Spectacular, Spectacular!

Conjoined Sunflowers

Rainy days are here again, and as much as I’m missing the sun, something special bloomed in my backyard this week. Well, two of them – or is it one? Ladies and gents, I present to you my conjoined sunflowers. Aren’t they a beauty?

Together
Together

Short post, just wanted to really share this/these spectacular babies. And while we’re at it, let’s play Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower

“Unless I’m stuck by ya, You’re the sunflower.” — Post Malone, Swae Lee

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 8

Bellpepper

Today I will show you the very first fruit bearing tree that we planted in our yard: the calamansi. A little over a decade ago, D collected some calamansi seeds and planted them, carefully barricading the seedling that grew thereafter so that Rex, our labrador who was then a pup, wouldn’t destroy it. It has since then grown tall and strong, about two meters high. We trim it so that it will remain that way as it’s a bit harder to harvest the fruits if it’s taller – as the branches are filled with thorns. Other than its infrequent need for pruning, the tree is quite easy to maintain.

Calamansi

The calamansi is native citrus fruit widely used in the Philippines. It is small, green on the outside and yellow in the inside. On a hot day we would squeeze a bunch of fruits, add honey and water to make refreshing calamansi juice. It can also be used with soy sauce and chili pepper as condiments to dumplings and barbecued meat. For marinade, we use calamansi in the absence of lime or lemon. Of course, the skin of the fruit is added to our compost. Lastly, some people use the juice of calamansi as skin toner.

Calamansi

Chili Pepper

Next is the chili pepper. Now this one we planted from collected seeds. It sprouted within 15 days and in less than a month we already saw it flowering. It is also a low maintenance plant. The picture below shows our first harvest from this shrub. We would add it with the calamansi and soy sauce as condiment.

Bellpepper

There you have it, fruit bearing trees from our backyard. 100 percent pesticide free.

Watch out for the next parts of this series, coming soon (just waiting for my new seedlings to grow bigger).

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 7

Onions

Hello and welcome back to my sustainable living series!

Today I will show you two plants that blossomed from our kitchen scraps: the onion and mint.

Before I became a concerned citizen of the earth, I always thought that all plants came from seeds, therefore before they even grow, a load of effort is required from the ‘planter’. Imagine my delight when I found that the onion and mint that we set aside from our kitchen staples sprouted into seedlings.

MintOnions

The mint took about two weeks to start growing, while the onion took about ten days to propagate. We had to move the onion to out enclosed pot garden though, because one of the four hens started digging through it.

The perks of having these two herbs home grown include saving on trips to the supermarket, and running into possibilities of not being able to consume all that we end up buying (hence waste). More importantly we are sure we are getting fresh and organic produce.

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 6

Sprouts

I was able to stay away from rice for about the whole year of 2017 and started slipping back into the habit in 2018. So, this year I am mustering all my will power I try to cut off rice from my diet and replace it with greens.

Lettuce

It’s a good thing we are still in the cooler months, and I am quite pleased we are still able to grow lettuce at home. Here’s how the new sprouts look like. We cover them with screen because we found out that along with our mulberries, the lettuce are a source of joy by the birds that frequent our yard in the mornings. No wonder they sound so happy when I wake up. I’m happy to let them have a blast with the mulberries, but I need the lettuce for later…

Other than tossing them into salad, I also use the lettuce as a substitute for pita wrap. Sprouts

Gynura Procumbens

Another salad ingredient that we use are the leaves of the gynura procumbens. Now unlike the rest of the crops at home, I bought this baby from the local garden store. I thought they were ashitaba, only to find out months after that they’re not. I read that the gynura procumbens have medicinal benefits like treatment for cardiovascular and kidney diseases, constipation, diabetes, etc. While I am not sure if these claims are scientifically proven, all I know is that the leaves go well with salad – or soup. Gynura Procumbens

That’s all for now! See you again same time next week for the next part of this series.

