Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rainy Day Jobs

.For the past three weeks it's been wet or raining most days. Great for the soil and building ground water reserves, but not much fun for doing farm work outdoors. So it was time to bring out the old job list that's reserved for rainy days.
(Only the second time this past year that the rain gauge recorded over an inch of rain.)

Rainy day jobs all need to be done, but for one reason or another, they get a low priority rating. Guess I'm just a procrastinator when it comes to jobs that don't interest me. I'd rather be outdoors working. Yes, some tasks are essential, but come on, digging in the dirt is so much more fun! 
(Rain drops pooling on the surface of taro leaves. I wonder if local islanders ever used large taro leaves to collect rain water in the old days.)

So what's been occupying my time lately? Fun things like, catching up on paperwork, organizing the tax records, cleaning out closets, mending clothing, washing windows. Ouch! How boring! At least some of the jobs I enjoy but never seem to have enough time and energy to get to-- like re-organizing the seeds, updating the planting schedules, making the charts to summarize the weather data, coming up with plans for future projects, catching up on Internet info, catching those YouTube videos I'd like to watch.

Certain farm tasks make wonderful rainy day jobs. Sharpening the tools. Repairing equipment. Getting the general maintenance issues done. I don't mind these nearly as much as in the house jobs, at least it's part of farming, right? 
(Puddles and mud, a rare occurance here on the farm.)

I haven't found a farmer yet who likes paperwork. Some will trudge through the paper themselves. Others will hire someone to do it. And there are others who just shove it to the back of the desk, then fly into panic mode when it needs to be completed by yesterday! Hey, sounds like me! There are plenty of people out there that love organizing and doing paperwork, but they are not the "lets get down in the dirt and work" kind of people. At least I haven't had the pleasure of meeting one of them yet. The perfect situation would be to have one partner love the farm work and the other partner love the paperwork. Gee, that ain't happening here. While Hubby is an OCD organizer, it all revolves around electronic gadgetry and computer stuff. He couldn't successfully plant a row of peas even if his life depended upon it. Nor could he be enticed to organize the seed box, draw up a planting schedule, clean out the tool shed. 

Anyway, back to the drudgery discussion. I've tried to confront the growing piles of dull work several times during the past year. But we never had stormy days, never got snowed in, never too cold to be outdoors. Instead the sun would shine, the tradewinds would be delightful, the outdoors would be whispering in my ear.....come out and play! So I'd succumb to the call. Warm sun on my skin, balmy breezes blowing hair across my face, birdsong in my ears, warm earth on my hands. It wouldn't be until night that I'd feel any regret or remorse. Then I'd feel lower than the belly of a snake for not getting that paperwork caught up. Luckily I hit the sack by 8 pm, so I don't have long to have to put up with feelings of remorse!   ;) 

So after much self berating.....with the help of much rain, I've got most of the dull jobs caught up....except for all the paperwork. That's partially done. But we are still getting rain here, so it looks like I'll be confined indoors with nothing but that dang paper pile to whittle away at. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Garden Update

My little experiment on eliminating the lawn lead to the creation of a couple new small gardens. It's now been almost five weeks. So what's developed?

The radishes have been steadily producing for almost two weeks. I eat a couple for myself but pick a bunch twice a week and trade them for a couple big tomatoes. 
Each week I am sowing another small patch with radish seeds, so the crop keeps coming. 

The Purple Teepee beans are blooming and already starting to produce their first teenie beans (only 3/4 inch long right now). I intend to save these beans for seed production rather than eating them. 
The taro is in the shady section and is doing well. It would be a bit bigger if it was growing in full sun, but I've found that this variety will produce decent corms even in partial shade. It's nice to have something able to produce in the shadier areas, since it's hard to utilize those spots. 
I discovered that when the taro is small, I can add compost ingredients in a trench between the taro rows then cover it over with dirt or grass clippings. As the material rots down it provides more nutrients to the growing taro. Taro doesn't like it's roots stepped on, so once the trenches are filled and covered over, I mulch the taro well and try not to walk in the bed too much. 
This trench composting technique works well for other vegetables too.


Localvore - A New Trend?


Around my neck of the woods, I am almost relieved to see the word "green" not so prominent in the news.  But, oh but, I'm starting to get sick of the increasingly used term "localvore". What's a localvore? Supposedly someone who's diet is obtained locally. That word "local" can have a vast range of interpretation. 

So what's local anyway? Happily for me, much of my food comes from my own place or somewhere within 10 miles of home. That's pretty local in my book! But how local is local for most people, the ones who don't grow their own? Would it be your town and outlying farm area? Or is it ok to include adjacent town areas? Maybe your state or region? But if your state is large, say Texas or California, would it be a stretch to say that someone in San Diego is a localvore eating food produced beside the Oregon boundary? 

Ooooo,here it goes again. I feel a headache coming on. Advil, aspirin, shot of whiskey. Where are those dang bottles! Help! 

I gather that depending upon who I talk with and in what situation, the idea of localvore can vary greatly. A person will say that they are trying to be a localvore meaning that their food comes from Ka'u district. But the next person (and the local news media here) seems to mean any food produced on Big Island. But get the Honolulu news media involved, and localvore will mean anything produced in the entire state. Now I'm seeing things stretching because imported foods are being mixed in with local stuff and still being called localvore menu. Just how much non-local food can a chef add to the dish and still say its local? 

<<<<<popping more Advil>>>>>>

Do I call myself a localvore? Answer, a flat no. First of all, it's not my personal mission to eat 100% local sourced. My goal is to be fairly self reliant, but that does not equate to being localvore. I could be self reliant by trading my surplus for outside goods. And that's exactly what I sometimes do. (Now if I could only get Costco into my trading network. Wouldn't that be something!) But I am still buying certain things from the stores, who in turn ship the stuff in. Plus I'm still working on food I had stashed away.......stores of canned corn, chicken broth, V-8 juice, and other assorted canned items. And I have no plan on discontinuing my enjoyment of eating almonds, cashews, pretzels, rice, applesauce, noodles, assorted herbs, and crackers. I no longer use much of these store bought items (other than the nuts) and I don't feel the least bit guilty eating it. 

But why be interested in being a localvore? Guess there's lots of reasons. First, it could be one of those lifestyle diet fads people love to get hooked on --- raw, low carb, gluten free (though actual gluten allergies are rare), vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Scarsdale, The Zone, etc. Second, it could be a life philosophy. More and more young people are getting into permaculture and biodynamic life schemes, which being a localvore would be a logical next step. Third, some people believe in supporting their community and being "local". Thus eating only local foods would be part of that. 

