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!

Procrastinating

I feel like I am procrastinating on my weekend farm but I feel that it is necessary to wait.

I am not spending much time in my plot over the past months, perhaps this is allowing me to think things thru.

I was motivated to write again after reading this article: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-procrastination-helped-steve-jobs-become-so-successful-2016-2

At the start of the year, I started a mini-project to bring  my weekend farm closer to my home. I do not have a garden, but I have a window with a small ledge big enough to fit a few plants.

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I brought home some heirloom tomatoes and aji amarillo pepper fruits from Australia.

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My window at the start of the year: The environment was fit to grow pitcher plants. I also have a dwarf banana plant and a pot where I sowed the heirloom tomato seeds.

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My dwarf banana plant and some sprouting tomato seedlings

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More than a month after and a few more additional plants, my window jungle is looking better!

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My heirloom tomatoes have grown taller. I need to thin it out and leave just a few plants so it can fruit.

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My aji amarillo pepper seedlings are alive but growing very slowly.

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

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.

Trees

It was only recent when I started pondering why I was so fond of trees. I was just deeply fascinated with them.

Perhaps I was influenced by my grandfather’s interest in trees. He filled his garden with a lot of fruit bearing trees. He drank fresh coconut juice all the time from the three coconut trees he planted. Every summer we wait for the biggest tree, a duhat tree, to bear fruit, our teeth covered in purple paste from its fruit. We were allowed to play with fire when the wollyworms from the santol tree would fall on the ground; when unlucky, our backs would be covered with itchy rash. We discovered the taste of sour from the fruits of the kamias tree, eating it was better with some salt. The first tree that I witnessed to be cut-down was a tree with golden leaves, it was on that tree where I saw the largest butterfly. I felt disappointed when my grandfather decided to cut it down. He said it was a useless tree and he replaced it with an Indian mango tree. That Indian mango tree was the first tree which I saw grew. Five years went by and it bore its first fruit, I preferred the carabao mangoes over Indian mangoes; nonetheless, it was so pleasing to eat something that I saw grew. Under that same mango tree was where I had my first garden, I was eleven years old and I made other plants grow under its shade. I grew up with trees and all of these my grandfather planted.

Trees never had meaning for me. I just noticed them when I’m outdoors and I just marveled at them. Overtime, as I traveled more, I discovered other trees, most of which, unfamiliar. I remember a place which I visit with the trees I saw.

A few years ago for work, we visited the Eugenio Lopez Center of ABS-CBN, which was located in Antipolo, a mountainous area near Metro Manila. The center’s building was surrounded with lots of trees, mostly local species, which I was not familiar with. However, I particularly noticed a very tall tree growing beside one of the balconies. Its bark looked very distinct and it looked somewhat coniferous. It seemed that the tree had a hard time adapting to the local climate but it grew and thrived anyway. I knew that this particular tree was a foreign species. Other than its origin, its age captivated me. Someone must have had the resources to bring it here from a foreign travel several decades ago. I doubted that the tree came from a seed. It could have been a sapling when it was planted there. I chanced upon an employee at the center, and asked about the tree, he shared that the tree I noticed was actually planted by Eugenio Lopez Jr, the well loved chairman of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp and the father of the current chair of the company I am working for.

