Category Archives: farm and garden

our bahaySKUL day (2016-2017)

It’s before 7 a.m. I anticipate the alarm on my phone. Very often, the alarm doesn’t go off, because, as you may have guessed, I forgot to turn my alarm on the night before. I’m now half awake. I look at the nursing child beside me and do an imaginary, happy dance when she finally unlatches. Finally I am fully awake, tiptoe out the bedroom, and get my glorious “hot cup”. On sleepy days, it’s oolong tea. On hyper-I-totally-have-this-in-the-bag days, it’s ACV with honey and a cinnamon stick. I go to the laundry and do a final rinse on the batch of clothes I started washing the night before.

I check the time, 7:15 a.m. There’s just enough time to check my email, write up some invoices, and pack a box of KalamanC++ orders, which will be picked up by a new client later in the morning. I run our organic farm business. We grow fresh salad greens, and process other farm produce into bottled food products. I also work as a freelance writer and have a report to write, but, at the moment, the writing work will have to wait.

(Of course, this is the best-case scenario. The worst case is when the little girl unli-latches and I am stuck helplessly to the bed until she decides to get off the boob.)

15977913_1287715034619327_1172733212381290464_n
when the little girl is wide awake and leaves me with only half of the morning to do anything

8:30 a.m. The two older boys are up. Yey! They’re my super support system. I manage to pop slices of ham into the toaster, ask Uri to snip off some lettuce from the garden, and Ari to grill cheese on bread. We each assemble our own sandwich and be chatty over breakfast. We talk video games, fold-a-bots, the latest Geronimo Stilton book, Poppa smurf, or whatever is the thing of the moment.

17265216_1342770539113776_2077085571230761084_n
Uri harvesting some lettuce from the garden for breakfast

9 a.m. My new client is calling to check if they got the directions going to our apartment right. I pick up the baby and run outside to meet them. Well what do you know, they have a pick-up truck full of kids, plants, and organic food products. It all looks uncannily familiar. Our SUV is almost always packed the same way too, except we also bring along three bicycles, and sacks of fertilizer. So, me and this new client, we hit it off instantly. She is opening an all-organic store in the city and they will be selling KalamanC++ there. They came to pick up their first batch of orders, which Turo managed to fit under the passenger seat. We are both hopeful that product sales will do well in her store.

We aim to start with our lessons at 10:30, which we do today, Yay! We are working our way through our last two Language Arts LifePacs this week. I ask both Ari and Uri to start work on spelling and handwriting, which they can do rather independently, while I take care of the littles.

I turn on my babysitter, we call her Netflix (!), and bathe the baby. The toddler and I then dance around to Mother Goose Club songs, and after about two episodes the baby has fallen asleep. I lure the toddler downstairs with a chocolate cookie and a glass of chocolate milk. We sit in the table with the big boys. Armed with peg puzzles and board books, paper and pencils and scissors, I manage to keep the toddler on the table for a good 30 minutes, so I could look over the boys’ work and answer their most pressing questions.

17103388_1340465642677599_7288584868546812855_n
how to keep a toddler at bay

12:45 p.m. We break for lunch. Thankfully we have our househelp to cook for us, so we only have to clear the dining table of books, and replace them with eating utensils, so we can eat. We are almost always starving when we break for lunch, so we eat rather quickly. The boys clean up the dining area after the meal, and enjoy some time to play with their toys.

It’s almost summer and midday’s getting much warmer lately. I ask the older boys to go take a bath, and the toddler joins them in the shower. The boys are kind enough to bathe their younger brother. I only need to check in midway through to scrub his little body, and his brothers will take it from there until he is toweled dry. Yeah, those are my precious boys, I totally love them.

We resume Language lessons around 3 p.m. By this time, the baby has been put down for another nap by our househelp, so I could work more closely with the boys, as needed. Uri and I read together a story about farm life, and have a short discussion, before he resumes independent work. I check Ari’s previous test and, together, we go over the items he missed. He then continues to work independently, summarizing two fables by Aesop, and writing his own ending to the story of “The Farmer, his Son and the Donkey.” His version was hilarious and we ended up spending a good ten minutes laughing about it. I enjoy this time with my boys. I am kept motivated by how much they learn, although at times I also easily lose my patience over silly, forgettable mistakes, like fractions or verb tenses (sheesh). This is also the time when I get to have my lone cup of coffee, which I thoroughly enjoy, as I make another attempt to write the report due this week.

16194921_1302970916427072_2130447654371557692_n
Ari writing his story summaries

Rats! It’s 5 p.m. I scramble to cook dinner. The phone rings with my husband announcing that he and I are going out for a date. My report will most definitely have to wait. Ari gets excited by the prospect of a “date” that I needed to shove his face back to his worksheet. Meanwhile, Uri has finished his to-do’s and decided to arrange his collection of paper robots on top of the stairs so he can take a photo of his entire collection. The toddler fell asleep by himself in the bedroom.

