New Prices

We started our backyard farm in 2010. Crops were not very good but livestock showed promise. By 2015, we had enough surplus to be able to sell ducks, goats and native chickens, and in 2016, we started selling piglets. We kept our prices low over the next 2 years as we were able to keep a small profit despite the increase in price of commodities, labour, fuel. Finally, this year 2019, we needed to raise our prices.

Fortunately, our buyers understand why (thank you!). They know how income levels had gone up together with the cost of living. They understand the much needed price increase because they know we provide them only with the best we got.

Here are our new prices.

FREE RANGE MUSCOVY DUCKS

Live weight 180 per kilo
Dressed 280 per kilo
Ducklings 75 pesos each

FREE RANGE NATIVE CHICKENS

Live weight 180 per kilo
Dressed 280 per kilo

PIGLETS

Fully weaned  45-day old piglets 2,600 to 2,800 each

We are thinking of selling off our goats. We don’t really have the pasture for them and common pasture lots in our village are getting smaller. We have a 5-year old billy goat up for sale at a negotiable price of 4,000. Visit us if you’re interested. He’ll be our dinner in April or May if there are no buyers. We also have a goat expected to kid for the first time in a week or so. We will keep them for a while and sell them later. If you’re interested, please visit us to take a look.

Turbatrix aceti (Vinegar Eels)

Some five years ago, I got involved in fermenting coconut water and overripe bananas to make vinegar. If you make your own vinegar, and prior to pasteurisation, you’d have these free-living (non-parasitic) nematodes swimming near the surface of the vinegar. I took a video under the microscope.

Popularly known as vinegar eels, Turbatrix aceti feed on the microbial culture of vinegar and other similarly fermented foods. They are non-parasitic and harmless. After several hours, the vinegar on the slide began to dry up and this happened to the Turbatrix aceti.

Vinegar eels are also harvested and fed to fish fry. If you are interested in using vinegar eels this way, there’s good information at Living Food Cultures.

Homemade Dishwashing Liquid

Dishwashing liquid is great, it cleans, removes oil, disinfects, smells nice and foams a lot. But before the thing was invented, people did fine with laundry soap, detergent bar, detergent powder, detergent cleansers. And long before that, people used washing soda, soda ash or sodium carbonate. And way before that, until now, in some parts of the world, people have been using sand, ashes, twigs, stones, leaves and rice hull. I often use dry leaves to clean the scum, oil and dirt from the pigs’ water buckets and those work great. I have also found rice hull or even rice or large corn grits great for cleaning the inside of bottles and containers.

Lately, I decided to make my own dishwashing liquid, for use in the kitchen, for hand washing plates, glasses, cutlery and cooking utensils. Homemade dishwashing liquid works fine and is much less irritating to the hands than commercially prepared ones. If you want to give it a try, here’s three ways.

Recycled Soap Bits

Collect soap pieces, put them in a container, add a bit of water. That’s it. Great if you have a container that’s a bit wide and shallow so you can stuff a sponge in it. If you have hard water, add a half teaspoon of vinegar to the water at the rinsing stage. Just keep adding water and soap pieces as needed.

You may also use a detergent bar. Cut a small piece, stick it in a container, and use a sponge. Lately, we’ve started using a luffa gourd sponge instead of the plastic ones. Luffa gourd sponges last much longer!

Detergent Powder

Mix a tablespoon of detergent powder with a cup of water and a half teaspoon of vinegar. Put the solution in a squeeze bottle or you can recycle plastic bottles with a hole punched on the cap. Or recycle an old liquid soap pump dispenser. Shake well before using.

Soap Flakes and Borax

Put 1 tablespoon of soap flakes or grated soap in a stainless steel pot. Turn on the heat and simmer, while mixing with a wooden spoon. Don’t let it boil too much or the soap might start degrading. When the soap flakes are dissolved, turn off the heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of borax powder. Mix well. Let the mixture sit for overnight or several hours, stirring every now and then, until the soap is thoroughly dissolved with the borax. If you have hard water, add a half teaspoon of vinegar. Pour everything into a squeeze bottle (I use an old mustard plastic container). Always shake well before using.

