Monday, July 07, 2014

Stone Terraces, Part 9

I went to the farm last Sunday. Here's the erosion control structure that we built early last month.


Last two weeks, some strong flash flood came and washed away, destroyed it. Nonetheless, nearly one foot of mud and eroded soil was trapped and controlled by the structure at the back.


I repaired it as Danny and Nong Endring were doing something else. The new structure. This time, more stones were put in the middle of a two-feet thick structure. It was cloudy when I took this photo.


This stone barrier was able to withstand the last flash flood. Lots of stones on the base, also deposited organic matter at the back.


The "long wall", left side.


Also three layers so far. Controlling topsoil erosion.


Even a deluge, Ondoy type of flooding will not be able to destroy this structure. Lots of big stones beneath, plus organic matter which have become soil already. Water from the flash flood will only pass at the top. The three layers slow down the flow and force of rampaging water. A big portion of the flash flood is actually trapped at the back, slowly sinks in after the rains have stopped.


This depression will soon become flat. The trees in this area grow faster. They have lots of organic fertilizers there.


Among the original stone terraces near the treehouse. Built in 2005 and still existing until now.


Stone stairs.


Our modest contribution at reducing soil erosion and flash flood.
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See also:
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 8, June 03, 2014

Our Dog Gives Her Milk to Kittens

We see photos of dogs and cat playing or sleeping together, not fighting as often stereotyped. Well, one of our dogs in the caretaker's house whose puppies we separated from her to be the new guard dogs in the farm, would allow kittens to get milk from her.


Her name is "Jenny white" or Elle Marie would call her as "Requel" when the dog was still young. J.white has another sibling, also a female dog, black, we called her "Jenny black", who was guarding the farm. Jenny black died of a particular disease several months ago.


Danny, our part time caretaker, got two kittens, newly separated from their mother and are still sucking milk. Jenny white would give them her milk.


The two puppies stayed in our house in Makati for about two months. Their mother, Jenny, was a hunter dog in the farm.  When she was alive, she would hunt and catch different birds, monitor lizards ("bayawak"), wild turtles in the creek, small snakes.

The two puppies were getting noisy in our house, I brought them to the farm. Danny got the white, Nong Endring got the black.


When the puppies were just about 5-6 weeks old, I brought them from the farm to our house in Makati. Elle  Marie was very happy with her new puppies. Photos taken May 02, 2013. 

Until now, Elle would ask me to give her new puppies. I am hesitant because we did not have any house helper for the past nine months. There's a new helper but may not stay long too.

I explain to Elle that the puppies might get dirty and the house will also get dirty, if there is no one to clean them regularly.

Anyway, Jenny white is a kind and gentle pet to share her milk even to cats. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweden Seminar 3: Field Trips, 2003

Feeling nostalgic again of the Sustainable Agriculture seminar that I attended in Sweden nearly 11 years ago, posting these photos which I scanned a few weeks ago. In this photo, from left, standing: An (Vietnam), Orasa (Thailand), Emile (Burundi), Ani (Indonesia), Inger Ahman, seminar director (Sweden), Dorothy (Uganda), from Sri Lanka (forgot her name), Josie (also from the Philippines), Hugo (Venezuela), Nahid (Morocco), Gunasinghe (Sri Lanka). Also sitting was Jhansi (India).


Two friends and fellow participants from North Korea, 2nd and 5th from left. Choi and... forgot his name too. 2nd from right was Sokhan (Cambodia), and not facing the camera, Tony (Ghana).


These photos taken on our trip from Lund/Svalov (south Sweden) to Stockholm and Uppsala (central Sweden).


I think this is Marie Hardfors' (to my right) house. Marie was assisting Inger.


One of the beautiful gardens that we visited.


By the way, please disregard the date in the pictures. I don't know whose camera was used in these photos.



At our modest hotel in Lund, there is a bar with live band on certain days of the week.


This band was singing "Let's get drunk". their own original composition. The band leader was cool and friendly.

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See also: 


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Tree Planting vs. Tree Growing

I started planting trees in a private farm owned by the family of a deceased friend in UP, Mil Millora, in 1992. It was limited planting, something like 300 seedlings I think, various species of mahogany, acacia auri, acacia mangium, eucalyptus deglupta, and agoho/Benguet pine. I liked the experience of tree planting in a private farm, not in a public land that is owned by everyone and no one in particular, through the government. The farm is in Brgy. Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, Pangasinan. The town is 198 kms. from Manila and the farm is about 7 kms from the town center. At that time it was all dirt road.

