WE have been receiving our fair share of rain over the past few weeks, and the sun has been tamer in this part of the universe. Although we fervently ask for this type of weather, the announcement of an upcoming super typhoon figuratively sent us to our knees. We are not yet ready for the wet season.
We have been sowing seeds without considering a weather disturbance or a climatic imbalance despite frequent warnings of an El Niño -La Niña or worse, a devastating weather condition. We are simply not prepared or do not know which or what to prepare.
Farming, or gardening is so unlike having a long quiz or a major periodic test in school, where we just read, listen to our teacher or participate in class discussion or do individual and group work. But unlike school work, which we can do online or face-to-face, distance or classroom classes, farming is always face-to-face. Hands-on, endless trial-and-error experiments and is constantly literally back-breaking.
We are constantly playing it by the tips of our fingers, trying to feel everything, with even eyes closed in fervent prayer. We observe every little change in our plants from sowing seeds, and watching them grow in small bags, to transplanting large planting materials that we hope would be fruit-bearing trees in no time. We listen to the wind and thunder too beyond just enjoying the birds chirping or the rooster announcing the break of a new day.
We even dare chew on each leaf of an emerging new plant that we do not seem to know. If it is tasteless, it might be an add-on to our pinakbet. If it is bitter or pungent, it might be an herb against diseases or a spray that drives away indifferent insects. If it stings, it might be a nettle that is a nutritious leaf for tea.
We photograph each stage of plant life, posting on social media what we perceive as success, keeping just among us our failures, especially if we did not harvest anything. But harvesting has always been a happy experience. Be it leaves, flowers, or fruits – it fulfills our yearning to achieve. Each fruit is like a medal. It makes us proud!
It makes us happy to see our trees bearing fruits. Again, we always monitor their growth. The flowers that fall make us sad, not knowing these really have to go for fruits to come out. Sometimes, we think our plants just wilted, not knowing what caused it to wilt. Digging, however, tells us that the potatoes, camote, or peanuts wilted because it was way past the time to gather the crop yield underground. No one but experience has told us it is the way with some crops.
When we sowed a lot of mungo seeds, we thought we wasted a lot because these did not yield anything due to a very dense planting. It turned out that it was not a loss at all. Legumes are nitrogen-fixing crops and these balance the nutrients in the soil, leaving it more fertile for other plants to grow in. We have always known this in our science and biology classes but it took several decades before we experienced this in nature. We also learned that there are a lot of native trees that have roots similar to nitrogen-fixing narra. The roots have nodules and having these trees in the garden helps us a lot.
Have you ever wondered why the rains make all leaves greener and more robust? After it has rained, I love to see plants that appear, happy just like me. I read somewhere that rain has nitrogen and this makes leaves greener and stronger. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers have the growth hormone oxyn that serve as a growth enhancer and these make leaves green.
Potassium, on the other hand, makes the fruits sweeter. It enhances the taste, induces flowering, and encourages fruiting. It is readily available in the garden when we use fruit peels and fish wastes as fertilizers.
Knowing all this makes us happy farmers as we await the rains and enjoy the sun as well.
Farming, indeed, is like going to a place where we learn by using our senses. We harness stock knowledge and understand the universe as we go about our daily garden duties, day in and day out, without letup. Without fail.