Early this year, I travelled to Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province. It was a very remote region in southern Luzon. My friend was building a statue for a shrine which the catholic monks were establishing. The owner of the land donated a portion of their estate to the catholic monks; it seemed as though the owners of the land were trying to figure out a way to make their land useful. The surrounding area was very vast and mountainous; on the way to the site, I could only imagine how the roads could have been constructed. Bondoc Peninsula’s expanse was covered with coconut trees as far as the eye can see! These coconut trees looked like they were around thirty to fifty years old. I wondered how it was not possible for me to see a tree older than fifty years that is not a coconut tree! This expanse in southern Luzon was not very accessible and open to modernity. It was not very hard to imagine that before the coconut trees existed, the land was covered by old growth forest trees. I imagined that the creation of roads and highways opened-up this area to modern transportation and was a perfect excuse to harvest prime timber growing on Philippine old-growth forests. After money was earned from selling expensive timber, reforestation efforts were scraped and subsituted with planting coconut trees. I imagined that only a few benefited from the coconut industry that flourished at that time. This may have caused the social unrest in the area, especially to locals who felt the strain of poverty despite the flourishing coconut industry. In turn, this may have caused the downfall of the coconut industry in the area. The area, now full of thirty to fifty year old coconut trees as far as the eye can see,  is still isolated from modernity and still stricken with poverty. I did not know who harvested timber and who planted coconut trees in the area. At present I know that the owners of the land is struggling to make the best out of what they have.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a police officer and I briefly brushed on the topic of trees and my fondness for visiting the mountains while sharing coffee. He shared that while training to become police officers, their superintendent sent them on a mission to protect a tree from being cut down. He did not know the details and found the whole mission absurd. Orders were simply given to them to; locate the tree in the middle of a jungle; camp under it’s shade; protect it from anyone attempting to cut it down; and wait for an indefinite time until their mission will be called off. They knew that a specific tree, a tree which he described to be so large that more than five men with outstretched arms had to encircle it to wrap around its tree trunk, was under threat from being cut down. They found this tree so deep inside a dense jungle and thought that it was possibly the oldest tree in the area. It was very unclear why they need to protect it. At that time, the police officer jus said that they were given a mission and that they simply had to implement the orders given to them.

I am inspired by trees and I want to plant trees.

I realize that trees connect us to the past and inspire us to shape the future. They remind us where we come from and allow us to understand how we can move forward. They provide a glimpse of wisdom and strength contributed by our forefathers or from nature itself. They make us ponder on how finite we are in the world yet our presence at the moment can be so meaningful.

For me the most majestic trees, which I saw, were hundred foot tall Red Lauan trees with trunks as massive as buses. I saw these trees when I lived in southern Luzon for a few months. Whenever I drove from Naga city to Daet’s town proper; along the highway called “Bituka ng manok” forest reserve in Camarines Norte, these trees cannot be missed. They were so tall that the topmost portion of the trees looked dead; it seemed lightning stuck the apex of the trunk several times, only allowing branches to grow a few meters from the apex.  Its bark was so distinctly pink-beige in color it made them look like a drawing from a Dr. Zuess book! I discovered that these trees were also the most sought after timber at a time when these were still abundant. Red Lauan trees are very rare and I want to plant a few in my weekend farm.

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

Around last year, as I was starting my weekend farm, a friend shared a small book to me. It was the size of a smartphone and can be finished in less than an hour!

This short story, called The Man Who Planted Trees was written by Jean Giono, continues to be a big inspiration for my weekend farm.

Jean Giono did not write this story for profit. He intended to share this story for everyone to support his goal to encourage people to plant trees!

I thought I’d lift the story from this website (http://www.pinetum.org/GionoUK.htm) and share it here as a post.
Translation from french by Peter Doyle

The Man Who Planted Trees

Jean Giono

In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, we must have the good fortune to observe its action over a long period of years. If this action is devoid of all selfishness, if the idea that directs it is one of unqualified generosity, if it is absolutely certain that it has not sought recompense anywhere, and if moreover it has left visible marks on the world, then we are unquestionably dealing with an unforgettable character.

About forty years ago I went on a long hike, through hills absolutely unknown to tourists, in that very old region where the Alps penetrate into Provence.
This region is bounded to the south-east and south by the middle course of the Durance, between Sisteron and Mirabeau; to the north by the upper course of the Drôme, from its source down to Die; to the west by the plains of Comtat Venaissin and the outskirts of Mont Ventoux. It includes all the northern part of the Département of Basses-Alpes, the south of Drôme and a little enclave of Vaucluse.
At the time I undertook my long walk through this deserted region, it consisted of barren and monotonous lands, at about 1200 to 1300 meters above sea level. Nothing grew there except wild lavender.
I was crossing this country at its widest part, and after walking for three days, I found myself in the most complete desolation. I was camped next to the skeleton of an abandoned village. I had used the last of my water the day before and I needed to find more. Even though they were in ruins, these houses all huddled together and looking like an old wasps’ nest made me think that there must at one time have been a spring or a well there. There was indeed a spring, but it was dry. The five or six roofless houses, ravaged by sun and wind, and the small chapel with its tumble-down belfry, were arrayed like the houses and chapels of living villages, but all life had disappeared.

