Friday, 17 March 2017

My plant choices: Flowering Shrub Plants

At the heart of it all, every plant that I plant has to have some practical use from being a basic edible plant to plants with a therapeutic benefit.  I also love flowers so I combine the two criteria and found many plants that fit them.  My additional criteria was that as far as possible it has to be local and fit in our great tropical climate.  Of course I cannot plant them all and had to make the difficult choice of narrowing them down.  All the choices I list below can be planted either in the ground or in containers.  By regular pruning, the plants can be shaped and kept productive as the pruning encourages new shoots to appear.

My favourites are:
Misai Kuching (Cat's whiskers)
There is basically 2 varieties: 1 with white flowers and the other with lilac flowers.  I have a preference for lilac so I elected to choose this variety.  They are easy to care for and to propagate.  They produce lovely showy flowers and have pretty leaves.  It gives me the added benefit of being able to make organic misai kucing tea which has many therapeutic benefits but the one I love most is as a blood cleanser.  This is my go-to tea who I am eating high sugar content foods and these include fruits like durians and mangosteens apart from those lovely desserts.  These a perennial plants that requires minimal car although with periodic fertilising, it produces more flowers and more leaves.


Roselle (Asam Belanda)
This plant is in the hibiscus family and best propagated from seeds although it can be propagated from stem cuttings.  It produces showy pink flowers with a maroon or deep red centre.  The flowers turn into calyces and these can be transformed to a drink rich in vitamins especially vitamin C.  The seed pods are within the calyx and good quality seeds are produced from fully matured calyces.  The leaves are green with a red tinge to it and can be dried and converted to tea.  Even the leaf stem can be used in making a drink.  Be forewarned, the leave, stem and calyx all taste sour so you might want to sweeten your drinks with honey or brown sugar.  Because of its sourness, the leaves are also used in cooking to flavour dishes.  The calyces can also be turned into preserves and conserves.  These are perennial plants.

Okra (Bendi)
Although this plant is an annual, it is easy to propagate from seeds and easy to grow.  It produced bright yellow flowers with a dark red centre.  The pollinated flowers turn into the fruit, okra, which has many health benefits apart from being tasty.   This plant is prone to some pests that will attack the leaves and fruit but this can be controlled with the use of enzyme fertiliser with pest control that will provide fertiliser for the plant whilst keeping the pest away.




Eggplant/Brinjals (Terung)
There are so many varieties with the fruit being green (bright yellow when "ripe), white and purple.  The flowers tend to be either purple petals with yellow centre or white petals with yellow centre.  Planting these plants give you the added benefit of harvesting for your dinner table.  The purple eggplant is especially beneficial with the nasurin content in the purple skin which is provides beneficial nutrient to our brain.  Regular fertilisation with fertilisers that also contain magnesium and calcium can help in increasing the flowers produced leading to more fruits.

Friday, 10 March 2017

My plant choices - herb staples

Although I have quite a big space to plant at the farm, it seems like the space gets eaten up so fast so I do have to be selective in order to produce sustainable quantities for my purposes.  I select them based on the following:

  1. High value multi-purpose which translates to they can be used for various reasons and have therapeutic benefits
  2. Suitability to the land as depending on the plant, the soil has to be suitable
  3. Ease of propagating so that I can continue to have new seedlings
  4. Ease of maintenance and care as with many plants and my hectic schedule, I need to ensure that I can care for them properly.
It is hard to narrow down choices as they are all fantastic plants but I have managed to narrow them down and grouped them into what I grow a lot of and what falls in my herbal collection.  I enjoy being able to harvest them for my use and know that it is clean - free from chemical pesticides and herbicides - and that it is available when I want them.