13690742_1124820504242115_673430732293827259_n
one among Uri’s fold-a-Bot collection

I take a shower, dress up, check on my braised pork, and nurse the baby for the nth time. A few minutes later, my husband gets home from work. I take one quick look at the stove, turn down the heat and leave the dish to simmer. I check on Ari, he is nearly done, so I give him my final instructions. I give instructions to Uri to make a bottle of milk for when his little brother wakes up, and that they are allowed some gadget time after Ari completes his lesson. I leave the baby with our househelp who puts her back to sleep.

5:45 p.m. Turo and I head out to the farm. We are having some work done here, some bamboo beds being set up. We assess the remaining farm activities to make sure we are still within budget and schedule. Things are looking good and we are both very pleased. We then proceed to the supermarket to gather reinforcements—fresh milk, black rice, and detergent, which we mysteriously ran out of in the middle of the month, when our stocks are supposed to last us all month. Hmmm.

WP_20170312_15_55_09_Pro
(taken earlier) a photo of the newly constructed bamboo beds in the farm

7:20 p.m. We arrive home to the boys playing video games and the little girl still sound asleep. I check on my braised pork, which is nearly done. I stir-fry some Malabar spinach, freshly harvested by a farmer friend, as a side dish. The boys keep their computers and set the table for dinner. It’s a blessing there are no picky eaters around here. Even the toddler is easy to feed and please with food. Dinner is peaceful (no tantrums) but filled with chatter from everyone around our six-seater table. The boys eat fast, and are finished before everybody else. For the hundredth time I remind them to stay put until the rest of us are done with dinner.

I help the boys clean up after eating, while Turo plays with the younger ones. Uri refills water bottles and fixes the bedrooms. Ari clears the table and sweeps the floor. I run a load of laundry then check if the assigned chores were done properly. When everything seems orderly downstairs, we watch a couple episodes of our current TV series, or a movie voted by the majority. I have a cup of oolong tea for me, and Turo has turmeric tea.

10:30 p.m. It’s supposed to be lights out. Turo is fast asleep. The babies are wide awake. And the boys keep bargaining to chat some more or watch more TV or sleep in our room. I shoo them away, and they oblige, leaving their bedroom light on until they fall asleep reading.

Finally, everyone is asleep. Aaaah. I turn off the light in the boys’ bedroom. I see the growing stash of books by their bedside, and keep a mental note to clear those away the following day. I fold clothes from the previous laundry. I arrange the stash of cloth diapers so our househelp will have no trouble finding which cloth diaper insert goes with what, when she changes any of the babies’ diapers.

12:00 m.n. Down to the last stretch. I bring out my laptop. I read my notes. I finish writing a full page for the report. And then I hear muffled sounds from the bedroom. I get there right on time to keep the baby from crying. I lie down beside her to nurse, and say a silent prayer of thanks for a day that has gone awfully well.

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.

img_1176

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!

hydro-1

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.

hydro-2

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.

hydro-3

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.

gardening with kids

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

12189459_975023505888483_3349335105663886918_o-2.jpg

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

organic for a cause

we’re rooting for local organic farmers (ourselves included), and we get a basketful of veggies in return. sweet.

Today we received our first farm “share” of locally produced organic vegetables. We subscribed to a community-shared agriculture (CSA) scheme where we paid 4 weeks’ worth of seasonal, organic produce from farmers organized by Good Food Community. GoodFoodCo. is based in Quezon City, but recently, a group of young, organic farmers (including us!) from where we live here in Los Banos, thought of replicating this CSA scheme here.

What is CSA and how does it work?

Community Shared/Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. A farmer, or an organized group of farmers, offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Interested consumers purchase a “share” or “membership” or a “subscription”, which is a lump sum amount paid in advance, and in return receive a box/bag/basket of seasonal produce every week throughout the farming season. This arrangement benefits farmers because they get a sure market for their produce and they receive payment at the start of the planting season, which helps to have a stable farm cash flow.

our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep
our weekly CSA farm share delivered to our doorstep

In the GoodFoodCo. CSA scheme, each share can be one of 3 options: a bayong pambahay (roughly 3.5 kg of cooking vegetables good for a family of 4), a salad pack (roughly 500g of salad greens and herbs, with occasional fruit in season), and a juice pack (a choice mix of juicing vegetables good for approx. 500ml). We are currently subscribed to the juice pack, and this week our basket included celery, cilantro, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, lemons and ginger–all for PhP 370/week!

our veggie smoothie
our veggie smoothie

Nothing beats fresh, organic vegetables, pureed with bananas, papayas and yogurt. That’s our recipe for a high-fiber smoothie, which we usually have for breakfast or afternoon snack. And for less than 400 bucks a week, Turo and I can have this every day, plus a few sips each for our little boys.