The caretaker of the farm, Nong Endring Paragas and his two sons, helped me in the various tree planting every year. By 1993-1995, we were planting thousands of seedlings, we bought from nearby private nurseries, or we uproot naturally-growing seedlings of mahogany that were too close to each other and plant them elsewhere.


By 2002, we started limited harvesting of trees, those that grew fast from the seedlings we planted a decade before that, or trees that naturally grew on their own. I built my first treehouse that year. Two years after, early 2004, we demolished that small treehouse and built a bigger, two-storey, all wood treehouse.More trees were harvested from the farm.


We started selling a few trees for lumber early this decade as we have lots of big trees then. The small revenues were used to pay the monthly salary of the farm caretaker. Commercial harvesting was made in January this year.

Even after the selective logging, many trees, from small to medium size to big but crooked trunks were still standing. From February up to this month, we were selling lumber to local buyers, mostly barangay residents who were repairing their old house, or building a new one. Since we got official permit to cut from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provincial office, there was no intrigue or harassment in the cutting of trees. The revenues were enough to pay the monthly salary of the caretaker and his son, Danny, who works part time in the farm to help his ageing father.


It is a perpetual forest with perpetual revenues, though not substantial.

Stealing and illegal cutting of trees in the public forest land is common there, and even in private farms if these are not guarded. Well, in many parts and provinces of the country actually. The thieves would cut trees for firewood, charcoal, or lumber for their house, or they sell the trees to other people. The daily presence of our caretaker in the farm turns away those thieves.

I tell some friends who are involved in various tree planting activities that they better do it in private lands and farms, not in government lands. Public forest land suffers from the "tragedy of the commons", where the land and the trees in it are owned by everyone and no one in particular, well owned by the government in the name of the public.  Survival rate of seedlings to become big trees someday is almost zero. One or more weeks after the tree planting, nature takes its course -- vines choking the new seedlings, cogon and grasses that grow much faster than the seedlings; wild animals or cattle that step on newly planted seedlings; flash flood in rainy season that erode the topsoil; grass fire and forest fire during the dry season. If the seedlings survive all of these and they manage to grow tall to arms- or limbs-size, people who cut and steal trees as discussed above come in.

Thus, in most tree planting activities in public lands, it is 99 percent tree planting, 1 percent monitoring, if ever. Good for picture taking then posting in facebook. Tree planting, not tree growing.

In private lands where the owners or managers have private stake, it is the reverse; 1 percent tree planting and 99 percent monitoring; when some of those seedlings die for whatever reason/s, they are replaced. Until the seedlings become small trees, become big trees. Whether to harvest them later or retain them to grow even bigger and taller is another story.

The various reforestation programs of the government in public forest land is generally wasteful. I remember when I was working at the House of Representatives from 1991-1999, I was attending various Committee hearings and accounting for the millions of hectares supposedly reforested from hundreds of millions of dollars of loans from the ADB, WB, OECF/Japan and other foreign aid. Loans contracted in the late 80s, and the result were largely lousy. Lots of spending and government borrowings, yes. Lots of new forest, no.

And it did not stop there. New environmental and forestry loans were contracted in the 90s, in the 2000s until this decade, by the Philippine government from the same foreign aid bodies, and very little new forests are visible.

In the public forest land adjacent to our farm in Bugallon, there are tree planting activities there, yearly. And yearly, public funds are used, and no new forest can be seen from the public land. Either the reforestation money is wasted or stolen, or no efficient monitoring is done. Government reforestation is largely wasteful and inefficient, if not a milking cow for various implementers, from the government to the contracted parties, usually NGOs and farmers' cooperatives.

Ok, I may be harsh in my assessment above, but that is what I have observed for more than two decades now.

On another note, there is an International Free Market Environmentalism conference to be held in Georgia this coming July 23-26, 2014. Venue is Hotel Vera Palace, Bakuriani, Mountain Resort, Georgia. Bakuriani is about 2 1/2 hours by car from the capital, Tbilisi.

The conference organizer is the New Economic School (NES). The President of NES–Georgia, Paata Sheshelidze, is a friend way back in 2004, when we attended the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference in Hong Kong, sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). 


