La Niña and Outlook for Philippine Forage Crops

We are currently experiencing the extended effects of La Niña. La Niña is defined as the positive phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) associated with cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. La Niña is said to impact global climate, disrupting normal weather patterns and can lead to intense storms in some places and droughts in others.

In the Philippines, La Niña often means heavy rains and as a consequence, flooding. According to the “Climate Outlook (January-June 2018)” by the Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section of PAGASA-DOST, “Weak La Niña is present in the Tropical Pacific; may not last beyond March 2018, but varying impacts occur.”

Rainfall Forecast:

  • January 2018 – below normal rainfall over western Luzon while generally near to above normal over Eastern Luzon and most parts of Visayas and Mindanao;
  • February 2018 – generally near to above normal rainfall with some patches of below normal rainfall over Ilocos area; Visayas and Mindanao, generally above normal rainfall;
  • March 2018 – below normal rainfall over western Luzon while generally near to above normal over Eastern Luzon and most parts of Visayas and Mindanao;
  • April 2018 – generally below normal over most parts of Luzon (except western Luzon); the rest of the country will likely experience near normal rainfall conditions.
  • May 2018 – generally near to above normal rainfall;
  • June 2018 – near normal rainfall over major parts of the country, while below normal rainfall conditions will be likely over northern Luzon.
  • Generally, near average to slightly warmer than average surface temperature is expected over the coming months over most parts; slightly cooler than average over the mountainous areas in Luzon in January-March 2018; cold surges may occur in December to February 2018.
  • 2 to 5 tropical cyclones may develop or enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) from January – June 2018.

Weekly ENSO monitoring is available at: http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/index.php/climate/climate-prediction/el-ninosouthern-oscillation-enso-status

Outlook for the West Garden:

Construction work took place around the western side of the garden in October-November 2017. We started mulching and building rain gardens, paths and plant beds in the effort to get as many crops growing as quickly as possible and to control flooding from storm water run-off in the area.

Forage is one of the most important crops we planted. We don’t have enough forage for the animals and would like 2018 to be the year when we would grow and double our production. Some of our current forage crops are: desmodium rensonii, indigofera zollingeriana, trichantera gigantea (madre de agua), and mini water cabbage.

Indigofera for forage.
Indigofera has 27─31% crude protein, which is relatively higher than any of the locally available leguminous forages. Leaves and twigs are harvested every 30 days to maintain their succulence. Indigofera is not to be confused with Creeping Indigo (indigofera spicata) which may be toxic to some livestock.
Desmodium cinereum (Rensonii) is a leguminous plant tagged as “alfalfa of the tropics” because of its high crude protein content at 20-23% of dry weight. Regular cutting stimulates multiple stems and increases yields of leaf. If seed production is required, defoliation must be timed to avoid destroying the developing seed crop. Not well suited for grazing or browsing.
Trichanthera gigantea is generally propagated from cuttings selected at the basal part of young stems. These cuttings can either be planted directly or put in plastic bags for transplanting later. Harvest begins 8 to 10 months after establishment and the first yields are about 15 t/ha of fresh matter. Trichanthera gigantea can be harvested for foliage every 3 months and yields 17 t/ha of fresh matter at a cutting height of about 1 m. Under hotter and drier conditions, cutting heights can be higher (1.3-1.5 m).

Growing but not thriving well are: ipil-ipil, madrecacao, mani-manian, malunggay and water hyacinth.

Failed to survive are: stylo.

We are looking for seeds/cuttings/seedlings of the following: napier grass, mulberry, mara mais, stylo, azolla.

Papaya planted in the west garden two months ago.

Forage and roughage for pigs and goats also come from the following: various fruit trees such as papaya, langka, banana, coconut, gmelina, mahogany, tiesa, tambis, balimbing; various green leafy vegetables such as amaranth, camote (leaves), kangkong, saluyot, alugbati, casava (leaves), talinum; and various grasses such as carabao grass, paragis, mimosa, busikad, etc.

Sow eating various common grass pulled out from the garden.

Ornamental plants that are trimmed also provide some forage but only in small quantities since some are considered mildly toxic: San Francisco plant (croton), various cultivars of canna, Fortune plant (dracaena), ornamental palms, ferns, wandering jew, lantana, duranta etc.

Piglet foraging in the garden.

