THERE are things in life that we cannot control but that we can certainly manipulate to work to our advantage.
Summer is among these weather occurrences beyond our control. It comes, whether we like it or not. It heats up, whether we enjoy it or not. It boils up – that we really do not like! Since we have no control over it, let us just accept it, enjoy it if you may.
It may not be a state of mind, this summer heat, but a state of matter, my physicist editor might say. By the way, we shall not dwell on semantics because my science-trained mind knows that it is matter that matters, whether I mind it or not.
The heat in the lowlands is something manageable for us. It is not anything beyond a man’s (or a woman’s) control.
Mainit? Magpalamig ka! Mainit ang ulo mo? Cool ka lang (Chill, Tita, Chill!)
By control, I mean we can do things to mitigate the summer heat. In the garden, at least, we can really only do so much.
Watering delicate tree saplings and plants is the least that we can do under the searing heat of the sun. Transferring planting sites near water sources is somewhat a leveled-up remedy. We forecasted a long dry period so that as early as November we started bringing our mini tree nursery near two pump wells. We also did a DIY ICU where new plants, especially veggies, occupy prepped sack planters. These sacks contain a banana trunk and drenched cow dung in the sandy soil mixed with dry leaves and twigs. The chopped-up banana trunk keeps the sack planters moist and cool. Cow dung releases fertilizers longer and the dry leaves rot in no time to provide immediately needed nutrients. It works well and proof is we now have enough herbs for the garden kitchen. The ICU has doubled as a live pantry. Thyme, parsley, basil, sage, mint, and gynura come in handy. We also harvest talinum, kalunay, wild parya, and okra occasionally. Mind you, we have some Sakurab and garlic leaves too.
On one side of the ICU section is where some flowering weeds grow. I allow traditionally growing weeds to grow among our veggies to retain little flowers that usually attract birds and beneficial insects. I even gathered seeds from the unkempt adjacent lots to allow weeds to grow naturally in our planting sites. We have overpopulated our chickens that forage heavily on weeds inside the site. Weeds, we learned, keep the sand cool during extremely hot summer days. These insulate the topsoil and keep it evenly moist with the dew kissing these at dawn.
Never mind this summer heat. It has allowed me to slow down a little at midday when it could be scorching. Remember the time that I burned my nose and chin? Well, now I am burning my whole face again.
Slowing down, I find time to observe even the chirping of the birds. There are prairie birds that really fly low. Mababa talaga Ang lipad!. Despite the presence of tall trees, there are birds that rest on low grass and cogon poles. They land on the prairie at midday and it is a sight worth capturing on stills but I prefer to remember the sight sans any gadget.
The thatched roof of the hut (dampa) we call alulong (kubo) can get too hot that a midday nap might be impossible. As I said, optimist that I am, we can control the heat of summer. I have learned to beckon the wind to cool the balkon, an open porch, as much as I wish. When I do it often, little farmhands do it along with me and together we can even summon a storm, which we instantly laugh about and wish for rain instead. Mind you it is harder to pray for rain than one might think.
I remember Koreans who come to the Cordillera each year and perform a rain dance during Cordillera Day celebrations. Sorry, that is something I cannot do alone.
We have learned to do our watering as systematically as possible. Not to water is somewhat unimaginable. Five dry months have taught us to plan better. We have seen its toll on the tree saplings that we have earlier outplanted. We lost some of our rare native trees. We find molave, kalumpang, ipil, tangisang-bayawak, Igyo, bagawak puti, tui and some figs as heat resistant. They’re thriving and appear to be loving the heat. Kamuning and Kalumpit have also grown taller like the non-native black zapote. Catmon, kamansi, ilang-ilang and alibangbang are struggling.
There were more trees which dried up and died at the onset of summer. Our mulberry, citrus, atis, makopa, balimbing and banaba are doing well. Flowering ornamental plants also love summer. These are all coloring our world with daily flowers. The bees love it. They are out when it is still dark and cool. When the heat is at its peak, they roost or empty their belly in the hives.
Almost all InaHens are laying eggs and roosting. No chance to get even one for tinola or adobo. Kakaawa to get the InaHen that has just cracked its chicks out of its shell. I also observed that chickens do not feed much when it is too hot. They leave their feeds untouched but feed on it only when they are hungry, just before sundown. Water buckets are kept full and cool always for the chickens, ducks, dogs and cats to drink or for taking a cool dip.
In the morning, I see to it that the buckets are emptied because a frog or two might drown in one of these water buckets. I just learned that frogs cannot swim out of a pail and thus can die from drowning. Poor thing!
Our female dog Peka (3-in-1 Coffee) and cat Snow are both heavy with litter. Magiging Lola na Naman po ako! Nagsabay pa silang lahat! Even the ducks are expecting ducklings in no time.
Who says summer heat is not hot? It is! Mitigate it and it works to your advantage. Allow it to take its course and see how you can benefit from it. How could anyone even suggest we should be in Baguio because it is summer? Or do we have a choice?
We can only do so much to mitigate the extreme heat. But at least we can say, we can have summer and enjoy it while it lasts. After all, it is not here to stay!