Saturday, May 31, 2014

No Water!

The water pump choose to fry itself today. Such are the risks of pumping your own water. Sometime things break, and sometimes it's catastrophic. I'm still not sure exactly what happened inside the pump, as I've yet to take it apart. But the bottom line is that it fried. No water. Luckily we were home at the time and heard the pump constantly running. We ran to the pump house, saw water running across the floor, looked at the pump and saw water running out the end. Quick, shut off the power. 

A glance at the pump revealed that this was not going to be an easy, quick fix. The plastic connections at the pump end were melted. Bummer. We needed a new pump ASAP. 
Of course this happens to be Saturday after twelve noon. Only one store around here sells dc water pumps. A quick phone call and we find out that they're open for another hour. Great! Of course we hop into the car immediately and high tail it up to Oceanview, and buy us a pump. $250, ouch. But when you need water, today, like now, one doesn't quibble. Whip out a credit card and try to figure it out later how to justify it in the budget. 

So the gods of mischief messed up. According the Murphy's Law, the store should have been closed...or out of pumps in stock. Ha, beat those gods for once. It's nice to win a hand every once in a while.       :)

With new pump in hand, hubby suggested that we stop at the Ace Hardware and pick up replacement hose and hose clamps. Might as well replace the old, since otherwise they'd be the next thing to fail. 
$25 more and we're on our way back home. 

Installing the new pump turned out to be fairly simple. Disconnect hoses and electricity. Reconnect using the new hoses and hose clamps. Attach the electric wires. Flick the electric switch and watch the pump self-prime and build the water pressure back up in the tank. Wallah....water! Check for leaks....none....good to go. Hubby, being a neat freak, electrical taped all the wiring and water protected it all, screwed the pump down, made sure everything was lined up properly before declaring the job complete. 

Tomorrow I plan to take apart the fried pump to see if it's repairable. If it is and we can get the parts, the pump would come in handy for other applications.....or to keep as a back up. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Potato Harvest Today

Several months ago I met a woman at a botanical garden and got into a friendly conversation. After chatting about gardening, she mentioned that she was growing a potato that had exceptional yields and was very dependable. It even did well in her poor soil. Ah, my ears perked up. What variety was it? She didn't know. She had picked it up at a seed exchange in Hilo and knew little about it. So I asked if possibly she could send me a spud so that I could add it to my garden. We separated. I forgot all about it. 

Two months ago I received a package in the mail with four starting to sprout potatoes. No return address that I could make out. PO box something or other, Hilo. Gee, that girl must be a doctor! The only number I could make out was a one. Sadly, I couldn't even thank her for remembering. 

I was tickled to get the spuds.  Cutting them into pieces, I was able to make 7 plants. I promptly planted them and hoped for the best. 

For the past two months the plants have been growing well. It's a tall variety, whatever it is. Then this morning my horse, for some reason only she knows, decided to eat them! Yikes! She's never touched a potato plant before. I was surprised. I don't know what got into her. Most likely she doesn't either. So I sadly retrieved the shovel from the shed and set about salvaging what I could. 
I'm happy to report that the plants had set tubers already, though the plants could have used another few weeks of growing. So it looks like this variety should grow about 3 months before harvesting. But at least I got tubers, so all is not lost. 

I weighed what I harvested, including the small potatoes. 7 plants (harvested too early) = 12 lbs. I think this potato is a keeper. It's white skinned with pink eyes, white flesh. Looks like a boiler type. 



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lanai Ceiling

Three more stages need to be done in order for the lanai project to be complete. The rafters need to be sheathed and painted, the trim finished, and the floor tile laid. First step...rafters. 

We initially were just going to sand and paint the rafters, but hubby decided that would look crappy. The 2x6s are rough and would need a lot of sanding and filler to make them look nice. So we're taking some thin pine and sheathing each rafter. This will bulk up the 2x6 rafter and look much classier. We still intend to paint the rafters, we're now calling them beams in our minds, a pale vanilla color. 
In this photo, only the closest rafter is fully sheathed. The dark line seen on the others is actually the dark painted 2x6 rafter underneath the pine sheathing. Once all the pine is in place, you won't see any dark anymore. 
I have to agree with hubby, they will look better this way. 

Some More Building Supplies

Yesterday I had to run to Kona to take my mother's dog to the vet for surgery (Carmen is ok and mom is now happy), so I spent the six hours I had to wait by browsing the stores for house ideas. Ended up coming home with several gallons of paint, lumber for making shelves, two big slabs of ash to make door sills out of, several boxes of assorted nails, cup hooks, wood filler, wood glue, and silicone caulk. And a catchment tank liner, but that story is for another post. Rather boring stuff, except for the liner. But my eye also caught some neat shelf brackets on sale. 

Don't know where I'll use them yet, but I'm sure to find a spot. The price was too good to pass up, considering that I can use them.  It's time to start the finishing off in the livingroom and kitchen. The budget is pretty limited for this, so I'm being a bit picky on what I'm purchasing. I'm actually thinking of making some natural hooks and towel racks out of ohia and koa branches. Guess I'll discover if I good at whittling or not. 

The ash slabs I bought are for the door sills where we removed the two sliding glass doors. David has experience working with ash and has custom made sills in the past. Thus the job falls to him. I'd most likely just muck it up. So I'll go do something else that I know I can handle. 

Visiting the Volcano

Hubby took a couple days off from work and we decided to work a bit on a house project then take some time to visit our local volcano. Before the main caldera began to erupt a couple years ago, we use to spend quite a bit of time in the park. The trails around and through the main crater were our favorite. But since the caldera eruption started, our favorite trails are closed. Somehow this has slowed down our visits to the park even though there are still plenty of other trails to enjoy. Anyway, we ended the evening with an excellent Thai meal at the local restaurant, then a goodnight "kiss" to the volcano. Visiting the caldera at dusk, we could already see the red glow in the fumes escaping the caldera. The darker the night becomes, the more impressive the glow. I've seen the glow really light up the sky at times and it is readily visible 30 miles away. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Human-Animal Disconnection

Recently Jon Katz (www.bedlamfarm.com) has been exploring the fact that so many people nowadays in the US are incredibly disconnected from animals. They have not been raised around them, haven't trained or worked with them, don't even share their life with them. By far the majority of the animal experience that Americans now have is with owning a cat or dog that serves as a child substitute or a pet the serves as an attractive piece of decoration (fish tanks, a reptile, bird cage, exotic small pet, etc).    Very few people have experience with animals considered to be livestock. 