La Niña does not deter us from developing the west garden. We have planted forage crops in and around the area. Normally, the rainy/wet season is also good vegetable planting season in the Philippines because this eliminates the need for artificial irrigation. However, tropical vegetable production experts note that the rainy season also means high humidity amidst high temperatures conducive to the proliferation of pests and disease. This is where disease and pest-resistant crops are valuable and topping the list of recommended plants are those with edible foliage and shoots.

Recommended Vegetables for the Rainy/Wet Season:

Rooted taro, kangkong (water spinach) and camote (sweet potato) are easier to grow in wet and flood prone areas. The red and green varieties of taro we planted in the newly dug up rain gardens are doing well.

Okra, eggplant, beans, chili, corn/maize, squash and some gourds are known to thrive in wet conditions. However, they need to be planted in raised beds so they are protected from flooding. When seedlings have established at about 1-2 weeks, mulching needs to be done all around the seedlings in order to protect them from the battering downpour of rain. We have lost many young sprouts to heavy pouring rain, unfortunately, so we are also planting seeds in the beds where mulch have already been applied. The surrounding mulch protect some of the seedlings. Planting under a tree or bush also helps, as long as the area does not get flooded.

Taro thrives well in the rain garden.

 

Toxic Plants and Weeds

Although many plants are toxic in various ways, we try not to allow those with high toxicity to colonise the garden, particularly the weeds. While animals avoid eating plants that are toxic, we also try to identify which plants may be toxic and avoid giving those to the animals. Toxic plants we currently have are Estrella, Sinkamas (seeds are toxic), Sagilala (San Francisco/Croton), Red Ginger, Lantana, Katakataka (linked to some cattle poisoning), Buddha Belly Plant (ginseng in Tagalog), Cat’s Whiskers (Balbas Pusa), Castor Oil Plant (Tangantangan), Bangkok Kalachuchi (leaves and flowers are toxic to goats and cattle), Plumeria.

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Estrella (above) contains a toxic alkaloid, isotomine that can cause muscle paralysis and affect cardio-respiratory functions.

Protecting Plants from Chickens and Ducks

Chickens and ducks love foraging after a downpour. The earth is soft and is easy to dig up as chickens and ducks search for bugs, earthworms, seeds and seedlings. Even if the fowls are sufficiently fed, they still want to go around and forage, especially the chickens. Below are some of the methods we are implementing, hoping to duck and chicken-proof the garden. Admittedly, we are not always very successful but some plants do manage to grow this way.

Seeds are planted between coconut husks – another attempt at chicken-proof gardening.
Portable plastic netting frames are placed over seeds, seedling for protection.
Seeds are planted between stakes for chicken-proofing.
Other methods at chicken-proofing include fencing out raised garden beds and putting pots on wood stumps away from sight of chickens and ducks.

It has been two months since we started work in the west garden amidst the effects of La Niña. Work continues to minimise the effects of flooding and hopefully, get plants to grow and get established before what might be a long season of drought in the near future.

Sow and Piglets in an Alternative Farrowing System

This documentation is intended to study the behaviour of a sow (Auntie Brownie) and her piglets in a pen of size 240 square feet (22 square meters or 26 square yards). Auntie Brownie is 2 years and 6 months old and this is her second parity. The first parity was in June 18, 2017 and the second was in December 19, 2017.

Typical sow nesting behaviour (above). Dry banana leaves are the preferred nesting material in the tropics.

Auntie Brownie began expressing the need for nesting materials by pawing the ground (soil and wood chips). We gave her the dry banana leaves earlier collected for the purpose. She picked them up, placed them in a corner of the pen and shredded them. Nesting behaviour may take place between 6-12 hours prior to farrowing, other pigs may take as long as 2 days. Auntie Brownie took only about 5 hours. Then lay down and started the farrowing process.

In this video (above), the first two piglets born are vigorous and struggle to detach themselves from the umbilical cord and reach their mother’s teats. It takes a while for the piglets to attach to a teat, maybe between 5-15 minutes. Auntie Brownie lay down on the nest she built in a way that allows access to her teats.

 

In this video (above), eight piglets are born and Auntie Brownie is up moving the nesting materials around. This appears to be the mother’s way of “training” her piglets of her presence. In succeeding videos, Auntie Brownie commences nursing by moving nesting material about, signaling to the piglets her intention to lie down so that the piglets are aware of this and may avoid being crushed. Good sow instincts are supposedly indicated by nesting behaviour, pawing and moving the nesting materials about.

