Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Grass Fire

Last March 27, 2014 or three weeks ago, there was a big grassfire that started from either the public forest land or our neighboring farm, Mt. Zion, and spread to our farm including the mango area. First two photos I took last March 28.

This photo I took yesterday. On the left was part of the burned area, the right side was spared. One of the guys that make charcoal in the farm, Anoling, was there to help put out the fire that day.

Grass fires occur almost yearly in many parts of the country. Forest land that were converted into agricultural or pasture land, the grass mature during the hot and dry months of March to May, can easily get burned. And grow again days after a fire. This photo is from the web.

Grass fire is the number one or number two tree killer. The other major tree killer is people. Trees generally grow on their own, aka natural regeneration of trees, until some vines choke them, or people cut them, or a grassfire would engulf them. But many local tree species would survive a grassfire, and would have new leaves weeks after a fire.

See also:
From Forestland to Grassland, September 21, 2012  
Natural Regeneration of Trees, February 21, 2013 
Trees in the Farm, Part 4, August 21, 2013

DENR Nursery in the Farm

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Laguit Padilla Multi Purpose Cooperative (MPC) has established a nursery partly in the farm, partly in the public forest land area. They informed our caretaker, Nong Endring Paragas about this, no problem. Photos below I took yesterday.

They used different tree species -- kakawate, ipil ipil, gmelina, etc.

The DENR has been planting and planting trees in this part of Bugallon, almost every year, for about four decades now since the 70s. Mostly in the public forest land, below, and partly intruding into private lands.

The DENR and its contracted parties in the past have no sincerity in having a real forest in many parts of the country. Generally the trees just regenerate and grow on their own without human intervention. They only need to be protected from different tree killers -- vines, grass fires (occurring almost yearly) and people who steal and cut the trees for charcoal, firewood, lumber and other uses. Below, another part of the "public forest land".

But the DENRand its contracted parties chose reforestation almost yearly. The latter mainly do it for money. They get paid for planting and do little or no monitoring months after. The newly planted seedlings often die. Until another round of contracted tree planting the next year.

See also:
From Forestland to Grassland, September 21, 2012 
Attempted Illegal Logging by Greedy RE Agents, February 11, 2013 

New Upland Dwellers and the DENR, August 21, 2013

Trees in the Farm, part 2, September 06, 2012
Trees in the Farm, Part 3, February 11, 2013

Natural Regeneration of Trees, February 21, 2013
Trees in the Farm, Part 4, August 21, 2013

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stone Terraces, Part 7

I went back to the farm last weekend. The two-layers terrace last month became three-layers.

Here's how we built the 3rd layer. Big stones in the front, small stones right behind them, medium size stones at the back, and soil in between the two columns of stones. This is nearly two feet thick at the base, around two feet high.

View at the back of the third layer. Dried leaves and branches of mostly mahogany trees which changed all their leaves this February-March. The soil, where did we get it?

From the trapped top soil and organic materials that decomposed and became soil. See how deep this small waterway is. Our caretaker Nong Endring standing. He was about eight meters from the third layer of stones.

The view from where Nong Endring was standing. The height should be about seven feet or more than two meters high. He said that last year during heavy rains, this structure would trap rain water for three to four days. Meaning if there was heavy rain today, the water would remain in this pond for 3-4 days. Which means flash flood has been significantly minimized, eroded top soil has been impounded, and a mini-spring water is created in this area, slowly released at the first layer of stones hours and days after a heavy rain has stopped.

We measured how deep the trapped top soil has been since about three or four years ago when we first built the structure. About one foot deep, about eight meters from the 3rd layer of stones. About two to three meters from the 3rd layer, depth of trapped top soil could be about 1.5 to 2 feet.

My Treehouse, March 2014

My treehouse, built around March 2004 or 10 years ago, has experienced a major facelift this month. Here is how it looks now, when I visited the farm last weekend.

And how it looked last month, February 2014.

The slatted bamboo floor have been replaced with wood, from slabs of big mahogany trees that were harvested two months ago.

Now, view from below, from another side of the house.

Before: extension on the left side of the second floor.

Now: extended longer.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Charcoal Economics

Wood charcoal is famous among Filipinos (and other people in other countries) for cooking and grilling food, like grilled barbeque, tilapia, bangus, etc. One wonders how is it made by fire and yet the wood does not turn into fine ashes.

In the farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan, we cut branches, crooked trees, to allow the trees to grow bigger and taller. Three weeks ago, there was also selective logging in the farm, lots of branches and tree tops to be used for making charcoal or "uling". This is a previous charcoal pit.

Charcoal makers get wood elsewhere. Here, a couple cut felled branches.

