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May 19, 2010

Proud Farmer II

Around the Klang Valley are literally hundreds of small farms producing vegetables and fruits for the insatiable appetite of city residents.

These farms are mainly unsupervised and are farmed mostly by immigrants, legal or otherwise.  Buyers will come and load up and take them to the wholesale markets.  At the wholesale markets, retailers will come to cart off their selections to sell them at pasar malam(s), stalls and other retail outlets.

Smaller buyers will come to the farms too, to buy and sell them to nearby restaurants where you have your weekend holiday meals (for the 'freshness' of the meats and vegetables).

We decided to visit one such farm situated right next to a stream feeding a river further down.  The farmer is very proud of his produce which looks appetizing, fresh, healthy with no insect or fungal damage.  It is sold at nearby restaurants and also taken to the main wholesale market in the Klang Valley.

The farm is situated in a picturesque location where senior government and corporate officials often come to take their break or to attend seminars and training courses.

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The vegetables like these long bean and angled bean are 'full', obviously crunchy and juicy, bright in color and with no insect damage.
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Lunch at these seminars and training sessions will often feature these vegetables as ulam (salad).
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Dengan Bangganya....
Here's the farmer proudly explaining how he keeps insects at bay.
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These are the fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that he uses.

He explains that he sprays the vegetables with insecticides every 3 days right up to harvest.

He gave us some samples to take back.

The vegetables reek.


The farmer is illiterate.

One of the chemicals he uses is a paraquat.  Just two teaspoons of paraquat will kill a man.  Read here on paraquat.

The insecticide he uses every 3 days until harvest is an organophosphate (OP). Read here on OP and here.  OP has been implicated in some Parkinson's or Parkinson's like diseases. 

Paraquat and OP are controlled items and require permits to purchase.  Unlicensed farms are obtaining these chemicals through illegal means.

17:20 Posted in Blog | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tags: pesticide, herbicide, weedicide

May 17, 2010

Proud Farmer I

Look At What Our Compost Did!!!

We grew a watermelon variety that normally ripens at around 2 to 3 kg (easier to sell, we thought).

Look at what our compost have done to the fruits:

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Pak Din took care of the watermelons, and he is one proud farmer! He's going to be a watermelon millionaire when he goes  back to Indonesia when his contract with us is over.
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These guys kept the watermelon free from insect attacks.
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Close up of these red ants (click for larger image).  They are fearless and have a toxic bite.  An entire nest of kerangga (weaver ants) can be wiped out by them in less than an hour. Anybody know their scientific name?

May 13, 2010

Sustainable Goat Production System - A Model

Red meat is considered bad for you.  But this was not the case 50 years ago.  There were tribes then, and still, who consume mainly meat and live normal healthy lives.  Some eskimos eat only meat throughout their lives.  Nomadic people used to consume only the meat and milk of the animals they herd.

Perhaps the problem lies with how we raise the animals.  Here's the lipids content of a sample cut of 100 grams taken from the USDA nutrients database:

Beef - saturated fat: 9.75gms, omega 6: 2.56gms, omega 3: Nil, Cholesterol: 90 mg

Lamb - saturated fat: 11.76gms, omega 6: 2.08gms, omega 3: Nil, cholesterol: 74mg

Chicken - saturated fat 2.6gms, omega 6: 1.87gms, omega 3: 0.03gms, cholesterol: 64mg.

The chicken sample had an oddity, trans fat of 0.105gms.  Wonder what are they feeding the chickens, recycled frying oil?

Compare the above with the goat meat produced from our farm:

Saturated Fats : 0.3gms, Omega 6: 140mg, Omega 3: 49.6mg, Cholesterol 51. 

The non-existence of omega 3 in industrialised meats as per the samples from the USDA database is worrying for consumer health.  The chicken had an omega 6 omega 3 ratio of 62:1.  Our goat meat has a ratio of 3:1.

Read here why a low ratio is important for your health.

This is how we produce our goat meat.  The goats are happy, the land is happy, the consumer is healthy.