I suspect that being a localvore on the mainland would be a bit more challenging or boring as opposed to here in Hawaii. The wide selection of foods that we are now use to eating would be off limits. One would need to can, dry, or freeze seasonal foodstuffs for later use. And if those stored items ran out before the next season, you'd simply have to do without. Not a disaster by any means. I recall that as a child many fresh fruits and vegetables were seasonal. It was a fact of life and not a hardship. And in a way it was delightful, making certain foods a special treat. Oh how I looked forward to fresh blueberry season! And fresh strawberries always meant strawberry shortcake for a special treat. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Insects in the House - Not!

Moving to the tropics, I quickly learned that insects are a year around fact of life. And keeping them totally out of the house is next to impossible. But there are a few steps that I take that seem to help. 

Screens on the windows help keep out the flies, mosquitos, and other fliers. But screens are normal just about anywhere in the USA. Nothing special, but they work pretty well. 

Ants! Ants are everywhere, even in the posh condos and hotels. We've got giant ones here and itty bitty ones the size of large dust specks, and a multitude of in-between ones.  Newcomers to the islands always complain about the ants. You never can completely rid yourself of them. I'm happy to just keep them out of the house. Luckily our place is up on foundation piers, so I can put ant bait at the base of each pier. Normally I'm not a big proponent of toxic stuff, but Amdro is the only thing that is really effective as a barrier attack. I've also used liquid boric acid baits, but Amdro is superior. I don't put out the baits unless I see ants, and so far I haven't had many problems. Now my mother's place is on a concrete pad, so the ants have easy access. Keeping the ants out at her place is a constant battle. Mom's goal is to just keep their numbers down to an acceptable level. She has had good luck using the liquid boric acid much of the time. But sometimes a new species of ant shows up that over populates, so then the Amdro gets used. 

Ants are a real hassle in the gardens. They bring in mealy bug, scale, and aphids. Thanks guys! Just what I want! So from time to time I have to take steps to reduce their numbers. Again, Amdro or boric acid baits work. I just have to protect the baits from the rain. For some ant species I will mix sugar in the bait, while for others peanut butter works better. In the house I don't have to use either, but outside  these baits work better. 

Cockroaches, we grow BIG ones here! In polite company, we refer to them as palmetto bugs. But let's get real, they're cockroaches. The hardware store carries a trap from Japan that uses sticky paper and a lure. They work fairly well, but I think they only catch one out of ten. There always seems to be cockroaches that the traps don't get. So my approach is boric acid powder. If I get cockroaches in the house, they're invariably in the kitchen range. So I'll pull out the range and dust underneath with boric acid powder. I'll also dust under the burners. That usually does the trick. My mother gets cockroaches in her dishwasher, so when that happens I'll pull out the washer and dust behind it. 

As a general house preventative I've been dusting boric acid powder behind the walls as we build the place. Any cockroaches, or any other bug, that tries to hide in the walls will eventually meet up with the boric acid powder. This method works really good! 
Little moths and millers sometimes become a problem. The quickest way to get rid of them is to zap them with one of those electric shock "tennis rackets". It's easy, quick, and very satisfying to hear the buggah explode. 

Centipedes. Just saying the word sends shivers down the spines on many people around here. These centipedes are giants, often 6 inches long ir more! And their bite is incredibly painful, sending plenty of people to the hospital emergency ward. Although they are easy to incapacitate once you see them, your first warning that they're around is usually the searing, burning, excruciating pain at wherever spot they got you. It's too late then. At that stage once you've dispatched the centipede, you're running for ice and ammonia to try to stave off the worse of the pain. Keeping centipedes out of the house is tough. Having your house up on piers helps because you can put aluminum collars on each pier to deter the centipedes. But they will climb up stairs, bushes and trees touching the house, or anything else that bridges the gap. And if your house is on a concrete pad, well forget it. You'll just have centipedes. People will douse insecticide along door sills, trying to deter centipedes. Some people believe that it works, others aren't so sure. My mother faithfully uses various insecticides but so far the centipedes aren't impressed. Fresh sticky tape catches them but within 24 hours the tape no longer is sticky enough. Mom keeps glue traps beside the door entrances and from time to time they catch a centipede. Ah, one less in the house, thank heaven. 
Photo taken from pamelakinnairdw.hubpages.com 

Outside there are all sorts of interesting looking insects and critters. Most don't bother people, but some bite and sting. Wasps. Yellowjackets. Crab spiders. Scorpions. Most of the time these don't make it into people's homes. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Buzzwords - Defining the Terms

The buzzwords post generated lots of email with people asking me to define each one. Well, in my experience there isn't just one definitive definition for most. Don't ask me why, but there seems to be differences in opinion when it comes to classifying food growers. Even the USDA doesn't do a great job of it, and they're the ones who have to come up with the legal definitions. When it comes to their regulations, they wimp out when it comes to the hairsplitting with the small growers by just saying, if you make under a certain amount annually, then your not governed by the regulation. No need for them to say what differentiates a larger gardener from a hobby farmer. 

So here's a list of what I'm thinking. Feel free to chime in with ideas, opinions, different viewpoints! 

Urban Farmer - seems like anyone with a tomato plant in a pot by the front door is now labelled an urban farmer. But of course there are folks who are more involved by having a garage housing meat rabbits, a garden shed with chickens, a basement with tilapia tanks, and a backyard with nothing but veggie plants (no grass!). Pigeon coops are now starting to appear on the roof. Since ag operations are illegal in most urban areas, urban farmers tend to fall into the shadowy outlaw world. (By the way, I'm a bit of an outlaw myself, so I fully empathize with the full fledged urban farmer.) But where does one draw the line between a city gardener and an urban farmer? And just what is an urban homesteader? I find it hard to define an urban homesteader. 

Family Farmer - the news media focuses on the family farm vs the corporate farm, basically using the term family farm when reporting the decline and death of the family farm. Although small farms have seen a significant decline in the past few decades, the family farm still exists. Or does it? So what's the difference between a family farm versus a small farm? Can the family farm hire outside employees? Does just one member of a family working the farm still allow it to be termed a family farm? Gosh, this is getting confusing! 

