Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Friday Miracles at the Farm

At the eco-farm last Friday, i.e. 25/1/08, I witnessed two miracles of nature before my eyes.

Firstly, around 8.10 pm Daisy, our four years old cat, gave birth to two kittens which we decided to name them as Einstein and Inul on the second day.

I felt privileged by Daisy allowing me to photograph and video the whole episode. Below are snapshots of the bigger family.

Einstein, the male is at the top of the pix, looking rather dark and black. Inul, the female is of lighter complexion but nonetheless of very mixed colours.

So now its , "Four is Enough". After two days old the new additions are taken to a family box for photo taking. Macy Grey is happy and feels comfortable , whilst Daisy appears very caring.
Second Miracle
Secondly, the oil palm tree with identification tag no: J2/ZD-31, showed inflorescences after about 20 months old ,when it was just a minute seedling with a radicle and a shoot. This species is of Golden Hope 500 series and was imported from Tawau, Sabah.

This seedling was planted in-situ fresh from our on site nursery sometimes in December, 2006.

A longer view of the flowering oil palm tree. Note the landscaping plants being dug out around it
as intermediate harvests.

Close up view of the inflorescences. Note the distance from ground level.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 and We have only just begun.

A small 'lumok'tree . A very mature plant of the species can reach 30 m high.

Just before the 2007 ends, I have cleared the balance of land in our eco-farm for additional oil palm cultivation this coming new year 2008. Hopefully we go into opening up another 15 acres of adjacent land during the 2008 calender.

But today I could harvest about thirty numbers of 'lumok'fruits , also referred to 'buah terap' in Malay.

Scientifically referred to as Artocarpus lowii , the 'lumok'tree is a seasonal fruit that grows wildly in our farm. In Bintulu it bears fruits during the months of November till December without fail. For this reason a small vegetation island has been preserved during the clearing of the balance of 4 acres of land mentioned earlier to allow for the survival of lumok trees grown by earlier settlers here. It is auspicious that we start the new year with a bountiful harvest of 'lumok'fruits.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Today's Oil Palm Price

As at point of writing, the price of oil palm at Mill Gate , where farmers send their fresh fruit bunches for Bintulu area is RM 604/tonne ( see above).
The price today has doubled since more than one and a half year ago! This escalating price is good news for the oil palm farmer. As a general rule of thumb, the oil palm farmer will typically sell his fresh fruit bunches (FFB) at 1/5 of the quoted crude oil palm price (CPO) which stands at RM 3000/tonne today.
What are the chances that it will stay favourably in the near future?
Judging from recent reports by Moody's Investors Servic, for 2008 the high demand and pricing will prevail for the following reasons:
1) increased consumption in emerging Chindian markets ( China and India )
2) demand for crude palm oil as bio fuel source ( e.g. Europe )
Besides ,I think market speculation on resource or commodity -based stock exchange counters due to palm oil enjoying evaluation as 'good assets' help prop up sentiments of oil palm as a prospective commodity investment.
All told, isn't these signs of positive economic redress for the Malaysian political economy? i.e.
increased income for the rural household.

Recycle rain water at Eco-farm

This month we are right in the midst of the 'landas' or monsoon season when rain is a daily occurrence. Despite having it in abundance nothing should go to waste. The rain water is recycled for drinking, cooking, washing and general cleaning purposes. The plus point about recycled rainwater is that it is not tampered with chemical, as in piped water distributed throughout Bintulu town by the local water regulatory and supply authority here called LAKU.

How can a simple act of recycling rainwater help with improving our quality of life?

# Reduce usage of piped water, which process involves the importation of chemicals from foreign countries like China and energy to drive the mechanical pumps at the water intake points and along distribution lines network, help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

# Saving on domestic expenditure from reduced water consumption . Savings can be used for other quality purchases.

Rainfall Statistics for Malaysia

# 3000 mm/ yr but only 3% is consumed. The rest goes into streams, rivers ,surface runoff and underground.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Grade A Vegetables for Free!

Grade B 'midin', sold at a local 'tamu' , jungle produce market at Bintulu town.

Living in an eco-farm can be extremely healthy and plain simple lifestyle. Just imagine that after every rain ( and during this months of November and December ' landas season' or monsoon rain season they are amazingly heavy and on daily basis) young fronds of 'midin ' the local jungle fern will exhibit themselves as young and succulent leaves. They mushroomed in abundance along the streams and wet basins.

Notice the 'midin' rhizomes in thickets and climbing big trees.

In our farm, there three small streams that merge into a bigger meandering stream and on their sides the damp and swampy areas are retained for a good reason. As you can see in the picture, the flat areas are fantastic grounds for the growth of 'midin' ( stenochlaena palustris).