It was a beautiful June day with plenty of sun, but on these shelterless lands, high up in the sky, the wind whistled with an unendurable brutality. Its growling in the carcasses of the houses was like that of a wild beast disturbed during its meal.
I had to move my camp. After five hours of walking, I still hadn’t found water, and nothing gave me hope of finding any. Everywhere there was the same dryness, the same stiff, woody plants. I thought I saw in the distance a small black silhouette. On a chance I headed towards it. It was a shepherd. Thirty lambs or so were resting near him on the scorching ground.
He gave me a drink from his gourd and a little later he led me to his shepherd’s cottage, tucked down in an undulation of the plateau. He drew his water – excellent – from a natural hole, very deep, above which he had installed a rudimentary windlass.

This man spoke little. This is common among those who live alone, but he seemed sure of himself, and confident in this assurance, which seemed remarkable in this land shorn of everything. He lived not in a cabin but in a real house of stone, from the looks of which it was clear that his own labor had restored the ruins he had found on his arrival. His roof was solid and water-tight. The wind struck against the roof tiles with the sound of the sea crashing on the beach.
His household was in order, his dishes washed, his floor swept, his rifle greased; his soup boiled over the fire; I noticed then that he was also freshly shaven, that all his buttons were solidly sewn, and that his clothes were mended with such care as to make the patches invisible.
He shared his soup with me, and when afterwards I offered him my tobacco pouch, he told me that he didn’t smoke. His dog, as silent as he, was friendly without being fawning.

It had been agreed immediately that I would pass the night there, the closest village being still more than a day and a half farther on. Furthermore, I understood perfectly well the character of the rare villages of that region. There are four or five of them dispersed far from one another on the flanks of the hills, in groves of white oaks at the very ends of roads passable by carriage. They are inhabited by woodcutters who make charcoal. They are places where the living is poor. The families, pressed together in close quarters by a climate that is exceedingly harsh, in summer as well as in winter, struggle ever more selfishly against each other. Irrational contention grows beyond all bounds, fueled by a continuous struggle to escape from that place. The men carry their charcoal to the cities in their trucks, and then return. The most solid qualities crack under this perpetual Scottish shower. The women stir up bitterness. There is competition over everything, from the sale of charcoal to the benches at church. The virtues fight amongst themselves, the vices fight amongst themselves, and there is a ceaseless general combat between the vices and the virtues. On top of all that, the equally ceaseless wind irritates the nerves. There are epidemics of suicides and numerous cases of insanity, almost always murderous.

The shepherd, who did not smoke, took out a bag and poured a pile of acorns out onto the table. He began to examine them one after another with a great deal of attention, separating the good ones from the bad. I smoked my pipe. I offered to help him, but he told me it was his own business. Indeed, seeing the care that he devoted to this job, I did not insist. This was our whole conversation. When he had in the good pile a fair number of acorns, he counted them out into packets of ten. In doing this he eliminated some more of the acorns, discarding the smaller ones and those that that showed even the slightest crack, for he examined them very closely. When he had before him one hundred perfect acorns he stopped, and we went to bed.
The company of this man brought me a feeling of peace. I asked him the next morning if I might stay and rest the whole day with him. He found that perfectly natural. Or more exactly, he gave me the impression that nothing could disturb him. This rest was not absolutely necessary to me, but I was intrigued and I wanted to find out more about this man. He let out his flock and took them to the pasture. Before leaving, he soaked in a bucket of water the little sack containing the acorns that he had so carefully chosen and counted.

I noted that he carried as a sort of walking stick an iron rod as thick as his thumb and about one and a half meters long. I set off like someone out for a stroll, following a route parallel to his. His sheep pasture lay at the bottom of a small valley. He left his flock in the charge of his dog and climbed up towards the spot where I was standing. I was afraid that he was coming to reproach me for my indiscretion, but not at all : It was his own route and he invited me to come along with him if I had nothing better to do. He continued on another two hundred meters up the hill.
Having arrived at the place he had been heading for, he begin to pound his iron rod into the ground. This made a hole in which he placed an acorn, whereupon he covered over the hole again. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose land it was? He did not know. He supposed that it was communal land, or perhaps it belonged to someone who did not care about it. He himself did not care to know who the owners were. In this way he planted his one hundred acorns with great care.

