Chemically ripened bananas in the supermarket do not taste good

It is very common for bananas in supermarkets to be chemically ripened. The chemical ripening process turns the banana perfectly yellow all over and make it ready for eating more quickly than naturally ripened bananas.

Some say this is completely harmless and possess no health threats nor does a chemically ripened or a naturally ripened banana have any different nutrients, I do not know if it is true or not, but there is one thing that is for certain: they taste completely different.

The taste of chemically ripened bananas are very bland and sometimes the bananas are literally still hard and unripe on the inside even tho they are yellow on the outside.
When I taste natural bananas they are very sweet with a pleasant aroma. Natural bananas on our farm taste so delicious and soft compared to the tasteless bland chemically ripened bananas of the supermarket.

Why does the supermarket chemically ripen bananas?

Like nearly everything in the supermarket it all has to do with logistics. Supermarkets do not care if their products taste good or are bad as long as the logistics are in order. Bananas need to be transported and sold as quickly as possible, no matter if the products are low quality.

I honestly do not think supermarkets should chemically ripen bananas or that it is even necessary.
If supermarkets would actually care about their customers and their products they would make sure their bananas taste sweet and yummy.
Some supermarkets always make the same boring argument that “The customers demand it”. This is of course a blatant lie and a pathetic excuse. Supermarkets do not listen to customers and their needs, they only listen to profits over anything else.
It is really just sad and it makes me angry that I am paying a lot of money for a product tastes bad. I also feel deceived because the bananas look ripe and yellow on the outside, but are still unripe on the inside and I really do not like being deceived.
Of course the supermarket can do anything they want since most of the population is dependent on the supermarket and there are no alternatives. Its either you buy their low quality products or starve.
The only other alternative is to grow your own food, which I advocate, but sadly for many people its not possible to grow their own food, and it is even sadder that the supermarket exploits this fact.

How to detect a chemically ripened banana?

Some say its not possible to detect a chemically ripened banana from a naturally ripened banana. I do not know how true this is.
What I can say from personal experience is that usually chemically ripened bananas still have a green color at the bottom and the top. They also look perfectly yellow on all sides like it was photoshopped or sprayed, while naturally ripened bananas usually have an imperfect gradient of yellows from dark yellow to light yellow as well brown spots and various blemishes.

Are chemically ripened bananas harmful?

In terms of individual health the answer can be either yes or no, depending on who you ask.
Most bananas are chemically ripened trough ethylene gas. This is a gas the plants naturally use to ripen their fruits, and does not seem to be harmful to health. Altho the ethylene en gas used in chemical ripening is a lot more than the small concentrations used by plants.

Another product used for chemical ripening is Calcium carbide. Calcium carbide is banned in some countries, because it has been proven to be harmful to health. Since there is practically no way of knowing what source has been used to chemically ripened the bananas you are putting yourself at a health risk.

However other than the health risk it can be said for sure that chemical ripening is bad for the environment. Ethylene gas although naturally produced by plants is not enough for the fruit industry, because of that Ethylene is produced from fossil fuels trough distillation. While Calcium carbide is produced from limestone and coal.
Fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal, as well as limestone are all mined which causes lots of pollution for the environment. From deforestation to air and water pollution. Since humans are dependent on the environment for survival and well being I would say that even tho chemical ripening may not be individually harmful to a person (depending on the process) it is still a harmful process if you consider the process of production for the chemicals.

Besides even if it is harmful or not… Who would want to eat bad tasting bananas anyway?

What a Life (2020)

The year seems to have passed by so quickly. Here is what happened to me in 2020.

  • The nearby Taal Volcano (kind of) erupted early in the yearm
  • One of our dogs birthed 6 puppies who we gave away a few months later.
  • I got married to my awesome wife.
  • My mother was diagnosed with cancer, but she got cured after chemo and surgery.
  • Both of my parents and aunts and uncles got Corona virus, but they all survived.
  • The farm was the best place to be during covid and lockdown.
  • Was able to plant a lot of trees.

Blogs that I follow

Here I want to recommend you some blogs that I follow that you might also be interested in. They have good and excellent writing and never disappoint with their articles.

The first is Zero Input Agriculture.
https://zeroinputagriculture.wordpress.com/

Zero input agriculture has been doing farming in Australia for a long time and there is a lot of good knowledge on his blog.
Check out his website if you like to get some new and interesting ideas on farming.

The second is San Francisco Forest Alliance
https://sfforest.org/

I am not from San Francisco nor does that place interest me, but The San Francisco Forest Alliance has a lot of high quality and well researched articles that is of interest for anyone in the world on the subjects of deforestation and the relationship the government has with deforestation.
My favorite article by them is https://sfforest.org/2019/02/06/dead-trees-the-life-of-the-forest/

The final one is Paul Beckwith, Climate System Scientist
https://paulbeckwith.net/

Paul Bechwith’s website is full of the latest depressing climate change news. It is depressing, it is sad, it is almost hopeless, but it is reality. If you want the news about climate change that the government does not tell you then visit Paul Beckwith.

Why I am not growing beans anymore

The flower of a bean after a rain.

I pondering about not growing beans at all anymore, in the Philippines known as sitaw and the English common tongue: pole bean or snap bean, and by beans I mean climbing bean vines, specifically of the species Vigna unguicula and Phaseolus Vulgaris.

