Friday, October 31, 2014

Finishing Pigs

Leigh made a comment about what to feed pigs prior to slaughter. I really have little experience with this since my prior pigs of 20 years ago were either sold as half grown piglets or kept as pets until it died of old age. Yes, I never could bring myself to sell Habersett Hog. The thought of eating her, or someone else eating her, was unbearable. So she lived her life as a spoiled pet. 

This is the first time I've raised piglets with the intention of meat. So I asked a number of other homesteader types about how they finished their pigs. I got a wide variety of answers. By far the most common answer was "pig finisher", a commercial feed based upon corn and soybean. 

Of the people who either raised their meat pigs on pasture or pen fed them something other than commercial pig finisher, most said that they fed a special finisher diet the last 30 days. The idea was to improve the flavor of the meat. Universally, grain was the top choice and the majority of the diet. Cracked corn, crimped wheat, crimped oats, and cracked barley were mentioned, in that order. Grinding the grain was common. Field peas were used for 30-40% of the ration by a few people. Milk or whey was a common ingredient. Another swore by sprouted grains. Most people chopped some veggies or added kitchen scraps to the meals. Some added some bakery waste to each meal. 

A few farms finished theirs on pasture, milk/whey, and nuts if available (acorns, filberts, and walnuts were mentioned). They used no grains, vegetables, kitchen waste, bread. 

All the people who responded swore by their method, claiming the meat was delicious. So I'm suspecting it's not a case of what to feed, rather a case of what NOT to feed. Everybody advised me to avoid strong tasting feed stuffs, like fish, meat, onions, garlic, etc. It was suggested to avoid feeding too many nuts because it made soft bacon. Too much flax, more than 5%, was said to cause problems with the fat firming up for the bacon too. That particular farm was trying to increase omega fatty acids in their meat and discovered that a lot of flax ruined the bacon. 

30 days prior to slaughter seems to be the accepted norm. Why 30 days? Tradition? Knowledge based upon previous generations' experience? Don't know, but 30 days it is. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hallway Floor Milestone

On the section of the hallway that I intended to get done --  it's finished! Floor installed. Trim work done. The only thing that needs doing is the ceiling light, but I haven't purchased it yet. 
What you are looking at is actually only 2/3 of the hallway. The other third won't be completed until we get going on the bathroom. We didn't see any sense in finishing a section that might very well be changed as we developed the bathroom design. 

I'm quite pleased with the feeling of the hallway. It's wide enough for storage something-or-others along the walls. Shelves? Open faced cabinets? Hubby and I will have to talk it out. But regardless, getting another section of the house completed feels really good. 

By the way, we really like the way the floor is turning out so far. We're now considering on using it for the bedroom. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting Ahead?

I often get email from young people, mostly, who want to start a homestead farm but also want to "get ahead", make lots of money. They ask what crops they should raise or livestock to keep that are the real moneymakers.

 Whoa, I don't have those kind of answers! In fact, I frequently say that my farm is just barely reaching the point of being self supporting (as long as you don't consider the initial purchase costs). My farm and my efforts produce most of our food. It could be 100% if we had to. My meager sales pays for most of the general supplies to support the farm -- seeds, equipment, gasoline, etc. I mostly trade for things and services when I can. I still need to expand sales in order to cover insurance and taxes, plus any improvements wanted and building maintenance. But considering that I'm still developing and expanding, the farm isn't making a profit. 

As for big moneymakers, I have yet to discover one that I'm capable of pulling off successfully. I have heard of small farms that created successful niche markets, but a lot depends upon having the right markets near by. I've been to a successful fresh herb farm that marketed to high end restaurants and casinos. I've toured a fresh mushroom operation whose main retail sales were to high end restaurants. On Maui there is a lavender farm who markets their lavender in a variety of ways, but who brings in significant income via tourist oriented farm tours. Then there are those small livestock farms who got in on the beginning of some livestock fad and made a profit selling alpacas, boer goats, pot bellied pigs, ostrich eggs, etc. 

In the real world, most money making on a small farm or homestead requires lots of work, hours of dedication, and luck. There is no such thing as listing the money making crops for some young city newcomer to produce and get rich fast. It doesn't work that way. But I often get asked, especially by someone with no farm experience, no land, no money. 

In my own area, a small homestead farm operated without paid employees could provide the owner enough income to pay the bills and live modestly. I believe that diversification is the key here. And avoiding the government overseers. Regretfully government oversight sucks a significant portion of the profits out of a small operation.....or prevents such small home businesses from being able to exist or expand.  

Small commercial style production farms in my area can be modestly profitable, but they require employees and lots of hours of labor, and farm knowledge. None of those farmers are getting rich off their farms. 

So my suggestion to those who want to do something that will make them money? Get a decent paying job and don't spend the money. Compared to homestead farming, being somebody else's employee is far more profitable. And not wasting your hard earned dollars on frivolous entertainment and meaningless stuff will make you wealthier faster. But having said that, my own preference is to be on my own homestead even if it means that I'm classified as poor. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lava Update

Everyone seems to be emailing me about the lava. I suppose that the mainland news has finally picked up the story. First of all, I'm in no danger. The eruption, which has been ongoing since 1983, is a two hour drive away. Though not impacting me, it surely is impacting people living in the Puna district. 

