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Apr 16, 2013

Free-Range Egg Model for Rural Farmers

This is the free-range layer model we intend to implement as a social enterprise with rural low-income farmers.  If they sell the eggs themselves at the Farmers’ Market, each egg should fetch rm1.00 each.  We will supply them 200 pullets that are close to laying unlike what is happening now when the poor farmers are given day-olds and in no time, disease will wipe out all the birds.

At the very least, the farmers can expect an income of between rm2500 to rm3000.00 per month.

We will be starting with five farmers in Pahang.

Apr 15, 2013

Sights And Sounds Of The Farm - Emerald Doves

Emerald Doves are usually very flighty and nervous near humans due to poaching.  At our farm, they are resident and are found in many nooks and corners.  Many times they will just swagger off, in a pigeony way (which they are) when they see us.  Here's one that's just in front of our workers' quarters.  The video of it feeding in our garden captures the sounds of the farm at around 11 am, mid-morning.  If we hadn't tell you, you would think the video is in the forest with the myriad sounds of birds and insects.  But that's what we are trying to achieve in our farming - that we can be commercial and yet be in harmony with Nature.

emerald dove, nature farming, permaculture, sounds of tropical forest,

Here's a recording of the sounds that you will hear at our farm.  You would be forgiven if you think you are in the jungle.

Mar 15, 2013

The Yellow Birdwing, Troides helena, is now a resident

On the 1st day of this year we saw for the first time a single female Yellow Birdwing, Troides helena,  flying fast at the perimeter of our farm, as if making an aerial survey.

common yellow birdwing, helena Troides, birdwing butterflies,

From a distance, it looks like a bird

The Yellow Birdwing is protected by law and is becoming difficult to see in the wild due to loss of habitat and due to collectors.

common yellow birdwing butterfly, helena troides, rare butterflies,

The female zooming past us on the 1st of January, 2013

Just barely 2 1/2 months later, they have made our farm their home.  They are breeding and have become a familier sight.  And interestingly, they show no fear of us.  Also of interest to us is the fact that the farm has a larger share of birds than other places and yet they choose to breed here.  

common yellow birdwing butterfly, helena troides, rare butterflies,

They show no fear of us

common yellow birdwing butterfly, helena troides, rare butterflies,

You won't find wild birdwings flying around your cars!

common yellow birdwing butterfly,troides helena,rare butterflies

Flying close to us without fear.

common yellow birdwing butterfly,troides helena,rare butterflies

We leave fruits to ripen on the trees for birds and butterflies.  Our workers are instructed not to feed nor to disturb nor to stare at the birds, and also the butterflies.  We make as if they are non-existent.  We plant their larval plants and we plant flowering vines that will bloom up in the canopy for the butterflies.  And above all, no poison, no chemicals.  We co-exists, and they so enrich our lives as farmers.

Sep 01, 2012

Animal Feedstock - localise it

There is this mental block that we have to have corn for animal feed.  So Malaysia try to grow corn for feed but it did not work out too well - not if you are competing with heavily subsidised imported corn.  Further, corn and soya are termed 'commodities', ie it means people are allowed to speculate on its future price.  For farmers that means your future is influenced by speculators.  For small countries like Malaysia, that means our food security is in the hands of big spending speculators.  Hey, that's not a comfortable position to be in, and really I often wonder why we allow ourselves to be dragged into such a precarious position.

So, recently due to droughts in USA, speculators have jumped in and the price of corn and soya has gone through the roof.  Farmers are dying because suddenly more cash is needed, practically overnight, to feed the animals.  Consumers are shouting because suddenly meats are more expensive.

One of the ways local small farms can get off the carousel is to grow feedstock that is indigenous to local climate and which require as little input as possible.

At our farm, we use cooking bananas.  All imported feedstock corn is GMO.  Our bananas are not.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

All our chicken fields are planted with these bananas

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

They are tall trees, up to 25ft, with large shade areas.  The fruits are higher in energy values than corn.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

Because of their height and large shade area, we plant them to block off west-side sun, thus saving on artificial cooling costs.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

They also play an ecological role by absorbing nutrients from waste water since they are water-resistant.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

They produce more feedstock per acre of land than corn.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

Each bunch is about 20 to 30kg

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

They store well, and can be readied for feedstock in a jiffy

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

Chickens love the bananas and make a mad rush for them when presented.

feedstock, increasing food costs, corn, soya bean, drought, cooking banana, BBB musa, local feed ingredients,

Bananas do not have the high omega 6 that corn has and thus produce a healthier meat for human consumption.  Corn not only have high omega 6 but also is practically 100% GMO now.

Jul 22, 2012

Forest In A Farm

Twenty years ago, we started to plant forest trees in a zone within the farm.  Today, some of the trees are 100 feet tall, and of course, still growing.  We plan now to develop this zone into an area of bio-diversity and hopefully, some of the animal life driven off by logging uphill, will instead make this zone their home.  The forest uphill was home to siamang, wild cats, and many more.  

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Canopy trees in a farm!

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Meranti

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Pulai

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Gelam

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Kasai

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

Mahagony

Sustainable agriculture is long term, planning decades ahead, not months or weeks.

agro forestry, permaculture, meranti, nyatoh, pulai, rain trees,

At one end of the zone is this beautiful location, perhaps a suitable site for a Sustainable Agricullture Institute.

Nov 19, 2011

Durians - Organically, Sustainably.

