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 :))

 

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.

All Soul’s Day weekend at the farm

I was worried about the possible heavy traffic on the road due to people visiting the cemeteries, but I drove to the farm anyway.

The drive was actually swift, there were fewer jeeps and buses on the road.

For the second time, my car was full. I had to fold the backseats so that I could fit the logs of Dracaena (Yucca) in my car. I collected these just last weekend. The goal for this visit was to continue where I left-off from the green fence planting.

Lucky, I wasn’t working alone. My friend Gab was visiting Manila for a few days, he phoned me since he wanted to check on the farm plot while he’s here. So, just like that, I got help.

We started planting at the back portion of the lot. Planting the first five logs was quite fast since the area was a bit clear.

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The spiky plant on the right portion of the photo is the Dracaena tree. It was planted in-front of the “muhon” at the back portion of the property

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Planting the next few logs was a breeze…

Before this, It was difficult to determine the boundaries at this portion of my property. While digging, I found patches of ginger. I plucked a stem for me to take home.

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the uprooted stem came out with this root system… to be used for curry!

As we continued, the land started to slope down, the soil became harder, and the area was overgrown with coffee, banana and weedy vines. It would take more time and more people to clear and plant on this area.

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The land started to slope… planting became more challenging

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…and so the jungle introduced itself!

It was noon…so we deserted this task.

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These unplanted logs will not dry-up quickly.. I’ll plant them when I return.

Before leaving, I proceeded to attach some orchids that I brought. I also checked on the other orchids that I planted just two weeks ago. These are probably the easiest to plant; I just tie these on to some coffee trees.

It’s a delight to do this since it makes me feel that I’m “moving” the land. It also gives me something new to check-up on every time I visit.

I really need to move the land more though… But for now (and for the past few months) I’m glad that I’ve gotten to know the land well.

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The violet and silver blotched leaves are Phalaenopsis schilleriana while the spiky and floppy ones are an unknown Vanda species from Nueva Viscaya (probably Vanda barnesii or Vanda javierae)

 

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This plant is a Ceratocentron fesselii from Nueva Viscaya, the whole plant is just about the size of a 5-peso coin

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This is a juvenile pitcher plant (Nepenthes alata) from Mindoro. When i planted it here it had no pitchers…now it has produced a pitcher trap!

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Another coffee tree filled with Vanda lamellata, Vanda roeblingiana, Aerides quinquevulnera, and a Phalaenopsis stuartiana, all wild, and native orchids

 

 

 

The Seller and the Farmer

I was in my car, driving away from the my weekend farm, when I noticed a nice looking black pick-up suv heading towards my direction.

I came from a dead-end, where the dirt road becomes impassable. The road was narrow and to let the car pass I had to stop and move the car a bit to the right side. From inside the car, I waved to greet them so they can pass. I figured that they could be my neighbor.

At the spot where I stopped, I noticed that a man was standing nearby. I scrolled down my window and the man introduced himself as Nestor, a local coffee farmer. He was with his son and daughter, both of the kids were probably less than 9 years old. Excited to finally meet a local neighbor, I told him that I spent the day planting branches for a green fence, and that I have a few left-over branches which I could share to him. I proceeded by asking him if he knew who the people from the black pick-up were. He said he has not met them. I told him I was interested in meeting them because they might be the neighbor directly beside my plot, so I excused myself and backed-up.

His name was Marlon and he was with his wife Len, both of them in their late 30s. They were not my neighbors, they came to visit a plot of land near mine which they were considering to buy and re-sell. Len recognized my name, she shared that I contacted her last year at a time when I was looking for a plot of land to buy. I told her I got my land already, I showed it to them. I told them that I spent the whole day planting and that I have a few left-over branches of Dracaena which I could share. Len was so happy to see left-over cuttings, She asked for just one piece. Marlon was pleased with the area I selected, He told me it was a good choice; a good investment. He went on to share his story; how he started as an employee, how he moved outside of Manila to start brokering real-estate, how he met his wife through the seminars he attended, and how they are planning to buy their fourth car. He went on by recommending that I should buy an oil-powered grass cutter or pay people to clear the weed and grass so I can bring my car closer to the plot.