The lava flow is slow. So people have plenty of time to do something about it. Most people in the projected path of the lava have chosen to either evacuate or are prepared to leave. One house owner has opted to bulldoze a 10-12' high berm along the back of his property in hopes of changing the lava's path. Everyone is curious to see if it works. Of course if it works that will mean the the lava will flow over the neighbor's land instead. 

The lava has already covered half of a cemetery, but at this time has missed the building there. That doesn't mean that it's safe. The lava could easily still destroy the building over the next few days. On an adjacent pasture, a shed/shelter got demolished. Being metal, it didn't burn. But this afternoon a large, emptied farm shed took a direct hit and completely burned up. By luck the lava flow has missed that landowner's home. But again, it's not home clear. The lava as it advances could still reach the home and burn it. 

The lava flow doesn't appear to be getting ready to stop. Everyone has been hoping that it was going to stop as the flow slowed down, but alas that hasn't been the case. Unless the volcano takes a sudden change, the lava will continue to flow at least long enough to enter the town of Pahoa. 

Living with this volcano is a way of life here. In Puna district the lava flows slowly. They are lucky, really. On my side the lava flows move very quickly. People on my side get very little advance warning that the lava is headed their way. But on my side, eruptions give plenty of warning that they are going to happen. It's just that you have to be quick to get out of the way. 
..................................................................
Update 10/30/14

The lava has just reached to bulldozed berm area. Everyone is wondering what will happen. Time shall tell. 

This aerial view shows the lava approaching the berms. The front has stalled pretty much at the moment. Very little forward movement. But it's not dead by any means. Lava is constantly oozing out around the edges, expanding the flow field. It keeps getting wider. In the follow photo you can see trees burning due to small lava outbreaks along the edges. 

Drivel - No Autumn Leaves

Every time fall comes around, I muse over what I miss from my old life on the mainland. I've heard some people say, "Nothing." And I've seen that others miss an awful lot and thus eventually move back. I'm somewhere in between. Full of some fond memories which trigger longings, but none strong enough to make me want to go back to that lifestyle. 

The memories of autumn in the Delaware Valley are still strong in me. The smell of fall leaves. The sensation of walking down wood paths with vibrantly colored trees overhead. The sound of walking through fallen leaves. As a child we would rake together leaves into giant piles then proceed to jump and roll in them with childish delight. Secretly I did that as an adult too! I'd rake up or gather leaves for my little garden then jump through it like a kid before running the lawnmower over the pile to grind up the leaves. Of course I'd give a quick look around to make sure no one could see me frolic in the leaves. Back then I was sensitive about what someone else would think about me. Nowadays I wouldn't care if everyone watched and snickered - or frowned. If they were critical of an old woman playing in the leaf pile, well that's their problem not mine. 
You won't find this scene in Hawaii. We just don't get the colorful fall leaves falling off the trees.

I miss the smell of those first killing frosts. Yes, smell. The outside smelled different to me after a frost. A killing frost changed the outside world around me....one day fresh and alive, the next day wilted and dying. Once frost hit and leaves dropped, the lighting seemed different. The shadows seemed different. The air felt and smelled crisper. Sounds travelled further and sounded most distinct. 

Here in Hawaii, fall brings some changes but not as drastic as on the mainland. And nowadays, that's fine by me. No more unpacking the winter clothes, trying them on to see if they still fit. Digging out gloves, hats, scarves, heavy jackets. Closing up the house for winter, taking down screens and putting up storm windows. Nope. Living here now, the most I do with the house during the fall and winter is close the windows at night. Come to think if it, I've never closed the bathroom window since we've moved here, I wonder if it's corroded in place? 

I think it's the fall leaves that I miss the most. And the arrival of the winter birds to the feeders. And while I fondly recall walks in the snow, I don't miss then enough to want to move. 

I'll let you into a little personal secret ..........I have a small bag with some dried autumn leaves from back East. It was sent to me by a special friend. I bring out that bag every autumn and smell the leaves! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pigs - 6 months old

The current pigs are now about 6 months old. And as far as I'm concerned, it's time to finish them for slaughter. 
So I've changed their diet a tad. I now offer them a good serving of c.o.b. (corn, oats, barley) daily along with plenty of sugar cane and macnuts. I've eliminated any strong tasting foods that may effective their taste. The c.o.b. is purchased. Eventually I'll raise my own, but that's a future project. I'm going with the commercial grain because I want this pork to taste good. 

I've learned a lot about young pigs with these two. And I believe that they've enjoyed my company as well as I've enjoyed theirs. They've had the opportunity to be brushed and scratched and to explore the pasture, romp with the farm dog and play "pig tag". They learned to come when called and return to their pen for a treat. They've enjoyed a wallow to shimmy in, dry wood platform to lounge upon, a grass pasture to graze on, and dry grass to nest with. Plus they've had interesting foods to eat......or reject. So I believe they have had a good life, especially compared to commercial pigs. They've not had to endure the commercial habits of teeth clipping or tail docking-- no need. 
For some reason that only pigs know, they like to get intimate with food. They climb right into feed buckets and snorkel for tidbits. But they seem quite willing to eat the muddied food. I've seen them root around their wallow, which by the way they have expanded to take up the whole front of the pen right up to the gate, chowing down any muddy worm or tasty root they discover. So I guess the dirt doesn't phase them. While commercial pigs need to be fed mineral supplements, naturally raised pigs consume plenty of minerals in the soil they swallow. 