The staples that I consider every garden should have is and is my 5 basics :
Lemongrass
It has a high value due to their therapeutic values as well as can be used is in many ways.  It can be used in making drinks as well as in cooking.  They are easy to care although they are "voracious eaters" so ensuing plantings will have to be moved to a different area.  They can be planted in almost any soil type except for heavy clay.  Propagating them is by using the whole stalk.  They can be planted in pots or in the ground so if you have a small space, just plant them in pots. and requires minimal fertilisation.  Although you can harvest them on as needed basis, it is best to replant them every 6 months to maintain the quality in either a different soil or area.

Turmeric
The benefits of turmeric are well known and is also one of the condiments often used in cooking.
The whole plant has uses, from the leaves to the rhizome and the flower.  They require minimal care and if planted in good soil, doesn't need fertilisation or minimal fertilisation.  It can be planted in pots or in the ground.  Propagation is via the rhizome.   It can be harvested on an as-needed-basis so it works well in creating a long-term edible garden.

Sand ginger (Cekur or Kencur)
Similar to turmeric, the whole plant can be used.  The leaves and rhizomes have therapeutic values and used as condiments in cooking.  They can be planted in containers or in the ground and does best in rich, organic soil with some sand content.  Propagation is via the rhizome.  You can harvest the leaves on as-needed-basis but to harvest the rhizome, it is best to harvest the whole plant.

Ginger - Bentong (Halia Bentong)
This is one of my favourites with its therapeutic values and multi-uses.  It can be turned into a drink, used as a condiment, made into a pickle and used in combination with other herbs to create an organic pest control.  It also produces a flower, similar in shape to the turmeric, but in red color.  It does best in soil with a good content of sand and doesn't tolerate water-logged soil.  Propagation is via its rhizome.  I choose this over the regular ginger due to its therapeutic values and beautiful flower.  You can harvest them on a as=needed-basis but it is best to replant after 1 year to continue to have quality ginger.

Small Galangal (Lengkuas kecil)
Amongst the various herbs, I consider this plant to produce the prettiest flower.  It has therapeutic values which makes it a plus when used in cooking.  It does best planted in the ground although it can also be planted in pots. It loves a rich, organic soil.  Propagation is via its rhizome.  I choose this over the regular galangal due to its more "potent" flavour and beautiful flower.  I tend to replant these every 2 years to maintain continuity and quality.

These basic 5 can add beauty to your garden and you can arrange them in such a way that it becomes a floral arrangement in your landscape.  If you have limited space, all you need is five pots and a few more pots a few months later for continuity of supply. :)


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Growing Food: There is always a way


I advocate everyone growing some of their food, whether it be in their gardens or in their apartment balconies.  You can even grow beautiful flowering edibles.  Somehow, some people have the idea that edibles don't have pretty flowers.  There is so many options to chose from.  You will also get the added benefit of relaxing with your plants on top of getting something good to eat.  Just imagine yourself harvesting a lemon to make a drink, some turmeric and ginger to seasons your food or some vegetables for dinner - it feels great to be able to do so.  I rate the food growing options as below:

  1. organically grown 
  2. hydrophonic
  3. grown with chemical fertiliser and pesticide
  4. GMO (avoid at all cost)
There is a plant for everyone depending on the time and effort you want to put in.  Listed below are some examples and in no means an exhaustive list.  There are many others but it is presented to give you an idea.

If you can only plant in pots and want to have flowers, try:

  1. Aubergine or brinjal - purple flowers with a yellow centre which when pollinated forms a purple fruit
  2. Okra (Lady's finger or bendi) - yellow flower with a red centre which when pollinated turns into green okra
  3. Cosmos dianthus (ulam raja) - pink flowers with yellow center
  4. Roselle (Asam belanda) - pink flower with a maroon center which turns into dark red calyces
  5. Turmeric - light green flower with the added benefit you can harvest the turmeric once it matures as you want them
  6. Ginger - pink/purple flower with the added benefit you can harvest the ginger once it is mature as you want them.
  7. Small galangal - spray of white/red small flowers
  8. Varieties of chillies - white flowers and when the fruit forms, various colours.
  9. Misai kucing - purple or white flowers
  10. Calamansi - white flowers with the added benefit of green calamansi fruits
  11. Lime - white flowers with the added benefit of green lime fruits
  12. Lemon - white flowers with the added benefit of bright, yellow lemons when they mature
  13. Varieties of tomatoes - yellow flowers and looks even better when the tomatoes have formed and ripened
If you want to plant in pots but want leaves only, try:
  1. Cabbage
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Spinach - there are so many varieties from green, red/green and red color leaves in various shapes
  4. Choy sum
  5. Kailan
  6. Kale - many varieties with different leaf shapes
  7. Sambung nyawa batik
  8. Aloe vera
If you want to have flowering on a trellis say your balcony railing or fence, try:
  1. various varieties of cucumber - yellow flowers
  2. mini pumpkins - yellow flowers
  3. bitter gourd - yellow flowers
  4. varieties of gourd - yellow or white flowers
  5. long beans - white or purple flowers
  6. french beans - pink flowers
  7. Blue sweet pea (bunga telang) - blue flowers
All the above can be grown organically - using organic fertilisers and pest control.  If you have lots of space, and have options, then you can grow them all.  Happy gardening and producing great food :).

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Corn: GMO or non-GMO

As I try to get a grasp of the corn story, I first had to understand the elements that make corn bad for you.  In researching, I found that corn can basically be categorized into two groups: GMO and hybrid/non-GMO.  It is very hard to find traditional corn seeds any more.  GMO or Genetically Modified Organism corn means that the corn has been modified through genetic engineering at the genes level and contains genes that are not naturally occurring.  Basically, it is modifying the DNA or cellular structure of the corn.
Most of the commercial corn has been modified so that it can withstand glyphosate (as in the commercial chemical herbicide Roundup) and it also termed as RR Corn (Roundup Ready Corn).  This means that Roundup can be applied without affecting the corn plant as the plant absorbs the glyphosate to the individual corn kernel level.  The result is you can get beautiful corn filled with glyphosate so from a commercial aspect, corn can be produced in quantity at a reduced overall production cost as you get a higher yield since no insects want to eat it no will it be affected by any disease or bacteria.  If the insects try to eat them, they die.
The Big Chem will say that it is safe to eat corn that is filled with glyphosate.  The US Pesticide Trade organizations also say it is safe.  The major GMO corn seed producer is Monsanto and the produce for Roundup is Monsanto.  In the 2012 Nutritional Analysis - Comparison of GMO Corn versus Non-GMO Corn  conducted by an independent, outsourced, major food company found the GMO corn contains a similar amount of nutrients to non-GMO corn but also contained a number of elements absent from traditional corn, including chlorides, formaldehyde and glyphosate, and in harmful quantities.  In case you are wondering what formaldehyde is used for – it is used in preserving corpse!
You will find conflicting studies and outcomes depending on who did them.  Personally, I look for independent studies done by groups or companies not affiliated with Big Chem.  It is also interesting to note that you get conflicting results from studies done within an organization in US.  I guess it depends on what the policy or interest-to-be-protected is.  At the same time, we all know the lobbyist play a big role.  Other than the studies done by independent entities in US, I also read up on the studies done in Europe and it should be noted that the major sentiment is against GMO. 
The International Agency on Cancer Research has concluded that glyphosate can possible cause cancer in humans.  Monsanto discredits this study by saying that it is inconsistent with their finding.  An international study has also found that it causes hormone disruption as well as resistance to antibiotics in humans.
What are these GMO corn used for apart from eating it as “corn on the cob”?  The corn are used for many things:
1.     Ingredient in production of feed for animals such as cows, sheep, goats and chickens.  This means that these animals also become contaminated with these chemicals and are introduced into our food intake by products from these animals.
2.     To make corn oil.  Corn oil has been touted as being the great alternative for cooking oil and good for the heart.  In exchange you may get damaged livers and kidneys and hormone disruptions.
3.     To make corn syrup, a cheap sweetening alternative which are bad for your liver and kidneys.
4.     To make corn flour.
5.     Ingredient in cereals that are touted as being healthy alternatives.  My thinking: How can it be a healthy alternative?
6.     To make snacks such as popcorn and many others.  There are many alternatives snacks.