After the noon meal, he began once more to pick over his acorns. I must have put enough insistence into my questions, because he answered them. For three years now he had been planting trees in this solitary way. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of these one hundred thousand, twenty thousand had come up. He counted on losing another half of them to rodents and to everything else that is unpredictable in the designs of Providence. That left ten thousand oaks that would grow in this place where before there was nothing.
It was at this moment that I began to wonder about his age. He was clearly more than fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had owned a farm in the plains, where he lived most of his life. He had lost his only son, and then his wife. He had retired into this solitude, where he took pleasure in living slowly, with his flock of sheep and his dog. He had concluded that this country was dying for lack of trees. He added that, having nothing more important to do, he had resolved to remedy the situation.
Leading as I did at the time a solitary life, despite my youth, I knew how to treat the souls of solitary people with delicacy. Still, I made a mistake. It was precisely my youth that forced me to imagine the future in my own terms, including a certain search for happiness. I told him that in thirty years these ten thousand trees would be magnificent. He replied very simply that, if God gave him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many other trees that these ten thousand would be like a drop of water in the ocean.
He had also begun to study the propagation of beeches. and he had near his house a nursery filled with seedlings grown from beechnuts. His little wards, which he had protected from his sheep by a screen fence, were growing beautifully. He was also considering birches for the valley bottoms where, he told me, moisture lay slumbering just a few meters beneath the surface of the soil.
We parted the next day.

The next year the war of 14 came, in which I was engaged for five years. An infantryman could hardly think about trees. To tell the truth, the whole business hadn’t made a very deep impression on me; I took it to be a hobby, like a stamp collection, and forgot about it.
With the war behind me, I found myself with a small demobilization bonus and a great desire to breathe a little pure air. Without any preconceived notion beyond that, I struck out again along the trail through that deserted country.
The land had not changed. Nonetheless, beyond that dead village I perceived in the distance a sort of gray fog that covered the hills like a carpet. Ever since the day before I had been thinking about the shepherd who planted trees. « Ten thousand oaks, I had said to myself, must really take up a lot of space. »
I had seen too many people die during those five years not to be able to imagine easily the death of Elzéard Bouffier, especially since when a man is twenty he thinks of a man of fifty as an old codger for whom nothing remains but to die. He was not dead. In fact, he was very spry. He had changed his job. He only had four sheep now, but to make up for this he had about a hundred beehives. He had gotten rid of the sheep because they threatened his crop of trees. He told me (as indeed I could see for myself) that the war had not disturbed him at all. He had continued imperturbably with his planting.
The oaks of 1910 were now ten years old and were taller than me and than him. The spectacle was impressive. I was literally speechless and, as he didn’t speak himself, we passed the whole day in silence, walking through his forest. It was in three sections, eleven kilometers long overall and, at its widest point, three kilometers wide. When I considered that this had all sprung from the hands and from the soul of this one man – without technical aids – , it struck me that men could be as effective as God in domains other than destruction.
He had followed his idea, and the beeches that reached up to my shoulders and extending as far as the eye could see bore witness to it. The oaks were now good and thick, and had passed the age where they were at the mercy of rodents; as for the designs of Providence, to destroy the work that had been created would henceforth require a cyclone. He showed me admirable stands of birches that dated from five years ago, that is to say from 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had planted them in the valley bottoms where he had suspected, correctly, that there was water close to the surface. They were as tender as young girls, and very determined.
This creation had the air, moreover, of working by a chain reaction. He had not troubled about it; he went on obstinately with his simple task. But, in going back down to the village, I saw water running in streams that, within living memory, had always been dry. It was the most striking revival that he had shown me. These streams had borne water before, in ancient days. Certain of the sad villages that I spoke of at the beginning of my account had been built on the sites of ancient Gallo-Roman villages, of which there still remained traces; archeologists digging there had found fishhooks in places where in more recent times cisterns were required in order to have a little water.
The wind had also been at work, dispersing certain seeds. As the water reappeared, so too did willows, osiers, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain reason to live.
But the transformation had taken place so slowly that it had been taken for granted, without provoking surprise. The hunters who climbed the hills in search of hares or wild boars had noticed the spreading of the little trees, but they set it down to the natural spitefulness of the earth. That is why no one had touched the work of this man. If they had suspected him, they would have tried to thwart him. But he never came under suspicion : Who among the villagers or the administrators would ever have suspected that anyone could show such obstinacy in carrying out this magnificent act of generosity?