Lots of Savings!

We’ve saved quite a lot by making our own dishwashing liquid. I buy the ingredient from the local supermarket:

  1. Soap Flakes 250 grams – 15.95
  2. Borax 500 grams – 30.00

So the DIY Recipe costs about 3.75 per 300ml while Joy Dishwashing Liquid costs 41.75 per 200ml. That’s a LOT of savings.

Some notes on using

In hand washing, the best procedure involves scraping away food particles and washing out the oil before using the dishwashing liquid. Additionally, most dishwashing liquid (homemade or store bought) work best when used with hot water, with washing done in the sink or a bowl. Soaking the sponge in a combination of water and dishwashing liquid work quite well too.

What is the shelf-life of homemade dishwashing liquid?

Prepare homemade dishwashing liquid in small batches. These are best when used right away or at least within a week rather than stored for weeks or months. The solution degrades over time.

Will the vinegar ‘un-saponify’ the soap?

Saponification is actually an irreversible process. But a lot of the problem with mixing large quantities of vinegar with soap in high heat is the separation of fat and the alkali solution in soap. So don’t use too much vinegar and don’t heat the soap and vinegar together. The heat shock and acid can cause the soap emulsion to degrade. If used as described in the recipe above, and you have hard water, the vinegar will bind with the calcium/magnesium ions in the water and help the soap work better.

What does borax do?

In the above recipe for dishwashing liquid, borax converts some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide which cleans, disinfects and bleaches. This is best done when washing with hot water.

I don’t have borax. Can I use hydrogen peroxide instead?

Soap and hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) mixed together is fine, but don’t prepare a large batch. Use within 7 days or less. Over time, hydrogen peroxide and soap react, degrading the solution.  The mix also needs to be protected from light, so you’ll need an opaque container for the solution. Half a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide should be enough.

If you do use hydrogen peroxide, you may add vinegar (4% acidity) but only if the hydrogen peroxide is a weak solution (3%) and a small amount of vinegar is used. Strong concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar mixed together create strong paracetic acid which is corrosive.

A word of caution

With DIY dishwashing liquid or any cleaner, be careful about mixing household chemicals. Never mix together bleach, ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, acetone, chlorine, muriatic acid, oxalic acid, ammonia, toilet cleaner or drain cleaner. These could result to dangerous combinations.

DIY Domestic Greywater Treatment

We had plumbing repaired in May and that also became the opportunity to find a way to treat domestic wastewater so that it can be diverted into the garden. Since sewage systems aren’t centralised in our village, it is important that we treat our wastewaters locally and in a way that is responsible.

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Above: Some of the drawings and plans we made to help build our greywater treatment systems.

In households in our village, domestic blackwater goes into a septic tank whilst greywater goes into the nearest empty plots. We have our own septic tank and our greywater went into a concrete water feature in the garden. This water feature often flooded especially in the rainy season, and wastewater just filtered into the ground. What we wanted was a system that not only filtered greywater, but also diverted it to good use in the garden. Additionally, we decided to separate kitchen greywater and bathroom greywater to lessen the load on our selected methods of treatment.

Treating Kitchen Greywater

Kitchen greywater goes though a pipe and gets filtered in a DIY grease trap (refer to links to resources below to learn how to make a Grease Trap). From the grease trap, the water pours into a constructed wetland – or what may be called an infiltration planter – built next to the rainwater fishpond. The infiltration planter is filled with layers of gravel, a fine mesh netting, sand and soil. Plants are grown in the infiltration planter to help treat the greywater. As greywater filters down the planter, excess water flows out into a lower bed of plants.

View of the Grease Trap.
Grease Trap – bucket with strainer on top to filter out food debris. Refer to links below on how to make a Grease Trap.
Accumulated grease in the Grease Trap.
Internal construction of the Grease Trap – elbow and pipe sealed with Epoxy.
Grease Trap is cleaned next to the compost pit.

