Thursday, October 19, 2017

Purple Romano Beans

I'm a sucker for the unusual. Guess that's why I started growing purple beans in the first place. So a few months ago I spied a purple romano bean in one of the seed catalogs. Most of the romano types don't do well for me --- they seem to be overly attractive to the slugs here. And most have their pods rather low slung on the plant, well within easy slug reach. But I hadn't tried this one yet, and it kept saying, "Buy me, buy me."

Romano Purpiat. A bush bean, deep purple pods. 

I found the plants to be generally sturdy enough not to flop over, which is another problem I've had with romano beans. 

And the flowers are beautiful! 

When the small pods first form, they start out green. At first I was disappointed. They didn't seem very colorful. 

But within a day or two a dark purple streak showed up running down the spine of the pod. 

By the time the pods were ready for picking, they were deep purple. How cool! Yes, they are gorgeous. But for me, the best benefit is that they are easy to see and locate when picking them. With green pods, I'm apt to miss several. 

Since I only started with a small seed packet, I decided to harvest these plants for seeds. I actually got quite a lot of seeds from one small seed pack. 

Now I'll be able to grow a good crop of these beans. But it's now fall and not the greatest time for planting beans. So my plan is to sow 1/3 of the seed now to determine if this is a variety that can sown late in the fall around here. If it does poorly, then I'll wait until early spring before sowing the rest. 

Yes, some bean varieties can be grown year around here and they do well. Others are more sensitive to winter. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Adding a Wash Sink to the Tool Shed

This is a very simplistic set up. The tank collects rainwater off the roof of the small tool shed. 

Putting a spigot onto the tank was easy...just picked up the parts at the hardware store and drilled a hole...install. So easy that even someone like me can do it. 

The spigot purposely isn't taking water directly off the bottom of the tank. Over time, debris and silt will build up on the bottom of the tank. So if the water outlet was there, it would have a problem of getting clogged. By mounting the spigot higher up, the clogging problem is avoided and the tank needs to be cleaned far less frequently. 

No pump is needed with this set up. The water gravity drains into the tank, and also gravity drains into the sink. Of course the pressure isn't high, but I'll just be rinsing off tools and my hands. Any dribble will do. 

The sink is just mounted on some wood scraps. Nothing fancy. It's enough to hold the sink in place for a few years before the wood needs replacing. The wood cost me zero $. For now the sink drains into a bucket, which I can empty onto the nearest fruit tree. Eventually I'll pick up a sump pump hose to direct the water directly to a tree so that I can eliminate that bucket. 

Finishing touches on this project will be to paint the shed, install some shelves and hooks for garden tools. Plus put a stocking over the end of the water pipe going into the tank. Why? To catch most of the debris so that it doesn't end up in the tank. See, there's still something I can use that old pantyhose for! I bought dozens of packs of pantyhose over with me when I moved here, not knowing that I'd never again wear it again in my lifetime. They come in handy for filtering rainwater. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Growing Jicama

Jicama, also called yam bean, grows well on my farm. Originally from Mexico, this plant likes the long, warm Hawaiian growing season. It's grown for its tubers...NOT the beans, which are poisonous. In fact, the tubers are the only edible part of the plant. It grows as a vine and does well when supported by a fence, trellis, or even a bush or young tree. 

Above, a fairly young vine growing on a fence. 

A close up of a leaf. 

The flowers are a beautiful shade of blue. Under good conditions, the vine gets quite covered in flowers. Very, very pretty. 

Following the flowers are long pods full of beans. The beans contain rotenone, thus I am careful not to grow this over one of my fish ponds nor allow my puppy and livestock near the stuff. 

My current vines are not old enough to harvest the tubers, but I'll show you that when the time comes. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Faces of Hope

Last Wednesday was another cat neutering clinic. As always, it affected me profoundly. As a result I've spent the past several days writing, rewriting, and repetitively rewriting this blog entry. None were suitable for publishing. Too much ranting, too emotional. And besides, most of my blog readers already seem to have respect for life. I don't need to preach to the choir. 

So I will just show the faces of hope...the cats who have been lucky enough to get a chance to live their lives with less stress. Wednesday we gave them hope for a life with less fear. Yes, these are a few of the lucky ones this week. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

First Dairy Goats Arrive

Three new arrivals have joined our homestead farm, making the farm a bit more complete. 

Cali.......the mom. She's mostly Nigerian but not pure. Around here, purebred anything is the oddity, it appears. I'm not sure why people here prefer to mix their breeds of goats, cattle, horses, chickens, name it, whatever. But they do. So Cali is mostly Nigerian, but something else was mixed in. She was bred to a mostly Nigerian buck, resulting in 2 kids........