Part of my homestead adventure includes animals. Luckily during my entire life I've been around animals of one sort or other. My mother took the effort to teach us respect and empathy for not just household pets but also wildlife. By 15 years of age I was already involved in veterinary medicine, being introduced to practical animal husbandry and behavior. My first employer also emphasized respect and empathy, but he was no wuss when it came to dealing with dangerous animals. I also came to understand that 99% of creatures, man and animals, have to earn their keep when going through life. No free lunch! That applies to both wild animals and domestic. 

I've had a variety of experiences on the homestead already that typify the disconnection that seems to be increasingly common today, the lack of the animal-human understanding. I've seen people that were afraid of animals that were fairly harmless. Others had no fear of animals that were quite dangerous. Some visitors were repulsed by them or conversely, overly attracted to them. Most visitors misunderstood the animal's intentions, didn't recognize the animals body language, etc. I've had others rush up to animals assuming that the animal would see they loved them (hint: the animal doesn't). I've seen emotions falsely attributed to animals. People no longer know animals. Actually, most people don't want to be near them or touch "the dirty animal". And for some reason people like to make up stories in their own minds about what animals are thinking, feeling, doing. I hear it all the time. 

I've been accused of exploiting animals, as though that is an evil thing . Do people know the definition of "exploit"? I've been verbally accused in public of abusing animals.....and the accusation was laughable. At that time I had Turken chickens and was accused of abusing them so extremely that their heads and necks had become featherless. If people weren't so inexperienced with animals, these sorts of accusations wouldn't happen. But the accuser hadn't the foggiest idea that Turkens are born that way. It's their genetics. 
              (Redneck Rosie, a Turken chicken.) 

I've had animal right/advocates tell me that farms were horrible places for animals and that animals should be living free in the wild. They obviously don't have a clue what life in the wild is like. It isn't pretty and cruelty-free. Perhaps they have watched those nature shows on TV which portray wildlife having ideal, majestic, beautiful natural lives. Of course Mother Nature isn't like that. Nature is dog-eat-dog, survival of the lucky, often amazingly cruel, full of brutality and daily carnage. There is no such thing as blissful life in the wild, except in the mind of the animal rights advocate and the extreme animal lover.
I've been told by several animal lovers (did they read the same pamphlet?) that lions are majestic and live the perfect life. But in reality they kill and attack not only their own kind, but an adult lion represents hundreds of animals that they successfully suffocated to death with teeth and claws deep in the victims flesh. Animal lovers tend to ignore facts or opt to disassociate themselves from reality. 

I've been told that working an animal is equal to slavery. I don't believe that the concept of slavery needs to be associated with working livestock. Surely there are animal slaves in the world just human slaves still exist, but animals can be trained to voluntarily do their jobs, without abuse or force. I've had many that enjoyed working, just as I enjoy working myself. My sled dogs would go crazy with anticipation when they saw me bring out the harnesses. My old riding horse was right at the gate if she spied me bringing her bridle, and danced a jig the first couple of miles always curious of what was further down the trail. My draft pony never objected to pulling firewood out of the back acres, always alert, willing, at ease and pleasant. But she never liked pulling a cart, so I never pursued that pastime. No, working livestock doesn't have to be a case of slavery. It can be a case of working partners. But you know, people I meet that are from the cities don't see that. They can't understand that an animal can be a willing partner. They have no connection with animals.
Unless one opts to be vegan, homesteaders work with animals. Supporting one's family off a homestead normally means keeping livestock of some type. I'm seeing that newcomers to livestock keeping are having more problems than new gardeners. Most newcomers have not grown up around animals and don't know the basics about them. They can read about the animal's needs in a book -- feed, water, shelter, health care, etc. But as children, newcomers had already lost the animal connection, thus do not understand how their livestock think, how they will react, what their emotional needs are. 

With the movement of going back to the land, hopefully a greater percentage of the next generation will have some connection with animals other than just the four legged "children" and the "decor". 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

ATV Flat Tire

Gotta flat! Actually, it's the second one since I've owned the ATV. Same tire. There's a lot of old bits of barbed wire on this land and tires seem to find them. Most of the that the tires pick up a piece of barbed wire, the barbs haven't penetrated far enough to cause a puncture. 
I used a little soapy water to find the leak. By inflating the tire then wetting it with soapy water, you can find the leak by looking for the bubbles. I thought at first that the old repair site might be leaking but it didn't take long to find the new leak. The bubbles were just churning out one after the other. Close inspection showed a tiny piece of metal, most likely a broken off barb tip from barbed wire. I couldn't grasp it to pull it out, so I pushed it through. Next I retrieved the tire repair kit from the workshop. 
This kit is easy to use. It must be since even I can do it successfully! Thread a patch onto the tool, push it through the hole (the  most difficult part of the job), rapidly jerk out the tool, and wallah.....fixed! 
In this photo, the patch is the brown spot between the two tire knobs. I ran the ATV around the driveway once to seat the patch and make sure it wasn't leaking. Then I trimmed off the excess after I took this photo. 

Learning to make basic repairs to equipment is important to a small homestead. By doing it myself, the equipment isn't out of service for very long. In this case, just 10 minutes. It also didn't cost me much. The kit was less than $5 and is good for three repairs. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weeds Can Be Good

I was taught the idea that weeds were bad. Pull them out and throw them away, cast them out of the garden. Or spray them with herbicides. Evil weeds. I have since put those ideas aside. 

Decades ago I use to try to keep my little garden looking pristine and weed free like I saw in those fine house magazines. Even Organic Gardener showed weed free bare soil between rows of weed free plants. So I emulated those examples. Now....no more. 