Hobby Farmer - this term seems to be displacing Gentleman Farmer. The latter signifies a wealthy owner who conducts farm activities generally for the tax benefits (as opposed to making a profit) while supporting his comfortable, beautiful, home (or vacation) farm. The former (hobby farms) tends to cover both retired people doing something a bit beyond gardening and new people trying to start farming while retaining jobs off the farm so that they have an income. The term hobby farming seems to me to imply a project done for fun or enjoyment, but I don't totally agree with that definition. Many people who call themselves hobby farmers (because they aren't yet making a profit) do it because the food they produce helps them survive. They need it. And many young hobby farmers are trying to learn to farm with the intent to quit their off farm jobs eventually and become full fledged farmers. 

Organic Farmer - nowadays this term is defined and regulated by the government. But it wasn't all that long ago that Rodale introduced the idea of farming without any man made fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. But since the government has gotten involved, organic farming can now incorporate the use of the very chemicals that Rodale advocated avoiding. Yes, a certified organic farmer can legally use a whole list of "non-organic" chemicals, though their use is regulated via the regulations. But on the other hand, animal manure not processed via government regulations is now banned. Rodale would be quite surprised if he were alive. Great examples here in Hawaii - Farmer A lost his organic certification because a sheep and a chicken....one sheep, one chicken.... were allowed to roam his multi acre coffee farm to control weeds and bugs. The sheep and chicken poo were of course non-processed au natural, thus prohibited even though coffee cherry never was in contact with the manure. Zap.....no organic certification allowed! Farmer B uses sheep to keep the grass short in his orchard and to eat fallen fruit, thus helping to control fruit fly. At one time Farmer B was praised for this method and invited to speak at seminars, promoting this natural control method. His method caught the eye of a USDA official and ZAP...lost certification. No livestock allowed in the orchard. Crazy, no? One more thought -- once upon a time if you grew your veggies by Rodale's guidelines you would of course proudly say that your garden/farm and food was organic. No more! The term organic is regulated by the government. If you don't fit the regulations, you cannot use the term, legally that is. Nowadays if the product advertises "organic" it's most likely from a big commercial farm. 

Homestead farming - subsistence farming usually involving one family core group (as adverse to a commune) where emphasis is placed on self sufficency. 

Small family Farming - farming for profit which involves a family core group. Emphasis is more on making a profit than in self sufficiency (homestead farming). 

Mini Farm - I'm not sure on this one at all. Is a mini farm one too small to support a family? How's it different from a hobby farm? Or are all mini farms hobby farms too? But then, an herb or miniature rose farm could be really small in size but still be capable of supporting a family. I know if a three acre herb farm that does fine, and a one acre miniature rose nursery supporting a family. Are these mini farms? They are certainly not hobby farms. 

Apartment Farming and Balcony Farming -  oh, these are a real stretch for my thinking patterns! Farming in an apartment? On a balcony? I'd tend to call it gardening, myself. 

Container Farming - most people who use containers are gardening, but there has been a recent move toward farming in containers. A few years ago I would have raised eyebrows at the mention of container farming, but not now. In order to farm in areas of no soil, innovative people are building unusual container farms that surprisingly are productive. 

Vertical Farming - utilizing the 3D aspect of your land, thus growing crops vertically and not just traditionally horizontally. Trellising is vertical farming. But so is building containers upward, like a set of stairs. Green walls are an example of vertical gardening. 

Backyard/Frontyard Gardening and Edible Landscaping- pretty much self explanatory. The movement is causing controversy in some towns, urban areas, and some suburbs due to restrictions. Yes, people have been arrested for growing a veggie garden in their front yard. 

No Till - a farming method where the soil is no flipped over or rototilled. Some no till systems rely upon herbacides while others use mechanical controls for weeds and cover crops. No till has proven effective for grain farming in certain areas with suitable soil. 

Factory Farming - commercial farming utilizing controlled conditions, usually in buildings or greenhouses. Both livestock and vegetables are factory farmed. 

Better Than Organic - small farmers that opt not to conform to government regulations for organic (there's an annual, hefty fee plus lots of paperwork and costly annual inspection) and who often incorporate Rodale's principles ( using natural manures while not using any manmade chemicals) are adopting this term. 

Naturally Farmed - similar to Better Than Organic but placing more emphasis on natural life cycles. Livestock outdoors on pasture. Veggies in the field rather than greenhouses. No hydroponics. 

Korean Natural Farming (aka Dr Cho's Natural Farming) - a specific style of farming following the teachings of a Korean experimenter/researcher, Dr Cho. Calls for specific homemade formulations for soil amending and foliar sprays. When raising chickens and pigs, calls for construction guidelines for pens and housing, plus certain diet amendments. 

Sustainable- can be continued indefinitely without degrading the system/environment. Not necessarily natural or organic. There's a lot of leeway in how farmers and gardeners view sustainable. Lots of debate in this category. 

Subsistence farming - just enough to get along. No surplus worth talking about. This term usually implies a poverty situation. 

Self Sufficient - not relying upon outside resources. As being used today, basically assumes that some outside resources are being employed, like tools, basic input items such as concrete, sand, wire, nails, that sort of thing. The focus seems to be that the gardener or farmer is producing their own fertilizer, sprays, seeds, livestock feed, and a significant potion of their energy needs. Or...Or...Or....that they can trade surplus for those items that they need.  I get confused when I listen to discussions about self sufficiency because everyone tends to stretch the boundaries as to what's acceptable and what's not. 

Biodynamic - a proscribed method of farming following the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. An organic style that incorporates mystical aspects. 

Permaculture - a system of design modeled after natural eco-systems which aims to be sustainable. There is some controversy among its supporters and followers as to how rigid the system needs to be in order to be termed permaculture. 

Polyculture versus Monoculture - polyculture is an agricultural approach allowing for more than one crop in the same space. Examples would be alley planting (example: rows of apple trees where the space between the rows is used to grow green beans), companion planting (two or more plants that grow well in proximity to one another. Example: beets grown among lettuce), multi-cropping (example: radishes growing around the base of trellised cucumbers). With polyculture even livestock can be part of the equation (fish in a taro pond). Monoculture refers to vast plantings of a single crop.......think fields of wheat or corn, commercial orchards, most commercial farms.

Gardening versus farming - gardening brings a vision of a person supplementing their food. They still rely heavily upon outside food sources. Farming gives me the feeling that the person is producing significant amounts of food, enough to cover a major percentage (if not all) of their fresh food needs ..... or producing a crop for income purposes. 

Localvore - a food system based upon local produced food, rather than foods shipped into the area. 

Green - don't ask me. The term green is being thrown around all over the place nowadays. What's green, what's not? 