It's a doeling. Cute, playful. Sweet. 

A handsome little buckling. Smart and friendly. 

The kids are about 4 days old and doing fine. I plan to let them nurse off of mom during the day, boxing them at night so that I can milk Cali first thing in the morning. We shall see how well this works out. 

Being mostly Nigerian, Cali has small teats. She's a two finger milker, for sure. I've already been working with her and she allows me to milk her with very little problem. Nice goat, considering she's never done this before. I'm taking whatever amount of milk that I want for our breakfast table, then letting the kids rejoin mom. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Nigerian Goats?

Why did I choose to go with Nigerians? Fair question. There are plenty of goat breeds that produce a heck of a lot more milk than Nigerians. So little Nigerians are a poor choice for milk production and feed conversation. But have you noticed that they have short legs? I consider that to be a major plus! 

Around here, I use standard 4' high field fencing. I tend to rotate the livestock through the pastures, so I want an economical fencing that will hold in all my livestock. Fencing sold here for sheep is too short for goats. And anything over 4' high gets pricy. So 4' is my best compromise. 

Now....4' isn't high enough to keep in a curious standard sized goat. While I see plenty of goats behind 4' fences, I also hear plenty of tales of owners chasing wayward goats......gardens and prized shrubs getting eaten....goats getting onto the highway and causing accidents. I've had my own incidents of my own goat, Bucky, hopping my fence and eating almost my entire garden by morning! 

Building a goat-only pasture system wasn't appealing. Having to go to the expense of 5' or 6' fencing plus all those extra long t-posts wasn't in my budget. And the thought of having to pound in 8' t-posts sounded way too painful. Remember, I'm doing most everything by human power, not farm machinery. 

Nigerians are also known for having sweet milk. Among my Alpines, while most had decent tasting milk, I often had to cull out those that had a strong goaty flavored milk. And even their best milk had that slight goaty undertone. I thought that off flavored milk was due to having a buck around or by letting them eat strong tasting foods, but that wasn't the case with my does. They all ate the exact same diet and sometimes I'd get a new doe with strong, objectionable milk. So there must be a genetic factor involved. Nigerians supposedly don't have this problem. We shall see. 

Nigerians have nice personalities. Every person I've talked with who has or had Nigerians say that they liked them. That's a plus. I can't say that for some breeds. Even my own Bucky, a Nubian wether, isn't all that pleasant to be around. Some Nubians can be a challenge to handle......and those make nice smoked meat, sausage, dog food.

So I'm on a quest to find a few nice goats that are all or mostly Nigerian. Around here, purebred anything is difficult to find, so I'm willing to consider goats that are high percentage Nigerian. As long as they have short legs and sweet milk! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Harvesting Turmeric - Step 2

This year I'm growing quite a bit of turmeric. The roots that I got planted early are just getting ready for harvesting, while the later planted stuff is still green and needs a couple more weeks (I'm guessing). And talking with some other gardeners, I've learned that the turmeric growing in lower, warmer elevations is ready for harvesting well before the higher elevations. I'm about mid-way on the elevation, so some folks have been harvesting for a few weeks while others are still waiting. 

Once the plant is turning brown, I can start harvesting....if I'm impatient. Which I am! I'm out of turmeric and am eager for a resupply. But usually I can let the plant die back even more, as long as the weather isn't daily rain. Below, this plant isn't quite ready for harvesting, but what the heck. It's actually a plant I missed harvesting last year, so it matured ahead of the other plants around it. 

In fact, I missed harvesting a number of plants last year and the tops died completely back and disappeared. Last winter I accidentally found a number of them and was able to harvest the roots.  The hidden turmeric roots were perfectly fine. So I discovered that once the plants die back, the roots can be harvested for use at anytime up until they resprout. 

(Above, when I dug up that dry plant I found a large root ball.) 

I'm finding that the larger the piece that I plant, the larger the fan of roots that I can harvest. Of course that assumes fertile soil and adequate water. Example, this plant I just dug up.........

Wow, what a large clump!!!! As I said, it was a plant I missed harvesting last year. Pretty impressive how much I can get from a missed plant. 

Once I harvest the roots, I cure them by putting them in a dry, airy, shaded spot. Then I store some in the frig wrapped in a damp cloth (so that it's handy) for fresh use. Some sliced up and in the freezer for cooking (it gets soft but it's fine for cooking). Some I will dehydrate then powder (I use a coffee grinder). But the bulk gets stored in the ground where it will stay in good condition until I use it or it starts to sprout.