Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cantaloupe Update: Number One

This past Tuesday, after having little success getting tomato seeds to sprout in their tray, I decided to plant cantaloupe seeds directly into the soil. I built up two little mounds in my garden plot and planted seven or eight seeds in each one.

We've had fairly good rains the last two nights and my cantaloupe seeds have already sprouted. There are five or six seedlings in each of the two mounds. I'll wait before thinning them out.

As I mentioned, I'll be doing a few "before and after" photos. I suppose the photos should be more properly called "before, during and after" photos.

I've taken a snap shot of both mounds, but I see no point in posting both online. If you've seen one mound of sprouting cantaloupe seeds, you've seen them all.

For those of you who find this exciting, I'll put up another BDA photo next Saturday. I know you can hardly wait.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bananas and Dreams of Cantaloupes

Back in the United States, during a limited time frame, I was able to go outside beside the house and pick from plums off one of the two plum trees I had planted there. One of the trees produced fruit in June; both trees blossomed every spring, but one had not produced any plums before we sold the house.

The trees are different varieties and are barely years old, so I suppose it's possible that the tree that hadn't produced fruit will one day.

Here in Sibulan, I can still go out into the back yard and fetch fresh fruit; only, here, instead of picking plums, we can pick bananas.

The particular bunch pictured here was harvested a few days ago. I wasn't the one who picked them - I'm not exactly sure which family member did. That doesn't stop me, however, from eating what I can.

This bunch is out back, on a table in an area referred to as the "dirty kitchen". The dirty kitchen is what the Filipinos call an area behind the house where foods can be cooked with firewood or charcoal. A sort of BBQ area, if you will.

These particular bananas aren't vey large; they're only slightly longer than my longest finger. They're still very sweet and I'm quite fond of them. My sister in-law pan fries them for breakfast (then sprinkled with sugar) I like the bananas cooked that way, but eating the fruit raw is good enough for me.

I have one or two relatives back home who will not be jealous of me because of this. There are actually folks out there who don't like bananas. I know, strange huh, but true.

In an earlier post , I mentioned that I've planted cantaloupe seeds. With luck, I should have cantaloupes in about 90 days or so. I can hear some of my friends from Georgia now, "Big deal. We grow cantaloupes here." Maybe so, but here, there will be cantaloupes pretty much year around. I won't ever have to worry about frost killing the plants. The only problem might be too much rain at certain times of the year. Not having lived here for a year yet, I'm not too sure about that.

I promised "before and after" photos. Still no seedlings to photograph. The cantaloupe seed packet says to expect 5 to 10 days for the seeds to sprout. It's only been two. Next week, when I have cantaloupe seedlings, I'll take my camera outside for the first shots.

Until then,I see little reason to photograph dirt.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Life on Mars.

Finally, I have cable TV and high speed Internet. I'm not nearly as excited about the cable as I am the Internet connection. For the most part, I can let everyone else in the household watch whatever they choose on the TV. For myself, I'm glad that I'm finally able to watch my favorites on Netflix once again.

Thanks to Avast and the company's SecureLineVPN, I can disguise my IP address thru a virtual private network and get around companies which might otherwise "geo-block" me from their websites.

Now, not only am I am to connect to a server in the U.S. and watch Netflix, but I can also switch to a server in London and watch Geo-blocked BBC programs and British Netflix. When I'm connected to London, Netflix recognizes my account, but mistakenly assumes that I've traveled to England with my personal laptop. I'm able to watch certain programs on the British Netflix which aren't available in the U.S. yet; like my new, favorite TV show, Life on Mars starring John Simm. Simm is probably more well known to Americans as the Master in Dr Who .

The program is actually several years old, but it's new to me. There were only 16 episodes and I've just finished watching #2.

And, did I mention that I'm looking forward to watching SEC football on the CBS Sports website when the time comes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pat Archbold Would be Proud.

