Re-becoming animal

“Ancient wisdom teaches us that, even without a single possesion we can be happy as long as there are flowers in the fields and birds singing.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

Today I felt human and I felt animal. They are the same thing to me. I felt alive.

I stood naked under a big mango tree surrounded by greenery and the birds chirping above. While the fresh air breezed over my bare skin.
Next to me was my dog who was casually peeing on some plants.
And my wife who with great effort hand pumped cold water from 50 feet below the earth.
With that beautiful water I washed myself at noon while red ants on the side crawled away to avoid getting splashed by water.

I felt happy and connected to nature.
There was nothing greater at that moment.

A pickle poem: An ode to fermentation

Oh pickle, oh pickle.
You have been fermented in bitter sweet sour juices.
You have been brewed to perfection.
Transformed by the activity of bacterial and fungal life.
Trough the sacred mysterious art of alchemy, gifted by the gods, approved by the spirits, and practiced troughout the ages by my ancestors.
I now taste you with gratitude and delight.
May those who come after me also enjoy the splendid taste of fermented foods and drinks.

The sad story of Yaku our aspin dog

Sadly our dog Yaku died recently at only 1 year old. I want to write her story here so she will not be forgotten, because in just 1 year she lived a remarkable life.

Once upon a time, just after we got our Doberman named Seidr, and just after our 10 year old Golden Retriever died from cancer we saw a small white creature near one of our trees on the farm close to the house.
Seidr kept barking at it. From a far it looked like a white cat, but when we came closer we discovered it was a puppy.

white-cute-puppy-dog-yaku

Yaku just a few days after we found her for the first time.

The puppy looked very sick, dirty, skinny, and infested with lice. My wife a great dog lover took the puppy, washed and took care of it.
We tried to put the puppy up for adoption but nobody wanted her. So in the end we decided to keep her and name her Yaku. Named after the Yakult drink, because she was pure white.
We brought Yaku to the vet and gave Yaku the appropriate medicines to give her back her strength and to remove the lice.

Later we found out that Yaku actually belonged to our neighbour. Apparently the neighbour did not want her and basically dumped her on our farm in hopes that we would take care of her or let her die, either way he did not care about Yaku. The sister of Yaku was also unwanted and tied with a rope to our farm gate. Since we do not go out of the farm everyday we never knew this. Our other neighbour who is more kindhearted took the poor puppy from our gate and took care of it himself. He named her Pulot which is Tagalog for “Picked up”. We heard this story from our other neighbour when we met him and the puppy a few week later.

white-dog-brown-eating-mango

Yaku and Seidr eating a sweet mango together.

Yaku and Seidr: Dog buddies

Yaku was only 1 month old when we found her while our other dog was 6 months. So we had 2 puppies to take care of. Seidr being a doberman dog was a huge dog compared to the small Yaku.
Sometimes we let them play with each other under supervision, but Seidr was an rough play buddy, Yaku’s entire head could fit in the mouth of Seidr. Yaku was bullied a lot by Seidr, but Yaku loved playing with him and no matter how many times Yaku got bullied she kept coming back to him. Seidr never wanted to kill or hurt Yaku it was just that Seidr did not know how strong he was.
As Yaku started growing up she became stronger and bigger. Even tho she was still 2 times smaller than Seidr she could now defeat him in a play. Yaku bit into his ears and lips and would not let go until Seidr cried. As they grew up together they became buddies and always loved playing and hanging out with each other. We hiked with them together in the mountains and we all had a lot of fun.

brown-dog-white-playing-yaku-seidr

Yaku and Seidr playing in the grass.

One day Seidr was being mean by biting Yaku in the leg and twisting it. Yaku cried so much and she could not walk anymore. I rushed Yaku to the vet, but luckily the vet said there was no damage, just some inflammation. After only a few hours Yaku was already walking without a problem.

Sickness

When Yaku became 6 months old we were thinking neutering so we won’t have any unwanted pregnancies. However at the time we were busy with managing a project at the farm and it got delayed. Just then Yaku got a very severe case of mange, and because of that she could not be neutered. Within only 1 week she lost nearly 80% of all her hair. The vet gave us a medicine, but it did not work and only became worse. Her skin literally started falling of and she was bleeding everyday. She barely ate or drank and was very lethargic barely moving for days. She also had a very high dangerous fever. Finally the vet gave us a different medicine which did work. Yaku almost died, but with her new medicine she completely recovered and after just a few months she got all her hair back. She played with Seidr again and was very energetic.
The vet told us the horrible mange started, because Yaku had her first period which lowered her immune system.

sick-dog-yaku-mange

Yaku during her mange.

