Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Life of a Coconut Farmer

Here Is a True Story of What Life is Living in One of the Many Coconut Plantations.

For me, coconut plantation is one of the nicest places to live in the world. The place has a very exotic view. When you look at the coconut trees you will think they are immortal especially when you look at the very tall ones. High above, you can still see it is bearing fruits even after more than half of a century. There was a coconut farmer and his family who owned about 2 parcels of coconut lands at first. That was not enough to support the family so he worked hard to make ends meet, at the same time saving more money as days passed by and bought more coconut land. These are the things the family did in order to succeed:

Raising Chickens

Raising chickens on the farm was easy. The farmer just fed them with rice-in-husk or corn kernels in the morning and off they go. The chickens had no cage. They were free to roam around anywhere they liked and come back home in the afternoon. There was a tree close to the house that had many branches. When the chickens come back, they would fly up to the tree branches and sleep there. Every morning the chickens would come down from the tree, makes noises and gather around in front of the house waiting for their food. If there was no food in the morning, they would just slowly disperse away and look for food in the grass and bushes. The family would plant corn so they wouldn't need to buy chicken feed. It was very easy to raise wild chickens because you don't really take care of them like caged chickens.

The Hen Lays Eggs.

While raising chickens, the family also let some of the female chickens lay eggs. There was always a rooster in the group to breed the hens. They never used any chicken feed or hormones so their chickens were organic. When the hens were about to lay eggs, the farmer would build a shack for the hens and build nests out of coconut leaves. He cut the coconut leaves in half lengthwise, removing the thick spine of the leaves, and weaved the leaflets. After weaving, he rolled them to form a nest and tied the end of the nest with string. He then hung the nests inside the shack. He would lead the hens into the nests once or twice until they laid the first egg. Once they laid an egg, they would know where to come back to lay their second egg. After hatching the eggs, the hen will stay with the brand new chicks to keep them warm all the time. The hen can't fly to the tree branch without the chicks, so the hen stays with the chicks on the ground inside the shack. The family would sell some of the chickens and eggs in the market but keep some for food.


Raising Pigs

The farmer and his family didn't raise many pigs because of the manure problem. Just two pigs at a time; one for food and one for sale. Raising pigs was easy as well. Just put a leash on them and tie the leash around a tree under the shade and away from the house. During hot days the farmer would bring the pigs to the creek so they could take their bath. They like to bathe themselves just like elephants do. Unleashing the pigs once in a while was good. That way they can walk around. They always come back home for more food. The farmer's wife didn't spend much money to buy feed for the pigs because she didn't have to. They would cut down a banana tree and peel off the outer layer of the bark then slice the trunk finely and cut it into small pieces. It was then mixed with fine rice husk and water or any left over soup and fed to the pigs.

Buying more Coconut and Vegetable Lands

Once the family saved some money, they bought more coconut land in the nearby area. Some of the lands were already planted with taro or "gaway". Taro grows and multiplies in the wetland. The leaves and stalk are usually cooked in coconut milk. Aside from the leaves, stalk and root, (taro) there is a sprout that grows up to about 16 inches long and this can be harvested before it grows to a new plant. This sprout is a delicious vegetable and nutritious too. I haven't seen many of these sprouts in the market today. If you leave the sprout alone it will grow into a new taro plant. Taro didn't need care; it just grows and multiplies on its own.
One of the coconut lands is also planted with giant elephant ear plants, (member of the elephant ear family) which the natives call it "palawan". The root is edible and looks like a giant taro, but the taste is different. One root is so big it can feed a whole big family. Both taro and palawan didn't need extra care.

Coconut Land with a Creek

The family also bought a coconut land with a creek full of fish. If you want to catch some fish while you're sleeping all you have to do is prepare bamboo poles attached to fishing line with bait on it and leaves the bamboo poles standing in the mud overnight. Early in the morning you collect the fish. Sometimes the family would go fishing on the creek with their fishing rod and bait.

Sweet Potatoes under the Coconut Trees

During the coconut harvest season, the whole family was busy for about a week. After that, there was really not much to do except plant more vegetables and take care of the animals. The carabaos have to be moved to a shaded area and to a grassy location so it can eat. The family planted one of the coconut lands with sweet potatoes. This is a very hardy plant and grows under partial sun or shade. The leaves are delicious and the root itself is very nutritious. Nothing is wasted in this plant.

There were not many people living on this coconut plantation, only about 6 houses far apart from each other. The family, however, continued to buy more land when they could afford it. I would say that they had a great life even if they didn't have enough money. The farmer and his wife continued to live and work on the coconut farm. The children grew up, got married and moved. Later on, when they became older, both the farmer and his wife had to move to the nearby town. One reason was that the road going to the coconut farm was not accessible by vehicles, and it would be impossible to travel fast in case of emergency. Another reason is they wanted to be close to their children. Some of the children of the family moved far away and all they can remember now is how beautiful life was on the coconut farm in the Philippines

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