 

Here  (above) are the eight piglets born within 2 hours (two more piglets were born at a later time we were unable to observe). Auntie Brownie is aware of a good lying position that allows access to all her teats. The piglets take their time to establish teat order.

 

Here (above) are all ten piglets at 16 hours of age. Teat order is established amongst seven of the piglets while three piglets are still unable to attach to their corresponding teats and therefore engage more in fighting. These are smaller piglets in the litter. Larger more dominant piglets often don’t engage in fighting during nursing. One large piglet on the right has mild milk scour. We notice this in a few piglets in previous litters during the first few days.

 

The piglets (above) call for milk and Auntie Brownie, obliges. The piglets are 7 days old in this video and have already been trained by the mother not to go near her side as she prepares to lie down. The safest place would be at her head or a good distance away. Auntie Brownie tries to lie down carefully but she still lands heavily on her side (she was much more careful when the piglets were still unable to coordinate their movements with her). Notice one piglet on the left seem to have difficulty interpreting its mother’s call, it would’ve been crushed if it was closer to Auntie Brownie’s side. We usually call piglets like these “the wind-up toy” because they go oinking about before finding the mother’s teats. They usually grow up fine, catching up on the others. Some fail to thrive and die or are unable to move quickly and get accidentally crushed by the mother.  Some piglets want more milk and one goes to the mother’s head to complain. Auntie Brownie decides they have had enough and she lies on her teats, pushing everyone off without hurting them. If a piglet gets trapped and it manages to squeal, Auntie Brownie will adjust her position. If a piglet is unable to squeal, then fatalities occur. If we see what has happened we can help and try to coax the mother to get up and move so the piglet can run away. Sometimes there is fighting during feeding and the piglets bite their mother’s teats with their sharp needle teeth. Luckily, Auntie Brownie is a very patient sow: she growls when she is hurt and she will move to push off the piglets so she can adjust her position. This allows better teat access and fighting stops. After feeding, the piglets go out for a stroll in the garden, to poo and pee, and to play. This is when the mother can rest and relax. We made a piglet escape hatch on one side of the pen.

The following day, the second to the smallest piglet died, apparently of crushing in the night.

 

(Above) Auntie Brownie lies down a distance away from her 10-day old piglets. She calls the piglets and when they arrive, she adjusts her position to accommodate them. This is a much safer way of nursing piglets with less risk of crushing. The piglets sleep a distance away from the sow, in this case, the piglets have learned to sleep in the creep space provided. The creep space is attractive to the piglets not so much because of the lamp but because of the piglet escape hatch — the piglets are always excited to go out of the pen and into the garden for adventure. The “heating lamp” we are using produces bright light which distracts piglets. We will have to replace this with infrared heat lamps next time, although heating is really only needed when it rains during the cold season (December-March).

 

(Above) Auntie Brownie lies down and 10-day old piglets converge around her, waiting for the signal as to which side she will be lying on so they can coordinate their movement. Larger and more daring piglets now tend to access the teats before the mother could lie down, ignoring the mother’s attempt to get them to converge at her head by moving nesting material about. At this point, the role of nesting material in the nursing pattern is less important.

 

Auntie Brownie’s piglets, now 2 weeks old, playing (above). Pigs get excited whenever big rain comes. Notice the little piglet on the left – he’s a little bit slow and gets overwhelmed by the others quite easily, but is managing OK – he is the runt in the litter. Everyday, the piglets are allowed out to play in the garden but not today because of bad weather. They miss their garden adventure but are happy enough playing indoors instead!

 

Piglets here (above) are 18 days old. Auntie Brownie lies down very carefully. As mentioned earlier, piglets are now more daring and access the teats even when the mother has not yet laid down. The runt on the right side is unresponsive to the mother’s position or grunting calls. This is when crushing occurs. Since Day 1, the runt has had some troubles establishing good feeding regime with the mother and litter mates, although teat order has been established. The runt also seemed to have problems digesting its food, its belly was contracting rapidly and even if it had teat access it abruptly stops feeding and walks away slowly. The runt died the same day this video was taken.

 

(Above) Lying down and nursing behaviour well established, but sometimes Auntie Brownie changes her mind! 🙂 She has started to teach her piglets to sample solid food. The largest piglet began sampling mother’s food by age 5 days. Piglets here are 19 days old.