Joining a CSA makes getting a variety of freshly harvested, organic produce super duper easy. No need to go to a farmers’ market as you get your veggie load delivered right to your doorstep. It’s also a great way to pack more vegetables into meal planning. Since we’re now only subscribed to the juice pack, next month we’ll subscribe to the bayong pambahay so we can also have fresh organic veggies to cook with. Really, this has simplified our dilemma of eating organic exclusively at a price we can comfortably afford. And soon enough, our farm will be part of this CSA program as we’ll be providing organic lettuce for the salad packs!

Read more about how we transformed the way that we eat and our healthy lifestyle choices from these posts:

The local food project

The food that we eat

Conscious consumption

Small and sustainable

the life we live daily: small and sustainable

the farm is our constant source of encouragement and inspiration. seeds sprouting, leaves turning green. life and nature are such marvels, things we’d never get tired of watching and anticipating.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDEROur hydroponic farm is picking up on its pace. We see continuous increase in productivity since we resumed operations after the summer. We are very close to optimizing production capacity in our 100-square meter greenhouse. And when we do, which I know will happen very soon, we’ll be adding up the numbers (the right numbers this time) and we’ll be ready to replicate.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDER

Imagine, our successful, small-scale, sustainable farming model could be brought to any location and environmental condition, to bring farm-fresh, affordable, safe and natural produce to every ordinary household. That’s our big, big dream, and we are inching closer.

AGFA POCKET CAMCORDER

As I keep saying over and over, “organic” and “sustainable” are not mere concepts. They are a way of life. Nothing that you can learn overnight. And the whole process is likely to be bittersweet. But such is the way that we choose to live ours. Pains, gains and all.

a long summer break

home-hopping all summer long

IMG_0330

Our family has not stayed home for over a month. We have spent the entire month of May at my in-laws, at my parents’ home, at my uncle’s resthouse in Aklan, and, the highlight of our trip, Boracay!

The first twelve days of May were what we considered a ‘mobile transition’. Turo and I had been traveling back and forth our house making sure everything was well and in order (and relieving our homesickness to some extent). All April, we had been getting ready to spend plenty days away from our Los Banos home come May. Our first stop was at the house of Turo’s parents in Cavite. Turo is just recovering from a near-heat stroke during this time and we needed him to always be rested and away from the sweltering summer heat. Despite doctor’s orders, he insisted on being productive and took on his first landscaping project in his parents’ backyard.

321357_10201215338535056_154377950_n

This project had both Turo and I, and the kids, all excited. We were together buying floor pavers, picking out tiles and choosing the right paint colour for the back patio. But the most exciting part of all was waiting for the plants to arrive and watching them bring new life to the otherwise abandoned section of the property.

A fern wall accentuated with lovely red bromeliads took centerstage at one end of the yard. The sides were planted with slender Thai bamboo against roughly finished white concrete and pebbles. The flooring on the other end was covered with locally made concrete paving blocks and the rest of the are was planted with frog grass.

321357_10201215345455229_1098969636_n

By this time, we are still waiting for the grass to grow thick so the kids can run around the new lawn. By the time Turo, our project manager, declared the project complete, we packed up and moved on to our next destination — my parents’ house in Cainta.

Staying in Cainta did not take a lot of getting used to for the kids. We lived there when they were babies, before we moved to Los Banos a couple of years ago. This was their home too, as this was mine for most of my life.

Cainta was our take-off point for our much awaited trip to Aklan province. Aklan was my grandmother’s hometown and we were more than happy to accompany her back to her motherland, after how many decades. She was really excited. We can tell from the photographs we took of her, from the way she told stories of her life here in the 1940s, and how she managed not sleep during the two-hour land travel to her New Washington hometown.

IMG_0401

The kids had some real provincial fun as well. They played with dogs who had houses up on stilts, walked on floating bamboo rafts and a hanging bridge. They even went fishing for the first time!

IMG_2530

And then there was Boracay. It was our first trip to this famous white sand beach together as a family. We enjoyed ‘Bora’ despite the crowds and the noisy parties at night and overpriced accommodations. We came there for the legendary beach, and we swam our hearts out up to the minute that we were about to check out from our hotel room. We love swimming and we love the beach and Boracay proved to be another memorable beach experience for us.

IMG_2330

IMG_2339At night in Boracay we watched a fire dancing performance, which we enjoyed, and the kids were obviously impressed. They even danced Gangnam onstage together with the fire dancers.

IMG_2480Turo and the boys each got henna tattoos on their arms, which they were really proud off until the day their tattoos faded out.