Crooken trunks and branches that cannot be used for lumber, or too cumbersome and costly to be brought to furniture shops to be sold, are materials for charcoal making.

The pile will be covered by dry rice straw.

The rice straw will be covered by soil. One charcoal maker gamely poses. I told him, "ilalagay ko picture sa internet ha?" and he willingly smiled.

There is only one opening where air can get in. The heat, not exactly big fire, will "cook" the wood and branches, three days after.

It takes about 3D/3N for this pile to become charcoal. So charcoal makers live near the pit. When there is an accidental opening around the mound where more air can get in and cause big fire inside, they must cover it at once.

The price of charcoal can go up or down, depending on the season. This dry season, charcoal is cheap because rural folks seldom do rice farming, not enough irrigation, they go to the mountains to cut trees in public land, so charcoal supply is big. During the rainy season, charcoal making takes a back seat as rural folks are busy with rice farming and other activities. It is also not possible to make charcoal during heavy rains.

Current price is about P110 per sack, farmgate price, for a 3-cans sack. Traders pay for transportation from the farm to public markets, then sell for a bigger margin, retailing at P200 per sack or more.

In private forestry, there are various sharing schemes between the tree or land owners and the charcoal makers. In our case, we get 1/3, the charcoal makers get 2/3. Charcoal makers are usually subsistent income earners, they do not earn enough, but at least there is legal source of income, unlike those who steal trees from public forest land.

See also:
Denuded mountains, March 31, 2009 
New Upland Dwellers and the DENR, August 21, 2013
From Forestland to Grassland, September 21, 2012 

Stone Terraces, Part 6

Update on the mini-dam we built since about three or four years ago, on a depressed part of the farm (Bugallon, Pangasinan) where small water run off would pass during the rainy season. We blocked it with stones to (a) control soil and organic materials erosion carried by the rain water, and (b) depository or "land fill" for dried leaves, branches, other organic materials.

As of April 2011.

As of August 2013. Four layers of stone terraces.

Three weeks ago, there was selective logging in the farm. Among the mahogany trees cut were those near the mini dam. Partly damaged stone terraces when huge tree trunks and branches fell on them, plus the dried leaves and branches. As of February 23, 2014...

About six hours later, this is how the reconstructed mini dam looked. We built two walls yesterday. Front view.

 A wall is about 1 1/2 feet thick, all stones. At the back of each wall or layer of rocks are organic materials. Top view.

Side view.

A third layer or wall is prepared. Small stones as foundation for the bigger stones for the terrace. We shall finish this 3rd layer by next month.

Our caretakers, Danny (left most) and his father, Nong Endring Paragas (4th from left). Yesterday, I hired two extra laborers, Boknoy (2nd from left) and a son of Kagawad Mandy (right most). His two younger brothers joined briefly in gathering dried leaves as filling materials behind the rock wall.

See also:
Stone terraces, Part 3, February 11, 2011
Stone terraces, Part 4, April 10, 2011
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013

Lumber from Slabs of Mahogany Trees

I went to the farm yesterday, saw other small projects there. One is the production of thin lumber out of slabs of felled mahogany trees from the selective logging three weeks ago. The lumber measure usually 3/4 x 4 inches, different length. I will use our share to repair my treehouse, built in early 2004 or 2005, the bamboo floor now needs replacement. Also the walls.

The guys who made these were locals in the barrio. Mang Titong. The sawmill table was made there, the blade I have it since several years ago, they brought the engine, belt, and buy diesel, about four liters a day is consumed. Two men work here, it is a labor-intensive work.

The slabs of mahogany trees cut three weeks ago. The buyer got only square logs, usually 6 x 6 inches x 7-10 feet.

Part of the permit to cut issued by the DENR to the farm owner, Atty. Millora.

I hope to see a neatly-repaired treehouse when I go back to the farm next month.

See also:
Trees in the farm, Part 4, August 21, 2013
Trees for Harvesting, December 05, 2013 

Tree Harvesting to Start Today, January29, 2014
Selective Logging in the Farm, February 03, 2014

Monday, February 03, 2014

Selective Logging in the Farm

The farm experienced big number of mature trees cut and harvested last January 31-February 02, 2014. The buyer cut only trees where they can get at least 5x5 (length x width) inches of square logs. The big trees near my treehouse.

Another view of the trees felled and harvested.

A big mahogany tree that could be at least 50 years old was also harvested. The big slabs here can be used for furniture.

Notice the big branches and trunk of that tree. Nong Endring's hand and fingers were no match in size.

Small and thin trees below will soon get more sunlight, more minerals from the soil as the big ones tend to deprive them of more sunlight, more soil minerals.

Selective logging -- removing only the mature, overly mature, sickly trees -- leave the smaller trees to grow bigger later.