Pat Archbold, one half of the duo who blog at and is none too happy with the "sign of peace" as it's done in much of the United States. In a recent post he wrote:

"I will admit that most times, the ridiculousness that ensues during the sign of peace has me cringing." and "In my mind, there is only one reasonable suggestion. Exercise the option for the faithful NOT to exchange the sign of peace. All joking aside, it is almost always a terrible interruption to the mass and a distraction from where our collective focus should be at that moment."

Pat would probably be pleased with the way it's done here in Philippines - at least in the Catholic churches where I've gone to Mass. The "sign of peace" as it's done here, is not the wild display of hugging and kissing and hand shaking that Pat dislikes so much. For the most part. the "sign of peace" consists of little more than a "look" and a nodding of the head. In the U.S. one would be considered laid back if one merely shook the hands of the folks nearest you. Here, to shake hands the way Americans do it would be considered a flamboyant public display.

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by the difference. I don't have a problem with head nodding in the direction of strangers in the church, but, I'll continue to give my wife and son a small little kiss as I've always done.

In Archbold's post he mentioned "the Congregation for Divine Worship's recent circular letter announcing that the placement of the sign of peace within Mass will not change, though it could be performed with greater dignity". I don't believe you could ask for a more dignified sign of peace than the way the Filipinos do it. I'm sure Pat Archbold would be happy.

A Tuesday Update.

It appears that the few tomato and bell pepper seeds I planted aren't going to make it. Perhaps the soil I used was not a proper medium for getting seeds to sprout. Having the tray dumped upon by sand didn't help.

Don't ask.

I'll be looking for a better tray and try to find potting soil. I can just about say with confidence that I won't find any Hyponex potting soil here.

In the mean time, I'm going to put out a few cantaloupe seeds directly into mounds of earth in my little garden plot. If the cantaloupe does well and sprouts properly, I won't have room for too many cantaloupe plants.

We did a bit of pushing and squeezing on our budget and bought a TV yesterday. We're expecting Larry ang Cable Tao to come by this morning to install the cable for the TV and high speed Internet. In the mean time, my wife and two of her sisters are Zumba dancing to a dvd brought from the States. I guess they were only waiting for the new TV.

This blog post is a direct result of the exercise dvd. The three were eager to jump around to the music but were naturally shy about such a display in front of me. So, to save the trio from embarrassment, I retired to the bedroom with the laptop. I'm not quite sure how long they'll last before they're overcome by exhaustion.

I photos or video of their Zumba, even though I'm sure the few readers of this humble blog would be entertained.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shoveling the B.S.

 No, this blog post is not about the political situation in the United States.

I spent the first part of the morning shoveling "B.S"., or I guess, more correctly, "C.S".. "C" as in carabao rather than "B" as in bull. Most of my friends might tell you that that is nothing new, I'm always shoveling the "B.S"., but today it's a bit different. I'm referring to honest to goodness, for real carabao manure. As it turned out, there were several carabao in the field when we collected the manure, and I have no idea if this is from a male or female carabao. So, the "C" in "C.S". could very well stand for cow.

It's still a bit early, I don't have seedlings yet ready for planting, but I got out my shoving and my gigantic bag of manure and went out to my garden plot. And spread I did.

I have way more than enough to spread around. I didn't put out all I have. I dug and spread and dug.

I've done enough for the day. I've showered and shaved and now I'm sitting under the electric fan enjoying my new beverage of choice.

I do have one tiny little seedling sprouting in my seedling tray. If it isn't from some stray, random seed that just happened to drop in, it should me my first tomato seedling. I'll know better when it's a bigger. I'll wait and see before I take a progress photo.

. I wish I could say that the photo below was a photo of my garden plot; but, it's a photo of the field where we gathered the carabao manure.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Morning.

Saturday morning.

Almost 9:00 AM. Breakfast (Spam, scrambled eggs, rice, fried bananas) finished, kids have eaten and have now gone to Lola Ninfa's where there's cable TV.

I was able to connect my PC to the avast VPN out of Seattle and we're listening to Nora Jones on Spotify. It's difficult to get overly motivated; it's already sweltering. Besides, Nora Jones is slow and relaxing - just perfect for the heat.

