More trees planted

Weather has been bringing rain; perfect time to plant some trees!

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Trunk full of things to plant!

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6 pieces of “Barako” liberica coffee seedlings and 2 saplings of arabica coffee

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A dwarf “Betel Nut” Areca palm planted along the fence

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First grafted rambutan seedling, planted under a coconut tree

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The second grafted Rambutan seedling was planted at the front border in between the Heliconias

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The third grafted Rambutan seedling was planted at the fruit forest which I’m building at the back-portion of the lot.

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This is a Chico tree planted at the fruit forest. Chico is one of my favorite fruits!

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An Arabica coffee seedling planted along the fence

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My second arabica coffee seedling joins the mix in the fruit forest

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A four-foot tall Marang tree planted in the fruit forest. It’s fruit tastes like a cross of Custard Apple, Guyabano, Jackfruit and a little Durian!

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to the left is my friend from Brazil, an Açaí palm tree, growing to its right is a cacao tree (Trinitario variety from Davao) planted a few months ago

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A row of “Barako” liberica coffee seedling planted in the front portion of the plot

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A lone “Barako” liberica coffee seedling adds diversity to the fruit forest

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This grafted Cacao tree (Trinitario variety from Davao) was planted a few months ago. It is being eaten-up by termites.

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View from the hill where my fruit forest stands. This was taken at around 6pm

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My neighbor, Mang Joel, gave me a live chicken! He told me to eat it!

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Planting continues

Over the weekend, I did a few more plantings for my weekend farm.

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a peach/pink Mussaenda philipicca planted in between the heliconia plants

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a dark pink Mussaenda philippica

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a white Mussaenda philippica along the barbed fence

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at the rightmost and the leftmost are cacao seedling planted a few weeks ago, in between are new plantings of Mussaenda philippic and a Lanzones seedling

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a second Lanzones seedling

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from left to right: the third Lanzones seedling, a giant custard apple sapling, and the cacao seedling planted a few weeks ago

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This coffee tree used to be filled with at least 7 species of native orchids. It was stripped bare by orchid bandits a few months ago. I planted clumps of Vanda lamellata on this tree. (Notice how the powder puff tree and the Dracaena multiflora are all growing nicely!)

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This coffee tree used to be filled with Phalaenopsis schilleriana plants and Vanda javierae plants. The orchid thief stripped this tree bare a few months ago, now I’ve planted some Vanda lamellata on it.

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Mang Joel has done a great job of cleaning the area and keeping the weeds from growing tall. The front-half of my weekend farm now looks cleaner. If you look closely, you will already see seedlings of vegetables growing!

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work in progress! The middle portion of my weekend farm is still being prepared by Mang Joel for planting

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Upo (Bottle Gourd) seedling growing on my weekend farm

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corn seedlings sprouting from the ground

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Sitaw (string beans) also sprouting from the ground

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A pleasant surprise. This Phalaenopsis linden grows at the mountain regions of North Luzon at elevations more than 1000 mask. This plant has survived the orchid looters and has been growing in my weekend farm for a year. This is its first blooms in my weekend farm

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flowers of the Phalaenopsis lindenii up close

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Going with the Flow

My weekend farm is a meaningful and personal endeavor, which I wish to extend and share to others.

Over the past few months, it became difficult to define progress.

The ability to build structures to protect and cultivate the area meant progress, but I am not able to accomplish these at the moment. Running after these milestones proved to be very difficult and frustrating.

My past two visits at my weekend farm proved to be invigorating. Instead of focusing on achieving milestones, I dropped everything and did the things which I enjoyed doing!

I imagine that once I’ve made my weekend farm more comfortable, I will spend time planting, painting and relaxing.

I realize that I just need to put myself in the flow of things by being creative. Although it may seem like a futile attempt at the moment, I will just continue to visit, plant, and paint. Hopefully as I do these, I get to open myself to opportunities that will allow me to achieve my milestones!

At the moment relaxing in my weekend farm may still be a remote possibility, but this doesn’t stop me from being in the flow things and enjoying how it exists now.

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My first time to do a painting in situ! I brought an easel, a canvas and some acrylic paint.

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Bugs landed on the canvas, and the easel toppled over a few times, this was my finished painting. I’m hoping to paint more and sell them so I can get funds to build on my weekend farm

 

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I visited a sunday market to buy some plants for the fence. This photo shows the heliconia plants for sale.