I am opting for hybrid corn that has not undergone the GMO process.  Hybrid corns are grown from corn seeds that were produced by crossing 2 types of corn to create a new variety with the characteristics of the “parent” corn.  It involves no genetic engineering at the gene level.  Some of the characteristics the hybridization seeks is drought-resistant, sweetness and color of corn.  From a commercial production perspective, it costs more to produce hybrid seeds and they are not immune to chemical herbicides such as Roundup so you cannot flood a field with Roundup but will have to use alternative means to control weeds.  Hence, it costs more from the production of corn perspective.

At the end of the day, I see my choices as simple:
Do I want to eat corn that can possibly cause liver and kidney failure as well as a host of other possibilities and later pay the medical costs to “cure” these diseases and endure the suffering
OR
Do I eat good corn and pay more for it but have a better chance of not getting liver and kidney diseases and other problems and avoid the suffering?

I love corn so now we plant our own hybrid corn without the use chemical pesticides or herbicides or fertilizers.  We use organic pest control and fertilizers and control weeds the “old-fashioned” way, manual weeding.  The end result is we get good tasting, healthy corn.  It is not difficult to plant and care for them, just requires more time.  However, I find it well worth the effort.

I find it interesting that the manufacturer of Roundup and GMO corn seeds, Monsanto bought a major pharmaceutical company, Bayer.  To me, it is making profits from both ends.


The onus is on us to educate ourselves.  The debate continues with those with commercial interest categorically saying that GMO Corn is safe and those without, saying it isn’t or further studies needed as initial study indicates it is possible not safe.  For the adults, we can make our own choices.  For our children, I hope we make the right choices.  Personally, I do not want my son to suffer from liver and kidney diseases as a result of the choices I made for him.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Possibilities in dehydrating Part 1

This is part 1 of my new series on dehydrated foods.  All the produce that we dehydrate are produced at the farm hence it is natural and grown in an organic manner.  I remember growing up, my grandmother, grand-aunts and aunts often things were dried to preserve them especially in the villages where there was no electricity supply which means no refrigerators, chillers or freezers.  They did it to various fruits and also fish.  They didn't use low quality items but fresh, good quality items to create these foods that can be preserved for later consumption.  With our weather and tropical fruits, once ripe they do not store for long periods well so dehydrating them is a good option.

We only do market once a week and the fruits ripen when they "feel" like it.  To me, they will not be in its prime for market so I had to come up with a way to not waste them.  I also had to come up with an alternative on the occasion that we are left with some produce after market.  After all the hard work in growing and caring for them, it would be a shame to just have it rot away although at the farm, it becomes food for the animals.  After evaluating various options, I decided to invest in a dehydrator as to me, the fresh produce can then be dried in a clean manner free from flies and the like, preserving as much as the nutrients and allowing for storage without the need for chillers or refrigerators.

Two of the fruits that we dehydrate and convert to an on-the-go snack which is healthy and tasty are papayas and bananas.  By dehydrating it, there is a minimal loss of the nutrients and the flavour is intensified.  It is packed in a suggested fruit serving size so it is easy to take it with you.  It can also serve as your breakfast fruit if you are on the run - you can munch it on your way to work.  The idea is to have your fruit servings easily accessible as a snack without any additives, sugar, colouring or preservatives.  Seasonally, we will also have dehydrated jackfruit.