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Taking a Break - Vacations

I know of many small family and small farmers who are loathe to leave their farms or take a break. Why? I hear various reasons. And if you're already wondering, yes, I'm one of those guilty of hating to leave the place. For real! 

Here's some of the excuses and reasons that I hear:

1- "The farm needs me." Some of us crazy farmers have an inner feeling that the farm needs us to thrive. We become the caretaker, or even the tending slave. I think it's a responsibility thing. I created it, thus I need to keep it going sort of mentality. Willing farm slave, yup. Many of us become that. 

2- "I need to be there to run the farm. Nobody can run it as well as I do." Ah, the controller personality. They need to make the decisions, control the reins. Who could possibly feed the livestock on time or turn on the irrigation? No one could do it as well as they could. 

3- "I'm happy on the farm." I hear this one a lot. A couple of my friends tell that their farm work makes them happy. They are content tending their place. Thus they have no desire to leave. 

4- "I feel safe on my own farm." Some fear the outside world where it is hectic, confusing, and all too often unsafe. The farm is a safe haven. 

5- "I don't like to leave." Or, "I don't want to leave." Is this our basic primate instincts surfacing? Reluctant to leave our home territory? 

6- "Too difficult to recover from being away." Of course things don't often run exactly the way we like when we're away. So there will be lots to catch up on, like weeds to pull, manure to clean up, mulch to replenish, crops to sow, crops to harvest, etc. 

7- "Too much to do to get ready to leave." Many of us crazy farmers try to get tasks set up ahead of time, knowing that we won't be there to do them ourselves. So we spend extra hours pre-filling livestock feeders, sowing extra trays in the greenhouse, running mowers, spraying crops ahead of schedule. We set things up ahead of time so that caretakers don't have to work as hard as we do. 

When I ask why farmers don't leave their farms to go on vacations, they usually cite many or all of the above excuses although one is often more heavily influential in their reasoning than the others. 

And what about me? What's the root reason for my own reluctance to leave? I guess #5 is the base issue. Once I'm popped off of the farm, I thoroughly enjoy traveling, seeing foreign places, doing new things, exploring. But that leaving process is difficult for me. I suppose it's not only simple instinct with me but also genetically enhanced. My mother's side of the family tended all to be homebodies. And my paternal grandparents lived in one house for their entire married lives until forced to give it up due to advancing age. The only place they ever vacationed was the same area in Florida over and over again. None of my relatives were world travelers. Most seldom, if ever, went on trips. So it's in my DNA somehow. 

But all this doesn't mean that a break isn't beneficial. For me  break can be refreshing, kick start my mental motor and inner drive, help me look at the farm from new perspectives, cause new ideas to pop into my head. Usually after a vacation, I'm eager to get back work. 

I just returned from a short two and a half day vacation to Oahu. I missed being home every night, but did enjoy the days. The trip reminded me how much I enjoy living in my area of Hawaii. At this stage of my life there is no way that I'd want to live on Oahu! But it's fine for a visit. 


Buzzwords

I'm taking two days off, heading to Honolulu to get my annual "big city" fix. Thus today (gosh, why didn't I realize that this was Black Friday! Was I insane?) we got to luxuriate in the aisles of a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Making it back to the garden section, I feasted my eyes on the titles of dozens and dozens of books. Then it hit me......one buzzword after another. Gosh, there's a whole string of them now. Book titles included all too common phrases like --
   Urban farming
   Homesteading
   Mini Farm
   Apartment farming
   Balcony farmer
   Container gardens
   Vertical gardening
   Hobby farmer
   Family farm
   ____Yard Farming/Gardening (fill in the blank with front or back)
   Edible Landscaping
   Factory farming
   No till
   Polyculture
   Permaculture
   Organic
   Natural farming
   Biodynamics
   Sustainable
   Green
   Self sufficient

And then there are the popular ones that I didn't see on book titles --
   Gentleman farmer
   Monoculture
   Grass fed
   Free range
   Better than organic
   Farm-to-table
   Localvore

If the book titles can be used as a poll, then food growing is the popular concern and focus nowadays. I can recall a time when bonsai was all the rage, or indoor plants, and the time there was a flurry of water garden/pond books. Now it's food oriented. Oh how the times have changed from frivolous to survival. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homemade Chicken Feeder

I have a lot of chickens, almost 100! Years ago I started out with 25, but over time they have increased in numbers. I'm comfortable with 50. That's the number that I can feed with just home grown and foraged food. But now that the flock has swelled to twice that, I need to provide some commercial feed. While I still continue to make food for them as I did before, I simply cannot spare enough time to keep the birds strictly on home produced food. Another time factor is that the birds now reside at the community garden and I only spend a limited amount of time there each day. 

I've toyed with various ways to feed the hens. And I've concluded that the best use of my time would mean having some sort of feeder for the dry commercial feed. I searched the Internet intending to buy a feeder....a quick fix, but I was taken back by the cost. Hhuumm. Bet I could make something myself. 

I figured that if I was going to put time and effort into a feeder, then why restrict myself to making it small like the feeders I saw on the Internet. No reason I couldn't make a feeder that would hold enough feed to last a week, or even more. So I got to thinking. Oh, I came up with all sorts of designs. But after sleeping on them, one by one I rejected them for some reason or other. Some of the designs were rather clever, if I do say so myself. Hah, Sue, you're clever! But these dreams often involved complicated designs and expensive materials. And in the shadows of my mind, some little creature kept whispering "KISS" -- keep it simple, stupid. 

Ultimately I caved into the KISS principle. I purchased a trashcan on sale for $9.99 plus tax. Cut a hole along the bottom edge about 8 inches long by 2 inches wide. I then took a cracked, discarded old catbox and cut off one side. Now I set the trashcan in the chicken pen along one wall, propping up the  rear bottom on the 4" high frame of the pen. This nicely tilted the trashcan, allowing the pellets and grain to flow out the hole. So that the trashcan would remain stable I attached it to the pen fencing by running bungee cords from the trashcan handles to the fence. Now I slid the 3 sided catbox under the trashcan in a way that it would catch and confine to chicken feed. I positioned it close to the trashcan so that the hens could not climb into it and scratch the feed out. 
Now with the pieces in place, it was time for the test run. I dumped 50 lbs of feed into the trashcan and put on the lid. The girls investigated immediately. Instantly they began eating, having no problem figuring it out. I watched the girls off and on for about an hour, waiting to see if they would figure out how to muck it up. But the design turned out to be a winner. The only problem I'm anticipating is that the hens might try to roost on the lid. That wouldn't be a disaster, though it could get messy. But it might be too slanted for them to be successful in sleeping there. We shall see. 