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BEFORE PLANTING: this is the fenced area along the front of my weekend farm

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AFTER PLANTING: different varieties of Heliconias planted along the fence. I’m not familiar with the varieties and species but I chose different kinds

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A pink heliconia. Its stems are hirsute.

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a red Heliconia caribaea

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a pink heliconia hybrid

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possibly the largest out of all the heliconias I’ve planted. I don’t know what species this is. This could be a hybrid.

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looks like a Heliconia bihai

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I got this dead looking heliconia at a discounted price. I hope it lives.

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I also planted 5 Cacao seedlings. These are the Trinitario varieties. Plant #1 and #2 are in this photo

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Cacao plant #3

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Cacao plant #4

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Cacao plant #5, planted by my friend Timmi

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95% of the Philippine native orchids that I planted were stolen around a month ago. The last remaining Phalaenopsis amabilis plant from Palawan is currently blooming here. It has been growing here for over 6 months now.

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Also one of the last remaining orchids, this Phalaenopsis aphrodite is also blooming but it’s flowers were eaten by insects.

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A fruiting banana plant, I’m hoping I get to harvest this in a few months. This plant is more than 20 feet tall.

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Some lost, some more gained!

I lost my bamboo hut and my car early this year.

But I got a new car and I have been able to visit my weekend farm again.

I was convinced to immediately fence the property. With the fence built, I now have clearer boundaries, defined by some wooden stakes and barbed wire. It doesn’t look impenetrable but I think it is enough to set barriers.

Upon checking the progress of my crude barbed-wire perimeter fence, I noticed that 95% of the rare native orchids which I planted were gone! Someone took almost all of them. Perhaps they all flowered some time during the period of my non-visit and passers-by found them irresistible so they took all of these home. I realized that these orchids are just embellishments to my weekend farm and this has convinced me to plant small trees and shrubs for the meantime as I develop and secure the area.

When I checked the finished barbed-wire fence, I also thought of adding a fourth layer of barbed wire to fortify it further. Also a bamboo fence will completely close the area.

The period of my non-visit allowed me to rethink on how I can progress for my weekend farm.

For one, a few friends advised that I should get a caretaker and be more integrated in the community. I acknowledge that my absence in the area is definitely a problem; I am only able to visit during a few weekends every month. My limited resources could not allow me to finance hiring a caretaker. But I realize that my main resource for now is my land; which is not productive at the moment. I have met Mang Nestor before, a friendly farmer neighbor, and he has expressed that he wanted to help me. At that time, I didn’t take his musings so seriously yet because he was not able to express what he wants to do and I did not know what I can offer to him in return. He was just nice and very gracious, and he helped me get coconuts or fruit whenever he saw me. However, the other day, I met Mang Joel on my drive out from my weekend farm. As I introduced myself, Mang Joel already knew who I was, He was sorry about what happened to my bamboo hut and my car accident. (News quickly spread among the locals, even the Jesus statue is now believed to be miraculous because I came out from the wreckage of the accident without a single bruise!) He immediately expressed his desire to use my land to plant crops like corn. I realize that while I am not able to use my land, I can allow my farmer neighbors to plant in my land. In exchange, I will ask them to look after my land and  perhaps, over time, we can gain friendship over the help we extend to each other.

After my brief ocular of the barbed-wire fence. I visited the local Police station. I got acquainted to them due to my car accident. It was the first time that a major incident occurred for me outside the city! I saw their value in providing safety for my peaceful existence and harmonious integration in the locality. Similarly they saw my value thru my good intentions and thru my affiliations which I can extend to them and to the local community.

A few things lost, a few things being recovered and a few more things being formed!

Things ahead are looking very hopeful!

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The very prehistoric looking fence at the frontage of my property. These wooden stakes are called Madre de Cacao, a legumeous tree that is nitrogen fixing. Hopefully these stakes will grow as living trees.

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Photo of the corner of the frontage an the eastern border. Notice how I failed to make a straight line with the Yucca plants, some are inside the fence while some are outside. I initially planted these to define the eastern portion. The people who installed the barbed-wire fence managed to better define the property

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Like some of the few coffee trees I selected to grow native orchids on, this tree on the foreground is wiped out! This used to be covered with at least 10 species of orchids

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On a positive note, this Cacao tree, a Trinitario variety (hybrid of the Criollo and the Forrastero) used to be devoid of leaves during my last visit. It seems insects also like to nibble on its new leaves

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Notice that the last layer seems to just a straw-string. I will need to add another barb-wire layer to fortify this further.