One of the often used plant as a condiment that we dehydrate is lemongrass.  It comes in a crushed form and can be used in multiple ways.  By steeping in hot water, it can be turned into lemongrass tea.  This drink can be served either warm or cold, either sweetened or unsweetened or added to another drink as flavouring.  In the crushed form, it can also be used for cooking.  Being in a dehydrated form, it can be stored in your kitchen, ready for use whenever you want.    One stalk is approximately 1 teaspoon.  We do not add anything to our dehydrated lemongrass so it is pure lemongrass.  Lemongrass is an alternative therapy or home remedy used for various conditions such as to aid in digestion, improve skin condition, fighting cancer, controlling cholesterol levels, for cleansing and detoxifying - there are quite a few others.  Some of the properties of the lemongrass are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anticancer, antibacterial and diuretic.  It is from these properties that it is used as alternative or complementary treatment.  I find the taste to be pleasing and add it to drinks and used it for cooking.  Although I prefer it fresh, for the times when I do not have any fresh lemongrass, this works just as well.

Ginger torch is also another commonly used herbal condiment in local cuisine.  By having the
dehydrated crushed ginger torch flower within easy access, you can use it as a seasoning that is sprinkled over the top of hot rice, giving a wonderful fragrance to plain white rice.  It can also be used to season various dishes. namely savoury dishes.  Each pack contains only ginger torch flowers without any preservatives,  The color of the crushed ginger torch is also all natural - the color of the flower.  With the dehydration process, it retains its aromatics and flavour.  There is no need to refrigerate it, just store it the same manner that you would store dried herbs - in a cool area.
In traditional or alternative therapy, it is used to reduce diabetes and hypertension and also to treat loss of appetite.  No wonder I like the plain rice better when I sprinkle some bunga kantan on it.  It is said to also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Blue sweet pea flower (bunga telang) is a bright, depp blue flower which is often used in Malay cooking especially for making nasi kerabu, colouring the rice a nice blue.  This flower is a natural food colouring and with its color also have antioxidant properties as well as other healing properties.  To make a food colouring, just pour hot water over a few friend flowers and allow it to steep until the liquid is cool.  This liquid can then be used as a food colouring for making cakes, agar-agar, etc.  Apart from using it as a food colouring to make both savoury and sweet dishes, it also makes a nice blue tea with a subtle floral flavour.  To make the tea, pour hot water over a few pieces of the dried flower and you will immediately see the water turning blue.  It can be served hot or cold, sweetened or unsweetened.  It can be combined with other ingredients to make a drink and I find it interesting that when calamansi (limau kasturi) juice is added to it, it turns into a royal purple color.  This would make an interesting and good tasting drink especially for children in providing them with a healthy alternative.  The flowers are picked at full bloom and dehydrated making it easy to store and have readily available.

I grow all kinds of plants that lends itself to being dehydrated and in part 2, I will describe the other dried products that we have :)


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Fish Story: Part 2: The Fishes

Whenever we harvest the fish, I do enjoy cleaning the fish because the fish are not smelly, they are firm and fresh and look good and my mind is filled with endless possibilities of what to do with them.  Three things that I have invested in that I find serves me well is the chiller, the freezer and the dehydrator.  These three heavy-duty equipment backs me up in processing my fish and retaining the quality and freshness of the fish.

Once the fish are harvested, and there normally is a lot of it, the ones waiting to be cleaned are placed in the chiller.  This ensures that the fish does not spoil and remains fresh until I clean it.   As the water
used to clean the fish is also from a clean, fresh uncontaminated source, this further adds quality to the fish and keeps it clear of chemicals.  Once cleaned, I then decide what to do with it.