Altho pole beans seem like an easy to grow crop because they sprout easily and have very small water requirement; it can actually be a nightmare to grow them in a polycultural system (especially with trees) and the work to reward ratio does not pay off well. I have realized how much maintenance climbing beans really need. They climb over other crops and then you need to untangle them or else they over-grow the other crop and in the process of untangling you might damage the bean or the other crop.
The usual method is to grow them on stakes or sticks, but sometimes the bean refuses to climb on the stake and just wanders of somewhere else, then the bean needs to be ‘trained’ to climb on the stick and attach it with several strings. When the bean does climb on the stick, the stick might start rotting, or is attacked by termites, or sometimes the stick gets too heavy and it falls over on top of other crops. Another method is to grow beans on living trees, but after some time the bean just grows too big and covers the entire tree. At that point the bean needs to trimmed down which is just more maintenance.

There are also other non-bean climbing crops, usually in the gourd family such as cucumber, bitter gourd, sponge gourd, chayote, and so on, as well as singkamas. And altho they can suffer from all the same problems with bean vines as described above, in general they grow slower than bean vines and are easier to manage. The stems of these climbing crops are usually also thicker than beans so that they are easier to take off from trees.

Luckily nature has provided us with nitrogen fixing legumes that are not climbing such as mung bean, soybean, pigeon pea, peanut, and so on. Out of these I like pigeon pea the most since it grows tall above the weeds, is perennial, and easily maintained.

So for now I will not grow any vining beans or climbing plants anymore and focus more on crops that are easy to maintain. Maybe in the future I will come back again to vines.

Banana hoarding – Part 2

Banana plants ready for planting on the farm.

It was about halfway in the rainy season, it has been about 4 months since the last banana planting which I wrote about in Banana hoarding – Part 1 and there was still a lot of space to plant bananas.

I was unsure if I could still plant more bananas, but I heard that some other farmers were still planting bananas and my neighbour ensured me it would still be possible.

I was also excited to hear about a variety of wild bananas containing seeds in the fruit that grows in the mountains. This type of banana is locally called Pigew (I do not know how it is spelled). The size of Pigew is somewhere in between the Saba and Lakatan varieties. Altho the Pigew bananas are quite difficult to eat because of all the seeds I have been told the fruit is actually really sweet and yummy.

I asked my neighbour if he has ever planted banana from seeds. He said he tried, but it never worked. I want to try to grow bananas from seeds to increase the genetic diversity of the bananas on my land wich can hopefully increase the resilliance against diseases and maybe I will even grow a new variety of banana wich will be the next best-seller in the future – who knows.

I have learned that the best way to sprout banana seeds is by lightly scraping off the seed coat similar to lotus flower seeds. Once I am able to sprout a banana from seed I will make a post about it.

Despite my neighbour’s advice I was unsure about planting banana later in the rainy season so I only planted about half of the available space with bananas. Around 50 Saba and 20 Pigew.

The bananas where planted with the whole stem and leaves intact, this way of planting can only be done in the middle of the rainy season, while at the start of the rainy season the bananas are planted with the stem cut off and only the corm remaining.

UPDATE:

It has been 3 months since the second banana planting. I feel like like the banana of the first banana planting at the start of the rainy season are growing much better than those planted later at the rainy season. I belief this has something to do with the stems being cut off in the first planting compared to uncut stems in the second planting and the effect it has on the shoot to root ratio.

Despite that the bananas of the second planting are still growing well and look healthy. I will never plant bananas with huge stems later in the rainy season, its better to just wait for the next rainy season and plant them at the start as they will grow better.

Why I am decluttering my house

Masanobu Fukuoka has been frequantly quotes as famously saying: “How about not doing this and not doing that, instead of doing this and doing that”
As addition we could imagine the quote continueing as “How about not having this and not having that, instead of having this and having that”

Today me and my wife realized we have slowly been accumulating a lot of stuff, causing the house to be cluttered and chaotic. We are just 2 people living in a house yet we have 8 mugs, 20 spoons and forks, 15 plates; several pots and pans of wich we only use 2 on a daily basis; tech gadgets that we never use; tupperwares, bottles, bags, clothes, and so on and son.

So we decided to declutter house and get rid of some stuff. After removing all these unessecery possesions we immideatly felt better and more light.

I encourage you to go trough all your stuff once in a while and remove all the things you do not really need or any stuff that makes your life more burdensome.
Its really amazing to see how often our material possessions are closely linked to our mental well being.

Dreaming my life away

Holding a leaf in the sun to see the veins.

It is somewhere in middle of the day. I ask my wife what time it is. She does not know. I ask her what date it is. She does not know. I ask here what day it is. “I am not sure.. is it Monday? or Wednesday? or perhaps Friday?”. We both laugh at our absence of time.

When my family from the city visited the farm they said: “Time moves so slow here”. I suppose it can feel like that, especially when one is constantly subjected to the rush and fast pace of the city. In the city time must always be known and kept at all times to the point depressing anxiety. Or else one might miss a train or bus; be late for an appointment; get a scolding from a boss or a teacher; forget your friend’s party; or maybe miss your favourite tv show at 8 pm.