Not all weeds are easy to control, but I don't see the need to spend most of my gardening time pulling weeds or hoeing. I don't go crazy if some weeds escape my weed control methods. Eventually they will be conquered. My goal is just to keep their numbers and size down so at they don't interfere with the veggie production. 

In fact, sometimes weeds can be good! So what good is there in weeds? 

1- soil indicators. Certain weeds thrive in nutrient poor soil. So if you see lots of them around and in your garden area, then it's an indication that you need to focus on soil improvement. Others indicate regularly dry soil, such as mullein.
                                  (Mullein)
 Robust, lush dandelion indicates fertile soil, but thin leafed small dandelion indicates a need to improve the soil fertility and moisture. Healthy looking plantains indicate acidic soil. The list goes on and on. As you garden you come to notice what the weeds are telling you. 

2-living mulch. Some weeds stay low and spreading. They actually help shade the soil surface. But too many of them can start robbing your veggies of soil moisture and nutrients. So there's a balance to be had. 
       (Woodsorrel being used as a living mulch.)

3-soil improvers. When your leave a field fallow for a year, the weeds take over. Then you come along and till that field again and discover that your veggies do so, so much better. The plowed in weeds decompose, putting nutrients back into the soil. Certain plants we call weeds are nitrogen fixers, thus improving the fertility of soil. Shallow rooted spreading weeds help shade the soil, help prevent crusting and erosion. While tap rooted weeds improve drainage. 

4- compost additive. Young plants are full of moisture and nitrogen. By putting young weeds into your compost pile, the pile will do much better. But sometimes the pile needs brown, dry stuff so old dead weeds can be added. If your pile runs real hot, then old weed seeds won't be a problem. But if you run cool piles, then exclude any seed heads. 

5- mulch. Good old chop-n-drop technique. Use a hoe, sickle, knife, whatever to chop the weeds and let the pieces drop where they are. The dying weeds then become a mulch. 

6- fertilizer tea. Soak chopped or bruised young growing weeds in a bucket of water overnight. Then use that water on the veggies as a soil drench or foliar spray. Some weeds are better at this than others. You just need to experiment with the weeds that are common in your area. 
              (Weak weed tea ready to use.)
7- pest control and trap crops. Certain pests tend to flock to particular weeds prior to attacking your veggies. In my own area I notice that whitefly hits the nasturtiums first, giving me a heads up to watch for whitefly in the garden. Plus I can attack the whitefly more aggressively on the nasturtiums than I would on my veggies, thus getting them under control faster. Back on the mainland I used the wild rose, a horrid weed, as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. Then there are some weeds that pests won't touch. I haven't experimented with it yet but I wonder if I ground those weeds up in a blender would the water make a good pest deterrent? 

8- food. Some weeds are edible. Some we can eat (dandelion, nettles, purslane, and lambs quarters to name a few). Many others are appealing to various livestock. Very importantly, weeds are needed for a healthy wildlife population. Many birds rely upon weed seed and buds, or the insects that are attracted to certain weeds. Other wildlife animals rely upon what we call weeds. 

9- herbal medicine. Some plants that we call weeds are useful for herbal medicines. I'm not well versed on this topic, but I've seen plenty of plants listed in herbal medicine books that I thought were just "useless weeds". 
           (plantain, used as herbal medicine)
10- bee food source. Many weeds are actual valuable food sources for bees. Dandelions come to mind, but there are many others. By allowing "bee weeds" to stay, bees will be attracted to your garden. 

11- habitat for beneficial insects. Several of what we term "good bugs" rely upon weeds for part of their food source and lifecycle. Without the weeds there aren't enough "bad bugs" around to feed upon. And some butterflies are rather specific in their dietary needs, such as the monarch butterfly relying upon milkweed. 

12- source of natural dyes. Nowadays most people aren't even aware that our great grandparents/aunts routinely collected certain weeds for their dye properties. 

13- fiber for paper, twine, art. Today's fiber artists are still aware that certain weeds are useful for making artisan papers. And many can be used for various artwork purposes. The making of twine and rope from certain weeds was once common knowledge on farms, but I doubt many farmers in developed countries could manage the task anymore. 

14- tinder. Select weeds were popular for starting fires. Others for storing embers. 

15- building. Though thatching of rooves and walls is not a lost art, it is not as common as it once was. Skilled thatchers are aware that certain weeds were used in the thatching and weather proofing process decades/centuries ago. 

16- soap substitute. A few plants that most people consider weeds can be used as a soap substitute. 

17- livestock bedding. Until this past century or so, cut weeds used to be gathered and stored for winter livestock bedding. Accounts described how to choose those weeds that livestock wouldn't eat so that the bedding wouldn't be consumed. 

18- pest deterrents. At one time people used a variety of select weeds to ward off pests in the house, such as fleas, weevils, etc. 

19- flowers. Many weeds produce lovely flowers. A little vase with assorted wildflowers can brighten up the kitchen table or bathroom sink. 



Don't Get Chickens (?)

Chickens and homesteading seem to be natural mates. Other blogs have listed all sorts of reasons why to have chickens. And I agree with most. But chickens aren't for every wannabe farmer, in my opinion. I can see where there could be problems. So here's a different sort of list.....why NOT to have chickens.

Predators-- Some areas are plagued by predators that can decimate a flock. I can tell you lotsa stories of the ways I've lost birds to them. Lets see, there was the time a mongoose got into the chicken tractor and killed every young pullet. They the time a mongoose managed to grab hens through the wire fencing and pull them through it in pieces, eating off chunks along the way. I now hate mongooses. Theres too many here and they can wreck havoc. I've never lost a bird to feral cats, but wandering dogs have killed their share. Then there are hawks. They've taken a couple dozen hens over the years. And I hate to admit it, but my own dog killed several before I got that problem under control. 

