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Backyard Farming Workshop this August

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BackyardSeriesSchedule

VENUE
The workshop will be held at the beautifully rustic Pavilion located beside a family farm at Fun Farm Pavilion, Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Barrio Malitlit, Sta. Rosa, Laguna

FROM SLEX / SOUTHBOUND: Exit Cabuyao / Sta Elena. After tollgate, make a right. About 500 meters is the Sta. Elena Village Gate. Enter there and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

FROM TAGAYTAY/STA ROSA ROAD: Make a left into Sta. Elena City (it is before Nuvali). You will pass Fontamara homes, Mesa Homes, Augusta, then you will reach Georgia Club Rotonda. Make right at the Rotonda. It is a long road. You will see walled communities such as Belle Reve on the right. At the end of the road is another Rotonda, make a left. Follow the long road until you see the Sta. Elena gate on your right. Enter and follow the sign to the Fun Farm.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take the bus to Balibago, then take a tricycle ride from Sta. Rosa exit (tricycle terminal) to Sta. Elena City.

MEALS: All meals are included in the workshop fee. Healthy yet scrumptious meals made of local, organic or sustainable ingredients will be served by Pizza Morena by Jenny Burns. Please bring your own water bottles, plates and utensils. If you have any food allergies or preferences, please inform us so that we can discuss how your food needs can be met.

PAYMENT OPTIONS
Workshop Fees
Daily Basis: P2400 per day
P1800 Students/Seniors
Complete Entire Series (3 days)
Discounted Rate P7,000
Students/Seniors P5600

*Scholarships are available.  We have installment options too.

Fee includes
• Professional lecturers and experts in their field
• All course materials
• Healthy and delicious lunch, tea, coffee and water

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Backyard Farming Workshop Series

Backyard Farming Series

Backyard Farming Series

Decked Out

Christmas began in September. Just because the month ended in “ber.” Now that it’s December, I’m seeing red and blinding lights. And every year, it’s the same hoopla. Call me a Scrooge but doesn’t it seem foolish how we’re celebrating Christmas so early? As though we’re honoring the return of the light, when it is still so dark. And there’s all this revelry and merrymaking, way before the Child is born. Like the Celts prancing around the fire a month before the solstice. Or would-be parents toasting the birth of their child, when the bun is still in the oven. And when the 25th comes, we’re spent, and all we have left are an excess of ribbons, gifts for the White Elephant party, a hangover and leftovers. And you wonder, what was it again, about joy, peace and goodwill to all men? Where was the Gloria in exelcis? As one friend said, it’s finally Christmas and you’re left with empty yearning.

adventcandle

I never really gave Christmas much thought. But today a few friends gathered to reflect about Christmas past, nature’s yearly cycle of dark and light, and the nativity. We’ve marked the festival for centuries, as the victory of light over darkness. The Egyptians, the Celts, ancient civilizations and their fire festivals, sun gods and sun heroes. The light festivals were always celebrated at the solstice, when the days grew longer and the sun was returning. Winter drew to a close and there was the hope of spring. It was a dance after the gloom, warmth after the cold, a banquet as spring promised a harvest, and a spark of hope as the light drew near.

But what is it to us, when we never really experience dark or cold anymore? What’s there to be merry about when the sun is always shining? We don’t feel the seasons, as plants bloom and bear fruit all year, and it can always be warm at home. What then when there’s no longer any gloom or the dying of days? How does one grasp the essence of Christ-mas without sinking through darkness? How do you experience real joy of something coming, of birthing, without going through the anticipation, the labor and toil, and without carrying hope for months and days?

Maybe we do feel the gnawing cold or sense the pitch black. And maybe we’re so fearful of the dark that we cloak it with the jolly, with all the twinkling lights, Santa and his sack of toys, even Rudolf’s glowing nose. Perhaps that’s why we go about this business of keeping busy, of gathering our friends, and of drinking and eating with abandon, because we feel winter inside.

And I’m left with questions I have to grapple with this season. How do we hear a choir of angels heralding the birth of a king amidst the deafening noise? How can one follow a star when everything is obscured by glittering lights?

There are still 18 days till Christmas. I’m looking forward to the birth of the Divine light. But already, there’s too much revelry and it’s always so bright. And it’s been that way since September.

Heirlooms and lots of colors!

We’re fascinated with heirlooms and some indigenous vegetables and flowers that have been grown for centuries, and yet we are still yet to really take notice of. Some of these, we have started growing in the farm. Here’s a peak:

Watermelon Radish

Heirloom varieties of Daikon radishes from China!  These radishes are green on the outside and pink on the inside.  Cut it up and adds wonderful colors to your salad.  Milder and sweeter than regular radishes, they can be braised, roasted or mashed.  Sorry but they lose their colors when cooked.  It would be much better to serve them raw in your salad or pickled!