So Hammie and Chopper are scheduled to vacate their pen shortly. I'll let you know when that happens. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rabbits & Flowers

Kristin asked via email, "Do your rabbits really eat flowers? What kinds?"

Yes, they do indeed get some flowers. I figure it adds variety to their lives. Since my rabbits eat predominately fresh foods, I figured that edible flowers could be included. Initially, as with all of the other foods I've offered them, I introduced flowers gradually. I watched for any possible problems. To date I've seen none. 

This time of year I have access to plenty of ginger flowers. The rabbits seem to like them quite a bit. White, yellow, and Kahili gingers. I have all 3 on the farm, but I also gather them in places as I drive to and from town. They're fairly common and abundant around here. 

Roses are another one available right now. My bushes are heavily in flower this month. Rather than spoil the beauty of the roses around my house, I wait for the flowers to be old, just before they start dropping their petals. Then I pick them for the rabbits, 

The rabbits don't like all flowers, for example the Mexican elderberry that is rampant here. Won't touch them. Nor many other flowers. But they do like the flowers of nasturtiums, basils and other herbs, squashes and most other veggies. 

Feeding them flowers may not make economic sense or what others would consider a good use of my time, but it does give the rabbits some additional quality of life. So I'll continue doing it. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

House - Hallway Floor

I mentioned the flooring we chose for the hallway and that prompted several emails asking for more info. Wow, it was like throwing out a couple kernels of corn and the birds all show up looking for more. Ok, ok. Here it goes. 

The flooring is a vinyl snap together, much like the pergo type floors. 

And it actually has a nice wood like appearance. Because of the email prodding, I decided to get some of the floor installed. Boy, it's easy. A bit of jiggling to get the edges lined up and perhaps a bit of persuasion with a rubber mallet. The floor currently is plywood subfloor that we painted. So it was sturdy and smooth. The vinyl lays right on top of it. No glues, no nails, no staples. 

The light colored strip in the front of the photo is a piece of ash that David milled to make a plate where the flooring changes angles and starts to slope downwards. Once it's urethaned it will look fine. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

House Building Update

Lee asked via email, "What is happening on the house?"

Well, it's been a while since I've worked on the house. The outside maintenance work has kept me too busy to get much house building done. In fact, the only movement on the house front has been the hallway ceiling. It's being finished in the same fashion as the lanai ceiling. 
Above -- What's done to date. The sliding lass door is the entrance into the bedroom. We opted to keep the door rather than replace it with a standard door. 

I have managed to purchase the flooring for the hallway. We opted for a snap together vinyl type floor that looks like wood. We can not use the laminated "wood" flooring  that snaps together. It's too moist here. One of our neighbors installed it and had problems within a year with the edges curling. I've heard of others having the same problem in our area. Since we both decided that we didn't want ceramic style tile in the hallway.....nor carpeting either......we opted for a vinyl style floor. I thought that meant sheet goods, but then I came upon this snap together stuff. We're willing to give it a try. 

We still have a threshold plate to make for between the kitchen and the livingroom. I've got the wood, but David has to make it. Milling it down is well beyond my skills. Next job will be finishing off the bedroom, which should be simple and quick. Just a case of doing the cedar thing that has already been done in the other rooms. With a lot of experience doing it, the job should go quickly.

The final major project : the bathroom and bathroom roof. Not simple. Not quick. In fact, in a way I'm dreading it a bit. Moving the plumbing and electrical. Removing part of a wall and putting in a door. Making a shower. Making a waterproof floor that slopes to a gutter drain. Tiling the walls. Building the outside deck and hottub or furo. Definitely new building skills for me. David is going to have a lot of work to do in this project. The roof especially. So I'll be the assistant doing the easier or simpler stuff. In fact I've gotten really good at painting, sanding, making straight cuts......buying supplies.....changing saw blades; recharging tool batteries.....running around lining up things.....cleaning up afterward. David is fast with the nail gun, so I let him at it. He's good at the complicated stuff, whereas I'm slow as molasses. I've watched carefully at how he does things, so I know I could do it too if I had to. But I no longer feel that I have to be the one to do it all. Yes I could, but now I let David do the hard stuff. He's got the muscle, experience, and is 10 years younger. Let the young guy do it! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drivel - Car Headlight Haze

Ok, this post has absolutely nothing to do with homesteading. Frugality yes, homesteading no. But what the hey. 

The headlight covers on one of our cars have heavily hazed over. I checked into buying new plastic covers.  Egads, mucho bucks. So I washed the headlights the best I could and lived with them. Then one of my friends said that they used Deep Woods Off to clean up their headlight covers. So that got me into investigating the problem. On the Internet I saw suggestions of using various polishing compounds found around the house, including toothpaste. Hummmmm. And I also saw the Popular Mechanics has detailed instructions of how to refurbish the headlight covers yourself. So on one extreme is the toothpaste or Deep Woods Off idea, and on the other extreme is the full effort, total refinishing. Plus I saw that there are kits you can buy at the auto supply store that do something in between the two extremes. 

