Saturday, February 17, 2018

Update

Since my last blog post, this place here has turned into "constant wet"......rain, rain, rain. Not a waterfall type rain, but a constant fall of moisture shifting from light mist to moderate downpour. Nothing steady, other than a general wet, but rather a dance of passing squalls in a landscape of swirling mist. In a way it's sounds pretty, but frankly, I'm sick of the wet! 

The constant wet has stymied my progress on the farm. There for awhile I was happily zipping along. Now things are at a standstill. Well, actually worse than standstill. The excess moisture is damaging the young plant seedlings. And I can't get the next crop succession planted. Life as a small farmer is full of frustrations. I deal with it by being flexible, changing my goals. But rain this many days in a row even makes this solution difficult to achieve. I'm just plan sick of rain and frustrated as heck. 

Just before the rain started, this farm was hopping. 5 lambs born -- thank heavens the last ewe is 3 weeks behind the others and not lambing in this rain. All the yacon has gotten planted. 80% of the turmeric is in the ground, but there's no rush to get the rest in. It can wait. All the garden beds are planted. 19 of the mini-greenhouses are full. 2 of the new 5 grow boxes are filled. 6 of the coarse compost bins got loaded up. And a new bed for 14 pineapple plants got created and planted. Zip...zip...yup, just zipping along. If you're an avid gardener or small farmer, you know just how good it feels to get things planted. 

Now I'm at a standstill. Blag! But I still have farm chores that need doing, even if it's raining. So each day I go through several changes of clothes, peeling off the wet clothes sticking to my skin, snuggling into wonderfully dry new ones. Yes, I could wear a raincoat, but I get overheated really quickly. The rain here isn't cold, so raincoats turn into personal saunas in a hurry. I'd rather just change into fresh clothes several times a day. I'll use a light raincoat or a long sleeved shirt for those quick trips out. But feeding livestock or checking the fenceline means a long time out in the rain. Yes, I'd rather just change into dry clothing. 

So what to do for the day? Farm work is out. What are my choices? There's only so many naps one can take to claim that I'm "catching up on my sleep". I've already finished up the books that I was reading. I'm burned out on seed catalog browsing. What's left seems to be house cleaning and tax paper work. Blag. Super barf! Perhaps I can start a new hobby called Photographing The Cats In The House. Yes, they too are escaping the rain. 

Rikki Tikki 

Miss Molly


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lambs, Lambs, More Lambs

My, my, my, I didn't expect to have so many lambs arrive on the same day. On a nice, warm, dry day the flock increased by 4. Two of the ewes had singles, and Stacy (the lead ewe) had twins. Frankly I prefer singles, but twins are acceptable. Happily, there were no triplets this time. But I still have one more ewe getting ready to lamb, so I'll hold my breath and hope for a single. 


Now guess what..... all the new lambs are boys! A bit of a disappoint, that. So far this lambing session, I've only gotten one little girl, and she's an all white one. I'd prefer to see some color and markings. But she's healthy and hearty, so I'll take that over a sickly, weak colored one. 


Of the four new lambs, only one is pure white. One is white with brown legs, one is all brown, and the other is black with a white tipped tail and a white cap & scarf. Now if he had only been a girl! If fact, it's a shame with all the color that they all aren't females. Oh well, such is life. 


I'll eventually offer these boys as pets, but if they don't sell, then they're be sold for meat. I don't need any ram replacements this year. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pallet Grow Box Upgrade

Yeah, I'm always trying something a little new. Just tweeting my ideas to see if I find some slightly better way of doing it. Perhaps making something easier, quicker, sturdier, cheaper, etc. 

Sooooo, this week I made a new section of pallet boxes. These will be for the yacon. I cobbled together 5 in arow, nailing the back 3 pallets together using a piece of 2"x4" as the nailing brace. The door was left unnailed so that I can easily open the boxes for harvesting, emptying, etc. 

I'm trying a slight modification on attaching the door. Not much of a change, but it was easy to make. Now I'll see if it turns out to be just as serviceable. 


I used to wire all four pallets together so that they could be easily individually replaced. I'm finding that all 3 side & back pallets tend to rot out at the same rate. Because the rot rate is uniform, I'm now simply nailing the back 3 pallets together for stability reasons. Assembly is far simpler and quicker this way. 

Depending upon what the pallet boxes are being used for, they are lasting 2 to 4 years. I could patch them to make them last longer, but I have easy, free access to replacements. So is simpler to scrap the rotting ones (cut up for firewood or add them to a hugelpit) and plop in a replacement. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Coffee Threesome

Crazy climate? I suspect the coffee trees think it is. How about this.........


Flowers, green unripe cherries, plus red cherries ready to pick....all on the same branch. 

This is happening to the trees growing in the full morning sun, shade after 1 pm. Last year they flowered in the beginning of April. As a comparison, the full shade trees are not yet flowering. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Comment About Humanure

I recently posted this comment on a local Hawaiian discussion group. I thought it might be of some interest to others, or at least get some folks thinking. The discussion was brought up because of the new mandatory septic system rules. People were looking at their options of composting humanure manure or installing composting toilets. Some people were already using 5 gallon buckets, others were using or seriously looking into various composting toilets. Others were 100% against handling or using humane manure in any form. Some people feared contaminants from their own bodies. Others feared disease and parasites. The following was my comment. 

.....

Fresh and improperly composted manures can indeed be a problem, resulting in illness. It doesn't matter much what kind of manure it is, although human manure is more likely to contain pathogens that cause human illnesses. But various parasites and illnesses quite often result from livestock manures, and even manures from wild animals have to be considered a danger. I know of many families that had to deal with intestinal parasites due to fresh animal manures. So if you have a fear of using your own humanure, perhaps you should have the similar fear of using animal manures...with due cause. 

