Thursday, 4 October 2018

Our Website

With the many changes in what we do and how we do things, we now have implemented our own website :  Do visit our site for the latest information.  We will also be publishing all our new articles at this website.
Thank you.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Oh dear, I am so "gassy"

I always like to understand the cause and effect of food as this helps me design my daily diet based on whole foods.  When we eat, along with our food we also take in gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide along with whatever other gases within "reach".  When our body digests our food, among the by-products are gases.  Tiny amounts of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane combine with hydrogen sulphide and ammonia in the large intestine to give gas its smell resulting in flatulence or commonly know as fart.  Certain foods like beans and cabbages releases more gas when it is digested.  If you have a lot of gas after eating dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt and milk, it is an indication that the body has trouble digesting lactose or more commonly known as lactose-intolerant.  For some, it also causes diarrhoea as well as stomach cramps.  
Certain foods worsens flatulence:
  1. vegetables such as artichokes, broccoli, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions, beans, Brussels sprouts, and turnips.
  2. cereals, such as wheat or oats.
  3. pulses, including beans and lentils.
  4. dairy produce.
  5. yeast in baked products, such as bread.
  6. cashews.
In Malaysia, sometimes these types of food are deemed as "sejuk" or cold - not because of the temperature but because it causes gas.  Within our local diets, the some of the widely consumed vegetables are long beans, cabbage, bean sprouts (tauge) and onions.

We "pass wind" many times a day and most of the time, we don't even notice it as it also doesn't have any smell an indication healthy digestion gas.  When within the digestion process it produces gases that contain sulphur and ammonia, this is where it starts to smell.  If food is not properly digested, it starts decomposing releasing sulphur hence the smelly flatulence.  If you have excessive flatulence, it is also an indication of abnormal digestion.  If the gas is not released through the mouth like burping or through "farting", it can build-up in the body causing heartburn, body aches and pains, headaches etc. depending on the individual.

Understanding the behind-the-scenes, I realise that enzymes play an important role in digestion.  Lack of certain enzymes, that are normally produced by our body, can result in the inability of our body to digest certain foods we consume resulting in conditions like lactose-intolerance, gluten-intolerance and others.  As we age, certain organs in our body that produce these enzymes may not be functioning optimally either due to health condition or deterioration.  Improper digestion can cause decomposition of food producing an unhealthy environment in our digestive system that promotes pathogens and supports cancer cells.  It can also create build-up of acids causing our stomach lining to get inflamed and promoting ulcers as well as weakening it causing toxins to permeate through it into our blood system.  To me, maintaining a healthy digestive system as well as promotion good digestion helps prevent many other illnesses.

Hence I began a journey of discovery of enzymes from whole foods - naturally and not chemically processed as the idea was to provide the ability to consume it as normal food and allowing our bodies to function normally.  Almost all the enzymes I am studying and researching are plant-based versus animal-based, something that I find very interesting.  
Our local fruits that are rich in enzymes that assist the digestion process include papaya (betik), pineapple (nenas), calamansi (limau kasturi), lime (limau nipis) and Roselle (asam belanda) although technically it is known as calyx and not fruit.  All these are planted at the farm - following totally organic practices - and something that I incorporate into my normal diet.  These plants are what I hope others will plant in their homes, if not all, some, as they are local hence well-suited to our weather and relatively easy to grow.
I further challenged myself to experiment different ways of consuming it as well as combinations to further make it easier to consume as natural food.  The outcome: the dehydrated form, the fermented enzyme form and the vinegar form resulting in many ways of including it into my normal daily diet preventing boredom.  

Note:   This is more as information and not to be taken as medical advise.  For medical advise, please consult your doctor or health practitioner.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Pure Durian Nuggets: To sell or not to sell

During these last durian season, I bought extra durians as I wanted to make durian suggest.  I haddone this before and I loved it.  So this season, I bought durians that were not exposed to herbicides and chemical fertilisers of the original variety - non-GMO and also without hormones application.  The price ranged from rm 8-10 per kg at the orchard and each fruit was more than one kg.