And yet for some strange reason me and my wife do not feel time is slow on the farm, it is rather fast. The days, weeks, months and even years fly by. One moment you close your eyes and when you open them you realize 3 weeks have already passed by without any notice. I suppose this kind of feeling can only be experienced living for such a long time on a farm as ours.
It is not that we do not have any perception of time passing, but I guess it is perception of a different scale.

I notice that tree now has an extra branch since last month. And the other tree is a bit taller compared to last year. The okra is now taller than myself, compared to “last time” when it was just a tiny sprout smaller than my finger. The fruits of the eggplants are fattening up with a glossy skin ready for picking, compared to “last time” when it was just a flower with a bee inside.
Perhaps this is the kind of time perception of trees… They may live as long as 300 years and grow slowly, barely noticeable by the human eye. We may think the time perception of trees is slow, boring, and dull. But it may as well be the opposite.. A perception so fast that a mere 100 years pass by in what is perceived as a few seconds.

Altho the rythm of life on the farm is usually slow paced, there are times when we are rushing to finish our tasks, especially with the change of seasons as well as during planting and harvesting times.

The sun will rise and set. The clouds pass by. The birds chirp and fly about. Dreaming my life away…

Why you should always plant seeds horizontally

I found the coconut in the picture in the forest near the farm. Notice how it sprouted horizontally, the sprout curving upwards.

Like many other people I was confused about the right way to plant non-spherical seeds, but now I have with the tip of a friend found that seeds should always be place horizontally and so far I have not found an exception to this rule. It applies to coconuts, mango, rambutan, chayote, squash, gourd, cashew, etc, etc; basically most big seeds.

Most seeds have 2 points, 1 point where the stem shoots out and the other point where the roots grow out of. Logically we want the point with the stem to be up and the points with the roots to be down; however this never happens in nature and thus an incorrect way of planting.
When a non-spherical seed falls to the ground it always falls horizontally on the ground. You can test this yourself, take any non-spherical seed and drop it, it always lands horizontally and that is the way it should be planted.
When I found this out I started checking the forest and doing my own tests to see if I can find non-spherical seeds growing vertically in natural conditions, I never found a single one.

What happens when we plant a seed horizontally?
The stem part will sprout on the side underneath the soil, then it will naturally grow upward in a curve. This curve is important because it stabilizes the plant by having a “hook” anchored in the soil which during strong winds will help the plant or tree remain upright. Especially when the tree grows taller and bigger this curve is very important to keep the tree stable.

So if you are ever confused about the correct way to plant a seed just drop it to the ground and see how it lands; that’s how it should be planted as happens in nature.

The time my wife got cured with a local plant medicine

One day my wife got a bad case of sinusitis. Her nose was severely clogged every day. She had trouble breathing and even got headaches. Her face was also hurting from the intense pressure of the clogged nose and experienced throat pain as well as troubled sleep and general fatigue with a minor fever.

We were scared of going to the hospital, because of the corona virus epidemic; we were afraid we would get infected with the virus from being in contact with patients and hospital personnel.
That is why we had to find our own solution.

In first 2 to 3 weeks the sinusitis was only mild and we thought it was just a common cold. My wife ate healthy soups; rested a lot; and drank lots of ginger and turmeric tea.
However in the last 3 to 4 weeks it starting becoming more severe with the symptoms described above.
We consulted our “Halamang Gamot” (Plant medicine) book about herbal medicines with local Filipino plants, wich we bought a few months earlier. In there we found a cure for sinusitis with a plant called locally Sambong (Blumea balsimifera). This plant has very high levels of camphor.

We were very lucky that we had 1 and only 1 wild sambong plant growing on our land sticking out above the tall wild grass. Reading about its growth environment I found out that this plant usually grows amongst tall grasses. Had we plowed the land or cut, or burned the grasses then this medicinal plant would never have grown here and this gift of nature would not have been given to us.

The instructions were to boil the leaves of the plant in water for around 20 minutes and then inhale the steam with a towel over ones head like a mini sauna. After 20 minutes of inhaling the vapor, the tea can be drunk.

My wife said that immediately after being done with the steaming she was able to breath more easily and felt relieved. She also had a good night sleep since a long time. The next day most of her symptoms became less and within 3 to 5 days she was completely cured. The steaming with sambong was done once to twice a day for 5 days.

My wife and me were very grateful and happy with the sambong that was given to us by nature for our well being.
To this day the sambong is still growing well on the farm, not only has it grown taller but it has even reproduced and now there are 3 more sambong plants growing.

Thank you for reading. What are your experiences with plant medicines?