I plan to use lightweight chain or rope in place of the bungee cords. That will be more stable and last longer. I might need to anchor the catbox in some fashion, but for now I'll just observe and see how things go. No need to make it complicated. 

So I've come up with a nice, large feeder for a cash outlay of a bit over $10. The bungee cords or rope or chain comes out of my recycle/reuse/repurpose pile. The broken catbox was destined for the dump. Hey, not bad! 

UPDATE: 
It's been 24 hours and the feeder is still working just fine. It turned out that the hens didn't sleep on the lid last night, so let's hope it stays that way. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Eliminate the Lawn Update

It's now 3 weeks since I started eliminating the lawn and making food gardens in its place. So I took a peek at the veggies today to see what's developing. This is what the bed along the rock wall looked like ....
Now 21 days later it looks like this.....
Green beans are growing in the back while radishes are in the foreground. And there are plenty of radishes ready for eating already! I already ate six of them before I thought to take a picture, so this one that's pictured is smaller than the ones I ate. But in a day or two it will be ready for munching. 
In front of the rock wall I planted taro roots, actually to tops of the corms. When I planted them they had no leaves. But in three weeks they have developed nicely. This variety is very unusual in that it is variegated with dark splashes rather than white ones. Quite ornamental. I have no idea what it's name is or if it will turn out to be suitable for eating. All taro is edible if cooked long enough, though some need a long, long cooking time. Some don't taste very good either and fall into the category of "famine food". I plan to try this one when it is mature, most likely in a year from now, give or take a couple of months.  



Friday, November 22, 2013

Kale Experiment

Down at our local community garden, the kale plants have grown into mini trees, some upwards of 5 feet tall. A that height, the plants are being blown over, plus they are getting awkward to harvest from. The community garden is presently growing replacement seedlings, thus the kale trees will soon be removed.
Something inside me wondered if perchance one could propagate new plants from those mightly kale stalks. Since kale does not flower here, purchasing seed from the mainland is the only way to grow it. Not very self sufficient, is it? So, if kale could be vegetatively propagated, it would be another small step towards self reliance.

This week when I harvested some kale for dinner, instead of just taking a few leaves, I chopped the entire top off the plant including a length of stem with it. 
After I took the leaves I wanted to eat, I then set about trimming up what was left, getting ready to try planting them. I removed most of the leaves (they would only wilt and die off anyway, sapping moisture away from the stem) and cut the stem into 6 inch long sections.
Down in the field garden I tilled and prepared a short section of bed, adding compost and removing any weeds. Once I was satisfied, I was ready the plant. I thought about using Rootone, but discovered that the bottle I had was empty. Thus this first planting attempt would be au natural.....no rooting hormone.

I took each piece and pressed it down into the soil, leaving about 2 inches of stem above ground. With the leafless stem pieces, I needed to be sure to plant them the right direction instead of upside down. Luckily the leaf scar is crescent shaped making it easy to tell up from down.

Spacing....my beds are 40 inches wide. Thus I opted to plant four cuttings across the bed about 10 inches apart. Each row of 4 was spaced about 12 inches apart. 
Once planted, the cuttings were watered in to make sure there was good soil contact around the stem pieces.

Now we wait and see what happens.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Next House Project -Update #2


The project to enclose the lanai is gradually progressing. 

Next major task.....remove the sliding doors between the main room and the newly enclosed lanai before we finish the final wall. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to get the frame out of the house in one piece. We plan on giving these doors to someone who can re-use them. 

The doors are old style, meaning that each glass door doesn't come out all that easily. The stationary panel needed to be removed first, then the slider. But first various brackets needed to be removed and regretfully the screw heads were badly corroded. Because we didn't want to ruin the doors, each corroded screw needed to be gently and carefully removed. That took time and patience. 

Once the glass panels were removed we thought it would be clear sailing. Silly me! Things are never easy. The previous owner was a real believer in using lots of nails and screws in everything. Wow, those doors were super screwed in place, with long screws even going through the sides of the frame where I've never seen people put them before. Even after removing every screw and nail we could find, the frame was still stuck. Closer inspection revealed that the door frame had also been glued in place with lots of caulk! Thankfully it wasn't liquid nails. 
Lesson learned : don't over screw a door into place. Don't glue it down. No need and it makes it very, very difficult to remove it if need be later on.

Second lesson learned : put something over the screw heads to prevent corrosion. I opt to use a small dab of lithium grease, but I suppose one could use silicone caulk. Since I've gotten in the habit of inspecting and treating our metal appliances, exposed hurricane clips, door hinges and knobs each month, no reason I can't add a few more things to the list for quick inspection. But since we're eliminating sliding doors, then no problem here.

After the doors were successfully removed, Bob crawled under the house (no easy task for senior citizens!) and ran the electrical wiring for the receptacle outlets. Luckily we had just enough wiring leftover to complete the run. Got the boxes all wired in, so it's ready for closing in the walls. We already have the cedar for the interior but need one more sheet of exterior siding. Alas, that means another run to Kona. Somehow I figured wrong on the number of sheets I needed. Not totally uncommon for me!

Putting up the exterior siding was simple. We're using 4x8 sheets of T-11. Measure, cut, nail it up, caulk. Zip, done. 

But the door was going to be challenging. It wasn't pre-hung, so the framing needed to be custom made. David to the rescue! In a few hours he not only had the door installed and fully functional, but went around finishing some of the more complicated trim.


I had planned to sand and urethane the cedar planks this week but its been raining every day and the humidity has been close to 100%. Way too damp. So it will have to wait for the sun to return. In the meantime I can spend the time catching up on the paperwork that I tend to put off for a rainy day. But since we seldom get rainy days, the paperwork pile has really gotten tall. It will keep me busy.

Next up - enclose the interior walls. Trim out everything. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lessons From A Mango Tree

I have a rather nice mango tree on the main farm. It's popular with the chickens as a roosting tree. The horse often rests under it, especially on sunny days. At this time of year it is quite lovely, pushing new leaves that are very colorful. But sigh, it never bears mangos. Why? It's at too high an elevation to set fruit. A tree planted in the wrong place. 
I really like this tree and I'm so glad that it is where it is. It's pleasing to look at, provides shade and shelter. But it will never give me even one mango. Instead, it has taught me, and forever reminds me, that a gardener must provide for a plant's needs if you expect it to produce for you. 

