Monday, 24 December 2012

Kacang Bendi (Okra)

Okra which is also known as lady's fingers or kacang bendi with its botanical name of Abelmoschus esculentus is a vegetable that can be cooked in many ways and is a popular addition in curries locally.

There are two varieties that I plant at the farm: the green okra and the red okra.  The skin of the red okra turns to light green when it is cooked so you wouldn't know that it had red skin.  I planted this plant from seeds and it takes about 3-5 days to germinate.  From seedlings to maturity when it starts to flower takes about 60 days.

A healthy plant grows to look like a shrub with beautiful yellow flowers with a purple center.  The leaves are also a beautiful shape.  At the farm, I have planted this both in the outside ground as well as in a container.  As with many plants, it requires a soil mixture that moistens well as well as provide for good drainage.  I find that a soil mixture which also contains some sand as well as organic matter and low level of clay matter works well. 

Since it can be planted in containers, for home gardeners, you can plant this in large pots and will be a beautiful addition to your home landscape.  Do not let the soil to dry out as it does not do well when the soil is left to dry to days so check the moisture of the soil to water.  I find that it needs at least 8 hours of sun so if you plan to plant it at home, either a landed property or apartment, as long as it gets this amount of sunshine, it can do well,  It also can be planted in direct sunlight - in fact it does best in full sunshine during the day.  The plant can grow up to 2m tall but the height growth can be controlled by pinching off the tip of the plant to encourage it to "bush-out".

Once the flower blooms, it takes about 2-3 days before the "fruit" begins to form.  From then, the bean matures within 3-4 days.  The bean is best eaten when the tip of the fruit is firm and easy to break off.  If the tip just bends or is difficult to break off, this means that the bean will be hard and results in a stringy bean when cooked.  That is why, often, you will see people testing the tip of the bean when they are selecting the bean for purchase.

Okra is a popular health food due to its high fiber, citamin C, and folate  content. Okra is also known for being high in antioxidants. Okra is also a good source of calcium and potassium.

In Malaysia, the beans are cooked in several ways: it can be blanched and eaten with sambal belacan, deep fried with a tempura batter, it can be sliced and cooked with either chillies or soy sauce, stuffed with fish "cake" and cooked in hot water, or in curry or dalca dishes.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Walking through the farm

I am often asked what I have at the farm and it takes a while to describe what the farm is like.  As they say, pictures say 1000 words so this article will take you through some of the "inhabitants" of the farm. 
To start with, since I do spend a lot of time at the farm and sometimes I do not feel like driving home, so it is essential to have some "home" conforts.  The house is still a work in progress - there are still some details to be completed but my priority is the farm operations.

The first category is the water-based element.  I rear red tilapia, lampam and keli within the 24-hours in-flow/out-flow ponds.  Since the water source is from the river at the source, other types of river fish have also entered the pond.

Of course to accompany the water-based "animals", I need to have land-based ones too so I have my kampung chicken.  Some of them are forest chicken descendants so they can fly a distance of about 10-15m.

There are so many types of fruits available in Malaysia but they don't just grow well everywhere.  So we have selected some - taking into consideration the soil type, water and naturally, what the farmer likes :). 

We have about 10 types of bananas at the farm, water apple, rambutan, mangosteen, longan, jackfruit, cenoedak, soursop and many others.  Being in the Hulu Langat area, we also have 1 mature durian and have planted new ones from seeds.

Herbs are part of the Malay tradition and I am often amazed at how good it is for you.  It is my hobby to have a collection of herbs and I am often on the lookout for more to add to my collection.  It also works great as a landscaping addition.  Herbs are versatile - therapeutic, seasoning or condiment, tea, salad - so many ways to use them.

Since I do Sunday morning market, I need produce to sell, amongst them vegetables.  They also flower so it adds color to the farm. 

Some are planted in open air and some are planted in the greenhouse.  Some day, I may add another greenhouse.

There are so many varieties of vegetables, some climb and some crawl :).