Disease-- In my area fowl pox is the main repetitive disease. But I can vaccinate the birds if I so choose. While my flock has been hit by fowl pox each year, I've never had birds die. But others around me haven't been so lucky. A number of people no longer will keep chickens because of fowl pox. They simply can't deal with it. Other people report having non-pox diseases kill their flocks. Obviously, having chickens is not for them. It makes no sense to buy chicks every year only to have most die before laying age. 

(The black dots on the red comb are residual spots from fowl pox.)

Deaths-- If you can't deal with an animal dying, then don't have chickens. Even with the best of care, a flock will have individual chickens die from time to time. Every serious chicken keeper has found a dead hen in the nestboxes. Sometimes it just happens. There's lots of things that can wrong with a bird. 

Cannibals -- yes, chickens are cannibalistic. It's not uncommon for the flock to pick on the low man to the point that it gets eventually killed.....then eaten! The bigger the flock the more apt it is to happen, especially if they are penned or crowded. If you can't stomach that, then don't have chickens. 

(The current low man on the pecking order. She constantly has her head feathers plucked.)

(Current head honcho of the flock. One mean old biddy!)

Labor-- chicken care takes time. They need clean water daily. Fresh food that never runs out. New bedding. Eggs need to be picked at least daily, if not three times a day. Then the eggs need to be cleaned and refrigerated. It all takes time and work. Plus there's the labor of buying and hauling the feed. And the bedding/litter. And the cleaning the pen. Plus guess what?....it's 365 days a year. No time off, no holidays.....somebody's got to take care of them. If not you then you'll have to pay someone to. 

Expense-- first you've got to buy the chicks. No, first you've got to buy food for the chicks. No, first you've got to buy the chick feeder and waterer. Oh no, first you've got to buy a pen. And don't forget a heat source, the bedding, the perches/roosts as they get older, and the nest boxes. The first year you have chickens, those eggs are going to cost you a lot of money. 

Disposal Dilemma -- what will you do with the hens who are no longer laying eggs? Occasionally you'll get a "poor do-er" or one with deformed legs. Once in a while one maybe too aggressive to safely keep around. Are you willing to kill them? Plan on giving them away or selling them? Have you checked out your market? If you're a "no kill" person, you may have a problem. Perhaps not getting chickens in the first place is the kindest solution.

Slaughter/ butchering time -- will you be able? Butchering takes time, it's work, and it smells. Yes, it stinks. At least I for one don't enjoy the smell of wet, hot feathers being scalded off a bird, nor the smell in fresh entrails. I take no enjoyment in killing a bird, though I can do it. Butchering the bird out doesn't bother me, but I know of plenty of people who just can't de-gut and cut a chicken up into pieces.

Neighbors-- not all neighbors will approve of chickens, not even just one hen. And forget roosters! I'm not even fond of some of them. Some zoning excludes chickens, and don't expect to be able to appease the government inspector with a dozen fresh eggs like you could do to win over your neighbor. 

Chickens aren't for everyone. For many people it's just better to buy the eggs from the closest flock keeper. 


Friday, May 23, 2014

The Daily Drivel

It has been pointed out to me that I missed posting a day. Well, it's not that I'm ignoring my followers, but things get quite busy on a homestead. Some days are constant activity from 5:30 am till dark. By then I'm often too mentally bushed to be competent enough to post anything at all that's coherent. 

Friday has been one of those days. Farm chores in the morning, then run to Kona.....actually I drove the truck. Running there would take me days, assuming that I didn't die of a heart attack in the process.  :)

Stop at Greenwell garden for some new sugar cane keiki.

 Stop at feed store for hay cubes and a salt lick. Pick up the special wood order of cedar T&G,  which was my main reason for driving two hours. 
Pick up a load of 2 x6s for making a small deck off the back of the house. 
Another bunch of pine boards for finishing up the ceiling transitions. And some thin cedar sheathing for covering over the roof rafters in the newly enclosed lanai. More nails, caulk, and wood glue. More blue tape. Whoa...pretty colors.....two flowering hibiscus just happened to jump into my shopping cart. Aahh, they want me to adopt them, how sweet. 
Add a shop vac, a roll of plastic coated chicken wire, a roll of coated 3x2 garden wire fencing, fence clips, 5 gallon bucket with lid, one sack of mortar mix. 

I swung by the floor tile department and discovered that the tile that we've been looking for was now in stock. I wish I hadn't bought all those hay cubes, but with some creative rearranging, I managed to get 11 boxes of tiles wedged in. 
I have to pass on buying the wood for the door sills, the catchment tank liner, and the greenhouse poly. Since I have to make another Kona run next Wednesday, I'll plan on picking them up on that trip. 

Days like today put a major dent in my weekly work projects. Other than tending to the livestock, nothing gets done on the homestead. Oh, it's not a wasted day by any means. But when I look at my time budget, I have to accept that there will be 3-4 days a month where the time budget gets thrown out the window. Today it was for shopping, but I'd rather prefer the days when it's devoted to going to the beach! 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bunnies!

I've finally officially added rabbits to the homestead plan. This week I picked up a dozen youngsters from a local meat breeder. While I don't plan to actually eat these guys, I did want them from meat bloodlines. The intent is to produce future meals.....and in addition, breeding stock for others to start out their own meat production. 
I was torn between having rabbits that were plain white or going with cute, pretty colored ones. Personally I find it easier to kill plain white ones. I know that may sound silly, but when the bunny is cute, I have a harder time of it. Anyway, I opted for colors. That way some of the babies may find their way into pet homes. 

I'm building traditional style rabbit hutches up off the ground for them. I have one four-holer ready for them and am building two more. Today they are still in the wire pen (photo above) but tomorrow they get introduced to the hutches, 3 babies pet hutch for now. They are still young enough that they can be housed together, but within 3-4 weeks they will need to be living separately since instinctively they will fight. 

Right now the rabbits are eating rabbit pellets. But they will be introduced to a wide selection of local foods. I'm already offering them some grasses. Gradually they will be given little bits of the leaves from bananas, beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes, plantains, nasturtiums, cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins, corn, millet, mango, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, collards, kale, beets, and chard. While the base of their diet will be hay cubes/grasses, the fresh greens will make for happy bunnies. They will also get treats of bits of fruits and veggies, and edible flowers, but it won't be the bulk of their diet. Rabbits are designed to be grass/leaf eaters so the other things are treats. 



