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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Biggest Fruit in My Garden

Artocarpus integer ( "CEMPEDAK " )
Note the size of the fruits and the manner of fruiting

These trees must have been here more than 50 years ago, looking at its height and size. Whereas the oil palm trees next to the left are just about two years old.
Due to the rain today( 7/11/07) which lasted the whole morning and afternoon intermittently, I decided to take a break in the mid afternoon to take a higher view of the farm. Look at what I found on higher ground ! A relative of the jackfruit , locally called the "cempedak". The cempedak is the largest fruit you can find at my farm. There are about fifteen numbers of such trees here but the largest must have been planted more than 50 years ago.
The species artocarpus integer is indigenous to Sarawak, Borneo and Sumatra. The artocarpus family's name derived from the Greek words, artos=bread and karpos=fruit. Looking at the size of the fruits it is of no wonder why it was popularly grown by our forefathers. It was previously a staple fruit that could supply plenty of food sources for the family. Just imagine the bounty of having the fruits in your garden. Its young fruits are chopped into smaller pieces and mixed with coconut milk ( "santan") and served as vegetables. Its seeds when boiled are eaten with brown sugar or honey as snack. Its ripe fruits flesh ( aril) are eaten raw as table fruit or can be fried with corn flour and served as cakes for the afternoon tea. The ripe fruits can also be processed into jam, jelly and sweet which the locals here call "dodol". In other instances the fruits can be dried first and then smoked to be kept as dried fruit preserves.
The cempedak trees in my eco-farm bear fruits seasonally and in Sarawak different regions experience different fruiting seasons. In Bintulu for instance, the trees bear fruits from October till March the following year. It is interesting to note that the fruits are produced from the main tree trunks or branches. The trees can grow to 20 m high, have thick canopy of dark green, shiny leaves.
Today there is renewed interest to grow this tree in open parks and spaces under edible landscaping concept. There are frequently visited by wildlife especially the squirrel and flying foxes , which act as natural seed dispensers.
Looking up the tree, I begin to realise how we are like trees!.... in that we need space and we must create new leaves and direction in order to grow.
Carter,W.V.(1984) Riches of the Rainforest . Oxford University Press,Singapore.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Drumming surprise at Zone B

View of an oil palm tree at Zone B, looking west. The drumstick tree is in the background towards the right.
The 'drumstick tree' bearing seed pods, used much in Indian curries.

Today the weather was excellent throughout the day for working in direct sun. Since early morning till about 5 pm ( that's when my worker calls it a day) the sky was cloudy and the temperature was very comfortable for working outside. When temperatures are less heaty like today, you'll find me working longer hours in the open.

Today my worker whose name by the way is Ati, completed grass cutting works at Zone B. That encouraged me to walk about in the area and sooner than later it brought me a very pleasant surprise. I saw the drumstick tree bearing fruit in two long pods and one slightly thin but nonetheless long green pod. This is a real bonus because it is the first time ever that I see a drumstick seed pod hanging from a tree. Do you know what a drumstick tree is?

Scientifically known as moringa oleifera , the drumstick tree is a small tree that will reach a maximum height of 8 m. It has an open irregular crown. It gives white and gold flowers which are scented. The seeds in the pod are much used in Indian curries.

Originating from Africa or Western Asia, it is native to Northern India. The trees are deciduous and have attractive foliage that has a fern-like appearance. It was about a year ago that I planted this specimen tree from a cutting my younger sister gave me in Miri. This time around however I'll have the golden chance to propagate them through those seeds once they are ripe later.


Fong, Chin Hoong and Enoch, Ivan C.( 1988) Malaysian Trees in Colour. Tropical Press Sdn Bhd. Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Garden Scents and MOre CENTS

A variegated species of gardenia

Pink variety of the plumeria or frangipani species
Working in my garden is working with fresh air and much scents. This is because all over the farm scented plants are grown to produce much needed perfumery. It does make up for the tiredness and refreshes our lungs and soul even for a tiny speck of a moment. Well it's also a kind of free advertising for our garden visitors...call it the gardenia air ambeince!
My particular favourite is the common gardenia or sometimes referred to as the Cape Jasmine because it was once mistaken to originate from the Cape of Good Hope. Locally called "bunga cina" it is believed now to be originated from mainland China.
Another plant that has an interesting comeback in modern town landscaping in Malaysia despite its traditional connotations as a 'flower of the graveyard' is the highly scented "bunga kemboja" or the great frangipani ( plumeria obtusa ). The beauty of this plant is that it has very bunchy sprays of large white flowers with yellow tints in the center of the flower. Shown above is a pink variety.
In my eco-farm, these plants are grown in advance for landscaping purposes and therefore can be dug out and rebagged to be sold. In the meantime enjoy the garden fragrance!