So what is in store for the future - I have a few ideas - you will just have to wait and see :)

The Challenge of Growing Tomatoes

When I was living in U.S,, during the summer months I was often able to buy fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes and there were infinitely much better tasting than the regular store-bought ones. I have always found growing tomatoes to be a real challenge, not only from the weather aspects but also insects and bugs seem to love them.  I have tried planting them a few times and from each time, there were lessons learnt.  Due to the weather, I bought some tomato seeds that were labelled to be "tropical-friendly".  I used a high organic soil mixture with some sand content to seed the tomatoes.  Since I wanted to be able to move around my seedlings, I seeded them in polybags.  This also enabled me to keep it weed-free much easier. 

After about 3 days, they began sprouting.  I find that to ensure good root growth and healthy seedlings, it was important to ensure moist and not soggy soil condition.  A key item to remember, good root growth is essential as it is the point of entry for the nutrients that the plant needs.  So, if your plant has poor root growth, this will limit its ability to absorb the nutrients from you fertilizers.  When it was about 6"tall or approximately 10 cm, I transplanted into large polybags.  As the plant grew, more roots grew from the bottom level of the stem so I periodically added additional soil mixture to cover it which is 50% soil and 50% organic compost.  In order to accomodate this, when I transplanted them into larger polybags, I did not plant the seedling high but at about mid-level, allowing me the room to add additional soil in the future.

The tomato plants require support or else the plant will fall over as it does have a "soft" plant stem.  My plan is to retain these plants in a polybag throughout its cycle so whatever mechanism that I use had to continue to enable me to weed easily as well as move it when necessary.  I settled for creating "tube" fences from 2"x2" metal fence material.  These tube fences can be re-used when this set of plants die so I felt it was a good investment - both of time and money.

As my cats love to keep me company as I work in my greenhouse, this also help to keep the plants  from being sat-on or knocked-over.  As the plants grow, I would help the plant along by assisting the branches to ease their way through the slots, keeping it balanced.  After about 2 months, I had to add a stake to provide additional support as well as weave string along the stems as the weight of the tomatoes weighed the stem causing it to "fold" down, reducing the nutrients necessary to the growth on the stem.

To keep the pests away, I use a serai wangi mixture to act as a pest repellent, spraying one a week on the whole plant.  The plants are watered daily, in the morning mainly to prevent the formation of moss on the soil and also to ensure that it has sufficient water to prevent the plant from wilting.  After approximately 8 weeks, the plants began to flower at the upper part of the plant, producing several yellow flowers per stem.

Within 1 week, the flower had fully bloomed and dried out followed by the formation of the "baby" fruits.  The average height where the fruits began to form was 1m so I was glad that my tubes were high enough to be able to provide the necessary support for the fruits.  You can see the changes on the growth of the fruits daily and every morning that I am at the farm, this is the first plant that I check.  I fertilize the plants about every week, using organic fertilizer, which will further decompose within the soil providing the necessary nutrients to the plant.  I find the timing of the application of organic fertilizer is different from chemical fertilizers which dissolves in water immediately.  I check the root exposure level of the plant regularly and top up the soil as necessary.  It is important to keep the soil moist but not soggy or the stem of the plant will rot at the base, killing the plant.

I decided to experiment - I have some plants in the greenhouse and some outside.  I find that they grow as well outside as inside and that as long as I kept the pests aways, it was fine.  I placed the outside plants with a east facing so that it received lots of sunshine in the morning but shaded from the late afternoon side.  As I had planted it in polybags, it was essential to watch the moisture content of the soil - if it dries out, the quality of the fruit will drop.  I continue to spray it with an organic pest repellent weekly and it is now on a fortnightly fertilization schedule.  The pest will attack the plant stem, leaves as well as the fruit so it is important to watch out for them.  At the farm, the main pests are aphids, ants and caterpillars.