Treating Bathroom Greywater

Bathroom wastewater consists of water from the shower and the bathroom sink. This water goes through a pipe and flows out over a gravel path with cement lining to prevent the water from seeping directly into the ground. The gravel path goes along the house, into the garden and down to the duck pond, some 10 or so meters away. The assumption is that the greywater – along with rainwater during the rainy season – would be filtered appropriately by the time it reaches the duckpond, at the same time reducing soil erosion, since the ground slopes naturally towards the duckpond.

Ground has natural slope and the Gravel Path Filter is dug up in the direction of the slope towards the duck pond.
After digging, the path is cemented to prevent water from seeping into the ground along the house. The water needs to flow and get filtered by the gravel and ultimately flow into the duck pond.
Gravel placed into the path. The orange pipe is the bathroom greywater outlet.
A closer view of the Gravel Path Filter. The reservoir/pond catches rainwater runoff from the roof of the house and overflows into the Gravel Path Filter.
At the end of the Gravel Path Filter is the duck pond. Rocks are placed at the mouth of the Path to filter out larger debris.

 

The results

After nearly 3 months of use, together with the onset of the rainy season, our constructed wetlands are working beautifully! Plants are growing well in the infiltration planter, the gravel path has done away with mud and soil erosion in a large area along that side of the house. Some plants and grass have even started growing amongst the gravel. There is some odour coming from the infiltration planter but this is not irritating and the odour disappears very quickly. As more plants grow in the planter, we hope the odour will be further minimized. The DIY grease trap – a 5 gallon/10-liter capacity -requires some cleaning only every 2 months. The grease and debris collected is dumped into the compost pit.

Note that if any edible plants are placed in the infiltration planter, they should not be eaten.

Resources

If you are interested in building a constructed wetland system for greywater treatment in your own home, check first with local ordinances. Some municipalities, for example, that have centralised wastewater treatment facilities will not allow domestic greywater treatment because centralised wastewater (especially blackwater) treatment needs sufficient amounts of greywater for proper treatment.

If you are sure that constructed wetlands are allowed in your location, you can find basic information, designs, principles and examples of ecologically responsible wastewater treatment systems through the following resources. Our home set-up was inspired by these resources. Good luck!

Publications:

Websites:

Videos:

Sprouting Alfalfa Seeds

Here is a simple method I use to sprout seeds for salads and cooking. I use this method to sprout alfalfa seeds and mung beans. Shown here are alfalfa. Raw seed sprouts have good nutritional value but must be prepared appropriately to minimise the risk of bacterial contamination.

Select a clean clear bottle for sprouting. I use a 500ml glass jar with large mouth so that the sprouts can be easily accessed. A clear container is needed so that the sprouts can be monitored easily.

Put 1/2 teaspoon of alfalfa seeds in the jar. This will be enough sprouts for salad, garnish or sandwich for 2-3 persons. Use 1 teaspoon if you require more. 1 teaspoon seeds is the limit for the jar I am using.

Pour cool clean water into the jar just enough to cover the seeds. I use clean tap water.

Place the jar in a dark place. I use a biscuit tin. You can also use a clean box or you can put the jar in a cupboard.

Protect the seeds from flies and insects but don’t seal it. Air circulation is necessary for successful sprouting. I use a clean cheesecloth to cover the top of the biscuit tin. Leave overnight.

The next day, drain the water carefully. Add water and drain again to clean the seeds.

Tip the jar on its side and distribute the seeds evenly along the sides of the jar as in the photo below. The seeds should be wet but not soaking.

Place the jar in a dark place. I use the same biscuit tin, this time, the jar is placed on its side as shown in the photo below.

Protect the seeds from flies and insects. During the day, rinse the seeds with water every 4-6 hours. Leave overnight. Rinse again at 4-6 hour intervals the next day.

Here are the seeds after 2 days. The seeds have started to sprout.

Continue rinsing the seeds everyday. Don’t forget to do this otherwise the seeds will rot or dry out. I use a small sieve to strain the seeds when I rinse them.

After 5 days, the sprouts are nearly ready. The sprouts are yellow and need to be exposed to light so they can turn green.

On day 6, rinse the sprouts as usual then leave the jar by the window to expose to sunlight. Don’t put the sprouts directly under the sun or they will wilt and dry out. After about 6-8 hours of sunlight, the sprouts are green and ready to eat! Here’s the result of a half teaspoon of alfalfa seeds.