While talking to Marlon, I noticed Nestor and his kids waiting for me. So I excused myself so I can approach Nestor. I gave Nestor a Dracaena cutting. He told me he’ll plant it in his house which he described to be just a few minutes walk from both his farm and from mine. He asked me if I was just by myself. I told him that I usually bring friends and that I enjoy doing most of the work, with or without help. I showed him the patch of pineapple I planted, the rows of Draceana I set on the ground for my green fence, the patches of weed, grass and banana which I hacked, and the many orchids which I’ve attached. He shared how he has been noticing the orchids I’ve been attaching and he bid me well by asking if everything I planted is still there, and not taken by others. I expressed my gratitude by giving him an orchid. Nestor bid his goodbye and told me that if I need any help he is mostly nearby. He said he has a oil-powered grass cutter and that I just need to bring gas so we can clear the area together.

Marlon’s story was that of success brought about by grit and hard work. Decisions and actions were made by spending money where it could potentially earn for him.

On the other hand, Nestor, did not share a story; he just smiled as I told him stories of the work I’ve been doing on the plot of land.

The seller sells and the farmer farms.

I was so glad that my neighbor is a farmer!

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This portion of the dirt road is already covered with tall grass! Whenever I visit, I park my car here and walk towards the coconuts, which is where my plot is located.

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This is the Phalaenopsis schilleriana which I gave Nestor. I told him all that I planted lots of this type of orchid and that more than half of them will be blooming soon! Notice how flower spikes are already forming. These were attached to coffee trees just 3 weeks ago.

 

How to set up a green fence

Last week, I wrote about my plan to build a green fence to surround the property. The northern and western sides of the property already have green fences made of sarrassa and croton bushes along with a few coconut trees. I was thinking of working on defining the eastern portion of the plot before I work on improving the existing green fences. (Yes, I used a compass.)

I shared that I want to plant Dracaena, Rambutan and Lanzones as part of the green fence.  Serendipitously, a friend asked me if I can help collect cuttings of Dracaena multiflora; more popularly called as Yucca. The “Yucca” trees seen in gardens of Metro Manila for decades actually do not come from the Americas. These are native to Mindoro and the Visayas islands in the Philippines.

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Clumps of Dracaena multiflora were growing in this property in Metro Manila, a friend got to talk to the person managing the property. We got the cuttings for free!

I spent Sunday morning collecting the branches and preparing them for my weekend farm visit. Yesterday, I brought the Dracaena branches to the farm. For the first time, I visited the farm alone.

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My car was full of branches and leaves! I cleaned-up the branches so that my long drive at my weekend farm was safe and comfortable.

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I took off a few leaves and bundled the remaining leaves with some straw-twine

I got to the farm at around 9 am. I started by unloading the branches.

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A more neatly packed set of branches in my car.

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unloaded the branches at my weekend farm.. and look the pineapples are doing well!

My weekend farm is a rectangular plot, already defined by a muhon on each of its four corners. A “muhon” is just a cement cylinder which is around 8 inches in diameter and a little over a foot long. These are submerged by the land-surveyors of the local government unit to mark the edges of a defined plot.

Alone in the plot, I realized that what I was about to do is not as simple as I’ve thought it would be. I needed to know where to plant the Dracaena since my eastern border does not exist.

It was past 9am and I haven’t started planting. For a few minutes I just stared at the things I unloaded; the Draceana cuttings, a saw, a machete, a large shovel, some native orchids and a bundle of straw twine. A quick thought came, I grabbed the straw twine and cut a piece that spans the muhon on the western side and the muhon on the eastern side.

This straw twine segment helped me mark the spots where the Dracaena can be planted.

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A photo with the straw twine, set across my plot, to guide me where to plant the Dracaena multiflora. I had to move it every 5-7 feet to mark my digging area

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During my rest, I took this photo. You could barely see the green straw-twine across the plot.

By noon I finished planting around 5 branches. It was hot so I rested under the shade of a banana plant. I was alone and it was quiet. For a time I could hear the sound of a few motored tricycles passing along the main road,which was probably around half a kilometer away. Then a bit of breeze came and I noticed how the banana leaves made weird sounds when wind passes thru them. It was at that moment when I realized how alive this place was! I saw a large bird (not sure what it was but definitely not an egret or an eagle) fly across my farm towards a nearby tree; it was very boisterous and it squawked while it flew. Then just a few seconds later, I saw a pair of small black swallows that chirped and chased each other. Then a few butterflies appeared but these did not linger in the plot. I found it funny how all these animals suddenly appeared all at one short instance! My thoughts were: “I really need to build a shelter so I can enjoy more of these soon!”