How roads pave the way to environmental destruction

Introduction

Before the invention of wheeled carriages and animal domestication all transportation was on foot. Narrow footpaths was all we needed to go from place to place.
With animal domestication and settlements the paths became wider to allow space for caravans of pack animals. When cities expanded so did militaries.
And with the large army forces the roads had to be widened and made more stable for the fast movement of long army marches.
Soon after or maybe during the same time, wheeled carts were invented that were pulled by animals. First used by traders and farmers, then by militaries.
During this time the main trading routes became cobblestone instead of hard dirt.
With these wheeled carts roads had to become even more stable for the smooth rotation of the wheels.
The use of wheeled carts continued for a long time. Carts became more fancy and stronger allowing for the transportation of humans and wheels became more efficient and round.
At the same time the number of roads increased all over. All of this happened until the industrial revolution with the invention of the steam engine locomotive and the gas powered car.
For the locomotive thousands upon thousands of railroad tracks were laid down all across the globe with wooden and steel beams. As for the car roads became paved far and wide.
All of this of course resulted in massive deforestation wherever the roads and rail tracks were build.
As the population increased and cars became faster, more efficient and mass produced roads had to be widened more and more. Whatever left over trees were growing along side the roads had be cut down for the ever widening roads from highways to skyways. During the same period with the advancement of modern airplanes more land had to be cleared for building airports with large landing strips. Airports became connected with roads to cities and in between along the roads towns and villages became bigger with increased trade. Restaurants, shops, factories, offices and houses all became connected in the giant network of roads. Now we can now longer go without them. When a major road becomes blocked the transportation stops and slows down and society comes to halt. And for it We endure sitting in traffic every day for many hours with our fellow humans to go to our destination.

Roads and deforestation in the rainforest

In the rainforests across the world it is usually the start of roads that are the first causes for deforestation.
First small pathways are created in the forest the nearest modern settlement towards tribes to facilitate trading or the coming of christian missionaries to convert the tribes.
At first these small pathways are not much harm as the vegetation quickly grows back, but with prolonged use eventually the pathways become established. The trading also brings in steel machetes, axes, and guns to the tribes. This increases the speed of cutting vegetation formerly done with stone axes and the hunting of animals which before was done with poison laced wooden blow darts, spears, and arrows.
Soon after the paths are used by small scale loggers and small scale gold miners. These loggers and miners are usually from nearby small villages. Which use the resources for extra income. The easiest to reach trees are the first to go which are the ones around the paths, then the miners create many smaller side paths in search for gold.
Very slowly the paths become wider and wider. Then when the rain comes these paths turn into rivers and all the soil is washed away since there are no longer any roots holding the soil together. What is left over is hardened subsoil. This provides enough stability for small tractors to come in. And with it large tracts or land are cleared to make way for monocrop farms.
Finally once the soil has been nearly exhausted and destroyed from deforestation and chemical monocrop farming the land is turned over to pastures for cow grazing.
In the end what started out with a small and simple path trough the forest turned into clear cut deforested lands with intense soil erosion, chemical pollution, and severe biodiversity loss.
The tribes that once lived there freely, independently, and self-sufficient on the bountiful resources of the abundant forests have now become poor laborers working on modern man’s farms under threat of military and poverty.

Past experiences with roads and the loss of trees

I have a few personal experiences with the building of roads and destruction of nature. When I was a child the road in my street was upgraded with new stones, with it the road would be expanded add extra parking spaces for increased use of cars. The government planned a few such parking spaces in our garden. And so a small portion of my family’s garden was demolished to build a parking space. This parking was not used by us, but by one of the neighbours.

My grandfather had a small scale farm and one day the government decided a big highway should be build near this farm. Altho this highway was not build over my grandfather’s farm it was build very close to it. Other farmers were unlucky as the road was built ontop of their farms. The small countryside road that connected the farm was demolished and all the beautiful trees alongside the road were cut with it. Because of this many farmers lost income from not being able to transport their produce and they were forced to sell their lands to the government so the government could build the highway. Any farmers that resisted or protested were bullied off their lands with frequent unfair environmental safety inspections and high fines.
Now the peace and silence of the countryside is ruined with the sound of constant cars passing by.

At the edge of my town is a small forest that I loved as a kid. I had many adventures there and learned to be among the trees. Sadly the government decided to make a road trough the middle of the forest. Many trees were cut down and the forest became even more smaller than it already was. In the places were I was once walking trough tall standing trees, now speedy cars zoomed by.

Going out of my town there was a narrow country side road, barely wide enough for a single car to drive on it. On both sides of the roads were small rivers surrounded by many trees.
Until one day the government decided the road had to be widened to allow more cars. All the trees were cut down and the rivers filled with sand. Now instead of a bicycling on that road with underneath the canopy of trees with the beautiful scenery of seeing birds fly about and ducks and ergots in the rivers; it has become just a boring road.

At the moment of this writing the huge LRT and MRT railroad tracks are being built in Manila. To make room for this construction many magnificent giant trees have been cut down.
But even before this railroad construction many trees were already cut down for the road widening of Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

For more about my experiences with deforestation read my other article Personal tales of deforestation
Current experience with a road development

The farm I live on now with my wife is quite isolated. Passing from a countryside road which we call “The main road” one goes into a side road which is even more narrow. A single car can barely fit on this road. This paved side road stops about 500 meters away from the entrance of our farm. After that it becomes a dirt road. The dirt road is hard in the dry season, but practically becomes a muddy river in the rainy season. From the entrance of the farm its another 100 meters on a narrow foot path to our house.
A few years a go the paved road stopped about 1 kilometer away from the farm, but since they have expanded it to stop around 500 meters before the farm. At the moment there are plans to expand the paved road to further than our farm, these plans have only been stopped by the current Corona virus epidemic. Just before the virus epidemic bulldozers and excavators have already passed by the farm to make the road more stable. The way they stabilize the soil was by scooping off soil from the nearby farms and putting it on the road to fill gaps and holes and to harden the dirt. All the other farmers allowed their soil to be scooped. But us being concerned about soil erosion and from the simple fact that soil is one of the most important valuable thing of a farmer we did not allow our soil to be scooped off our farm. Altho we did not gave them permission one of the excavators still tried to scoop our soil on a part were many trees were growing. Just before it happened I jumped on the excavator and told it to stop. The operator being shocked immediately stopped. I had not intervened several trees of ours would have been killed and we would had to do deal with substantial soil erosion in that spot. The operator being annoyed was forced to get the soil from somewhere else.