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Seed Farm Update

I was down at the seed farm today. I only had a hour for working, so I surely didn't get everything done, but it felt good to be working down there anyway. The sun was out, it was warm but there was a great breeze blowing. Paradise! 

The warmth and the wind are two reasons why this location is usable for seed production.....it stays hot and dry. Things don't rot, seeds don't prematurely sprout. 
This photo didn't turn out to be the best, but you can see that the pea vines actually dried out. That would not have happened at the homestead farm. So I consider the seed farm a success...at least partially. The soil fertility is terrible, plus there's hardly any soil. But it's a start. 

The pea vines only reached 3 feet in length and only produced 2-3 pods per plant. Pretty pathetic for a normally 5-6 foot vine. The soybeans were only half their normal height. So the ground needs lots of improvement and soil building. 

I did get to harvest peas, soybean, and yard long beans. The lima beans are 5-6 foot long with their first pods. They are better suited to the conditions. The taro is slow and small but growing. Some of the varieties are actually looking fairly ok, though others are decidedly unhappy. What is dong just fine are the sweet potatoes. Incredible vegetable! Grows even in hot, dry, poor places. I don't know if they will produce tubers, but I am growing them for the vines so that I can take cuttings. 

Pulled weeds, which I chopped up for mulch. Cleaned up the taro. Straightened up the sweet potatoes, getting their vines going in the right directions. Still plenty of work to do chopping weeds. So I'll return soon to bring more water, chop weeds, bring mulch, bring compost, plant the next seed crops. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Locavore

Barb from Georgia emails me a lot of questions about what we eat, what food we produce, what we can get locally. She wanted to know if I've heard about being a locavore and would I support that idea? 

Locavore = a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.

I believe that I've become a locavore (except for Saturdays). Ha! Nowadays it's becoming trendy to be a locavore, so I guess I've hit the bigtime.  ;)

Why consider becoming more locavore oriented? 
.. You're supporting the local economy, your neighbors.
... You're making less of a carbon footprint on the earth. When food doesn't have to shipped a great distance, there will be less energy and oil used. That cuts down on pollution too. 
... The food will be fresher, thus tasting better and being more nutritious.
... Locally sold fruits and veggies are more apt to be picked ripe rather than green, making them better quality. 
... You may be able to get varieties not offered by big commercial farms, items too fragile for shipping.

But there are downsides to a locavore lifestyle, big downside that I suspect many people won't be willing to deal with.  
... Local food tends to be more expensive, sometimes quite a bit more. 
... Unless you live in Hawaii, most food production is seasonal. So food would need to be canned, dried, frozen, or otherwise preserved for year around use. Even here in Hawaii certain foods are seasonal although we can grow fresh food year around.
... Many foods won't be available in your own area. Either they can't be produced or simply no one is doing it close to you. 

A problem I see with people who get caught up in the locavore trend is that they feel that they have to do it as close to 100% as possible. Sort of an all or nothing thing. I don't get that. Why not just eat as local as you are comfortable with? Some of us have the opportunity to eat local, many of us don't. If you opt to buy half of your food from the local farm stands, then I'd say you're doing just fine! 

This past weekend hubby and I went on our quarterly shopping trip to stock up (two weeks early but the opportunity arose to go so we did it.) I'm putting everything away today and took stock of what food items we bought that are not local. 
... Nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds)
... A roasted chicken (you can't beat the price value on a Costco roasted chicken!)
... Hummus
... Assorted spices
... Grapes
... Apples
... Cherries
... Cantaloupe 
... Soy sauce
... Soy milk
... Water chestnuts
... Bamboo shoots
... Cow's milk (we can't get enough fresh raw milk around here to meet our needs)
... Butter
... Sour cream

Not bad. All our other food is local sourced, except for our Saturday restaurant splurge. 

Homestead & Garden Food Dangerous?

Jenna W of Cold Antler Farm posed an interesting question on her blog :
"Do any of you out there raising food ever experience concern or doubt (or maybe even disgust?) from friends or family about eating what you produce? For example: people who are scared of raw milk, blue eggs, non-bleached lettuce or backyard pork? Has anyone ever turned down your food because it wasn't store bought? I'm curious if any of you have been balked at when offering homegrown to folks who are used to bar codes on everything they chew on?"

I haven't seen a lot of the rejection/avoidance problem around here in Ka'u, but I've seen some .....

Eggs : I've had people politely decline my eggs because they aren't "sanitized" or "sterilized". And I've had others choose the dozen eggs that had no green shelled ones in it (afraid of unusual colored shells?).  One woman made a point to tell me that my eggs were "bad" because the yolks were orange (not pale yellow like store bought eggs). Another woman told me that she "had" to throw away the eggs because the first one she cracked open had a blood spot. I've heard people say the local eggs were risky or even downright dangerous to eat. 

I've watched at farmers markets and see people reject any veggie that shows the least amount of insect damage. My mother had a neighbor who would throw away any ear of fresh corn that had a corn worm in it.....she gave them to my mother to feed to mom's chicks, though secretly my mother would clean, cook, and eat the ear of corn herself. My mom was no dummy and wasn't going to waste good sweet corn to feed the chicks. 

I know several people who won't touch local raw milk and have gone to the effort to warn me of the "danger". Several people think that all raw milk, regardless of the source, is highly dangerous. 

I had a neighbor tell me that she got rid of her milking goat because her husband couldn't bring himself to drink the milk or even eat the yogurt and cheese she made from it. He was afraid to taste it. 

One of my own relatives on the mainland chucked out an entire garden because she saw wildlife walking around in it. She said that the wildlife contaminated the veggies, making them unfit to eat. 

Ok, that's my tale. As you know, I have absolutely no problem eating out of my garden nor consuming local meats, milk, cheese, fish, etc. I actually eat very little commercially produced foods. Considering the contamination of big business food with assorted chemicals and pathogens, I personally believe that small farm food is safer. Of course that's acknowledging that I "know thy farmer" and only get food from sources that I have faith in. 

