we grow and harvest and cook with, and being portrayed in such a creative way, even in something as simple as a product label, just makes my heart skip a beat.

hydroponic setup in Hotel Kimberly

this weekend, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics…

Long-time readers of this blog would know that we started our farming venture using a hydroponics system. Turo trained in the SNAP Hydroponics technology from the Institute of Plant Breeding in UP Los Banos. SNAP stands for Simple Nutrient Addition Program, and is a low-cost, low-maintenance, non-circulating hydroponics system. Our first commercial venture into growing lettuce and herbs used this system, was successful at first, but encountered so many problems once we tried to scale up.

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Fast forward to the present, we are now implementing organic production practices for growing vegetables. We have fully replaced our hydroponic setup and converted into an organic farm. While more labor-intensive, organic farming requires less inputs, produces better quality vegetables, and is more adaptive to weather and seasonal changes.

Just this weekend, however, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics.

We were in Tagaytay for the weekend to celebrate my father’s 56th We stayed overnight in Hotel Kimberly, a nice hotel quite secluded from the busy Tagaytay restaurant scene. We, and the kids especially, enjoyed our short, sweet stay here. In the morning we were eating breakfast at the buffet, and noticed that part of the buffet spread was a tray of leafy greens, stems on, roots intact, held together by a tiny bottlecap-sized plug. This looked all too familiar to us, we knew these were hydroponically grown.

After breakfast, we asked around in the kitchen where they get the lettuce plants being served at the buffet. This was Tagaytay, and we knew many farms growing these types abound in the area. To our surprise, the source of the lettuce plugs was a mini-hydroponic facility housed in the hotel itself!

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The hotel staff was kind enough to take us on a tour of their organic farm. Apparently, the organic farm is part of the hotel’s attractions. There were farm animals that guests can feed, ponies that kids could ride. We, of course, headed straight for the greenhouse once we saw it. It was tiny, about 50 sq.m. And it grew ALL the salad greens and herbs the hotel uses for its daily buffet! Now that is sustainable.

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The farm staff told us they were using SNAP, the very same hydroponic system we used before, but failed. But here, in this tiny greenhouse, the SNAP system seemed to work really well. The difference, we soon found out, is aeration. With the addition of an aquarium-type pump circulating the SNAP nutrient solution through the system, nutrient absorption increased. Consequently, well-nourished plants are healthy, disease-free and had a very good eating quality.

To be honest, were very impressed (almost envious) with the hotel’s hydroponic facility. They grew lettuces, rocket arugula, microgreens, and various herbs like basil, parsley and even rosemary.

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It felt serendipitous, actually, to be there, see a very efficient hydroponic system in place, providing fresh greens to a hotel kitchen, nonetheless. That tiny organic farm tour in a quaint hotel tucked away in Tagaytay roused our sleeping hydroponic bones in a totally unexpected way. It looks like Hydroponics 2.0 is going to be part of our present scheme of things.

when homeschoolers go to “school”

for the first time, the boys are spending a significant amount of time in “school” 

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This year, I (as de facto principal of our bahaySKUL) decided that the kids should have more time interacting with other children of their age in a school setting. Because this school year we have been on top of our school work more than we’ve ever been since we started homeschooling four years ago. Continue reading when homeschoolers go to “school”

creating and creativity in our bahaySKUL

it’s been a struggle finding ways to inspire artistry and foster creativity in our homeschool

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I would hardly ever consider myself a creative person. So as a teacher to my children, it’s been a struggle finding ways to inspire artistry and foster creativity in our homeschool. Especially when many homeschooling families we know are really passionate about the arts and music, in their various forms. Continue reading creating and creativity in our bahaySKUL

supplies for our bahaySKUL

Because we homeschool, we do have at home a lot of the stuff the kids need to do school. We don’t have blackboards or lockers, but we do have versions of those stuff in our homeschool. Here’s a peek into the supplies and materials we need for bahaySKUL.

Workbox. Each child has his own workbox where he stores and retrieves everyday school stuff. They also have plastic file boxes where we store curriculum modules and books they are not currently working on or have completed.

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the kids’  workboxes

Continue reading supplies for our bahaySKUL

gardening with kids

when they touch the soil and witness something growing from it, they learn how much they are part of this earth..

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Farm and garden work are very much part of our every day life. For one, we are running an organic agriculture enterprise. At the same time, we are growing as much food as we can in our own backyard because we want to eat fresh and healthy all the time. This has rubbed off on our kids, and in fact, they now play a bigger role in tending to our backyard garden.

You might wonder, what kind of gardening work can young children actually do? Pretty much everything, I would say. Continue reading gardening with kids

cloth diapering (older babies and toddlers)

It’s been awhile since I posted anything about cloth diapers. I am proud to say that our little boy Ira, who is now 19 months old, is still using cloth diapers exclusively both day and night.

I must say that successful cloth diapering is a hit-or-miss, trial and error process. But, if I could give any word of encouragement to a cloth diapering skeptic, it could be done! Continue reading cloth diapering (older babies and toddlers)