It took about 2 weeks for the tomato to ripen to a nice red-vermillion color from when it formed.  The average time from seeding to actually being able to taste the first fruit was 10 weeks. 
Nutritionally, it is a great source of vitamin A, C and K as well as Manganese and Potassium.  It is also very low on Sodium.  It is a good source for Vitamin E and Bs.  Being chemical pesticide free, I just needed to rinse of any dust and dive into it.  One thing I can say, it definitely tastes infinitely better being fresh off the vine :).  Personally, I prefer to have this raw: in a tossed salad, chopped up and mix with cilantro, olive oil and salt or blended as a cold "soup" - either of these ways preserves the nutritional value of the tomatoes best.
Now that this batch is producing fruits, it is time to start seeding the next batch.  The work continues......

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Being A Small Farmer Part 5 - Growing Vegetables

In line with having an integrated farm, one of the key items is vegetables.  I selected the vegetables based on what I like.  Inherently, if you select what you like, then you would tend to pay more attention and I do believe this is true.  I have taken the route of planting most of my vegetables in polybags for two main reasons: (1) ease of weeds control and (2) to ensure that the vegetables get the fertilizer and not washed away or consumed by weeds.  The starting place is my greenhouse, where all the seeds get sown which is then transplanted and placed either within the greenhouse or outside.  What did I select?

To start with, I selected long green beans.  This is a versatile vegetable - you can eat it raw or cooked.  So naturally, going natural removes the worry of those pesky chemicals.  I started with sowing the seeds, in the greenhouse, which sprouted in about 3 days.  After allowing it to grow to about 10cm, I transplanted them into a polybag and placed them outside under its trellis.  The lesson I learnt from the first time that I planted this was that the chickens love to scratch around the plant, often uprooting it hence I didn't get much yield from it.  This time around, there are in polybags with the "tube" fence to prevent them from getting to the plant on sitting on it.  This plant is a climber so having a trellis structure is key to its growth.  The soil mixture that I use has a high organic content to it.  I sprinkle organic fertilizer fortnightly in circle with a radius of  about 6cm from the base of the plant.  I am fortunate that the farm is located in an area where there is good rainfall and since it was placed outside, I haven't had to water it, leaving the rain to provide the water.
It took about 40 days before it started to flower.  The flower and shoots are susceptible to a pesky black insect similar to aphids which will cause it to be destroyed.  My ally in this is the kerengga, those biting red insects.  Normally, I would try to get rid of them as they tend to bite you but in this instance, I allow them to roam freely thereby keeping the pests at bay.  The only problem is they like to make their "houses" with the larger leaves and to discourage them, I remove the leaves that they use to make their houses.  This serves a dual purpose - it enables me to control the population of the kerengga as well as well as encouraging new shoots.  I often snack on the green beans as I am doing maintenance the plants - picking them and munching on it without worrying about washing it.  The yield this time is also much better than my first attempt and we did manage to have some for sale at the Sunday morning market and it was gone very fast.

Another favorite vegetable of mine is the cabbage and it too can be eaten raw or cooked.  With the cabbage, one must be patient as it does take a lot longer compared to other vegetables before harvest.  However, I think it is well worth the wait.  It took about 5 days before it started to sprout and took about 3 weeks to grow to about 6 cm.  At this size, with at least four leaves, I transplanted them into polybags.  As with all my vegetables, the soil mixture has a high organic content to it.

I monitor the soil moisture and water it once or twice a day depending on the weather with pure uncontaminated river water.  I am still waiting for my cabbage to mature and be ready for harvest.  According to the seed label, it takes 75-80 days from transplanting, which means it will take about 96 - 101 days before harvest.  As the plant grows wide, It seems to be growing well and it is now about 40 days from transplant.  I do enjoy looking at the plant as it looks like a beatuiful big green flower.  This vegetable will remain in the greenhouse until it is ready to enable me to manage its pest control.  Those insects and caterpillars love munching on them and I find that with weekly serai wangi and water mixture spray, it keeps those pests away.  I am looking forward to eating it and I am not sure if any will make it to the Sunday morning market.  I guess I will have to plant lots more :).