Not being a car fanatic, I opted for the low tech approach. I figured I'd try both the toothpaste and the Off. 

Car before starting. 
Though its hard to tell, the haze has a slight amber tint. Yeah, I washed the mud off before starting. But washing did nothing about removing any haze. 

Next I cleaned one half of each headlight cover in order to compare the before and after. One I used toothpaste, the other Off. I used a piece of terry cloth rag and got a lot of amber colored 'dirt" off of each headlight cover. In the photo below, the right side has been cleaned and the left side hasn't. There's quite a visible difference. By the way, the toothpaste and the Off seemed to work equally well. 

After a couple minutes of rubbing, The job seemed to be done as best as it was going to be. The headlight covers are not perfect, to be sure, but they are a lot better than before I started. 

So for the sake of frugality, a rough rag and some toothpaste (or Off) does a decent job. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Harvest

Erin asked via email, "What are you harvesting now?" Here in Hawaii I can harvest most crops year around, but not all. We do have several seasonal type crops here. Plus I don't grow everything. There are lots of crops I either haven't tried yet or just simply haven't planted at this time. 

So this past week I've harvested: 
Green onions
Basils
Salad burnet
Mints
Eggplant
Beets
Green beans (two types)
Pumpkin
Tomatoes (pathetic, they are doing terrible)
Parsley
Carrots
Turnips
New Zealand spinach
Daikon
Radishes
Rat tail radishes
Green sweet peppers (3 scrawny ones)
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes
Bok choy
Chinese cabbage
Taro
Pineapple
Lilokoi
Guava
Bananas

Most things are harvested as needed. Just one here, a few there. That means that I can leave them in the garden for a while until I want them. Things like green onions, herbs, taro, carrots. But green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and pineapples don't hold well in the garden, so they have to be harvested when they are ready. Either eat them, freeze them, sell 'em, or give them away. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rabbit Breeding

Finally we've gotten our first rabbits bred. Wow, another plateau reached. First was getting the rabbitry created. The next was successfully setting up a feeding program and rearing the critters to breeding age. Now they are successfully mating. Next plateau will be successful kindling in a month. 

Freckles lost his virginity with Snowflake. I had put them together a couple of times before, but he hadn't the least bit of interest. This time around he didn't have any interest either, but Snowflake had some ideas. She pestered him, then gave him a demonstration that made me reconsider Snowflake's sex. Could I have just put two males together? But suddenly a lightbulb went off in Freckles' head and he got the job done. Now that he's discovered adult entertainment, he's eager to explore it more. So tomorrow I'll test Freckles' ability to remember something from 24 hours ago and put Midnight in with him. If he's successful with Midnight, then I'll know Freckles isn't a complete dummy. 

Bun-Bun on the other hand hasn't successfully bred anybody yet. Still a clueless virgin being introduced to other clueless virgins. Uumm, maybe if he watched Freckles in action he'd take the hint. Rabbit porn? 

Hurricane and R&R

This past week we had the threat of being hit with a hurricane. In fact, the first couple days' projections had the buggah passing right over our house! But as the week progressed, the hurricane's path veered south enough to pass us by. We missed the wind but got the rain. My own farm got 5.8", but I've heard of other farms getting up to 11". 
(photo by Julia Neal, Ka'u Calendar)

With all the excess water run off, some roads really flooded. But what was neat was that several waterfalls appeared that hadn't flowed in years upon years. Their activity closed the main highway for hours. 
(Photo Julia Neal, Kau Calendar) 

So what was I doing during the hurricane? Safe in my house? Watching my livestock? Protecting my gardens? Heck no, we were off to Maui to meet with some mainland friends. 
Wet, stormy, and with the hurricane off the coast we boarded this little Cessna. I've flown with this pilot several times before and had complete faith in her judgement and skill. So we took off in the rain. 
Once up in the air, we were completely enveloped in white cloud. Windows were totally useless. It was totally flying by instruments! 
The flight over took a bit longer due to a course change in order to avoid some bad weather. I didn't say rough spots because it was rough just about the whole way over. But we took off and landed just fine. 
The entire weekend was overcast and wet. Grey clouds everywhere. But regardless, we enjoyed a great weekend of R&R. Spent two days hashing old memories and eating at one restaurant after the other. 'Twas a grand weekend! 




Grasshoppers

Just when I thought that I've battled just about every garden problem here, a new one has reared it's ugly head -- grasshoppers! While harvesting today I came upon this fella. One big giant adult. 
Right now I'm battling aphids, stink bugs, squash borer, pickleworm moth, and slugs. I've gotten most the aphids and stink bugs under control. The slugs and I are just about even. The pickleworm and squash borer have the upper hand for now. But I haven't had to deal with grasshoppers before. Drats. 

I searched the entire garden and didn't spot another grasshopper. But I'll have to keep my eyes peeled. Grasshoppers can do a lot of damage. 