After that short break, I resumed planting even if it was still midday! This part was more challenging, I had to clear the weed, coffee branches, and banana plants before digging at the marked spots.

At around 3pm, I was able to plant 9 Dracaena multiflora branches. I was only able to plant the Dracaena in less than half of the border. I will need more Dracaena branches to continue.

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My plot is starting to look neat! These Dracaena multiflora cuttings will be my “live posts” for the green fence.

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Same area. That’s a “sarrassa” branch in front of the Dracaena multiflora at the foreground

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This is the weedier portion of the border. I had to clear the area before digging the holes for the Dracaena cuttings.

I had a few small Dracaena multiflora cuttings left over, these are not as big as the ones I’ve set on ground; so I decided not to include them. (Plus I was tired from clearing and digging by that time)

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The four remaining cuttings which were not planted. I actually gave 2 of those to 2 people I met on the plot that afternoon, I think that deserves another story.

Farming more fun in the Philippines

I’ve experienced a bit of Eco-tourism or Farm-tourism around the Philippines, these can be very inspiring and insightful; but I wanted more than that!

I wanted a more hands-on experience, a more personal experience.

Farming is a personal endeavor, it entails the original and authentic vision and hard work of an individual. A person deeply interested in farming is not satisfied in just seeing things or joining a demo. It is in being part of an undertaking where farming can truly be appreciated.

I started this endeavor to satiate this deep interest…and as I got more involved, I realized I can extend this experience to others.

Several people have been supporting me from the time I started. Some have been constantly joining me whenever I visit the plot.

Although my plot is small, I still have a lot of unused space. Kiko and Francis were moved after seeing the rows of pineapple which I planted, so they claimed their own spots!

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Kiko and Francis, claiming their spots, hacking weed and grass

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They marked their tiny plots with some kakawate twigs and straw-string. Francis planted some chili-pepper seeds. Kiko, who is interested in green architecture planted a few cuttings of Indian borage and Dracaena.

 

Pineapple Farmer for a Day!

Metro Manila streets were flooded with rain brought by typhoon Mario.

I was really hoping for clear weather so I can spend a day of planting.

This morning, I checked my weather app and it gave me the go signal to drive to the plot. I called up two friends and drove to straight to the plot! I had two things which I wanted to do; plant pineapples and waling-waling.

There are pineapple plants growing wild and I intended to plant them neatly so I can enjoy getting fruit a few months from now.  However, everything growing close to the ground was smothered with weed and grass! My attempt to make the area look a little cleaner was to create a border of pineapple to define the frontage of the plot.

Weeding the area was especially tough. Using a blunt machete and a big shovel, I spent two hours slashing weed and grass and planting around fifteen pineapple plants. By noon, I took a nap under a make-shift shade to let the midday heat pass. I set out to continue work around an hour after. By 3 pm, I finished planting 48 pineapple plants!

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BEFORE  (photo of frontage taken diagonally from a corner)

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AFTER

After the difficult manual labor, I tied around 30 Waling-Waling orchid seedlings on a few coffee trees. Joy, our friend who joined for a picnic at the plot, bought me a bottle full of Waling-Waling seedlings when she visited Davao (Mindanao) last week. I have never grown orchids from the flask and I would not even attempt to grow these in Metro Manila.

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a Vanda sanderiana seedling. These are endemic in Mindanao and are locally called Waling-Waling

I will have to wait for three to five years before the plants bloom but, as Joy shared, this is just one more reason to keep visiting.

PICNIC AGAIN

I invited a few friends for picnic again.

From the previous picnic, I was convinced that I need to set-up temporary structures to make visits more comfortable. These will allow me to stay longer in the plot and accomplish more work.

By next year I want to build my bamboo hut! But for now, I want to set up a temporary shade area. I also want to make an outdoor shower of some sort so I can clean up before entering my car after working on the plot. I also need to build a toilet so the friends I invite can spend more time in the plot.