Happy Tuesday!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 5

Atis

Good morning, and glad to have you guys once again for a quick tour of my backyard.

Today I will show you 2 tropical fruit bearing trees: Kamias and Atis.

Kamias

The kamias, also known as bilimbi, is a short tree whose green fruits grow in clusters. The acidic fruit is juicy and is rarely eaten raw. When I was a child I would frequent the kamias tree that grew at a vacant lot behind my grandma’s house, and bravely eat the fruit raw, dipping it in salt. As I got older I came to realize that the fruit is best used as a substitute ingredient for tamarind, for sour soup dishes like sinigang, pinangat, and paksiw. I have also been able to have a taste of kamias candy and jam. Didn’t like these much though, so I stuck on just using kamias for home cooked dishes. Kamias

In olden days, elders boiled the kamias leaves and cool the water to be used for bathing mothers with newborns. I don’t recall what the ritual is for though…

Speaking of that old tradition, the next tree I wanted to show you is the Atis tree, whose leaves are also used for new moms’ baths.

Atis

Atis

Atis, also known as sweetsop or sugar apple, is a fiber and protein rich, custard-tasting fruit. A fruit has multiple black seeds. It is also ricg in vitamin C and B6, manganese, iron, magnesium and potasium.

Our atis tree was also a pleasant surprise. We were using the seeds from a consumed fruit as part of our compost, when all of a sudden a seedling emerged. The photo above capturesthe first 2 fruits produced by our atis tree – that’s six years in the making! So I am so excited it finally yielded fruit!

What fruit bearing trees do you have in your backyard and are they also easy to maintain?

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 4

Malunggay

Hello and good morning! I’m up early to check on my darlings (animals and plants), enjoying the sound of chirping birds this cool February Tuesday.

Over the last weeks we’ve had a short tour of what I consider treasures from my backyard: from the fruit bearing trees like mulberry, papaya, rambutan, coconut, lime, to our vegetable crops like eggplant, and ginger. We also had a look at my aloe vera, a medicinal herb, and lastly I introduced you to my four lovely hens that grace us with our organic eggs.

This morning let me show you 2 of our very reliable trees. They’re self sufficient, in fact they just grew at our backyard, much to our pleasant surprise. They’re also quite easy to maintain, don’t require much.

Banana

First up is our banana tree. It’s yielded several bunches of fruit already. I love having banana for breakfast. Sometimes, I add a fruit to my smoothies as a source of natural sweetness. The leaves also serve multiple purposes. We use these as wrapper for suman, a sticky rice snack. We also use this to wrap bibingka, a sweet rice cake that is a Filipino favorite during the cooler months.

As you can see the fruits are due to be ripe soon. And with this much fruit we are sure to share them with our neighbors. This is what I like about our community, people sharing garden produce every so often.

Banana

Malunggay

Next one’s our malunggay tree. In english it’s called moringa. We use the leaves as ingredients to home cooked meals like tinola or diningding. There are many health benefits from malunggay, in fact I have seen kiosks in the supermarket selling malunggay tea.

Our tree generously produces leaves. Every fortnight, before heading out to the market, my aunt would harvest bunches of its leaves and brings them to the early morning market vendors to trade with other crops like corn. I’m so happy when she does this – isn’t it how it used to be done ages ago? She gets approximately a good 100 pesos’ worth of crops in exchange for the bunches of malunggay stalks and leaves. It’s always a treat when I wake up to sweet freshly cooked corn on the cob – a trade she made for the leaves. Malunggay

Have you ever experienced trading your home grown produce in the market, or sharing it with the community?

I hope you liked our short tour. Next week I’d show you two tropical fruit bearing trees: kamias and atis.

See you soon!

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 3

Gynura Procumbens

Hello again, and greetings from my humble abode. This is the last part of the tour of my backyard. Over the last two weeks we checked out my muberry, papaya, rambutan, aloe vera, lime and eggplant. If you have not yet read about the first 2 quick tours I wrote about, you can click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Don’t mind me as I sip on my tea while I show you around today.

