Friday, August 27, 2010

The fishpond & all the rest, the movie...

Now that the fishpond is complete I decided to make a quickie video to show it off as well as to show off the entire back area of our little City of Angels bungalow.

Divine and I are quite proud of what we’ve done with the place. When viewing the video keep in mind that what you see did not exist when we moved in back in December ’07. What is now our master bedroom back then was an outdoor utility shed completely separate from the house. It had a long sink, a small storage room and open windows all around. We filled in all the windows, converted the storage room into a small bathroom and the sink area into ceiling to floor closets.

The video starts off at the breezeway entrance to our bedroom. The reason for the curtain outside the door is to veil it off from the kitchen’s back entrance, which unfortunately directly faces the bedroom entryway. Due to this juxtaposition of doors we hung the curtain diagonally for privacy. I didn’t want to step out of the bedroom in my “all together” only to be seen by someone happening to be standing on the other side of the kitchen screen door. Not that I run around all that much in an indecent state, but I like being able to if I want to.

Notice also at the end of the breezeway the iron works gate and fence. That gate is the entrance to the equally secure covered side yard where the maid does wash and prepares food. We put in drainage, lots of clothesline, a long sink and extra power plugs. The side yard project was one of our first to get done in order to secure the back side of the house. Security is job one in this country, especially in this town.

I provide a quick look at our bedroom. Its small, but I love it that way. We have everything we need in there; plenty of closet space, a bathroom, bookshelves, a comfortable recliner, and a computer and desk workspace where I now sit.

Next is the porch, the space that provides the reason that we don’t really need a sprawling master bedroom, gigantic master bedrooms being the norm in so many houses over here. I take it for granted now, but the porch is where I live. In that wonderful space I watch TV, read, eat our meals, entertain my foreigner friends, and just generally hang out. From there I can see the entire yard, the walk-in finch cage, the entrance to the tree tower staircase; and now that it’s complete, we can also see and “hear” the fishpond waterfall.

Eddie is the reason that we have a mango tree growing up through the roof of the porch. Originally, when I first dreamed up the porch, I assumed that its dimensions would be limited by the tree; but not to someone like Eddie who immediately came up with the idea of incorporating the tree. As soon as he broached the idea I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Keep in mind that in December of 2007 the back area seen in the video encompassing what is now the tower, fishpond and porch was dark, dank and dirty. A rusty broken down double swing sat where the porch now is; and a small four foot by four foot concrete pad surrounded by mud, where the fish tank in the porch is now, is where the previous occupants used to hand rinse their laundry. Other than the two mangos and one jack fruit tree there were no plants of any kind; the three fruit trees lower branches had evidently never been pruned and huge piles of leaves filled and spilled out of the back corner where the fishpond is now. An ugly concrete block fence encompassed the entire perimeter. It was VERY unattractive to say the least.

Looking out into the grassy main yard from within the porch the grass looks green and lush. It was not like that before we worked on making it that way by building the poor soil up by spreading hundreds of buckets of rich compost that we produced ourselves. Every banana peel, tree leaf, apple core, chicken bone and grass clipping has gone into building some of the most amazing soil I’ve ever seen. Today, when I was digging into the oldest of our compost soil I saw earthworms as big as garter snakes. Those worms are “my boys.” They chew it all up, and from the back end, they spew it all out as dark rich castings. I love my worms.

Moving past the bar and mango trunk looking into the side of the finch cage I could only spot a couple of the fifteen birds that live in there. I figured out why they were all hiding once I got up into the tower and saw a storm approaching. They always head for the dry safety of their nesting baskets when they smell precipitation coming. Smart birds those finches.

Stepping out the porch and into my flip-flops I head up the stairs of the tower, now in its second year of existence. Remember the view from the ground as we climb the tower from landing to landing. Not much is visible outside the walls of our little compound. To live in most houses in the Philippines is like this, a very claustrophobic walled in experience. That’s why I love my 46 foot tower where I always feel like I’m rising into an entirely different world as I climb its fifty plus steps.

Ascending higher and higher the breeze becomes apparent in the brisk movement of the long mango leaves. Looking down provides a unique and interesting view of the yard, garden and pond. After two years the three trees have tended to envelope the tower; constant pruning is necessary to keep them at bay. A bright umbrella is seen in the front side of the yard where my nephew squats in its shade as he clips the grass.