The nuggets are made from pure fruit with no additives or preservatives.  I do not use fruits that are no longer nice to consume fresh but select the best ones.  The seeds are removed and only the flesh is used.
No flour of any type or other fillers were added.  No sugar was added and since it is already naturally sweet, the dehydration process will concentrate the sugars.  Adding sugar would not only make it extremely sweet but also detract from the health quality.

As a general rule, upon dehydration, each fruit will produce about 6-8 durian nuggets.  Basically, if you eat 8 nuggets, you have eaten a whole fruit.  Since it is really good and being a durian lover, I can easily eat them in one sitting - something which can be more challenging if I was eating the fresh fruit.  What I find interesting is the dehydration process breaks down the fibrous strand resulting in a smooth non-chewy cake-like texture.  You can either consume the nuggets on its own or use it to create or flavour other dishes like sweet coconut gravy that you use as a dip such as with bread, sweet desserts such as pancakes and puddings, and to make ice cream.

Some have asked if I am selling them.  Therein lies the dilemma.  The cost of producing  the 8 nuggets is around rm 12 - including the fruit cost (average price rm 9), people cost, dehydration cost and simple packaging. That doesn't include selling costs. So in total to have a few cents of profit, the selling price is RM 15.  The question is: are people willing to buy it for RM 15.  If I wanted to use fancy packaging, it will be at least rm 18.

I began a comparison of high-end snacks without additive, fillers and preservatives.  It was hard to find any for comparison.  To compare to other durian products, there was no pure durian products was not possible as I couldn't find any.  There were durian candies which were loaded with other ingredients, durian dodol which had more flour and sugar and other ingredients than durian, durian ice cream where durian was used as a flavouring and tempoyak which used durian that was no longer good to consume fresh.

Conclusion: the durian nuggets will be sold in packs of 9 nuggets at a price of rm 15.  If you are interested to purchase, you can whatsApp me at 0172821219.  Up to 9 packs per order can be sent via poslaju for additional rm 7.50 postage cost.  It will also be made available at the various events we do while stocks last.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

In the Greenhouse: Part 1

I love my whole farm but the one place that I spend a lot of time at is in my greenhouse.  My
greenhouse is designed to serve as my seeding area, fertiliser production mix area, my lab to test out elements in growing plants such as water, pest control and fertilisers, an area to plant the plants that require substantial TLC, a place to propagate plants as well as acclimatisation of plants before being planted outdoors or indoors.
The roof is almost totally plastic roofing sheets (similar to the zinc roofing sheets) to allow sunlight in  but keep the rain out hence it is where I can work rain or shine.  The walls are half brick and specially-crafted lattice wood with netting to reduce the amount of pests that can enter the greenhouse.  It is impossible to keep everything out as some are so tiny - almost like a speck of dirt size such as the whiteflies.  It is half bricks because on some area along the sides, I have built a cement rack that serves as seed germination and seedling area as well as newly propagated plants area.  Over the years, it has evolved from the simple design of 30 feet by 20 feet size to 60 feet by 20 feet and current setup.  By starting from a simple design, it allowed me time to test and figure out how I wanted my greenhouse to be to suit with the activities as well as my style of working.  It is a personal design space that I also enjoy relaxing in and getting oxygen therapy.

  As all the plants at the farm either are edible or therapeutic or both, the same types are planted in the greenhouse.  Working with my hands sometimes causes me to get cuts and nicks so I have my first aid plants in the greenhouse too.  The Indian Borage, Variegated Borage and Aloe Vera are my basics.  The borage with its antiseptic properties are great for cuts.  I just wash the affected area and mash the leaves and apply to the cut.  In a few minutes, it is taken care of and I can resume what I was doing.  If I get an inflammation on my skin, I just get the above vera leaf and get the gel and apply.  I also use the borage leaves to create an instant pest repellant by crushing the leaves in water and using the resulting liquid to spray on the plants.  It also has anti-viral and anti-fungus properties to care for the health of my plants.  Being non-toxic, I don't have to worry about using protective gear.  As I am creating the liquid, at the same time, I am also cleansing my hands from unwanted bacteria.  
Both plants are easy to propagate.  For the borage, I propagate from stem cuttings.  The aloe vera produces its own platelets which I will transplant to a separate container.  As I use them regularly, I propagate them often.