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Catfish - And you thought it is plain......

Guess what?  This fish is one of the most versatile local fish that I have found.  The options of what to do with it is limited by your imagination!  First things first, select a good quality fish and this means that you should know the origins of your fish - the water quality, the feed, the time to market.  The water quality should be good, preferably a pond with continuous flow of fresh water coming in.  The feed should not consist of any elements of waste such as waste products from chicken and carcasses of dead animals. Don't be shy about asking the seller.

For the general consumer, this may be difficult unless you know your fish seller so here are some tips:
  1. If it has a strong smell, run!!!!!
  2. If possible, buy them live.  However live doesn't mean that it is good.  Check out if there is a lot of "slime" around it.  Less is better.
  3. Check the underbelly.  It should be white in color - not slightly yellow.
  4. The flesh of the fish must be firm.  If it is mushy, then it is not fresh.
  5. If the color of the flesh has a yellow tint to it, it has either been stored incorrectly or not fresh.
  6. The fat should also be white or the color of milk.
Cleaning this fish can be quite a challenge as it is often cleaned when it is live.  Some suggestions to assist you in handling the fish are:
  1. Hold the fish as in the picture above.  Be careful of the side stingers.
  2. Place it in the freezer.
  3. Put it in some salt.
The above two will put the fish in a comatose state for ease of handling.  If cleaned properly, the fish should not be slippery or slimy to handle.  Once cleaned, if you are not going to cook it right away but want to store it for later, it should be frozen immediately.  Do not store it in its raw state in a chiller for more than a day.  This is one fish that retaining freshness is supreme.

The catfish can :
  1. be cooked from its cleaned, raw state
  2. be smoked, either salted or marinated previously
  3. be dried, either salted or unsalted. or marinated
The combinations that I have found to work out well for marinades are (1) salt and lemon grass (serai), (2) kaffir lime leaves (daun limau perut), salt and calamansi and (3) lemon basil (kemangi) and salt.  Locally, the popular ways of preparing smoked catfish is by cooking it with coconut milk and chillies or by frying it.  It is then eaten with rice.  The same applies for dried catfish.

The most often ways of preparing raw, whole catfish are masak lemak cili padi, asam pedas, cooked over charcoal and deep fried.  All these options tend to limit the accompaniment - rice.  However, if you get good quality fresh catfish which is more than 600g, you can fillet it and produce a nice piece of fillet which you can then cook in many other ways.  I have got feedback from people who have tried my filleted catfish that when they had cooked it and served it to other people, they couldn't guess what fish it was.  Catfish (keli) was definitely one of their guesses!  You can:
  • marinate it with a various ways using many combinations of herbs and grill it,
  • you can cut it into bite pieces and create fish nuggets, you can dip them in batter and deep fry,
  • or you can even just bake it in the oven. 
This opens up options of its accompaniments:
  • you can eat it with salads for a light, fresh healthy meal,
  • with potatoes - french fries, mash potatoes, baked potatoes
  • or even on its own.
So, try it out and use your imagination :).

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Jackfruit (Nangka)

One of the fruit trees that I find grows well in this area is the Jackfruit (Nangka).  Its botanical name is Artocarpus heterophyllus.  There are several varieties of this fruit and some bear fruit that can weigh over 20kgs.
Personally I enjoy this fruit when it is firm, not soft and mushy.  By careful pruning and shaping, it can provide a great resting area as it has lots of leaves providing for a shady spot on hot sunny days.
The tree can start fruiting as early as 3 years after planting and can grow quite tall.  Selective pruning can assist in keeping the plant healthy and productive.  It does well in a soil mixed with organic matter and relatively low in clay.  It loves lots of water but the roots do not fare well in constantly soggy soil.  The leaves are mid-size and have a waxy texture to it.  The smaller branches also periodically dries out and should be removed to keep the tree nice and neat.

