Friday, 20 March 2015

Suria Helang Lui Farm

Suria Helang Lui was born out of the vision to create an integrated organic farm maximising nature's bounty.  It is located near Kampung Paya Lebar, Batu 23, Sg. Lui, Hulu Langat Selangor. with Sg. Lui cutting through the land.  Development of the farm which is 2.5 acres in size started in 2009 with the construction of a utility room and purpose-specific area clearing as well as the creation of a fish pond.  With the availability of water within the surrounding area, polypipes were laid from the water source to provide water supply to the farm.  In 2012, a second set of polypipe was laid for the specific purpose of providing water for the fish pond to improve the water supply.

Currently the farm is comprised of various types of fruit trees, vegetables section, greenhouse, fish pond, chicken run and the farmhouse.  There is always room for improvements hence we have a dynamic nature, always with the vision in mind.  Amongst the fruit trees that we have planted are bananas (at last count 17 varieties), rambutan, pulsar, cempedak, manggis, nangka, lima kasturi, jambu madu and a few others.  In addition, we have two types of tapioca as well as sweet potatoes.

We operate a fully organic farm hence all the vegetables planted are organic using either rain or the fresh water source.  The vegetables are planted in the greenhouse and in our vegetable section.  Amongs the vegetables planted are aubergines, tomatoes, cabbages, kailan, pak choy, choy sum,  bitter board (peri a kayak), long green beans, speckled gourd, spinach, kangkung, cucumbers and several others.  Basically, it is all the vegetables that I want to eat as it is our principle to not sell what we do not want to consume.  In the beginning we relied on commercial organic pest repellants ut in the last few herbs, we have developed our own for use at the farm based on produce from the farm and it has worked well.  We use commercial organic fertiliser as well as produce our own E.M.

Our fish pond resembles a small river, passing though the farm with one end of the water source from the piped water and it flows out to Sg. Lui.  Hence, water is flowing 24 hours through the fish pond resulting in a fish that does not have any "muddy" door or taste.  The fish are fed with produce from the farm and supplemented with fish pellets.  To further ensure that we have good quality water for the fish, we use certain plant-based produce to further act as a cleansing agent.  With the incoming water, we also have lots of small river fish and shrimps as well as snails (siput) that come in with the water, further enhancing the productivity of the fish pond.

The greenhouse has a dual function.  Apart from being an area where I can grow the more vulnerable vegetables, it is my testing site for vegetables.  It also serves as a place where I can start seedlings.

I also love herbs, both as a seasoning as well as for adding to salads and creating teas.  Amongst the herbs we have are misai kucing, holy basil (ruku), lemon basil (kemangi), ulam raja, kadok, turmeric, galanggal, ginger torch, lemon grass, citronella and various other plants that have traditional therapeutic values.  As the soil composition of the farm varies form area to area, the plants are planted on areas suitable for it.

The farmhouse is a simple house aimed at supporting the functions of the farm.  Hence it has all the basic amenities along with a big kitchen - the area where we prepare our produce for market.

No integrated farm would be complete without some farm animals so we have the kampung chicken, which provides eggs as well as organic chicken for cooking. As we continue to evolve, I am enjoying this adventure which I hope to enjoy for as long as possible.  For regular updates, please visit our FB page under Suria Helang Lui.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Cabbage Saga

I first wrote about planting cabbages 2 years ago and have since learnt more about it.  It still remains in my top 10 favourite vegetable, not only for the taste but also for the versatility and nutrition.  I still depend on commercial cabbage seeds as I haven't figured out how to get my own seeds but this time around I am keeping one plant and letting it grow to see what happens as an experiment.  Cabbages are notoriously slow growers especially in comparison to other leafy vegetable like the choy sum or pak choy. It takes about 4 months before they produce a good head of cabbage.

I found that space area for a growing cabbage is important in the resulting size of the cabbage.  I experimented growing the cabbages at different length of separation of the stem and also in various sizes of polybags.  I get best results when the planting space between plants is at least 2 feet or 60 cm.  If there is a lack of water, you can see the leaves wilting but if you water it as soon as possible, you can see them perk up after about 1 hour.  So, this is a good gauge for me to see that the plants have enough water.  As with many other plants, it doesn't like soggy soil so I make sure that the soil mix I use has good drainage but yet remain moist and I achieve it by using sufficient organicc matter in the soil mix.

By going organic and not using any growth hormones, my cabbages are not big but its leaves are tightly packed and the cabbage head weighs anywhere from 400-600 gm each.  I fertilise it with organic fertilisers (Vermicompost)  and also use an EM spray (home-made).  As the cabbage grows, I will periodically remove the old leaves at the bottom and top up the soil with some organic matter mixed with vermicompost.  I know it is time to top up with some soil when I see fine white roots at the soil surface.

I find that the biggest pest to the cabbage is the ulat bulu and the caterpillars.  They can really much their way through the leaves.  I have yet to find a fool-proof organic pesticide or pest-deterrent so I check the plants often and pick off those crawlers.  However, handle them carefully and I find that touching them bare hands causes an allergic reaction to me -  the skin gets irritated and itchy.  I find that spraying them at least once a week with the beneficial bacteria mixed with serai wangi also helps control the leaf-eating pests.  Remaining organic is important for me as I love eat these vegetable raw and since the leaves are what is consumed, using any chemical pesticide will remain on the leaves, even if it is minute amounts.

The cabbage can be harvested when the lower leaves have turned into a dark green colour whilst the cabbage head remains a lighter green.  You can also notice leaves starting to sprout from the stem below the main cabbage growth.  The baby cabbage leaves are also edible so don't throw them away.

Once the cabbage head is harvested, the stem with the roots can be replanted and you will get baby cabbages growing off the side.  Whilst you may not get a cabbage head again, these baby cabbage leaves can be harvested and turned into a vegetable dish.

There are so many ways to eat cabbages: raw cabbages can be made into sales, coleslaw and as ulam; cooked cabbages as a vegetable dish, stir-fried, in a soup or sayer lemak, to name a few.

There are purported to be many health benefits to eating cabbages:

  • It is high in vitamin K and anthocyanins that help with mental function and concentration by preventing nerve damage and improving your brain's defines against Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
  • Low in fat and high in fibre which will help in your digestive system.
  • The high content in vitamin C and sulphur helps the body to remove toxins such as free radicals and uric acid.
  • Purported to have cancer preventive compounds which inhibits cancer timor growth.
  • Has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

Hence it is a good vegetable to add to my vegetable menu selection.