One of my favourite vegetable fruit is tomatoes.  They require a lot of care both from a pest control, fertilisation and water when grown organically and free from hormones as well.  It requires routine pest control activity as many pest love it like the whiteflies, aphids, black mold and ants to name a few.  The pests encourage each other.  With whiteflies, comes the aphids.  Then come the black mold and the ants.  Hence, it is imperative to control it from the beginning of the whiteflies.  I mix my own fertiliser from base ingredients like chicken manure, goat manure, compost, eco enzyme (a.k.a. garbage enzyme) and EM-1.  I tend to mix them depending on the growth and condition of the plant as having the fertiliser production mix are in the greenhouse, it makes it easier for me to get it done.  

Currently I have 3 varieties in various stages growing: Hybrid tomatoes, Cherry tomatoes and Heirloom tomatoes.  Although I have grown the hybrid and cherry tomatoes side by side, I planted the heirloom tomatoes separately in their own bed, separated by another planting bed as well as walkway.  I intend to save the seeds from the heirloom tomatoes in my seed bank.  These plants need to have their soil topped-up to cover their roots every so often so having my planting soil mixture area in the greenhouse also makes it convenient.  I will not plant them outside as then they will be exposed to many more pests including birds and my free-range chickens.  I have tried planting them outdoors but have always lost to the birds, chickens and other pests.

I also do companion planting in the greenhouse hence I also have various types of chilli plants in the greenhouse.  Although I do not eat much chillies, there are many around me who do.  I have a few varieties planted including habaneros, thai chilli and cili api.  I have the habaneros in a row but have the others planted in polybags in different sections of the greenhouse.  These plants also are a favourite of the whiteflies so whenever I do my pest control spray, I spray them at the same time too.  They also need to be fertilised rather frequently - once a week - so having them in the greenhouse also reduces time for fertilisation as I also custom fertilise them depending on the stage and any problems that I see with them.

I tend to spend hours at a time in the greenhouse so I also plant some ulam for me to munch on as
snacks.  One of my favourite plants - not only for taste but also because I think it is beautiful - is the Sambung Nyawa Batik.  I plant them in containers in a few locations.  Whenever I feel like munching on something, I just get a few leaves, rinse them and munch.  They are easy to propagate and with proper care, are vigorous growers.

The story of the plants in the greenhouse continues in Part 2.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Hydrating and loaded watermelon

Being a proponent of local foods, I decided to do some research on the health benefits.  Watermelon is easily available in Malaysia and at an affordable price.  Hence it can be added into our daily diet effortlessly without doing damage to our food budget.

Why do I love it?  Many reasons.  The nutrient value is good with rich in vitamin C, Vitamin A, the various vitamin Bs , calcium, potassium as well as containing the enzyme lycopene (like those found in tomatoes at a fraction of the cost) and the amino acids arginine and citruline.  Some studies has indicated that citruline is more bio-available when consumed as a juice so I tend to blend it.  It also has a respectable dietary fiber content.  Being alkaline in nature, it also helps to neutralise the acts our body produces especially after food digestion of proteins, fats and sugars.  So, it is my go-to drink during the festive season as a pre-emptive measure from all the variety of foods that is consumed during this period.

In caring and maintaining our health, the nutrients in watermelon contribute towards:

  1. care of our gastro-intestinal system
  2. helps in lowering blood pressure
  3. helps in caring for our heart.
Being high in water content (about 90%), it is a great juice to drink on our hot days whilst providing nutrition to our body.  It is also a great post workout juice to consume as whilst it replenishes the fluids lost during the workout, the citruline also helps remove the lactic acid produced by our body and helps speed up our muscle recovery.  So instead of reaching out for those manufactured post-workout drink, just blend some watermelon and replenish with all the natural goodness.