I'm not about to get out this morning in the garden plot. I have a couple of good excuses; it rained during the night and the soil is too wet for digging - the humidity is nearly unbearable- and finally, because I'm recuperating from a chest cold, my wife won't allow it.

Sitting in the living room, looking out the window, I see a butterfly feeding on the blossom of a small tree outside. By the time I've gone into the bedroom and fetched my camera, it's gone away. The camera sets on the table nearby now, so I'm sure the butterfly will not return any time soon.

As it happens, I'm spending more time reading than I am writing. I'm currently in the middle of  The Three Musketeers. Not quite sure why I'm only getting around to reading it now. I wonder if the book is still considered "standard reading". When I was younger, I was under the impression that the book was written with young readers in mind. Not so. The book is written for adults. Dumas was not nearly as explicit as he might have been had he written the book today, but I can't see how it would have been ever considered appropriate for High School kids. It is just me? d'Artagnan is hardly a role model.

The kids are drifting back this way. So much for my relaxing Saturday.

I suppose it's just as well. I need to get up and about.

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Boxes.

Thursday afternoon, the two balikbayan boxes shipped via LBC arrived. These are the ones that we've really been waiting for.

For J.P., the boxes contained his remaining Wii games and accessories. He's happy about that, as well as the several cans of Walmart brand Vienna sausage - the only brand he likes - and the large quantity of chili powder.

For me, my desktop PC; I've already checked it out, and everything is working just fine. On the plus side, that PC is connected to a VPN so I can get around the geographical restrictions placed on us by Spotify and Netflix, to name just two. The only problem, so far, is that the slow Internet connection isn't good enough for streaming. Both Spotify and Netflix require high speed, broadband Internet, something we don't have presently. Hopefully, we'll have that problem taken care of after my next payday.

I can't go without mentioning the garden seeds. Inside the box holding my steel toe boots, I stashed a wide variety of agricultural seeds. As mentioned in earlier posts, I won't have as much space for gardening as I thought I'd have. I've already set out a tray containing bell pepper and tomato seeds. I have quite a few packs of tomato seeds, but unfortunately, I didn't send nearly enough bell pepper seeds. That's because the bell pepper seeds were so very expensive; nearly 3 times the cost of other seeds.

While I'm waiting on the first seeds to germinate, I'll finish clearing the plot of pesky stones and add the carabao manure to the soil.

It's difficult to say right now which seeds will follow these first ones. I'll have to see just how many plants I have to set out. I will probably put out okra and yellow squash next. There isn't very much space, but I believe I'll have room for one or two squash plants near the edge.

Sadly, many of the seeds I have are for plants that require a lot of room; plants like watermelon, cantaloupe, yellow and zucchini squash, as well as butternut squash and pumpkin. The hot peppers, the sweet peppers and tomatoes won't take up so much space. Neither will the okra.

I won't be doing much in the way of work today, however. I've picked up a cold somewhere. There's nothing worse than a chest cold in Philippines. It's the summer cold from Hell. I'll take it easy for a day or two. I'm sure I'll feel better before long.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Garden Plot - Day Two: My Trophies.

Yesterday, after I had done all the digging in the garden plot that I was going to do for the day, I kept an eye on the area to get a better idea of where the sunlight would be falling there during different times of the day. I want to use as much of the spot as I can, but I certainly don't want to dig in areas that stay shaded all day.

During the night, I was awakened by dogs barking and found one mutt laying in the freshly dug bed. I quickly chased it away; I'll have to modify my bamboo fencing to keep the sons of bitches away.

After taking J.P. to school this morning, I went back to work. It's not an easy job. I'm sure that the fact that I'm a worn-out geezer has something to do with it, but I'd like to think that even a younger man would have a rough go with this.

I'm not working on a schedule; I can take as long as I like, finishing this. I want this done right, so I'm not going to rush.

While tossing smaller stones out of the bed and into an area that never gets sunlight, I had the idea that, because I want to do my best on this garden plot, I should follow the example of Saint Josemaría Escrivá and dedicate my work to God. As an added help, I decided to dedicate this garden to the Blessed Mother. It will be almost like praying, thinking of this as I work.