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barb-wire fence on the slope, still at the eastern portion of the property

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Barb-wire at the back portion (north) of the property

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No house, No car… at least for now :)

A bit hesitant to share this story, but I realize that sharing has helped me accept challenges and move forward.

My tiny house made of bamboo was burned to the ground Monday last week. It could have been an accident or the victim of a delinquent dare. It costed me my Christmas savings; but more than that, I found this unsettling as it made me rethink the safety in the area I have chosen.

This made me realize that perhaps I have been too lax in securing my place. Perhaps I should have spent my resources on a more proper fence to secure the area. I thought that, while I spend time gathering resources to build a safer fence and a safer tiny house, I needed to share my message of forgiveness to whoever or whatever caused the burning of my bamboo house.

I’m not a diligent catholic, but I am reminded of a place I visited at the start of the year. My friend Kiko, who is an architect, tagged me along for a project he had at a Hermitage in Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon Province. He was working on building a Jesus statue of the “Divine Mercy.” The monks who lived in the place and the family who owns the land welcomed us during their ground breaking ceremony with their stories. The family shared that their land has been disputed for over thirty years; at that time a family member was killed on their land. I gather that it took them thirty years to forgive and progress with whatever they intend to do for their land. This story inspired me to bring a Jesus statue, an image of the Divine Mercy, a great gesture of forgiveness for my weekend farm. I wanted to share a symbol of forgiveness to move forward and progress harmoniously.

It was a Sunday, almost a week since my tiny house burned down. I have only seen pictures of my plot, and I was preparing to go to my weekend farm to see my burned bamboo house. I brought a 3-foot statue of the Divine Mercy with me. I stopped by a church to have my statue blessed by a priest. Then I drove towards my weekend farm.

It was around 1:30 in the afternoon and I was driving along the same highway in the same vain as I would for any visit. There was a slow moving car in-front of me so I decided to over-take. Checking that the road was clear, I overtook and returned to my lane as I ran past the slower car. While I was still on fast speed, a big truck suddenly backed-up from my front-right-view. (apparently there was a back-road made of dirt, hidden from the viewpoint of the highway) I was not able to react fast enough to avoid it fully since it all seemed to happen so fast. The most I could do at that time was to steer to the left to avoid a head-on collision. I remembered seeing the dash board cave in and the whole right portion of my car crumple. My car stopped and I was covered in powdery white dust from the glass. I was unharmed, no shrapnel, no debris penetrated me. I had no bruises; not even a single wound. I was just covered in glass dust.

Shocking that this happened. I am tempted to leave whatever I have started and just move on.

It may take time but I still have faith in pursuing my dreams.

I don’t have a car and a house for now. I may not be able to share stories any time soon. But I am very grateful of what I have today and I am very optimistic that I am about to realize greater things ahead of me.

It is tough to continue with your dreams especially when odds seem to not favor you. But at this point, I am compelled to be more creative and to think more strategically on how I want to progress. There is a lot to consider but one thing is certain; there is still  the dream that I want to pursue.

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What remains of the tiny house made of bamboo which I got late last year. Everything is now just ash.

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Locals, checking the site. On this site was where I wanted to place the statue of the Divine Mercy, I brought with me some flowers, candles to make a simple shrine on the ashes.

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Christ the King church in E. Rodriguez avenue in Quezon City, where my grandmother used to buy her candles. This is where I had the statue blessed.

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Photo of the Divine Mercy statue while I wait for the priest to bless it inside the parish office.

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Took a photo of my car as soon as I stepped out from the wreckage.

site where the accident happened. Photo still shows the truck which was part of the accident.

 

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Coffee harvest for a small batch

Over the past few months, I have seen my coffee trees in bloom. Its flowers are very sweet smelling; like jasmine.

This time, I noticed three trees laden with ripe coffee beans!

Lucky I brought with me a small tub. I used this to contain the beans that I picked.

My method of harvesting was not delicate, I simply held to a bunch then brushed down along the branch to scrape the beans away. At times, a few branches were dismembered from the tree especially when the branch was packed with ripe fruit. It would have been more convenient if I had a tarp or some giant cloth placed under the tree so that the fruit which would fall off my hands can be collected; nonetheless, I was still able to get a substantial amount of beans.