So, why not blend some watermelon for a great breakfast drink, hydrating drink on hot days and a post-workout drink and reap the benefits naturally.  As with everything, I consume it in moderation as part of a daily diet with a boost depending on what activity I did :)

Monday, 11 June 2018

Plants and trees want a good home, food and water too

I started my farm from basically ground zero without any formal training or education in botany, horticulture or agriculture but I wanted to plan for my retirement.  Along the way, I have discovered many things, experienced the wonders of nature and developed a better understanding of the connectivity between the various forms on earth.

1.  Plant for the climate
We are often trying to plant things that aren't suitable for our climate without making adjustments and this includes flowering and fruiting plants.  If we do not take climate and environmental factors, we are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.  Hence, I would always encourage newbies to plant local plants for their initial.  We have an abundance of local plants covering a wide array of taste so let us set ourselves up for success as we learn and gain knowledge.  Just looking at what we can plant for vegetables, there is so many to choose from.  For initial quick success, try planting one that you can harvest within 30-45 days.  It may seem like a long time when you first start out but as you observe the progress, you will find that time just flies by.

2.  There are no guarantees
Life is filled with the unexpected and challenges and it is applicable to when we try to grow plants too.  Even if you follow step-by-step directions, it doesn't guarantee you will get the same outcome every time because the natural factors are fluid.  However, if you start with good soil conditions, you have increased your probability of success.  The soil for the plants need to be suited for the plant we want to grow.  For example, if you are planting orchids, you need a soil composition that allows for quick drying of water as it doesn't tolerate soggy soil conditions well.  On the other hand, if you are planting vegetables, you need a soil composition that allows the soil to remain moist longer but not soggy to provide water to the roots throughout the day especially during the hottest part of the day.  Hence, if you plant in unsuitable soil composition, you can end up with unhealthy plants or dead plants in spite of you attempts at fertilising, watering and pest control efforts.

3. Army of underground soldiers
Many are not aware of the army of underground soldiers that contribute to the health and welfare of you plants.  The smallest size ones are beneficial microbes which amongst its function is to make the nutrients in the soil bioavailable to the plants.  In human terms, it is like you preparing and cooking the chicken before you consume it.  You need to do that before you can eat it so your body can
process it to extract nutrients for your body.  Similarly, these microbes will breakdown the complex form of the nutrients into a form that can be assimilated by the plants for it nutrient.  The planting soil lacking these can result in the plants not being able to absorb sufficient nutrients it needs so although you may be putting fertilisers aplenty, the plant may not be getting the benefits because it isn't in a form the plant can "eat".
Another soldier that we want aplenty in our planting soil is earthworms.  They help loosen the soil and aerate it as well as process the raw soil producing nutrients that can be "eaten" by the plants.  Hence, in recent years the rise of vermicompost and vermicast as well as the use of worms to process organic waster to produce food for plants in the form of vermicast and vermicompost.
However not all these underground live forms are friendly so you need to get rid of the unfriendlies.

4.  Army of aboveground soldiers
If you have a fruiting garden, these aboveground soldiers are important as they help in the pollination process hence you need to consider having flowering plants that encourage these friendly soldiers to visit your garden.  Bees and ladybirds are my favourites for effective pollination.  If you do not get regular visits from these friendlies, you may find that your fruiting garden doesn't produce fruits in spite of it flowering boundlessly and this includes fruits like cucumber, melons and various other non self pollinating plants.  Hence some people find that they need to resort to hand pollination i.e. personally mimicking the activity of these pollinating insects such as using light brush strokes from the male flower to the female flower.

5.  Food for plants and trees
Different plants and trees need different types of food but the basic separation is between leaves only and flowering/fruiting plants.  The basic nutrients we often see mentioned is Nitrogen(N), Phosphorous(P) and Potassium (K).  This is the starting point.  From then on, to have a bountiful plant, there are additional nutrients that will help and support the plant development.  Fruiting plants need magnesium to help support the development of fruits.  Calcium also support certain aspects of the plant development.  Then you also have fish amino acids.  There are so many different types of fertilisers that at times it boggles the mind and sometimes, we can get carried away with purchasing fertilisers because we have heard that it is good without thinking if it is useful or practical for our own usage.  Some we end up with bottle of fertilisers and at times also cause over-fertilising which inadvertently kills the plants.  Just think of it similar to humans bulking up on a certain nutrient or supplement and getting a toxic reaction to it which could also lead to organ failure and death.  It is easier to cause death by over-fertilisation using chemical fertilisers than natural organic fertilisers so I always opt for the latter.  Over the years I have narrowed down my fertilisers to 3 kinds: (1) fish amino acid based fertiliser (2) goat manure based fertiliser and (3) enzyme based fertiliser.  I find that applying them at appropriate times gives me the results that I want and it has helped me "declutter" the fertilisers.