Use the sprouts immediately. You can keep them in the refrigerator but must be used within 3-5 days. Prepare sprouts in small batches so you always have them fresh. Enjoy!

Pork Curry Fry

I found this Pork Masala Fry recipe by Alittlebitofspice.com and consider it an excellent way of cooking delicious dry meat curry. I was especially looking for a recipe that used turmeric. The method used in the recipe is “twice-cooked”, that is, the meat is cooked to marinate and become tender, then it is cooked again in the fragrant herbs and spices. The recipe can also be used to make non-meat curry fry dishes. I am imagining this would be excellent with potatoes, lentils or chickpeas, or vegetables such as cauliflower, string beans and carrots instead of pork.

Below is my variation of the recipe. I used ingredients that are available in the kitchen.  Substitutions I made are McCormick curry powder (red) and McCormick curry spice blend (yellow) for garam masala; Lekker Bekkie Mango Chutney, marjoram and cinnamon for coriander powder and curry leaves; and coconut cream for small size coconut pieces / grated coconut. Other good substitute ingredients may be fresh lemongrass, thyme, sage, cumin, Chinese 5-spice Powder, nutmeg, basil and fresh kaffir lime leaves. Key ingredients that cannot be substituted are ginger and turmeric. It is the taste and aroma of these roots that give this pork dish its distinct flavour, reminding of the weeks we have stayed in Kerala many years ago.

I think that key to the success of this type of dish is to make sure that the pork is tender and to sauté the masala and pork very well until nearly dry, thereafter using the coconut milk to deglaze the pan and extract the flavours of the herbs and spices. You must be patient in cooking the pork to tenderness, and you must never hurry in sautéing.

Pork Curry Fry

Ingredients:

1 kg pork (fat and meat) cut into cubes
Marinade: 1/2 inch turmeric root chopped finely
1 tsp Red chili powder
1 tsp Spanish paprika powder
1/2 inch ginger root chopped finely
1 tsp Black peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup green peas in water (if using dry green peas, soak in water overnight)

Combine pork with marinade. Add 2 tbsp water.

Transfer to a heavy-bottom pot and cook over medium heat until done. Add 1 cup green peas and 1 tbsp water, cover and cook until meat and peas are tender. Cooking may take anywhere between 20-40 minutes depending on the pork. Drain excess oil and set aside.

Prepare masala ingredients as follows:

Coconut oil for cooking (or use oil from pork above)
1 cup finely chopped red onions
1/2 inch turmeric root chopped finely
1/2 inch ginger root chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped finely
1 1/2 tsp Garam masala (or substitute with 1 tsp curry powder (red color) 1/2 tsp curry spice blend (yellow color))
1 tsp chili powder
4 tsp coriander powder (or substitute with Lekker Bekkie Mango Chutney or other herbs and spices such as 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp marjoram or 1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup coconut milk

Heat oil in a pan and fry the red onions until brown.

Add the turmeric, ginger, garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add garam masala, chili powder and coriander powder (or substitute ingredients) and sauté well.

Add the pork. Add salt to taste. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until nearly dry.

Add coconut milk and cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve hot with rice!

How to Make Lactic Acid Bacteria Serum

Lactobacillales or Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) are fast-growing microorganisms found in decomposing plants, milk, as well as on human mucosal surfaces (oral, vaginal and gastrointestinal) and various food products such as vegetables, meats, sourdough bread, fermented foods, wine and dairy products. LAB produce lactic acid as the major metabolic end-product of carbohydrate fermentation. Because LAB has a high tolerance to acidity, they have the ability to out-compete other bacteria in natural fermentation, inhibiting the growth of spoilage and pathogenic agents.