Besides paving the road, the village wants to widen the road as well, from the 2,5 meters that it is now to 6 meters. That means that many of the trees alongside the road belonging to farmers need to be cut down. Including our trees as well. Besides the significant loss of many fruit and timber trees this would also cause sever soil erosion on the hills.
There is even a house of a farmer that is on the edge of the road and his whole house would have to be demolished just to widen the road. As you can imagine many farmers are against this and it is very likely that there will be no road widening, but only pavement of the dirt roads. In any case we will not allow any road widening and will fight against it.

Conclusion

Altho in a way we are happy with road being built on our farm for now we can drive out with the motorcycle and make carrying groceries easier. First we had to carry our groceries from the end of the road all the way to our house which was very tiring or hire a waterbuffalo to carry our groceries. On the other hand we are unhappy too. For now there is increased noisy and polluting traffic passing by everyday. First people used this road to walk on foot accompanied by waterbuffalos and horses. But now on a daily basis there is motorcycles and trucks passing by. The road is not even paved yet, just extra hardened with dirt. I am afraid that once it gets paved this opens up the area to even more deforestation and environmental destruction as outlined above.
Maybe even one day the road will need to be widened and then what? Our farm is right next to this road.
When we drive on our roads going to our wanted destination we are happy to have this luxury, but rarely do we think about all the sacrifices that have been made to build the roads that supply the modern world with its resources.

Pollution in the countryside

Trash found in the river next to our farm.

Introduction

There are many standards to which people measure the “progress” of a society of civilizations.
Most of these standards come from a perspective of domination over nature such as income and wealth, military powers, architecture, infrastructure, resource production and industrialization, technological advancement, and so on.
Others use standards of human relations such as available healthcare, cultural achievements, the upholding of law and fair courts, equality or freedom of economics, and equality of races and genders, political structure, etc.
A standard that is less often used is standards of environmental responsibility. It is my belief foremost that a society should be rated on how well it handles the environment and if we were to use such as standard today than many of the societies that call themselves ‘modern”, ‘advanced”, or ‘civilized’ would rank at the bottom of the list.

How does a society handle its waste? How much pollution is produced? How is water used and re-used? How many resources are recycled? How many non-renewable and renewable resources are consumed?

When a society asks and thinks about these questions, that is the hallmark of progress. Anyone who knows the history of civilizations or even those who have played a game of Starcraft or Age of Empires knows that resources are the main driving forces of societies. All empires, cities, and nations in history that have vanished did so because of resource depletion.
No matter how advanced a society may be in terms of military, industry, technology, wealth, or culture.. when resources are abused and the environment is destroyed the society will collapse with it and vanish.

Pollution in our area

Me and my wife have been very dedicated to not allow pollution in our land. We do our best to keep the land pristine and free of garbage.
Sadly other people around here do not think like us. It is even sadder that the people here have lived their entire lives in the countryside among the mountains and forests and care not to protect its beauty.
On the roads here there is a lot of plastic bottles and plastic wrappers lying around on the side. Especially near houses were people live the garbage wastes are scattered around the houses.
Nobody seems to care much that garbage is collecting right around their living space. Children and adults throw away their garbage in the vicinity of where they live and they seem not bothered by living among their own filth.

Last week when me and my wife were walking near the bamboo on our land, a place we do not visit often because its little bit far away from the house; we discovered around 15 empty bottles of booze together with plastic wrappers dumped on our land. It was thrown over our fence. As you can imagine we were quite pissed. If you want to pollute and destroy your own environment that is one thing, but do not throw your garbage on a land that I am trying zealously protect from pollution and degradation.

River

There is a river flowing around our land. The river does not belong to anyone. It fills up in the rainy season and during the dry season its empty. While we walking in the dry river recently to inspect a few things we discovered to our horror that a lot of garbage was dumped in the river. The garbage mostly consisted of poop filled baby diapers, used feminine pads, and plastic bottles. It is already bad to dump such garbage in the forest, but to dump it into a river is really worse because 1. The river flows all the way from the mountains, trough towns, and ends up in the ocean. And 2. People swim and bathe in the river when its filled up in the rainy season. With not only glass bottles, but also with feces filled diapers.

The picture above shows just one of the many bags of trash thrown into the river.

What slash and burn agriculture looks like: Confused farmers.

Neighbour's farm after slash and burn. All trees are burned away.

“Another problem with conventional clearing is that the trees are clear-cut and burned.
At a single stroke, the fertility of the soil is diminished for decades.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

slash-and-burn-forest-fire
As seen from my house..My neighbour burning a part of the forest to plant banana. The neighbour’s field is seen in front.