Live catfish
Catfish fillet
For catfish, all the larger ones are filleted, packaged and frozen in the freezer.  The catfish do not go into the chiller before being processed but is kept alive.  The mid-sized ones are cleaned, marinated with herbs from the farm and then smoked with unprocessed wood being the source of the fire.  Once it is smoked to the degree desired, it is then dehydrated, reducing the moisture content to a level that will inhibit microbial or bacteria activity.  It is then packaged and ready for sale.  We do also sell live catfish at our market stall but it all depends on what the demand is at that time - fillets, smoked or fresh. 
Smoked catfish

Fresh red tilapia
Marinated red tilapia
The red tilapia is also processed to be sold either as frozen fresh which means it goes directly into the freezer and depending on order, are sometimes cleaned before frozen.  Some are marinated in herbs and are then dehydrated and sold packed as dehydrated marinated red tilapia.  For the dehydrated fish, I will remove the scales as I do not enjoy eating the scales.  Once dehydrated, this fish can simply be fried or cooked in other savoury dishes with a gravy like asam pedal or masak lemak (with a coconut milk based grace).


Smoked and dehydrated eel
Marinated eel
From the river water coming in, we also get river eel which then find our fish pond as the place to live.  They eat the small river fish and flourish.  They are cleaned and filleted, producing long strips of fish meat.  We cut them to shorter strips and then marinate them in a herbal mixture for at least 12 hours.  It is then smoked and then dehydrated.  We use all natural ingredients with the aim to keep it as natural and tasty as possible.  Many people tend to say that they don't eat eel because of how it looks.  Strangely enough, many of these people eat Unagi (the Japanese name) and didn't realise  that they were eating eel.  They can be steamed to rehydrate or made into soups.  I just like to cut them up into pieces and eat with rice porridge or cook them in a savoury coconut milk based gravy like masak lemak cili.  It can also be used as a topping in salads.

Packed dehydrated lampam
The lampam is a fish with many bones but it is tasty.  Since I am too lazy to pick out the bones, I find  that by turning them into dried fish, they taste great and I do not have to worry about the bones and I can just munch my way though it as it becomes crispy.
It is cleaned including removing the scales and then marinated with a slightly salted herb marinate.  I leave it to marinate at least 12 hours before placing them in the dehydrator.  Once dehydrated, you can just enjoy them as is. The smaller sized ones becomes a pure fish cracker.  The larger ones, can either be further fried or eaten as is with or without sambal belacan.  It can also be cooked with a sambal sauce or in a savoury dish with a coconut milk based gravy.    It is packed ready for sale and does not require refrigeration for storage as long as it is stored in a cool area as the dehydration process removed moisture thus preventing bacteria or microbial activity.


Packed, dehydrated selling
Fresh seluang
The seluang is a small river fish that is tasty but delicate.  Improperly handled when fresh, you will end up with a mush on your hands.  Sometime we sell it fresh but it has to be sold and cooked within 24 hours so this makes it tricky.  We get lots of it in the pond so it is a waste if I do not handle it correctly.  As such, most of the time I will dehydrate it.  I will place them in a draining bowl to minimise handling of the fish.  This bowl is them placed in water that has sea salt and various herbs added and gently shaken so that the fishes are coated with it.  It is left to sit in the liquid for about an hour before draining.  This process firms up the fish whilst at the same time adds flavour to the fish.  They are then arranged on the dehydrating tray and placed in the dehydrator.


All the fish wastes are collected from cleaning the fishes serve as the  main ingredient in creating my fish amino acid (FAA) fertiliser which is then used in fertilising the vegetation at the farm.  I use the water from cleaning the fishes to water the plants.  I find this is a good way to return to nature as it improves the soil at the same time that it nourishes my vegetation.  The FAA it then formulated with other ingredients and becomes one of the fertiliser produced by the farm for sale.


I use the dehydrator a lot and not the traditional way of drying the fish in the sun for several reasons:
  1. I can dry my fish any time and am not dependent on the weather.
  2. I can be assured that my dried fish will be free from air-borne contaminants.
  3. I can be assured that my dried fish are free from flies, fly eggs and worms.
  4. The fish are dried more evenly and to the level where the bacteria or microbial activity will be prevented.
  5. Once in the dehydrator, I can just leave them until they are ready and not have to keep checking on them.
The herbal marinate contains herbs that are grown on the farm so I can be assured that they are free of chemicals.  I use sea salt because they are better for us.