Harvest a Plenty

I was clearing the undergrowth around the oil palm tree at Zone D yesterday afternoon. Look at what I have uncovered for the picking. There was a clump of wild bananas, a pandan clump, various heliconias species and towards the right of the picture above is our popular local herb called the kunyit, scientifically referred to as curcuma domestica.

In my planting design , the final harvest will be the oil palm fruits. In the interim period , bananas can be planted and herbs for medicinal and culinary purposes. The tiny space of slope is planted with a variety of plants to produce diversified harvest at different timing. There is thus optimisation of land use longitudinally and latitudinal.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Kambatik Eco-farm Overview

This eco-farm does not look like your kind of an oil palm holding. There is much diversity. For instance exotics are a plenty . There is the wild banana bearing tiny fruits. But alongside are also commercial banana species. There are a collection of herbal plants like the fragrant pandan, lemon grass and kunyit( curcuma domestica). Contemporary fashionable ornamental plants like the heliconia and plumeria are here to stay. Other interesting plants like "the tree of heaven" or tongkat ali ( eurycoma longifolia ) is grown here too for its aphrodisiac potentialities. It is yet to seen when the first batch of tongkat ali trees bear fruits here.
The surrounding hills and slopes are very much retained. The streams are preserved so that the torrents will overflow the river banks. The water features here attract the red dragon flies that has become our farm's mascot. Natural landscaping where possible are retained for many reasons but not the least as preserve for wildlife especially the wild pigeons that flock here in the evening to drop by their watering holes.
The creation of this eco-farm will be the subject of this blog just as well as the starring characters in the farm like wild birds and animals.
The mission here is to create a sustainable oil-palm farm, incorporating the philosophy of unity in diversity. The concept is " a harvest a day makes farming the fun way ". Among the strategies to achieve the above are going organic, nature conservation and recycling.
The farming credo employed here is " forward with nature". Our success criteria is 'meeting present needs without reducing future potential.'

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The timeliness of eco-farming

Why is it timely to do eco-farming right now?
For one thing, Bintulu is now facing the 'oil palm boom'. Thus it is timely to track this phenomena in terms of the lives of small holders who do farming the ecological way that will help sustain this economic activity to new heights and more sustainable, naturally and financially.
Secondly, the rising oil prices have led to an interest in "bio fuel" and other alternative sources of energy, thus putting more pressure on agricultural land. Thus it is necessary to track this in a micro-sense like what can your eco-farm contribute.
Finally, global climatic change especially on the problems of global warming makes conservation a welcome agenda on the local, national, regional and ultimately the global level. Thus the importance of greening our business for example the eco-farming way.

Rain ,Rain,Don't Go Away! Come Again Someother Day!

There are dark clouds gathering on the southern horizon. The wind felt cooler. Soon thunder drums the humid air. Rain throws its magic on this tried and troubled earth. The small stream suddenly transforms into a raging river with water overflowing its banks. For a brief moment nature seems to be so much alive, powerful and essential. And we tiny humans in the massive physical landscapes delight the coming of cool temperatures, water that fills our containers for drinking, washing and bathing. For a while we take a short rest from tending the crops, and walking through the footpaths and slopes. It has been ages since nature has excited us, satisfies our wants and subject us to its wonder and workings.

We will continue to live with nature because it is our envelope. It is our climate. It is the air we breathe. The ground we gravitate. The seas we sail. The skies we scale. It is our soul's lost and last frontier. To give it peace. So that we live by its love and prosper more.

First Blog

First things first. I created this blog today, around 4 pm while taking a rest after a good spiritual workout at Zone B , facing south-west towards Tatau. Cleared the undergrowth around 7 nos of oil palm trees and translplanted 10 nos of young banana trees at the same location.