I marked off a small section that I would do today. As it turned out, I was given a little present; I like to think of these two things as trophies for a job well done.

One is a large stone and the other is the root of a shrub that was cut down.

I couldn't resist taking photos of my trophies. It dawned on me that in simply taking the photo of the stone and root, there would be no way for anyone to judge their size. So, if you look closely, you'll see a Philippine Piso atop the stone, as way of reference.

Of course, then it occurred to me that not everyone is familiar with Philippine currency, so I've included a photo of a Philippine Piso in my hand.

I am so  looking forward to my first tomato sandwich.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Garden Plot.

Yesterday morning, when we returned from Mass, we found the workers at the house getting ready to put in the new windows. It took them most of the day to complete the work, but I believe they did a good job.

We picked a tinted glass for the individual window panels. Because of a covered area built on one side of the house, there's no problem with sunlight coming in through the windows in the kitchen or living room. The bedroom window is a different story; the bedroom gets quite a lot of afternoon sun. The tinted widow panels help. While these tinted windows don't keep out 100% of the sunlight, it's much better than clear glass would be.

Later in the afternoon, when the sun wasn't beaming down quite so strongly, we went to Mama and Papa's place in Tubtubon to gather carabao manure for my little garden plot.

My wife's papa and I took a shovel and an empty feed sack and crossed over into a neighboring farmer's land. This particular farmer has quite a few carabao and gathering the manure was no problem. As a matter of fact, we shoveled up about 25 or 30 kilos until I had Papa stop; he would have gathered even more, if I hadn't.

The area I have allotted for my little garden plot doesn't get sunlight until 10:30 or 11:00, so I was out first thing this AM (before 7 ) digging in the plot. The space isn't really large, only about nine feet by nine feet, but it'll take me a few days to dig up the spot. Unfortunately, portions of the area will stay completely shaded and I can't use the entire 81 sq. ft..

I'm using a shovel and doing a variation of the French Intensive method of gardening. It's slow going - shoveling, removing stones and grass roots. But, once I've finished and put out the manure, this little area can be used for a long time to come.

I'll be taking before and after shots to document my progress on the garden. As an added bonus, this photo includes one of the new jalousie windows. No before photos of the windows, however.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Afternoon Moon.

A few days ago, I went out about 5:15 PM and saw the moon shining in the east, hanging above the banana and coconut trees. It looked so nice, I had to take a few photos. Here are two.

The Windows

Regular readers of this blog know that our house in Sibulan is in need of renovation. There's plenty of work to do , but our budget only allows us to do a little at a time. Our next project is making and installing the new for the kitchen, one for the living room and one for our bedroom.

When we first discussed what type of windows would be installed, it was decided that we'd put in sliding windows with screens. However, a few days back, my wife said she'd like to put in the type of windows that her aunt has in her house. With her Filipina accent, it sounded to me as if she was saying she wanted "jealousy windows". I asked her more than once, to repeat herself and each time the words sounded the same. I had no idea what a "jealousy window" could possibly be, so it was off to her aunt's house to see for myself.

These windows were a type once popular in Georgia - before the days of central air conditioning. The windows are a louvered window with glass panels. I vaguely remember my mother calling them "Florida windows".

Out of curiosity, I Googled "louvered windows" to see if I could find out why the windows are called what they are in Philippines.

It turns out, the correct name for this type of window is "jalousie" window.

Looking even further, I discovered that jalousie is a corrupted, American version of the Italian name for a louvered window, gelosia ; gelosia being the Italian word for jealousy because louvered windows can "afford a view while hiding the viewer".

Our windows are being custom made by a company in Sibulan. The space is rather large, and I hate to guess what such windows might cost in the United States. Thousands, I'm sure. Here, we'll have the windows made and installed for about $300 USD. Oh, yeah.....that includes screens for the windows as well.

It's all basically tied in together. The space outside the bedroom window will be where I'll plant my bell peppers and tomato plants. The seeds for those will arrive in the next balikbayan box. So, I'll still have a little time, after the windows are installed, before the plot needs to be made ready for the plants.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Change Is Good.