The tub of coffee beans smelled of grass and earth; the smell of my weekend farm! It smelled like the sap of wild growth whenever I slashed them to clear an area or whenever I stepped on them! It smelled like the fresh earth whenever I dig a hole to plant a new tree!

I was so excited to start a coffee project but I just have a vague idea of what to do. I brought the beans back to the city to dry them out under then sun.

When the beans are completely dry, these need to be peeled or de-husked to get the coffee kernel. After which, the coffee kernels will be roasted; perhaps in a pan over a stove since I do not have roasting equipment. After roasting, these will be placed inside a food processor for grinding. After grinding the beans, I plan to place them in small pouches to give away to a few friends.

I hope this works. I’m really looking forward to sharing this!

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a blooming coffee tree!

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Ripe fruit on a coffee branch

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another coffee branch with fruit that is more red in color

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Close up of a coffee bean bunch.

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my tub of coffee beans, my method of harvesting was very crude. Notice how the beans come in different colors. I wasn’t so delicate in selecting the ripest fruit, I just yanked the beans from the branches

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every morning the beans are laid out in the sun to dry. This is just a fraction of the amount from my total harvest in the tub.

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on its third day of drying, the husks of the beans are now darker in color….now, to worry about how to peel these :))

 

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The Orchid Thief

I’ve been using an orchid as litmus.

It may not be the best method; and definitely not the most scientific, but this is just for leisure! I’ve planted a lot of Phalaenopsis schilleriana orchids and these continue to give me an indication of the climate in my weekend farm.

Firstly, these plants need to receive enough moisture to survive. For now, I can only visit the farm during my free weekends which means that I’m incapable of watering my plants regularly. Also, I can’t afford a caretaker to live at my plot; hence I’m at the mercy of nature for now. So far, the orchids I have planted have grown roots and a lot of them are actually blooming! Apart from those, I planted fruit trees like cacao and mangosteen and these are growing without watering.

More than that, these orchids gave me an indication of what other crops I can plant. Phalaenopsis schilleriana plants will only bloom in cooler weather. This means that I can try to grow cooler weather crops (at least relative to my location here in the tropics) like more exotic/non-local fruits and vegetables.

These plants have been in my plot for months, and a few plants have just been in flower recently. Apparently, it has caught the attention of a few people who may have chanced upon my area. During my last visit I found that two plants which were in flower have been plucked from the branches. I wasn’t surprised that this happened; but now I realize that my area is too open and some people might think it’s alright to pluck a few plants for them to take.

And so this plant is telling me to do something about it.

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the first plant that was plucked by a stranger… see how the roots got severed and the twine was still there

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during my last visit, this was the photo of the plant which existed on the branch, but now it’s gone, taken home by someone

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Plant number 2 gone… this time the roots were almost cleanly taken out (notice the white stuff on the upper left portion on the right bump on the branch – those are the remains of the attached roots which were plucked)

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This plant is still at the branch and will be in full bloom soon, I’m glad it wasn’t taken by the person who got the other plants

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close-up shot of the flowers

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another plant in bloom

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this Vanda lamellata var remediosae was almost plucked from this coffee tree. I guess the person felt bad that he might be getting too much already :))

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Some newer Phalaenopsis schilleriana plants which I attached to a coffee tree a few weeks ago. These are now showing signs that they’re about to flower

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This Phalaenopsis aphrodite is also about to bloom

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Phalaenopsis amabilis from Palawan also about to flower

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This Phalaenopsis lindenii thrives at a higher elevation, but it is also about to send out flowers

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A newly planted Phalaenopsis stuartiana

It’s interesting that someone has found plants growing on my weekend farm attractive!

I just continue to hope they’ll admire it and not take plants from my weekend farm. Still, I should work on that nice looking bamboo fence already :))

 

 

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Birthday Dream

It was my birthday!

I spent the afternoon at my weekend farm with a few friends, Kiko and Teban. A few months ago it was their first time to visit my weekend farm. At that time, our shelter was very crude; a ground sheet and a shade cloth tied to the bushes. I told them I wanted to spend my birthday here. I imagined my friends sprawled across my weekend farm enjoying barbecue and beer next to a large inflatable pool! That didn’t happen, I brought take-out barbecue and beer. We stayed inside the kubo (bamboo house).

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spent the afternoon admiring what’s around, inside a more comfortable hut with beer and food

When I started this, I just wanted my weekend farm to exist. I did not know how to progress. But slowly as I committed more time and energy I’ve discovered and realized possibilities and opportunities along the way.

