Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are We Farming Yet?

November 2008

Every morning at 5 am, I'm out pasturing the baca. Since my very first early morning here last year, all of the mornings here seem to me truly glorious. The fireflies have already gone to wherever it is they go during the day, and now there's heavy dew on all the grass where crickets chirp softly to the sun coming up amidst the parting pinkish clouds and dormant volcanoes to the east.
At this latitude here in the Philippines, it doesn't matter if it's the day before Christmas or the middle of July, in one hour the sun will be coming up. I have only a vague concept of what it's like for the days to be the same length all your life, as Edna and her family have no concept of what the short, bitter-cold days of winter and extra-long and hot days of summer are like where I came from in Idaho. Edna and I decided that I should get up early every morning to take her dad's cattle out to pasture to relieve her mother of the chore.

He's been too disabled by his weakened heart to do it himself, so he wakes up his wife to make her do it. At 70, she's within spitting distance of her expected life span for women here; besides that her cataracts are so bad that we're not sure if she'd see a stone, a stick or one of the ten-foot-long crab-grass runners that are always tripping those of us with much better eyesight. There are only a few cattle to stake out somewhere in an area of fresh grass; there's also a 2 week old calf everyone is calling Bambi who gallops all about, seemingly ecstatic at the chance to be out in the world for another day's promise of adventure and discovery.

 Tink, tink, tink. Another stake is driven into the plowed soil with the head of my hand-forged axe, marking off one more of the 2000 holes to be planted in the coming days with young banana plants.

It's so very peaceful out here in these fields where now only two coconut palms are growing, surrounded by the pineapple fields of the Del Monte corporation; quiet, with only the wind, a few birds and a stray cricket adding to the music of the spheres that seems to be audible.
I'm always enraptured by the vista from this field, with the nation's second-highest mountain jutting up from the plain just to the South, along with its accompanying range of fantastic, remote and forested peaks marching right behind. In the few kilometers of plain before the mountain range abruptly makes its presence, there other farms and villages along roads I've not yet explored. And to the East there is an even greater mountain range; not higher, but broader and taking up much more of the landscape. On the road that passes around those far-off peaks is the way to Malaybalay, the provincial capitol, another region I have yet to investigate.
Once we make our first harvest from these bananas in about fourteen months, we hope to finance a motorcycle and I've told Edna that explorations will begin in earnest.