The jackfruit flower is green in color which will transform to a small gritty-skin "baby fruit".  It has an interesting shape and doesn't much resemble to what we normally see as a flower as it remains green and almost appears as if it is the beginnings of a new leaf.  When the fruit is mature and ripe, the fruit emits a distinctive sweet smell and turns into greenish-yellow before turning yellow. 

At the farm, sometimes the flowers appear in clusters resulting in a cluster of fruits.  To ensure good quality of fruits are produced, I tend to remove some of the fruits, leaving no more than 2 per cluster.  This is due to the fact that since the fruits tend to be big, the branch may not be able to support so many fruits and may break before the fruit reaches maturity.  When picking the fruit, watch out for the "latex" that is produced as it can stain your clothes.  To remove any of these goey stuff that is stuck to your hands, use a little bit of cooking oil to liquify it before washing with soap and water.  To remove any that is stuck on your clothes, rub some cooking oil followed by some regular flour before doing your laundry.
When ripe, the color of the flesh ranges form yellow to a golden yellow to an orange-yellow and is more often eaten raw.  I find that when the flesh is firm, it can be added as an element in a tropical fruit cocktail.  When is is soft and mushy, it can be turned into a milkshake - providing good dietary fibre deliciously, helping improve your digestion.  You can add this to your list of healthy, high fibre milkshakes.  The young jackfruit is also a favorite locally to be used in cooking curries or savoury dishes either on its own or with dried salted fish, beef or chicken, and eaten with rice.  It is not recommended to be eaten raw as it has lots of "latex" and should at least be blanched until tender.

Being a small farmer Part 4 - Selecting the inhabitants

The basic principle that I follow for "inhabitants" of the farm is that if they serve as food or therapy, then I will select it for introduction or retention at the farm.  The second principle is: I plant or grow only what I like :).  The third is the preservation of our natural heritage.  In selecting the plants, I have chosen to have plants that I consider to be short term revenue producers like the vegetables, mid term revenue produces such as fruits and long term such as surian.  However both the long term and mid term can generate revenue in the interim.  Annuals and perennials as well as evergreen are also taken into consideration as this will affect the maintenance work that needs to be done.  The plants and trees that we have at the farm include:
  1. Fruits: Bananas, Rambutan, Soursop (Durian Belanda), Durian, Jackfruit (Nangka), Cempedak, Mangosteens, Jambu Madu, Longan (Mata Kucing), Mango, Calamansi (Limau Kasturi).
  2. Herbs and therapeutic plants/trees: Cat's whiskers (Misai Lucing), Ruku, Selasih, Lemon Basil (Kemangi), Cosmos Dianthus (Ulam Raja), Tumeric, Lemongrass, Senduduk Hutan, Cilantro, Lengkuas, Ginger, Ginger torch (Bunga Kantan), Jeruju, Bebuas, Surian, Kaffir Lime (Limau Perut).
  3. Roots and Tubers: Tapioca, Sweet potatoes, Yam (Keladi)
  4. Vegetables etc.: Kailan, Sawi (Choy Sum), Cabbage, Tomatoes, Kangkong, Spinach, Bird Chillies (Cili Padi), Long Beans, Aubergine (Terong) and Turkey Berry (Terong pipit).
As there are various soil types at the farm, careful consideration is taken when selecting the location where it is planted to promote healthy plants and trees.  Thought is also put into how the plants can co-exist so as to promote benefits for both such as a tree providing a semi-shady area for plants that prefer semi-shade.  I have found that many plants or trees serve multiple purposes - some as food and at the same time can be used for therapeutic purposes or even as a bio-cleansing agent or pesticide.  I continuously seek to increase my knowledge on each plant or tree at the farm and I am continuously surprised at what I find.  Nature is definitely bountiful.

In line with making it an integrated farm, I have elected to rear chickens and fish.  Chickens of course provide not only meat but also healthy eggs.  They also function as my insect-control mechanism feeding on the ants and various other bugs and grass.