Since moving to my little homestead I've tried to grow just about everything. Along the way there have been plenty of failures, often because I have ignored what the mango tree is telling me. 
...soybean failure. They require warmer soil and air temperature than what my farm experiences. 
...okra failure. I  sowed the seed in January. It needs to be started in the early summer here. 
...garlic failure. It needs a drier climate. 
...leek failure. The variety I tried was day length sensitive. 
Oh my,there are more failures, but you get the point. I didn't consider what the plant needed. I only thought about my own desires. 

Now I try to put a bit of research into a new variety I'd like to try. Not that I don't like to experiment. Indeed I do! But it doesn't make much sense to totally ignore a plant's growing requirements. So to be successful at growing food, I need to learn and be attentive. No sense wasting time, effort, money, and garden space on something that simply won't grow here on the farm. Therefore, you will not see breadfruit, rambutans, or lychee on my farm.  Neither will you find plums, pears, cherries, or blueberries. I miss lilacs, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, bluebells, dogwoods, and more but my location does not give them the chill days that they need. And I'm too busy to try refrigerating bulbs. So I have learned to enjoy the vast array of tropical flowers that thrive in my area. 

The same applies to livestock. For example, wool sheep would not do well on my farm.  I get light rains frequently during the week. Thus a damp wooly sheep would be a prime buffet for flies and maggots. It's difficult enough keeping hair sheep healthy, let alone woollies. Luckily I've been wise enough not to try keeping wool sheep. 

Ignoring the requirements of a plant or livestock means that you're just setting yourself up for failure. Heck, I have enough trouble as it is making things work on my homestead without purposely flirting with disaster. Thus I appreciate gazing at my mango tree. It surely keeps me in line! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane

Before starting a homestead farm, I lived a fast lane life. Not the glamorous high profile life. But the life of rushing around, multi tasking, working fast all day long trying to get everything done. Work fast, talk fast, eat fast, drive fast, live fast.

Time saving devices filled my fast paced life : dishwashers, washing machines, food processors, microwaves, clothes dryers, anything to save time. In the garden, use a rototiller instead of a shovel. For chopping wood, use a gasoline woodsplitter instead of a maul. Drive in the car to go even to close destinations instead of riding a bike.The problem with time saving devices was that I didn't use the saved time for leisure or enjoyment. Oh no, the time was used to accomplish more, work more, get more done. 

Life in the Eastcoast always seemed at high speed to me. But ya know, I thought that it was completely normal! I didn't know any other kind of life, other than summertime as a child. But even then, days were spent playing and exploring at high speed. 

So now I find myself in the slow lane. What happened? People say, oh you retired. No, that's not it. I'm more involved in projects now that I'm retired. More things that I'm involved with. But I've definitely slowed down. My old friends back on the Eastcoast even say that I talk slowly now. 

Some how moving to a rural setting, participating in a community, and trying to live more of a homestead lifestyle has slipped my gears. While I work quite a bit on my projects, I have lost the urgency, the need to get things done today, or yesterday! At then end of a day, I tell myself that I'm satisfied with what I accomplished, regardless of a job being completed or not. That's not something I was able to do before. If a job didn't get completed, I use to be on edge, restless, I'd sleep poorly, dream stress-dreams. Ya know, I like the slow lane a whole lot better! 

I've shed many of the time saving devices that I use to have. I've adapted. So now when I add one, such as my riding mower, I allow myself to use the found free time for enjoyment --  exploring the woods, riding my horse, playing with some artwork, brushing my dogs, spending time with my sheep, tinkering in my gardens. Wow, it's like being reborn. I don't have to rush, don't have to tackle another job. Instead I get to enjoy some aspect of being alive. 
A sunset digital art painting that I'm working on. 
As a child I spent a lot of time, especially during summers, exploring, investigating, and learning. Somewhere along in life I stopped making time for that. Now that life isn't as urgent, I've thought about going back to some of my childhood ways. I'm making time to explore. 

Returning to my childhood? No. Adult life is here to stay. No one else is going to provide my food, pay my bills, give me a house, etc. No, I'm an adult living an adult life.....but..... When planting in the garden, why not look under rocks to see what's living there? At the end of a day, sit and watch a sunset for 5 minutes. I make time to go exploring down at South Point, snuffling around the coastal rocks and beach combing. Take time to track down which plant is emitting that lovely floral scent. 

Living a slower life isn't living with boredom, it's just the opposite. It's living a full life. 

Above photo-- a dear friend who showed me the wonderful magic of exploring lava formations. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

House Insulation

Barry brought up the subject of insulation. I think quite a few people are assuming that we are crazy for not insulating our house. And I think that the new building code now requires insulation, though our permit is governed by the older code.

Insulated windows we can't get away from without spending lots of money on custom windows. All the windows now are double glazed. We don't need double glazed, but it's cheaper to go that route. Our windows are seldom closed. I'll close windows on a chilly winter morning so that the woodstove can heat up the main part of the house, but other than that, they are never closed. We don't get rain in the windows, nor too much wind coming through. No close neighbors, so blocking out noise isn't needed. And no need to lock up the house. Anyway, a person seriously wanting to get in would simply break a window. And the issue of vog.....by the time you notice that the vog is heavy, it's too late. It's already inside the house. On a bad vog day, we'll just leave and do something somewhere else, hoping that the vog has lifted by the time we get home. Maybe some day some catastrophe will happen and we'll be glad for the windows, but I hope that never comes about.

Insulation in walls and ceilings is for noise control and temperature control. We once had installed fluffy fiberglass insulation in the livingroom, but it became a housing area for rats. You talk about a smelly mess! The rats loved it and became extremely difficult to eliminate. Once gone, they left behind smelly urine soaked insulation. We ended up removing the walls and ceiling in order to rip out all the disgusting, wet insulation. Rather than reinstalling the insulation, we thought hard about why insulation was needed in the first place. We concluded that we only needed the roof insulated.
Styrofoam sheeting between metal roof and ceiling. 

Heat -- we only use heat is in the morning in order to take the chill off. We have lived here just fine without it, but it's a nice luxury. A side benefit is that the woodstove also dries the living area out, thus stopping the mold problem. And it is handy for some quick cooking. But we don't want to keep the heat in! By 8 a.m. the house would be too warm if the heat wasn't allowed to escape. So all windows get opened and the heat is aired out. Insulation would make it more difficult to cool the house off. And since I have a virtually unlimited source of fuel for the woodstove, there is no need to conserve on heat. 