It seems to me that people interested in a homestead life have no issues with eating home grown foods. But the vast majority of the population in the USA are not homesteaders. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Single Rows vs Wide Beds

Ted from Colorado asked, "how come the photos of your garden on your homestead shows bed style gardening but on your seed farm you are using single rows like commercial farming?" 

Excellent observation! 

On the homestead I've experimented with numerous different growing methods. Single row, double row. Narrow beds. Wide beds of various widths. I've tried narrow walkways and wide walkways. For a couple of years I had settled on using two foot wide beds with two foot wide walkways. The beds were easy to straddle for planting, weeding, and harvesting. The walkways were just wide enough to avoid damaging plants. But I had a few issues I wasn't happy with. It wasn't easy to bring a wheelbarrow or garden cart in with fresh compost or mulch. And some crops spread out wider than the two feet width. 

But why use beds instead of rows? Rows are used by farms in order to use big machinery. I don't use tractors, cultivators, etc. So I don't need rows. Beds work better for many crops when machinery isn't being used. One can produce more food using beds. 

So in the main garden I'm now using three foot wide beds with three foot wide walkways. 

That may seem like a waste of space, but I have plenty of room to work with. Space is not an issue. But ease of working the garden is important to me. A three foot wide bed means that I can grow yacon, tomatillo, Roma bush tomatoes, and the like without constantly trimming them to fit a two foot bed. I can plant two close rows of corn in a three foot bed (they need hand pollination growing this way, just in case you're considering growing corn this way). I can grow bush squashes without trimming leaves. 

The wider aisles makes using a wheelbarrow or garden cart much easier. No more running into plants and damaging them. 

So why use rows at the seed farm? That's because what little soil exists there is not improved. The soil simply is not up to supporting a high density of plants. If I tried planting closely like I do in the beds on the homestead, the plants would do poorly. Too much competition for the meager resources. (Note: I'm not using commercial fertilizers nor does the farm have a water source for irrigation.) So I space the plants out so that their roots can spread out seeking what little nutrition and water that is available. The narrow rows and wide walkways gives me the opportunity to pay attention to individual plants, bringing them water when needed, adding mulch, adding manure tea and other forms of fertilizers. I figure it will take a couple more years before the seed farm is ready for more concentrated plantings. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Glass Drinking Water Dispenser

"Ask and you shall receive."  Ha, it works! Today I am the recipient of a fine glass water dispenser. How cool is that. 

A good friend snuck into my place today while I was gone and left me this present. I hadn't a clue until I went for a drink of water. Lo! This thing is perfect. 

Thank you! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Daily Lists - Accomplishment Plan

 I've had a few friends who read my blog recently mention that they can't get as much stuff done as I do. They have non-productive days where getting going is impossible. They get nothing done, in their opinion. They imply that I'm some sort of super woman. Whoa. Stop right there!!! Hey, I'm no different than most people. I have good days, and bad days. It's just that in the past 12 years I've made a concerted effort to address my depression and try to combat the evil twin inside my head who prefers to escape troubles by going to bed and sleep all day.

For years when I lived on the mainland I had seasonal depression. Winters were really hard to get through. Some days I'd only get through with going to work, keep the woodstove burning, take care of my dogs and the horse. Not much else. The house was always a wreck from October to March. I'd procrastinate on just about everything. Christmas was a weird mix of fun and depression. The only delight during winter was new falling snow....the first half hour, then it was the pits. 

Moving to Hawaii I suddenly lost the winter depression cycle enough that I had hope to try to change my life. Since everything else about my life was changing, I tried to tackle the depression cycle. I discovered that part of my depression, the year around sort, was triggered by my lack of accomplishing things during the day, which made me feel like a failure. But what I was really surprised to learn was that  - #1 I was accomplishing more than I thought and that #2 I wasn't giving myself credit for it. A friend suggested that I use a daily job list to figure out exactly what my day was like, then go from there. She said to list EVERYTHING no matter how trivial I thought it was. I was to check things off that I accomplished and look the list over at the end of the day. The job list idea worked well for me and I still use it to this day. It gives me the sense of accomplishment that my ego so desperately desires. Instead of giving myself an F at the end of a day, I now think I'm worth at minimum a C even on a bad day, a B or A on good days. 

Nowadays my job list no longer lists the trivial stuff like "wash my hair", "put laundry into the hamper", "brush my teeth". Yes, I was so pathetic that I needed to list that! But I've grown up and moved on. But I still list the daily must-do chores like "feed the livestock", "check the fence line", "collect the eggs". But I'm at the point where I'm ready to just clump them together and list them as "daily morning chores". 

My daily to-do list never includes more than 50 items. Never. I can of course do more if time permits, but I won't list them. The reason....too many things to get done appalls the evil twin inside my head, prompting her to want to give up before I start. Most of the things on the list take very little time, though I include a few bigger tasks every day for variety.....and to get a project going. 

For those of you that are still hanging in there with this blog entry, I'll show you my list for today. As I said, at the end of the day I review what I managed to complete. It's always so nice to see that I accomplished something. 