The fish that I have selected as the primary fishes to rear are tilapia, catfish (keli) and lampam.  I find that these fishes are really versatile as they can be eaten fresh, dried and salted either with or without herbs,  and smoked.
 I have also found that both tilapia and catfish can be filleted to produce beautiful fillets that can then be prepared in various other ways for consumption other than the normal Malay or Chinese style of preparation.  I am considering having some local goats - not so much for consumption - but more for its "weed-eating" capability as well as an additional source for fertilizers.  However, more research needs to be done so that I can provide the optimum living conditions for the goats as well achieving a balance with the other inhabitants.

I am pretty much done with selecting inhabitants though I am always on the lookout for interesting plants and trees.  Now we have basically moved away from the development phase and on to the "growing" phase to increase production quantity and quality.  The journey continues......

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Durian Belanda (Soursop)

As I was doing my rounds at the farm today, I noticed some interesting things about my Soursop (Durian Belanda) tree.  The Malay name when translated to English means Dutch Durian.  Although it may have some similarities in its external appearance to a durian, it is very unlike the durian both in taste, smell and the fruit inside.  Its botanical name is Annona muricataThe soursop fruit ripens with a green skin with yellow undertones but the “needles” are no longer sharp and pointy and has turned to a brown-black color.  The flesh is white with an almost custard-like texture with hard-shell brown/.black seedsThe nearest taste that I can think of that is similar is soft green apple.

My interest in this plant was first raised when a customer at my Sunday morning market asked me if I sold Soursop leaves or know where he could obtain some.  He was from Thailand and I asked him what he wanted it for and he explained that it was for his brother that had stones in his gall bladder.  I provided him the leaves the following week and for a few more weeks after that and he told me that it helped improve his brother's condition.  Something so simple!

Based on my research on this tree and its fruit, I am quite astounded to learn about its benefits.  The whole tree - stem, bark, leaves, flower and fruit - are purported to have many therapeutic and medicinal properties.  The extracts from the leaves and stems are reported to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties in attacking the malignant cells,  In some traditional medicine, the leaves and bark are crushed and boiled and the resulting mixture is strained and consumed.  It is also purported to prevent cancer by consuming it periodically such as once a week.  There appears to have been many studies conducted specifically in the treatment of cancer.  Based on a study by Purdue University, the phytochemical Annonaceous acetogenins has demonstrated its ability to attack cancerous cells whilst not affecting healthy cells.
In Brazil, their traditional medicine men have used the plant to treat hypertension, influenza, rashes, neuralgia, arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, dyspepsia, ulcers, ringworm, scurvy, malaria, dysentery, palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, fever, boils, muscle spasm.  In Thai and Malay traditional medicine, the leaves extract that was obtained by boiling the leaves have been consumed to treat liver and gall bladder ailments.

This tree grows tall and is not "rounded" - it just seems to get tallerHowever, by pruning the branches, it encourages new branches to form.   The flower has an interesting shape and unless you are looking for it, you can easily miss it, hidden amongst the leaves.  The petal is a light green and the inner part of the flower is almost a light peach colour. 

This flower then becomes a brown colored bud-like shape that if you didn't know, would think that it has dried-up. 

You might even be tempted to remove it.  However, that would be a mistake as it is the beginnings of the fruit.  At a glance the fruit may appear like a durian but it does not have the sharp points.  The fruit is green in color that will turn into a lighter shade as it ripens.  To harvest, cut the fruit from the fruit stem.  I find that if you try to twist it off the stem, it may injure the branch and this can adversely affect the tree.