When we first arrived in Sibulan and started making use of the "easy ride" as our means of getting to and from Dumaguete, we assumed that 10 pesos per person was the standard fare. We'd give 30 pesos if the three of us were riding together, or 20 if just two, and so on. But, what we did not realize is that the fare is actually 8 pesos per head and drivers were not giving us the correct change.

It's only been within the last few days that I came to learn the amount that we should have been paying all along.

It's really amazing. Yesterday, I had to take four different easy rides - taking JP to school and back. Each of the four drivers gave me correct change. That's the first time that has happened since we've arrived.

Now, knowing the correct fare, I'm trying to make certain that I have the correct amount in coins before boarding. I don't want to tempt someone into trying to cheat me.

Look, I know that we're talking about really small amounts of money. 10 pesos is only worth about 25 cents in U.S. currency, but it's the principle, right? Taking J.P. to school this morning, plus my return home, should cost 24 pesos total. I had been being overcharged and paying 30. That 6 pesos difference is nearly the cost of one trip. It does add up when one has to make several trips in a week's time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

Yesterday afternoon around 2 o'clock, I was sitting as close to the fan as possible trying to cool off as best I could, when I heard Cathy's papa calling me from outside. A shipment of balikbayan boxes had arrived.

This was a minor surprise. We still had two different shipments of boxes that had not yet arrived in Sibulan; one was shipped via Continental Freight Forwarders on April 19, and the second was shipped via LBC in late May.

We've been able to track the boxes from LBC and the latest update eas that these boxes were forwarded to Dumaguete distribution. We have not been able to track the shipment from Continental. We had heard from a friend in the States that her boxes, which where shipped the same date as ours, were in Manila. No official word on those boxes and we were afraid that they may have been lost.

When I went outside to receive the boxes, I was pleasantly surprised to see that these were the boxes shipped thru Continental. We had no idea where these boxes were and did not expect them.

The total number of boxes in this shipment was six regular boxes and one double sized. 90% of the shipment consisted of clothes and shoes - mostly belonging to my wife- though it did include some stereo equipment and assorted items for the kitchen, and most important of all,an eight foot artificial Christmas tree.

Our boxes coming from LBC should arrive this week. That's the one I'm looking for. It has my desktop PC and monitor along with a wifi router. This PC is connected to a VPN so we should be able to watch Neflix and listen to Spotify again.

JP should be happy with the next shipment as well. It contains some of his Wii games and Sonic figures along with a few cans of Walmart brand Vienna sausage - his favorite.

We actually have one more shipment coming via LBC which has been packed and is waiting to be shipped from the U.S.. That box contains really valuable items.......mostly food items which can't be bought here, or if they can be purchased, are too expensive.

It's only August, and we've barely been here a month and already I thinking of things we'll need shipped here in January or February.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My New Beverage of Choice.

There was once a time - many, many, years ago - when my diet pretty much consisted of three things; coffee, beer and cigarettes. That's no longer the case.

I gave up cigarettes more than 20 years ago. It was 22 years this past July, as a matter of fact.

Although I won't go so far as to say I have given up having a beer now and then, I hardly ever indulge any more. I'd say probably no more than once or twice a year. Compared to what I once put away, this is nothing.

Of the three vices mentioned above, the only one that I still indulge in on a regular basis is coffee. But, even my coffee drinking isn't what it once was. Even before moving to Sibulan, I had made a conscious effort to cut back on the Java. Now that I'm living in Philippines, I can see the habit dwindling even more.

Part of the reason for this drop in coffee consumption is the desire to cut down somewhat on the caffeine. I brought along a supply of ground coffee and I put some into a balikbayan box which has as yet, not left the U.S.. No, one of the main reason why I foresee a further drop in my coffee consumption is the price of coffee in Dumaguete.

Since I still have a small supply left, I haven't shopped for ground coffee; I have looked at prices, out of curiosity. Instant coffee is preferred in Philippines and there isn't a wide selection of ground coffee. When looking at Super Lee's, I noticed only one brand - one that I had never heard of - though it came as either ground or as whole, roasted beans. The cost of both varieties is the same, and neither is a bargain.