We hope this documentation is useful for those considering alternative gestating/farrowing systems. This system does not address group housing because we are only micro-scale.

 

DIY Salt Lick / Salt Dispenser for Goats

At night, the goats come home from pasture and stay under the house. Here, they look forward to their salt lick.
At night, the goats come home from pasture and stay under the house. Here, they look forward to their salt lick.

We currently have only 3 goats  – the billy goat Latte and his two kids, now 11 months old, Bulak and Tableya. The kids are OK but not gaining much weight and their coat are dull, rough and fluffed up. The problem may be partly due to their mother – also not in the best condition and rather aged – weaning them too early.  Plus, the possibility of parasitic overload, competing for nutrition. We have been pasturing our goats like everyone else here in the village, but bad weather conditions throughout 2016 have made life more difficult for the animals. A lot of goats in the village have become sick and died, so we have been lucky to manage to keep ours alive.

Not wanting to push our luck, we decided to do something about supplementing our goats’ diet to keep them healthy. We started by deworming them. We use a product called “Valbazen” – a broad spectrum oral suspension dewormer. However, we use dewormers only when needed, since overuse can lead to parasitic resistance. In our case, we have used dewormers only once a year and at times use natural dewormers such as Ipil-Ipil and Caimito leaves.

After deworming, we made a simple salt dispenser as supplement for the goat’s diet. Earlier, we thought of purchasing a salt lick or mineral block. However, instead of added expense and a large block that only 3 goats will be using, we thought it might be better to just start by making our own.

The dispenser is a piece of bamboo, open at one end and closed at the node end. Holes are made at the closed end to allow melted salt to slowly seep through. According to Low Cost Feeds and Feeding Methods for Livestock, “It may also be necessary to scrape the outer skin of the tube to allow the natural exit of liquid through the pores of the bamboo. The tube is then filled with salt, and a small amount of water is added to initiate liquefying of the salt. The tube is then strategically hung inside the shed at a height where the animals can reach and lick it. Water is made available nearby.”

The bamboo as dispenser is inexpensive, safe and non-corrosive. It only allows slow seepage of dissolved salt ensuring that the goats will not have too high of salt intake.

Benefits of Salt in Goats’ Diet

  • Salt is one of minerals essential to goat health along with calcium and phosphorous
  • Salt encourages goats to drink more water; fresh clean water is essential to diluting the urine and preventing the formation of stones or urinary calculi particularly in male breeding goats

In addition to salt, we decided to add a small amount of molasses. The molasses is added on top of the salt in the dispenser. Only a small amount is used, about 10% or less of the salt provided. Although molasses has many advantages, it is also not recommended for goats in high amounts.

Benefits of Low Levels of Molasses in Goats’ Diet

  • Improves palatability of processed feeds
  • Provides Vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium
  • Provides energy

If the goat has little access to forage, high levels of molasses in the diet is not advisable. According to Molasses as Animal Feed: “When molasses accounts for more than 50 percent of the diet, the digestibility of all types of feeds that accompany the molasses is depressed often to the point of only half the value recorded when molasses is not given (Encarnación and Hughes-Jones, 1981). These effects are obviously undesirable if the accompanying feed is composed mainly of cell wall carbohydrate: however, if the feed is rich in protein, starch or lipids-which can be digested by gastric enzymes in the small intestine-then depressing the extent to which these nutrients are fermented in the rumen becomes an advantage to the host animal.”

Goats fed on a high-molasses diet (more than 50% of total diet) are also at risk of developing urinary calculi. Molasses is high in potassium and reduces the absorption of calcium. This deficiency results to an imbalance in the calcium to phosphorous ratio triggering the formation of phosphate salts which block the urinary passages of goats.

So, as a supplement, salt and molasses are advantageous but should only be given in addition to a good diet consisting of ample fibre, protein and water.

 

Boudin Blanc de Bohol

Boudin Blanc fried in butter, served with fried vegetables.

For me, this is a different way of making sausages. It contains quite an amount of milk, the mixture is almost runny and then the sausages are poached after stuffing. To serve, the sausages are grilled or fried. This is my first attempt at making Boudin Blanc – in its simplest most basic form – and I love the result! I will definitely be making this sausage again with variations using locally available spices.