Cooling -- we have no need for air conditioning and never will. So we don't try to conserve cooled air. Our house is intentionally kept breezy during the day, encouraging the air to flow through it. It stays cool enough all by itself. The ceilings are high and peaked to allow hot raise to rise and get flushed out by the breeze. 

Noise -- the only noise we need to dampen is that of the rain. Our roof is metal, thus noisy. There is no way to totally control noise on a metal roof, but a bit of insulation takes out the sharpness of the sound. So we opted to use foam insulation boards. Not as easy for a rat to go unnoticed. As for outside noises, we live fairly removed from neighbors. So general noises and generators aren't a problem. In fact, I like to be able to hear any unusual noise, like the horse whinnying or the sheep bleating at night. Our watchdog will woof when something is amiss, so I want to be able the hear that too. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Eliminate The Lawn -- Making a Kitchen Garden

I decided that I'm tired of mowing the lawn around our house. We never use the lawn. We thought that  we'd sit out there on lawn chairs, but it's never happened. We also pictured eating at a picnic table, but that's never happened either. No one sees that lawn but us. And neither of us has an interest in it. So I've decided to limit the size of lawn around here. Ditch the lawn mowing and switch to weedwacking just a limited amount of grass here and there.

Now, what to do with the space. Being a farmer, first thing that popped into my head was to plant something. Sounds pretty good to me! 

First thing I did was remove the grass along the curvy stone wall and plant taro. Taro is edible and it will look nice in front of a rock wall. I only cleared a two foot wide strip as a starter, but I plan to get rid of the grass in the entire area eventually as I get more taro starts. 
My favorite sod remover, a 2 1/2 lb mattock.

Next I removed the sod from the area on the other side of the rock wall. Here I planted purple colored green beans. It's a bush variety, so no trellises needed. I also tucked in a few taro starts for aesthetic reasons. Eventually this area will host food plants that look ornamental (aka- pretty), such as colorful peppers, balcony tomatoes, tulsi, colorful chards. And eventually more of the sod will be removed. 

Now for the bigger lawn area. This is going to take more time. But I'm removing the sod and digging in some compost. I've already planted the dasheen starts that I had. Next to go in will be radishes. Then I'll start the kitchen garden. It's a perfect spot for it. 

What goes into a kitchen garden? Things that you want handy. I often find that running down to the main garden is too much trouble just to clip some parsley or a few bits of chives. So I'll plant them right outside my kitchen for easy use. Chives. Garlic chives. Parsley. Oregano. Basil. Sage. Thyme. Summer savory. Stick oregano. Leaf celery. Arugula. 

People who know me know that I don't waste anything. I'll recycle, re-use, re-purpose. So what about all that sod I just dug out? For right now it will sit in some trashcans and buckets until the grass is dead. Once everything is killed, the soil will go right back into the garden. Nothing lost, nothing wasted. 
My sod busting mattock is used so that the flat blade slices the sod just below the soil surface, cutting the roots. By keeping the blade sharp and clean, it is fairly easy to do. I find that standing with my feet somewhat apart and swinging the blade so that it slices the sod between my feet is the easiest on my back. I can cut sod for about 15 minutes before I need a few minute break. I'm really careful with this tool, but steel tipped shoes might be a good idea for someone a bit careless or who has a strong attachment to all their toes. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Next House a project - Update

The final window is in place. The sill for this window was really difficult. Lots of notches and cut outs. But it's done! By the way...a trick to make it easier handling the windows. Take the individual window glasses out so that you only have to lift the frame to install it. Much lighter that way. Once installed, it's easy to just put the glass panels back in place. 

One more wall to enclose, but that is going to include a door. A bit more tricky to do. 

Next step is super easy....exterior siding.  Cut, nail, and caulk. Zip...done. Trick -- design the wall so that there is nothing but straight cuts. Avoid complicated bits and angles. In this wall, the trim will handle any gaps in the siding. 

The game plan :
...install electrical outlets
...apply cedar T&G on the interior walls
...trim out the room, inside and out
...sand and paint the ceiling rafters
...remove the two sliding glass doors between the livingroom and this newly enclosed porch
...install the flooring in the livingroom and enclosed porch 

I still need to sit down and decide about the flooring. Got the livingroom decided-- 6"x24" tiles that look like wood. But no decision yet for the enclosed porch. We're leaning towards sheet goods of some sort. 

Sifting Garden Soil

First if all, let it be known that I don't sift my garden soil except for the carrot bed. I have my reasons. Read on.

This week I read an article instructing new gardeners how to start a garden bed. One of the steps included sifting the soil through a 1/2 piece of hardware cloth. I not only find that not to be necessary, I find it to be detrimental. By sifting, one removes all small stones and cinder larger than 1/2 inch, chunks of organic material, half rotted leaves and grasses, decaying roots and rootlets. All the things being removed are important soil components, in my opinion. 
Rocks to the left. Organic debris on the right. I leave it all in place. 

Small rocks & cinder:
          I keep anything smaller than a hen's egg. Bigger pieces interfere with the rototiller. But rocks and cinder help with drainage, help maintain soil structure, and are a source of minerals for plants, microbes, and other soil denizens. It makes no sense to me to remove small rocks via sifting then later add rock dust for minerals and cinders for drainage. Hey, it was already there before you removed it! The soils of England are a prime example of the adverse effects of rock removal. For decades small children were rewarded for removing stones from the fields. Those soils now suffer the effects ....compacting, clumping, draining poorly, lacking mineral fertility. 

Organic material (rootlets, leaves, twigs, etc):
         Sifting the organic material out, then turning around and adding compost sounds like a waste of good time and effort. Why not just leave the decomposing material right there in the soil in the first place? The microbes that specialize in breaking that stuff down are already in place and doing their job. Besides, the chunky stuff helps retain moisture while at the same time promoting drainage. 

The only place where I sift soil is the bed dedicated to carrots. Reason? Rocks cause the roots to split and grow weird. I find that this sifted soil is more difficult to maintain. It drains poorly. It tends to become hydrophobic if it dries out. Worms don't like it. It compacts readily. 