Beginning in 1920 I never let more than a year go by without paying a visit to Elzéard Bouffier. I never saw him waver or doubt, though God alone can tell when God’s own hand is in a thing! I have said nothing of his disappointments, but you can easily imagine that, for such an accomplishment, it was necessary to conquer adversity; that, to assure the victory of such a passion, it was necessary to fight against despair. One year he had planted ten thousand maples. They all died. The next year,he gave up on maples and went back to beeches, which did even better than the oaks.
To get a true idea of this exceptional character, one must not forget that he worked in total solitude; so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of talking. Or maybe he just didn’t see the need for it.

In 1933 he received the visit of an astonished forest ranger. This functionary ordered him to cease building fires outdoors, for fear of endangering this natural forest. It was the first time, this naive man told him, that a forest had been observed to grow up entirely on its own. At the time of this incident, he was thinking of planting beeches at a spot twelve kilometers from his house. To avoid the coming and going – because at the time he was seventy-five years old – he planned to build a cabin of stone out where he was doing his planting. This he did the next year.

In 1935, a veritable administrative delegation went to examine this « natural forest ». There was an important personage from Waters and Forests, a deputy, and some technicians. Many useless words were spoken. It was decided to do something, but luckily nothing was done, except for one truly useful thing : placing the forest under the protection of the State and forbidding anyone from coming there to make charcoal. For it was impossible not to be taken with the beauty of these young trees in full health. And the forest exercised its seductive powers even on the deputy himself.
I had a friend among the chief foresters who were with the delegation. I explained the mystery to him. One day the next week, we went off together to look for Elzéard Bouffier, We found him hard at work, twenty kilometers away from the place where the inspection had taken place.
This chief forester was not my friend for nothing. He understood the value of things. He knew how to remain silent. I offered up some eggs I had brought with me as a gift. We split our snack three ways, and then passed several hours in mute contemplation of the landscape.
The hillside whence we had come was covered with trees six or seven meters high. I remembered the look of the place in 1913 : a desert… The peaceful and steady labor, the vibrant highland air, his frugality, and above all, the serenity of his soul had given the old man a kind of solemn good health. He was an athlete of God. I asked myself how many hectares he had yet to cover with trees.
Before leaving, my friend made a simple suggestion concerning certain species of trees to which the terrain seemed to be particularly well suited. He was not insistent. « For the very good reason, » he told me afterwards, « that this fellow knows a lot more about this sort of thing than I do. » After another hour of walking, this thought having travelled along with him, he added : « He knows a lot more about this sort of thing than anybody – and he has found a jolly good way of being happy ! »
It was thanks to the efforts of this chief forester that the forest was protected, and with it, the happiness of this man. He designated three forest rangers for their protection, and terrorized them to such an extent that they remained indifferent to any jugs of wine that the woodcutters might offer as bribes.

The forest did not run any grave risks except during the war of 1939. Then automobiles were being run on wood alcohol, and there was never enough wood. They began to cut some of the stands of the oaks of 1910, but the trees stood so far from any useful road that the enterprise turned out to be bad from a financial point of view, and was soon abandoned. The shepherd never knew anything about it. He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his task, as untroubled by the war of 39 as he had been of the war of 14.

