Saturday, February 22, 2014

Seed Farm - From the Beginning

Via email --- Rick asks, "Your seed farm really interests me. Can you tell me more about it? How did you start? You said that there is no soil to grow in. What can you do there with no soil? Why did you buy it when you already have a good farm?" 

Ok Rick. Here's a bit of background about the seed farm. Plus what Ii am now doing there. 

Hubby and I are retired, sort of. He went back to work because not working didn't sit well with him. Plus he wanted the extra money to be able to buy his toys and build a house to his liking. I retired from my career but now work full time creating a homestead. So based on that, we both think that our actual retirement is still down the road, someplace in the future. With that in mind, we've been looking around for a retirement property. Some place that suits us where we will build our handicap friendly, tiny, very low maintenance home. We found the land we were looking for just five miles from our farm. 1 1/2 acres with an ocean view. Virtually no soil though, just broken lava with bits of plant detris between them in places. 

In the interim between now and building our retirement home, I'm using the land for a seed farm and for crops requiring more warmth and dryness than exists at the homestead. But the land is not "farming friendly". 1/2 acre is wooded with a shrubby "trash" tree. On the other acre what weeds can grow there stand thick and five feet high. Quite a tangle. 
Using the truck to gauge it, you can see that the dense weeds are 3-5 foot high. The tall guinea grass can easily go 6-7 feet high! 
In the past year on 1/2 acre I've weedwacked down the weeds three times. To select areas I've applied multi layers of cardboard, newspaper, grass clippings, plus a little soil/compost/manure. Not much of the latter though. I'm finally getting ahead of the weeds with less and less of them being able to punch through the mulch. 

This past week I took a closer look at how things are coming along and discovered that I have close to an inch of manmade "soil". Wonderful! It got my farming blood roaring and before I knew it I was carting down water and more things to plant .... Taro, bananas, pineapples. 

I have several pallet grow boxes there which I used to produce my first seed crops -- purple stringbeans and sweet potatoes. The boxes now will each give me a cubic yard of soil to use. Ah, things are looking up! 
Using a hand pick ---- forget a shovel, it won't work in lava --- I've made a small hole every two foot in rows 3-4 foot apart. I filled each hole with about a gallon of soil. Into these spots I've planted taro. 

As of today I now have five long rows of taro planted. Two rows are lehua varieties. The other three rows are interesting to look at but I haven't yet identified what varieties they are. One has light green leaves and stems with beautiful pink along the stem bottoms. Another has purple red stems and dark green leaves. The final one has brownish streaked stems, green leaves with a purple piko. I'll be acquiring some more taro huli in the few days and plan to put in at least two more rows soon. Over the course of the coming month, I'm aiming to put in at least 8 more varieties, named ones. These named varieties will be for resale in addition for home eating. 

The new seed farm didn't make enough money last year to even pay the real estate taxes. I only produced 9 small seed harvests for resale. But for now on, now that it is developing soil, it's time for it to earn its keep. So some seed crops and resale plants need to be grown this spring. 

In the next few weeks after the rest of the taro, pineapple tops, and banana keikis are planted, I hope to put in okra, soybean, and winged beans. After that, it's anyone's guess what crops I'll try. I'm thinking corn, sorghum, beans, squash, cukes.....but it will take some experimenting and creativity to get past the soil situation. We'll see. 


  1. A very interesting project I hope you will write more about. That looks like a post for an electric fence in the second picture. Did you also do some grazing?

  2. Julie, you're observant! Yes, it's an electric fence post. I used it in the photo just to give some perspective as to the height of the grass.

    One of the first things I did was fence in this half acre in order to keep pigs out. And to keep squatters out. When we purchased the land, while it was still in escrow, a squatter arrived with lumber and tools to set up housekeeping. With the property still in escrow we could pressure the seller into doing the eviction. Once the squatter was gone, the fence has discouraged others from moving in.

    I had briefly considered bringing sheep to the property to clean out the grasses. But the land is somewhat secluded in that none of the neighboring houses has direct visual access to it. Therefore I feared that my sheep would be stolen and eaten fairly quickly. So rather than risk losing my livestock, I opted for the more labor intensive weedwacking and mulching with cardboard. If the risk of theft wasn't so high, livestock would have been the better way to go.

    I've already received several emails begging me to keep the blog updated about the seed farm, so I promise that I will.

  3. "...with an ocean view." I miss it, but our river tries to entertain. It makes lots of a hushing "white noise", especially when the rains push it to reach to double or more of its usual levels. We are only a dozen miles from the mighty Pacific, so it takes only a quick diversion while shopping along the 101 highway to peek over the dunes and watch a set or so of waves roll in. I am pleased to see the soil building going so nicely! I left an o`o bar behind, which punched easily into the a`a once I got a rhythm going. Nice to see how the kalo is coming along, too. Do you have a little table/chairs there to take breaks and ocean watch?

  4. I miss the sound of a babbling stream or river. I grew up with that. But the ocean here is a nice substitute. But of course, I don't live along it. :( The main farm has views of forests and pastures, very nice too. But the seed farm has the expansive coastline view all the way up to the slopes of Kilauea. I find that there's something nice about that sort of view. A sense of freedom, unlimited elbow room. It's very calming. So I like your suggestion of a table and chairs. They would be an invitation for a restful break.

    What?!? You left your o-o bar behind? Was it temporary insanity? Or did someone convince you that there were no rocks in Oregon? The o-o bar and a handpick are indispensable here.