Poisoning

We had some problems with ant infestations in our house so bought borax to control it. On our first trials with borax I did not know exactly how much to use so I used a lot of borax just to be sure the ants would die. I put it on a small plate in the kitchen counter since that is where the ants usually go. Somehow later in cleaning the plate ended up on the floor and Yaku ate all of it. An hour later Yaku became lethargic and dizzy. We made her drink lots of water, but knowing how much borax was on that plate I was sure she would die. Yaku puked a lot and we kept giving her water. Somehow the puking and water helped, because the next day she was perfectly fine like nothing at all happened.

Pregnancy

Just when Yaku was recovered from her mange we noticed that her breasts were getting bigger and swollen. Yaku was pregnant. We did not know anything about dog pregnancies, nor did we knew when she got pregnant or who the father was. Everybody was hoping it was Seidr, but the only time we ever saw them try to mate it did not work cause of the difference in height between the two dogs. Also locals said they saw Yaku mate with other dogs. Yaku had the habit of wandering all around.

We normally rotate Yaku and Seidr on guard duties. The one on guard duty sleeps outside, while the other sleeps inside. While Yaku had mange she was off guard duty for a long time. So now that she was recovered it was her time to sleep outside again so Seidr could get a break.
One night we tried to take her outside, but she refused and resisted. We thought this was just Yaku being a brat, because she has a very bratty personality and she seemed fine otherwise.
So I just dragged her outside and locked the door. Then later that night we are woken up by a yelp of Yaku followed by strange yapping noises.
When we went outside to check what is wrong we found 4 small baby puppies around Yaku covered in blood. We were so shocked. Yaku just barely recovered from a near death mange experience and now she is birthing puppies. At this point she was only 10 months old, still basically a puppy herself.
We quickly made the most comfortable and coziest bed for Yaku and her new puppies. We stayed with her and comforted her for half of the night until we were sure she was ok.
In the morning we found 5 puppies, which meant another puppy was birthed while we slept.

mother-white-dog-puppies-yaku

The following weeks Yaku became very skinny and tired, and her mange also started coming back. Luckily we were quickly able to give medicines and vitamins so the mange would go away. The constant breastfeeding of her puppies lowered her immune system, but once she was done with breastfeeding she was back to her normal self again.

The 5 puppies were the most cutest creatures ever. They were so adorable. We saw them learn how to walk; saw them open their eyes and ears for the first time; saw them do their first bark and howl; and we watched them slowly grow bigger trying to learn the world around them.
Tho sometimes the puppies were extremely annoying, especially at night because they cried so much every day and every night. Yaku was also not producing enough milk anymore which meant we had to give them milk ourselves and whenever the puppies needed milk the crying and howling would not stop until they got some.

cute-adorable-puppy-niji

Eventually we gave all 5 puppies away and we had peace again in our house.
Everything went back to normal. Yaku was healthy and Yaku and Seidr were playing with each other again everyday. We were happy and all was good.

Death

But then we had to leave the farm for a while, because my mom got cancer and we needed to visit her. Seidr went to Manila to be taken care of by family, but Yaku remained in the farm and would be taken care of by the farm caretaker that we hired.

Just a mere 2 weeks before went back to the farm we received the news that Yaku died from a venomous snake bite. After all that she went trough her life was taken by a snake.
I do not blame the snake for that is just nature, but I do blame myself for leaving her behind.

Yaku was a great dog. She was loyal and fun. Yes, sometimes she was incredibly annoying but I loved her and I am really sad she died all alone at such a young age after all the struggles she went trough. I feel so sad for her.

This is just a short story of Yaku’s short life… The memories and adventures we share with her can not be explained in a single blog post, I have countless of funny and interesting stories about Yaku. Yaku was really a tough and amazing dog and I am glad I got to know her. I learned a lot from her.
Her children will live on.

Thank you for reading.

white-dog-brown-doberman-playing

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…

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.