LAB and Lactic Acid are the main ingredients in some commercially available organic or natural farming products such EM (Effective Microorganisms). If you are interested in making your own Lactic Acid Bacteria Serum or LABS, then read on. You may also find recipes and instructions from the following sources: (1) Natural Farming: Lactic Acid Bacteria (PDF) https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/SA-8.pdf / (2) Making Culturing Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) http://www.cgnfindia.com/lab.html / (3) Lactobacillus Serum http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/recipes/lactobacillus-serum/

How to Make Lactic Acid Bacteria Serum (LABS)

You will need:

Uncooked Rice
Clean Water (Un-chlorinated Water or De-chlorinated Water)
Milk (liquid fresh milk, either raw, pasteurised or UHT)
Cheesecloth (or porous paper) and elastic rubber band
Clear containers (glass or plastic) with wide mouth

Rice water washing will be used as the carbohydrate source for collecting lactic acid bacteria from the air. So this method is best for people who eat rice regularly and can use the rice washing instead of discarding it. If you don’t have rice, you can use other sources such as beans. I have never tried using beans for making LABS before. However, I include the general instructions for using beans below.

To make LABS, I use uncooked white rice – cheap bukid rice is sufficient. I have also used red rice, pink rice and brown rice and a combination of these with white rice. Some people experience problems with long-grain rice or organic brown/red rice, perhaps because the rice is irradiated or contaminated with arsenic (especially rice coming from the US, India and Bangladesh where the soil is contaminated with arsenic due to rising levels of industrial pollution).

Put equal volume water in the rice and massage the rice in the water. This will result to milky white colour in the water. Collect this water which we now call “rice washing”.

Some people use tap water disinfected with high amounts of chlorine. This can kill bacteria and prevent lactic acid bacteria from proliferating. It is best to use de-chlorinated water. You can de-chlorinate water by collecting tap water in a wide mouth container and leaving for 24 hours. Or you can use filtered water. Our tap water is not heavily chlorinated so I have had success using tap water. It really depends on the quality of your water.

Pour the rice washing in a clear container with a wide mouth. I have used glass and plastic with success. It is important that the container has a wide opening to allow air circulation. It is also important that the container is made of clear material so that we can observe the liquid inside. Label the container, especially the date of collection. I sometimes include the expected due date and the average room temperature in the label.

Cover the opening of the container with a clean cheesecloth to prevent flies and other insects from contaminating the rice washing. Use elastic rubber band to keep the cheesecloth in place. Then wrap the container in cloth or paper or other material to prevent light from entering. Keep the container in a dark location.

In temperatures of 25-30 degrees C, the rice washing should be ready in 2-3 days. In cooler temperatures, it may take up to one week or more. Just observe the rice washing daily. What we are looking for is the settling of rice dust in the bottom of the container, the presence of some residue and sometimes kahm yeast on the surface of the rice washing and the mildly sour smell indicating the onset of fermentation with lactic acid bacteria.

Above photo shows the rice washing after 24 hours. It does not have a sour smell so I waited another 24 hours.

Above photo shows the rice washing after 2 days. It has a mild sour smell and the presence of some kahm yeast is visible on the top of the rice washing. This is ready for the next stage of making LABS.

For the next stage of making LABS, I use a pitcher, 1 liter of milk and the rice washing. The pitcher is large enough to accommodate the milk and the rice washing. It is also made of clear material so I can easily observe the liquid inside. The milk I prefer to use is “Conaprole” brand from Uruguay. It is cheaper than other milk of similar type and is made only of whole milk. I avoided milk that were made with milk powder or fortified with vitamins. I have not used raw or un-pasteurised milk because it is not easy to get and is very expensive.

Some people have success with powdered milk. I have no success with powdered milk. It probably depends on the quality of powdered milk available in your location. If you use powdered milk, remember to use de-chlorinated water with your milk powder.

I poured the milk into the pitcher. Then I poured the rice washing into the milk through a cheesecloth to filter the residues. The ideal ratio of milk to rice washing is 10:1. Sometimes I add a little more rice washing.

Cover the opening of the container with a cheesecloth to prevent flies and other insects from contaminating the milk-rice washing mixture. I put the cover of the pitcher over the cheesecloth to secure the cloth and at the same time allow air to flow through the cloth.

