Monday, June 30, 2008

Plants for Oakley's Cataract

My dog Oakley (above, in the garden) is an asong kalye. This literally means he's a "street dog", but it really just says he's a mongrel.

He's a mongrel, so he doesn't get sick as often as purebreeds. Recently though, he's developed cataracts in both his eyes! He's only 5 years old, so it's a bit alarming, but...

Gatas-gatas is a weed that has some milky white sap that comes out when you break the stems (gatas is milk in Tagalog, actually). This sap is good for cataract and eye problems. We have lots of it in the garden, so I took some and washed a lot of the plant matter in alkaline water and extracted the sap into a solution of Panlapu. Panlapu is a herbal preparation made with mayana or coleus and water. It's something of a preventive eye health thing and is hard to find. Some old man makes it, I bought it at an organic market once.

Since we've been putting drops in his eyes, his cataract isn't getting worse, and the black is sort of coming back. Hopefully we can fix the problem without giving him chemical meds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to Work

After two weeks in beautiful Palawan, I now need to catch up with both the garden and proposals, paperwork, business plans, etc. But oh oh oh oh how I'm aching to sink my hands in some fragrant compost and discover more about life from the soil and its denizens. My brother has agreed to do some leaf collection with me. Ya!! Perhaps I'll get up super early tomorrow and brave the mosquitoes.

Back to work. Hopefully this work scores more fecundity for all! So I leave you with some freak bananas from Palawan, where the skins have all attached to each other, like webbed fingers.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bitaog (Calophyllum blancoi)

I smelled sweet flowers on a Puerto Princesa shore. Searching for the source didn't take me far, as I reached a beautiful large tree with white flowers and leathery leaves. The next thing to search for was a nearby native who could tell me what it was.

Apparently, the tree is called dangkalan locally, but in Tagalog is called bitaog. More research led to a discovery that this highly medicinal plant is found in many other parts of the world, mostly along coasts and lowland forests, but occasionally at higher elevations.

Obviously, it somehow traveled to/from us via the Indo-Malay peninsula, where it is called bintangor (in Bicol and in some parts of the Visayan and Tagalog regions, it is called bitangol). The Ilocano and Pangasinense areas call it many names from the same family (pameklatan, pamitlain, pamitaogen, pamitauyen).

Some people call it palo maria or santa maria, from its "whole name" in Spanish of palo de santa maria. The conquistadores seem to have applied the same name to the guanandi of South America, which is actually the related Callophyllum blancoi.

Bitaog, which has recently received marginal attention due to it being able to produce more oil than jatropha, is a highly medicinal tree. The oil is used for skin disorders and the sap used for external application against asthma. Unfortunately, the seed was not available for me to take home.

The man told me that the leaves are also boiled or pounded with water, and this resulting solution applied to sore eyes or eye infections. You can also choose to relax your eyes against the bark of the tree, like this guy:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Snail Rape

Snails have been getting action in my garden. I actually saw a snail "member". All I can say is, it's weirdly located.

Monday, June 2, 2008

On Leaf Thievery

But then again, it's not stealing unless someone's complaining.

I should have had the common sense to know this, but smaller (or "crunchy" and easy to pulverize) leaves are better for urgent garden conditions, as they decompose much faster.

I have been getting bags of larger and more durable leaves of narra (they smell so good) from subdivisions. As I observed them still whole many months later, I decided that next time acacia leaves would be ideal, as they are smaller and are easier to decompose.

But ipil-ipil leaves are even better. These nitrogen fixers are fast-growing and considered as a pest by many who are trying to "beautify" wasteland-like situations (or, most lawns and all that) with ornamental plants. Essentially, the land is asking for these many-seeded, leaf-shedding, supersprouters to colonize your land because it doesn't have enough biomass.

Recently, me and the partner in crime went scouring the areas for leaves and old construction material. Aside from lots of marble and colored glass, we were able to harvest ipil-ipil leaves that should turn into soil even faster, now that it's raining.

It was also a good day for stealing seeds, such as this Manila palm bunch.