Why do I do all these?  Simple.  It doesn't make sense to ruin good quality, fresh and tasty fish by adding chemicals or ruining them with improper handling and processing.  At the end of the day, it is the taste that counts and so far, I have got good feedback on them and that makes me happy :)

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Fish story - Part 1: The pond

I have a fish pond at the farm which doesn't quite look like a pond.  It flows with fresh water from the source through a 3 inch polypipe that I had installed and the water flows out into Sg. Lai at the other end.  When I first bought the land, I noticed that there was a dried stream bed the winds through the land so I used that as the guide and created the fish pond by deepening and widening resulting in a river-like fish pond.  Over the years, I have made modifications and I love how it is turning out.  I am blessed because the farm is located in an area where there is a fresh water source and still uncontaminated - something which I strive to encourage the neighbour to maintain and hopefully no developers will come and destroy it.

I rear red tilapia, lampam and catfish.  Along with the inflow of the river water, I further get river fish and shrimp bounty like bujuk, seluang, eels and haruan.  With the addition of the other fishes, it is a blessing and a challenge as the larger river fish tends to also eat the fish that I put in the pond.  So, it is a balancing act.  The small river fish becomes food for the larger fishes.  I further add greens by planting kangkong and throwing in tapioca leaves which also becomes their food.  From my recycling of organic wastes, I get some black fly larvae which also serves as a protein supplement.  I do supplement with fish pellets but it serves as an addition but it is something that I hope in the near future I can totally remove.  Periodically, we will put banana pseudo stems from our own banana harvesting activity and this serves multiple functions: additional food, water cleanser and places for the fish to lay eggs and rear their babies.  It is a continuos balancing act but it is all aimed at producing tasty, fresh water fish without the muddy or weird smells nor lots of slime.  The water is uncontaminated water and we do not feed it garbage like animal carcasses or chicken innards.  The water is nice and clear and you can easily see the more bright color fish and although ton see the silvery-tone fish takes a bit of work.  As the farm is totally organic, we do not have any chemical elements contaminating the water and the fish.

With the two main elements of food and water in place, the other main element is maintenance and operations.  The fish pond is segmented into 3 areas: the largest is non-cemented base as I try to mimic as natural environment as possible, the second is a temporary holding area when we do our fish sorting and the third is a cemented base processing pond which otherwise is used for rearing our catfish.  Every two months, we will drain the ponds and sort and harvest the fish.  As the larger fish tends to eat the smaller fishes, sorting and harvesting will minimise the cannibalisation.  By draining the ponds, we get to clean and change the water although it is not necessary since water is flowing in and out continuously.    Our latest improvement was to build "retainer" walls along one section that is closest to the farmhouse.  Over the years, erosion has occurred so it became necessary to build one to protect that area.  The plan is to further beautify it with flowering edibles like roselle so it can become another nice spot to rest and relax and where I can fish with a fishing rod when I feel like it.


Besides it being an opportunity for a produce and ensuing products for the farm, it also serves as a
flood mitigation element.  This are has been known to flood especially during rainy season as the level of the river can rise very fast after prolonged rain.  Sg. Lai is fed by 5 other small rivers and streams so the water volume can increase dramatically and it comes with strong currents known to have floated 1m in diameter cement drain pipes like it was a cork.  It also adds aesthetic value and serves as a lounging area hence the addition of the patio where I can sit in the late afternoon and enjoy a drink and fresh air as I watch the fish - utterly relaxing.  The fountain that was created requires no pumps but uses the pressure of the water flow.

I expect in the ensuing years I will probably do more modifications but always balancing between maintaining the environment, natural elements and aesthetics with the underlying aim of producing quality fresh water produce and products as an integrated farm.