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The goats are moved from field to field every 3 to 7 days. This reduces disease and intestinal worm problems.

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We choose local indigenous goats and cross them with boers to produce a herd that's resistant to local diseases, eliminating to a large extent the need for medication and dewormers.
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Local goats are chosen over imported goats for resistance to disease.
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The goats are moved to fresh fields every week. 
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Grass is planted separately, harvested, and fed to the goats.  This ensures better utilization of land and thereby reduce the demand for expanding land acreage.


An acre of land using normal grazing methods can raise a maximum 15 goats.  In our case, we can raise 200 goats on an acre of land.


With less disease and better control on the quality of grass that the goats are eating, the net result is happy goats, healthier meat for the consumers and less impact on the environment.


We are the only producer of red meat that can guarantee an omega 6: omega 3 ratio of 4:1 or better (in the world!).


May 10, 2010

Raising Free Range Chickens - Leave The Ammonia Behind!

Many readers write to us asking about diseases affecting their birds.  However, many of these problems have to do with basic management, in particular the formation of ammonia(1) in their coops.

Initial signs of excessive ammonia include eye irritation and trachea and lung problems.

Subsequent to that, secondary infection sets in - mycoplasma for one, leading to chronic respiratory disease.  Another common poultry problem is coryza resulting in a mad rush for antibiotics.  Coryza, in the Malaysian context is often the result of exposure to ammonia which corrodes the mucous membrane allowing pathogens to gain entry into the body.

So the root cause is excessive ammonia and the solution to many diseases with symptoms like gasping, coryza, swollen eyes, etc is to manage ammonia production in your poultry system, rather than treat the end-result all the time, resulting in the abuse of antibiotics.

Ammonia production also leads to environmental issues - flies, smell, leachate, etc. 

At our farm, we decided on a movable hoop house:


The hoop house design encourages air movement.  The temperature difference within / outside the house can be as high as 2 degrees celcius. 

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The hoop house is moved every 7 to 10 days.  During dry spells, 10 days.  During rainy seasons, every 7 days.  Feeders and waterers are moved every 3 days.  Don't let dung and discarded food accumulate to form ammonia.

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Lay down the bedding material.






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The house can be pulled by one man if the move is on flat land.  If it needs to be lifted, then two men is required.

Note that the old floor have been covered with dried grass to start the in-situ composting.  In no time, humus will be formed.


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Each hoop house is designed to shelter 300 800grams chickens from the sun and rain.





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The house is moved in less than 15 mins.  The chickens have clean fresh beds instantly. No necessity to remove litter and top up litter, etc resulting in labour and material costs savings.




Resulting in healthy, happy, nutritious chickens:

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Birds are moved to the hoop house when they are 800 grams in size.








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(1) The formation of ammonia is part of the natural process in the breakdown of organic material. Ammonium is poisonous and often wipe out a newly established aquarium of its fish. Industrial animal husbandry often raise animals in ammonia prone conditions - poultry, feedlotted cattle wading in their own dung, etc. Waste water from farms with animals often contain nitrites and nitrates which can also harm humans. At our farm all discharge is treated naturally and regularly tested for nitrite and nitrate levels as part of responsible farming.

May 05, 2010

Tonic for Chickens

Some of the readers of this blog have asked me to write more on natural poultry rearing methods.  This post is for readers of citypullagro and lopehpoultry and other poultry blogs.

At our farm we use this tonic for the chickens:

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We use a large glass jar ('balang').  Do not use plastic. Here's the receipe:

Ginger, red or normal                                                1 kg
Garlic                                                                       1 kg
Small red onions                                                       1 kg
Kunyit                                                                      1 kg
Chili Padi                                                                  500gms
Lengkuas                                                                  200gms
Serai                                                                        500gms
Hempedu Bumi leaves                                                I handful
Patawali stem (images)                                              50gms
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Slice, pound, crush as need be to release the active ingredients.
Top up with Apple Cider Vinegar
Let sit for minimum 2 weeks.  Can keep up to a year.

