Time to Pause

I was away from the refuge for 5 months. Almost half a year! Stuff got in the way, like moving house and being in lockdown. I felt a little stressed about being away for so long. Once I was back in the refuge though, I realized that being away for a long time was not such a bad thing. It’s good to step back once in a while. It gives you time to pause and re-evaluate your routines and habits and see if they are still serving you well.

In The Natural Way of Farming the famous Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka tells the story of silkworm farmers in Japan. In the beginning, silkworms were collected in the mountainside and released in the woods. Then the farmers bred new varieties of silkworms. These new varieties were raised indoors. They were watched day and night. Early in the morning, mulberry leaves were collected, washed, dried with a cloth, chopped into strips and fed to the silkworms. The room had to be kept at just the right temperature with heaters when it was too cold and ventilation when it was too hot. The had special tools and baskets for taking care of the silkworms. It was difficult work! In modern times, some farmers tried returning to more natural, less labor intensive methods. When synthetic fibers were developed, silk lost its popularity for a while. When it became popular again most silkworm production became industrialized. Now it is done in factories with conveyor belts, automated temperature control, and artificial feeds.

I can relate with the hard working traditional silkworm farmer with his special tools and desire to innovate and improve his craft. I like to identify a problem, think of a solution, and buy the gadget that I need to implement my solution. I like working with my hands. I am so enamored by gadgets and tools that I have one storage room for tools and another one for cleaning supplies!

I now realize that :

  • some of these problems are not really problems and don’t need solutions
  • your first idea is probably not your best idea
  • if you over think something, your ideas can get away from you and lead you down very involved and complicated paths
  • just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it
  • I don’t have to do everything myself even if I can
  • new innovations are not always better
  • maintaining all the gadgets and cleaning tools takes up a lot of time and effort

It was nice to be at the refuge and feel very relaxed. I felt grateful for the people who work for us. They do a great job keeping things tidy, caring for the horses, and watering the plants. I had no compulsion to pull out weeds myself. I just wanted to walk around with the dogs, look at the plants, take pictures of birds, walk, swim, draw, and paint! And that’s what I did!

The Red Keeled Flowerpeckers were very busy in the aratiles trees in front of the cottage

Red Keeled Flowerpecker in the aratiles tree
Red Keeled Flowerpecker

During my morning walk, two Philippine Collared Doves flew in front of me, landed on a nearby tree, and posed for a bit!

Philippine Collared Dove

I was headed back to the cottage with Momo, Lulu, and Ollie when I decided to check out one of the side paths. I was surprised to see something big perched near the ground. I was even more surprised that the 3 dogs listened to me when I told them to just stay beside me while I crouched down to take photos! The dogs were so well behaved! I was able to take many pictures of the Pied Harrier in a variety of poses!

Click on the the photos to see them full screen.

Here are common birds that are just nice to see!

Brown Shrike, a migrant bird
Lowland White Eye
Pied Fantail

March 2021

Missed the entire February and did not visit the refuge at all.

March is hot, as expected. But still windy! We are trying to keep all the young trees going until rainy season. We have more than 150 Toog trees in the nursery ready to be planted during rainy season.

The birds are loud! We could hear Koels calling from different parts of the refuge. How many are there? It sounded like a lot! We also heard a Hawk Cuckoo near the cottage.

The birds also looked bigger somehow! Perhaps I’ve been away too long and have gotten used to small urban garden birds. Or I’m out of practice. On my usual walk around with the dogs, I would see a movement and think –what is that??

This Lesser Coucal that walked across the path made me think — is that a mammal? No, it’s a bird skulking stealthily into the bushes!

These Island Collared Doves looked huge!

Island Collared Dove Streptopelia bitorquata

This Scaly Breasted Munia looked regular sized. It was nice though to have one approach closely.

Chestnut Munia
Scaly Breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata perched on a Malabulak

I was also very relieved to see two Philippine Ducks! We did not see any Philippine Ducks in January and it made us wonder if something bad happened to them. Did they get shot? We saw two of them flying out from the grass. When we see them walking in the grass and flying low over the grass, it makes us think that maybe, hopefully there is a nest in the grass and they are breeding in our refuge!

Philippine Duck Anas luzonica in flight

Tara, one of our horses passed away in February. It was sad to see the mound of stones in the paddock where she was buried.

Visiting Tara’s grave

Right now there is a lockdown and we are stuck in Metro Manila. The time spent days looking at birds and trees and wondering about the next new bird we will spot at the refuge is a wonderful gift. I am grateful!

looking for birds with Momo

January 2021

It was nice to get back to the refuge after more than a month of being away! The cold wind was blowing and the trees were growing!

We bought two Bagawak Morado trees in October 2019. One died and the other two are flowering! This one is beside the pump house of the swimming pool. The other one is near the nursery. The one near the nursery was reduced to a stump when it got eaten by an insect, but managed to grow back and flower.

I missed the flowers of the Alibangbang (Bauhinina malabarica). The trees are now full of immature seed pods. I plan to collect them when the seeds are ripe so I can share with other people who want to plant this native tree. The Alibangbang tree that is usually planted in subdivisions is Hong Kong Bauhina, the one with showy pink flowers.

It can get tall! How can I collect all those pods?

Our Tibig tree near the old cement bridge is covered in fruits. It doesn’t seem that popular with the birds though. There was a mucuna species of vine, most likely Mucuna pruriens growing near it. At first glance Ithought it was a Jade vine! One of our birthday trees flowered for the first time, Sterculia rubiginosa. We bought that tree in 2014. We planted Bayag Usa in July 2020 and it is flowering already!

These are Bignay wildings from the trees in our Alabang house. I collected most of them from a very neglected plant box that’s on top of the water pump housing. The soil in that plant box used to be very hard and dry. During the lockdown, I put a lot of dry leaves on top of the soil, planted some Lemon Lime Philodendron cuttings, and watered the plant box frequently. I was happy to find so manyBignay wildings growing in the plant box! Unlike the ones I harvested and planted straight from the fruit. Very few of those germinated. Maybe just one or two!

Bignay wildings collected from the garden in Alabang

This is the plant box where I collected most of the Bignay seedlings. There are more of them growing!

Doggie Diary

This is my illustration project starring Momo, Barkley, and Lulu!

June – We are building a new pond in the picnic area. Each time we start a pond, we have hopes of it being bigger than the previous ponds. There’s a lot of space for a big pond, but is there enough time to dig before rainy season starts?

watercolor of Momo in a hat and overalls driving a backhoe
June 2020 – Let’s build this pond!

July – One of the Mangkono seedlings we planted last year has a flower! This is at the planting area near the old bridge. The seedling is still very small. From afar it looked like a rose!

watercolor of Lulu in a dress admiring a small mangkono seedling that is flowering
July 2020 – Lulu admiring the Mangkono flower

August – We went inside the “foresty” part of the refuge to look for ferns! I painted Barkley holding scissors instead of a digging tool! We all had a lot of fun exploring the area and admiring the plants growing by the rocks.

watercolor of Barkley in overalls holding pruning scissors inside a forest with ferns
August 2020 – Not the scissors Barkley!

September – Barkley in the lead, Momo at the rear, Lulu in the middle. More often nowadays Barkley will skip the walk to go swimming instead! Momo still enjoys going for walks. He smells so many interesting things in the grass! I think he can smell the spots where the bigger birds like ducks and rails were hanging out.

watercolor of Momo, Barkely, and Lulu walking through a field of grass
September 2020 – The pack walk