The conference co-sponsores are  FNF Southern Caucasus, Germany, and the Center for Energy and Environment of Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), USA. Interested participants can write to: office@nesgeorgia.org. 
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See also:
Selective Logging in the Farm. February 03, 2014
DENR Nursery in the Farm, April 17, 2014
Treehouse, Versions 2002 vs. 2014, April 23, 2014
Presentation at WASWAC Seminar at BSWM, DA, May 13, 2014


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Stone Terraces, Part 8

I went to the farm last May 24, 2014. A new project -- blocking the lower portion of this bigger waterway that becomes a creek during the rainy season. Lots of eroded organic materials and rich topsoil pass here every year. This year, we intend to minimize this erosion. Below, front view.


Top view. How thick is it, well about more than two (2) feet at the base; medium size stones at the back, big stones, even small rocks, in the front. Then soil and small stones in the middle. At the top, about 1 1/2 feet.

Back/rear view. Danny standing at the front, height should be slightly higher than two feet.


On another side, a bit far from the treehouse, we added stones at this "blockade". Front view.


How high is it now, about 2 1/2 feet.


Back/rear view. This will soon be covered by soil and dried leaves brought down by flash flood.


We slowly demolished this old structure, from our old organic piggery project. Used the small stones to strengthen the above structure.


An old terrace. It's now flat, has trapped a considerable amount of topsoil and organic matter. Either we will raise it higher, or transfer the stones to the above blockade so that more and bigger area of topsoil entrapment can be established.


A terrace we expanded about a month ago.


See also:
Stone terraces, Part 4, April 10, 2011
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Presentation at WASWAC Seminar at BSWM, DA

Yesterday, some officers of the World Association for Soil and Water Conservation (WASWAC) and soil scientists and engineers from Thailand, led by Dr. Samran Sombatpanit, Past President, and Dr. Li Rui (China(, Current President, of WASWAC, participated in a seminar organized by the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), DA, in Quezon City. The group of Thai and Chinese scientists came from Aklan and attended the annual meeting of the Philippine soil scientists.


Weeks before that, I was asked by Doc Samran, a good friend for nearly a decade now, if I can present our experience at terraces construction in the said seminar, which I quickly agreed.


There were four paper presenters supposedly yesterday, but the Filipina speaker who was supposed to present a paper on vetiver grass for erosion control did not come. So only me, Dr. Alibuyog, an agricultural engineer from Mariano Marcos University in Ilocos Norte, and a Thai scientist, made presentations.


BSWM Director, Dr. Silvino Q. Tejada, along with almost all division chiefs and directors of the Bureau, were there.






Monday, May 05, 2014

Conserving Organic Materials

Every year, mahogany trees change all of their leaves around February-March, and grow a new batch of leaves. by March-April  Other tree species also exhibit this annual process, at different period or months. So the volume of fallen leaves, dried branches, especially if the trees are already big, is huge, like below. All photos below as of yesterday, when I visited the farm over the weekend.


After collecting the dried leaves and other organic materials. Oh, the langka/jackfruit, I forgot to bring it home to Manila. It's one of the minor products of the farm. Ok, so where did we put this huge volume of organic materials?


Here, impounded by stones gathered from a nearby creek. The newly collected materials just topped off the old layers of dried organic materials.


If you remove the top layer of the dried leaves, below it are decomposed materials that became rich top soil. Trees develop new small but elaborate roots on its lower trunk, above the original soil level, to get rich minerals from their new topsoil.


Other views or angles of the collected materials.


We are just lucky to be near a creek where many big stones can be gathered, manually.



Nong Endring Paragas, our farm caretaker for many years. He is holding a stick approximately 1 meter long. This side is 5 meters long. The average height of the collected materials is about 0.5 meter high. And the width, around 2.5 meters.

So estimated volume of organic materials collected in this part of the farm is:

Volume = Length x Width x Height = 5 x 2.5 x 0.5 meters = 6.25 cubic meters,
advanced staged of decomposed materials. If these leaves were collected earlier, the volume should be double or more.


Two young boys that I hired to help collect the organic materials, Romeo and Nonong, locals or barrio folks.

These and other photos I will present in a special meeting of officers of the World Association for Soil and Water Conservation (WASWAC) this coming May 12, at the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), Department of Agriculture, Quezon City. Dr. Samran Sombatpanit, Past President of WASWAC, also a long time friend, invited me to be one of the presenters that day. Audience will be Chinese and Thai soil scientists and engineers, plus some staff and officials of the BSWM.
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See also:
Stone terraces, Part 4, April 10, 2011
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014