This is a very common fern growing in sunny or lightly shaded areas. There are many names given by the local people here in Bintulu for this wild fern. The Malays call it 'lemiding' or 'rambai', while the Bintulu Melanaus call it 'jiyai'. This fern has been eaten as vegetables for generations. But with modernisation, it is harder to get them due to the disappearnace of its native growing conditions with the onset of urban sprawl. This jungle and wayside fern can now fetch good suplementary income for the local farmers who bring them to the local jungle produce markets called 'tamu' throughout Sarawak.

Grade A 'midin'

Being gathered from the wild, as a vegetable, it is not subjected to chemicals and thus very safe to consume. Today the ferns are served in 5 star hotels and ordinary restaurants and are becoming a delicacy at national level looking at its popularity among Peninsular Malaysian tourists and visitors who are slowly taking a liking to it.. This fern can be served fried with the local shrimp paste,called 'belacan' of which the Bintulu variety is most popular in Malaysia nowadays, thanks to the 'midin' phenomena. It can also be fried with oyster sauce and garlic. Some people like to eat them as salad( 'ulam'). However when fried it is best served hot.

Over at our eco-farm, you can see them growing in thickets. This is due to its creeping rhizomes. But they can be adventurous and will climb big trees.

'Midin' is a rich source of iron ( for low blood count) and vitamin A ( beta karotene, superb for night blindness). 'Midin' is an " in thing" these days to savour for it has gained reputation as a 5 star hotel offering . For us at the farm, it is a Grade A vegetable that is obtainable freely . The more we prune the thickets, the more young fronds will emerge and multiply and the lesser the unruly thickets get.


Holttum, R.E.(1982) Plant life in Malaya. Longman Malaysia SdnBhd.,KualaLumpur.

Hoe, Voon Boon, Sim P. & Hon, Chin Thim ( 1988) Sayur- sayuran dan Buah-buahan hutan di Sarawak. Deparment of Agriculture, Sarawak.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kambatik Eco-farm Panoramas

It's a Kambatik World out there! Kambatik = Kampung + Batik. Kampung connotes rural, Malay traditional lifestyle, and batik represents colour inspirations, active composition and Malaysian identity. View looking WEST.
View looking SOUTH

View looking EAST.
Here are some scenic shots of my "kambatik eco-farm" taken from higher ground. Notice the bright orange/red/yellow colours of the eugenia longifolia young leaves in stark contrast to the dark green leaves of the oil palm trees. Eugenia longifolias are medium size trees ( max. ht. 5 m), that were planted here about two and a half years ago as "advance growing trees".
They were planted earlier than the oil palm trees for many reasons. They prevent soil erosion on steep slopes, home for wildlife, shade and beautification purposes ( avenue/boulevard look) thus helping to delineate the untarred roads better, especially when you have to manouver the roads in heavy rain at night. Some would call this fuction as engineering pupose!.
The oil palm trees are now mostly 15 months planted in-situ. That means another one whole year t0 wait before they bear fruits and producing the commercial success our " blood, sweat and tears" are looking forward to.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Heliconia Harvest

A florescence bract of heliconia latispatha, palnted "wildly" next to an oil palm tree.
A spray of " sassy pink" as cut flowers to thrill any unsuspecting visitors to our cottage.
While clearing Zone D this morning, I stumbled upon masses of heliconia plants. There must have been about five varieties just at one location. Next to the oil palm tree I was tending my eyes were caught by a small clump of heliconia latispatha ( having tiny green flowers) . And since the weather was very perfect for working this morning, I decided to have a heliconia harvest. I got hold of a few long stalks of pink heliconias , commonly named " sassy pink ". I placed them inside a big jar outside the cottage door as cut flowers, ready to thrill my visitors.
Heliconias are said to have originated from this part of the world ( South East Asia) besides tropical America and some Pacific Islands. I my eco-farm, there are planted as exotics. I particularly admire its dramatic large leaves and spikes of colourful bracts. The actual flowers are tiny and insignificant. The inflorescence bracts are usually bright red, yellow or both but some may have greenish tints or pink. At present , I have six varieties of heliconia plants here at the farm. There are grown here "wildly", replicating its natural growth conditions. Best grown under shade or semi-shade, though some species prefer too the direct sun.
Heliconias are very easy to grow. They love humus- rich and well-drained soil. They are easily propagated by division of the root stock or suckers. They bloom all year round. Heliconias are excellent for ornamental planting especially the heliconia humilis( lobster claw), heliconia psittacorum, heliconia latispatha and heliconia rostrata ( fire crackers). For landscapers , heliconias are preferably planted in a group or en masse planting composition.
Nowadays it makes commercial sense to grow heliconias because the demand for them as tropical exotics are great in Europe and the US, used primarily as flower arrangements. A check online, I found that there is a Heliconia Society International founded in 1985 and a website address at http://www.heliconia.org/.
For a considerable time, heliconias have been variously associated with the banana family or the bird-of - paradise family, but are now placed in their own family, i.e. heliconiacae, in the order of zingiberrales. There are more than 100 evergreen perennial species in this genus and hybrids are created now and then.
Be ever prepared to stumble upon newer heliconia hybrids the next time you visit a plant nursery.