I saw Elzéard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven years old. I had once more set off along my trail through the wilderness, only to find that now, in spite of the shambles in which the war had left the whole country, there was a motor coach running between the valley of the Durance and the mountain. I set down to this relatively rapid means of transportation the fact that I no longer recognized the landmarks I knew from my earlier visits. It also seemed that the route was taking me through entirely new places. I had to ask the name of a village to be sure that I was indeed passing through that same region, once so ruined and desolate. The coach set me down at Vergons. In 1913, this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had had three inhabitants. They were savages, hating each other, and earning their living by trapping : Physically and morally, they resembled prehistoric men . The nettles devoured the abandoned houses that surrounded them. Their lives were without hope, it was only a matter of waiting for death to come : a situation that hardly predisposes one to virtue.
All that had changed, even to the air itself. In place of the dry, brutal gusts that had greeted me long ago, a gentle breeze whispered to me, bearing sweet odors. A sound like that of running water came from the heights above : It was the sound of the wind in the trees. And most astonishing of all, I heard the sound of real water running into a pool. I saw that they had built a fountain, that it was full of water, and what touched me most, that next to it they had planted a lime-tree that must be at least four years old, already grown thick, an incontestable symbol of resurrection.

Furthermore, Vergons showed the signs of labors for which hope is a requirement : Hope must therefore have returned. They had cleared out the ruins, knocked down the broken walls, and rebuilt five houses. The hamlet now counted twenty-eight inhabitants, including four young families. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens that bore, mixed in with each other but still carefully laid out, vegetables and flowers, cabbages and rosebushes, leeks and gueules-de-loup, celery and anemones. It was now a place where anyone would be glad to live.
From there I continued on foot. The war from which we had just barely emerged had not permitted life to vanish completely, and now Lazarus was out of his tomb. On the lower flanks of the mountain, I saw small fields of barley and rye; in the bottoms of the narrow valleys, meadowlands were just turning green.
It has taken only the eight years that now separate us from that time for the whole country around there to blossom with splendor and ease. On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 there are now well-kept farms, the sign of a happy and comfortable life. The old springs, fed by rain and snow now that are now retained by the forests, have once again begun to flow. The brooks have been channelled. Beside each farm, amid groves of maples, the pools of fountains are bordered by carpets of fresh mint. Little by little, the villages have been rebuilt. Yuppies have come from the plains, where land is expensive, bringing with them youth, movement, and a spirit of adventure. Walking along the roads you will meet men and women in full health, and boys and girls who know how to laugh, and who have regained the taste for the traditional rustic festivals. Counting both the previous inhabitants of the area, now unrecognizable from living in plenty, and the new arrivals, more than ten thousand persons owe their happiness to Elzéard Bouffier.

When I consider that a single man, relying only on his own simple physical and moral resources, was able to transform a desert into this land of Canaan, I am convinced that despite everything, the human condition is truly admirable. But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God.

Elzéard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.

 

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

Plants this Easter!

Some more plants blooming this Easter. These plants are growing in the lowlands of Metro Manila.

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This Vanda lamellata var remediosae is different from the other remediosae varieties. It has longer and more slender leaves and it has a longer flower spike!

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Same plant pictured above. Vanda lamellata var. remediosae

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Dendrobium anosmum. These normally flower during February, weird weather has caused them to bloom late this year. 

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A Phalaenopsis stuartiana, with small but rounder flowers

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not sure if this is Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica or Phalaenopsis lueddemmaniana or a natural hybrid of the two

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Phalaenopsis bastianii

 

Plants in the city

I have not visited my weekend farm for a long time already; but I would like to share some interesting plants flowering in the lowlands of Manila.

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a clump of Vanda lamellata var. remediosae with four flowering spikes. These are native to the Batanes group of islands, particularly in Calayan Island. At Manila, this plant is placed at an area which gets the most sun.

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I’ve kept this Tillandsia xerographica for a few years already. Once its flowers wither, the plant will die and I expect to get a few juvenile plants from this.

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Not sure about the species but it think this is a Coelogyne marmorata. This is a huge clump of plant; twice bigger than a basketball! It only produces few and small flowers. They still look interesting though.

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My Coelogyne usitana is a small plant with around 3-4 psuedobulbs. (stems) This is a photo of a bud about to open

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Coelogyne usitana flower upside-down. These plants are found in Mindanao

 

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.