The meat and casings are from our very own backyard raised pig, the runt in a litter which I looked after until 5 months old, totaling a carcass weight of about 75 kilos. The pig was un-castrated and did not possess any “boar taint” at 5 months old.

To get the fine flavour from such a simple Boudin Blanc recipe, it is important to use a good quantity of white onions and the onions must be fried until transparent, not crisp or brown, and must be fried only in good French butter (salted). It is also important to use pork belly in this simple version – not pork shoulder or lean meat.

To get a deeper flavour, I cut up the meat and mixed with the fried onions, butter, salt and pepper and allowed to marinate in the fridge overnight before grinding and stuffing.

When stuffing, do not prick the sausage casings. The mixture can be quite runny and the juices will come out of the sausages during poaching (remember, the sausages are poached not boiled) if the casings are pricked. I have opted for a coarser texture so I mixed the milk and ground pork with a spatula. For finer texture, use a whisk. It is not necessary to overly whisk the mixture since this will result to a rubbery textured sausage (unless of course this rubbery gummy texture is what you want).

After poaching, the sausages can be kept in the fridge for a week or kept longer frozen (although this might alter the texture of the sausage) – or preserved in pork fat.

To serve, the sausages are fried or grilled, and they go very very well with Dijon mustard and a dash of cayenne. 🙂

The sausages after they have been poached.
The sausages after they have been poached.

The Recipes

You can find the simplest Boudin Blanc recipe and variations via the links below. The recipes are from the Meats and Sausages website, a truly amazing resource.

There is also a version from Liege, the Boudin Blanc de Liege.

The French Boudin Blanc is not to be confused with the Cajun Boudin.

Making Kalamansi Marmalade

Kalamansi (Calamondin) is cheap and plentiful – lucky me!

I know, kalamansi marmalade recipes abound. Here is my version, Black Kalamansi Marmalade with ginger and cinnamon. This recipe includes a pectin setting test and a secret ingredient to balance the sweet-bitter taste of the marmalade. Enjoy!

Kalamansi Marmalade (Black) by Fats

Ingredients:

400 grams of green kalamansi
3 cups of water
3 cups of granulated brown sugar for black marmalade (or white sugar if you prefer clear marmalade)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Half thumb-size ginger
Pinch of salt (the secret ingredient ahaha!)

You will also need some cheesecloth and string.

This recipe makes about 21 ounces (three 200-gram jars) of marmalade.

Instructions:

  1. Wash kalamansi in water, remove stems, leaves and any damaged fruits.
  2. Cut kalamansi in half, remove seeds (set seeds aside). Squeeze kalamansi and reserve juice in the fridge.
  3. Get about half of the kalamansi peels, remove any seeds still intact then slice the peels thinly (or thicker if you want thick cut marmalade). Set sliced peels aside.
  4. Put the other half of kalamansi peels and all the seeds in a cheesecloth or muslin square and tie into a bundle with string.
  5. Place the sliced peels and 3 cups of water in a pan. Add the bag of seeds and peels into the pan. Bring to a boil, half covered and simmer until soft (about 10-20 minutes). Cool.
  6. Transfer all the contents of the pan (including the bag of seeds and peels) to a container and put in the fridge overnight. The next day, pour everything into a pan. Squeeze all liquid in the cloth bag as much as possible into the pan. Discard the bag of seeds and peels into your compost.
  7. Add the reserved kalamansi juice, cinnamon, salt and sugar to the sliced peel mixture. Scrape the ginger with a spoon to remove the skin. Slice into thin sticks and add to the mixture. Heat gently, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat to high and bring to a rapid, good rolling boil for 5 minutes, uncovered. Turn off the heat and test for a set (see below). If the marmalade has not set, boil again for another 5 minutes, and test again. Do this if necessary until 20-30 minutes.
  8. When marmalade is ready, set aside until the surface forms a skin and peels float to the top. Stir with a ladle and scoop the marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving 5mm headspace. Cool, label and store in a cool dark place. Marmalade should keep for 12 months.

Testing for Set

Pectin in fruits help jams, jellies and marmalades to set when mixed with sugar and boiled to appropriate setting temperature (105 degrees C) and time. This can be difficult to determine as pectin content in fruits and recipes may vary. To test:

Chill a saucer in the fridge before making the marmalade. Scoop about 1 tsp of the boiling marmalade on the chilled saucer and let it cool. When cool, push the marmalade with your finger to one side. If the marmalade wrinkles and your finger leaves a trail on the saucer, then it is set. Your marmalade is ready.