To Use

One part tonic to 1000 parts water for 5 days for adult chickens.
One part tonic to 2000 parts water for 3 days for chicks.
One teaspoon to a glass of warm water once a week for humans.


This is a preventive and a restorative.  It is not a cure. 
Note that there is no 'cure' for viral diseases like Newcastle.  This tonic will reduce mortality but will not cure. 
If you are serious about rearing poultry as a means of earning a living, implement a strict vaccination (allowed by organic standards) and biosecurity program and never ease off just because your birds have not shown disease for years. 
Don't waste money using antibiotics (not permitted by organic standards) for viral diseases. 
Also do not waste time listening to those selling all kinds of natural and herbal remedies for viral outbreaks.  THEY DON'T WORK!!! 


For smaller quantities, reduce each ingredient by a certain percentage, say, you want to make 10% of the above, use 100gms ginger, etc.
Apple Cider is available at Giant.  Choose the cheapest, you don't have to follow the brand shown above.
Be careful with lengkuas.  The danger dose worked out by us for chickens is 5 grams fresh root for a 2 kg bird.  So, better to use less than more.
Close container tightly to prevent molds and fungi which may release toxins harmful to the chickens.

Apr 30, 2010

Watermelon on Raised Beds

People don't grow watermelons on raised beds. That's what they told us.

Right, and that's why, we supposed, conventionally grown local watermelon have such a bad reputation for pesticides and fungicides!

It's logical, our climate is humid and wet, not really ideal for watermelon. 

Further, local weeds will overwhelm the watermelon plant in days. So if we plant them on the ground then its logical that pests, fungal diseases and weeds must be kept at bay using a cocktail of chemicals - 3 in one!! :)

This is the raised bed we used:

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Four bricks high, layer of compost at the bottom and filled to the brim with sand.






If you are planning to grow on a larger scale, do not use bricks, they are not really practical.  Recycle discarded tires - just stack up two.

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Lush watermelon plants fed farm-made compost tea once a week.






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Heavy, succulent fruits on the way.






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Things will go wrong, just don't throw out the baby with the bath water. 

There are many possible reasons why the watermelon plant may not do well.  Try to investigate, keep records, and modify and adapt.

One of the most common reasons is wrong seed.  You will be surprised how often this mistake is made.  Seeds from Japan, Taiwan, etc are not suited for growing naturally in our climate though they may thrive doing so in their home countries.   We need to duplicate the conditions back home but that's not a route that sustainable farming should take.



Apr 28, 2010

Outsmarting a wild boar...

Wild boar is a perpetual problem at our farm.  They break through fencing and get at the chickens, they dig up all those lovely yams and sweet potatoes, they damage our vegetable plots digging up earthworms for desert.

All kinds of suggestions have been given to us; shoot them, poison them, trap them, etc.  We reject outright killing.  Trapping, etc never works; they're too wary.

Then they played with this beautiful pegaga patch and turned it into a mud-bath:

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We were too distraught to remember to take a picture of the mud-bath.

We rehabilitated the patch twice but each time the pigs came in and turned it into mud again.

Then we sat and decided to think like a pig: it's dark, we can't look upwards to see the sky, we can only see directly in front, sideways and down.  Now what if we see something totally dark in front would we be foolhardy enough to plunge ahead or would we move sideways looking for a path? 

And we came up with this:

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This was how the rehabilitated patch looked like after a week in the 'dark zone' (the red laterite mud has been topped with compost):

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And this is signs of the pigs going in circles around the 'dark zone'. Note the mud!

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And this is the patch today after two weeks.  Warms the heart. The possibility are endless! And we don't have to take a life or lives to co-exist. Remember, a life is still a life.


Apr 26, 2010

Permaculture is Bananas

Banana plants (it's a giant herb) can make their own food, retain water, and in our farm continuously produce 20 to 40 kg bunches without significant input.

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Banana plants at our farm.  Producing fruits year after year in the same spot without replanting.







Nowadays farmers grow rows and rows of tissue-cultured clones.  These require high fertiliser and fungicide inputs.