IMG-20130524-02323I guess these were the highlights of our long, mobile summer. It was the first and longest time we spent away from home, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Sure, we missed our home but we always knew it would welcome us back at the end of summer. And it sure did.

IMG-20130524-02327

Our mobile summer experiment was an astounding success. Now Turo and I are starting to plan for next year’s summer break, which we swear will take long, and will be packed with more exciting adventures.

 

 

 

some traviesa trivia

My fascination for natural decor has just stepped up a notch.

IMG-20130321-01885

Traviesa is a Spanish word for a piece of wood that functions as a cross beam or brace to support the rails on a railway track. The photo above ignited our interest for the traviesa. Here it was used to create a deck or platform as part of an outdoor landscape design.

IMG-20130321-01886

You can assume traviesas to be about a century old. So don’t be surprised that it can function perfectly even outdoors in all-weather conditions. These are some long-aged wood we’re talking about. They’ve been treated with time, no additional chemical treatments needed.

IMG-20130321-01878There’s something about me and old, aged, sturdy wood. I feel like they have so much character, so many stories behind them. And more stories waiting to be written and told.

IMG-20130428-02136

So, this fascination took us a several kilometres down south as we went on a search for sources of traviesas and other types of old wood. As it turned out, we have a trusty antique wood supplier a quick drive a way.

IMG-20130428-02142

There was wood of all kinds, sizes and thickness. You could see how deep the wood grains are. Some have cracked and faded. Some used to be staircases, door jambs. Some were materials to make boats.

IMG-20130428-02140

To me, visiting that store by the highway was a very intimate experience. There was so much history amid these huge planks of wood. As if every piece was speaking to us about where it’s been. And we were all ears.

 

starting my week with backyard tea

the power of tea shall help me pull this week off..

IMG-20130415-02091

I have a hectic week ahead, with a major work presentation coming up, which I am barely prepared for. The hot summer weather is not at all helping. My entire household had been doing more coughing than talking in the past week. So with an overworked respiratory system and two days of presentation planning, I soul-searched in my backyard for much-needed support.

cough concoction
cough concoction

I made a tea concoction using oregano leaves, calamansi and ginger, all harvested while I boil water for tea–and call it my “cough concoction“. It’s no remedy but it soothes my throat, clears my breathing and has loosened up tough phlegm. I have been taking a potful of this concoction once every morning and in the afternoon in the last three days, and it’s been nothing but relief. It also helped that we swam in the hot pool yesterday, which relaxed all my tired back and chest muscles.

If like me, you hate taking medicine and dread going to the doctor because he’ll prescribe you some medicine, try my cough concoction. I’m sure you can take it alongside any cough medication. Even if you only have a tired voice or sore throat, one cup can work wonders.

a flower and garden show

now I have proof that my husband is a bigger flower lover than I am. no wonder I never got flowers from him.

IMG-20130321-01922

Turo and I spent a lovely Thursday morning at the Los Banos Flower and Garden Show. We consider visiting garden exhibits among the cheapest indulgences and we’re lucky that we have regular exhibitions like this one right here where we live.

seniors' social garden

The Los Banos Flower and Garden show is held twice a year at the UPLB Seniors’ Social Garden. The main attraction inside the hall this year is the Iligan Fern (below). This is about the largest sized fern I’ve ever seen up close, and also the most beautiful. While I love flowers, I am also equally attracted by wild and diverse foliage plants. I believe that leaf patterns, textures, shapes and hues, more than the blooms, are what makes gardens more interesting and alive.

iligan fern

Throughout the exhibit visitors will find an interesting array of ornamental plants and flowers. Plenty of new varieties, but a lot of the well-loved favourites found in Filipino homes and gardens. Bougainvilleas, orchids, petunias, gerberas, the list goes on.

variegated bougainvilla
variegated white bougainvilleas
wild orchid
wild orchid
colorful gerberas
colorful gerberas
indoor foliage
indoor foliage
bed of blossoms
bed of blossoms
bright and cheery blooms
bright and cheery
a floral feast indeed
a floral feast indeed

In a later post I will tell you about the designs featured in the horticultural landscaping contest of this year’s garden show. But for now, I leave you with Turo and his precious anthuriums. Anthuriums are obviously Turo’s favorite plants. He even came close to ordering imported anthurium varieties from Holland.

turo and his anthuriums
turo and his anthuriums

So yes, we bought some white and red anthuriums for our new garden at home. These shade-lovers are perfect out front, where they can get plenty of morning sunshine but stay safe in the afternoon shade. This time we’re moving beyond just edible plants and herbs for our garden. We can’t wait to welcome our guests with splashes of colour from ornamental flowers and plants in our new home very very soon.