Help! My marmalade won’t set!

  • You must bring the marmalade to a rapid rolling boil, or at temperature of 105 degrees C if you have a candy thermometer. Otherwise, observe the boil, the marmalade should thicken around the sides of the pan and should boil sluggishly with bubbles popping rather than frothing.
  • There might not be enough pectin in your marmalade. To solve this problem, add the juice of one lemon and boil. Make the test set as described above.

Why is my marmalade so bitter?

Marmalade is a bitter-sweet preserve but kalamansi seeds can make your marmalade overly bitter. Make sure you remove all seeds before you slice the peels and don’t let any seeds get into the marmalade. Keep the seeds in the cloth bag and discard after use.

Try thin cut marmalade instead of thick cut marmalade. Thick cut peels creates a tangy bitter flavour while thin cut has softer flavour.

Learn more about the marvelous marmalade through these resources:

If you want to get to know the kalamansi better, I recommend this very good resource:

Mulching

Coconut trees finally got cleaned today – after nearly 3 years. It took such a long time because the guy who does it is as slippery as a rat out of a snake’s mouth. “Cleaning” coconut trees means clearing the tree of dead materials, trimming the leaves and cutting down coconut fruits that may pose a hazard over roofs, garden beds and pathways, and of course, cutting down mature coconuts (for copra or cooking) as well as a few young green ones.

We use coconut leaves – green or dry –  as compost, feed for the pigs and for mulching. We specially need mulch for the west garden. Several days earlier, I’ve started work by sowing mung beans and adding a thin layer of dry coconut leaves on the soil, plus spraying with a dilution of lactic acid bacteria to facilitate decomposition. Then we got help from Bebe and Atoy to further mulch the area.

Instead of digging and ploughing through the soil, we rely on mulching. Apart from spraying lactic acid bacteria, I am currently preparing a variety of indigenous microorganisms with large mycelium growth. This will be placed onto the soil, under the mulch, to inoculate the soil and increase microbial diversity, hoping to improve soil texture and enrich the soil at the same time.

I don’t expect to grow anything soon in several areas where mulch has been added specially over where the boar pen used to be. The manure in that area has not yet completely decomposed. However, some of the mung beans I tossed around several days ago seem to be doing fine.

There has been an unusually high amount of rainfall this year and I think we’re nearing the end of the rainy period. This would be a great time to mulch since there will be enough moisture and humidity to decompose the mulch, and the soil cover will be much needed as the dry season approaches.

To learn more about mulching, here are some helpful resources.

How We Discovered the Rain Garden

The use of bioretention for stormwater management has its roots in industrial and commercial site settings. Only in the early 1990’s did residential applications of bioretention for stormwater management begin to become a concern in the area of environmental protection within communities. The term “rain garden” was coined for this purpose.

“Rain garden” is the popular term used to refer to a landscaped depression or hole that catches rainwater runoff and allows it to soak into the ground. This is opposed to drains and surfaces that cause and aggravate flooding, soil erosion, water pollution and diminished groundwater.

A swale is a similar feature, which may be natural or artificial. Swales serve as infiltration basins, allowing increased rainwater infiltration.

We “discovered” the useful features of the rain garden/swale by accident. The previous occupants of the property demolished their old house and left behind a pit latrine, a toilet that collects fecal matter in a hole in the ground. We actually only noticed this hole after the big earthquake in 2013. It seems that the earthquake had caused that area in the garden to cave in.

Shortly, a group of ducklings suddenly disappeared in the garden. We discovered that they had fallen into the hole and had to be rescued. Because the hole posed a hazard, Trevor decided to grow plants in the hole. By then, we also noticed that stormwater flowing from the roof of the house and other higher parts of the garden collected into the hole. Apparently, this had great benefits. It prevented excessive flooding and soil erosion.

Today, this – what we now call a “rain garden” – hosts one of the most lush vegetation in the garden. Below are more photos of the rain garden. We plan to dig a couple more rain gardens to alleviate the flooding in low areas of the garden, particularly in the west section.

Here are some links to get you started in understanding and building rain gardens.

A Gardening Challenge

More drawn to livestock, I have not done much gardening in years. A few attempts have not resulted to anything promising. However, since a section of the garden along the west side of the property has given way to newly rebuilt pigpens and the surrounding area cleared and trampled down by construction work, I may now have to face the challenge of tending not only to the pigs but also to plants.