I have 4 hens in the backyard, and whenever they are not moulting, we get at least one egg per hen per day. So we hardly get eggs from the supermarket anymore, and these are certified organic. Whenever we have a surplus of eggs, my aunt makes leche flan for dessert.

I have two coops for my hens, and this is where they spend the night and lay their eggs in. During the daytime they frolic around the yard. And when they do, we keep a close eye on the compost bin because there was an instance we left it open and they happily dug into it.

The hens are quite easy to take care of. They eat vegetable cuttings from the kitchen.

Free range eggs
Free range eggs and sweets

Ginger

Our ginger grew from a ginger cutting (with the eye bulb)that we planted. We thought of growing our own ginger because of its many uses. I use it everyday! On weekdays I skip coffee for breakfast and start the day with ginger and honey tea. I find it calming my tummy and soothing my throat. We also use ginger for local dishes like tinola, sinigang sa miso, and tahong soup. We planted this back in April of 2018 and is quite low maintenance. It does not require too much water. I can’t wait to get our first harvest soon.

Ginger
Ginger

That wraps up today’s tour of my humble backyard. Hope you enjoyed this one. Next week I’ll show you some fruit bearing trees.

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 2

Eggplant

Greetings from my humble home! I hope you enjoyed seeing my mulberry, papaya, coconut and rambutan trees from my backyard garden in last week’s post. If you’re new to my blog, you can click here to read about it.

In today’s tour, I’ll show you a plant that I’ve been using since I was a child, and 2 fruit and vegetable bearing crops which we use frequently when we are cooking at home. Here we go…

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is called Sabila in Filipino. It is a medicinal plant that does wonders for the skin. Ever since I was a child I would rub the sabila meat on my face and scalp. It softens and calms my skin. Now I see a aloe vera in a several Korean skin care products, and I’ve even tasted refreshing aloe vera drinks. When we started cultivating our garden, the sabila was one of the things we planter first because it’s low maintenance and fast and easy to grow.

Lime and Eggplant

The reason we planted lime is because I could cook a lot of tasty food using it. Also, surprisingly, it’s easier to get lemons from the nearest supermarkets compared to limes (they run out easily). I was pleased that it quickly grew within a few weeks from planting seeds and I look forward to its first batch of fruits.

Behind my newly grown lime plant, is a row of eggplants. Eggplants are perrenials and also easy to grow plants. We have harvested quite a few of its produce already and used them in local dishes like pinakbet, tortang talong and diningding. Eggplant

Hope you enjoyed the second part of the tour of my backyard. Next week I will show you other crops and animals (aside from my dogs) that walk around my home. Happy Tuesday!

 

Sustainable Living: Treasures From My Backyard Part 1

Organic fruits bearing trees

Organic food is harder to come by as compared to the commercially mass-produced food options in the market – those that are most likely clad in chemicals. Eating out exposes most consumers to these mass produced products, and here in Metro Manila, if I look for a restaurant that uses organic or free-range ingredients, I’d have a lesser and more expensive options. I’m glad healthy options are now more widely available – but they’re somehow concentrated in the CBDs. So for instance, if I was at my hometown at the south, or at my folks’ in the north of Metro Manila, and I’d crave for something organic for lunch, I will have to drive or commute to get to the next city where I can dine in at a selected restaurants that serve organic food.

Sustainable living is a lifestyle where I reduce my carbon footprint and limit the wastage of the planet’s resources. I can do this through Reducing, Refusing, Reusing and Recycling. This year, I’m doing more of the Refusing than Recycling. It’s part of the change that I wanted to drive starting with myself. So part of Refusing means using my own resources, and buying only as a last resort. One of the things I can produce on my own is by planting vegetables and fruits in my own backyard. In doing so, I can put my compost soil to use, and at the same time, I know for sure what I harvest are indeed organic. For the crops we plant at our backyard, we do not use pesticides and chemicals.