1- Feed cats
2- Straighten up the kitchen
3- Straighten up the bathroom
4- Feed dogs
5- Check sheep, goat, and horse
6- Check the fence line
7- Feed pond fish
8- Feed chickens and ducks
9- Collect eggs
10- Wash eggs, weigh, refrigerate
11- Check the rain gauge and record it
12- Check the high/low temperatures and record it
Thus ends the list of daily morning chores. 
13- Change lightbulb in hallway
14- Change battery in mosquito zapper
15- Check chlorine and pH in catchment tanks and adjust as needed
16- Put trash bags into the truck
17- Bring toilet paper up from the storage room
18- Call Aloha Woods and order more cedar
19- Call Arrow and order driveway gravel
20- Harvest a bunch of bananas and cut up the tree. Move it to the biopit.
21- Harvest biggest taro corms. 
22- Harvest pipinola. 
23- Plant potatoes (24' bed)
24- Plant beans (24' bed)
25- Plant dasheen taro (10' bed)
26- Spread ashes onto garden beds
27- Dress empty bed with compost and sand (24' bed)
28- Rototill above mentioned bed
29- Move yesterday's grass clippings to the garden area
30- Spread grass clippings
31- Take care of my mother (2 hours)
32- Pick up mail at post office
33- Stop at credit union
34- Pick up 4 gallons drinking water
35- Drop trash off at dump
36- Harvest guavas for chicken feed
37- Sow grass seed in back pasture
38- Harvest two guava poles
39- Paint row markers for garden
40- Assemble one grow box
41- Mow grass along the road
42- Use grass clippings for mulching
43- Move rock pile to rock storage boxes
44- Start a small tray each of kale and broccoli
45- Clean the cat box
46- Clean out the woodstove
47- Broom the house
48- Grind up waste for tomorrow's chicken food
49- Wash my crocs
50- Make dinner

Most of these jobs are quickies. Others are more involved. Did I get everything done? No. But I awarded myself a A because I did other jobs in place of those on the list. Hey, that's one pretty good day by my calculations. 

If you noticed, I did not include jobs where I'm guaranteed to fail. No ...build the outside deck...paint the barn...mow the back five acres...etc. Today I actually got more done. I cleaned up after my last house project, moved excess tile boxes into storage, put the new saw blade onto the chop saw, cut up the waste wood for kindling, broomed up the sawdust, inventoried my house building supplies and made out a shopping list. All little, quick jobs. I'm between house projects right now because I need to pick up more supplies this weekend. 

By now some of you will think I'm looney, or pathetic, or stupid. (Frankly, I no longer care what people think.) But this system gets me through my day, ending it in a pretty good mood. Much better than being depressed as far as I'm concerned. Plus I'm the one grading myself, not someone else passing judgement on me. I will no longer let other people tell me that I'm doing poorly. Oh they can speak as much as they want, but I won't take it to heart. I've discovered that critical people make themselves happier by downing others around them, totally ignoring the damage in their wake. I refuse the part of that damage anymore. 

To date, I'm pretty happy with this system. It works for me for now. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Notes of Being Frugal

,I'm big on being frugal. Not that I'm a miser or refuse to spend a dime. But frugal in the sense of wisely choosing how to spend the money that I have. I think any working family homestead absolutely needs to be frugal to some degree in order to be successful. I've discovered that there are plenty of ways to be frugal, and the biggest saver for me by far is not buying stuff in the first place. Number 2 is not buying stuff that eventually gets wasted. 

I try not to fall for sales and deals, unless it was something I intend to buy anyway. Just how many hose nozzles do I need to have in reserve sitting on the shelf? How many pens need to stored in the desk drawer? While I do believe in having reserves on hand, I'm guilty in the past of over doing it. It's been 10 years since I bought those 3 packs of hose washers that were on 50% off sale, and I still have 2 full packs that are rather old and cracking by now. Thus I wasted my money buying the extra 2. That's just one example that I'm willing to admit to. Yes, there are others sitting around here. 
(We changed our mind and never used these. Still sitting on the closet shelf.)

Bargains are only good if you actually use the stuff. Before moving here I bought several pair of shoes that were on a great sale. I was saving tons of dollars, so I believed. But once I started living in Hawaii, I never wore regular shoes again. I ended up giving those shoes away to the thrift store. 

Making poor plans while building our house has also waged war with my frugality campaign. We've purchased way too many light fixtures that we ended up giving away. Yes, we didn't change our plans until it was too late to return them to the store. I refuse the throw good things away, so we had to find someone who could use them. 

Sometimes buying a bargain leads me to spend money I normally wouldn't, thus totally negating the bargain. I once purchased some cream cheese at a super price. But then had to buy the rest of the ingredients to make the cheesecake I had in mind - graham cracker crumbs, cream, fruit topping, etc. Not that we didn't enjoy the cheesecake, but it surely isn't an example of being frugal. 

Stocking up sometimes can kill all frugality. How? Stocking up should save you money.  I mean, bulk buying is often cheaper. Or buying bulk when the item is on sale it usually a wise money saver. And I should save money and time by not having to repeatedly go out and buy the stuff, right? But what happens when we change our habits, lifestyle, or diet? Then stuff goes unused. What, you don't anticipate changing? Whoa, that's not us. We've changed a lot over that past few years........
...When I learned that I should no longer eat anything with sugar in it (for over one whole year, zero sugar), I had lots of foods stockpiled that contained sugar -- baked beans, corn, peas, soups, chicken broth, etc. None of that food got wasted (it went to needy seniors), but it was an economic disaster from a frugality viewpoint. 
...when hubby decided the compact fluorescent bulbs were the only thing he'd have in the house, all the regular light bulbs became defunct stock. Luckily my mother had no objections to using them. 
...I moved to Hawaii with a nice collection of new queen sized sheets, but then Hubby decided we would upgrade to a king. I totally agreed on the king size beds so I was just as guilty as he was. 

If I practice the art of being frugal, then I have money to spend on other things. But sometimes I end up shooting myself in the foot. Goes to show that I have plenty of room for improvement. And my flops keep me from getting a swelled head......I'm not as good at this homesteading thing that I sometimes think I am! 

From Pasture to Garden - The Final Step

It's now time for the last step : loosening the soil. I know that some of the readers advocate "no till", but I've found that it simply won't work for the first few seasons. Vegetable plants need lighter soil to grow in, something airier with better drainage than what grasses can tolerate. Pasture is often quite compact from the livestock traffic. So the soil must be broken if I expect it to produce a decent amount of food. My ground is a combination of soil and lava rock. So I cannot use a rototiller, cannot use a plow. Two options: 

1- use an excavator or scoop to shovel up the soil  & rock mix and run it through a rock separator. Then scoop the de-rocked soil back to the garden area. This is an expensive option and against my desire to work this homestead in a low tech, low impact, low input fashion. 