The above 2 pictures are from 2 different areas. But there are a lot more area that were burned. As you can see after burning the soil looks completely devastated and all vegetation is gone.
The 2 areas in the pictures were burned to plant bananas.
Ironically I am using bananas to help with reforestation by using the bananas to give shade to young and fragile trees and to restore the soil. Yet here the farmers do the opposite. They cause deforestation just to plant bananas. Other than the lost fertility from burning it also increases soil erosion, because bananas have relatively more shallow and weaker roots compared to trees.

In the Philippines, on the islands of Cebu and Mindanao, there are banana plantations but no forests, and there is concern that in a few years even drinking water may be in short supply. -Masanobu Fukuoka

The above quote was written in 1996. Now (2020) the same is still happening. Clean water in the Philippines is becoming more scarce as well.

In the section [Those who did not plow] in the post Plowing in natural farming?! I wrote a brief explanation about slash and burn agriculture.
The Philippines was one of those countries where the farmer never plowed, before the Spanish colonization which introduced plowing.
Now a days Filipinos call the Carabao / Kalabaw also known as the waterbuffalo or ox “The farmers best friend”. And indeed the farmers in the area where I live take this very seriously as they have a horde of carabaos that eat up everything. All the lands here are overgrazed and forests are cut down to make pasture for these giant animals. Sometimes I feel like the farmers here are only growing crops to feed their carabaos instead of themselves, and instead of the carabao being a slave to the farmer it is the farmer who is a slave to the carabao.
It may not surprise you that I have forbidden all carabaos and other grazing animals to enter my land nor do I wish to ever own such a beast.

Before the carabaos became domesticated by the farmer, they lived in the forest. The carabao was hunted for meat only by the tribal pre-colonial filipinos. To make the the carabao work as a draft animal to plow the soils was not needed as the soil was already good.
Instead of plowing they practiced slash and burn agriculture wich is sustainable only when the human population is low; when there is enough forest; and when lands or not locked with borders.

But today’s modern world is different. There is overpopulation, especially in the Philippines and because of that farmers or tribes can only own small pieces of land. They no longer have the freedom to roam around wherever like semi-nomads and to establish themselves in a new area every 5 to 10, sometimes even up to 50 years. And because of that the forests have slowly dissapeared from an increase of deforestation from pressure of lumber demands and (cash) crop fields such as sugarcane.

Now it is a tragedy that the farmers here in the area were I live are confused as they adopt both the european system of plowing and the traditional tribal system of burning. The worst is that they do both in a wrong way. Their confusion has totally destroyed the environment around them.

They plow the soil sometimes up to 6 times per year or more, thinking the more they plow the better. They leave the soil bare and exposed in the hard sun. Altho even in the European climate this is a bad thing, in the tropics it is even worse as torrential rains and intense sun speed up soil erosion even more than European soils.
Furthermore whatever vegetation, mulch, and organic matter is plowed off the soil is immeadeatly burned or eaten by the carabaos. Traditional European farmers would try to plow in the vegetation, mulch, animal manures, and organic matter into the soil so it is mixed well, and altho the plowing would damage the soil at least the organic matter stays.

As you can see from the pictures swathes of forests are cut and completely burned up leaving the soil bare, ready to be baked in the sun like a clay pot hardening in an oven.
But instead of immediately planting on the land it is left naked for many months, sometimes it is even plowed after. The traditional Filipinos would burn a piece of forest only once after which it would be planted for a few years and then move to a new area and leave the old area to recover for 5 to 15 years. But here the farmers burn the areas once or twice a year; year after year. The soil and nature has no time to recover at all and everything just becomes worse and worse.
The organic matter of the soils here is extremely low, because everything is burned or eaten by carabaos. Every blade of grass, every small weed, every tree is burned up.
Here the farmers use the word “Linis” which means “Clean”, to describe the clear cutting of trees, burning of fields, and the total elimination of all weeds or previous crop residue to make the land bare with exposed soil. Any field here that has even the smallest amount of grass, mulch, or organic matter is seen as “unclean” and “ugly”. It is no wonder then that the climate here is slowly drying up and the lands turning into deserts.

To make matters worse, on top of all of that they also follow the modern method of monocultures, cash crops, chemical fertilizers, and chemical pesticides.

Here we have 3 systems of farming all mixing up and making everyone confused, causing only the worst of the systems to combine.
Not only are the farmers here confused about their own traditional method of farming, but also about the foreign european and modern methods for farming.
What hope is there here for these poor farmers stuck in their own ignorance and the poor nature that is suffering?

Paradox

The fields of these farmers are horribly managed, the soil eroded, and the natural fertility largely decreased and yet in the village of the farmers there is a polycultural system resembling a food forest. Between the houses and on the edges of the villages grow very tall mango trees that provide light shade to everyone. In the sunny spots between the mango trees grow jackfruit trees, coconut and other various palm trees, avocado trees, guava, custard apple, guyabano, kalamansi, and siniguelas. Scattered underneath them grows pineapple, eggplant, and pigeon pea. Nitrogen fixing trees and ornamental trees, plants, and flowers form thick hedges along the sides of paths. Bananas and papayas fill up empty spaces and corners. Patches of cassava, sweet potato, patola, and perphaps a few beans grow next to houses and chickens run freely anywhere without restrictions. Nothing is plowed as this would impossible with all the houses, fences, and trees. The sight of the village is in stark contrast to the constantly plowed monocultured fields that lie just outside the village. Tho what I have described of this village may seem like paradise, and in some ways it resembles it; it does fall short. First of the amount of food grown in just the village is most likely not enough to feed the population of the village. Second the soil in village is extremely compacted from all the people walking there and the soil is not mulched nor is any organic matter added. I suspect that people add chemical fertilizers to increase the growths of the plants, especially because when any farmer here gives me ‘advice’ on plants they say I should add ‘complete’ chemical fertilizer. Also no weeds or ground covers at all are found among the village vegetation and the soil is left completely bare and exposed.