Wrap the container with cloth or paper to prevent light from entering. Keep the container in a cool and dark place. Allow the milk-rice washing to ferment. It may take 2-3 days in warm environments. It may take 5-7 days in cooler environments (19-24 degrees C). Observe the milk-rice washing mixture every 24 hours.

You will know the LABS is ready when the milk separates into three parts: top layer (curd), middle layer that is clear, yellowish in colour (whey) and bottom layer (lees or other sediment). It is the yellowish liquid that we need to collect, this is the Lactic Acid Bacteria Serum. The liquid should smell mildly sweet sour. If you wait too long, the liquid may smell rotten, in this case, other bacteria have colonised the mixture. Discard or put in the compost.

To separate the curd from the whey, you may cut the curd and scoop it out. Then pour the middle yellowish liquid into a clean container through a cheesecloth to strain it and filter out unwanted residues. Don’t include the bottom layer when you pour – it is best to pour gently and not disturb the bottom layer which could contaminate the serum. Discard or compost the bottom layer.

The top layer (curd) maybe be collected and used as compost or mixed with animal feeds. The curd tastes sour indicating high amounts of lactic acid. Some people eat the curd (it is actually fermented cheese) usually after hanging it and mixing it with salt. However, the high amount of lactic acid may cause teeth to decay (dental caries). Some people may also find the flavour of this cheese too strong and sour.

Keep the yellowish liquid (the serum) in bottles. This is the Lactic Acid Bacteria and should be kept alive by keeping in the refrigerator. You will notice tiny bubbles indicating active fermentation. Do not seal the bottles tightly as this prevents air from escaping and may cause the bottles to explode when air pressure increases. So, just keep the bottles loosely capped.

If you cannot keep the LABS in the refrigerator, you can keep the bacteria alive by mixing the serum with equal amount (by weight) of brown sugar.  The brown sugar acts as a kind of stabilising agent for the bacteria, keeping the bacteria alive in a stable dormant stage while at room temperature. Always keep the bottles loosely capped to release gasses as the LABS continue to ferment.

1 liter of milk makes about 500ml of LABS. When diluted, this would be about 500 liters for spraying.

How to Use LABS

Personally, I use LABS on a regular basis. I dilute the serum in water and use the diluted LABS as soil and leaf spray, spray on wood chip beddings of pigs and add to drinking water of animals. Generally, I use 2tbsp LABS with 1 liter of water. The benefits and uses are:

  1. To aerate the soil and improve the texture of compacted soil, I sprinkled LABS on the soil of the western garden. I apply diluted LABS on the soil at least twice a month.
  2. To facilitate decomposition of organic matter, I spray or sprinkle diluted LABS on compost consisting of dry coconut leaves, wood chips, dry and green twigs and branches, animal manure and kitchen scraps. Since LABS improves air circulation in soil and organic matter, I have observed increased drying of green composting materials and faster decomposition of animal manure and kitchen scraps.
  3. To reduce irritating odors in the pigpen, I spray diluted LABS directly on pig manure and on the pigpen bedding (wood chips on top of soil), and add diluted LABS to the pigs’ drinking water. I have observed that 24-48 hours after spraying diluted LABS to the pigpen, irritating ammonia and urine odors are lessened. There is what seem to be like the odor of decomposing grass.
  4. To encourage leafy vegetables and the leaves of ornamental plants to grow faster and become more green and shiny, I spray diluted LABS under the leaves of the plants. Take care not to use too strong LABS by diluting at a ratio of water to LABS at 1000:1. I have noticed some plants’ leaves burn or curl up when too strong LABS is applied. I use diluted LABS as foliar spray at least once a week.
  5. To repel pests and disease, I spray affected plants with diluted LABS. I prefer to use LABS without the added sugar since I notice that sugar attracts pests.