2- do it by hand

Someone suggested running a bulldozer over the ground with a chisel under it. That would at least break up the soil rock layer making it easier to work by hand. But again, it's more than I want to do. Perhaps if I had more than an acre to prepare, but I have a much smaller piece of land to convert to a garden. And more over, the chisel would destroy the lava tube drainage system in this field. That tube system keeps my land from flooding during the "ten-year rain" ........that by the way is well overdue according to the locals here.

Since this land is very rocky, I plan to use it to grow veggies that don't need totally derocked soil. My plan is to remove rocks gradually over a long period of time, eventually having it derocked enough for a rototiller. But that will take months, perhaps a year. In the meantime I will remove rocks as I plant individual plants. For example, if I grow tomatoes I only need a plant every few feet. A hole will be dug just for the plant, not the whole row. Then later on as I have time I can remove rocks from between the plants. This is how I cleared the original 50' x 100' garden.
(Tomato pants lined up so that I know where to dig the holes.)

This time around I don't plan to derocked the walkways. In my original garden I derocked everywhere. Beds. Walkways, Borders. Looking back, there was no need to do all that. Just the growing beds need derocking. That will save 50% of the labor and time. 

My tools of destruction will be an o-o bar, a pick, and a mattock. I'll choose whichever is easiest for the particular situation. This will be a work out! Build muscles! Heck, it's cheaper than joining a gym, and more enjoyable. When's the last time your gym workout included tropical sunshine, breezy tradewinds, birdsong and butterflies? 
(The pile of removed rocks is rapidly growing!)
(Pile #2 is for the smaller rocks.)

I have to get the ground totally scuffed with the rototiller this week. The grass is starting to grow back and I'm out of vinegar. So far I've gotten over half the new area scuffed and mulched with grass clippings. I plan to work on it again for the next few days to attempt to get it all covered by the end of the week. I'd hate to see the grass grow back after all that work. 

This new garden area is going to be used by the community garden group. Today was their first day working the garden area. Wow, it was a joy having people to work alongside. We got a lot done. Lots more rocks dug out. Lots of soil turned over. Plenty of things planted already. 
The garden group owns a lot of old plastic piping which makes very visible, easy to handle row delineators. The volunteers marked all the beds that were ready to plant, planted about 2/3 of them, and mulched it all. 

So the old pasture is finally a garden! There's still a lot of work to dig out rocks, turn and loosen the soil, but it's on it's way. 
 
So this project is proving to myself......and the garden volunteers.....that a large rock-free garden is do-able around here. It just takes time and work. But I can see that it's work that many people are not willing to do. So far only me and the community garden group seems to be willing to put out the effort. But reaping our rewards will be oh so sweet! 

If even one person comes along and says how lucky we are to have soil and no rocks, I'm going to be sorely tempted to bop them one. Luck had nothing to do with it! 


Monday, May 12, 2014

The Daily Drivel

As promised, I am trying to make a post every day. But today it ain't gonna be much worth tuning in for. Nada about homesteading, gardening, food, livestock. Some days are like that.

Today I missed out on my tai chi class, gardening, and other projects in order to spend the day helping out a new veterinarian to the spay/neuter project trying her hand at dong very young puppies. All ended well, but like anytime someone new is trying to do something unfamiliar, things went along slowly. Yes, I admit it....I was bored. That's a rare phenomena for me. But I was trapped and bored, and couldn't even have the luxury of daydreaming. I had to stay focused on my patients, since I was the anesthetist.

I'm just glad that I got home before dark, got to take care of my critters,  and now sit here sipping hot soup and listening to the rain on the metal roof. The sound of more rain is still welcome, considering that the experts are forecasting a drought for next year. Any rainwater that can be banked within the lava below will be worth it's weight in gold once the drought arrives. So bring on the rain! 

Tomorrow is gardening all day. Wahoo! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Drivel -Ka'u Coffee Festival Day

For one last day I attended our island's coffee festival, although it's not quite over yet. The event ran 10 days this year. Quite a festival. 
People had the opportunity to sample freshly brewed coffees from various local growers. Cupping has become quite popular. I noticed that this year the various farms have come up with creative ways to process and roast the beans, creating new and complex flavors. 
Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee was of course present, with Ralph manning the booth. Lori and Ralph have done an excellent job with their coffees and keep racking up the awards. It's really cool to see one's friends being successful. The community is proud of them. 
Of course the Mirandas were also promoting their coffees. Jose is such a hard worker and Berta is a gem. And there were several other local farmers proudly talking up their beans this year. These families work hard, long, difficult hours trying to produce exceptional coffees. In my opinion, they are doing a banged up job. Congrads to each and every one! 

No, I'm not a big fan of coffee. I could take or leave it without caring one way or the other. I do grow  coffee for our own use, that's why I know how much work these coffee farmers put into their crop. I process my own beans in the standard boring way, not trying to attain hints of chocolate, fruitiness, lingering mouth texture, or other traits of the cupping competition world. Just a basic cup of joe is fine for me. 
Strolling the grounds were the lovely coffee queens and princesses.
Now you know that we're "country" when you come to an event and can purchase a raffle ticket to win a goat! 
This little guy was too busy consuming the coffee tree to care about posing for a picture. Humm, coffee marinated goat, marinated from the inside. What a concept! 
No local festival would be complete without local musicians and hula. Our friends and neighbors entertained us with numerous hula dances, telling stories told in song. I always love the outfits they make. Colorful and so tropical. 
For some reason mainlanders think hula is just a women's event. Not true. It's quite popular among the men here. In fact, the guys are really good hula performers. 
So our festival is almost pau (done, over). But coffee growing is a year around job. 
Here in Ka'u the coffee trees are once again in bloom. For some reason this year they are having multiple blooming events. This week they are loaded with blossoms for the third time already this year. Could it be because of all the constant rain that we've been having? With the blooming being stretched out over months instead of weeks, it going to be a rather strange harvest this fall. In fact farmers are reporting some trees still have ripe beans on them from last year while branches with green fruits and white blossoms....all on the same plant. Weird.