We had wine, cheese, some fancy dips and tapenades for brunch. It was hot. There were some ants.

I left my friends under the shade to check the water pipe. I was not present when they installed the pipes but I knew where they laid it. I needed to know what it looks like so I can progress with installing my outdoor shower.

I planned on replanting the pineapple in neat rows. I got help from a few friends who held the machete to slash some weedy patches. It was midday. We went back under the shade.

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At 1pm it became cloudy. It began to drizzle. I brought with me around thirty orchid plants. I did not want to bring them home again. My friends helped me attach the plants to the coffee trees.

Drizzle became rain. The rain was as cold as cool drinking water. I told my friends, “I told you it’s cool here!”

How I wish I could watch the rain under a nice shade.

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I managed to fill, 2 coffee trees with orchids! One tree was filled with Phalaenopsis schilleriana (was not able to take a photo) but we look forward to having coffee beside it when it blooms by summer next year. This coffee tree had Vanda ustii, Ceologyne aspirate, Dendrobium anosmom var. dearei, Phalaenopsis equestris and Ceratostylis retiquissima

 

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The best surprise during my visit! A wild Phalaenopsis seedling that sprouted on a coffee branch! I have to wait for this plant to bloom before I can identify it. It could be a Phalaenopsis aphrodite, a Phalaenopsis equestris or a Phalaenopsis x intermedia.

 

AFTER TYPHOON GLENDA

Clean up was not the goal for this visit. I just wanted to see the extent of the damage.

I wanted to check which of the few things I planted were damaged by the storm. I was expecting to see impassable roads and felled coconut trees.

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photo taken by Sanndra Orosa

Along with a few adventurous friends, some food, and wine; I brought a ground sheet and a shade cover for our make-shift picnic area.

I thought of sharing a story about cleaning up and re-planting after the storm, but I realized I have not started much yet.

Having looked at how the few plants I planted were faring, the land told me a different story.

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I attached some orchids to a coffee tree. Grammatophyllum sp., Coelogyne sp., Dendrobium sandarae var. major., and Phalaenopsis aphrodite

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Phalaenopsis aphrodite

The Phalaenopsis aphrodite that was attached to a coffee branch had three fresh sets of leaves and new roots firmly attached to the branch.

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Platycerium grande

The Platycerium grande (Giant Stag’s-horn-fern) from Mindanao which I flimsily attached to a coconut managed to stay put despite the strong wind of the typhoon.

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Taiwanese olive tree at the foreground

The Taiwanese olive tree has also sent out a robust set of new leaves. It was lucky that no tree or banana was felled on top of it.

It was not good news for some other plants.

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a dried-up Vanda javierae attached to a coffee tree

This Vanda javierae, a native in the mountains of Nueva Viscaya, was struggling to survive in the lowlands of Quezon City. It was attached to this coffee tree a few weeks ago. Now, it finally dried up. Perhaps it really needs higher elevation or perhaps it was too weak when I planted it out here.

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a 5-year old Yakal tree, slightly uprooted by the storm

Despite being slightly uprooted, the 7-ft Yakal tree is thriving. With proper support, its roots can be given more time to set itself firmly on the ground.

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the felled Tipolo tree

Other then some felled banana trees and coconut saplings; it was this Tipolo tree that was the noticeable casualty of the storm.

Our picnic was pleasant but it could be more comfortable. Perhaps I could use that Antipolo tree to build a temporary shelter.

THE START!

I found it March this year.

It was a compromise. My resources could only get me to as much. I had to risk getting a parcel of land with difficult documents. I wanted a cool-montane tropical climate at a location that is fairly easy to visit during weekends. I could have waited for a time when I would be more comfortable…but I want this to exist now.

I know that this is a kind of lifestyle I will be doing for the rest of my life.

This has been a private undertaking but I realize that there is a story to share.

I’m excited to allow my story to unfold here; whether, it will be just be very expensive learning experience due to failure or an opportunity for something great!

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At one of the many sites I’ve visited when searching for my plot

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most of the land parcels sold only have Tax Declaration certificates

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The access road to my chosen plot!

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Moss growing on a coffee branch indicates a cool and moist climate

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A blooming coffee plant!