Monday, July 20, 2009

Around my treehouse

Around my treehouse are either trees and rice or grass, depending on the season. Here’s one view – rice in the front, trees on both sides and on the back.

A view from my house, ricefield during the rainy season. Our caretaker plants 2 crops per year. The vacant portion is where the cows would sometimes rest and sleep in the evening.

During summer and dry season, the land is left on fallow to “rest”, the cows eat the rice straw and whatever grasses that will grow.

On one side of my house are thick branches of different trees, mostly mahogany but there are a few fruit trees (a tree each of avocado, rambutan, jackfruit, calamansi, etc.). These fruit trees though do not bear good fruits because they don’t get enough sunlight as the mahogany trees are tall and get most of the sunlight.

On another side near my treehouse is our outdoor dining table. It also has cogon roof. The roof suffers as the mahogany trees become bigger and taller, after the rain, the cogon don’t get dry immediately as sunlight is blocked by the tall trees.

Organic chicken

We re-started our organic chicken just a few months ago. We have about 17 chicken for now, mostly female. None so far are laying eggs regularly, should be the rainy season, and there are no “palay” (unhusked rice) to eat yet.

A few years ago, we experimented it, the chicken were free roaming, there were plenty of them already, nearly a hundred perhaps. But there are several enemies for the free-roaming chicken.

One, our dogs. When the dogs are eating, the chicken would come in to eat the scattered food, which makes the dogs angry, some of the chicken have broken legs or broken wings, etc.

Two, the wild animals – monitor lizard (“bayawak”), wild cat (“musang”), even hawks flying more frequently above the farm since they could see plenty of hapless chicken below. And possibly some snakes that prey on the smaller chicken.

Three, thieves that are passing by, they chanced upon the roaming chicken, hit the chicken when no one is looking, carry and steal the injured chicken in their sacks or bag.

In addition, some of the chicken who were terrified or shocked being chased by the dogs or people passing by, learned not to come back to their resting place in the evening, they found other places to spend the night several meters away. Later on we did not know where they went.

So this time, we are building an enclosed area for them.

The lower fence is made of small, native bamboo (“bulo”), about 2 to 3 feet high. Then used fish nets up to the roof. The roof is made of cogon. All native materials except the fish nets.

We have one evening caretaker, Fernando. He works making charcoal in our farm, removing low-lying branches, extra branches, fallen trees and branches. That's mainly his day time job. He's very industrious. He would visit his family in the barrio by late afternoon and go back to the farm by evening.

In the evening, he either rests, or hunt fish and wild frogs in the nearby creek using electrical current. This will be his viand in the farm, the extra he will bring to his family.

Stuck in the farm

Monday last week, I brought some materials to the farm, drove my pick-up, tagged along my wife and daughter. The trip was fine, cloudy skies but no rain, we reached our caretakers’ house in the barrio, still a few kilometers from the farm.

We went to the farm, the dirtroad in the neighboring farm was a bit slippery because it rained the previous day. Going down a bit to our farm, it indeed looked slippery plus the sky was getting darker, but I thought we’ll just drop a few heavy materials – used wood, galvanized iron, etc. for our organic chicken farm – so I went ahead. It was big mistake. A very big mistake, in fact.

As soon as we unloaded the heavy materials, rainshowers started falling, the dirtroad up was more slippery then I thought. In short, my pick-up got stuck in the mud!

Our 2 caretakers were there to help, but their muscle or body weight (to add weight to the rear wheel as my pick-up isn’t 4wd, just 2 rear wheels moving. They called upon 2 other men nearby, 4 men – and still not enough. By then, the showers became a downpour.

After more than an hour of vain attempts, they called in more men from the barrio. After more than an hour, 5 other men came, they brought 4 steel platforms where the rear wheels can “step” on. It now looks a bit like “people power” to push my pick-up up on a slippery road.

Were they strong enough? Or were they heavy enough if they stand at the back of the pick-up to add more weight for the rear wheels to work?

NO to both questions. Really terrible. We got stuck around 11:30am, we didn’t have lunch, now it’s past 2pm, and about 4 of the 9 men there have not taken their lunch too. That means they have less energy to push or pull the pick-up.

They gathered sand from about 300 meters away to cover the slippery soil. Gathered small stones, etc., all for naught.

It was past 5pm we were still stuck. Two men already left. I said only one option left: go backwards, dare the muddy road back, get the men at the back of the pick-up, get some momentum and brave the slippery ascent. One, two, three attempts, unsuccessful. On the 4th attempt, the pick-up was able to go up! Hurray!!!

But it was only hurdle no. 1. There’s hurdle no. 2, a slippery part on a steep ascent in the neighboring farm. There’s a “pug-pug” or barrio truck nearby (its engine sound is like pug-pug-pug-pug…, hence the term). They also have a long rope, we hoped that the pug-pug can pull my pick-up. But it too was cannot ascend as it’s not a 4wd.

So the men pushed again the pug-pug up. Talking about a supposed solution that can become part of the problem itself.

The men again gathered small stones and gravel to cover the muddy part. Again, I reversed and moved backward to get some momentum, have some men rode at the back of the pick-up, then floored the accelerator on a 1st gear. Got stuck again in the middle, the other men push the pick-up, slowly but surely, until it finally got out of the mud and low-lying area!

It was around 5:45pm when we finally got out of the farm, or we’ve been stuck there for more than 6 hours. Some of the men suffered minor scratches from flying gravel or small stones as the rear wheels were burning the tires.

My daughter has been staying inside the pick-up for most of the 6+ hours because it was muddy to walk around, and there were still scattered rainshowers.

What a bad experience! My extra money, I gave away to the men who endured hunger, the rains, mud and some flying small stones.

On a positive note, I saw and experienced again how the guys in the barrio would help. Especially for us who have to travel back to Manila, 4 hours away from the barrio.

The food that was supposed to be our lunch at 12 noon became our dinner at past 6pm. What an experience again in the farm with my old but reliable, 12+ years old pick-up.