Candy Cane Beet (Chioggia Beet): 

An heirloom vegetable from the Italian coastal town of Chioggia.  This radically colored vegetable has been around since the early 19th-century. The beets taste just like regular beets, with a little sweeter note.  They look perfect in your plate sliced open as the flesh has beautiful pink and white stripes. Prepare it like any other beet: steamed, sauteed, roasted, and pickled.  You can also sauté the greens. Cut up for salads or add to soup.  Beets have lots of  fiber, potassium, iron, and folic acid.  It is also a a powerful antioxidant (Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beets their color.)

 

Purple  Carrots  

Did you know that carrots were originally purple?  The original color of carrots cultivated in Afghanistan 5,000 years ago were actually purple.   They are sweet whether raw or cooked (but lose the beautiful color when boiled.)  Slice them and mix with other colorful vegetables, serve with dip, or use for coleslaw.  Saute lightly with olive oil or just coat the with a little oil, sprinkled with herbs. Their unique color tells you that it’s packed with phytochemicals!  Purple Haze is packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene and is anthocyanins (the antioxidant that gives blueberries its superfood health benefits.)

Heirloom Tomatoes

We have Black Crimson, Tiger Stripeand cherry heirloom tomatoes. Black Crim is one of the most popular heirlooms and comes from the Isle of Krim, located on the Black Sea.  It has a wonderfully rich flavor, a bit salty and with a hint of wine. The Tiger Stripe is also a beauty.  Red with darker red stripes, it adds character to any dish.  It is also firm and has a good flavor. Then we have good old cherry tomatoes, tiny but quite packed with full flavor, sweet and juicy.

Easy Vegetables to grow in the Tropics

We’re sensing a whole lot of passion on farming.  Suddenly, friends, acquaintances, even strangers have come to us, asking for tips on how to grow food.  With an entire summer ahead, slow hours and nothing else to do, you might want to try your hand (and maybe your green thumb) at growing some vegetables.

We recommend you do multiple crops in a few beds and then later practice crop rotation.  Multiple crops give you the advantage of having different plants that have different needs and benefits. For example, some plants may be home to beneficial insects that would kill/eat the pests of another plant.  Inter-cropping will also give you higher yields.  Following biodynamic farming, you should be inter-cropping leafy vegetables with root vegetables and legumes.  As a guide, leaf crops are heavy soil feeders.  Legumes are light feeders and improve the soil because they are nitrogen fixing.  Root crops are also light feeders.

Here are our recommendations on what you can try to jump-start your farming venture.  These are some of the easiest vegetables you can grow and are a good mix of leaf, root and legume (fruit) crops.

String beans

One thing you can do is to put a trellis where the beans can climb. Give them at least ten hours of sun per day and regular watering twice a week.

Leafy Greens

The easiest to grow would be leafy greens like pechay, tatsoi, kangkong, mizuna and mustard leaves.  Arugula is also easy to grow.  These can be grown in beds or even in containers for a small kitchen garden or backyard.  Just make sure you have good soil with plenty of organic matter or compost, regular watering twice a week and full sun.

Lettuce

Lettuce can grow well if your soil is healthy.  Make sure your soil is rich in organic matter.  You also have to water them at least twice a week.  You can place them under full sun although some afternoon shade would also be good.  Best to choose loose leaf varieties and oak leaf lettuce that are hardy and better adapted to our hot climate. Here’s a great resource on growing lettuces (permaculture) in a tropical climate.

 

Herbs

Cilantro, Basil, Italian flat leaf parsley, and rosemary thrive well even under tropical conditions and without needing a high elevation.

Legumes

Mung bean is the easiest to grow and will make a great cover crop.  You will also need the legumes to moderate the soil feeders (leaf crops) and for its Nitrogen fixing properties (with nitrogen fixing bacteria, nitrogen in the air is converted into nitrogen in the soil.)

Pigeon Pea (kadios) is another legume you should plant for its nitrogen fixing properties. The peas can end up as nutritious food for the table, and you can use the plant’s leaves, flowers and pods for animals.  Its flowers attract the bees too.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato is a good root crop for your multiple crop bed or small garden.  They grow well with the hot sun, have little need for water or fertilizer (don’t over fertilize.)  In fact, you might just have too much as they grow like vines on the ground. (Tip: they also need some space.) They also are resistant to disease.  Not only that, you can use them as ground cover and use it for mulching as well.

Sowing Patience

I might have just unearthed a perfect lesson plan for patience. Definitely not by example. I grew up in a city where everything moved fast. It seems like the only waiting I had to do was wait for next week’s episode of Alf or Small Wonder. But then that too vanished with Betamax tapes. And so a mother who grumbles at the slow pace of things could not be the patience exemplar.
Because lately I have had to grumble some more: about food this time. I grew up buying food at the grocery. You ride your car, grab what you need, (you don’t even have to bag them!) and then run home for a pleasant meal, several courses too. Fast food and the drive-through were my generation’s ingenuous development. Now twenty years later, we are in the food business. Not grocery. Not fastfood. But the very slow-moving, plodding, “let nature take’s it course,” biodynamic farming business.  And so let the worms nibble on the dirt, forever turning the soil, let the organic matter leisurely bake under the sun and decay under rain, and worst, follow the sowing calendar. It’s your biblical “there is a time to reap and a time to sow.” And the tomatoes we planted four months ago?  I tried the first handful just last week.