My suggestion -----  skip the sifting. Just pick out the big pieces if they get in the way. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Silly Halloween Fun

Halloween. Probably the most fun holiday in our community. It's when a bunch of aging seniors can act like little kids! Do you go through a second childhood when you get older? You bet, and we love it! 
Yes, a group of us got together for a movie and dinner. The movie? Rocky Horror Picture Show, what else? Hard to get much sillier than that on Halloween. 
Bowls of popcorn, platters of pupus, and a bunch of us gathered around a large screen TV shouting out lines and dancing the Time Warp. 
Those who never saw Rocky Horror before were truly befuddled. What came over their friends? This movie is terrible but everyone is enjoying it? Oh my god, is that ............oh, it is. 
What's with the light sticks? What's this newspaper for? Egads man, who's spraying water? Before ya knew it, confetti everywhere! Looking into the goody prop bag, there still are things....things...like a playing card, surgical gloves. The Rocky Horror virgins hadn't a clue. 
It didn't matter. What mattered was that we came together as a group to share the evening. We are members of a group. We care about each other. 
After much silliness, we "broke bread" together. For some deep primal reason, sharing a meal causes some sort of special bonding. I'm not a psychologist, but I can feel it. It is real. 
Myrna produces a good homemade meal, but somehow it's the lingering conversation that is oh so satisfying. 
Not everyone who comes to our Saturday night get togethers returns. Perhaps it's too much like eating at home rather than a restaurant? Too personal maybe? Or that they see that this is a group who have become friends and that they don't want to join. Or perchance they are afraid to take the first step? 

But if Halloween was a newcomer's first exposure to the group, then I can completely understand.  What a mass of totally insane, bizarre wackos! 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Next House Project -Enclosing Another Lanai

With the kitchen project just about finished (we're awaiting the arrival of the basket drawers), we've decided to tackle the next project. We have a lanai, as known as a porch, off the livingroom. This lanai overlooks the front pasture, front gardens, and the barn down the hill. It's a pleasant view and when we were buying the place we thought we would sit out on this lanai on a daily basis. In reality, we haven't used it once! It's too chilly first thing in the morning and at night for us to consider eating breakfast or dinner out there. As a result, the lanai started being used for storing stuff. A sad ending. But we wanted to change that.

Last couple days I've been working to properly store all the stuff that accumulated on this lanai. Gosh, where did it all come from? In the process I rediscovered several items that had gone missing. At our age, it's easy to lose stuff.

Next, measure, make marks, get a plan going. At first we wanted 48" high windows, but when we looked closer, 42" would look and work out better. Initially we planned on several 36" wide windows, but in person. 3 six foot windows would look better and fit well. As we went along, we modified the plans.

Quick, before hubby had a chance to change the plans (which he's apt to do on a daily basis), I ran up to town and purchased the windows and a pile of lumber. With the windows safely at home, it was just a simple job of framing out the holes.


The 3 windows went into place quickly. You can in the photo that there's a fourth. That will be for the end when the far wall is made. That shall be another day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Community -You Can Do It!

Every time I post something about being in a community (and loving it by the way) I get emails from people wishing that they could join me. Whoa, whoa. Don't hop on a plane yet! If you haven't explored community life in your own area, you might be very disappointed trying to live here. Community life exists everywhere. It's what you make it. No need to fly all the way to Hawaii.......though its not a bad place to explore the community phenomena.

Before living in Hawaii, I was never a part of a community. Looking back, it was my own damn fault, but I couldn't see that at the time. I never participated in groups. Didn't go to the local square dances. Didn't join the reading club, hiking club, trail riding club. Never visited the gym group. Didn't get involved with ceramics. Nor tried the local theatre group. Never tried ham radio. I did join dog showing clubs but found people there to be very competitive, aggressive, not at all friendly and pleasant. But by their very nature, of course the people were competitive! They competed for ribbons at dog shows, a dog-eat-dog sport. But even more than not joining groups, I seldom went to community events. Nor did I get to know my neighbors. Boy, I was a sorry candidate to become a member of a community of any sort. 

Upon moving here, I wanted a whole new kind of life. So I didn't already have rules or habits, and I was curious to see what this area was all about. Discovering my community didn't happen overnight. It was a slow process. In fact, I had a hard noggin and needed to be hit over the head several times before I discovered that there was this marvelous community life out there. Now I embrace it on a daily basis. 
I'm the one with the drill. We're making a community greenhouse. 
I make an effort to support community events. I either attend as a spectator or volunteer to work behind the scenes. I volunteer to help out on various projects, like beach cleaning. I participate in some other events, like whale counting. I try to keep in touch with people. And I try not to become too over extended or too involved, thus making community life a chore, drudgery, or something unpleasant. 

Community exists on numerous levels. There are ethic oriented communities -- Filipino groups, Hawaiian, Japanese, etc. Some communities revolve around religion or a particular age group. Others form because of a common interest -- ham radio, hunting, horses. Yet others are more influenced by region, such as a neighborhood or town.....or identifying with our district of Ka'u. So one has a choice of the type of community focus that would interest them. 
                                      (Friends at a community event.)

Getting involved in a community can be as simple as saying hello to everyone you meet, even strangers and tourists. Before you know it, people talk back and there is an opportunity for a bit of an exchange. Taking the effort to help someone is a start to getting involved. Things like helping someone take their groceries to their car, giving a stranger directions, helping unload the trash from their car at the dump. 

In the past I've been told real community connection killers : 
...why be friendly with that person, what can they do for you? 
...why help that person, they won't appreciate it.
...why give that person anything, you won't get anything back. 
...why be nice to that person, it's just brown nosing. 
...don't talk to strangers.
Gosh, I grew up with this. It's no wonder I never was part of a community! But I still hear bits of conversation like this around me and I feel sorry that those people have built a high stone wall around themselves. They unwittingly keep themselves at a distance. 

I was told once that there is danger in getting involved with other people. I could get my feelings hurt by opening up and participating in a community. Sure, of course! But I have decided just to shrug off as much of those perceived insults, hurts, and rudenesses as I can. Just be as slippery as goose shit, my grandmother once said to me (she almost never cursed, but I suppose goose dirt or goose dung just wouldn't give the same effect). I like that imagery, slick as goose shit. Thus I refuse to let others' negative feelings get dumped into me - let them slide off. Interactions with other people will never be prefect. I accept that. So I'll take it as it comes but won't get too personal.

The bottom line is I am glad I went against my childhood training and reached out. I actually accomlished it! Some days I discover that maybe I reached out to people I wished I hadn't, but that's ok. I just pull my tentacles in and move on. There are always others out there who will enjoy a bit of connection. 

So joining a community can be done just about anywhere. Perhaps if I had been a community member back on the Eastcoast, I wouldn't have moved to Hawaii. Wow, maybe I was fortunate to be unconnected because I'm really happy to be living here in on Big Island.