Thursday, 18 July 2013

Ramadhan 1434 at SHL

Fasting does not mean that you stop doing what you are doing but I view it as a time to review, prepare, improve and adjust.  An opportunity to "hijrah" to be better.  It has been four years since I first started out on transforming SHL to overgrown "jungle" to a farm and it now does not look anything like what it used to although I have tried to preserve the land contour as much as possible.  I am not so much a lover of totally flat land - to me, it doesn't look natural and you will have gotten rid the rich, beautiful top soil by bull-dozing the land.

Through the years, and many experiments, we have decided to focus on a few vegetables, albeit in favor of what I love.  The chosen ones: cabbage, tomatoes, long green beans, French beans, baby cucumbers, petola, okra, the green mustard family (sawi and the like) and a variety of aubergine (terung).  Also selected are peria and chili.  We also plant tapioca and I am never sure what category to place this in as we do use the young leaf shoots for vegetables and the tuber can be eaten in many ways - both savory and sweet.  The aim is to make the produce available every time we go to market.  Taking the lessons learnt from the soil composition, soil preparation, care and maintenance of them, we are starting a new cycle.  It is a great time for us to do this as we do not do Sunday market during Ramadhan and re-start two weeks after Syawal.  With this time frame, it gives us time to grow and care for them.

A few days before Ramadhan, we completed the back-breaking work of creating planting beds and mixing goat/cow manure into the soil.  It is mainly manual labor as we do not use any herbicide so removal of grass and weeds and turning the soil give a superb workout.  We leave the beds for a week whilst we start seeding and by the time we feel that it is time to plant the beds, the seedlings are ready to be transferred.  It is also a time for us to construct the support for the climbers - reusing materials as much as possible such as the fencing material that have been removed now that we have replaced the boundaries with a wall and zinc fence.
It has also been raining almost daily so this gives the soil a good water supply helping with the decomposition of the manure and spreading of the nutrients.  The planting beds are covered with black plastic material to prevent weeds and to reduce the weeding required around the planted area.

The fruit tree planting is also done - have so we are moving to care and maintenance on the fruit trees. I am happy with the selection that we limau bali, calamansi (limau kasturi), jackfruit (nangka), cempedak, soursop (durian belanda), delima, avocado, dukong, coconut and of course, an extensive variety of bananas.   The list I think is good enough considering the amount of space we have: durian, mangosteen, mango, longan, papaya, rambutan, pulasan, Quite a few of the trees have begun fruiting so we are able to enjoy the "fruits of our labor".

On the herbs and condiments front, there are still some varieties that I would like to plant and I need to make some time for this area.  The tea-making herbs that I am focusing on are misai kucing, lemon basil (kemangi) and ruku.  These are my favorites and I like the therapeutic properties that they have.  The herbal plants selected are based on their traditional uses of Malay homeopathy and its therapeutic values.  For condiments, we have turmeric, galangal (lengkuas), ginger torch (bunga kantan), ginger and lemon grass (serai) - these I consider to be the staple condiments in a lot of dishes that I cook along with the other herbs.

Of course no farm is complete without some animals.  The chicken count is up to 60 now of the ayam kampong variety.  From time to time, I get people who come by who want to buy my chicken but they want to buy the cockerel.  I am always suspicious because when I say I only sell my chicken slaughtered and they say that they prefer to slaughter it themselves.  When I offer the hens, they are not interested.  I know that the kind that I have is what some crazies look for in cock-fighting and this is one activity that I am against.  This Ramadhan we will be selling 20 chickens as part of the activity of breeding and growing them.  We will need to do some repairs and maintenance work on the chicken run which I am planning to start after Ramadhan.We also have fresh water fish but this will be a topic in a future blog. 

All in all, you could say that we are still active in Ramadhan and these activities remind us of the bounty from Allah s.w.t.  To all my Muslim readers, we wish you Selamat menunaikan ibadah di bulan Ramadhan yang mulia ini.

Durian, oh delicious durian

It seems that the current trend is to go for durians with fancy names and
numbers like Musang King, D101, D24, etc.  My preference is still for original varieties.  Now that I have the farm, I can plant the types of durians that I like.  So, my adventure with propagating durians begins.  There is only 1 durian tree at the farm and it is the type that I like, creamy sweet with yellow flesh.  This tree is obviously planted a long time ago and probably from a seed.  Last year, I only got about 10 fruits from the tree and this year it looks like I may get a good harvest.  Every year we have a Durian Fest and I hope in one of those years, the timing of the fruiting will coincide and we will be able to serve this great tasting durian.

A few months ago, I got my hands on some durian tembaga and I really loved it so I decided to try to plant it from
the seeds.  From the whole fruit, I got 8 good seeds whicht I planted in a polybag.  Out of the 8, 6 germinated.  The soil mixture that I use is one with rather high organic matter.  I have not fertilized it, letting it obtain its nutrients from the soil mixture.  I water them when the soil has a low water content, never letting it dry out.
The durian baby trees are now transplanted into the ground and insyAllah, in 7-8 years, it will start fruiting.  Until then, it is maintained every 3 months to help its growth. 
There are several reasons why I prefer to plant them although it will take longer before fruiting:
  1. I prefer plants and trees that have not been genetically modified.
  2. Trees plant from seeds lasts longer so it will be my heritage for the next generation to enjoy and possibly earn some good seasonal income.
  3. The taste, texture and color is great - nothing beats naturalness.
  4. Preserving the heritage for future generations - nowadays, most people plant the new varieties so this variety may be lost if not replanted - one of the goals of SHL.
InsyAllah, in about 7-8 years, I will be able to taste the fruits.  Even if I don't, I am happy to play my part in preserving our durian heritage, the king of fruits :)