As for humanure (as with all manures), if properly composted and aged, it is perfectly safe to use. The big problem arises when the manure is not correctly handled. Problems can arise if the compost is too moist or too dry. If the composting temperature is not high enough or not maintained long enough. If the hot pile is not turned (just because the center is hot enough doesn't mean that the outer edges are!) Human manure, by itself, will not properly compost. Thus additional material needs to be stirred in, such as peat moss, sawdust, brush clippings, etc. Even after hot composting, the recommendation is to consider the time period just to make sure all pathogens are inactivated. For humanure, I think the current recommendation for properly composted material is a one year waiting period. I'm not sure about this though. 

As for parasites.....parasite "eggs" will not survive proper hot composting. And anyway, if you think you have parasites and are contaminating your humanure, I'd suggest you go see a doctor rather than simply refrain from using manure. Parasites don't spontaneously develop in composted manure. The eggs came via the manure to added to the pile. So if you fear getting parasites from your humanure, go get yourself dewormed, then you won't be contaminating your pile. 

What goes in comes out, so the saying goes. So if you are sick and passing disease pathogens, then you need to compost in a fashion to kill those pathogens. If you have intestinal worms, the eggs are coming out. Again, deal with it-- get dewormed and properly hot compost. If you are taking medications that your body eliminates via feces, then they will be going into your compost. You may wish to combine your finished humanure compost pile with a regular compost /soil pile so that the soil microbes can help breakdown those medications. But don't assume that nature can deal with all of them. Many may still remain. If you are eating commercial foods, those chemicals may end up in your humanure too. Again, active soil microbes may be able to deal with some of them. By the way, if you haven't noticed, we live in a contaminated environment. So our compost can never be totally "clean" of unnatural chemicals. We wear commercial made clothing, eat commercial made foods, use commercial products (soap, shampoo, skin products, first aid products, etc). New clothing, houses, cars, even pajamas exude chemicals. Just about everything edible has added chemicals even if not listed on the ingredients list. The inside of cans and bottles are chemical lined. Plastic leaches chemicals into our food and drinks. Storing water in plastic for long term also leaches chemicals. Perhaps not enough for the government to get excited, but these chemicals have been detected in people's urine, so they are indeed there! Personally I just take steps to avoid as much chemical contamination as feasible and live with the rest. I'm not interested in living super remotely, so I have to accept some contaminates in my life. 

Next.....Saying that you'll only use your humanure on trees doesn't totally makes things safe. Yes, there's no rain splash to worry about. But you'll be walking on that soil where you applied the humanure, so your feet will be tracking it about. USDA testing has found that apple pickers contaminate apples with deer & mouse feces by the simple act of climbing a ladder using their hands on the ladder rungs. The worker walks through the orchard, unknowingly walking in mouse droppings. Now the soles of his shoes are contaminated, and proceeds to contaminate the ladder rungs as he climbs to pick apples. If he uses his hands on the ladder rungs (instead of using the ladder side rails) then his hands are contaminated, which contaminate apples as he picks them. That very same thing can happen in your own orchards. And how many people sanitize their shoes after visiting their orchard every time? So you really do need to make sure your humanure compost is safe from pathogens, in fact any manure compost. 

I use manure compost all the time. But I hot compost it and have a waiting period before using. I would not fear humanure if it were properly composted and aged. But quite honestly, I would not trust other people's humanure compost. I have seen far too many people cheat or take shortcuts with their animal manure composts. So I'd have to assume they are doing the same thing with the humanure. 

............

In Hawaii, cesspools must all be eliminated by 2050. While sewage systems in town areas may be the solution, at great expense to install due to the lava nature of this island, rural and outlining residents will need to look for other options. Septic systems will work for most, but be extremely expensive for the individual. Others, due to their land and the cost factor, will not be able to go that route. Thus composting toilets may their only legal option. But I predict that the poverty section of our population will use illegal methods, such as buckets and outhouses unless the government comes up with a financial assistance plan. People are struggling to live on $10,000 a year or less, so it is impossible for them to budget a legal option for handling human waste. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Eggs 2018

Looks like the hens are back into laying once again. The biddies are getting old, so I'm not having high hopes of making a bundle selling eggs. I have a few wild types that are new pullets, but they won't be big producers, not like the commercial breeds. The youngest commercial type birds are 3 years old. Yup, an aging flock. 


First egg showed up on January 26. First one. Then none. Then 3. Then 6. Right now I'm getting a steady 6 eggs a day. 4 from the commercials and 2 from wild hens. Next week or two I should be getting more, but I don't expect to see the 2 1/2 dozen a day I was getting last year. So we'll have to wait and see how many of the girls are still up to egg laying. 

As a reminder, the primary reason I have these chickens is for the manure. It's one of my primary fertilizer sources, right up there with the sheep and donkey. The eggs are simply a bonus. 

But ya know, maybe I should think about ordering a few new chicks. Can't hurt to add some young blood to the flock. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Red Banana

Checking my banana trees today, I saw that one of my new trees is blooming. And SURPRIZE... it's a red one. This is my very first red banana. Whoppie! 


See, not all bananas are yellow. I really didn't know that until I moved to Hawaii. Yes, I lived a very sheltered life. In fact, I thought all bananas were the same....the supermarket kind. I got a big education when I arrived here.

This tree was given to me. I have no idea what kind of banana it is. But I'm real interested to see what it's like to eat. It will be awhile before they are ripe, but I'll give you a report when that happens. 

This photo below was taken when the sun disappeared. The bananas look purple. Looks pretty cool. It would be fun if they really were that dark a purple, but it looks like they will be reddish in reality. Ha, who says photos don't lie!