This year has been wet and warm. As a result the grass and weeds have grown like they're on steroids. The fields around my farm are quite overgrown. And I'm across the street from acres upon acres of old grass pasture in the national park. If the grasshopper population explodes in those pastures, I'm in for trouble. 

Now my job will be to research how to control grasshoppers. Suggestions are welcome! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Leek Experiment

I didn't discover leeks until I moved to Hawaii. How's that for being a sheltered, naive cook? I saw my first one at a farmers market and assumed it was a thick onion that hadn't bulbed up. It looked fresh so I bought one. Sautéing it in butter that evening, I fell I love. Leeks are wonderful! 

At least on my farm, leeks are easy to grow. I've never tried growing them from seed, instead, I buy plants from Dixondale. A bundle of baby plants is reasonable enough. The variety I get is called Lancelot. It does very well here. I'm aware that there are lots of other varieties, but I don't know which ones do well with short days. Thus so far, I've stuck with Lancelot. 

Up till now I haven't done much experimenting on how to grow leeks. The appear to like my loose, fertile soil well enough. And they really respond well to compost tea. Keeping them mulched causes them to grow vigorously. If I build the mulch up or pull soil up against the leeks as they are growing, I get a longer shank. Basically I pull the mulch around them then top it with a bit of soil, then add a bit more mulch. Do that every two weeks or so and the leeks grow well. Well, that's the way I grew them last year. This year I only had a handful of leeks in the community garden and we never got around to doing anything with them. But they still grew great but had shorter shanks without having been thickly mulched. So one can get leeks without mounding up the soil or mulch, but the length of shank suffers. Flavor is still marvelous. 

I read in the Nichols email newsletter that if you planted the cut off root piece, it would grow another leek. I took that idea and modified it. When I harvest leeks I pull the mulch and soil away then cut the leek about 1" above the roots. The leek rapidly regrows. Wow! Just the kind of veggie my garden likes, cut 'n come again! 

The photo below is where a leek was harvested in the morning. By late afternoon I could see the central core had grown half an inch already. 
Exactly one week later the leek had grown a bit over 6 inches. That's impressive. 
It's now been 11days since it was cut and I measured it today. The leek is now 10 inches high. This cut n come again method is a winner! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rabbit Feeding Update

I hope this list helps other local rabbit keepers. So far on the list of edibles are--

...cucumbers & the leaves 
...bananas, plus leaves, and cut up trunk
...strawberries & the leaves
...papaya
...apples
...tomatoes, ripe or green
...carrot tops & roots
...anything in cabbage family (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc)
...any of the bok choy types
...celery, stalks & leaves
...oranges & tangerines (I remove the rind) 
...sugar cane, cut up and split, and the young leaves
...radish & daikon, leaves & roots
...turnips, leaves & roots 
...mango fruit
...lettuces
...seeds and pulp from pumpkins and winter squash
...flesh of pumpkins and winter squash, will eat a little but they are not crazy about it
...zucchini squash
...fresh corn on the cob, they will eat the cob too
...beets & the leaves
...chard
...sweet potatoes & the leaves
...pipinola leaves and fruits
...thimbleberry leaves and fruits
...young leaves of pumpkin and squashes, but not crazy about them 
...false staghorn fern, young leaves- not crazy about it but they will eat a bit
...ginger flowers, plus a little of the leaves occasionally 
...dill
...parsley
...various basils
...mint
...cilantro
...green bean leaves
.. honohono grass 
...greenleaf desmodium 
...mamaki leaves
...plantain (the weed)
...ti leaves
...guava fruit
...oregano
...yacon leaves
...rose bush trimmings
...lemon rinds
...loquat leaves and they eat the bark off the twigs
...blue snakeweed
...pennywort
...assorted grasses including molasses and kikuyu, but not a lot 

Recently I've introduced some new items for their review. Accepted are: 
...young bamboo leaves
...starfruit
...cooked taro corm. Some like it, others don't.
...lilokoi, they prefer it cooked and eat the entire fruit. 
...green beans. Most just take nibbles off and on. Others reject them. I will try cooking them next to see if that makes a difference. 
...noni fruit only if ripe a soft. They won't eat the leaves. 

I'm still trying new foods as they become available. 

Just because I have these items on their "will eat" doesn't mean that they wolf them down equally. Some items are definitely preferred, like sweet potato leaves, mango, cooked lilokoi, kale, flowers. Others are just nibbled on -- green beans, bamboo leaves, pumpkin. And plenty of items are in between. I've learned that rabbits like a mix and eat a bit of this, then a bit of that, and so on. There are only a few items that they will gorge on, like mangos and cucumbers. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Squash Borer

This year I've been seeing squash borer damage in the garden. Bummer. If it isn't one pest, it's another! Squash borer attacks squashes and pumpkins that have hollow stems. So this means most pumpkins, winter squashes, and gourds. The above plant is a spagetti squash. And it's getting attacked pretty heavily. Things look good one day then the next the leaf is wilted. Looking at the stem, I'll find a little hole. Splitting the stem, I find that's its loaded with frass. 

And if I look even closer, I'll find the little grub......
This plant is not only being attacked by the squash borer, but it is also showing signs of pickleworm attack. If you look at the undeveloped flower and fruit on the righthand side you can see round holes where the pickleworm moth larvae entered. I can deal with the pickleworm problem by using dipel, but dipel won't work on the squash borer because the dipel can't get to the grub. 