Let me give you a tour of my backyard garden.

Mulberry

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First stop is my mulberry tree. Its seedling was shared to me by our parish priest last year, and in a matter of a few weeks it already started yielding the mulberry fruit. Mulberries are small fruit colored pink or red. They are tart and sweet. I read about their nutritional benefits and interviewed sellers of mulberry tea from the Legazpi Sunday market and was advised they are considered superfood rich in antioxidants. They help prevent cancer and aid in digestion. For more information about mulberries, click here.

Papaya, Coconut and Rambutan

Organic fruits bearing trees
Clockwise from left: papaya, coconut and rambutan

The papaya regularly produces fruit (or vegetable?) for us at home. The fuss-free, low maintenance tree quickly propagated from the papaya seeds that we planted. When it’s still green, we use this as an ingredient for tinola, a local dish. When ripened, the fruit turns yellow in color and we eat this for breakfast as it helps with digestion. On a hot day it’s also a good idea to make papaya shake. Yum!

I got the coconut tree from the plant nursery and have been waiting for months now for it to produce fruit. I’m fond of drinking coconut juice, and we mix the coconut meat with other fruits for salad. I dream that one day soon I can go to the backyard at any time and get a coconut fruit at my heart’s desire.

Lastly, the rambutan, is a seedling for now. Rambutan is similar to lychee in taste in my opinion. Its sweet fruit is filled with antioxidants, iron and vitamin C. I can’t wait for it to grow.

That’s it for now. Next week I’ll show you some plants in my mini pot garden and along the fence of the yard. Hope you enjoyed the first part of the tour. Til we meet again!

Sustainable Living: Composting at Home

composting

Years ago I’ve heard my dad talk about composting in his backyard, and at first I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He taught me that it helps with waste management, and compost can be used as organic fertilizer for their plants at home.

I found later on that composting does not only provide free organic fertilizer, but more importantly it is a sustainable way for me to contribute to leaving a green footprint. Compost scraps that end up in the landfills produce methane – and methane emissions cause global warming. The materials that can be used for compost are readily and abundantly available at home anyway – so in short composting is free, easy, useful, and sustainable. For those that do not have a garden to use the compost soil for, I’m sure there will always be a neighbor in need of some. I remember one of our neighbors giving us compost soil when we ran short planting some herbs in our pot garden.

Compost bins can be bought from garden depots. In my home we made our own DIY compost bin by using the extra bricks that were piled up in the yard to form the bin’s walls. Then for cover, we used a scrap metal sheet. We designated a dry shaded spot at the backyard for our DIY compost bin. We made sure it is covered at all times because our animal friends love roaming around the backyard – we wouldn’t want them digging away on the compost.

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Bricks and scrap metal sheet for our DIY compost bin

At least twice a day we get to fill up the compost bin with scraps. For an efficient compost pile, we make sure that the greens (or wet) are balanced with the browns (or dry). The greens provide the nitrogen for the soil, while the browns provide carbon – that’s why they have to be balanced so that the chemical composition of the soil will be good. Examples of green or wet scraps are vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, used loose tea leaves, and chicken poop. Yep, we have 4 lovely hens in the yard that provide us our free-range organic eggs everyday. For the brown or dry scraps, we use eggshells, paper bags, toothpicks, bamboo skewers, feathers that fell off the chicken, dog fur (which we get from our dogs’ grooming combs), dried leaves and twigs from our backyard, used paper towels, and tissue paper rolls.

Lastly, we mix the compost at least twice a week so as to ensure that the moisture is balanced. If it is too dry, we add a bit of water; if it is too wet we turn the soil so the moisture is equally distributed throughout the bin. We carefully do the turning though – there are worms in the compost bin and we wouldn’t want them harmed. The worms help in the organic decomposition of the scraps.

So there you have it, a glimpse to our composting practices at home. I am glad our neighbors started a composting community.