According to the “Korean Natural Farming Handbook”:

  1. Lactic acid bacteria are very effective in improving air ventilation in soil and are highly effective at promoting the growth of fruit trees and leaf vegetables.
  2. The lactic acid or organic acid produced has a PH of 2 and thus possesses strong sterilization power.
  3. As lactic acid bacteria are conditionally anaerobic being able to survive with or without oxygen and in high temperatures.
  4. Lactic acid decomposes or chelates minerals stuck to soil particles which are not easily dissolved; this making the minerals available in a form plants can absorb.
  5. Furthermore, when plants absorb lactic acid their bodily fluids are adjusted and they become more resistant to disease and can also withstand heavy rain without becoming soft.
  6. LAB is also extremely effective at encouraging plants to produce large fruit and leaves. However care should be taken since if you use too much the sweetness will drop. Thus, in the case of fruiting plants you should use less LAB in the later stages to manage proper sugar levels.
  7. Combine LAB to IMO (Indigenous Microorganisms) and spray onto the fields. Anaerobic organisms are powerful tillers, digging into the soil and making it soft and fluffy.
  8. Feeding LAB and FPJ (Fermented Plant Juice) to your livestock when they are suffering from disease will help to restore their digestive systems.

Making Labs Using Beans (from the “Korean Natural Farming Handbook”):

  1. Steam beans.
  2. Add a little sugar and grind in a mixer.
  3. When the milk is warm pour it into a sterilized bottle.
  4. Seal the bottle and put it in the refrigerator.
  5. As time passes the liquids and solids will separate inside the bottle. The liquid in this bottle is pure natural lactic acid bacteria. This method is advantageous in selectively separating lactic acid bacteria that can withstand high temperatures close to 100 degrees centigrade.

Why is Rice Washing and Milk Preferred in Making LABS in Natural Farming?

According to natural farming documentations, rice washing is used at the moment of harvesting LABS in the air because rice washing is a nutrient-poor medium for lactic acid bacteria. This ensures that only the stronger bacteria are collected. After the initial harvesting of lactic acid bacteria, milk is used. Milk is nutrient-rich and is used in order to allow the harvested bacteria to grow vigorously.

Can I Use Other Medium for Collecting and Growing Lactic Acid Bacteria?

Yes. In some experiments, lactic acid bacteria from saurkraut was used in bioremediation of human excrement in septic tanks. Results may differ, however, since different mediums mean different types and collections of lactic acid bacteria and other microorganisms and yeasts. Natural farming favours strong microorganisms that are native to the environment and can withstand local conditions. Some medium are also easier to filter than others making the serum easier to use with sprayers and sprinklers. Microbial diversity is also favoured in many instances, ensuring balance in the environment.

Is it Possible to Culture Lactic Acid Bacteria On-Site?

Yes. This seems to be what happened to our pigpens long before we started using the natural farming method of making LABS described above. The addition of naturally fermenting windfalls of bananas and coconuts in the diet and beddings (mix of green and brown organic matter over soil floor) of the pigs resulted in a disease-free and relatively odor-free pigpen.

Help! I forgot to strain the rice washing when adding to milk! Will my LABS be OK?

It won’t be the strong pure LABS culture we’re looking for. The milk will still curdle and you’ll get the LABS but after some time (especially after diluting with water), the solution will ferment like vinegar. This is probably because the un-filtered fermented rice washing contains a lot of yeasts and other microorganisms.

Cranberry Nut Cake

After successfully making a coffee cake that requires no baking and the ingredients do not include eggs or dairy, I made an experiment this time using cranberries and peanuts instead of coffee. Here is my version of The Cranberry Nut Cake. 🙂

Cranberry Nut Cake by Fats
(No bake, no eggs, no milk, no butter)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped roasted greaseless peanuts (or cashew nuts)
1 cup chopped dried cranberries (or 1/2 cup chopped dried  cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped raisins)

Recipe makes two 6″ loaf pan-size cakes.

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine vanilla, lemon juice or vinegar, coconut oil or olive oil and water. Add brown sugar and mix well until thoroughly dissolved.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix, but do not mix too much or the cake will be stodgy and will not rise well. Fold in peanuts and cranberries.
  4. Pour in non-stick loaf pan, filling only half to allow room for expansion. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Steam for 30 minutes. To test if done, prick with fork in the center of the cake – prick all the way through. If the fork comes out clean your cake is ready. Otherwise, steam for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove cake from steamer, uncover foil to allow cake to “breathe” and cool down a bit before removing from loaf pan. Cake also tastes great when chilled. Enjoy! 🙂

Note: I have problems with dairy and thus, made this recipe. You may use almond or soy milk. However, I wouldn’t recommend those because they are highly processed food products (look at the ingredients list on the label). However, recently, I learned about A1 and A2 milk. It seems that my problems with dairy is limited to A1 type milk from cows. I experience no problems with A2 milk and thus now use such milk. Our A2 milk comes from the carabaos (water buffalos) in Ubay, Bohol.