I've read on the Internet that some home gardeners have wrapped the squash stems in order to block the adult squash borer. But they are talking about the base of the plant and basically zucchini plants. With this spaghetti squash, the borer is everywhere.....base of plant, lateral vines, leaf stems. Wrapping doesn't seem like a viable option so for now until I can come up with better solutions, I've covered the vines with grass clipping mulch. That may act as a physical barrier, like wrapping would. 




Propagating Strawberries

For some reason, strawberry plants love my farm. They grow well and reproduce vigorously. They also produce berries but I lose most to birds and slugs. So I'm planning on trying to raise them in the pallet boxes so that I can better protect the berries. But first I need to grow some robust plants for transplanting into the boxes. 

Right now the strawberry bed is busting at the seams with runners. The runners produce new little plants. In the photo below you can see the white pipe delineating the bed's border. The runners have escaped the bed and are growing right into the pathway. 
Here's a close up of a plant sending out runners. The runner goes out about 10 inches then makes a tiny plant, which in turn sends out a runner and makes a tiny plant. I've seen three plantlets growing on one runner. So each main plant can reproduce plenty of plantlets. 
So I ripped out some of those runners in the pathway. Quite the tangled mess, I'd say. 
Armed with a pair of scissors, I snipped off the little plants from the runners. This is what I ended up with...
Now where to grow them temporarily. I choose a section of the garden that I had open. It's a spot where I have been mulching with grass clippings since May, attempting to kill the grass off. Most of the grass is gone although a few hardy plants are still struggling to survive. So besides these few grasses, most of the area is weed free at the moment. When I applied the first layer of grass clippings I had used a handpick to remove any surface rocks. So this area already has a start on becoming a garden. 
To get it ready to plant the baby strawberry plants, I used a shovel to flip the 2-3" of soil, burying the mulch. I didn't bother to try to dig deeper because first, the baby plants didn't need it, and second, there are plenty of rocks. Just digging 2-3" down was a chore! I just removed the rocks that interfered with using that top 2-3" of soil. I ended up with a nice pile of rock that I'll use somewhere else. 
Finally I planted to strawberries. This is just a nursery bed, so they are planted close. When they grow into sturdy plants I'll move the best of them to pallet grow boxes. I'd like to have at least 3-4 pallet boxes of strawberries so that I can experiment with different ways to prevent the birds and slugs from stealing the sweet red berries. 






Sunday, October 12, 2014

Drivel - 4.0 Earthquake


Felt an earthquake about an hour ago. It's been awhile since we had a decent quake, and this one was a "four". We're 8 to 9 miles from the epicenter, but still got a good rattle and shake from it. It was a nice test to see how my new kitchen shelving would handle the size quakes that we've been accustomed to here. Everything passed with flying colors. Between the anti-slip shelf liners and the anti-fall lip on the shelves, nothing tipped over. So I can't post any photos of broken glasses for you. 

Small quakes are common. Every once in a while there's a big one, but not too often. I don't mind the small ones, in fact I actually like them. It's a reminder that the earth all around me is "alive". Someday when Mauna Loa erupts, my area will experience some really big quakes. Don't know if that will happen in my lifetime, but it surely will eventually occur. That, my friends, will surely test my kitchen shelves! I fully expect any efforts on my part to prevent stuff from flying off shelves to utterly fail. 7 to 8 quakes are super shakers. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Look What They've Done To My Food, Ma!

Food fraud is running rampant! Egads! Food alteration is everywhere! Yikes! 

With the advent of DNA testing, curious investigators discovered that cheap "trash" fish is being passed off as the higher priced, popular varieties. And the fraud is extensive, occurring in lots of countries. So unless you bought the fish whole, you may not be getting what it is labeled. And you'll never know. Someone between the fish man and your kitchen is making a heck of a profit and the consumer is paying for it. 

Same with meats! Yup. European countries exposed a massive meat fraud. Tons and tons of intentionally mislabeled meats. The news media has been reporting this meat switch going on for years in the orient, so now it's been going on in western countries too. Suddenly people noticed. And it the DNA testing that revealed the fraud. 

With food labeling laws in the USA, the public knowingly accepts fakes. Imitation crab. Supposed scallops in those frozen boxes. Read the label and the buyer learns that those scallops are not real even though they are indeed seafood. 

The bottom line is to make a profit. Buy low, sell high, even if it's fraud. Managers of farmers markets are aware of the problem. It's rampant in many popular markets, especially those that require truth in labeling. A New York City market requires all produce to be local. They must maintain their own investigators to check on vendors, often uncovering cases of blatant fraud. At our own local farmers market which doesn't require labeling, I've witnessed vendors misleading buyers by implying that their products are something other than they are. Organic? Often not. Chemical free? Some I know for a fact are not. Locally grown? Not always, to be sure. 

Organic? Trust the label? I wouldn't. I've talked with food distributor employees who have firsthand seen cases of fraud. So not to lose their jobs, they keep their mouth shut. It's happening right here in my island, so I would bet it's happening everywhere. And a bit ago some organic milk produced on the mainland was tested. Tests revealed that the cows were being fed GMO feed, a no-no for organic milk. 