6.  All live forms need water
Water is important to our plants and it is essential that we understand their needs.  Some thrive in abundance of water while others will drown to death.  Some thrive in just "touching" water whilst others will die of thirst.  Some just want regular watering and some want to have moisture available all the time.  Select the plant you want to grow based on your water "availability".  This way, you can reduce your chances of killing a plant.  The right type of water can also affect your plants.  Some plants can tolerated slightly acidic water whilst others may get sick.  To be safe, try to water with "clean" water.  If you capture rain water and you are living in the city where there is significant traffic pollution, you might want to consider letting the water  "sit" for a couple of days after capture so that the acids have a chance to dissipate from the water.

These are some of the basics that I live by now but then again, it is not the end.  I continue to encounter new discoveries and gain new knowledge that it keeps me mentally challenged and physically active.  To this end, I can see it as an activity that I can continue to do in she Allah till the day I die and continue to have a fruitful, contributing life.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Seeds oh Seeds. Which one shall I choose?

Recently I received quite a few question about seeds so I am sharing what I know in the hopes that it will be useful to people interested in it.  The selection of seeds for planting is very important.  Selecting the wrong seeds can lead you to disappointment, especially after you put in so much effort. So let's start with the kinds of seeds.  There are basically 3 types of seeds.
F1 Hybrid Seeds
These are the most often type of seeds you find in the market.  It is essentially produced by selective cross pollinating 2 parent plants to produce the "first children" so to speak.  Quality F1 seeds can produce quality plants as the dominant qualities from each parent is present in the F1 seeds.  Through this selective cross-pollination or hybridisation, the resulting seeds can be engineered to have specific qualities such as in the taste and size.  However, if you obtain seeds from F1 plants, you may find that when you sow the seeds. they do not germinate.  You may have followed advise from your friends to germinate them and still find that it didn't germinate.  You did nothing wrong as most seeds that result from F1 plants through genetic engineering are sterile or do not produce plants true to their parents. So, even if you manage to germinate some, you will find the results may not be satisfying.  This is how the seed companies stay in business.
Heirloom seeds
Unlike F1 seeds that are produces through selective cross-pollination, heirloom seeds are generated from plants from open pollination and possess most of the characteristics of their parent plant.  Subsequent plants from these heirloom seeds will continue to have most of the characteristics of their parent plant.  If you planted using heirloom seeds, then you can select the best seeds to future planting.  Obtaining heirloom seeds is getting to be more difficult and harder to come by.  Why?  The seed companies can lose business hence why nowadays you find F1 seeds but rarely heirloom seeds.  For seed banks, it is best to use heirloom seeds.  At the farm, when I have heirloom plants, these are the seeds that I will retain.
GMO Seeds
These seeds are different from the above two types of seeds and are done in laboratories using gene splicing technology.  At this stage certain elements can be added into the genes, modifying it genetically from its original stage.  Certain chemicals to make the seeds resistant to pests and other types of chemicals used in herbicides and pesticides can also be added.  Inherently GMO seeds contains pesticides that does not wash away or disappear magically so eating produce from GMO seed plants means you are consuming pesticides intentionally.  So, even if you use GMO seeds and follow organic planting practices, your produce cannot be considered organic.
My Conclusion
Where possible, go for heirloom seeds.  When not possible, you will just have to continue purchasing F1 seeds and keep the seed companies like Cargill and the like in business.  At all cost, if you are for your health, say no to GMO and keep pesticide out of your daily food intake.