But the first real challenge is tending to the soil – how to bring life back to soil that has been subjected to abuse.

Here is one area of the west garden between the two pigpens. I have laid down stakes cut from the tough midribs of coconut leaves to fence in what would be garden beds and paths in between for access. The fencing will consist of the thicker and heavier parts of the midribs, and inside the fenced area the coconut fronds will be piled along with other organic materials for composting. This is also where spraying the area with lactic acid bacteria might be helpful.

This is the lower half of the same area, some 25 square meters of what used to be a boar pen. There is still some scrap wood left from the demolition of the old pen. The red bits are from the tattered canvas roofing of the pen.

In this photo, one can see that the edge of the west garden has become devoid of ground cover vegetation due to construction work. A lot of work needs to be done here to revive the texture of the soil so that plants can start growing again. Due to digging and trampling, the soil has become compacted and is very prone to flooding.

Here is the southern corner of the west garden. Likewise, compacted soil, a canal dug up leading to nowhere now becomes flooded. Logs from a tree that was cut down will need to be stood up to serve as plant holders in locations where they will not block the flow of rainwater. Those galvanised iron roof sheets will need to be removed and stored elsewhere.

We have cleaned up as much as we could but much remnants from the construction work remain: pieces from cements bags and broken hollow blocks and a pair of slippers, pieces of plastic bags, paper.

A section of the garden was used for mixing cement, and although the workers have broken up the concrete to expose the soil, they did not clean up afterwards. We will need to remove as much as we can of this concrete and put them nearby where they can reinforce paths around the pigpens.

Here is a closer look at the soil in the area where the boar pen used to be. Heavy rains cause water logging and the ground here is very soft, it is really a mud pit. We will need to compost over these areas and will probably takes several months before improvement becomes visible.

Here is another section of the boar pen which is a mix of soil, composted organic matter and limestone.

And when it rains …

These photos (below) show what the area looks like after a half hour of rain. It isn’t pretty.

Managing the rainwater run-off from the upper part of the property will need to be done along with planting, contouring, rain gardening and such things in the west garden. A not-so-good neighbor has also been dumping their roof rainwater run-off into our property, so that will need to be dealt with later.

Canals were dug up around the pigpens to prevent rainwater from entering the pens. In some areas the water goes down, but in the southern section, the water pools in the canal and doesn’t get drained  into the soil.

I planted tiger tail and fortune plants in this corner at the lower part of the canal hoping that later, more plants can grow in the canals and absorb the water.

In a few areas where the canals flow downwards, I hope to dig a couple of rain gardens to serve as catchment for overflowing rainwater, hoping to avert flooding in the west garden. Soil dug up from the rain garden may be placed over the old pigpen particularly in excessively muddy places where water pools.

Next to a mahogany tree and behind the darkness of a pile of scrap wood from the demolished pigpens this lily has managed to survive and grow.

The mung beans I threw into the wet areas of the west garden have also started sprouting. I don’t expect these to grow and mature but I am aiming for these roots to enrich the soil. More leguminous plants will need to be planted in these areas.

And this grass, pressed between the concrete base of the pigpen and the limestone paving has managed to survive.

So all is not lost, it may still be possible to bring the west garden back to life. It will take a long time, so it will be an exercise in patience. 😉

Sausage Recipes

Currently practising making sausages again, getting ready for Christmas! Here are three sausage recipes that I’ve tried and tested and would like to share with you. These sausages use either natural hog casing or collagen casings. These are fresh sausages that don’t use artificial preservatives, nitrites (prague powder) or phosphates (accord powder). Instead, the sausages are mildly preserved using coconut vinegar or anisado wine (such as Green Perico available here in Bohol) or bread (which ferments with the meat). In all cases, the sausages are considered fresh and therefore hung to let the casing strengthen a bit only for a short period of time (2 hours in ambient tropical temperatures of 25 to 32 decrees Celsius; sausages containing salitre, saltpeter or prague powder may be hung to dry for 2-3 days). Then the sausages are stored in the freezer where they can keep for longer: 3 months frozen uncooked, 4-5 days in the refrigerator uncooked.