Coffee Cake Recipe

Just when I’ve decided I won’t be drinking anymore coffee, I decide to make some coffee cake. So now I don’t have to drink coffee I can just eat it. 😉

Freshly steamed coffee cake with orange-coconut milk glaze. I need to learn how to make a better glaze without the air bubbles.

This Coffee Cake uses no eggs, no milk, no butter, and it doesn’t require an oven because it’s steamed. There are two versions of this cake. One has a coconut milk-orange glaze and the other has the orange rind and coarse-ground coffee mixed together. This recipe makes for two 6″ loaf pans or one 8″ loaf pan. Enjoy!

COFFEE CAKE (No Bake, No Eggs, No Milk, No Butter)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 + 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 cup oil (olive oil or coconut oil)
1 cup water

Orange Glaze:

3 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp orange juice

Instructions:

Wet and dry ingredients.
  1. Sift together in a bowl flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine vanilla, lemon juice or vinegar (the acid will activate the baking soda), oil and water. Add sugar and mix to dissolve thoroughly.

    Taste the mixture and add more coffee granules as desired.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix together but do not over-mix or the cake will become stodgy and will not rise well.
  4. Add 1 tbsp instant coffee granules. Mix then taste for flavour (since coffee of various brands may differ in flavour and concentration, it might be a good idea to taste first before adding more coffee). Add the rest of the coffee or adjust amount as desired.
  5. Pour mixture in non-stick loaf pan, filling only half full to allow room for expansion. Cover with aluminum foil.
  6. Steam for 30 minutes. Prick with fork to test if done – prick in the center of the cake and all the way down. When fork comes out clean, your cake is ready. Otherwise, steam for 5 minutes more.
  7. Prepare orange glaze as follows: Combine all ingredients in a small pan over low heat. Mix gently, stirring in a single direction so as to avoid incorporating air bubbles into the glaze (I didn’t do very well with this one!). Simmer until thick and creamy. Spoon over cake. Decorate with whole coffee beans or sprinkle with instant coffee powder or ground coffee.

Remove cake from steamer and partially remove foil cover to allow to breathe. Cool and it’s ready to serve. The cake is also great chilled. Enjoy! 🙂

ORANGE-COFFEE CAKE (No Bake, No Eggs, No Milk, No Butter)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp coarsely ground coffee beans
Zest of one whole orange
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 cup oil (olive oil or coconut oil)
1 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Sift together in a bowl flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine vanilla, lemon juice or vinegar, oil and water. Add sugar and mix to dissolve thoroughly.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix well but not too much otherwise the cake will become stodgy and will not rise well.
  4. Add instant coffee granules. Mix well. Add coarsely ground coffee beans and orange zest. Taste and add more coffee and/or orange if desired.
  5. Pour mixture in non-stick loaf pan, filling only half full to allow room for expansion. Cover with aluminum foil.
  6. Steam for 30 minutes. Prick with fork to test if done – prick in the center of the cake and all the way down. When fork comes out clean, your cake is ready. Otherwise, steam for 5 minutes more.

Remove cake from steamer and partially remove foil cover to allow to breathe. Cool and it’s ready to serve. The cake is also great chilled. Enjoy! 🙂

Note: I have problems with dairy and thus, made this recipe. You may use almond or soy milk. However, I wouldn’t recommend those because they are highly processed food products (look at the ingredients list on the label). However, recently, I learned about A1 and A2 milk. It seems that my problems with dairy is limited to A1 type milk from cows. I experience no problems with A2 milk and thus now use such milk. Our A2 milk comes from the carabaos (water buffalos) in Ubay, Bohol.

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.