At our farm, the banana epitomises permanent agriculture.  We use our human intelligence to plant them at the right place - they like moisture and organic material.  They will form a clump - trim the clump to about 4 to 5 plants so that they will produce reasonable sized bunches

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A banana clump serves as a heat absorber.  They cool down the earth due to their ability to retain water and reduce radiation of heat to buildings due to their shady leaves.





The centre of the clump hosts myriad microbes and earthworms due to its dark and moist conditions rich in organic matter.  They quickly break down fallen leaves, dead trunks, etc into humus and then release these nutrients back to the clump as food.  We only need to occasionally supplement with some compost and some chopped dead trunks.

We plant tuba or derris elliptica in the centre.  The clump provides all the nutrients that the derris require. We don't even need to water the derris.

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 Derris in the clump :).







We have found that gingers do well in the clumps too.  Gingers love organic matter and moisture. We are now planting ginger in all the clumps in the farm as a cash crop.

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This temu kunci is growing at a faster rate than others planted outside the clump.






We, humans,  have a choice - clear the land, plant rows and rows of clones and hybrids, feed them with synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers and spray them with fungicides and due to the low contribution margin for such crops, go for 'volume', ie clear up more land to generate this 'volume';

Or go the permaculture way - use nature intelligently and work with nature to produce food for us for generations.  We may not be rich in the short term, but we will be around for a far longer time.  Multiple this idea by 100,000 farms and the landscape of the Earth's future changes!

Apr 23, 2010

Logging - Who Benefits? Part III

Today's Star:


One Citizen, One Tree:



Council to plant a tree for every child born in Perak



And lovely Sabah, home to Maliau, and what's left of the Orang Utan race:



Today Near The Farm:


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Politicians please take note of the absurdity of the situation.


Malaysians, please take note we are paying for all these tree planting. They are not for free. 


Someone is cutting down 50 to 100 year old trees, clearing huge tracts of CO2 absorbing forests, destroying huge water catchment areas and laughing all the way to the bank.  You know who these people are!  (If you don't, FIND OUT!)


And we end up paying to plant trees, to pay for water pipelines from distant places, to pay for higher water rates, to pay for storms and flash floods, to pay for cooling as our cities become hotter.  It is just not right.


This is what you can do for Earth Day:


Start by knowing who these tree cutters are! Here's a partial list.


And when they donate money for schools, reject their donation. 


When they contribute to local houses of worship, return their money. 


When they come with an entourage to open some park or building, or to plant a tree (yes, they have!) show your back to them. 


When they give a lecture as a public figure or an opinion leader if you like, please throw your slippers at them! :) 


Malaysians get your values right! These are not people to be emulated or honoured or respected.

10:51 Posted in Blog | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: logging, timber

Apr 13, 2010

Organic Farming - Oasis For Birds

An organic farm is like an oasis to birds.  At our farm we have counted close to 50 species.  Foreign workers at our farm comment that there's no longer any necessity to keep them in cages as they are all around us and we don't even have to feed or water them! That's a valuable lesson they will take back with them after they finish their contract with us.

And the birds lost most of their fear for humans.  They will nest anywhere; next to the kitchen, on pillars, inside a comb of bananas, or like the photos here, on a dragon fruit plant in broad daylight in plain view of passer-bys and vehicles :

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Right next to a ripened dragon fruit.






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A couple of hatchlings in a meticulously weaved cup with tidy, even rim. 

The bird that made this cup is the Pied Fantail or Rhipidura Javanica Longicauda.



In our farm, they have grown used to being in close proximity to humans,  but remain wild as nobody in the farm is allowed to feed the birds.


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The Pied Fantail is distinguished from other Fantails by pale underparts with a contrasting blackish breast-band. 

When annoyed, it gives a chit, cheet sound to distract you from its nest. 

It lays a clutch of 2 eggs and is common throughout South East Asia.



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Mum's back.







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Close up (click on picture) of the Pied Fantail.  Note the breast-band, and the barely noticeable white eye-brow. 





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Here's why they are named Fantail (click on pic for close-up).