Translating pesos to dollars and kilos to pounds, it seems that the price of coffee is around $10 a lb.. I didn't spend a lot of time searching for more coffee at the grocery, and it's possible that I might fins a wider selection. But, I cannot understand why coffee should cost that much here. Coffee can be grown here, though I've never seen a Filipino brand anywhere. Vietnam, one of the main coffee producers in the world is not so very far from here. Walmart's store brand coffee is arabica beans grown in Vietnam, so the coffee shouldn't cost so much here.

As my coffee consumption has gone down, I've started drinking a bit more green tea. I've found one brand of green tea here that is reasonably priced, and actually quite good, though it is also a brand that is new to me.

The green tea I'm using now is called "Susan Baker's Chinese Green Tea". I've Googled the name to find out more about the brand, but very little shows up on the Internet.

Here's my preferred method for green tea:

I put the tea bag into a mug; I've found a regular cup too small. I pour in boiling water, cover the mug with a saucer and allow the tea to steep for a few minutes. When it's the color I like, I had the juice from one calamansi and loads of sugar. For you folks who can't get calamansi, well, I guess you can substitute some other type of citrus. Calamansi is a wee bit smaller than a key lime. The taste is different, however. I've read somewhere that it is a cross between a lime and a Mandarin orange. I don't know. Limes, oranges, grapefruit - all the citrus fruits - have a slightly different taste and I couldn't possibly describe the taste of a calamansi.

Every I read on the Internet tells me that green tea has several health benefits. Reading about, calamansi, I learn that it's pretty good for you as well. Perhaps by combining the two, I can live to be 100.

Even if green tea and calamansi turns out to not be a magic elixir, it certainly tastes good.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Need to Re-Kindle.

Of all my gadgets and devices, my favorite has to be my Kindle. It's one of the older models with the keyboard and I've become accustomed to getting free e books from Amazon and Project Gutenberg. I love my Kindle so much, that I bought one for my eight year old just before we left the United States. He hasn't, as yet, become the enthusiastic reader that I hope he will one day become, but I wanted him to have the Kindle when he's ready for it.

Being the "new and improved model", his Kindle doesn't have the same external keyboard. That isn't a major problem, but it lacks one feature that I'm not so happy with. Before leaving the U.S., I attempted to load an e book (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) to his Kindle which I had downloaded onto my PC from Project Gutenberg. I don't understand why, but the new Kindle would not permit me upload this particular e book. I was able to get around that by getting the e book free from Amazon. This would not be a problem except that there are a number of e books out of copyright available at Project Gutenberg that aren't yet available on the Amazon website.

On the flight over from the U.S., I somehow managed to damage my Kindle. There is a crack in the screen and it's now a thin, rectangular paperweight. When my PC arrives (hopefully within the week) I'll be able to at least access the files in the Kindle, but that's little consolation; I can already access them from my online Amazon account- with the exception of those downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

I've been reluctant to borrow JP's Kindle; it belongs to him and I don't want him to feel that I've taken it from him.

I can always order a new one for myself from Amazon. It can be sent to me via a future balikbayan box, or hand delivered by whichever of my friends visits Philippines next. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that I will be able to find another old Kindle keyboard that will allow the downloads from Project Gutenberg. For those, I can read on the Kindle for PC that's on my desktop, though I don't really care for reading a book on a PC. I'd much rather hold the reader in my hand like a traditional boo.

Yesterday, I discovered that there is a Kindle app available for my android. Thanks to the app, I'm able to finish reading the e book I started reading before I destroyed my Kindle. Like JP's Kindle, the app allows me to access my Kindle library on the Amazon website, so all is not lost. With this, I have the same advantages and disadvantages I have using the new (non-keyboard) Kindle. I'm still unable to get the ebooks from Project Gutenberg, but I suppose I can live with what I have.

Now, if only I could do something able this @#$#@* slow Internet connection.