If the farmers of the village would turn even one of their plowed fields into a well managed food forest or agroforestry system according to the guidelines of natural farming they would increase their food and wood production dramatically to feed themselves. And if they would turn all of their fields (over 100 hectares) into natural farming they might actually become rich.

Look at this mango tree

A small baby mango tree on the farm.

Look at this little mango tree. It is growing underneath the shade of a big mango tree and a narra tree.
I have not sown it.. The mango fruit naturally fell from the tree to the ground in a thick layer of mango leaf litter.
There the fruit was devoured by ants, bees, fruit flies, yeasts, molds, and other organisms until only the seed remained in the mulch.
The slightly damp to moist leaf litter combined with the shade of the mango tree provided the excellent conditions for the seed to not dry out and sprout.
It sprouted and emerged out of the mulch and now it is growing together with grass, nitrogen fixing weeds, and other herbaceous plants.
The shade of the mother tree still provides protection from the sun to this little tree, making the small tree able to handle long periods without rain.
And as the mango leaf litter which comes from the same mother tree slowly decomposes it provides nutrients to the little tree.
The little mango tree will slowly grow bigger and establish its roots. Then perhaps in decades or centuries of time the mother tree will die and fall over.
As the mother tree falls to the ground it will become a nurse log slowly disappearing trough termites and mushrooms, and so transforms into rich fertilizer for the child tree.
With the mother tree gone more sunlight will reach down and a surge of growth from weeds and trees starts. But the child mango tree is already a bit tall and will easily outcompete the weeds and with the new sunlight and space it will reach up to spread its canopy. Finally then it will be able to grow delicious fruits and restart the cycle.

What I have described above is an ideal scenario. It could also be that the seed just rots. Or the fruit is eaten by an animal and taken away and the seed tossed somewhere else – then it might dry out or grow a little bit and then die from drought. Or the little tree will be overcrowded by weeds and vines and die from being outcompeted. Or an animal or insect will eat the all the leaves of the tree and it dies. Or the tree dies from a fungal or mold attack. Or the mother tree will fall on top of the little tree, killing it.

Any of these things could happen, but whatever happens nature never stands still and always moves forward. Maybe the mango tree was never meant to be there and its time is short lived; its nutrients recycled to the soil to be grown into other things.

Whatever the case I will see how this will turn out, and I will be entertained whatever the outcome.

Discovering food, discovering the abundance of nature

Butter fly pea flower growing on a tree.

Papaya leaves, papaya seeds, tamarind leaves, young leaves of jackfruit, male flowers of jackfruit, seeds of jackfruit, green ipil-ipil beans, roselle leaves, tender guava leaves, young leaves of mango, butterfly pea flowers, squash flowers, squash leaves, squash tendrils, squash seeds, okra and hibiscus flowers, onion leaves, garlic leaves, ginger leaves, winged bean leaves, sweet potato leaves, chili leaves, soursop leaves, soursoup flowers, melon seeds, the silk of corn, black nightshade.

All of the above are edible foods, did you know this? Earlier I wrote “did you know you can eat banana stems?”. Since then I have learned about the many more different parts of plants that can be eaten. The more I discover about plants that are edible of which my whole life I did not know was edible; the more I discover the true abundance of nature.
Food is all around us, but we do not know it. We have forgotten the abundance of nature and because of it our diet becomes less diverse, boring, and more expensive.

Bharat Mansata has written that there are around 80,000 species of plants that are edible, but only about 20 edible plant species are commonly found in the modern supermarket.
It is a tragedy and an extinction of knowledge about the abundance of nature and the large diversity of food it provides.

City people often think of nature as being scarce and dangerous. With poisonous plants everywhere and venomous creatures lurking around every corner. However the truth is that the number of poisonous plants in the wild is very small while the number of edible or medicinal plants is very high. And even among poisonous plants, the number of deadly plants is smaller than those that are mildly toxic and non-deathly. Actually most edible plants are slightly toxic, but for most of them it would be impossible to eat enough of it to actually become poisoned to a significant degree.

It would be great if people will get to know the forgotten edible plants and mushrooms again. Especially edible weeds which grow all around us and are easy to grow.
If we can find out more about edible wild plants our farming will become easier and our diets will become rich with diversity and great taste.

Experimenting with rice: Part 2 – 2020

“Trees are the guardians of the soil.
Even in flooded paddies, growing large and small trees on mounds right in the fields themselves is an excellent idea.
The paddies near Sukhothai, Thailand, are filled with such trees. Those fields are among the finest examples of the natural farming method for growing paddy rice
anywhere in the world since they join the farmers with a diversity of plants and animals—including draft animals, fish, and amphibians—into a harmonious whole.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

For part 1 see: Experimenting with rice Part 1 – 2019

I tried to find millet seeds in town at a poultry supply shop. They had white and black millet seeds imported from Australia. I asked the shopkeeper if it can be planted, but they did not know.
So I bought 1 kilogram of white millet and sowed it during a rain between the wild grasses and weeds on 23 October. It is now 16 November and I do not really see anything growing. I think the seed was bad and I need to find millet somewhere else.