GMO free? I don't believe it 100%. Consumer Report just DNA tested some corn chips listed as GMO free. Turns out that 75% of the corn in them was GMO! So much for truth in labeling. 

So you trust the local farmer? I watch who I trust. Locally not all our farmers follow the rules. My own rule? Get to know my farmer! 

And I'd like to extend that to....trust your slaughterhouse? Many people in my area highly question the honesty of remote slaughter facilities. Some do not believe that they are getting back their own meat from their own animals. I believe in home slaughter for the humane aspect, but doing it to avoid fraud is another good reason. Boy, it would be real nice to have a mobile slaughter facility in my area! Extending my thoughts on this....recently the news media announced that our government approved the sending of chicken carcasses oversees (to China to be specific) to be processed, then returned for sale in the US with no labeling indicating that China was involved. The food legally can be listed as an USA product. But would I trust that all the returned chicken meals are really all US chicken meat? Sounds like a great opportunity for fraud and profit to me. 

With food fraud being everywhere, it's another reason for me to try to produce my own foods or to get food from sources I deem reliable. That's the gist for my rant today. I'd rather grow my own that be subjected to the fraud going on in the food industry. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Garden Atop Concrete

My kitchen taro garden is atop a concrete pad. For real!!!! And I was told by many that it couldn't be done. Ha! 

The concrete pad is actually to top on the cesspool. No ick factor here because nothing, zero seeps out of the cesspool top...ever! Very little goes into this large cesspool, nor does it fill with water. So it's chance of overflowing in my lifetime is virtually nil. But the cesspool top takes up a large section of the yard outside my kitchen. Rather than staring out the window at a cement slab, I decided to cover it with compost layers. 

Everyone warned me that I'd never be able to use it for a garden and that I'd be lucky to get grass to grow there and stay green. Initially I did grow a lawn there, but I'd rather be growing food. So the grass was flipped and I planted taro. It thrived. 
I've harvested quite a but of taro from this garden atop solid concrete. Ha, told ya so that I could do it! It just took very fertile compost/soil and water. I'm constantly adding discarded fruit, weeds, and grass clippings. Plus a light layer of volcanic cinders to keep things from getting too mucky, gloppy. 

Today I harvested some of this organic "soil" from between the rows. 
I scraped it right down to the concrete, so you can see how shallow the dirt is that the taro grows in. The color of the material is quite dark. It's moist and a bit gloppy because of the rain. 
And it was loaded with worms! I'm transferring this "soil" to a bed that is being created for growing gourds. The gourds should really love it. 

The trenches between the taro rows are now empty. I'll spend the next week filling them up, thus starting the cycle all over again. It's a great way to utilize discarded fruits, weeds, lawn clippings, manures. It fertilizes the taro at the same time. 

If I didn't have a gourd project that needs this new "soil", I would have just shoveled the material onto the taro rows. It would have made the dirt deeper for the taro to grow in. But alas...so many projects, so little soil. 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rabbit Update

The rabbits are now 6 months old and ready to start being bred. So I examined each one individually, checking their physical condition and reconfirming their sex. No sense putting two females together and wondering why you're not seeing anything happen! Well, I found out that at least I got all the sexes right. That's a start in the right direction! Don't laugh. If you've never sexed a rabbit, you don't know how easy it is to guess wrong when they are young. None are wearing pink or blue booties to give you a hint. 
Everybody looked good as far as being normal. No dental problems, no lumps and bumps, no other abnormalities. Everyone looked healthy. The only issue I discovered was that some of the females were too lean. Even though they have assorted fresh foods and alfalfa hay cubes in front of them 24 hours a day, some of the females weren't getting enough energy foods. 
Since it will take time to be able to grow higher energy foods for them, I'm temporarily going to resort to feeding them small quantities of commercial grains. Feeding grain to rabbits can be tricky, so I'll start out by giving them one spoonful of cooked corn/oats mix each morning. I plan to weigh those individual rabbits each week to gauge their progress then adjust the grain amount accordingly. 

Rabbits being fed pellets or hay normally meet their energy requirements without needing grains. But when fed predominantly fresh foods, the water content is high, thus limiting the amount of feed (thus energy) they can consume in a day. My rabbits with the bigger appetites appear to be doing well on the fresh diet, but those that are lighter eaters are thinner. From a breeder/farmer point of view, these light eaters will be candidates for being replaced in the future with aggressive eaters. I won't do it now, but eventually they will go into the freezer. 

One other thing I will try to determine --  are those thinner rabbits the bigger or faster growing ones? Quicker growth and larger size is a plus, so I may have to take that into consideration if they are the thinner rabbits. I don't want to cull out rabbits that have desirable growth traits just because they need a bit more energy while growing. Perhaps I should be weighing my rabbits weekly and do some basic body measurements so that I can get a better handle on which ones to keep as long term breeders and which ones would be better suited to the dinner table. 

Drivel - Blood Moon

Last night was our second blood moon of this year. While I stayed awake to watch the last one, this time around it was beyond me to successfully force myself out of bed at 1 am to see the moon. Since I woke up this morning still muscle sore, my desire to stay glued to my sheets may have been a good one. I've been fairly physically active these past weeks and its catching up to me. 