Durians are in season at our farm.

durians,organic durian,sustainable durian farm,organic durian farm

durians, organic durian, sustainable durian farm, organic durian farm,

The trees are laden with fruits. 

durians,organic durian,sustainable durian farm,organic durian farm

durians,organic durian,sustainable durian farm,organic durian farm

Branches need to be supported or else they will break from the load.

There's zero purchased inputs into our more than 800 trees.

We ferment discarded organs amd innards from our chicken operations to provide nitrogen for the trees.

We spray compost tea made from humus (from our compost) once a week to keep fungus and insects at bay.

That's it folks, plus of course integrated pest management without chemical pesticides.  Resulting in the only certified organic durians in Malaysia.

Oct 18, 2011

A Good Knife Is Also Permaculture?

Got this knife in the late 90's for less than USD30.  Around RM70.00 then,  if memory serves me right.

Camillus BK 7, Becker Knife & Tool, permaculture in manufacturing, good knife, survival knife, good combat knife, used tire, removing the rim of an used tire,

It is a Camillus Becker Knife & Tool, BK 7, made with high carbon 0170-6C steel.

This original version, in mint condition sells for USD185 on ebay today.

The current version by Ka-Bar sells for around USD65 on ebay.  There're some reviews that compare it somewhat negatively against the original version. However, on youtube (type kabar BK 7) there are a lot of guys who love the Ka-Bar version.

You can see that our knife has been well used; the powder-coated black color on the blade is almost gone. 

camillus bk 7,becker knife & tool,permaculture in manufacturing,good knife,survival knife,good combat knife,used tire,removing the rim of an used tire

A full tang knife is balanced around the middle of the knife and is good for work like removing the rim of a tire. It is also good for close quarter combat where a stabbing motion is used.  For that reason, apparently many American soldiers in Iraq bring along a BK 7.  A half tang such as our typical 'parang' is blade-heavy and is good for slashing work. Removing a rim with a blade-heavy knife does not allow you to use your body weight and hence you will tire after just a few tires. 

Santa, our worker from Nepal takes a casual 30 secs to remove the rim of this used tire using the BK 7:

Santa moves the knife outwards in the video. That's not the preferred method as it is relying on the sharpness of the blade and an unnatural positioning which will strain the arm muscles.  I think Santa woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  

I prefer an inward moving knife which allows me to use my body weight in an up-down movement and my arm muscle do not cramp up after an hour or so of such work since it is my back muscle and my weight that's doing the work, not the arm.

Knives that are made well, such as the BK 7, demonstrates the principles of permaculture in manufacturing: making things well, using minimal material, and to last a lifetime.

Oct 14, 2011

Slope Farming I

Land is getting scarce and sometimes we have to work on very steep slopes. 

uses for used tires, tire gardening, tire stairs, permaculture, sustainable agriculture

uses for used tires, tire gardening, tire stairs, permaculture, sustainable agriculture

Accessibility and erosion then become major concerns.

Using used tires to make stairways is one way to create permanent, stable access with minimal erosion.

uses for used tires, tire gardening, tire stairs, permaculture, sustainable agriculture

uses for used tires, tire gardening, tire stairs, permaculture, sustainable agriculture

The top rim of the tire should be removed (using a full tang, heavy survival knife is best for this job).  Earth used to fill the tires should then be compacted. 

This stairway has been holding itself very well with no erosion or stability problems through two monsoon seasons now. 

Sep 14, 2011

The Earth Provides…

At the farm, we leave many of the original plants alone.  And as you walk, you will find food almost everywhere – bamboos, banana piths, banana hearts and more.

Here's a clump of bamboo in our farm, which we can see growing wild alongside highways, in secondary forests, along village trails:

 Rebung masak lemak, bamboo shoots, slow food,

Here's some shoots we cut off from just such a clump.

Rebung masak lemak, bamboo shoots, slow food,

Remove the outer bark and cut into thin slices.

rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

Soak overnight, then replace the water with new water and bring to a boil. These steps will reduce or eliminate the bitter taste of the shoots.

Throw away the water and it is ready for making a gourmet dish.

Here are the main ingredients –

rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

Turmeric, small onions (shallots), garlic, chillies, pound them together. 

 rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

Make coconut milk from grated coconut meat. 

Add serai (lemongrass), turmeric leaves and limau purut (kaffir lime) leaves and the pounded ingredients.

rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

Put all the ingredients in the milk together and bring to a boil.  Then add the bamboo shoot slices and prawns, salt and traditionally, some sugar, to taste.

rebung masak lemak,bamboo shoots,slow food

Seriously yummy; the crunchiness of the shoots offset the tender prawns to make a delicious texture-filled, aromatic dish. 

Aug 03, 2011

Free Range Chicken - Natural Sun-Shading I

permaculture, free range chickens, sun shading, passion fruit, markisa, ramadan,

This Ramadan sure is hot.  For the watermelon seller, bad sales surely is not his lot.  The chickens listlessly loll.  Under the markisa shelters.  Aren't we glad we had tolled.  These lovely markisa all to enjoy.

permaculture, free range chickens, sun shading, passion fruit, markisa, ramadan,

Yesterday was 40 celcius.  Hot enough for these chickens to drop dead from heat stroke. And we are talking about ayam kampung, tough as nails!

Natural sun shading used in the farm includes these passion-fruit vines and clumps of big-leafed pisang sematu. Remember, bare earth retains and reflects heat.  Bare earth patches can be 5 celcius higher than grass covered patches.  And all water-lines MUST be protected from the sun.

A friend of mine is running a closed-house farm.  He is cursing day-and-night over his energy bills.

Selamat berpuasa. 

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