UPDATE:

Its now about 9 months later June 14. Sadly the millet did not work out and I was not able to find any in time. This year (2020) I was looking for upland hill rice to buy, because before I bought paddy rice and it did not grow too well. Because I am want to grow rice on a dry field its much better to have upland hill rice which neighbour also uses.
I asked around and even asked the Department of Agriculture, but nobody could help me. Then June was already coming and I still had not found the rice I needed.
My neigbour said that if he had rice left over after sowing his own field he would give the left overs to me, but he said it probably would not be enough for me.
Then luckily after the neighbour sowed his rice he came to me and said he still had enough rice left over to sow my field, so I was very happy.

I payed my neighbour to plow my rice field, which is the only part that is plowed on the entire farm, this will also be the first and last plowing that will ever happen.
If you are shocked about why I plowed my land please read the post Plowing in natural farming?! In short because of the burning of the land 2 years a go the soil became very compacted and overcrowded with 1 meter tall weeds, if I would sow rice on it not much rice would grow. That is why I plowed it for first and last time to loosen and activate the soil.
Before the plowing I asked my neighbour I could collect some buffalo manure and he agreed. I got one wheelbarrow full of buffalo manure at what I call “Kalabaw station”. It is a small area at the edge of the village where all the buffalo’s are ‘parked’. Its a flat area surrounded by many big mango and coconut trees that cast a shade for the buffalo’s. In the kalabaw station are many heaps of manure with lots of mushrooms growing, the soil there is rich, and black with good structure. Farmers that passed by were surprised seeing a white man shoveling up buffalo shit.

Before I was able to put the manure on the field my neighbour had already plowed a small portion. He told me the soil I had was very good and that my rice would grow better than his rice field even tho we are using the same seeds. And indeed the soil of my land was slightly darker in color than then the soil of my neighbour, not only that but the whole soil was filled with the roots of plants and it was obvious organic matter had increased significantly in 1 year. This is a clear proof how weeds and chop and drop improve the soil. 1 year a go my soil was worse than that of the neighbour. There was no vegetation and no organic matter. For 1 year I did “nothing” to the field… The weeds grew over 1 meter tall and I chopped and dropped the weeds only twice (once every six months). I grew a little bit of mung bean between the weeds, but it was not much. For the whole year the field was permanently covered with weeds and mulch.
In that 1 year my neighbour grew corn and rice on his field (note that the corn and rice were grown in 2 separate periods, not at the same time.), but vegetation of those crops was only for about 7 months of the year, for the other remaining 5 months the soil was bare and exposed without any vegetation. Weeds never grew and the field was plowed over 10 times in a year. His soil looks pretty much dead. There are no roots, no mulch, no organic matter and the color is dark yellow like sand, even tho this soil is clay.

My rice field is unusual in that it has a 3 small lemon trees growing in the middle surrounded by a few nitrogen fixing trees and on the borders are 15 small moringa trees with young mango and coconut trees.
My neighbour was so impressed with how good the soil was that he suggested to add 2 lines of corn in the rice field so that the rice field is divided into 3 sections. I thought this was a good idea. As the rice was about to be sown I told him I also wanted to sow mung bean and nitrogen fixing trees at the same time with the rice. Earlier I collected about a 100+ seeds of Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala). He was shocked by the idea of growing rice, mung bean, corn, and trees all in the same field at the same time, but since it is my field he agreed to help me sow the seeds and so it was done.

Now that all the seeds are sown I am just waiting for good rains to come in. Because of the plowing now the soil is exposed and bare to the sun until the first crops sprout. I have not added mulch so that the seeds have better chance of pushing trough and to not step on the freshly plowed soil as to not compact it. I might have a small fertility lose because of it, but I am sure that natural farming will make up for it and the fertility will only increase in the next years, especially cause it is last time of plowing.

What is the future of the rice field?

As I said this is the last time the field is plowed. To not let the weeds dominate the field again the important thing now is to never have a gap between sowing and harvest. Then as planned I will try to sow Millet maybe 1 or 2 weeks before the rice is harvested. After the rice is harvested I will put all the rice straw back on the field as mulch. I might also sow mung bean again to add a nitrogen fixing crop and to suppress the weeds. I know Masanobu uses white clover as a groundcover for his rice, but its not possible to grow white clover in the tropics as far as I know. The other alternative is alfalfa clover which can grow in the tropics, but I have been having a hard time sourcing good alfalfa seeds. Personally I think mung bean is a good tropical alternative to white clover also because it does not grow like a vine. The only problem is that mung bean is short lived and its roots do not form a mat like white clover to suppress weeds. Mung bean has more of a deep tap root which could also by beneficial in other ways. In any case I will try it out and see how it goes.

Once the millet is harvested I will turn back the straw as well and maybe after that I can grow corn or a different dry season crop and then back to rice again to complete the cycle. Maybe I can skip the corn, but it depends on the length of time the millet is growing and the length of the dry season. Millet is harvested rather quickly so then there might a gap between the harvest of millet and the sowing of rice.