Anyway, hubby got up to view the moon. And with our camera that is totally inadequate for the task, proceeded to photograph it. Besides the wrong camera for the job, the sky was misty, a mix of moisture and vog. Pretty poor settings for sky photography. But he did manage to get a couple of pics. 
Fuzzy , yes, but what does one expect from an iPhone? 

Special events, such as this lunar eclipse, serve to remind me that there are wondrous things going on around me. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Feeding Pigs, Homestead Style

The people who know I'm really into DIY and self reliancy have been asking what I'm doing about feeding my two piglets. Using pig chow is the easy way out, and also the most cash expensive way. It's definitely not self reliant. So I've been doing some exploring. 

The piglets when they first arrived were eating moistened pig chow with some chopped veggies mixed in. So I continued that until they were settled in. Then I started experimenting. First, I built a small pen with only a little bit of grass. They quickly outgrew that. So the next pen was 15' x 15' with grass about 6 to 10 inches high. They devoured that grass and rooted up that pen within a couple weeks. So then I built a 20' x 20' pen where the grass was waist high. That pen lasted them longer but they have finally consumed every blade of grass, every weed, and rooted the whole place up. Of course I was still feeding them twice a day, not expecting them to survive on just the grass. 

The first thing I discovered was that these two little guys have different preferences. Porkchop (aka Chop Chop) likes fruit and meat while Hamhocks (aka Hammie)  pigs out on rice and cereals (har, har....pigs out! Ooh, that's bad!) Chop Chop wants his food cooked while Hammie will eat things raw or cooked. Neither likes stringbeans unless I chop them up, then they'll eat them all. They both will eat lilokoi but only if it is raw. Won't touch them cooked unless they get blenderized in with other foods. Chop Chop likes his sugar cane cut into long thin strips while Hammie won't touch the strips. She wants hers chopped into small bite sized chunks. Funny, fussy pigs. I never knew they could be so fussy and be so different from each other. 

So here's a list of what I've tried so far on them. They will eat--
Sugar cane, fresh and cut up
Pipinola leaves and fruits, raw or cooked
Tomatoes, raw or cooked
Stringbeans, cooked and chopped
Beets and greens, cooked
Pumpkin if cooked and blenderized
Lilokoi, raw. Blenderized if cooked. 
Bananas, raw, peels included
Pineapples, raw
Mangos, they both love these any way they can get them
Sweet potatoes, raw or cooked, including the leaves
Cabbage, kale, bok choy, carrots...raw or cooked
Potatoes, raw or cooked
Radishes and daikon, cooked and chopped into thin slices
Cucumbers, raw
Watermelon and rind
Macadamia nuts
Cooked rice
Popcorn
Spagetti and pasta, cooked or uncooked
Bread, crackers, cookies
Dry dog food and cat food 
Any meat scraps and bones, cooked (I haven't offered them uncooked meat) 

They don't like taro even if well cooked. Won't touch chopped up banana trunks. Won't eat alfalfa pellets or cubes. 

And of course they like commercial feed such as pig pellets, chicken feed, wet or dry cob though they like the wet best because it is sweet. They only get a handful of this sort of stuff, just to keep them friendly and willing to come when called. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Drivel - Beauty on the Farm

It's far too easy to miss seeing what's right in front of me. I get in a rush and totally miss the beautiful stuff right here on my farm. So I decided to walk about and take a few pictures. I'm glad that I did because otherwise I would have missed seeing some of these gems. 
This coleus came up all by itself right in the middle of one of my taro patches. Being that it was so colorful I couldn't bring myself to pull it out. Now it's a jumbo plant. 
Don't ask me how it did it, but this wee impatiens sprouted out the side of the rockwall by the house. How cute! 
My mini rose bush started pushing new foliage and flower buds. The new leaves are lovely by themselves, being reddish and pale green. I usually fail to notice them, but today the bush is covered with the new leaves, making it look like its in bloom with weird flowers. Pretty neat. 
While gathering fresh greenery for the rabbits I came upon this moss coated log. It's amazing, IMHO. 
I should have posted this photo first because this is this morning's sunrise. Stepping out the front door, I saw that the sky was growing lighter. Looking up through the driveway trees, it looked quite nice so I ran to get the camera. A beautiful way to start the day, wouldn't you agree? 
There are lots of various flowers blooming right now. Gingers, orchids, anthuriums, and these fellas that I don't know the name of. 
Passing by a young avocado tree, I couldn't help but notice how nice the fresh new shoots look against the older leaves. Soft, colorful, and shiny. We don't get the colorful autumn leaves here, but the new foliage is frequently colorful. Guess that helps make up for our lack of fall colors. 
Came upon another fungus on a log. This one is really showy. 
Although not as strikingly colorful as the orange fungus, this fungus is quite unusual, layer after layer of ripplely brown with white fringe. With all the weeks of rain, the fungi are in ecstasy. Lots of mushrooms coming up too. 

Every once in a while I have to remind myself to look....and really see....what's going on around me. Some of this stuff is really amazing.