Directly to our rear is the house of a Brit whom I have yet to meet even though he and his girlfriend have been there for months now. She told Divine that he is interested in climbing the tower; I told her to tell him to come over any time. Evidently he lives less than half the time in country; mostly he lives back where he’s from I guess.

The third landing is where the entrance to the primary catwalk begins. The sturdy walkway securely allows anyone to climb into the mango tree coming from within the porch and then zigzags down into the jackfruit tree. It feels so safe that it’s easy to forget that the height where it ends at the jackfruit is more than 15 feet up.

Arriving back at the landing I stop and make a comment about the loud music coming from a neighbor’s house, the culprit being a maid doing some outdoor chore. Typically people will open the windows and crank the stereo full blast so they can hear it outside. Maids are notorious for doing it here, but they aren’t the only ones.

Climbing the final two flights the viewer sees on the right the hugely blocky Robinson’s Department Store where we usually go to see movies; to the left of that in the far distance is Mt. Arayat, what’s left of an ancient long dead volcano. A beautiful blue sky and rainless white clouds frame the picturesque old mountain. The camera spins all the way around to the west and entirely different sky can be seen. A line of dark storm clouds is well on the way. Until getting up there I had no idea. If not for the ominous line of approaching weather the Zambales Mountains would be visible in that direction.

On the way back down we take a short stop at the second floor landing and step onto the smaller catwalk for a look at the fishpond from directly above it. Back on the ground the camera pans back to the west and notice that only a hint of the approaching weather is visible.

The grass is spare at the spot where my workers all walked, trampling my beloved grass into near oblivion. After a light sprinkling of fertilizer and compost material, that stressed out piece of yard is beginning to regain its former greenness.

The area containing the tower, garden and pond is super tiny. To disguise its miniature dimensions I broke it up with three mounds of thick lush greenery in the form of rock gardens. Walkways winding between these features further give the feeling of more space than what actually exists.

The waterfall rock wall looks amazing in the video. Using the reinforced concrete support posts as a means to display foliage and vines, in effect framing it with plants, was a stroke of visual genius, even if I do say so myself.

To the rear of the falls is the original high side walkway that once provided access to the top of the now nonexistent rock garden feature that was replaced by the pond. That walkway is still there but now it’s the rear rampart providing access behind the waterfall wall. Eddie put up some sturdy bamboo rails, and if you look closely you can see that he wrapped traditional handmade Abacá rope around all the bamboo joints. This unique rope woven from the strands of fibers of the Abacá plant, from the banana family, provides extra strength and beauty. Directly under the bamboo handrail central to the rock wall can be seen the waterworks and control valves.

I made a point of aiming the camera from directly above looking down the face of the waterfall rock wall. I must say it looks amazing. (There I go again!) Again, the view outside the immediate area within the garden and trees is occluded just enough to fool the eyes and mind into thinking the surrounding space is much larger than it is. Success! That is exactly the impression that we strove to achieve.

Divine bought seven of the floating water plants that she was told at the store are called Lotus. Now I’ve looked at images of Lotus and not one resembles this plant. It’s a very beautiful floating plant that to me looks like a cross between a rose flower and a cabbage. If anyone knows what it is PLEASE clue me in. It’s driving me nuts not being able to identify it.

So that’s our own little bit of self made heaven. If it’s not paradise then it’s the next best thing. I hope you enjoyed taking a look at it.


Ed said...

Looks like a lot of work has been put into your place. I remember some of those first pictures. I still like the tower the best.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Not so bad. All of it spread out sporadically over three years.

David said...

Phil you have done an excellent job IMPO of making your house a home and even though you live in the middle of the city your backyard looks wonderful as if you were living in some far flung province. You have also given me some great ideas for my own home improvement projects. Loved the video also.

Dave D.

Beau said...

Incredible! It's amazing how much you've done in just a few years, and the tower is really neat. I love the tree through the roof too. A tropical hideaway...

PhilippinesPhil said...

Thanks Beau. The part i love the most about this place is the tropical part. I don't think I can take cooler weather anymore.

Sophia Bliss said...

Well, I did enjoy watching your home video. Your urban dwelling doesn't look like a typical bungalow anymore. It's now a lovely home with a little Shangri La garden and an Eiffel-inspired tower. Thanks for sharing! Or shall I say showing off? :) By the way, about that "lotus" plant, I did some research about it. I'm not an expert on floating pond plants nor a person with green thumb, but I think it belongs to aquatic species called pistia stratiotes also known as water lettuce or water cabbage.