Based on research by USDA:
  1. It is an excellent source of vitamin C
  2. Has a high fiber content which can prevent constipation
  3. Contains half the potassium in bananas which can help prevent leg cramps
  4. Its high magnesium content can help prevent water retention especially for women who experience this in PMS.
  5. Good source of thiamin, the B vitamin needed for aerobic energy production, the process where oxygen is used to convert sugar into usable energy
  6. Loaded with the trace material copper which is essential for healthy bones.  It also helps boost the effectiveness of vitamin D, which promotes the absorption of calcium.
  7. A good source of niacin which studies have shown to have significant benefits on levels of HDL, the good cholesterol
  8. Good source of folate which is a mineral that is recommended to prevent deficiencies during pregnancy for pregnant women.
  9. Good source of iron, an essential element in the body producing healthy red blood cells
  10. Rich in riboflavin where studies have shown can help prevent migraines.
With its good content of iron and vitamin K, it promotes production of red blood cells hence it is sometimes used in alternative therapy for anemics.

As with anything good, over-consumption can lead to fatigue so based on my research, moderation is recommended and the consumption rate is three leaves as a tea, once a day.  At the farm, we produce soursop tea so that it can be easily stored and be ready on-demand.  It can be air-dried the chopped leaves and and to make tea, just steep it in just-boiled water for about 10 minutes.  It produced a golden-brown tea with a distinct smell of soursop.  The tea has a slightly sweet taste with the soursop flavor.  I enjoyed drinking it warm.  As a farm produce, we produce the tea using a dehydrator to dry the leaves.  

If you have a soursop tree and would like to make the tea yourselves, select mature leaves (starting from the the third or fourth leaf of the stalk) and you can either dry the leaves before or after "chopping" them to pieces.  As with harvesting of the fruit, use garden scissors to cut the leaves at the leaf stem.  You can also make an infusion by simmering the fresh leaves in a pot of water for about 10-15 minutes.  The drinks can be consumed hot or cold.  Happy growing the tree and trying the fruit and teas.

Updated: 25 July 2017

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Being a small farmer Part 3 - Finding balance

Having an integrated farm is a challenge of balancing the natures of the various elements.  Since the goal is to go as natural as possible, we raise free-range kampung chicken so this means that they are free to wander all over the farm.  By nature they will scratch the ground looking for insects and worms to feed on as well as pecking at the young shoots.  Being what they are, they are also capable of flying quite a distance - I have watched them fly as high as 2m across the fish ponds which is about 10m wide.  So fencing off areas is not really feasible.  While they serve a function as pest control mechanism, they also become the pest.
At the same time, there are all those insects and worms that just love to munch their way on the leaves and for some reason, they tend to leave the weeds alone!  The rule is no chemical pesticides because not only do I not want to introduce them into the vegetable, albeit may be traces of it, I also do not want it to leach into the ground and making its way into the pond or the water system.  At the same time, not all insects and worms are bad - some insects are natural predators to the insects that are pests.  I also want to have earthworms and they are the natural soil aerator as well as natural mechanism for improving the soil.
I also have 10 cats and I need to protect my vegetables from them too.  In spite of having a large area for them to do their "business", they like to dig around the "softer" soil of the plant beds.  On top of that, when they decide to play catch, it wreaks havoc on the plants.  These cats serve a purpose of keeping what I consider pests to a minimum - I haven't seen a rat or mouse since I started having them on the farm and the smaller snakes have also seen to disappear - some were caught by them and maybe the others decided to find better living conditions.
I am constantly working on ways to better improve the balance so that I can produce the best.  Every day is a learning experience and nothing beats going through it and my mind is constantly challenged to try and figure out the solutions to issues.

I now plant all my leafy vegetables in polybags and there are placed in the greenhouse so that they are protected from the chickens and to a certain degree, the insects.  This also helps to ease controlling the weeds.  For climbers like long beans, they are also planted in polybags but each polybag is surrounded by "tube" fence that  keeps the chickens and goose from getting to them whilst at the same time providing a support structure for them to climb.

My tomatoes are also planted in polybags and when they are big enough, will be surrounded by the fence-tube to provide the support structure they need.  The tomato plants are also placed in the greenhouse.
We try to compost as much as possible, returning back to the earth what is good, in the effort of continuing to balance our environment.  In this manner, all the weeds have a function - they become fertilizers later. 
Finding balance is important after all, every living thing has a right for the best and we all co-exist.