And so here I am complaining about: why we could not have baby carrots for months and why next week there will be no French beans but an overabundance of broccolini; that the raw milk has been missing for days; or that on Christmas, I did not have enough red roses for all my friends’ trees. I wanted the tomatoes growing soon after they were planted. Or at least,  consistently give me enough for pasta. And I thought really, how can we tell a customer, “it’s out of stock?”  What about their weekly grocery list?  And what will I tell the friends who ordered bright red roses for Christmas because we had tons of them last year!

But farming is patience.  (Inhale.)  And I have to grasp that bit of it. (Exhale.)  Delayed gratification. Our farm, and the novel luxury of growing at least 70% of our food is teaching me more about patience than 16 years of Catholic school. Waiting. Patiently. Without drumming your fingers. It’s a long time between sowing the first seed and the seedlings creeping up. A seemingly endless time between the buds peeping and when you can pick them. You can’t just pull up carrots until they are ready. Before that, there’s the tedious business of preparing beds, composting and mulching. And then, you’re at the mercy of rain and sun. (Not to mention weather that has now gone wacko on us.) And finally, the seemingly endless dance of nature will give you a bounty of delectable gifts, because you hung around. Patiently. Without drumming your fingers. And I wonder if the waiting titillates the tongue, fires up the tummy, or gets yummier with anticipation. Because the bounty is often worth the wait. You relish the tartiness of that little vegetable more, or the crunch of that leafy green, as you had to wait for it to grow, in its own SWEET time.  Our Vegetable Beds

So you see, I might have just uncovered a perfect way to teach my daughters patience. It might ward off boys and teach “waiting for the Right One.” It is tough trying to make them (and myself) value and be amazed by unhurried time, by minute changes as days pass and nights come, by the deliberate ripening of life. Because this world does not make us wait for things.  How will we have the patience to wait for seeds to germinate? For buds to burst forth? Or only to pluck when they are ripe? We live in the world of Internet and text messaging. And we don’t even have to wait for episodes of a TV series, we can download entire Seasons!

So I’m going to bring my children to our farm more, dig dirt, sow and reap instead of exercising their nimble fingers in front of the screens. The farm will teach them how to linger, how not to have everything here and now, how to work for something and be responsible for it, that seeds die when you don’t nourish them, and especially that the soil won’t sprout them a new one in seconds. Who knows, they might even learn to appreciate the toil and trouble it took to bring that green leafy thing they don’t want to eat on the table.
“Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days.” Alain, Henri

Sowing with the Sun, Moon and Stars

“All things have their season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap”. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

August Astrological Calendar

August Astrological Calendar

Do you still read your horoscope?  Do you find yourself constantly checking out a person’s Ascendant Sign, and concluding: “oh, you’re definitely a Scorpio.”   I definitely become very emotional on a full moon, and it’s no wonder why we have legends of women turning into werewolves and howling at the moon.  Just as any living thing, flowers, the soil, water, the air, all these are influenced by cosmic forces: the stars, moons and planets.  Our farm takes these subtle influences into great consideration.  Aside from experience, conventional wisdom and science, we look to the heavens to determine the optimum days for sowing, pruning, and harvesting our flowers.  Ancient wisdom tells us that towards a full moon, when the moon is waxing, we sow our seeds.  Before the New Moon, when the moon is waning, we do our transplanting.  Why?  During a full moon, and I am sure most of you know this already, there is a substantial increase in the water. We take advantage of this increase in water in the air, by sowing our seeds a few days before the new moon. In a new moon, the water movement is downwards, towards the earth.  That is why we transplant, so our roots when transplanted, are able to hold on to the soil.  There are other ancient practices that we follow such as avoiding fertilization when the moon crosses the sun’s path, or taking advantage of days when the moon is in certain places in the zodiac.  Leaf growth is greater when the Moon is in the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces.) Root growth is best in Earth signs and so it is best to sow when the Moon is among Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.  Air signs promote the growth of flowers (Libra Aquarius or Gemini)  It’s both very simple and complicated.  It’s both scientific and spiritual.  For example, when controlling pests, we also look to the moon.  Fungus thrives when there is too much water or warmth in the air.  These are the times when there is a full moon.  And so, we prepare the soil, pull weeds, and fight pests during the new moon.  Not all pests are harmful though and so we control which ones are left, as beneficial pests (but that’s another story.)

Some commercial farmers might laugh at our practices, telling us that this is too strange or ephemeral.  They smirk and then go about their daily lives, reading their horoscopes and practicing feng sui.  They even use their charms and amulets, the golden cat that waves at you as you enter stores.  I just shake my head and go about our farming business. Farmers throughout history, from the ancients, to our Sagada farmers, to our regular farmers in our rural areas, practice their own methods,  a substantial portion of this, folk and ancient wisdom.  They dance and sing, offer to the Gods, listen to the winds, look up to the sky, and read the stars.  Our flowers are vibrant and living.  They look to the sun for food, to the water and soil for nourishment, they thrive because nature makes it so.  What could be better then than working with the very cosmic forces that make them grow?