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I will be planting more cacao trees for next year. I’m drawn to discovering and learning more about these trees

It has been a year of sharing this personal endeavor to friends and to people I meet. I have found it delightful to share my experiences and discoveries! I share that, for as long as one follows their heart, the universe will conspire to make things possible. I do not see this as a “passion project,” I see this as a personal pursuit! Progress and growth entails more than just passion, it requires commitment especially at times when resources become limited.

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The moon appearing as the sun begins to set

I spent the afternoon inside my kubo for my birthday. Before sunset, I planted two cacao trees. For the first time, I watched the sky change colors as the sun set on my weekend farm, and I have never been more excited to continue coming back.

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I have never seen my weekend farm look like this

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Fair Sunday morning

I was really worried about Typhon Ruby /”Hagupit” making landfall that weekend… but I continued to believe and hope that the weather won’t bring harm.

It was fair weather when I visited that morning and it was so great to see the area looking cleaner!

The first thing I did was to walk to the hill, towards the back portion and inside the hut to admire how the place has changed.

I also found a few surprises along the way!

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Although cleaning was not yet finished, the area was looking better already

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The people we contracted uprooted the vines, weed and tall grass. I wanted to do the cleaning myself but I it was not possible to accomplish within a few hours visit during weekends

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Grass, weed, vines and stumps were pilled to be burnt

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The back portion was not as clean as the front area. I can’t wait to see this area looking nice on my next visit

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One coffee tree shared a few surprises. The native orchids which I attached were blooming. I’ll share the plants in another post.

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This is looking more comfortable! I used to set-up a ground sheet with an overhanging tarp for shade. Now I have a more proper rest area.

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a rest area…where I can nap and stay overnight!

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more importantly it has such as nice view!

I’ve made this journey early this year, and with the year coming to a close, it feels like so much have happened and changed.

It feels great to be able to share something that continues to grow and improve and very grateful for people who have witnessed and taken part in my weekend farm.

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Moving a tiny house made of bamboo

I was very excited to witness a house, literally, moved!

I know that this activity will not require any sophisticated equipment. It will rely on pure manpower (…and a truck).

For centuries, Filipinos have moved houses made of wood or bamboo through a method (or perhaps more of an experience) which is called “bayanihan“. Bayanihan happens when a person asks the help from a group of people (or even a whole community) to literally carry their house made of bamboo or wood and transfer it to a new location.

Last Sunday, I got to experience this!

I arrived at the site of purchase where the tiny bamboo house was already placed on top of a truck.

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A normal drive from the site to my weekend farm only takes 10 to 15 minutes.

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Since the truck had to move slowly, travel time was about 35 minutes.

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We arrived at the entrance to the access road to my weekend farm with a few road blocks. The electric wires by the entrance had very low clearance. I was very lucky that a few neighbors were present at that time! They told me that the truck can enter by just pushing the electric wires since those were not yet live.

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They were also very gracious to let us trim some of the overhanging branches so we can pass thru.

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We finally made it along a turn, thru an open-clearing, without any injury or damage to property.

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The short drive took us from the access road and across the rows coffee trees.

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The truck stopped at the end of the access road adjacent to the plot.

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The bamboo house will be installed at the highest point of the plot. This was around 30 meters far from where the truck stopped. The area is overgrown, so I requested help in clearing the area.

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A few came with machete and slashed coffee, banana, pineapple, vines and grass to prepare the area.

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After clearing, the bamboo house was brought down from the truck.

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…and it was just pushed-off the back of the truck.
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It was a very rough start with very slow progress. The underside of the house got snagged by branches or got stuck on mud many times. I tried to join, thinking that I can help out. However more than strength, they had a rhythm. I placed my excitement aside and allowed them to carry-out this undertaking based on their plan.

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What seemed to be a dire undertaking actually became a very fun activity. Everyone who pitched in joked about how hard this was, yet everyone was so jovial! It was a very motivating activity… all they wanted after this was a bottle of rum.

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When the house reached its final destination on top of the hill, the cement footings were placed to prolong the house’s life against termites and deterioration from contact with soil.

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And there it was! The house was finally sitting at the highest point of my weekend farm.

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The term “bayanihan” has its root-word from “bayani” which translates to hero. Although I had to pay for my hut, and maybe pay a little extra for the installation, it was just exhilirating to see something like this still exist.

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