 

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SWEET LONGGANISA (Mildly Sweet Sausages)

1 kilo ground pork with fat about 30%
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp Anisado wine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
2 tsp Spanish paprika or smoked paprika powder
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

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LUCBAN LONGGANISA (Oregano Spiced Sausages)

1 kilo ground pork with 30% fat
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tbsp dry oregano leaves, ground
1 1/2 tbsp dry basil leaves, ground
1 tsp dry laurel leaves, ground
1 1/2 tbsp Spanish paprika powder or smoked paprika powder
1 tbsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
1 tbsp vinegar
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

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ENGLISH SPICED SAUSAGES

1/2 kg ground pork with 30% fat
50 grams breadcrumbs
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1/2 lemon rind, grated
1/2 nutmeg, grated or 1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp sage
1 tbsp fennel seed or dry coriander seeds
1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Hog casing or collagen casing and butcher’s twine/string for tying

GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  2. Cover and put in the refrigerator to allow the meat and spices to marry and to firm up for 2-4 hours or overnight.
  3. Before stuffing sausages, you may wish to test the taste of the sausage mixture. Get a small amount and shape into a patty and fry in oil. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  4. Prepare and clean fresh hog casings, soak in a bowl of cold water. If using collagen casings, read the instructions on use. Generally, collagen casings are used dry and should not be soaked in water.
  5. Keep a bowl or pitcher of cold water nearby for rinsing sticky hands. Start stuffing the casings with the cold meat mixture. It is easier to stuff sausages when the mixture is cold. Use sausage stuffing machine or sausage stuffer (funnel).
  6. If not using casing, you can also roll the meat mixture into balls or shape them into patties or for making “skinless sausages”. Use wax paper or plastic food wrap to prevent patties or skinless sausages from sticking to each other. Keep cold or frozen or cook immediately.
  7. Carefully but firmly tie sausages in desired intervals. Prick sausages with a clean pin or cocktail stick to remove air bubbles. Hang up to dry and strengthen the casing for 2 hours. Sausages may be cooked immediately. Keep in the refrigerator uncooked for 4-5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

COOKING SAUSAGES

  1. To cook English Spiced Sausages, dip in beaten egg white then dust with small amount of flour. Cook in small amount of oil, 5-6 minutes on each side for 24mm sausages; cook longer for thicker sausages. Serve immediately.
  2. To cook longganisa, hang the sausage to allow to warm up to room temperature. On very low heat, put 2 tbsp water in a frying pan and the sausages. Keep on LOW HEAT so the sausages will not burst and you will not need to prick the sausages. Depending on the thickness of the sausages, for 24mm sausages, cook for 5 minutes on one side, turn over and cook for 5 minutes on the other side. Add 1 tbsp oil and cook on each side for 3-5 minutes more until brown. Serve immediately.
  3. Alternatively, you can poach the sausages before frying. Prepare a saucepan with water and on medium heat. When water is HOT BUT NOT BOILING, put the sausages in. Cook for 5-8 minutes. DO NOT BOIL or the sausages will burst. Bring out the sausages and finish off by frying in a small amount of oil over medium heat on each side until lightly brown. Serve immediately.

Ducklings, Fingers Crossed

Our duck population is now down to only 4 ducks — one drake (Daddy Duck) and three duck hens, two of which are white and one is brown with a beak deformity, we call her Twisty.

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Duck and Hen stand-off. The hens have learned to engage in less fighting.

Twisty was given to us in exchange for one of our ducks some 2 years ago. Because she was only a little duckling then, we didn’t notice her deformity until later. The owner told us that Twisty’s siblings have all died because they were unable to feed themselves. We managed to keep Twisty alive by feeding her separately from the other ducks. She is able to eat better if given food in a deep container. Otherwise, it is impossible for her to pick up food from the ground with her beak.

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A few months ago we took the risk of letting Twisty sit on her eggs. We assumed she would have deformed ducklings but we already knew a way of keeping them alive by separating them and using deep feeding trays. We wouldn’t let them breed anyhow but would just cull them when they get big. But that never happened. Twisty’s eggs never hatched. It is possible that Twisty is infertile, the work of natural selection. So from now on we will keep Twisty just for the eggs, she’s a very good layer.

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The other two ducks successfully hatched their eggs this week – one duck has 3 ducklings and the other has 7. Hopefully, this will be the start of a new younger generation of ducks for us to revitalise the dwindling population. I’ve learned that it is best to keep a young population of duck hens, no more than 3 years old.