Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From Surf to Turf

This blog will no longer be solely for my sailing stories but will now cover my life as – surprise!- a farmer. Believe me, I’m the one most surprised.
My first harvest of lettuce
What started as loose talk between Raul and me is becoming a reality. I never thought we would become farmers but here we are now in Coron, Busuanga, Palawan, our favorite place in the Philippines and our retirement place of choice, growing lettuce, peppers, squash, beans, coriander, etc. In 3 months, we have transformed almost 4,000 square meters of idle mountain land into neat plots with miniature greenhouse-like tunnels of fine mesh with an assortment of vegetables and herbs. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to check that I am not dreaming.
Taken 5 May 2014
Taken 5 August 2014
There was, and still is, so much anxiety diving into something we don’t know anything about. We depend completely on Manuel, our agricultural consultant from Manila, for guidance and training. But the more I learn, the more I learn that there’s so much more to learn. When Manuel starts talking about enzymes and phosphorous, I panic.

Our first harvest of lettuce and pechay
Everyday is a new challenge- the tomatoes that refuse to live, the lettuce that stopped growing, the squash leaves that just shriveled up one day. I suffered under the sun at the height of summer with its oppresive temperatures of 35-37C and watched with envy as the carabao we hired while waiting for our tractor is given a shower every half hour by its handler.  When the habagat came with its torrential rains, I sat helplessly as our seedlings drowned in mud and our tunnels swept by the winds.

First harvest of peppers

But every step is a learning experience and an absolute joy. Every day, a surprise. Seedlings sprouting overnight into miniature plants, growing, flowers blooming then turning into fruits. The thrill of our first produce- the first cucumbers taking shape and expanding 5-6 cm overnight until they are harvested at 30 cm. I watch with wonder as nature transforms in front of my eyes- thimble-like bell peppers into fist-sized wonders, the lettuce leaves that finally blossomed into shape. The happiness of our first harvest. The fulfillment of our very first sale even if it was just 3 kilos of cucumber for P100 in the market with Raul as stevedore. The luxury of cooking and eating my very own produce.

First harvest of bell peppers
A friend told me that I am lucky I have a green thumb. I don’t believe in green and black thumbs. You just need a dream. And a consultant.

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