Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Don't you just love seeing nature take structures over? My imagination presses fast-forward and vines envelop churches and buildings and trees grow out of tall walls. The fact that nature doesn't give a hoot whether something is man-made or not, just makes me laugh. A stone wall is just a straight piece of rock ready to be conquered. You can't stop the impulse.
The cemetery is a good place to observe this. People can't keep up with all the seeds falling in all the crevices. This makes it a good place to collect seedlings, which will otherwise be chucked.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I've been drawn to this variety of ginger for years. I found it first among the mystics' stalls in Quiapo, among amulets and such. It is used for incantations and spells. People call it luyang itim, literally "black ginger", presumably because when you slice the root, it shows a black ring under the skin. The rest of the flesh is somewhat bluish. I got a big bunch of it on someone's lot in the province, where it was growing wild. Someone was clearing a bit of the land, and the roots were left exposed.
The root looks like a fat, non-orange turmeric. It smells incredible. Sort of minty, like a good balm. I'm not sure about culinary applications, but I attempted to make a balm out of it by drying slices, and then cooking with some oils and natural waxes. It didn't turn out as expected, but I'll keep trying.
In the meantime, I planted some of the roots, and they're beginning to grow. I can't give any info on how the plant itself looks, but surely I'll be posting more as it shoots up.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I mentioned last time that we have to keep a couple of chickens caged. According to Papa, it is because the free-range alpha male presence sometimes separates chicks from moms, and also he crows like a crazy fool in the wee hours of the morning. So they were demoted to a chicken cage under the kapok and coconut trees.
I generally feel bad for the two, especially the female. The male attacks her when there is food, trying to monopolize the supply. I try to supplement with grasses and berries from the garden, which they love. I have to be more systematic about bringing them there, though. Sometimes all they get is rice. We're not fattening them up to eat them or anything, apparently they are trying to keep the peace in the garden. But still!
There were three eggs deposited in the laying basket by the female a month ago, and they were still there the other day. I figured they were rotten, since she doesn't sit on them anymore. We took them and put them in some water. They didn't float, so we composted them.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I've written before about our chickens. Now there are a lot more. It has gotten to a point when sometimes I get alarmed by an unfamiliar specimen (a former chick all grown up). I guess I also was pretty used to chick “die-offs”, during the rainy season, that the population explotion has gotten me baffled. Considering we don't feed them anything, and don't cage them (except for the only male and one companion, because he keeps crowing at ungodly hours), they are all pretty healthy.
They still, however, topple my potted seedlings over, and scatter mulch around. When they are particularly frenzied, they can run little plants over and step on them like they mean it.
I've been trying to find ways to chicken-proof my seedlings. An urgent goal is to build a chicken house and chicken tractors. In the meantime, we've had to find ways. One is by enclosing the baby plants in cages. This cage is covered with a dry coconut shell to keep out too much sun, and to make the rain or water more gentle as it falls.
Another recent experiment was to put some plants on a bed of soil (fresh compost-- chicken magnets), and cover the blank spaces with empty half coconut shells (of which we have an obscene supply of, due to food consumption). I tamped the shells down with my feet.
That worked fine, but they need to be supplemented by sticks. I put in this small patch with stevia, some amaranth or pepper (I can't tell), tomato, and okra. I put sticks over the stevia and half-heartedly, over the rest. I did this as the sun was setting, to have a bit of a test-run with chicken behavior, and still have the night to recover little plants if they have damage from the chickens. Here's the test-run:
One shell (with bits of old coconut under) was turned over. Oops! Never underestimate the leg power of chickens. If they sense they want something, they'll throw anything about. Another family messing about with my set-up:
The next day I discovered that the morning gave renewed strength and will to the chickens. All but the stevia and one amaranth/pepper were strewn on the bed and beyond hope, and the shells were reassembled. The ones with sticks survived, showing lazy me that sticks arranged teepee-like are needed to deter chickens.
A cool thing about this coconut arrangement is that if you have a shitty watering pot (like mine) with no attachment that breaks the water down into droplets, you can aim the strong flow at the tops of the coconut shells, where they will trickle down into their bases. No worries about knocking sensitive seedlings out.
This is not meant to be permanent, however, and after a chicken-hotel is constructed, and the plants get big enough to mulch massively, the shells will come off. In the meantime, they look nice.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I was away, again. One reason was the permaculture design course at Cabiokid in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. The place was started by Bert Peteers, a Belgian with mad Tagalog skills (above) in 2001. It is a former rice field, with now only 2 hectares devoted to our staple grain. The rest is forest, vegetable garden, animal refuge, and sustainable human spaces. I will be writing a bit more about the course and activities in the next few days. You would be interested to know that there is another one this 28th of March, do email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to send you the details.